The Higginson 200 reunion’s committee took a year to organize and with the help of the community, their website and social media. Bill Byers, Eleanor Sides, Alice McLaurin, Percy Higginson and Naomi Mahon were able to round up more than 370 Higginson descendants from all over to attend the Higginson family reunion celebrating the 200-year anniversary of the arrival of the Higginsons in Canada.

“When we started the project we quickly realized that in this day and age, nobody has an address book anymore!” exclaimed Byers.

“So we used technology and networks to reach a maximum number of people. It was a great success for us. Champlain Township was so accommodating and the people of the area were very welcoming.”

On the opening day of the reunion, Bill Byers gave an orientation presentation on August 11 at the Vankleek Hill community centre going all the way back to the 1400s. But the focus of the presentation was the arrival and settlement of the Higginson family in the area. In 1817, George Higginson and his wife Rose Lough Higginson and their children, George, Rosemary and John, left their home in Carncastle, County Antrim, Northern Ireland intending to sail to Baltimore, Maryland.

The ports along the New England coastline were closed to ships from Ireland and elsewhere because of the rampant spread of cholera and other ship-borne diseases. Their ship was diverted to Quebec City and eventually the higginsons made made their way to the tiny community which was building up around the Hamilton Brothers sawmills at what became known as Hawkesbury, nestled along the southern shore of the Ottawa River.

Two years later, in 1819, George’s mother, Jane Crawford Higginson, his brother John and his wife, Eliza Sheriff and their children, Nancy, Eliza and Thomas, his brother William and his new bride, Jane Tweed, his brother Thomas and his new bride, Nancy Park, along with his sister Jane and her husband William Holliday set sail on board “The Pitt” to join them, in this eastern corner of Upper Canada.

Sadly, Jane Crawford Higginson would die on the voyage and be buried at sea. Brother John would die soon after arriving in Canada. His young son, Thomas, would become the Member of Parliament for Prescott from 1863-1867, thus becoming one of the “Fathers of Confederation,” a notable achievement as we celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Confederation.

Glenn Higginson, a self-proclaimed desert rat from Arizona, came to the reunion and celebrated his 93rd birthday. He brought with him many family members. At the orientation, Higginson gave a speech that resembled a stand up comedy routine which made the Higginson crowd burst into laughter. You can watch the video on our website.

On Saturday August 12, Higginson family members had the chance to drive around the area and witness many Higginson family landmarks and historical sites where current owners opened their houses and properties to welcome them. After the driving tour, a banquet was held at the community centre and had more than 300 people attending.

The last day of the reunion was on Sunday August 13. A church service was held in the morning and a luncheon was served. People mingled long after discussing how they were related.

“It was just wonderful to have all the these people here. Everything went according to plan and more! We were all very thrilled,” concluded Byers.