Biography of Michael Higgins
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Michael Higgins, treasurer of the Higgins Spring & Axle Company, mentioned above, was born near Oswego, New York, June 28, 1855, a son of Michael and Bridget (Malone) Higgins, who were natives of Cork and County Limerick, Ireland. The former was a son of Patrick Higgins, Jr., and a grandson of Patrick Higgins, Sr., and it was Patrick Higgins, Jr., who, in 1840, crossed the Atlantic, to the new world and founded the family on American soil. After a residence of two years at Little Falls, Herkimer County, New York, he met an accidental death, being, struck by the falling branch of a tree. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Nancy Condon, survived him until 1866 and passed away at an advanced age. They had six children: James; Patrick; Joanna, who became the wife of Michael Lannan; Michael; Mary, who died in infancy, and Elizabeth, the wife of Martin Geany, who remained in Ireland.
Michael Higgins, Sr., was born in Young Grove, County Cork, Ireland, in February, 1834, and was but six years of age when his parents came to the United States. His residence in New York covered twenty-one years and in 1856 he removed to Chicago. The following year, however, he returned to the east and about 1863 became a resident of Canada, where he spent thirteen years. On the expiration of that period he removed to Missouri, where he engaged in farming until 1889, when he came to Racine. In early manhood he wedded Bridget Malone, who passed away December 7, 1897, at the age of sixty-three years. Her parents, Cornelius and Nancy (Cliffe) Malone, settled near Kingston, Ontario, on coming to the new world. To Mr. and Mrs. Michael Higgins, Sr., were born the following named: Michael; Mary, the wife of Judge Daniel Murphy, of Mexico, Missouri ; John, of Manila, Philippine Islands, where he is employed by the United States government ; Elizabeth, the wife of Timothy Connolly, of Racine, and Agnes, the deceased wife of James Welsh.
When about five or six years of age Michael Higgins, whose name introduces this review, was taken by his parents to Gananoque, Canada, where he pursued a common school education and grew to manhood. After spending several years as an employee on steamers on the St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes he secured a situation in a spring factory in Gananoque and afterward spent five years as an employee in spring factories in Kalamazoo, Michigan, during which time his knowledge of and experience in the business was constantly broadening and winning for him deserved promotion. He then went to Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he was employed for four years, becoming foreman of a factory. It was with this experience that he came to Racine in 1884 and joined E. W. Ansted in organizing the Ansted 82; Higgins Spring Company, mentioned above. The business continually grew and developed along substantial lines and following the establishment of a branch house in Indiana the partnership was dissolved, Mr. Ansted taking over the Indiana establishment, while Mr. Higgins retained the ownership of the Racine business. From the beginning the enterprise has grown and developed until between one hundred and seventy-five and two hundred workmen are employed in the factory, which is three hundred and twenty by one hundred and eighty feet in dimensions. Mr. Higgins has long been recognized as one of the capable and foremost business men of the city and his co-operation has been sought alone other lines which have led to the city’s commercial growth and development as well as to individual success.
Mr. Higgins was married January 5, 1879, in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to Miss Mary Fitzgibbon, daughter of David and Catherine (Sullivan) Fitzgibbon, natives of Ireland, the former of Limerick and the latter of County Cork. David Fitzgibbon was a railroad man, and on coming to America met, in Buffalo, New York, Miss Sullivan, and there they were married. They were located at various points in Michigan and lived for some time in Kalamazoo. He died in 1895, aged seventy-six years, and his Wife in March, 1904, in her eighty-second year. They had three children: David, of Grand Rapids; Michigan; John and Mrs. Mary Higgins. Six children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Michael Higgins, Jr., namely: James: George; Agnes; Joseph; Frank; and Leo, who died November 24, 1904. Of this family, James is secretary of the Higgins Spring & Axle Company, while George is employed in the axle plant. Mr. and Mrs. Higgins are communicants of St. Rose Catholic church and he belongs also to the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Order of Foresters, the Royal League and the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks. He has long been a recognized leader in democratic circles and has on various occasions been called to public office, serving for two terms as alderman in the city council from the sixth ward, beginning in 1889, while in 1899 he was elected mayor of the city, being continued in the office for four years through his re-election in 1901. His administration was characterized by various plans that prevented useless expenditure, that promoted progress along beneficial lines and that introduced needed reforms and improvements. In 1905-06 he served as president of the park board and his activities for the benefit of the city have been far-reaching, his labors contributing much to the municipal progress and to the material development and upbuilding of Racine. He belongs to that class of substantial American citizens who owe their progress to personal effort, diligence and determination and his life record should serve to inspire and encourage others, indicating what may be accomplished by persistent, earnest effort intelligently directed.