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THE NEW YORK
A8T«R, LK?fOX AND
'■ \ •
■: EAST HE MIGHT, PERHAPS,
THOMAS D. WHITTLES £
"THE PABI8H OV THE PDOBB"
TBS NKW yij.'lK
JlLhil>' I : .»L/ATiONS
S 1U41 L
OOFYBIGHT, 1920. BY
INTEBCHUBCH WORLD MOYBMENT
OF NORTH AMERICA
To Leonard and the Teen Aqe Youth,
LOVEBS OF HEROES, DREAMERS OF ACTION,
WITH A HOPE THAT IN **UnCLE FrANK"
THEY MAY ENOW A MAN SENT FROM QOD.
A Fishing Trip and What Oamk of It
As THE Twig Was Bent
Thf! Cat.t. to the Camps
Tjrarntng to Pt.at the Game
The Ax at the Boot op the Big Tbees
Stbuggles Against Indipfbbbnob and
White Wbathbe and Winter Woods
Preaching in the Pineries
Fighting for God and Bight
Helping the Down-and-outs .
And Men Saw that It Was Good
The Mares of the Master .
Frank Higgins Frontispiece
Logs ik the Winter and in the Spring . 6
Two Methods op Transporting Logs
The Lumberjacks' Dining-room .
Interior of an Old-time Bunk House
Transforming the Forest
A Modern Camp in the West .
Interior of a Modern Camp •
Many of the interesting incidents and conversar
tions in this volnme have already appeared from
the pen of the anthor in **The Parish of the
Pines, The Story of Frank Higgins, the Lnmber-
jack's Pilof , published by the Fleming H. Eevell
Company, by whose permission the same are used
in this book.
For many years Frank Higgins and I were close
companions. To my home he came often^ to rest
from the demanding labors of the camps. To-
gether we traveled the trails to the lumber dis-
tricts and in the evenings preached in the crowded
bunk honses. In the green-circled lakes of the
northland we fished, forgetful of care; in the moxm-
tain camps we lent each other the warmth of onr
bodies when the nights were bitter and the cover-
ing all too inadequate; under summer skies we
slept side by side with the gossamer air for a shel-
tering tent; and in many cities we unitedly pre-
sented the needs of the camp mission. In work
and play, in camp and city, in palace and shack,
Higgins was always the same— natural, interest-
ing, zealous for his **boys,*' a man among men,
were they hoboes or millionaires.
Many of the incidents narrated in the f o11ot«&-
ing pages came under my personal observation.
With all parts of his field of labor I am intimately
acquainted through personal visits and investiga-
tion. The material presented in this book was
gathered first-hand and is not a borrowed collec-
tion of data. It is the testimony of an eye-witness.
This is a brief introduction to the man I knew
and loved; and with it goes the hope that all of
my readers may derive inspiration from Frank
Higgins' labors and feel a new interest in the
lonely campmen to whom he gladly gave his un-
Thomas D. Whittles.
A FISHING TRIP AND WHAT CAME OF IT
FRANK HIGQINS went fishing in Kettle
River and was hooked by a big idea.
Northern Minnesota, where the Kettle
flows, abounds in evergreen forests, crystal lakes,
rolling hUls, and clean streams. All the north
oonntry is charming, bat when variety is added,
as here it is, then ima^nation breathes deep and
a new vision of beauty is bom.
At Kettle River Frank Higgins found himself
and found his future task — a task which made him
known to the Christian church and to a great host
of men who, by ax and saw, contribute to the
world's comfort and wealth. And because Hig-
gins found himself, thousands of lumberjacks
The glory of Kettle River has departed. It
2 PEANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
passed with the fall of its ancient pines^ with
the opening of its shores to the once forbidden
sunbeams, with the retreat of the red men, and
with the coming of the wide, nnshaded fields, now
rich with grain. Not many years ago Northern
Minnesota was a primitive paradise, undisturbed
by noise of mill, unmarred by soot of foundry,
while under the heaven-saluting trees the timid
deer found a retreat and in the Kettle's waters
There was vast wealth on the Kettle's banks;
man needed the tall trees, and Kettle Eiver fur-
nished a pathway from the solitudes to civiliza-
tion, where lumber could be exchanged for dollars.
So with ax and saw men entered the forest. Eude
camps were erected near the waters, the crash
of falling trees awoke the echoes, roads pushed
broad brown lines among the evergreens — aU
roads leading to the Kettle, whose quiet had been
^ invaded by a host of shouting, swearing lumber-
"'^''t^onvenient to the river and to forest roads,
tar-paper villages sprang into being, with stores,
saloons, warehouses, shops, and every agent that
caters to the endless demands of men. Good peo-
ple supplied the honest needs of decent folk, and
unscrupulous people preyed on the weaknesses of
humanity. The best and worst were therOi and
WHAT CAME OP A FISHING TRIP 3
often the worst were in the majority^ because law
was weak in the new villages.
Bammuy Minnesota, was new — ^very new. Large
lumber camps grew up near its doors and Kettle
Biver was not far away. In Bamum the restless
lumberjacks spent their money and, while spend-
ing it, created a wild havoc bom of whisky and
evil. Here the camps bought outfits for man and
beast; here the honest man found companionship
and the vicious found here a place to ply his
Among this motley humanity the Presbytery of
Duluth established a churdi. Several missionaries
labored here for a brief time, then passed on to
more promising fields; for Bamum in its lusty
youth gave little encouragement to ministers. So
the litile church, balancing between life and death,
was often without a preacher and often raised the
Macedonian cry, **Come and help us.'* And
Frank Higgins heard its plea*
Higgins had met with many ups and downs. He
was sure he was called to the ministry, but he had
not succeeded in convincing others that the call
was of God. However, he was willing to tackle
anything, and the Presbytery of Duluth asked him
to undertake this forlorn hope. The Presbytery
hardly expected him to succeed ; there was little in
him tiiat promised success and there was less in
4 FRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
Bamnm on which to build successfully. Still, the
church could hardly hurt Higgins and Higgins
could hardly hurt the church, so the chances of
loss were small. And then, he might be the man
for the place I
He was. The unpromising man in the unprom-
ising village had been divinely selected to blaze
a new trail.
f — men the church people in Bamum first saw
I Frank Higgins, they were frankly disappointed.
f He did not look like a minister. His hands were
big and rough, his face ruddy with outdoor life,
there was a woodsman *s slouch in his walk, and the
j lines of his face, kindly and laughing, bore little
1 of conventional solemnity. An additional doubt
! arose from his evident need of education, his
faulty grammar, and his carelessly chosen words ;
i while his thought lacked nicety, and there was the
1^ elegifint of the street in his speech.
/ The men of the village and the wandering lum-
berjacks hailed him gladly, finding in him a choice
spirit who did not shun them because of their
weaknesses. His hand was open to the prodigal
i loafer and to the careless vagabond. His rough
I kindnesses touched even the vampire tribe that
j live on the vices of men, and while he opposed
1 them with all his power, they still gave him re-
I spect. There was no doubt about it; Frank Hig-
WHAT CAME OP A PISHING TEIP 5
gins was ''diflferenf from any minister that
Bammn had seen.
Higgins never followed the usual routine; he
was always doing the unexpected; and therefore
he became a fruitful topic for discussion at the
sewing circle, the back-fence f orum, in the saloons,
and in the far-oflf camps. Everybody agreed that
he was unusual. They also agreed that he feared
neither man nor devil, and when he preached, his
remarks had the force of a sledge-hammer. „
His religion consisted more of service than of I
expounding theology ; his hand was more eloquent
than his voice, and his heart gave greater help
than his mind. Whatever else men said or thought
of Higgins, they agreed that he was striving to \
make religion an every-day affair, and his love for I
men was the motive power. r'"'^
In the spring of 1895, Martin Cain, who operated
a camp of woodsmen on Kettle Biver, invited\
Higgins to his camp where the men were driving \
*'YouTl find it worth while to watch the * river
pigs' at work," said Cain, using the name by |
which the rivermen are commonly called.
*'It will all be new to me,'' replied Higgins. /
**I have never been on the drive. I was raised in [
a timber country, but know nothing about the river ;
side of logging."
6 FRANK HIQOINS: TRAIL BLAZER
^^And the fishing is not to be sneezed at,"
I smiled Cain, who had heard of the preacher's lav^e
! for the rod and reel.
' * * That settles it I I *11 go with yon the next time
yon come in." Higgins was already antieipatizig^
A few days later Mr. Higgins accompanied tlie
\ logger. He went, expecting fine fishing. He was
\ led, nnoonscionsly, to his life work.
'"TTte ride led through rough, cut-over lands, it
bordered the lakes, and wound between the stumps.
Settlers were few and far apart in that new coun-
try, a coimtry rich with a wide variety of hill and
dale, lake and woodland. But the river soon came
in sight, and with it came the noise of grinding,
grumbling logs as they caught in the shallows or
bumped their way through the narrow channel.
In midstream the rivermen were *' sacking**
logs; that is, helping them over the shallows or
directing them with pikepole into the deeper
waters. The skilful workers leaped like squirrels
from floating log to floating log, keeping their posi-
tions on the charging, plunging timbers speeding
through the white water. With such sure-footed-
ness they performed this difficult task that it
seemed easy, but only a master can ride the rush-
ing, free-flung stream^
In a sheltered bend lay the wannigan, or float-
i FRF*; " ^jage 52.)
PUi>i.iC UV l.\.,\
ASTOB, LKNffX \\n
TILDBN F0[ NIU'n..NS
WHAT CAME OP A FISHING TRIP 7
ing storehouse, containing the necessary equip-
ment of clothing, tools, kitchen utensils, food, and
bedding; and near it, on the grassy, shelving
shore, were the tents and the camp fire.
Here, warmed by the blazing logs, the dripping
rivermen ate their supper, while the ruddy glow
of evening added comfort to the scene. In that
sunset hour, as the lingering light threw a rosy
glow over the drowsy forest and the never-sleepy
river, Mr, Higgins received a strange request.
The men asked him to preach. They were
a profane, godless lot, whose careless blasphemy
and coarse speech made the preacher feel that they
cared nothing for religion or goodness. If they
had asked him to join them in a poker game, it
would have seemed consistent; but to have them
ask for a sermon was, for the moment, unbeliev-
* * It was the last crowd on the face of the earth
from which to expect such a demand," said Mr.
Higgins when speaking of the experience later.
**I thought it was a joke. But they meant it, so
I swallowed my surprise and delivered the goods."
There, in the temple of pines, canopied with liv-
ing green, columned with aisles of trees, Higgins
preached his first sermon to the men of the north-
em forests. The evening lent its * ' dim, religious
light" and the quiet of the hour was on tree and
8 FRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
water. Nature was worshiping, and sinful men
would join in the Creator's praise.
Mounting a log, Higgins opened the service
without the aid of Bible or hymn-book^ and
*' Nearer, my God, to Thee,
Nearer to TheeP'
rolled through the lacing evergreens like the
waves of a mighty sea, as the men lustily lifted
the song in the fading sunset. They were pleased
with their own efforts and asked for more. They
chose the hymns they knew best, — ^the songs of
childhood, learned in the days before sin had
marred their hands and hearts. They selected
** Jesus, Lover of my soul.
Let me to Thy bosom fly.
While the nearer waters roll.
While the tempest still is highP'
It played upon the heart-strings as the men sang
it in the far-off forest, their toil-hardened faces
softened under the touch of memories. The run-
ning stream and the quivering tree-tops faded
from sight. They were boys again in the glad
days of childhood. Over the darkening river the
music of lonely hearts wandered into the dying
distance, and the stately pines echoed back the
**0, receive my soul at last.**
WHAT CAME OP A PISHING TRIP 9
The song suggested the sermon, and Higgins
spoke of Jesus, the Lover of Wanderers — Oman's
great Lover, whose love is like a mother's, but
deeper, truer, more lasting, and more rare. In
Higgins' voice there was always a sympathy like
a woman's, and his hearers were carried back to
the days of mother and home and the springs of
youth. While Higgins presented the tender story
of sacrificial love, the night shadows gathered
nearer and the flickering firelight played on ear-
nest faces. Wishes became prayers, and longings
were bom that became conversions. One of the
** river pigs" who listened by the dying fire after-
ward entered the Christian ministry.
A second surprise came as Higgins was leaving
camp. The rivermen asked him to come and
preach again I ^^ '^
**We're off here in the timber and the church
don't often come our way, but it's welcome," said
one of them.
*'If some preacher would drop in occasionally,
he could give us a lift. The Lord knows we need
it," laughed one of the rivermen to hide his em-
*' What's the matter with you doing the turn?"
they asked. Did this incident bring to Higgins'
mind a thought of Peter and Andrew leaving their
fishing-nets to become '^ fishers of men!"
10 PRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
f. Alter this invitation, the preacher often visited
; the rivermen. Their work was strange to him,
' but he joined in it. His unsuccessful attempts to
[ ride the floating logs aroused their merriment.
\When the preacher mounted a *' south-bound
\stick,*' they joyfully awaited the moment when
^*his reverence'^ would frantically beat the air
$nd then disappear beneath the waiting waters.
A dripping preacher was an unusual sight and
fiiggins was often unusual. But laughter did not
fetop him. He knew that men who labor with their
pands give better attention to the man who is mas-
iter of their art. He wanted their admiration so
/they would admire his message the more. Many
I sudden, chilly baths and bruising tumbles were his
I before the rivermen spoke of the preacher as a
I man of their own sort, but the coveted words
\ came at last.
' — -The ** river pigs'* often spent Sunday in Bar-
num and Higgins wished to see them in his church.
**When you visit the village I want you fellows
to remember me,'* he said. *'My home and my
church are open to you and you are as welcome
as the people in town."
Shortly afterward, three big rivermen, dressed
in their working togs, strode into the little church
and took seats in the rear. In those days the
river pigs were more picturesque than now.
WHAT CAME OP A PISHING TRIP 11
Their garments were highly colored and the broad
belts and high-laced boots added to the striking
effect. Naturally, they created a sensation among
the worshipers, and the woodsmen enjoyed the
sensation. Bamum had seen thousands of lum-
berjacks in its streets ; this was the first time it
had seen them in its church.
Higgins gave the visitors a whole-souled wel-
come and his hospitality bore fruit in later days.
The three men brought others, and presently
Bamum began to look upon their visits to the
church as a commonplace occurrence. The com-
ing of the woodsmen proved to Higgins that a
minister who wants a larger field must first take
down the fence that encloses his present one; so
Higgins got busy removing the barbed-wire en-
tanglements that interfered with the desired in-
The following autumn a delegation of lumber-
jacks came to the preacher's home and asked him
to conduct regular services in their camp.
**We need you as much as that crew of drivers
you preached to in the spring,'' said the speaker.
As Higgins looked into their lonely, sin-marked
faces, his big heart went out to them, for they
were as sheep without a shepherd, and his promise
to preach was gladly given.
All the camps near Bamum were soon asking
12 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
for Higgins. At that time, lumber camps by the
hundred were operating in the state, and none
save the nine to which he ministered were receiv-
ing the gospel message. Higgins was finding him-
self and the men were finding God.
