October 2007 Issue
Some are discovered amid a sea of garage-sale cast-offs. Others have been relegated to the back of a barn, family heirlooms too precious to toss, yet too impractical for the machine age. For 35 years, Roger Higgins Sr. and his son, Roger Higgins Jr., have been collecting horse-drawn vehicles in need of some tender loving care and restoring them to their former splendor.
“I was born and raised on a farm, says Roger Higgins Sr., 74. “Of course in my day, horses and wagons were still depended on for work and transportation. That has stuck in my blood.”
The duo, who live in Meeker, own 28 of the vintage vehicles — from hitch wagons, sleighs and bobsleds to a black Phaeton, which Roger Higgins Jr., 51, describes as “the Cadillac
of its day.”
Their first find was a covered wagon tucked away in a barn in New Bloomington, Ohio. The Higginses restored the vehicle and have spent countless hours traveling through Ohio and Kentucky with other wagon-train enthusiasts, covering 10 miles by day, circling the campfire at night.
Father and son are also vice president and president, respectively, of the Black Swamp Driving Club, a nonprofit Ohio association dedicated to promoting driving and collecting horse-drawn vehicles.
Restoration is often painstaking and expensive. It takes time to find the craftsman who can make the ideal wheel.
“It might be months before your turn comes to have a project started,” Roger Higgins Jr. says. “Special material, such as leather for seats or a piece of lace for trim, can take time to locate. It can take up to a year from start to finish.”
The two are currently working on a Rockaway, a coach from the 1870s that sports leaded glass doors and cloth window shades.
For more information about the vehicles, call 740/499-2589. — Steve Herrick