Tama County Iowa Biographies

William F. Higgins

Harlan, Edgar Rubey. A Narrative History of the People of Iowa. Vol IV. Chicago: American Historical Society, 1931

p. 133

William F. Higgins, a popular business man of Waterloo, is a native of Iowa and was born on a farm in Carleton Township of Tama County, where his people were early settlers.

His father was Thomas Higgins, a native of Whiteside County, Illinois, and his grandfather, Michael Higgins, was born in County Cork, Ireland, as was the only member of his family to come to America, locating in Whiteside County, where he bought a farm. Thomas Higgins lived in Whiteside County until 1864, when he came out to Iowa and settled in Tama County. At that time a railroad was in process of construction, but it was never completed, and after putting in a summer working for the construction company he had to go without his pay for his labor. He then became a farmer in Carleton Township, and for several years devoted his labors to his land. After leasing his farm he moved to Garwin, where he is now living retired. He married Harriet Smith, who was born in Iowa. Her father, John Smith, was a native of Germany. He came to the United States when a young man, in 1847 returned to his native land, and in 1849 came again to this country and joined a company that started in a covered wagon across the plains for California. He was quite successful in his search for the precious metal on the Pacific Coast and after returning east bought 320 acres of Government land in Tama County, Iowa, at $1.25 an acre. Tama County, like other counties in Western Iowa, was then sparsely settled and he was among the pioneers in starting development. He improved 240 acres, erected good buildings and lived there until his death at the age of eighty-one. Thomas Higgins and wife reared a family of five children: William F.; Margaret, who married Olin Ruff of Tama County, Iowa; Walter; Roy; and Ruth, who married Ralph Irons, of Tama County.

William F. Higgins was born February 25, 1881, and grew up on the home farm in Tama County, was educated in rural schools and did his share of farm work. When he was nineteen years old he began clerking in a general store and six years later went to Des Moines and was employed in a cleaning and pressing establishment, and during the next four years closely studied this business with a view to setting up independently. After leaving Des Moines he was at Cedar Rapids, and in 1911 he came to Waterloo and established what is known as the Unique Cleaners, at 401 West Fourth Street. By close personal attention he has made this a business that draw customers not only from waterloo but many surrounding towns, and the plant has been steadily improved and increased in respect to modern facilities. There are now twenty-three skilled workers employed. Since 1920 Mr. Higgins has served on the short course committee which has charge of a dry cleaners' course in connection with the winter convention which is held each year at the Iowa State College at Ames.

Mr. Higgins is a member of Helmet Lodge No. 188, Knights of Pythias, and is a Mason. He is a member of the Optimist Club and the Chamber of Commerce and a past director of the latter. His church affiliations are with the Westminster Presbyterian Church of Waterloo. He married, November 11, 1917, Miss Anna Fry, daughter of George and Nell (Smith) Fry. Nell Smith was born in England. Mr. and Mrs. Higgins adopted two children, a brother and a sister, named Eleanor Jean and Arnold Edward. Mrs. Higgins by a former marriage has a son, named Harold Blank of Waterloo.

Cathy Joynt Labath
Irish in Iowa

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