AS THE TWIG WAS BENT
THIS chapter deals with the green and callow
years of Frank Higgins' boyhood and car-
ries the Lnmbergai^' Sky Pilot from birth
to Bamnm, Minnesota.
Frank Higgins, bright, sympathetic, and com-
panionable, was a prince of good fellows, yet this
prince was not bom in a palace. His first weak
little cry was uttered in a hotel and it may
have even penetrated to the "saloon end" of the
building, which, as far as business was concerned,
was the principal part of the establishment. To
quote from Hig^ns, "I got a good start in my
hatred for the liquor business and saw its results
in early childhood."
Back in the "60'8" of the last century, Samuel
and Atiti Higgins ran the old Walker House of
14 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
Toronto, Ontario. Both were of Irish blood. The
wife came from Ulster, Ireland, when a child of
four years. The husband, however, was bom in
the Dominion of Canada. The nineteenth day of
August, 1865, was a great day at the old Walker
House. The proprietor celebrated the birth of a
son and named the lusty youngster Francis Ed-
mund Higgins. Francis Edmund was the sev-
enth child of the family, the others dying in early
Then came the death of Higgins' father, and
during her two years of widowhood, the mother
continued the hotel business, but it proved a losing
venture. Finally she married John Castle, who
moved the family into the wilds of Ontario, where
they settled on land which had fallen to the boy
Frank by inheritance. They took up life in an
untouched wilderness with few white settlers and
fewer adviantages. The land was covered with
a forest of cedar, hemlock, maple, and birch.
With laborious efforts, the growth of ages was
squared into timbers for cabins and sheds, and the
fields were cleared and made ready for the needed
The country was new and white settlers were
distant, but the Indians were near, several camps
*of them being on the Higgins homestead. The
llndian children naturally became the boyhood
AS THE TWIG WAS BENT 15
friends of young Higgins. From them he learned
the secrets of the bow, the arts of the wood, the
ways of wild things, and the cunning craft of the
forest breed. Once he secretly took a loaf of
bread from his home and traded it with an Indian
youth for a much-coveted bow and arrows. The
theft being discovered, punishment followed
which fixed all parts of the incident in memory.
For three years the Indians lived near the home-
stead. To them Frank was indebted for his fear-
lessness, his love for forest and stream, and his
largej^nship with the great out-of-doors.
[dhiool privileges were rare. When he should
have been at his studies, there was no school to
attend; when the school came, only brief periods
of instruction were allowed him. But this did not
trouble Frank Higgins. He was not *^hankerin'
for book lamin' ^^ in those days, and never burned
pine knots that he might read the few books of the
household, as so many great men are said to have
done. He was more interested in nature than in
printed paper, and the portals of the forest were
more inviting than the doors of the schoolroom.
He was wild and free, ignorant of the power of
books, an unawakened child who needed a teacher
to show him the world's great treasure-house of
At twelve years of age he took his place at his
16 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
stepfather's side and assisted in the support of
le family. The ground had to be cleared of trees
and underbrush; there were rails to split, fields
to fence, stock to tend, sowing and harvesting to
be done — and every hand counted for much in
taming the wilderness. The lad was strong and
wilfingly lent himself to the demands.
Most of the settlers were of English blood.
They could not afford amusements, but they were
willing to sacrifice for the church, and one was
organized near the Castle home. John and Ann
Castle gave it their united support and rejoiced in
Frank's stepfather was a simple farmer with a
large soul. He loved the farm and the neighbors,
and thought it no sacrifice to spend himself for
others. When there was no one else to speak in
the schoolhouse, John Castle took the vacant place
and willingly did his best to instruct in righteous-
ness. Of education he had little, but his delight-
ful desire to be of service impressed the whole
community and inspired many a soul to love the
truth. In his comer he let his candle shine, glad-
dening many by its light.
'* Under God, no man did more for me than John
Castle,'' said Frank in later days. **It was he
who led mother and me to the Savior, and what-
ever of good is in me, is due largely to him.*'
AS THE TWIG WAS BENT 17
Do not, for a moment, think that John Castle's
life was one of roses and sweet happenings, for
Frank Higgins was every inch a boy — and then
some I He was bubbling over with life, and in that
life was all the mischief common to wide-awake
boyhood. He loved his stepfather devotedly, but
that did not save the head of the house from
Frank's mischievous activities.
Among the joys that came into the boy's life
was the gift of a young ram. Frank immediately
saw certain possibilities, and, with a devotion
worthy of a better cause, he gave himself to the
ram's education. He was more willing that it
should acquire knowledge than he was to improve
himself. The ram proved an apt pupil, learning
with ease and forgetting little, and the boy was
immensely proud of its attainments and not a
little vain over his own ability as a teacher. But
the neighbors never entered the Castle dooryard
without first making sure that the way of retreat
was open and a place of refuge near at hand.
And there were times when a refuge was needed.
One evening when nature smiled peacefully on a
tired world, Frank, near the bam, was playing
with the ram ; not far away John Castle, wrapped
in meditation, milked the cow. The eyes of the
boy fell on the poetic picture of the quiet cow, the
thoughtful milker, and the rapidly filling pail. It
18 FRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
suggested an idea — an idea that would not down.
Frank was tempted; and Frank was more prone
to yield to temptation that promised fun than he
was to resist it.
He saw a chance for a practical joke and he took
it. The ram seemed to catch the idea, and — ^with
a quick rush — ^it scattered stool and pail and milk
When John Castle emerged from the confusion
and took his bearings, the real cause of the dis-
turbance was hugging himself behind the barn,
and the sheep was innocently grazing in the near-
by garden. In later years, when one of his own
sheep treated Higgins to the same surprise, he
remembered the boyhood incident and remarked,
as he readjusted himself, * * It was a long time com-
ing, but that ought to square John Castle's ac-
count against me.'*
Long before his conversion, Frank Higgins
cherished a secret and unsuspected ambition. He
wanted to preach ; he wished it with all the power
of his soul. There was nothing in his every-day
life that suggested his desire, for he was harum-
scarum, prankish, and cared nothing for books;
nevertheless, the desire was fixed. The ministers
who passed through the settlement stopped at
Frank's home, and to their visits may probably
be traced the origin of his wish. It could hardly
AS THE TWIG WAS BENT 19
be due to their talks with him, for he avoided the
house when they were present, fearing the probe
they too often inserted into his life. Yet he ad-
mired these self-sacrificing messengers who came
to cheer and help the scattered settlers and in his
heart he wished to be like them. Some of the
neighbors predicted that the boy would become a
politician ; others who had suffered from his many
pranks were positive that he would some day be
hanged; but even the most indulgent of his friends
never dreamed of the ministry as the outlet of
his energies. The ministry is a life of service for
others, and thus far Frank had not shown the
spirit of a ministering angel.
He wished to preach and preach he did; not
to men, but to the stock on the farm and to the
trees of the wilderness. Whenever he heard a
message that pleased him, he tried to give it to
his silent audiences, always making sure that no
human hearers were near who could interrupt or
gossip about it afterward. The patient cattle
received his stirring words and watched his fran-
tic gestures without protest, and the trees, being
accustomed to the powerful winds of heaven, gave
little heed to the shouting youth.
Once, when working in a distant clearing, he
felt that there was a fine place to preach a sermon.
The stumps suggested a waiting congregation
20 FRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
and he began to address them. It was a still day,
and, as the enthusiasm of the speaker increased,
his voice traveled over the field to the barn where
John Castle and the hired man were working.
Peeping through the cracks in the bam, they dis-
covered Frank preaching as if his life depended
on it. The watchers were amused by his actions,
but wishing to hear his words, they crept through
the imderbrush and hid themselves behind some
stumps. The preacher, *' carried away by his own
eloquence, ' ^ chided the stumps for their inactivity
and useless lives. He bade them reform and bring
forth fruits meet for repentance. Before them
was the Land of Promise waiting to be possessed.
** Arise !^' he cried. ^*Be men; step out and take
The hidden listeners accepted the invitation,
thrust their heads above the stumps, and looked
solemnly at the speaker.
Frank's arms stopped in midair. He was sur-
prised into sudden silence. Then confusion seized
him ; and he who a moment before was willing to
lead an army of stumps into Canaan, fled to the
shelter of the forest, pursued by the laughter of
When Frank Higgins was eighteen years old, a
wave of religion swept through the sparsely-
settled county of Dufferin and he was one of
AS THE TWIG WAS BENT 21
the first to surrender himself to Christ. With his
conversion a new spirit was bom. Life was filled
with a new meaning. He had been introduced to
a needy world — a. world that needed more than all
«lse his new-found Man of Galilee.
Having found a treasure, he desired to share his
wealth, and his labors with his companions re-
sulted in the conversion of many. These young
men organized a semi-weekly prayer-meeting in
the schoolhouse, and Higgins took charge of the
first gathering, speaking on the verse, *^To you
that believe He is precious. ' * Loving companion-
ship with God was his theme. Knowing the man
that Higgins became, it seems typical that his first
personal message after meeting his Master should
have dealt with love, for love was the keynote of
Higgins' whole ministry.
Those schoolhouse meetings in that obscure
community were destined to be of wide influence.
Higgins became fixed in his purpose to preach,
and others developed a similar ambition. Out of
those little gatherings came nine ministers who
carried the gospel into parts of Canada, the
United States, and even beyond seas. With a few
such prayer-meetings to-day, there would be no
scarcity of candidates for the ministry. But per-
haps it would be necessary to have present in each
of them a lad with the spirit of Frank Higgins.
22 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
With Higgins' conversion came a desire for an
education. Books, for which he had heretofore
cared little, became of interest. Two years
passed, and when he entered the public schools
of Toronto, he was twenty years old — a man
among Children of the sixth grade. The lessons
which the children mastered with ease were diffi-
cult for him. All his life had been spent in the
open. His hands were accustomed to the plow ; he
was ill at ease with the pen. His poor progress
shamed him, but gritting his teeth, he pluckily kept
at his task. After five years spent in the Toronto
schools, he returned home, a young man of twenty-
five, no longer able to resist an overmastering
desire to preach.
A man was needed to serve the Rosemount Cir-
cuit of the Methodist Episcopal Church. No one
else was willing to shepherd the needy group, and
Higgins hailed the opportunity as a real opening.
He gave his best, but his best did not satisfy. He
lacked too much. His deficiencies were too ap-
parent. He tried hard, very hard, and failed.
Higgins wanted to serve and no one wanted his
services. **The powers that be'' refused to renew
his license to preach and gave three reasons for
their action : * * He was too ignorant, he was too old
to study for the ministry, and he had no reli^on.'^
A dispiriting trio of reasons I
THE NFW VOi:K
PU&ilC LlKHAiiy '
ASTOR, LENOX aND
AS THE TWIG WAS BENT 23
This ought to have discouraged Frank Higgins
and proved the folly of his wish. It would have
crushed an ordinary man, but it did not stop him
— ^it did not even slow him down. He knew he was
too ignorant, but was trying to remedy that lack.
As to being too old to study for the ministry, he
remembered that Moses was eighty when he was
ordained, and Frank was sure he could succeed
before reaching that age I When they said he had
no religion, he smilingly disagreed with them and
said, with his quaint, penetrating humor, **I was
there when I got it, and what I got then I have
now. ' ^ He admitted, however, he was not * * overly
pious, '* and that his ways were rough, like the
woods he was raised in. **What I needed was
education. They couldn't see my religion for my
rough spots,'' he declared.
Frank Higgins faced a discouraging condition,
yet undismayed he looked for a way out, knowing
there always is a way. News came from Minne-
sota that preachers were needed in the new settle-
ments, and Higgins saw his ray of hope. Since
he could not write a convincing letter, he asked a
friend to assist him ; and the letter they wrote re-
sulted in his going to the Annandale Methodist
Church as a lay preacher.
When he left the Canadian home, his pastor
said: **You are making a mistake, Frank. You
24 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
will make a good layman. You are not cut out for
the ministry. You will soon be home again.*'
Frank squared his shoulders and determined to
make his friends false prophets and to prove him-
self a preacher.
At Annandale he labored for two years, handi-
capped by his lack of training but doing good
work in spite of it. Finally, at the age of twenty-
seven, he entered the preparatory department of
Hamline University where, to use his own descrip-
tion, he became a ** second year prep with two
back studies.'' During these two years at Ham-
line, he supported himself by preaching in the
A story still current among the ^*old grads''
of Hamline has to do with Frank Higgins* first
day in that school. Somewhere Higgins got the
idea that clothes were of paramount importance,
and by careful economy he had secured a **top
haf and a Prince Albert coat. Clothed as he
thought a preacher ought to be, he strolled about
the campus, proud of his dearly-bought finery.
The upper-classmen saw the new student, and the
top hat was soon reduced to fragments. But this
was not the end of a perfect day. Higgins caught
the ringleader, joyously fell upon him as Samson
upon the Philistines, and avenged the fate of the
AS THE TWIO WAS BENT 25
President Bridgeman heard of the fight and
Bunimoned Higgins to his office. Late in the day,
after his last class, Frank appeared before the
**I sent for you this morning,*' said Dr. Bridge-
man, emphasizing the word ** morning.^*
**I came as soon as I got through my classes,*'
replied the student innocently, taking a seat and
making himself comfortable.
**You have been fighting.**
*'Yes. A fellow smashed my hat,** came the
A twinkle of merriment passed over the face of
Dr. Bridgeman, but he suppressed it and began
severely, **We cannot tolerate fighting on the
* * But he smashed my hat 1 * *
**It is against the rules and we caimot condone
any acts of rowdyism. You must control your
tendencies. Do you hear me! You must control
*'But the fellow smashed my hat. Doctor. He f
smashed my hat I * * ' '^ '
Dr. Bridgeman took refuge in his handkerchief ;
the innocence of the new student was delightfully
refreshing. But the dignity of the school had to
be maintained, so he began again, hoping to make
a better impressioUi **We shall have to discipline
26 FRANK HIQQINS: TRAIL BLAZER
you for fighting on the campus ; it is forbidden,
and you must bear in mind '*
**But my hat, Doctor I He smashed my hat!'*
Higgins was describing the destruction of his hat
**Mr. Higgins,'' said the president, and his tone
carried a seriousness he was far from feeling,
**the hat has nothing to do with the case. The
rules say *no fighting' and you have broken
**But the fellow smashed my hat. What's a
fellow going to do when a fellow smashes his
** Fighting is the point, Mr. Higgins. Stick to
Higgins did ; he repeated it. * * He smashed my
hat — a high silk hatl" His voice was tragic with
grief. Dr. Bridgeman exploded; the defensive
handkerchief could not cover his mirth.
**You may go. But remember — ^no fighting on
the campus. ' '
^'Tell them not to smash my hat," said Higgins
as he closed the door.
It was unnecessary for Dr. Bridgeman to pro-
tect Higgins ' hat by proclamation.
