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"A Saintly Halo" - Julia Grant Higgins - Missoula Pioneer

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Julia Grant Higgins – Missoula Pioneer

“there will ever hover these memories as a saintly halo”

Mrs. Julia Grant Higgins Dies After Brief Illness

Mrs. Julia Grant Higgins, daughter and granddaughter of Hudson Bay factors, one of the foremost of the early pioneers of western Montana, died at St. Patrick’s at three minutes before midnight, after an illness which began only last Sunday. At her bedside, when the angel of death called, were her three sons, Arthur, Ronald and Gerald, her daughter and husband, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Conley, her sisters-in-law, Mrs. Kate McCormick and Mrs. Maria T. Higgins, her niece, Mrs. G. Houghton and her nephews, W. W. and John F. McCormick. Mrs. Higgins was taken ill with inflammatory rheumatism last Sunday, while at her ranch house south of the city, and the following day was taken to the hospital. She had rapidly grown worse and yesterday it was discovered that her condition was serious. Throughout the day those of her many friends who had heard of her illness awaited anxiously the hourly bulletins which were issued from her bedside. The end came peacefully – without a struggle.

Julia Grant Higgins, daughter of Captain Richard Grant and Helen McDonald Grant, was born at Fort Hall, in the Snake river country of Idaho, in the year 1843. Richard Grant, her father, was factor at the fort, which was a post of the old Hudson Bay company, and was a noted Indian fighter. The family lived at Fort Hall until Julia was 16 years of age, removing to the Missoula valley, then known as Hell Gate ronde, in 1859. The entire Grant family, composed of the parents and three daughters, Julia, Adeline and Ellen, made the hazardous trip overland. In the fall of 1860, Captain Grant built a log house on Grant Creek, and the family remained there until the fall of the next year, 1861. Then they removed to Dry creek, six miles from Walla Walla. There Captain Grant and one daughter, Ellen, were stricken with the illness which ended in their death. The next year Mrs. Grant and daughters, Julia and Adeline, returned to the home on Grant creek. In the year 1863 Julia Grant became the wife of Captain C. P. Higgins, an ex-soldier of the United States cavalry and a native of the Emerald isle. Soon after the daughter was married, Mrs. Grant died and Adeline was married to a man by the name of McLaren and lived near DeSmet. In March of the next year, 1864, Frank Higgins, who afterwards became lieutenant governor of Montana, was born. While Frank was yet a babe in arms, Captain Higgins took him and his mother on horseback to a place on Coeur d’Alene lake near LaSalle. From there the family went to Portland, Olympia and Victor, returning to Hell Gate ronde in 1865. They lived then at what was known as Hell Gate, a trading post about three miles west of Missoula. They afterwards removed to what is now Missoula, where they built a small cabin at where the front of the D. J. Donohue store, on Higgins avenue, now stands.

This little home served them some time, but finally it was torn down to permit a business block’s being erected, and the present home, which is occupied by the surviving sons, was built. The site of the house was then where the Higgins block is located. Captain Higgins died in 1889.

Nine children were born to Captain and Mrs. Higgins, of whom four are now living. Arthur, Ronald and Gerald are the surviving sons, their home being in Missoula. A daughter, Hilda, is the wife of Frank Conley, warden of the state penitentiary at Deer Lodge. The dead children are: Frank, John, George, Maurice and Helen. Frank Higgins, the firstborn was a prominent man in the affairs of Montana, having served the state as lieutenant governor. He was also a veteran of the Spanish-American war.

For a few years after the death of her husband, Mrs. Higgins resided at the old homestead, on the corner of Pattee and East Main streets. Later she removed to the ranch property just south of the city, at the end of South Higgins avenue, where she spent most of the last years of her life. As a mother, Mrs. Higgins was unusually devoted and unselfish. The closing years of her life were saddened by the deaths of five of her children.

Mrs. Higgins was a generous, bighearted woman who delighted in deeds of kindness. She was never happier than when doing a kind act for someone. She was known by all of the old-time residents and was respected by all. Her death removed from this world a good woman.

The obituary above appeared in The Daily Missoulian on April 23, 1910


A Noble Woman

There is a new mound this morning on the sunny hillside south of the city, where the early rays of the morning dawn reveal its presence there. Beneath the strip of fresh-turned sward rests, in its last sleep, the earthly form of a noble woman. In that narrow bed Julia Grant Higgins rests with those she loved. For her the sun shall rise no more until the dawn of the resurrection day; for her no more the flowers she loved shall bloom upon the ground she cherished; for her no more the birds shall sing – their music will sound in the fields above, but it will not be heard by her who used to find dear companionship in Mother Nature. But though she has left us, the memory remains and will always be with us, of her life of devotion to those she loved and of sacrifice for them. Yesterday loving lips told of the details of that life in some measure; tender hands laid upon the bier beautiful flowers that told of appreciation and affection; hundreds testified by their presence at the obsequies, to their remembrance of the good things which this woman had done in her eventful lifetime. Mrs. Higgins was typically a pioneer woman. Her whole life was spent in the midst of scenes which attended the development of the northwest. She was a child of the west, born upon the frontier and of frontier parents. Her father was one of the notable figures in the advance of civilization through the lands of the red man. Her husband was one of the prominent workers of the northwest in the development of its commercial life. Their trials and their sacrifices she shared, and it was fitting that she should have part in their triumphs and their victories. Here were many of the plans which, brought into successful execution, reclaimed the northwest from savage domination. Her intelligence and her courage were prime factors in the success of her husband. Of her part in this work many will tell, and it is well that this should be known. But be it our part, as her neighbors and as citizens of the town which was for so many years her home, to tell of her tender charity, of her helpful counsel, of her generous heart, which never failed to respond to the appeal of suffering. It is ours to tell this now that she has gone from us; never would she let it be told while she lived, there was no ostentation about her charity; her left hand knew not the deeds of her right. But there are many people in Missoula who will always remember the word of encouragement and the more substantial aid that came from this woman. Her charity was manifold in its form; the old Indian who had known her in her girlhood went to her for aid; the young man and the young woman who, in her later years, sought her help always received it. And over that new mound upon the hillside, south of town, there will ever hover these memories as a saintly halo – the worthy tribute to a noble woman, the reward which she would most appreciate could she know of it. Of grief, she had what seemed more than her share in her long life. But all her trouble was endured uncomplainingly; her own cross was heavy, but she bore it bravely, and to her own burden she willingly added a share of the load of others. With patient fortitude she suffered to the end – she pushed aside her personal griefs that she might lighten the afflictions of others. Her memory will be a priceless possession to those who were honored by her friendship.

The above editorial tribute appeared in The Daily Missoulian on April 26, 1910.




Last Updated on Monday, 15 January 2018 18:55