History of Chicago, Andreas, 1885
The year of 1871 was an eventful one to those having marine interests, for it was this year that the tug owners raised the tariff so high as to almost prohibit business, in consequence of which the vessel owners combined, raising a capital stock company called the Vessel Owners’ Towing Company, electing Captain James Higgie president, after which he went to Buffalo and contracted for five new tugs and then returned to Chicago. When the tugs were ready to deliver to the company he again went to Buffalo and equipped them, and they arrived in Chicago about one month prior to the great fire of 1871, since which time the company have added six tugs, making eleven in their service. Captain Higgie has continued as president of the Vessel Owners’ Towing Company since its organization, and has continued also to operate vessels of his own, and has handled a large quantity of real estate in the meantime. The first boat under his command was the “Lewis C. Erwin,” and the last that he sailed was the “Pilgrim,” in 1863. Captain Higgie was married in Racine, Wis , in 1867, to Miss Mary J. Kirkham, and they have seven children living–James L., Mary L., Noble K., Arthur M., Archie, Imogene and George K. James L. Higgie is one of the prominent men who is closely identified with marine matters in Chicago, and his name is familiarly known over the whole extent of the lakes, and is a synonym for honorable dealing and commercial equity. During his thirty years’ of active life, Captain Higgie has made a multitude of close and earnest friends, whose number is increased each day of his life. He has been a Mason since 1862, and is a member of Cleveland Lodge, No 211, A. F. & A. M.; of Washington Chapter, No. 43, R. A. M.; and of Chicago Commandery, No 19, K. T.
Chicago Tribune, August 23, 1874
John Gregory sued the Vessel-Owners’ Towing Company for $1,000.
Chicago Tribune, July 16, 1878
A TUG WAR INAUGURATED.
It is very likely that a tug war will be inaugurated to-day, for the two organizations known as the Vessel-Owners’ Towing Company and the Union Towing Association have, it is understood, entered into a compact whereby vessel-owners who do not give them their towing will be charged full tariff rates, while those who do will get the usual 30 per cent off the schedule rates, thus reviving what is known among tug-men as the “black-ball system,” which was crushed out in 1871, and which caused the organization of one of the above-named Associations. The independent tug-men in the harbor take it that the agreement between the Associations means a competitive war that is designed to freeze them out, and propose to meet their opponents by reducing the tariff still further. There are in the Independent Line thirteen of the best tugs, as a whole, on the river, and those, with a number of wild tugs, will make the fight. The Independent Line tugs will tow vessels in or out at 50 per cent off the schedule in use by all the other tugmen in the port, and when a vessel-owner gives them his towing both in and out 60 per cent will be allowed. The tugs of the Associates number thirty-three, and their managers will probably give vessel-owners to understand that the new arrangement commences to-day, and unless they give them their round-trip towing no reduction will be allowed from the towing tariff, which was gotten up in 1871, when some of the gentlemen now in favor of it were then strongly opposed to the black-ball system.
The reduced rates will be cheerful intelligence to those in the lumber trade, and especially to the owners and masters of small vessels who have had to divide their freight money equally with the tug-men.
There is not much doing in the way of towing at the present time, but there is enough to set the ball in motion and make a lively tug war, the result of which will be watched with interest. The independent tugs have the bulge on the Associations because of their greater reduced rates, which vessel-owners will not lose sight for a moment these times. Capts. Deane and Warner have charge of the Independent Line tugs, Capt. Higgie manages the V,O,T. boats, and Capt. John Crawford the U.T.A. tugs. About fifty tugs are in commission.
Chicago Tribune, April 8, 1879
The office of the Vessel-Owners’ Towing Company, at the corner of South Water and Franklin streets, has been connected by telephone with the Life-Saving Station on the south pier, near the mouth of the river, and it will prove of great service in the event of a tug or other aid being required in case of wreck or danger to life.
Chicago Tribune, July 4, 1886
J. L. Higgie Block
F. B. Townsend bas planned a block of stores and flats for Capt. J. L. Higgie, to be erected at the corner of Harrison street and Ogden avenue. The building will have a total frontage of about 240 feet, which will be constructed in the first story of brick, iron, and glass and the two upper stories of pressed brick trimmed with stone and terra-cotta. The improvement will be one of the best and most important made on Ogden avenue for some time. Contracts for the work will soon be let.
Chicago Tribune, November 25, 1900
James Lyle Higgie, who was many years President of the Vessel Owners’ Towing company, dled on Friday at his residenco, 4033 Ellis avenue, after an Illness of several months. Ho was in his sixty-fifth year. His widow and ten children survive him. The funeral will take place on Tuesday morning at 11 o’clock. The interment swill be in Rosehill Cemetery. Mr. Higgle was born In Fifeshire, Scotland. He came l0 America In 1844, going to Kenosha, Wis. In 1848 he shipped as cook on the lake schooner Mary Ann Leonard. In the following year he shipped on tho schooner Erwin, and before long became its Captain. After many fears in command of vessels on the lakes he came to Chicago in 1863 and engaged in the commission business. In 1871 he was elected President of the Vessel Owners’ Towing company, a position he retained until 1895, when ho retired from business.