Higgins had been brought up in the Presby-
terian Church. He reentered its service when he
left Hamline University and went to Barnum,
AS THE TWIG WAS BENT 27
Minnesota. There, as an unordained man, he min-
istered to the Presbyterian mission. Duluth Pres-
bytery assigned him special studies as a candidate
for the ministry, and the long grind for ordina-
THE CALL TO THE CAMPS
IN the building of Imnber towns, custom had de-
creed that art and morals be ignored. ' ' Catch-
as-cateh-ean" and "go-as-you-please" were
the undefined rules of action. At a later day, there
is much that posterity would prefer to forget, and
posterity seldom presents the "illustrious first
citizens" as proper examples for aspiring youth.
Now Bamum, while not as bad as it might have
been, was not so good as it should have been; it
was better than some in the same environment,
but Bamnm began as a lumber town and that is
The life there gave Higgins a chance he could
not disregard. It was a notable place in whic^ to
6ght for righteousness. Higgins was of Ijish
blood; and it is said, perhaps with some element
30 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
of truth, that *4f there is anything an Irishman
loves more than a fight, it is two fights. ' ' Higgins
entered the fray and gained in weight while fight-
ing. He was not fighting for himself; that was
not Higgins ' way ; he championed the fellows who
knew not how to defend themselves.
Picking up the down-and-outs, bracing them up
and encouraging them, was a part of his every-
day work. They needed **brothering'' and Hig-
gins liked the job./^ot long ago, an old friend of
his, who knew him during these early Barnum
days, related this stoTjj^n old settler had been
/ kickeil ouf 'of a saloon where he had become rum-
/ soaked, filthy, and penniless. He needed a bath
j and Higgins generously applied it. He needed a
/ friend and Higgins volunteered. The preacher
sobered him, clothed him, and, among other neces-
sities, gave him a pair of socks that his mother
had knitted. The socks did the business; they
warmed the settler's feet, and his heart too, and
stirred his will to a new resolve. *'God helping
me,'' he said, **I'll never take those socks into a
saloon." And he kept his vow. Whenever he
went to town, he took the protecting socks from
their sanctum, shod himself against temptation,
and went into the presence of the grog-shops
'Tii all that north country, no welcome came to
THE CALL TO THE CAMPS 31
the lumberjacks from clean men. The saloons
were open to them, wide open ; the gambling dens
received them gladly and vice was cordial with
smiles. But organized religion had nothing to
offer, — no message, no greeting. The church had
an evangel for the towns, but nothing for the
woods. Men lived there by the thousands, but
they were inaccessible ; the task of reaching them
was a toilsome and thankless one, and the devil
was left in full swing.
Down in Higgins ' heart a great restless longing
was at work. It would not down. He hoped
for a new day for the neglected men. He labored
and prayed for a change wherein the church, with
the help of the Man of Galilee, would show itself
a brother to the woodsmen.
The government had thrown open large tracts
of land to settlement, and, in visiting the camps,
Higgins passed the cabins of the homesteaders.
They were far from town and far from neighbors.
They waged a constant fight against poverty, lone-
liness, and the forces of nature. Oftentimes they
came to a bunk house service, that being their only
opportunity to hear the gospel. Higgins visited
their cabins, leaving a magazine, a prayer, and a
word of cheer. He was their link to the outside
world, their only representative of the church of
Christ. rOn one occasion, being overtaken by a
32 FRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
blizzard, he found shelter in a homesteader's
shack. The place was poor and clean. Poverty-
showed its empty hand. The family consisted of
the father and two sons, the mother having died a
few weeks before. Distance and an empty purse
had forbidden the calling of a physician, and her
casket was a rnde box made by loving hands.
**If we conld only have given her a Christian
burial,'* said the husband, *'we would feel better.
She was a good woman, and a Christian, and we
could not do even that for her.'* Higgins led
them out to the white-mantled mound in the clear-
ing and, standing by the snow-covered cross, he
held the longed-for service. The tears that
coursed the mourners' cheeks spoke of hope and
immortality, for the pains of parting had been
soothed with healing balm.
In the town and in the byways of the forest,
Bamum's unordained preacher was a busy man.
Higgins became enthusiastic in the new work and
was often gone a week, speaking to a different
group each night. Once, in his desire to reach
other camps, he forgot that Sunday was near, and
when the village congregation assembled, there
was no minister.
** Didn't you have service!" asked Higgins
when he returned.
'* There was no one to lead us," they explained.
THE CALL TO THE CAMPS 33
"Can't professing Christians praise God tinless
they have a poor chap like me to direct them!
There's evidently not much danger of the world
_^^^fiiByE.evangelized from this point. ' '
All his experiences were leading him into his
life work. He did not know it, but the choice
was being made by movements with which God
worked his miracles and his will. **I could not
understand,'' said he, years afterward, **why I
should go to Bamum. Had I been permitted, I
should have chosen a farming community rather
than a logging village. There seemed no chance
to advance ; and I had an eye on big churches in
those days. I appeared to be going on blindly
and aimlessly. Now I look back and see a kindly
Incidents and affections were calling him to a
new ministry. The ties of the woods ' life were be-
ing woven around his heart. At the funeral of an
unknown lumberjack who had met his death by
a falling limb, the preacher was overcome by emo-
tion. Out in the lonely forest, strangers were
burying some ** mother's boy," and no word of
his passing was likely to reach her. These men
had little in life, and the future held no joyful
hope. **God helping me," he prayed standing
there by the solitary grave, **I will do something
to brighten their days and put hope into their to-
34 FRANK HIQGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
morrow. If you can use Frank Higgins more,
Lord, just show him how. ' '
While at Barnum, Mr. Higgins married Miss
Eva L. Lucas, of Rockford, Minnesota, and en-
couragement and effectiveness were added to the
work in village and camps. The bride often ac-
companied him to the lumber camps where she
presided at the little portable organ.
— Trfiese were demanding days. The salary was
small and the work was great — a condition too
common in the mission fields. Higgins was trying
to master the studies assigned him by the Presby-
tery; there were always new sermons to prepare,
calls to make, and unexpected appeals to satisfy.
But his physical strength was unlimited ; he loved
action and responded to the opportunities with a
One night two campmen came to the manse with
an urgent request.
**We want you quick,'' they said. **WeVe
brought Will Lee from the camp to his homestead.
He's asking for you. He's a mighty sick man.
Can you come at once f ' '
Mr. Higgins hastened through the forest, ac-
companied by the messengers. The doctor met
them at the door.
**If we could get Lee to St. Luke's Hospital in
Duluth," said he, ** there might be a chance for
THE CALL TO THE CAMPS 35
him. There is no chance for him in this shack.
What shall we do!''
**I'll get him through,'' replied Higgins, always
ready in emergencies. They bundled the patient
snugly into a sleigh and took him to the night
train, the preacher accompanying him to the hos-
But all their efforts were vain. After a careful
examination the physician could give no hope.
Lee was beyond the help of man, and Higgins
gently told him of the coming end.
The lumberjack, untroubled, looked into the
flooded eyes of the minister and with a smile said :
** Thank God you came to the camp — that night.
I heard you preach of the Savior. I wanted to
know him. It was the first time in twenty years I
had heard the gospel. ... I was raised in a
good home and that night the Christian teaching
came back to me. . . . When the lanterns were
put out and the bunk house was still, I got on my
knees and prayed God to forgive me the past
. . . and make me a better man. . . . Jesus
Christ brought his strong salvation to me. I was
forgiven. ' '
He paused. Eternity was dawning.
Mr. Higgins, go back to the camps . . . and
tell the boys the story of Jesus Christ. ... Go
^ack and tell them the old story. . . . They need
36 PRANK HIQGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
it worse than the towns do. . . . Tell them that
Jesns can make them live. . • • Go back to the
camps. ' '
Will Lee ceased to speak, his breath fluttered,
and the spirit returned to the Giver.
The plea of the dying lumberjack rang in the
preacher's ears; the desire was in his heart. But
what of his long-cherished dreams of big churches
and the comforts of home! To **go back to the
camps ' ' was to leave all this behind, to live a life
of sacrifice in the forest. That night all Higgins '
plans changed as he walked the hospital corridors.
Bough men became his future hearers, the long,
rambling camps his church, his parish was in the
ways of the wilderness — for that night Frank
Higgins consecrated himself to the service of God
in the logging camps. The field of his future work
was plainly indicated.
But Higgins knew that he was not yet ready
to devote all his time to camp work. He viewed
it, however, from a new angle. It was no longer
an incident in his life, but the field for all his
future action. With growing interest he studied
the lumber industry and found it to be far more
extensive than he had imagined. He was sur-
prised to learn that it covered vast areas in many
states. The needs of the men were everywhere
the same; the church neglected them and the
THE CALL TO THE CAMPS 37
vicious preyed on their weaknesses and fattened
on their labor.
It was hopeless, this field of the woods; and
what was one preacher among the hundreds of
thousands who made the camps their home 1 But
Higgins had given himself to it, and he would do
his best. So he bent himself to the studies that
the Presbytery had assigned him and prayed for
the opening of the way.
Where could he get the money to finance the
new work if he undertook it! He had nothing
save the pittance he received for serving the Bar-
num church, and if he devoted all his time to the
camps, the pittance would be cut off. The Mission
Boards were not doing anything of this nature,
and many of the ministers to whom he imparted
his new ambition only smiled and said, ** Stick to
the regular work. No organization will ever put
money into the changing camps where nothing
permanent can be established.*' As if souls were
of value only as they numerically strengthened
the church I
But there was a way in, although Higgins had
not suspected it. The dawn is messenger of day,
and its first ray appeared during the following
spring. He was surprised one day, on returning
from the woods, to find his home crowded with
lumberjacks. It was a motley, shamefaced, jest-
38 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
ing crowd, hiding its worthy intentions under the
guise of mockery. But the spokesman finally ]
**Mr. Higgins, weVe dropped in to tell you
weVe enjoyed your p^eachin^ The boys have
elected me to make a spiel, but the saw is more in
my line. YouVe treated us white; youVe given
us more advice than we've followed, and youVe
never asked to see the color of our money. This
is no one-sided affair. We're no cheap skates.
We don't want somethin' for nothin'. So the
boys have chipped in and here's your stake for
Visibly embarrassed, he handed the preacher a
During the speech there had been a dead silence,
for every man wanted to hear the remarks. Then,
breaking into riotous cheers like bashful boys,
they rushed out of the house to the safety of the
street and the near-by saloons. Higgins was left
with a check for fifty-one dollars in his hands and
a new light was breaking on his mind— it was the
light of the way in.
He had never asked assistance of the men.
At first the campmen thought he was after **the
dough." **It's another graft," they said. But
service after service passed with no collection, and
slowly the realization dawned that he was work-
THE NEW YORK
ASTOR. LENOX AND
THE CALL TO THE CAMPS 39
ing for their good and for that alone. The gift
showed their appreciation and proved that they
would assist the enterprise.
Looking at the check, Higgins saw not the fig-
ures but the opening portals of the parish of the
LEAENING TO PLAY THE GAME
BEFORE Prank Higgins could devote his life
to the camps, he needed a larger experi-
ence- He did not go to the theological semi-
naries to acquire this finishing touch; he moved
to Bemidji, early in 1899, where he was taught by
saloonmen, gamblers, grafters, and the rag-tag
and bobtaU of humanity. It was a school of ex-
perience — none other like it in the north; one such
school was enough and too much. Higgins knew
something of human depravity, but he was not
versed in the merciless arts with which the
money-mad spoilers fleeced their victims. Here
that knowledge came in abundance; it could not
be avoided or even dodged.
The Bemidji church was three years old and
showed no sign of intelligence, health, or activity.
42 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
All it possessed was history, and it was too weak
to tell its story. It existed in name only. There
were bnt two members to help in the contest
against evil, bnt they tanght Higgins many les-
sons and aided his whole future. The evil forces
of the village had driven out the former pastor
because, they said, he had foolishly tried to intro-
duce righteousness into the village. They also
announced their intention to reproduce that stir-
ring event in case another minister came to fill the
vacancy. They were running the town ; the pres-
ence of a preacher was embarrassing and they did
not care to be embarrassed. A preacher had no
)lac e in their plans.
Frank Higgins arrived. The news of his ad-
vent went abroad and the underworld heard of it.
A short time afterward, he was standing on the
corner of the main street, when he was rudely ac-
costed by a loudly dressed gambler.
^* Who 're youf demanded the intruder, who
apparently Imew without asking.
*'I'm Higgins, the new minister of the Presby-
terian Church. ''
**Well, you won't last long,'' retorted the gam-
bler with an insulting oath. ''We drove out the
other chap. You'll have to go pretty double-
' ' Well, I guess it 's my play, ' ' quietly announced
LEABNINO TO PLAY THE GAME 43
HigginSy ^^and here is where I give notice that I
stay and call your bluff/'
Higgins' closed fist followed his words. It
landed very nngeotly on the diamond-studded
shirt-bosom of the gambler, who responded to the
impact by leaving the sidewalk and reclining on
his back in the gutter, ip^here he waved his feet in
the air and frantically called for help. It was a
gala day for the temperamental lumberjacks.
This was * * some preacher 1 ' ' They congratulated
him on his punch and laughed encouragement to
the man in the mud.
The town marshal hurried into the crowd.
** What's the matter with youf he demanded
of the preacher.
** Nothing the matter with me,'' replied the un-
disturbed Higgins. * * There seems to be some-
thing the matter with that fellow down there. I 'm
The lumberjacks sanctioned what the preacher
had done, so the marshal quickly decided that dis-
cretion was the better part of valor, and helped
the gambler home, leaving Higgins to his ad-
mirers who were already enlarging on the punch
of the preacher and stimulating the growth of a
story that would lose nothing by repetition.
When the lawless element thought the matter
over, they came to the conclusion that they had
44 FEANK; HIGQINS: TRAIL BLAZER
made a mistake in driving out Higgins' prede-
cessor. ''flTe was only a preacher, but this fellow
is a preacher with a mighty heavy fist — and the
Lord only knows what he has up his sleeve!"
Yes, they had made a mistake ; there was no doubt
Nature had done her best for Bemidji ; man had
done his worst. Lakes of crystal clearness
bounded the little town, and the Father of Waters
linked the lakes together and received the over-
flow. Green-crowned pines guarded and beauti-
fied the margins, and the blessing of clean air and
'golden sunshine contributed. The place was one
** Where every prospect pleases,
And only man is vile.*'
At that time Minnesota's logging interests cen-
tered in Bemidji. Thousands of lumberjacks
worked in the neighboring camps. It was an ideal
situation for the low, degraded tribe that had in-
vaded the place with their saloons, gambling dens,
and resorts. Law had not arrived ; order was no-
where in sight. The greatest men there were
those who best served themselves. Success in
money-making, regardless of methods, secured
the highest commendation. Moral ideas were
topsy-turvy. To outsiders, Bemidji was badly in
need of the church, but Bemidji was not conscious
LEARNING TO PLAY THE GAME 45
of the need, Bemidji was sure of itself, and
sufficient to the day was the evil thereof. Being
young and lusty, boisterous and absolutely reck-
less, thejglace was not craving moral improve-
ment. [You could buy anything in the town but
goodness"or a blush._^hat day is past and gone
forever. Bemidji now keeps step with moral
progress and contributes to humanity's well-
Frank Higgins was sent there because such a
man was badly needed. He had made good at
Bamum where conditions were bad ; it was hoped
he would make good at Bemidji where conditions
were far worse.
