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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History

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William Higby

Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record - Published 1894 by Excelsior Publishing Co., Chicago" Pages 575 - 576

William Higby, the pioneer school teacher of Holland Township, has been an important factor in the educational progress in his community. While some have given their time and attention to improving farms and accumulating wealth, he has given more thought to the intellectual and moral growth of his community. Few men have the esteem and confidence of their townsmen in a higher degree than this gentleman. Mr. Higby was bora January 4, 1824, in Otsego County, N. Y., being a son of William and Eunice (Niles) Higby. The father was born in Washington County, of the same State, August 10, 1774, and when a boy learned the trade of a carpenter. Going to Otsego County, he devoted himself to farming and working at his trade. His last days were spent in that county, where he died in 1856. The mother of the subject of this sketch was born March 10, 1792, and died June 8, 1841. This worthy couple became the parents of six children, three boys and three girls, of whom three are living: Mary A., widow of Dana F. Shepherd, now residing in Columbus, Cherokee County, Kan.; William, whose name heads this record; and Beecher, who lives in Otsego County, N. Y.

In his native county Mr. Higby grew to manhood and received a common-school education. During the winter of 1844-45, he taught his first term of school. In the fall of the latter year he emigrated to Milwaukee, where he made his home with his brother, who had preceded him to Wisconsin. Early in 1846, Mr. Higby purchased a tract of prairie land at Johnstown, Rock County, on which he resided for about six months, and then returned to Milwaukee. During the winter of 1846, he conducted a school at Greenfield, Milwaukee County. In May, 1847, the young pedagogue found his way to Holland Township. His first school in Sheboygan County was taught in Gibbsville, Lima Township, in the winter of 1847. This entitles him to be numbered among the pioneer teachers of the county, as few schools had been conducted prior to that time. Many of the prosperous farmers and business men of the county have received instruction from this venerable educator. Upon his arrival in the town of Holland, Mr. Higby pre-empted one hundred and sixty acres of Government land, and purchased eighty acres, for which he paid the nominal sum of $1.25 per acre. Being one of the earliest settlers in the town, Mr. Higby took an active part in surveying the land, cutting out roads, erecting schoolhouses and making other improvements. He has been an eye-witness of the great transformation that has taken place in this country. The thick forests have melted away before the woodsman's axe, well-cultivated farms taking their places; cities, populous and prosperous, have risen over the vanished Indian villages, and magnificent homes have been erected where once stood the pioneer's hospitable cabin.

Before coming to this county, Mr. Higby formed the acquaintance of Miss Mary Brooks, a most estimable lady, to whom he was married August 31, 1848. Mrs Higby is a daughter of Abel and Ora (Colton) Brooks, and is a native of the town of Milford, Otsego County, N. Y., born October 25, 1824. She is one of ten children, two sons and eight daughters, though only two are now living. Her sister Amanda is the wife of Leonard W. Baldwin, of Otsego County. For forty-five years Mrs. Higby has been a true helpmate to her husband, sharing with him all the hardships as well as the pleasures of frontier life.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. Higby have been born four children. DeWitt E., born March 11, 1853, is a farmer of Holland Township. The marriage of this son to Miss Ida L. Gillette, a native of Milwaukee County, occurred January 30, 1878. Dwight H., born March 12, 1856, who is also a farmer of that town, wedded Miss Louise Koonz, who is now deceased; Flora M., born January 7, 1859, became the wife of John Lemkuil, and resides in Sheboygan; and Harriet M., born November 10, 1861, is the wife of Fayette Richmond, a farmer of Lyndon Township.

Politically, Mr. Higby is a Republican, and by his party has been honored with a number of official positions. In 1850, and again in 1860, he served as Town Superintendent of Schools; was Town Clerk in 1855; was a member of the County Board of Supervisors in 1869; was Census Enumerator of his township in 1855, for the State, and served in the same capacity for the United States in 1880; and is now holding the office of Justice of the Peace. Though nearly seventy years of age, he and his wife are well preserved, both physically and mentally, and no couple in the county are more deserving of favorable mention.

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