S ome Sunday within the next couple of weeks, pastor Debra Brady will look out into the pews of Modesto's First United Methodist Church, and Jewel Briggs won't be there.
"Very weird," Brady said.
Weird, because for the first time in a century, no one from Modesto's Briggs family will be an active member of the church.
The connection goes even deeper: When the 82-year-old woman moves out of town at the end of the month, Modesto will be Briggs-less -- relative to that particular line of pioneer family stock -- for the first time since 1868. Yes, 1868.
This is the Briggs family that farmed in and around Modesto for 13 decades. The Briggs family whose lands ultimately became John Thurman Field, the Modesto Municipal Golf Course and the Sherwood Forest subdivision. And the Briggs of Briggsmore Avenue. (The Whitmores provided the other half of the name.)
Jewel Briggs is the last family member in Modesto. The reasons she will go outweigh the reasons to stay, most important of which is that there's no need to be here alone.
Her husband, Jim Briggs, died at 78 in 2002. Their three children -- daughters Jo-Lynne Briggs of Suisun City, Judy Vina of Burlingame and son Jeff Briggs of La Mesa -- all left Modesto to pursue careers and live elsewhere.
So she'll move to La Mesa, the San Diego suburb, to be near Jeff, his wife and their children.
"I have two daughters," Jeff Briggs said. "So the Briggs name kind of ends with me. It's hard for her to leave Modesto and the good friends she's had. But she'll be close to the grandkids. She'll be able to celebrate not only the holidays with us, but also the Sunday dinners and visits. She doesn't get to see them much now."
The timing is right, he said.
"Her general health is good," Jeff Briggs said. "She's able to get around, which will make it easier for her to make friends in a new place."
Saturday, Jewel and her children began the emotional task of packing up -- and divvying up -- the family treasures, which includes volumes of documents and diaries her father-in-law, H. Russell Briggs, compiled on the family history before he died at 101 in 1999.
What a history. In the mid-1860s, James Russell Briggs, a Union lieutenant in the Civil War and H. Russell Briggs' grandfather, led a 50-wagon train west from Illinois, surviving the hardships of the trail and confrontations with Indians on the way to California.
He brought his family to Stockton, leasing land from Capt. Charles Weber before moving to the Paradise District and homesteading 160 acres along the Tuolumne River in 1868. He added 57 acres later that year, land that is now home to Thurman Field and the Muni golf course.
James R. Briggs was among those who laid the groundwork to form the Modesto Irrigation District. His youngest son, Delbert Orton Briggs, grew up in Modesto and raised his family here. His son, H. Russell "Russ" Briggs in turn raised his family here, including sons Jim and Bob.
Jewel came to California as a schoolteacher in 1957 and married Jim Briggs in 1961. They built a home that year on family land Jim had once picked out as a child and started their own family.
They raised grapes for the Gallo Winery for 38 years.
The children eventually grew up and moved away. Jim is gone, as are many of the friends Jewel cherished from her teaching days at Enslen School. Most of her friends here today are members of First United Methodist Church.
"I've loved this community and the church very much," she said. "Fog, that's what I don't think I'm going to miss."
Yes, she's the last Briggs to go, but many others will stay.
"We have 25 graves in the Acacia Cemetery," she said. "Relatives of the Briggs."
Someday years from now, Jewel said, she'll be the 26th and last one when her ashes are placed at her husband's grave.
For now, though, Modesto's lone remaining member of the pioneer Briggs family will migrate to another place.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at 578-2383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.