Prior to his coming, a church building had been
erected and only partly finished. Bemidji at that
time was enthusiastic about building anything but
churches. Saloons were appreciated more. It
patronized more than forty of them and left un-
finished its only church.
Because he could not find a suitable home, Hig-
^s moved his family into the unfinished church.
Most of the houses at that time were tar-paper
shacks and gave inadequate protection from the
intense cold of winter.
The new minister was a citizen as well as a
preacher. He got into the life of the whole town.
There was need of a change of government and
46 PRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
he intended to hasten the day of its coming. In
the pulpit and in the street he fought vice all the
year. He was defeated time and again but never
beaten. He fought with his back to the wall but
never showed his back to the enemy. Everybody
knew where Higgins was, how he stood, and what
he was doing. And he enjoyed the fight, for was
he not Irish) When he lost, he lost like a real
sport, and the manner of his losing made him
more friends than his arguments. He worked on
cheerfully, in spite of seeming defeat.
^^He never sours, he fights clean and open, and
he smiles whether he wins or loses,'' said one of
the opposition. **That makes him friends on
every hand. He's the only reformer that I ever
feel sorry to see beaten. It takes the fun out of
Bemidji's cardinal belief w^s,
** There is a tide in the affairs of men
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune,"
and on that tide of booze the dvic ship of state
floated, with its cargo of kegs, bottles, roulette
wheels, dice boxes, and red paint. The town
dreaded a drought and therefore made a gala day
whenever a new saloon was opened. To these
grand openings, invitations were issued, and the
new minister was not omitted. Bemidji, to say
LEARNING TO PLAT THE GAME 47
the least, was entirely democratic ! The town of-
ficials were the chief guests, speeches on Ameri-
canism mingled with free German beer, and the
key to the new saloon was flung into the street,
to symbolize contempt for state law, while the
health of the new benefactor was freely guzzled.
Those were great daysl The brewers and the
undertakers did a rushing business, and the
homy-handed lumberjacks furnished the money
that made the mare go.
Thousands of lumberjacks had to pass through
Bemidji to enter or leave the camps, and the hard-
working, hard-drinking woodsmen were the source
of the town's prosperity. What they earned
went into the tills of the saloons. If a jack was
slow in ** loosening up,*' the ** knock-out drops''
soon put him in a condition where he might be
** rolled for his stake." ^ "Snake-rooms" were
provided in the rear of the saloons where the help-
less jacks could sober up. If a man died from
the results of his spree, or the drops, it was easy
to forget, and many were forgotten. Death is the
lot of all men, and sooner or later it gets us all,
anyway; this was their convenient philosophy.
Many met death in the saloons, more were short-
changed out of their earnings, and others were
1 To be " rolled " was to be robbed whUe in a stupefied oondir
tion. A man's " stake " was bis pay.
48 PRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
shamefully robbed, then kicked into the streets
and told to earn more.
Men with appetites for liquor feared Bemidji
in those days; nevertheless, they visited it and
met the cleaning-out process they knew was in
store for them. Temptation was strong, and well-
intentioned fellows went down to Jericho and fell
The good Samaritan, Higgins, was a busy man.
The Jericho gentlemen worked on the job day and
night to furnish bruised and penniless victims.
The priest and the Levite continued their prome-
nade on the other side. But great-hearted Hig-
gins, poor of purse, with scarcely any salary,
bound up the broken-hearted men, carried them on
his back to the lodging-houses, and occasionally
trundled them in a wheelbarrow to a place of
safety. There he bathed them, put them to bed,
and guaranteed the price. This was the Theologi-
cal Seminary in which he prepared for the min-
istry. Here he studied humanity in the raw. He
was unconsciously writing Church History, and
for Hebrew and Greek he substituted the polyglot
tongues of his parish, — a, unique seminary course
which led to the degree of **The Lumberjacks'
A man can't do that sort of thing and keep it
secret. It **just naturally runs over the edges"
LBAENING TO PLAT THE GAME 49
and makes itself known. Men came to Higgins
for protection against their weaknesses. They
brought their money and placed it in his keeping.
They asked him to accompany them past the
places of temptation and see them safely on the
train. He became a barrier against which
the strong waves of temptation beat in vain.
Many a mother thanked God for that unknown
preacher, when her son returned sober and un-
spent after a winter in the woods.
During Frank Higgins' first year in Bemidji,the
church building was completed. The next year
a manse was. erected and the family entered into
its comfort. The out-station at Farley came into
the building program during the third year and
completed its church. Meanwhile, the Bemidji
congregation had grown and needed larger equip-
ment, so a new church came into being during the
fourth year. This was an unusual record for an
unordained man who was struggling alone with his
books, hoping to obtain the coveted gift of ordi-
nation! How he found time to visit the lumber
camps is more than we know, but three days
every week were spent in the camps, and nine
bunk house congregations received regular ser-
vices. It was evident that the Sky Pilot had the
gift of action and did not use brakes.
nSCarguerite Higgins was born during the early
50 FBANE HIOGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
residence in Bemidji. She learned the ways of the
home quickly. She could hardly walk when she
began her first search for her father among the
lumberjacks in the comer saloons. Although a
sharp watch was kept on her, she one day stole
away to find her father and was not immediately
missed. After a while they found her in a saloon,
singing her baby hymns to an admiring audience
of closely grouped lumberjacks. Her little tight-
closed fists were full of silver that her adorers
had presented; but the best, the golden tribute,
was the silence of those hard men who stood un-
covered in the presence of innocent childhood. Iti
may have awakened memories of the pasl ^
/'"'Smong the many lumberjacks whom Frank
jHiggins had met in his camp visits was Will
I McDonald, a Highland Scotchman. The seed of
/ truth had fallen into McDonald's heart, but there
I was no evidence of its sprouting. One morning,
I in response to a call, Higgins hastened to the hos-
! pital. There he found Will McDonald, bruised
1 and broken, the victim of a fatal accident, his end
^ear,.. The wild, rough life, with its many tempta-
tions, its far-flung wanderings from home and
God, was nearing its end, and thoughts and as-
pirations, neglected until now, were demanding
Higgins tried to cheer the passing moments, but
LEARNING TO PLAT THE GAME 51
the woodsman, knowing that no earthly power
could snflSce to save his life, said :
^*T[?s no use, Frank, the jig is up, I'm nearing
the landing with a heavy load. The road is steep.
Do you think I'll make the grade f
McDonald was a four-horse teamster, but on
the steep ascent of this last journey he was help-
less. He unconsciously used the terms of his
**Yes, Will, you can make the grade, but you'll
have Ip look for help."
**You mean I'll have to call for a team of
**That is it," said ffiggins, **but thank God,
McDonald, you have the greatest leader to give
you a lift — ^the Lord Jesus Christ."
Tffien the preacher read the story of the prodi-
gal son, the promises to those who ask help, and
that text of texts, **God so loved the world, that
he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever be-
lieveth on him should not perish, but have ever-
lasting life." And in prayer he placed McDonald
in the hands of God, with a plea for pardon and
A few hours later, Higgins was again at Mc-
Donald's side. The screen was around the bed.
When 1Sie minister took the teamster's hand, a
smile came upon the face of the dying.
52 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
**You're right, Frank/' lie whispered feebly.
"Jesus Christ is a great leader. ... I couldn't
have made the grade without him. I needed him
badly. But I'm goin' up easily. . . . We're
goin' to make it, sure."
McDonald was sinking rapidly and Higgins
bent closer to catch the feeble words.
"Tell the boys I've made the grade," he whis-
pered, and, with a smile he reached the Hilltop.
The days when Frank Higgins was to devote all
his time to the campmen were not far away. The
Presbytery had finally consented to ordain him.
The Evangelistic Committee of the General As-
sembly had offered support, and the campmen
were demanding more of his ministry.
r BSggins then decided on a "post-graduate
I course" in the form of a "hobo trip" to the west.
He knew the winter phases of Minnesota lumber-
ing; he had seen countless great logs held fast
by the ice, and he had seen them on their way
down the river when spring had set them free;
he was familiar with the winter work of the lum-
berjacks, but he had not experienced their summer
program. So Higgins, dressed as a working-man,
mounted a freight train and moved westward.
He labored in the wheat-fields of North Dakota,
worked as a scraperman on a new railway in Mon-
tana, the State of Washington entertained him in
LEARNING TO PLAT THE GAME 63
a freight-yard where he unloaded lumber, and
Oregon loaned him a pick and shovel and watched
the dirt fly. Then, as a deck-hand, he traveled
down the Columbia Eiver to Portland where his
trip ended. Li all parts of the west he met repre-
sentatives of the Minnesota camps. He lived with
them in work and idleness, in rebuffs and bounty,
in travel and lodging-house, by freight train and
boat, highway and coach. Their life was his in
all save willing wrong.
When, after two months, he returned to
Bemidji, he brought with him a knowledge born of
a varied experience. Now he was ready for the
camps. For seven years he had carried on the
work alone; now his denomination had promised
support. He closed his Bemidji pastorate by an-
nouncing: "I belong to the lumberjacks. The
ight of the men is mine. May God give me and
le boys his help.''
THE AX AT THE BOOT OP THE BIG TREES
NATURE matea the forest and man trans-
f orma it to his own uses ; and the uses are
as varied as man's imagination. ..
Of necessity, logging was the first task of the
pioneer. When the cavaliers landed at James-
town, they at once began their labors by wielding
the ax. Food they had brought with them, but
shelter they most have. The PDgrim Fathers
spent their days in felling trees and their eve-
nings in sharpening their axes. The Dutch of
New York, the Swedes of Delaware and the
Quakers of Pennsylvania, all were axmen first and
fanners afterward. To-day, the trails of the
woo(femen have become the highways between
For many years, little attention was given to
56 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
workers in the lumber industry, carried on in the
heart of distant regions. It was a case of **out
of sight, out of mind/' The toiler, in the far-
away pineries, seemed of little importance.
The details of lumbering are not lacking in in-
terest. Into the distant pineries the worker hews
his way, leaving behind him the broad ** main-
stem *' of the logging-road. In Minnesota, where
Higgins did most of his work, this ** main-stem''
is sprinkled with water which the zero cold trans-
forms into a sheet of glistening ice, making a
smooth road for the logging-sleds.
Log or frame structures house the workmen, and
all around the buildings is a rude collection of
shacks, providing dining-room, kitchen, office,
storehouses, bams for the horses, and shops for
the carpenter and blacksmith. In the heart of the
forest a little village arises. The clearing in-
creases as the cutting continues, and the logs are
skidded into convenient piles, there to wait until
the haul commences, which is after the roads are
hardened by frost.
Huge loads are carried from the skidway to the
landing, by means of four-horse sleds* As high as
thirty-six thousand board feet, enough to build
a good-sized house, have been drawn on a single
load by four horses, but the majority of the loads
are much smaller. The sled-runners are eight feet
THE AX OF THE LUMBERMAN 57
apart and on these rest the sixteen-foot ** bunks/' *
The logs are deposited on lake or river, if the
transportation is to be by water, or at the rail-
way, if more convenient.
In the highland logging operations of the far
west, the hanling is done by powerful donkey-
engines. A wire cable is attached to the log, and
steam draws it to the engine. Another cable from
a neighboring engine continues the operation until
the log is at last placed upon the cars for its final
journey to the mills. Owing to the large size of
the trees, it would be impossible to handle them
if it were not for the perfection of modem mar
chines. Eastern logging mainly depends on horse-
flesh, though the steam-hauler of the * ' caterpillar
tractor '' type is used in a few camps. The far
west is now almost exclusively given over to log-
ging by steam. So rapid has been the change
that there are old-timers still working in the
woods who remember the days of the ox team —
the period before the advent of the horse.
In the old days, the bunk houses of Miimesota
were fearful places, with neither comfort nor sani-
tation, and wholly unfit for the housing of men.
Eough pole bunks, filled with hay, adorned two or
three sides of the room. Springs and mattresses
lA bunk ig a piece of timber placed acrosB a sled to sustain
a heaTj weight.
58 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
had not yet arrived ; the blankets seldom, if ever,
made the acquaintance of soap and water. In
the center of the room was a huge stove, and
above it were racks for drying clothes. In the
evening this rack was decorated by hundreds of
socks which the men had worn during the day.
The ventilation was inadequate, a trapdoor in the
roof being the only provision for it. To the odor
of drying socks, the smoke of a hundred pipes was
added, creating a haze perceptible to the eye and
more than perceptible to the nostrils.
A change for the better has taken place in re-
cent years. More light, cleanliness, and ventila-
tion have been introduced, and fewer men are
housed under the same roof. There is, however,
great need for further improvement, for the camps
of the eastern states and the central west are still
far behind the western camps, where housing has
been carefully studied and better principles
have been applied.
The cook-shacks deserve a brief description,
and a word about the food will help to enlighten
those who still speak of pork and beans as the
chief delight of the woodsmen. The dining tables
are a sea of oil-cloth on which floats a squadron
of enamelware dishes, ranging from small gun-
boats to overflowing supply-ships anchored in the
center. A vast variety of foods, condiments, and
THE AX OF THE LUMBERMAN 59
drinks provide for the keen appetites of the work-
men. Everything is of the best, and there is an
abundance of it. It is a land flowing with con-
densed milk and manufactured honey. This conti-
nent does not contain a better-fed class of work-
men or a group of cooks more competent to appeal
to the laboring man. The **No Talking'' sign
proclaims silence, but it is an unnecessary an-
nouncement; the hungry men, after hours in the
clean air, are too busy with food to waste time in
conversation. Only a low clang of table tools dis-
turbs the quiet of the dining-room. Nevertheless,
the absence of speech creates an uncanny silence,
as the men ply the cutlery, with neither praise
nor blame for the food.
Part of the office is devoted to the wannigan,
where clothing, tobacco, patent medicines, and
common necessities are sold. Here also the bosses,
the clerk, and a few others make their home.
In the old days, when nearly all the men were
American, the camps had a lingo of their own.
A few of these descriptive words are still com-
mon to the woods. The superintendent of a log-
ging company is known as **the walking boss,'*
while the camp foreman is the **push,'' and his
assistant is the ** straw push.'' The clerk is an
**ink splasher" or the ** bloke that makes the
stroke." Cooks are graciously spoken of as **bis-
60 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
cuit shooters'^ or ** dough punchers, '* and when
below par, as * * stomach robbers. ' ^ The cook 's as-
sistants are **flnnkies'* or **cookees," ** pan-
wrestlers, '^ or ** hashers/' A carpenter became
a ** handyman '* or **wood butcher.'' A '* shanty-
boss" or *^bull cook" is the bunk house janitor,
and the workman who keeps the ice roads clear of
refuse is the '* road-monkey. " The top-loader is
a *'sky hooker" and the visiting missionary be-
comes a *'sky pilot."
The lumberjacks are really lovers of the woods
and lovers of the camps. If you heard them curse
the isolation and the hard conditions, you would
not think so, but although other lines of labor
invite them, they return to the forest, season after
season, to repeat the tasks they have performed
for years. From boyhood to old age, it is the only
life they favor, and the logging camp is their only
home. Without ties to kindred or location, they
feel a companionship- in the trees and rejoice in
the keen edge of the ax. Having cast off relation-
ships, they Uve purposeless Uves and their wages
go for selfish, hurtful pleasures.
