Captain Francis Balfour Higgie
Captain Francis Balfour Higgie, a popular vessel agent and broker, of Chicago, has followed an eventful life as a lake and ocean navigator, and is highly esteemed among marine men. He is a son of Francis B. and Mary (McQueen) Higgie, and was born in Fifeshire, Scotland, March 15, 1840. His father, who was a lake captain and vessel owner, was born in Fifeshire, and his mother in Inverness, Scotland. They removed to the United States in May, 1848, first locating in Kenosha, Wis., the year Wisconsin was admitted into the Union as a State. This was the time when the Dred Scott decision came so prominently before the country, the fugitive slave being the bone of contention. Captain Higgie, who has always been noted for his humanity to man, was on one occasion badly handicapped in his sympathy for the unfortunate slave by having virtually to assist the sheriff in turning over to the owner a runaway slave who had appeared in the town (boy though he was), the Freesoilers being determined to rescue the slave. Captain Higgie's parents later removed to Racine, in which place they resided up to the time of their death, the mother passing to the better world in 1852, and the father following in 1859, his death being caused by a malignant type of typhoid fever.
The subject of this sketch, Frank, as he is still familiarly known, attended the public schools until he reached the age of twelve years, when he entered the employ of the Racine County Democrat, serving an apprenticeship to the printer's trade three years, and it may be said that he carried the Racine County Democrat from its cradle to its grave, the paper discontinuing publication at the end of his three-years' apprenticeship. Frank was not a very rugged youth, and his father, thinking the lake breezes would make a sturdy lad of him, took him in his schooner, William Jones, plying in the lumber trade between Manistee and Chicago. This was in the early days of Chicago's history as a port of entry. He next shipped before the mast in the schooner Alvin Clark, with his uncle, Capt. William M. Higgie, remaining in her three seasons. In the spring of 1859 he was appointed master of the schooner Lewis B. Irwin, plying in the lumber trade between Manistee and Chicago. In 1860 he assumed command of the schooner Freedom, followed by a season as master of the North Star. In the spring of 1862 he purchased an interest in the schooner William H. Dewitt with his uncle, and sailed her successfully four seasons. After disposing of his interest he joined the schooner E. P. Door, as master. In 1867 he bought the schooner Golden Harvest, and sailed her until the fall of 1870, when she collided with the schooner Maitland in the Straits of Mackinac, the latter being sunk. Captain Higgie then sold the wreck of the Golden Harvest and went to Buffalo. In 1871, when the Vessel Owners Towing Company of Chicago was incorporated, the Captain was directed by his uncle, J. L. Higgie, the manager of the new company, to receive and pilot to Chicago the tugs built there by Mr. Notter, for the new company.
In the spring of 1872 Captain Higgie purchased the schooner City of Manitowoc, and sailed her five years. In 1876 he took a cargo of deals from Manistee, Mich., to Leith, Scotland, in her, returning to Montreal, thence proceeded to Quebec, where he loaded timber and deals for Thurso, Scotland, which he delivered in due time, and took a cargo of paving stone for Greenock, Scotland, thence with coal for Quebec, and, continuing up the lakes, he reached Chicago, November 1, 1877, without a casualty of any nature. Captain Higgie then retired from active life of shipboard, and engaged in business as vessel agent and shipbroker in Chicago, also writing marine fire insurance. In 1881 he was chosen secretary of the Vessel Owners Association of Chicago, and in 1882 was presented by the association with a handsome gold watch bearing the inscription - "Presented to their secretary, Captain Frank B. Higgie, by the Vessel Owners Association of Chicago." On the reverse side is a neat monogram, and an engraving of the schooner City of Manitowoc, which he had navigated across the Atlantic ocean. In 1886 the vessel owners added to his duties by electing him secretary of their Mutual Benefit Association, which office he held four years. In 1889, when the Ship Masters Association was organized in Chicago, he was chosen secretary of that body, and still holds that office. He is a charter member of that association, and holds Pennant No. 235. In 1898 the Lumber Carriers Association was formed and Captain Higgie chosen secretary. He has also been a notary public for many years, and is still engaged in the vessel brokerage business.
Fraternally, he is a Master Mason of Covenant Lodge No. 526, a member of the Corinthian Chapter No. 69, and of St. Bernard Commandery No. 35; he is also a Noble of the Mystic Shrine, of Medina Temple.
In 1861 Captain Higgie was wedded to Miss Melissa S., daughter of Homer and Laura Glass, of Racine, Wis. The children born to this union are: Homer Francis, Byron Atlanta, Laura Lucretia, Carson Gordon and Mary Melissa. The family homestead is at No. 1070 West Van Buren street, Chicago, Illinois.
Return to Home Port
This version of Volume II is based, with permission, on the work of the great volunteers at the Marine Captains Biographies site. To them goes the credit for reorganizing the content into some coherent order. The biographies in the original volume are in essentially random order.
Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.