I have previously discussed William Riggin with regard to the murders of the Hill family in Ardenwald, near Portland, Oregon. However that was written a long time ago and I would like to revisit Mr. Riggin in a little more depth and perhaps discover a little more about what made him tick. William Riggin was born in 1883, in Yamhill county, Oregon, to George and Susan Riggin. For George, William was his third child and for Susan it was her first. Susan was George's second wife and was about 10 years younger than him. Not much can be said for William's younger days except to say that his mother died sometime between 1883 and 1885. William wouldn't grow up with any full siblings and his only mother figure would be a step mother. George married his second wife, America Thomas, in 1885 and had six more children with her. There are a couple of things to note at this time in William's young life. The new "mother" of the family was just seventeen years of age when she married George, literally young enough to be George's daughter. She would have married into the responsibility of caring for a a teenage girl of fourteen, a boy just entering adolescence at eleven and a just barely two-year-old boy, none of whom where her children. By the age of five, two new babies would have come into the family and it would have been easy for a rambunctious young boy to get lost in the chaos. And lost he was. At the age of eleven he stole a horse, a major crime in 1894. Because of his age he was sent to Salem and the Oregon State Reform School, with occasional visits home, until he was eighteen.
Oregon State Reform School Courtesy of the Oregon State Library
His time in reform school did nothing but introduce him to more members of the criminal element. Upon his release, he would return home from time to time but mostly took to living off the land and whatever he could steal, occasionally taking a job here or there. It was at this time that he began to take up the "hobo" lifestyle. He was a scrawny and short fellow so he took to carrying a long knife and developed a fascination with pistols. In 1905 he was convicted of larceny and did his first stint in the Oregon Penitentiary. His father, George tried to get him to go straight by securing him jobs as a farm laborer but it wasn't long before he would go back to living in the woods. Sometime around 1910 he would take up with a "Jungle Buzzard" named Ed Ramsey. A jungle buzzard was a term used by hobos for old men who lived for weeks or months at a time in make shift shacks, usually in the woods along railroad tracks, referred to as jungles. These were usually stopovers for traveling hobos where you could occasionally get a shave or some soap and clean water to clean up. The particular jungle that Ramsey hung out around was located in Scott Woods, just outside of Milwaukee, near Ardenwald Station on the Southern Pacific line. Not far from this location was the work-in-progress cabin of William Hill. You can read about Riggin's confession to the Hill murder (and my reaction) here. William Riggin showed signs of bi-polarism, calm and quiet one moment and violently angry the next. His family knew he had problems but none of them could believe he was capable of murder. He certainly had Antisocial Personality Disorder and my have been manifesting early stages of paranoia. This may or may not have turned into full schizophrenia at a later time. I can only speculate on his mental health but by 1930 he was a patient at the Oregon State Hospital. He likely died at the age of 74 in 1957, still a ward of the state.