The case of old man Bradley is typical. He had
been forty-nine years in the woods and his age
was sixty-five. But his frame was straight, his
eye steady, his muscles elastic. It was difficult to
keep pace with his long, swinging stride.
THE AX OF THE LUMBERMAN 61
**So this is your forty-ninth winter in the
woods?'' he was asked by one who admired his
**My forty-ninth. I'm sixty-five years old; and
I know logging from the stump as well as by
steam-hauler. ' '
**What have you to show for all these years of
With a smile he thrust his hands into his pockets
and turned them inside out. * * That 's my pile, ' ' he
He held an old jackknif e — ^with a broken blade !
** That's all." The smile faded. *^An' I'd have
traded that for a drink of whisky many a time,
**Wall," he presently continued, **my teeth are
gettin' poor an' I need this knife to cut my to-
A living, such as it was, and a broken jack-
knife, for forty-nine years of labor !
**Who are the lumberjacks and where do they
come from?" are questions often asked, as if this
mass of men differed from the remainder of hu-
manity. They are the sons of the farms and the
sons of the cities. Every state in the union has
contributed, and all the nations of Europe have
sent their quota. In late years, the foreign ele-
62 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
ment has become prominent, and the English-
speaking jacks are found in the far west rather
than in the east.
One must not think of the lumberjacks as more
ignorant than the people of the city. All classes
and conditions of men are found in the woods,
just as all types are seen on the city streets. One
of the camp missionaries, at the close of a bunk
house service, withdrew into a corner to read his
Greek Testament. A woodsman seated near him
watched him carefully, then reached for the book
with the remark,
* ' I can read that. ' *
Loudly and proudly he began to pronounce the
Greek, then to render the translation. The camp
heard him and presently three others joined him.
Each man in turn read and translated the text.
Around that camp preacher were four college men
who, in the fight of life, had been worsted and
had sought the forest to hide their defeat and be
forgotten. He is no fool who, after years of iso-
lation, is able to read the easily-forgotten Greek.
Wandering from camp to camp, working at com-
mon tasks, is a man who has been reduced to in-
competency by drink. In his home city, a promi-
nent firm still retains his name, and the city to
which he added prestige does not know his where-
abouts or his reduced condition. The camps are
THE AX OF THE LUMBERMAN 63
hiding-places for those who have been overtaken
by suspicion or who have committed crimes,
sometimes against themselves, sometimes against
others. There they remain, nameless and silent,
working ont their redemption or willing to be for-
In conversation with a campman, a visitor be-
came aware of certain familiar references. These
led him to inquire the name of the woodsman, and
the answer led to further inquiries. He was talk-
ing to a man who, a few years before, had been a
millionaire. A sudden financial crash had reduced
him almost to poverty, and then his name had
been dropped from the public prints. He had
gone to the forest and there had found himself and
found his God ; and there he lives to-day, a bright
light in a dark place, happier than in the years
of plenty when he lived for self alone.
The conglomerate of the woods is cosmopolitan.
The best and worst are there — ^the drunk and
sober, the rogue and upright, the infidel and Chris-
tian. Upon all of them is the mark of isolation,
and the great need is the Christ of Calvary to
give them rest.
Here is a curious incident of the North Woods.
Higgins had one time been holding services in the
Adirondack camps. A Scotchman approached and,
with a whimsical expression, asked, — .
64 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
**What are you knocking aronnd the camps for,
and what is the idea of this preaching?''
Higgins explained that he was on a tour of in-
vestigation and intended to arrange for regular
services. The Scotchman looked at Higgins in
**Man,'' he said, **I have passed all my life in
the woods and this is the first sermon I have ever
heard in a camp. Lookl" he cried, at the same
time pointing to the blackened stumps that marred
the mountainsides. **In all these years that they
have been logging, thousands of men have gone
to hell while they did it, and the church never
cared. I'm glad it's waking up at last.''
STEXTOaLES AGAINST INDIFFEEENCE
IF Frank Hig^ns had not been a big-fisted, de-
termined man, insulated against discourage-
ment, it is very probable that the logging camp
mission would have died in his day. This vision of
Higgins was accepted as a mirage of sunshine and
sand; it was the dream of an impractical, uncul-
tured fanatic But to-day the camp preachers
have passed into the list of gospel necessities.
Higgins' idea of going into the forest by-paths
was very new, because many had forgotten a very
old iniunction which reads, "Go ye into the high-
ways and byways and compel them to come in."
So when the Presbytery heard that its minister at
Bemidji devoted much of his time to the inland
camps, It looked with suspicion on the man and
66 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
his venture. Some of the ministers told Higgins
plainly and bluntly that he was wasting valuable
time and discrediting himself with the church.
Others, very sure that they were right and equally
sure that he was wrong, said that his duty was to
the little mission church, and that his soap-box
oratory in the btmk houses would not be tolerated.
It was a pretty kettle of fish for a minister to
wander through the woods, when he should have
been sheep-herding in the village, and the sooner
he got down to the real business of the Kingdom,
the better it would be for all concerned! It did
\ not look good for Higgins or the camps.
\— ¥otl see, Higgins^ wayside ministry had a freak-
ish cast. Consequently, it received little encour-
agement. But of rebuffs he had many and to
spare. He was advised to stick to the organized
church and quit gallivanting in the woods. There
was no promise of permanency, no possibility of
support, so they said, and if the lumberjacks
wanted the church, they knew where the churches
were located. Everybody liked Higgins, though
many thought him a fool with a will-o'-the-wisp
for a guide. So they tolerated or ignored him —
and he continued to smile and to preach in the
The camps were all the time demanding more
attention, and he desired to give them more. He
STRUGGLES AGAINST OPPOSITION 67
alone could not supply the many clamorous calls ;
others must share the task ; but for a long time no
hand was extended helpfully, and he continued
to labor alone.
Higgins could hardly be called rich ; his only in-
^^^QBje was his salary. When he first went to Be-
jmidji, he was promised only three hundred and
t.JSfty dollars a year. Yet with this scanty back-
ingTlie borrowed money to pay the salary of the
Eev. Ebenezer Ferry, who became first assistant in
the camps. Later, when Higgins told the story to
the lumberjacks, those big-hearted woodsmen con-
tributed to the cause, and the borrowed money
was repaid. Frank Higgins carried heavy bur-
dens in the early days, burdens of indifference
from the church and burdens of debt ; but heavier
than all was the feeling that here was a wide field
of uncared-for men whose souls were hungry and
for whom there was no food. At times it looked
as if he must take the advice of opponents and
stick to organized channels. But the memory of
the eager faces in the gloom of the bunk houses
forced all discouragement aside, and, with fresh
determination, he faced the task again.
Churchmen were not the only skeptics as to the
value of his work, for many of the lumber com-
panies also looked askance on the new effort. The
officials, knowing the type of men to whom Higgins
68 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
preached, knowing their prodigal lives and their
willing sinfulness, felt that the mission could not
be successful. They said as much to him and said
it emphatically, calling him certain names too
sturdy for printer's ink. If Higgins had not loved
the lumberjacks, these oft-repeated opinions would
have discouraged him.
Here and there a logging company would not
allow him to preach in their camps because they
feared labor agitation, believing that public meet-
ings would be injurious to the whole industry.
The spirit of unrest has always been noticeable in
camps where the workers are unattached to family
or place ; and a little spark might kindle danger-
ous dissatisfaction among the lumberjacks. To
such as held this view, it seemed best to keep the
doors closed, even to the presentation of the
The employers who forgot humanity or brother-
hood in the worship of wealth, men whose methods
would not stand inspection, and whose ways were
more successful if separate from publicity, did
not. care to have a preacher of righteousness in
their camps, for with half an eye he would be able
to find the ulcer spots that increased human misery
and their own profits.
The gambling foremen who spent their evenings
in fleecing the workmen, by greater skill in the
STRUGGLES AGAINST OPPOSITION 69
game and less honesty of play, were among those
who opposed the entrance of any advocate of the
Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount
as a basis of man's dealing with man. They gave
no reason for their refusals, and to those who knew
their lives, no reason was necessary.
There were wheels within wheels. Honest con-
victions and vicious motives both militated against
the mission work, but sometimes the unexpected
happened, and friends came from unexpected
auajtfiia*/^Armed with a letter of introduction
ftrom the camp proprietor, who looked with favor
1 on the work, Frank Higgins once went to a camp
I near Kelliher, Minnesota. He inquired for the
Lforeman, in order to present his credentials.
Meanwhile, the foreman heard of Higgins* pres-
ence and started out to find the visitor, with the
intention of speedrug his departure. When the
two met, the Irish foreman, whom we will call Mr.
**Are you Higgins f
**I am. Is this Mr. '^
**Yes, I'm Grady. What the rip-snorting do
**I have a letter of introduction from the pro-
prietor," said the missionary, at the same time
producing the' letter.
**I don't give a whoop who you have a letter
70* PRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
from, * * burst out the foreman with an oath. * * You
can't preach in this camp. Get your things out of
here withering quick and warm the trail. I won't
have any blathering preachers among my men."
Higgins looked at the profane babbler and
quietly answered, * * I am in no haste about leaving.
This camp has an added interest to me ^nce I met
**Get out, or 111 throw you to blazes out of
here 1 ' '
*'Not so hasty, Mr. Grady. Is your hospital
ticket good! You might get hurt, for I'll be pres-
ent during the disturbance."
It would have taken a strong man to throw
Higgins out of the camp, as those who tried it
The preacher felt a desire to teach the foreman
a little lesson in courtesy. But another considera-
tion came to his mind. If he should administer
the lesson, the affair would become known and the
lumber jadis, who were the missionary's friends,
would refuse to work, so the kindness of the pro-
prietor would be repaid with loss.
After Higgins left the camp, Mr. Grady met
with a quick trial and conviction. The foreman's
remarks had been overheard ; and when he entered
the blacksmith shop, the smith suddenly dragged
him over the anvil and kicked him out of the place.
THE Kh^-''' '''^''^ .^ \
STRUGGLES AGAINST OPPOSITION 71
When Grady picked himself out of the snow, the
blacksmith added another kick and with it the re-
*^ There's an extra one for the way yon treated
the Sky Pilot yesterday. I'll teach you to respect
the clergy I''
a number of men left the camp, refusing to
work for **a push who ain't got no decency."
lere were tempests in many teapots. En-
couragements land rejections walked side by side ;
beckoning hands and clenched fists were always in
sight. For a long time, opposition was more evi-
dent than approval. But to Higgins it was the
expected, a part of the day's work. Of course
there were thorns, but the roses were fragrant and
beautiful, and he stuck to the work he had chosen.
Among the lumberjacks, the mission caused a
division of minds. Eeligion was considered a
town institution. The Ten Commandments be-
longed to civilization, and to have them introduced
in the woods infringed on personal liberty. The
jacks had never bothered the church — ^why should
the church intrude on them! Higgins was remind-
ing them of sin and duty and God, and Higgins
was disturbing their peace. As usual, Ahab
blamed Elijah for the riot of conscience.
To some of the men, the object of Higgins'
preaching was plain. Why, they argued, should
72 FRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
a man spend his time in preaching to them if no
increase came to his church through added re-
cruits! So the more bigoted of his hearers de-
cided to block the movement by disturbances;
and, as they planned, they promised themselves a
merry time and for Higgins an active one. How-
ever, when they ** started something,*' it was sure
to be Higgins who finished it. His was a ready
wit and a strong arm, and he never hesitated to
use both when wrong needed a setback. In fact,
he thrived on opposition and did his best work
A top-loader, influenced by liquor and his early
training, one night so profanely expressed him-
self that the service became a turmoil.
**This is our church, boys, the only church we
have,'* said Higgins to the men, and his voice
was kindly and sad.
While the men sang, the preacher tried to
silence the aggressor but with no success. Evi-
dently the text, ** Whatsoever thy hand findeth to
do, do it with thy might,*' could here be applied.
*' Absent treatment'' had not been effective, so
Higgins demonstrated. With a rush he was on the
disturber. Out through the door he projected him,
and a moment later the man lay half buried in a
The surprised top-loader brushed the snow from
STRUGGLES AGAINST OPPOSITION 73
his face and looked with sober astonishment at
the mnscular preacher, then drawled,
'*Say, Mr. Higgins, what church do yon belong
^^This church.^' He pointed to the door of the
bnnk house. *'If you want to worship with us,
come on in and behave yourself. ' '
'oodsman has been, and still is, the victim
of trickery. He has willingly, but unwittingly,
contributed to the profits of the sharper; he has
fattened the purse of the pretended cripple; he
has relieved the imagined distresses of a myriad
petitioners. Because he has a big heart, he is an
easy victim, and visiting strangers usually carry
loaded dice. So, when Frank Higgins came to
preach, it was considered another kind of swindle
by which to fleece the wandering sheep of the
But Higgins asked no collection, suggested no
gain for himself, told no pitiful story of his own
distress or the poverty of a cause. He interested
himself only in his listeners, their needs, their
sins, their neglect of duty and Christ. And the
outcome was amazing. It was more than that, it
was confusing, for it unsettled all their precon-
ceived ideas. They thought him a sheep-shearer,
but no clippers appeared. Consequently, in a
camp where he had not preached before, several
74 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
of the men followed him after the service and
slangily invited him to * ' show his hand. ' '
**We want you to put us next,*' said the spokes-
**Next to what! '*
*'0h, come across 1 What's the game! You
ain't preachin' for nothin' an' you didn't ask for a
hand-out. Let us in on it."
And Higgins explained how, long ago, the Mas-
ter commanded his disciples to go into the high-
ways and byways with the good news of the
Kingdom ; and how he, as one of the Master 's fol-
lowers, was trying to obey.
It was diflScult to believe. It looked too divine
for this selfish day, but Higgins had **a way with
him" — the convincing way of a man who carries
his heart in his hand.
In 1902 the Evangelistic Committee of the Pres-
byterian Church guaranteed Mr. Higgins' salary
and commissioned him to preach in the camps
under their direction. This was the first recogni-
tion that came to him from his church, and the
heart of the lonely preacher leaped with encour-
agement. But still there were doubters in the
ministry, and these doubters were not silent.
1 The Synod of Minnesota met in the fall of 1905 ;
i and some of the members, who had been aware of
/ this modem voice in the wilderness, felt that if
STRUGGLES AGAINST OPPOSITION 75
Higgins could be induced to present the story of
his work to the Synod, it would sweep away the
last barriers of opposition. When it was sug-
gested to him, his face brightened with encourage-
ment, but as he thought of his lack of skill as
a speaker, a cloud of sadness settled upon it. * ' I
can talk to lumberjacks, '^ he said, **but I can't
speak to ministers. My grammar is bad and I
know it. I Ve had little schooling, and when they
hear me, they will think less of the work than be-
fore. Don't ask me, boys, I'm afraid. I would
do the work harm, and God knows I can't afford
to do that."
Those who heard Frank Higgins in his later
years, when the roughness had been worn away
and his speech improved, will hardly appreciate
his hesitation in addressing the Synod, for time
made Frank Higgins the master of his audiences.
