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Member is a mainstay among local saints

SANDYVILLE, W. Va.Ask almost anyone from Sandyville and Jackson County and they'll say that Goldie Riggs is a spark and mainstay of the Church among local members.

At age 82, Sister Riggs - a member of the Ravenswood Branch, Charleston West Virginia Stake - recalls the excitement and struggle that followed the growth of the Church in this part of the country.Her first, and perhaps fondest memories, of how the Church came into her life was when young John Matthew Riggs, a Mormon, bid on and won her lunch at a box social. What surprised her was that he also had two other boxes.

"He ate with the others first," she explained. "He even asked one of them to go out with him the next night. When we ate the nice lunch in my box, he asked if he could take me home, and he asked me to also go out the next night. I could see a problem - two dates! But it rained and nobody went out. I wouldn't have gone anyway!"

The next social John asked only Goldie. The romance continued, but at a slow pace. John became the mail carrier and taught grades 1 to 8 in a one-room school. They could see each other only once a week. They were married three years later on Oct. 5, 1929.

"John was a Mormon. I wasn't. But I went to Church with him. His family had been in the Church for three generations. The missionaries liked him and when they came by, he made them welcome at our house. I became well acquainted with the doctrine, but I wasn't baptized until eight years after we were married."

The history of the Church in Jackson County, W. Va., compiled by Nancy Yoacham in 1983, tells of Brother Riggs' ancestry. His grandfather, James Jacob Riggs, was born in 1842, in Green County, Pa., and grew up as a farm boy of little education.

He married Margaret Jobes on March 12, 1865, and was drawn back with his family to what is now West Virginia. In 1893 when Mormon missionaries came to town to preach, he put aside the prejudice of the day and listened to them.

"I concluded I should go to the school house and hear for myself," he wrote. "It was the first time I ever really heard the gospel preached."

He invited the elders to his home and promptly hit them with questions. On Aug. 20, 1893, at age 51, James Riggs was baptized in Long Drain Creek. His wife had been baptized a few weeks earlier.

The Church grew, and so did their family. With five sons, a larger farm was needed. They moved to Jackson County in 1902. The family continued to grow with nine sons and one daughter.

The sixth child, Charles Riggs, married Sallie Iowa Estep. They had three children, the first was John Matthew Riggs, born on April 17, 1901. The family grew in the principles of the Church, but had little opportunity to attend meetings.

The missionaries were consistent visitors at the Riggs home. Goldie not only fed them, but also washed and ironed their clothes and repaired snags in their suits.

"There were some things I liked about the Church and some things I didn't understand," Sister Riggs remarked. "I talked a lot with the missionaries."

Without a chapel or regular meetings, John and Goldie and their five daughters often attended a nearby Protestant church. But they felt that the children needed to learn more about their own Church doctrine so they started a home Sunday School, teaching from LDS publications.

Soon other members joined the meetings and by 1955, as industrial development brought in more members, the Sunday School became a dependent branch and met in the Riggs' home.

But when a larger facility was needed, three upstairs rooms over a feed store at nearby Ripley were rented. By 1962 a permanent branch was organized. Brother Riggs was called as first counselor.

"I have watched as the Church has grown," Sister Riggs commented, looking back on Church history in the area. "Now we have a beautiful chapel. I guess we grow some every week. I am proud of this branch. I have seen a lot of things happen."

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