EDN Bicentennial Series: George Higgs: Second citizen to be born in Effingham County

Photo submittedGeorge W. Higgs

George Higgs was the second oldest native-born citizen of the county. His friend and relative was Thomas B. Austin of Jackson Township, who was the oldest.

According to the “History of Effingham County 1910,” Higgs was born on March 11, 1832 in Jackson Township, the son of Harrison and Mary (Martin) Higgs. Their home was a rude log cabin, as they were among the early pioneers coming to the state in 1828-1829. His father, Harrison Higgs, died at the age of 45 when George was nine years old, his wife having died two years previously.

According to the book, after the death of his father, George W. Higgs spent three years in the family of Samuel Winters and attended a primitive log cabin subscription school of the neighborhood. He spent the next three years in the family of John Brackett where he worked on the farm and attended school three months of the year.

The book also stated that on March 10,1853 when he reached the age of 21 he married Rachel Jane Beck and began farming. He purchased 80 acres from his brother B.F. Higgs who had purchased it from a Mexican War veteran who had received it for settlement of a land grant for his services. He brought the land under cultivation using an ox team for several years.

According to “The History of Effingham County, Illinois 1910, “he built a log cabin from timber on the farm and he put up a stone chimney. His neighbors called him “high toned.” He lived there until 1890 when he replaced the cabin with a modern commodious home. George lost his wife after four years of marriage, she had born him two children, William Franklin and one who died in infancy.

Mr. Higgs married his second wife, Adeline Ward, in 1857, they had seven children Mary Ann, Sarah Elizabeth, George, Albert, Charles, John and James. He was a Democrat and a consistent member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

The book also stated that he was well known as a man of superior business judgement, energy and thrift, as well as one who is kindly and charitable to all, being broad in his sympathies and views. His father was a soldier in the Black Hawk War and, though he died in middle age, had impressed himself upon his community and was regarded as a valuable citizen. When he settled in Illinois, Effingham County was not organized and the sheriff rode from house to house to collect taxes.

Descendants of the Higgs family still reside in the area today.

Crystal Reed can be reached at crystal.reed@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 131.

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