But at last, after repeated urging, and with a
trembling foreign to his big, manly frame, he con-
sented to tell his story.
It was a story of work accomplished, for he lim-
ited himself to experiences. Spiced with the
breath of the big woods came the narrative, de-
scriptive of his lumberjacks, their virile vices, their
loneliness, the silent longings, the false delights,
the simple pleasures of grown men who remained
boys and retained the wishes of boyhood, pathetic
76 FRANK HIGGINS: TEAIL BLAZER
humor mixed with tragic, and the hidden divinity
showing forth in brute men. As he warmed to his
theme, simple pictures of strength and weakness
crowded into the speech— of prodigals returned
to the Father, of Magdalenes who touched the gar-
ments of the clean Christ, of lonely hearts that
leaped into laughter on the tote-road, of leprous
men who found new hope in life.
His hearers saw a new day dawn in the far-
flung pineries. Men who before had been silent
or lukewarm saw a service, perhaps not according
to established methods, but effective in winning
men. Here was a new field for the old, old story ;
here, also, was a new worker with a real love for
the lonely and forgotten, and his leader was the
Christ of Calvary. And then the ministry gave
him its hand.
WHITE WEATHER AND WINTER WOODS
I T T was the story of Hig^ns and his dog-team
I that first called the attention of many per-
sons to the missionary's unique work. Down
from the north woods had drifted the rumor of
a minister who used a dog-team in his visits to the
"T^^orthem Minnesota, twenty-five years ago,
forest roads were few or absent. Rails were not
yet laid. The trails followed the wayward out-
lines of the hills or clung to the borders of wilful
streams. What more natural than a dog-teamt
The narrow pathways offered a highway and Hig-
giuB early adopted the idea,
■""'^^r three years he had supplied the lumber-
jacks with old magazines, carrying them by pack-
sack. But the trails were rough and long and
78 FRANK HIGOINS: TRAIL BLAZER
the weight on his back was wearying. Finally, he
secured a handsome pair of St. Bernard dogs, har-
nessed them to a sled, and nsed them in the task
of forest evangelism.
The idea was practical; the dogs furnished a
ready means of transportation, with no expense
for stabling and little for food. If a railroad trip
were necessary, the dogs could travel in the bag-
gage-car and be ready for the drive to inland
camps. At the end of thirty or forty miles over
; the winding trails, the team appeared none the
1 worse for the exertion.
Barriers of prejudice were broken by the dogs
themselves, whose beauty appealed to the animal-
ovmg lumberjacks ; for Flash and Spark caught
and held the affection of the men. On coming to
a bunk house whose door was secured by a sliding
1 latch, Higgins would drive right in, and while the
men crowded around the team, he could explain
his business and announce the time of his meet-
ing. The dogs were protectors as well as workers,
and many jacks who might have opposed the mis-
\ sionary thought it best to be silent.
^" jS^U the north is white and cold in winter, and
to journey through the unmarked forest is not
easy. No sign-posts point the way; the * traffic
cop'* can not be consulted when doubt arises;
travelers are seldom met, and the trails are easily
^ WHITE WINTER WOODS 79
blotted out by wind and snow. One time, on a
trip to International Falls, Higgins lost his way.
The trail disappeared as if by magic. Night was
approaching and he had not seen a human habita-
tion for hours. It was to be a night under the
stars. With his dogs he had traveled far that day,
and the last food had been eaten at the early
Close to a large pine stump the missionary
built a fire, gathered wood for the night, and over
the embers cooked a rabbit he had shot that morn-
ing. Fragrant pine boughs made a comfortable
mattress, the robes from the sled kept off the ten-
below-zero wind, and soon the crowding dogs and
their master slept under the veiling pines through
which the cold, far stars peeped at the benighted
travelers. The fire died down while they slept,
and the timber wolves, scenting prey, boldly drew
their circle near. The howling beasts and snarling
dogs brought Higgins out of his dreams. Beyond
the dull glow of the wood, the eyes of the wolves
dotted the curtained night. The missionary
hastily replenished the d^g fire. As it leaped
into flame, the wolves lost their boldness and re-
treated, the dogs ceased their snarling, and soon
the silence was unbroken, save for the poppingA,
balsam as it emitted protests in the consumingj
flame. For the remainder of the night Hig^ms
80 FRANK HIGOINS: TRAIL BLAZER
kept watch, having no desire for a return of the
wolves, and with the first peep of dawn he was
np and away, A blazed trail, which he fortu-
nately found, led him to the village of Little Forks,
where he conducted the first religious services ever
held in that place.
In those long trips through the unbroken forest,
Higgins often took his life in his hands. On sev-
ieral occasions he was reported to have perished
fe..the «de sweeps of ^broken snow. Indeed,
many experienced woodsmen have paid toll to the
blinding whiteness, and not until spring, if ever,
have their bodies been found.
With great gusto Frank Higgins often told this
story of a lost trail and its sequel. To save time,
he had taken a short cut from one camp to an-
other. All went well for a while, when the wind
increased in power, bringing the snow-clouds with
it. Soon the whirling fury of a maddened bliz-
zard was about him. Ail sense of direction faded.
The dog-team looked to him for guidance, but he
could give them no help at all. Left to their
own will, they wandered about until at last their
progress ended in the deep snow of a muskeg, or
marsh. Here Higgins made a temporary camp
and spent most of the day. The storm lessened
before nightfall, and by rare good fortune he
found a trail which led to a village. There he put
WHITE WINTER WOODS 81
the dogs in the hotel bam and went in to supper.
When he returned with food, the dogs refused to
eaty not even smelling at the dainties he had col-
leetedi They had been hard pressed in the deep
snow of the swamp, and he feared they had been
over-driven. He loved these splendid helpers,
these loving companions of the lonely paths. Per-
haps the strain had been too much. He re-
proached himself for carelessness, and there were
tears in his eyes as he petted their silky coats.
Again he visited them before retiring and again
they refused food. They were even indifferent to
his caresses. With a heavy heart Higgins went
to bed and his troubled sleep brought him dis-
quieting dreams that returned again and again
through the long night.
He arose early and went to the bam, hoping for
the best but fearing the worst. On his way thither
he met the hotel proprietor, his face red with
anger and his temper aflame. Seeing Higgins, he
burst into profanity;
**Are them mangy, measly dogs yours! ^'
''They are,*' replied Higgins, feeling like a
sentenced person. He was sure the man's anger
was due to the death of the over-driven dogs.
* ' Then pay for the pork the rip-roaring brutes
chewed up while you were at supper last night.
Them hungry cannibals stole half a hog and ate
82 FRANK HIQQINS : TRAIL BLAZER
it. Now I ain't got nothing but eggs and salt-
horse to give the boarders to-day.**
roar of hearty laughter broke out — the joy-
ous laughter of relief. It was Higgins* ** capacity
laugh" and his eyes twinkled in their moisture of
The hotel keeper looked at the preacher in
amazement. Men usually protested or refused
when asked to part with money, but here was one
who enjoyed the demand !
**I'll pay gladly, old man, mighty gladly. Half
a hog, you say! No wonder they didn't eat I
They simply couldn 't ! What 's the bill, and don 't
be afraid to charge!''
**It was the only time I was ever asked to pay
their board," commented Higgins later. **The
dogs were entitled to a feast after their struggle
in the blizzard, and my relief in finding them safe
was worth the price. ' '
Minnesota has ten thousand lakes, and, under
the constant cold of winter, each icy surface be-
comes a splendid highway. ** Three-foot ice" is
not uncommon ; teams are driven across the lakes ;
and the long journey around the meandering shore
is shortened by a direct path. But when the unob-
structed north wind faces the traveler, it takes its
toll by the discomfort which increases with each
moment. Higgins once attempted the short cut
WHITE WINTER WOODS 83
across a lake, at each step fighting the fierce wind
from the north. Had he not been a strong man,
he wonld never have reached the sawmill on the
other shore. When he entered the mill, he col-
lapsed and instantly fell asleep. The engineer
saw him fall and, realizing his condition, dashed
a pail of cold water over the sleeping man —
heroic but necessary treatment. If Higgins had
been allowed to sleep, it would have been the sleep
In January, 1906, while Higgins was crossing
Bed Lake, he was overtaken by a storm. A bliz-
zard in the forest is bad enough, but on the open
lake its fury is intensified a hundredfold. Down
the twenty miles of ice swept the snow — a choking,
freezing mass. Shore lines faded away and he
was at the mercy of the storm. Night came on,
adding loneliness to the pitiless snowstorm, but it
could not increase the victim's helplessness.
Human assistance was impossible but the help
of God was near. He prayed for strength and
strength was given him. Long after nightfall
Higgins reached the shore. There was no human
habitation in sight, and helplessly he wandered on
through the forest until at last, near the hour of
midnight, a light fell upon his tired eyes, and a
moment later he was pounding on the door of an
Indian cabin where he received a warm welcome
84 FRANK HIQGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
from a Chippewa family. They gave him every
comfort they possessed, and when they learned
that he was a minister, the old squaw took a Bible
down from the shelf, placed it upon his knees, and
bade him lead the family in worship. Twenty
years before, an Episcopalian minister, Dr.
Joseph A. Gilfillan, whose tireless work among
the Chippewas is well remembered, had given her
LjJbcL^nother occasion, in company with a camp
missionary, he was crossing a frozen lake, when
he stepped into an air-hole ; and had it not been
for the ready assistance of his companion, he
would have lost his life. Because of the cold, his
dripping garments were soon a mass of ice, and
with great dijBficulty he reached the shelter of the
village. Fortunately, there were no ill effects
from the exposure, and as soon as his clothing
dried he continued his journey.
When the camp mission threw off its swaddling
bands, and Higgins became the director of other
missionaries, the dog-team no longer fitted into
the plan. Each new missionary was given a line
of camps, and superintending the work took Hig-
gins into all parts of the lumber district. There
were new lines to explore, dilBBculties to adjust,
and far separated places to visit. Again the pack-
sack became a part of his equipment.
r—-^ WHITE WINTER WOODS 85
Early one Sunday morning Higgins left the
camp where he had held service the night before.
As he passed out of the clearing, a lumberjack
** Thought I'd walk along, Pilot, for company's
**Glad to have you, John. How goes itf
**Fine, mighty fine I Haven't tasted a drop this
winter. Hand over your pack. I 'm out for exer-
cise. About fifty pounds, ' ' continued John as he
adjusted the straps to his shoulders.
**Just about," replied the minister. ** Hymn-
books, Testaments, and a few necessities."
The tote-road glistened with whiteness, the
crunching snow made music to the swinging
strides, and in silence they placed the miles be-
**Let me take the * turkey' ^ a while," said Hig-
gins. '* You've carried it half-way."
**See here, Pilot," protested the lumberjack,
**I'll land this pack in Camp 3. You handed me
a big lift when I was down-and-out. This is the
first chance I've had to do a bit for you. God
knows you did a heap for me."
Memory recalled a scene of the year before. In
a ** snake-room" he had foxmd this man nearly dy-
ing from ** knock-out drops." There the saloon-
1 The name giyen by lumberjacks to a packsack.
86 FRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
men had flung him after robbing him. He was
filthy, drunk, and friendless. Higgins had * * broth-
ered'^ him, watched over him in the intervening
months, and finally had led him to the Savior.
To-day he was clean, wholesome, companionable,
and in the spirit of gratitude he carried the mis-
sionary's pack to Camp 3, twelve miles away.
What though some days were dark and dreary,
the winding trails filled with the powdered snow,
the journeys hard, and the cheerless camps far
apart! "With such results how could Higgins be
cast down! Paradise, with its fruit and fra-
grance, nestled between the snowy hills of north-
God gave Frank Higgins a strong body and he
used it for the Giver. To Higgins, it was a stew-
ardship to be placed in the market for the glory
of the King. One day the missionary met a man
named Louis. Both were bound for Camp 5.
Louis had been enlivening the village with his
presence and money. His money now reposed,
well cared for, in the cash-register of the saloon,
but Louis had been thrown out, as men cast off a
worn garment. He reeked with liquor and his
wavering legs prophesied an early collapse. If
Louis were to make the far-off camp, Higgins
must help him, and to that end he gave his arm
in support. Not long did that suffice, for Louis ^
"matubk maeeh the fohest and man tbansfobms it to ma
own uses" (page 55)
THE NEW YOKK'
PUBLIC LIBli..:-;v [
Tfl nr/v f . >
WHITE WINTER WOODS 87
overburdened legs grew more unstable and finally
dropped him, crumpled and unconscious, in the
snow. The village was miles behind, the camp
miles ahead, the night shadows were deepening,
and in the frozen forest death awaited the lumber-
jack if his companion should fail him. So Hig-
gins bent to the task before him and carried the
unconscious man to camp, arriving there bone-
weary, almost at the breaking point. But he had
saved a life.
Higgins held a short service that night, for he
was too tired to speak as usual. In the meantime
Louis, surly with liquor, ruffled the temper of the
cook, who promptly reduced the drunken fellow
to a bruised state of enforced peace. Higgins
heard of the row, found his charge, ministered to
his battered body, and spent a large part of the
night in relieving the man's agony.
Louis and the minister did not meet again until
the spring, when the men went *^down river '* at
the break-up of the camps. There Higgins met
the man he had saved from freezing. Louis was
drunk, very drunk; filthy, very filthy; and very
poor ; for not a cent remained from his long win-
ter 's labor. He was mired in body, soul, and
purse. The river flowed near-by, and Higgins
dragged the wretched man into its cleansing
waters. He soused him as women rinse clothes,
88 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
dipping him time and again nntil^ clean and sober,
Louis emerged a sadder and whiter man.
While his clothes dried, Louis did some think-
ing, the nature of his thought being disclosed in
a remark he made to his benefactor.
**You're white pine without a knot. You treat
me like a brother.^'
** That's our relation, Louis, we are brothers.'*
**I'm a low-down, dirty bum an' you're white
to me. Tell me, Mr. Higgins, why you're a friend
to the likes o' mef "
**For Christ's sake, Louis, for his sake."
It was not pious cant that Higgins expressed,
but the spirit of constraining love which linked
him to humanity for whom Christ died, a love that
compelled him to undergo the dangers and labors
of the white weather and winter woods.
PREACHING m THE PINERIES
FRANK HIGGINS looked the part he played,
the part of a big brother, bat nothing about
him suggested his profession. No distin-
gaisbing garments suggested any difference be-
tween him and his forest parishioners. On the
trail be looked like a camp foreman or a company
official. He mixed with the men, jollied them,
crossed wits with tbem, sympathized and frater-
nized. Father, mother, and politician blended in
Frankness and a twinkle looked out of his blue-
gray eyes ; even when aroused, the sign of mirth
lingered. His ruddy face, like a bronzed new
moon, told its own story of the out-of-door life.
His two hundred pounds had been rounded into
muscle by long tramps and heavy packs, giving
90 PRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
his five feet nine inches a thick-set, sturdy appear-
ance that satisfied. The jaw was resolute. The
big hand shook yours in hearty friendship. He
looked the man he was. Meeting him for the first
time, you felt that you had known him always —
you welcomed an old-time friend rather than made
an acquaintance, a friend with whom you felt no
reticence. Men who usually avoided strangers
forgot themselves with Frank Higgins. Gamblers,
saloonmen, and their kind ordinarily give the
clergy a wide berth, but, seeing Higgins approach-
ing, they met him with a ready hand and f amiUarly
slapped him on the back while they chatted with
him. Reticent lumberjacks considered him a mem-
ber of the family from whom they could borrow
a quarter and with whom they dared be natural.
For Frank Higgins was as approachable as a
candidate before election.
His preaching did not contradict his appear-
ance. It was simple, without adornment, straight-
forward and direct. He struck hard; it was his
nature ; he was bom that way and so he remained
to the end — a hard-hitting, open fighter in politics
and pulpit. I mention politics because evil was
entrenched behind the ballot, and Higgins fought
it in the pulpit and at the polls.
Most of the camp services were held after sup-
per in the bunk houses where the men slept and
PREACHING IN THE PINERIES 91
spent their hours of leisure. A barrel or box
became a pulpit, and the drape of a horse blanket
gave it dignity. In the uncertain light, double-
tiered bunks gave the appearance of a ground
floor and a gallery, and from them scores of legs,
encased in woolen socks, dangled like Christmas
stockings from a fireplace. The ** deacons' seat''
— around the front of the bunks — ^was filled with
campmen smoking, laughing, retailing the inci-
dents of the day. Suspended lanterns created a
mist of shadows and dim circles of light, while the
centrally located stove radiated its heat and roar-
ings. The drying socks on the rack above did not
add to the attractiveness of the place.
Not much of a church was this! No stately
organ, vested choir, fashionable audience, and
solemn order awaited the speaker who, coatless,
stood behind the barrel-pulpit and announced, -
**Tum to No. 31 and hit it up while the going's 1
good. Are you ready t Everybody sing!" 3
**Alas! and did my Savior bleed,
And did my Sovereign die!"
Such singing ! They sang as men sing in their
own homes. The lusty voices crashed forth the
song or rendered it musically, according to indi-
vidual ability. It was loud and strong, free and
spirited, and here and there a trained voice freed
92 FRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
itself from the medley and revealed the gentler
breeding of the owner.
"Ton can do better on the next verse/' enconr-
;ed Higgins. **Jim didn't sing a note. Wake
ip, old man!" Jim claimed exemption because
of a cold and was admonished to whistle the air.
^ — "Scripture and prayer followed, then another
hymn, and then the sermon for which all were
ready and waiting. Higgins never disappointed;
he always had a message. His material would not
always stand analysis as to outline and develop-
ment, but it met the needs of his audiences. Sin
received no tender touches, no courtesies of speech
robbed it of its vileness. It was painted black.
Higgins described the vices of men in plain, col-
loquial, stinging English that cut to the nerve and
left the mind quivering with a sense of guilt and
shame. The illustrations he used were not culled
from books of sermon anecdotes; he found them in
the * ^ snake-rooms " of the near-by towns, in the
experiences of his hearers, in their pockets, their
hearts, their hands. Higgins was more sure of
the sins of the present day than of the misdeeds of
Israel. The transgressions he described were
those of living men.
His sermon on the Prodigal Son will long be
remembered in the camps. It brought that com-
pelling parable down to date. To his hearers, the
PREACHING IN THE PINERIES 93
prodigal was not a Jew, but an American lumber-
jack, out for a good time with booze and color.
The far country became the adjacent village with
its advertised evils. The waste and riot, the hogs
and husks, were their own experiences; and the
waiting Father, with, hands extended in forgive-
ness, was almost visibly present. As one of the
men remarked, **Higgins gave them the straight
gospel and made them take it.'^
The message of the Sky Pilot had no class dis-
tinctions. It was against sin everywhere, its
remedy was applicable to all. One night, while he
was arranging for a bunk house service, the camp
proprietor entered and seated himself on the bar-
rel which Higgins had intended to use for a pul-
pit. Standing beside the owner, the minister
opened the meeting. The sermon was pointed, and
the man on the barrel enjoyed the forceful home
thrusts. At each telling sentence, he nodded ap-
proval and shouted words of encouragement :
**Keep the chips flying. Pilot! Give them an-
other whirl! YouVe got them where the shoe
pinches, good and tight ! ' '
Here was a plain-speaking, fearless fellow, and
the proprietor found him refreshing and enter-
taining — a fellow who knew the lumberjacks and
their vices, and exposed <-all in true colors. A
splendid chap !
94 FRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
He who applauds the exposure of another's
weakness should have no private vices to uncover.
But unfortunately the camp owner was open to
criticism, being himself a wasting prodigal. While
he was one of the best loggers in the state, yet his
low morals caused much comment, and his son
was following in the devious footsteps of his
After the proprietor had committed himself to
Higgins' method of dealing with lumberjacks, and
had given his hearty commendation, Higgins
turned his full batteries on camp owners, con-
tractors, and foremen, for the sordid, selfish, and
immoral examples some of them were setting for
**I do not wonder that you lumberjacks live
shameless lives, for the leaders of the industry set
you the worst of examples. Some of them are
found drinking, gambling, and carousing in the
villages and towns ; and the men who should lead
you into better things are only examples of riot
and immorality. ' '
The proprietor was astounded at the sudden
turn of affairs, and for a moment he was silent.
But silence was no security.
*^Why don't you applaud that sentiment alsof
asked the preacher. ^'It's just as true as the
others. * '
PEEACHING IN THE PINERIES 95
In the office, after the service, the owner turned
to Higgins and expressed himself as follows :
**That was pretty crudely plain, Pilof
**I always preach so the audience will under-
**But you needn't have shouted the thing before
the whole crowd/'
**Mr. Bank, I didn't tell them a thing but what
they already knew. You have been advertising
your own life. The boys know it and your son is
following in his father's footsteps. It's time to
call a halt. You can't be proud of the example."
When Higgins left the camp, the proprietor
shook his hand and thanked him for fearlessly
preaching to lumberjacks and to lumber kings.
From the beginning, Mr. Higgins always ob-
tained permission from the company before hold-
ing services for the men. At first it was given
reluctantly, but, as the years passed, the doors
opened more easily. Once, when asking a superin-
tendent for the privilege, he was met with a broad
approval, and Higgins, feeling that there was
something back of the assent, asked its meaning.
**I want to tell you, Mr. Higgins," said the offi-
cial, *'that I am superintendent of this company
because of your work in the woods. Years ago I
was aimless and wasteful, but I heard a word
from you that changed it all. I am glad to give
96 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
the other boys a chance to hear the same thing
that made a man of me. Preach here and send
your men here, for we need the encouragement
of the gospel/'
After service, when the camp had retired, Mr,
Higgins often remained in conversation with those
who longed to know more of the message he had
brought. In privacy many a life was bared and
many a soul met God. When the minister was
asked to share a lumberjack's bunk, he never re-
fused. He knew that back of the request was a
longing for company, perhaps a desire to solve
soul problems, or a confession of sin and a plea
for pardon. Since the quarters of the men were
often very unsanitary, acceptance was no small
cross, but it might mean the salvation of a soul,
and that was greater than physical comfort.
** Isn't there some way I can make my life
count!" asked a young fellow after hearing the
Pilot. **I'm sledding in the wrong direction.
Give me a lift. ' '
He was first led to the Master, then awakened
to the benefits of school. That winter he spent his
evenings in study. The following summer he
worked in a sawmill where every leisure moment
was devoted to his books. The proprietor watched
him with interest and sent him to the sawdust pile
where he could have more time for his studies.
PREACHING IN THE PINERIES 97
He was called *Hlie bookworm in the sawdnsf
A year later he entered school and finally became
a successful civil engineer. That camp sermon
saved a soul from death and lifted a life into
In February, 1911, on the north shore of Lake
Superior, Higgins was holding a service in a cer-
tain camp. The **crew'' consisted of one hundred
and sixty men — ^a motley collection of Finns,
Poles, Austrians, Swedes, and a few Americans.
Two days later the foreman met Higgins again.
*^I had a big surprise yesterday,'* he said.
**For the first time since I have been in these
woods, I found that lumberjacks are interested in
religion. Out in *the works* I found jacks dis-
cussing the meeting you held in the bunk house the
night before ; later, at the lunch-ground, the topic
was religion ; and down at the skidway they were
going over the same thing. It was a new view to
me. I tell you, if your work does nothing more
than furnish a decent topic for conversation, it
accomplishes a great deal. I wish you could come
oftener. It helps. Anything that gives a boost to
the awful proposition we loggers have on our
hands is a thing to be encouraged. Why, even the
scaler, who thinks he is something of an infidel,
admitted that the work was doing good. Come
again. You're welcome.'*
98 PRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
On one occasion it was after eight o^clock and
a meeting was in full swing when two teamsters
entered and took seats by the stove, where they
thawed out while listening to the pilot's talk.
These men, cold and hungry, with appetites sharp-
ened by the zero air of pine forests, had just re-
turned from a distant point, and on learning that
a service was being held, had forgotten the plea-
sures of appetite that they might feed their starv-
ing souls. It was incidents such as this, showing
the desires of the men, that put a joyous encour-
agement into Higgins and made him tireless in his
efforts to reach new camps.
At the beginning of the mission, the lumber-
jacks followed their individual fancy during the
sersice. Hig^s preached, while they smoked,
^^ mended their clothes, darned their socks, or
/stalked back and forth to the drinking water,
i while the hats of the majority remained on their
\ heads. Gradually, almost without suggestion, a
• change took place. The pipes were put aside, the
I hats were removed, and the customs of the town
1 churches were followed in the camp gatherings.
j In one camp, all had removed their hats during
/ the service, except a man who desired to show his
disapproval. While the others joined in the spirit
\ of the meeting, he sneeringly vented his contempt.
iFinaUy an Irish lumberjack walked over, grabbed
PREACHING IN THE PINERIES 99
the * ' skypiece, ' ^ threw it on the floor and stamped
on it ; then with nnruflBed composnre he kicked the
offender out of the bunk house. Before taking his
seat the Irishman quietly said,
**We're going to have peace in these meetings!
If you don't think so, just start something and
I'll finish it for you.''
Higgins' work was like seed sown by the way-
side, among thorns, in stony places, and in good
ground. The results were in the hands of God,
and only in his harvest-time will the increase be
known. The seed fell; it sprang into life; the
wanderer returned to his distant home, and there,
separated from his worst temptations, he turned
his face away from sin, and the paths of the prodi-
gal knew him no more. But sometimes, as in the
following incident, the men whose wiUs were
strengthened stepped into the limelight, there de-
clared their intentions, and enlisted for Christian
Higgins was preaching his challenging message
and the camp was in his grip. Only the thunder
of his denunciation and the warmth of his plead-
ing suspended the silence of the bunk house. In
the midst of the service a woodsman arose and
made his way to the side of the preacher. Then
came his request.
*^I want you to pray for. me right now," he
100 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
said, with the earnestness of a man who was
Placing his hand on the man's shoulder, Hig-
gins prayed, and when he had finished, the woods-
**Now I want to pray for myself/'
Haltingly he uttered his petition for pardon
and received it. Then turning to the listening
men he announced, quietly but with decision,
^ * This is the end of my old life. Li the future I
live for Jesus Christ. '*
The following evening the new convert took
down his violin and played ^* Jesus, Lover of my
soul. ' ' A new spirit was in the music — a longing
that knew where rest was to be found. In respect-
ful silence the men listened. The playing was dif-
ferent, very different, and they wondered, while
they felt the touch of the unseen. Finishing the
hymn, he opened his Bible and read a chapter.
Then, under the inspiration of his new life, he
spoke quietly and well, explaining the part he had
read. The teachings of his Christian home came
back to him, for the Spirit was bringing to his
remembrance the message of his Master. All
through the winter the convert held nightly meet-
ings, creating an atmosphere of sobriety and
right. The campmen wrote to Higgins, telling
with pride of the happenings, adding, ** Others
PREACHING IN THE PINERIES 101
have preaching once in a while, but we've got a
Higgins' bunk house services created a diver-
sion for the lonely men, but the minister's visits
were far apart, and every day had its long, lonely
evening, with no amusement but the greasy
playing-cards and oft-told stories. Higgins be-
gan to distribute magazines, and the demand for
them grew like the movement of a prairie fire.
He appealed to the Minnesota churches for help,
and their congregations shipped him the accumu-
lation of their attics. These welcome gifts have
been continued, so that tons of magazines are sent
to the camps every year. Higgins remembered
the inland camps which he was unable to visit and
sent them boxes of entertainment and informa-
tion. Lives received an impetus in the new topics,
aspirations were awakened, and even the foreign-
bom found comfort in ^* reading the pictures."
One day in an Adirondack camp a woman cook
came to Higgins with this plea : * ' I have been here
for four months and I have had nothing to read
but my Bible. Since I came I have read it through
Here Higgins' Irish wit asserted itself and he
interjected, *^I wish some of the rest of us were
up against the same thing for a while!"
She continued : * * Sometimes I get so lonely that
102 FRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER ^^'
I go down to the waimigan and read the advertis-
ing on the tobacco packages. Can't you send me
something to readf Needless to say that, on
arriving in town, Higgins' first task was to send
her a package of news, amusement, instruction,
FIGHTING FOB GOD AND EIGHT
IN those young, boisterons days, when the sa-
loon held the logging village in the palm of
its hand, when evils laughed at law, and the
wink of the political boss had the authority of
royalty, it was Frank Higgins who refused to
bend the knee. He rebelled even when victory for
righteousness seemed impossible. Better govern-
ment was the need. Public sentiment had to be
aroused, and to arousing it he gave himself, like
John the Baptist crying in the wildemeBS. He
was only a voice but he prepared the way. He
talked victory to everybody, even after meeting
Whenever he could get Into a betterment fight,
Hi^ins was on hand. Little villages that scarcely
knew him found him fighting with them. He asked
104 PRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
nothing for himself, he **jnst wanted to get into
the game/' The corrupt officials found him at
their heels. To the legislatures he handed protests
and suggestions, and in the governor's room he
was welcomed, as were also his stories of adven-
It was up-hill work but Higgins liked it. It
was a long fight in which he did not weary. Big
odds were against him, yet he lived to see the day
when law was respected and evil dared no longer
be bold. A sense of humor smoothed the rough
pathway, and smiles were the harbingers of vic-
While he hewed at the root — ^the saloon in poli-
tics — he did not neglect the victims of the un-
wholesome growth, the men who found themselves
helpless through appetite, poor through robbery,
and physically unfit after their indulgences.
These victims were everywhere present, marked
with the wages of sin.
A lumberjack, speaking of the sky pilot and his
ever-ready assistance, said, **He is a man who
never turns a lumberjack down. His job is keep-
ing us out of hell. ' '
It was truly spoken. Higgins believed that to
prevent evil was as much a Christian duty as to
lift the fallen, and both ends of the task found
him present and at work.
FIGHTING FOR GOD AND RIGHT 105
This ** helping '* was the joy of his life. Others
might demand entertainment ; he created his own
diversions and in them he was blessed and called
''I get a hundred times more out of this than
I put into it, ' ' he declared to a friend who accom-
panied him to a meeting. ** Aren't the boys good
to mef Did you notice old Bill, the shanty boss,
whisper to me at breakfast? He said he'd saved
two hundred dollars and had it in the bank. It
makes me happy to think that old Bill is two hun-
dred dollars away from the poorhouse. ' '
Old Bill had been carried on Higgins ' heart as a
babe on its mother's bosom. The preacher's face
shone as he thought of Bill's two hundred dol-
lars. They meant scores of temptations resisted,
cravings rejected, and many, many battles won.
In old Bill's victory, Frank Higgins found his own
decoration — ^his Victoria Cross — for he had saved
him under fire.
It is easy to feel contempt for those who do not
think in harmony with us. Many a reformer has
found himself hating his opponents because of the
business they represent, and in that attitude has
lost his power. But Higgins was a friend to pub-
licans and sinners. He was actually loved by the
men whose interests he sought to destroy, and this
was because he was a brother to all. It was Hig-
106 PRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
gins whom they asked to bury their dead, and
npon him they called for sympathy in the sorrows
common to humanity. They respected the fighter
who dared to do right when to do right and fight
wrong meant the loss of prestige and probable
defeat. One day, in a palatial saloon and gam-
bling den, where the man in charge had been ac-
quainted with Mr. Higgins for years, he invited
Higgins to take a drink of seltzer water.
^*I wouldn't take a drink of water in one of
your saloons,*' replied Higgins. **You know I'm
against your whole business."
**We know it," answered the saloon man, '^but
while you fight us, you do it fair, and although
you hurt us, we like you in spite of it. ' '
Men naturally appealed to Frank Higgins for
help. They knew he would respond, not as one
doing a favor but as the favored one. And this
attitude was not assumed, it was the result of an
inner desire. Humanity to him was composed of
one big family and he recognized his relatives.
Therefore when Paddy's **bunky" came to him
for help, the pilot was ready to give him all pos-
'* Pilot," said the stranger, ^*I've got a bunky
in that booze joint, and the fool is blowing his
stake as fast as he can throw it. I can't land
him. Give me a lift."
FIGHTING FOR GOD AND RIGHT 107
They entered the saloon together where they
found Paddy Mlariously drunk, his wits afloat
with generosity as he treated the saloon loafers.
He invited all creation to drink with him and
emptied his pockets on the damp, metal counter.
The bartender reached toward the roll of bills and
silver, but a quicker hand covered the paper
money. It was the hand of Higgins.
**I11 take this for my treat, Paddy.*'
"No you don't,*' came the furious reply of the
bartender as he rushed to give battle.
* ' Stand back ! ' ' commanded Higgins.
For a moment the bartender paused, then
grasping the bung-starter, he advanced with raised
weapon, followed by several of the loafers.
*^Cut it out, you fools," roared a big lumber-
jack who rushed to the side of the preacher.
* ^ This is the Pilot, and the man who touches him
takes me on and several others."
An armistice was immediately declared.
The bartender became discreet ; he knew that to
touch Higgins, the helper of lumberjacks, the
friend of every down-and-out, the comforter of
robbed and wronged, would be to invite the wrath
of unnumbered woodsmen.
** Paddy has had too much booze already," said
Higgins casually, as if riots were as common as
beans. "I'll keep this roU, as Paddy's banker.
108 FRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
You are a scoundrel to take money from a man who
is not in his right mind ! ' ' And Higgins led Paddy
away to put him to bed.
/ Next morning Paddy was sober and he said to
I the pilot, ^ ' Somebody went through me last night.
; They cleaned me out o' every cent an' pinched me
hat an' coat. What am I going to dof
'—' '^Robbed you, did theyt It couldn't be done,
Paddy! When I met you last night you were
throwing your money away faster than they could
take it from you. You had already lost your coat,
and had thrown away your hat."
Paddy's head bent in shame — this was not his
*^But you're going home, Paddy. We saved a
little for you. Here is the remainder of your
Higgins escorted him to the train, and the
saloons knew him no more.
And here is another story of the same sort;
scores of such might be told. It was the end of the
cutting season, and word came to the preacher that
a youngster whose appetite was stronger than his
will was ** blowing his stake." The lad's mother
needed every cent of his earnings. In a saloon,
made rich by the profits of robbery, Higgins found
the young man flushed with drink, free from all
FIGHTING FOR GOD AND RIGHT 109
**YouVe had more than enough, Jack. Time
yon tnmed in,'' said Higgins, placing his hand
on the fellow 's shonlder. ^ ^ Let 's get ont of here. ' '
** What's it to yon!" burst ont the angry bar-
tender. **Mind yonr own business!"
'^This is my business," replied Higgins.
**This fellow is too drunk to know what he is
doing, so I will take care of him," and suiting his
words to action, he led the fellow toward the door.
**I'll see you in blazes before I let you have
him," angrily cried the drink-mixer, leaping
over the bar. There was cold steel in the gray of
Higgins ' eyes as he saw the intention of the man,
and his closed fist sprang from his side and sent
the bartender, with a thud, to the sawdust.
"Here's one of your own to care fori" called
the missionary to the saloon keeper. **When he
wakes up, tell him never again to interfere with
'the doth' and its duties. I have to take care of
the boys — that^s my busi/ness/'
**Th-that's your business," echoed the young-
ster as they passed through the door.
The boy was placed on a train, his wages were
sent by mail to his waiting mother, and the next
day Higgins visited the bartender who became a
Time and again Frank Higgins stood between
the men and the leeches who fattened on the blood
UO FRANK HIG6INS: TRAIL BLAZES
and hard labors of men. When in town he visited
the saloons to find the helpless. He made the
rounds of the gambling houses, to place himself
between the tempted and temptation. The hos-
pital wards, where the broken and bruised jacks
waited for healing, were not forgotten — ^there
his coming was like the dawning of day, for he
brought hope and words of cheer.
In the bunk house meeting it was not all plain
sailing. Often high waves of trouble threatened
to sink the ship, and only a good seaman could
weather the storm and arrive at safe anchorage.
Men differed in their thoughts on religion and in
their relation to sects, and from these differences
arose ill feelings. Catholics wanted no Protestant
message. Some objected to their only home — ^the
bunk house — ^being turned into a church, and
vented their feelings in **cat calls. ^^ However,
since the majority welcomed Higgins^ ministry,
and the majority is supposedly entitled to rule,
Higgins did not hesitate to put down the oppo-
nents. Sometimes a word kindly spoken was suf-
ficient. Again, a barb in his ready wit gained an
easy victory. These milder methods, however,
were not always adequate. Dull minds saw in
kindness only the spirit of cowardice or folly and
invited a contest of physical force. From this
Higgins always shrank — ^not from fear, for fear
FIGHTING FOR GOD AND RIGHT 111
was foreign to him. He preferred love. Never-
theless, he believed that where moral suasion
failed, physical force became an instrument of vir-
tue; and without fear, yet reluctantly, he used
his strong arm for his King.
Once a campman persisted in grinding an ax
while Higgins attempted to preach. It was done
to annoy, for the lumberjack whistled a lively air,
much to his own enjoyment and the disturbance of
the camp. Clear thinking was impossible. Hig-
gins stopped and announced a hymn. While the
camp sang, he visited the grinder and asked his
assistance. Again Higgins began his sermon;
again the man at the grindstone opened the
counter-attraction. It was a real competition, and
the camp was immensely entertained. Again the
preacher went to the disturber, this time placing
his hand on the man^s shoulder. No sooner did
the lumberjack feel the touch than he whirled
around and struck at the preacher.
**Keep out of this, boys,'* yelled an Irishman,
swinging aloft a peavy. **Give the Pilot a show.
1^11 brain the first man who interferes.''
Higgins evaded the grinder's blow, bent low,
and rushed his big opponent. His strong arms
closed on the man's waist; in a twinkling he had
him in the air, then up-ended him into a barrel
of water. It was only a moment's work. There
112 FRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
he held him until the Irishman with the peavy
** Pilot, if ye don't want a funeral, ye'd better
pnll him out an' roll him.''
With shouts of hilarity, the congregation went
back to their places, and Higgins took up the
broken thread of his discourse. It was all a part
of the day's work I
When Higgins opened his eyes the following
morning, the grinder was standing beside him.
* * So he has come to finish the row, ' ' thought Hig-
gins. * * Now I 'm going to find out if I 've preached
my last sermon in this camp," and he leaped out
of bed, expecting another battle.
But the grinder's hand was extended in apol-
ogy, and like big boys, for such they were, they
shook hands. The fight belonged to yesterday;
pow they understood each other.
Humanity is an oddity. It encourages its ene-
mies and interferes with its friends. It allows
the impostor a free course and blocks the reform-
er's path. It wants personal liberty for itself and
shackles for the other fellow. So it made trouble
for Higgins, whose only motive was to help it.
In a certain camp the French Canadians per-
sistently rejected his overtures, his help, and his
message. They were impervious to kindness and
had decided that this was to be Higgins ' last ap-
FIGHTING FOB GOD AND BIGHT 113
pearance in that camp. They laughed loudly, guf-
fawed while he spoke, whistled, and clapped their
hands. What was the use of trying to help such
fellows, thought Higgins. But perhaps a personal
appeal would still the tempest. The personal ap-
peal, kindly given, counted for naught. Again
Higgins attempted to speak, but the noise rose in
volumes. Higgins stopped. He quietly rolled up
his sleeves with the air of important business. In
the silence his heels came down with determina-
tion as he walked over to the group. The fire of
righteous indignation burned in his erstwhile
friendly eyes. The kindly mother in him was
asleep, the stem father was aroused. It was zero
hour and Higgins was about to go over the top !
**You pea-soup eaters will do one of two
things,'^ he said with force and control. ^*Tou
will listen to the gospel or take a licking. Speak
up! Which do you wantT^
** Throw them through the roof. Pilot. We^l
see fair play. One at a time, ' ^ yelled a friend.
"Give 'em a thrashin' an' the gospel too,'' came
*' You've got to puncture the skins of that outfit
to get decency into them," called a third. ** Crawl
into the top bunks, boys, where you can see
Then came silence, the silence of the dead.
114 PRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
Higgins' muscles stood out in corded heaps,
his jaw was defiant. Fearless as right itself he
stood, and the disturbers saw a champion they
dared not engage. Their eyes dropped and Hig-
**I^d rather preach, anyway.'*
The long indifference to the saloon was dying;
sentiment was gathering against it; **dry" ideas
were fruiting, and the whisky men read the hand-
writing on the wall. Up there in the woods men
were adopting the pilot's message and through it
were transformed. Down in the towns the evil
element deplored a loss of business. Higgins
stood out as a leader; he must be turned aside;
he could not be silenced; he was above bribery.
Some other way must be devised. So, when the
state legislature discussed the opening of a home
Ifor drunkards, the saloonmen became hopeful.
JThey saw a way out. Why not make Frank Hig-
/[ginj3. superintendent! He was a master of men,
many of the inmates would be lumberjacks, and
he could not refuse the larger salary. It was just
file thing to shelve Higgins 1
i But Higgins turned the offer down — ^turned it
down so hard that he jarred the politicians in his
/refusal. **I want to make the men Christians as
well as sober. There I could only help a handful ;
out in the woods I am in touch with thousands* I
FIGHTING FOR GOD AND RIGHT 115
wotddn^t give up preaching in the camps for the
To shoot straight you must see only one thing
— ^the object; divided interest means missing the
mark. Higgins had many opportunities to be-
come rich. In his travels through the unmarked
forests he had learned the woods as few others
knew them. The government had thrown open to
settlement thousands of rich homesteads, and tim-
ber claims were to be had for the taking, yet he
never filed a claim, although he knew where the
best homesteads were to be found. It was men,
not money, he wanted.
A wealthy logger felt that, if Higgins could be
secured in a partnership, he could vastly increase
his fortune, through Higgins' ability to handle the
workingmen. He proposed to take him into the
company on very liberal terms, Higgins to invest
himself against the logger's capital. The terms
were so generous that few men would have re-
jected them, but Higgins was not even tempted.
He said, ** If I am to do my duty, I'll have to
continue the fight for God and man, not for myself
and my pocket-book. ' '
And so he remained the sky pilot. He had no
time to make money — ^his job was making men.
HELPINd THE DOWN-AND-OUTS
r[E dietioaary defines a slum as "a low quar-
ter of a city." The slum of the old logging
village had no such modest dimensions;
sometimes it was one half, sometimes three quar-
ters, and occasionally the whole place. There, if
you wished a meal, you could secure it only in the
saloon. Over the grog-shops were the gnest rooms
into which the noise and smell intruded and would
not be denied. In the barrooms, or convenient to
them, were the gambling devices, and somewhere
in the background was the "snake-room," the re-
treat where the drunken and drugged jacks were
thrown to sleep off the poison of dope and booze.
A sliun indeed I Not in a city— this was in the
heart of the wilderness.
The "snake-room" deserves more than a pass-
118 FRANK mOOINS: TRAIL BLAZER
ing mention. It was an institution, a moving^-
picture of collected misery, where drunken and
tormented men lay upon a filthy floor. These
men had been willing victims, aiding in their own
stupor (hastened sometimes by doped liquor) and
their own robbery. When ttiey came down river
in the spring, the saloons flourished and profi-
teered by doping, short-chan^g, and deft pick-
pocketing. The barrooms overflowed into the
'^snake-rooms" and there men occasionally died,
smothered under their unconscious comrades.
One can't describe the scene. A person must see
it even to imagine it.
Frank Higgins often went to the snake-rooms,
searching for men who had been defeated by
temptation. Preaching was well enough in its
place, but this called for the ministry of shoulders
and arms and legs. As a shepherd he sought the
wandering sheep, and when he found them he laid
them on his shoulders, rejoicing in his strength
and in his burden. It was in a snake-room that
he found Al Moore, whom he bore to his homestead
near the village. Moore was not an agreeable
burden for Moore had been on a protracted
spree. Moore was seeing things and fighting
them in his ravings — ^horrible, misshapen beings
which were very real to him. His mind was
cooked with whisky and bad become a place
AIT UP-TO-DATE, HOVABLE, SANITABr CAMP IN THE TAB WEST
THE Nf'.vv ^^iUK
PU&LIC LIBilAllV i
ASTOB, LENOX AM)
TILDBN FOUNDAli', NS *
R L I
HELPING THE DOWN-AND-OUTS 119
for sights and creatures bom in the ferment of
Moore had a wife and family. Before drink
robbed him of property and decency, he had saved
and prospered. Now he was reduced to poverty.
For two long days and two longer nights the
missionary sat by Moore ^s side, quieting and help-
ing him back to sanity. Higgins knew that Moore
would demand his accustomed liquor, and on being
refused would go in search of it. He accordingly
prepared his defenses by gathering together every
piece of Moore's clothing and sending it out to a
With returning strength, Moore sought his
clothing everywhere. It was a vain endeavor.
He pleaded with Higgins. Higgins was adamant.
The family had been sent away and Moore was
alone with the relentless missionary. A sense of
helplessness settled upon him and finally he came
to himself. By speaking of things that were then
mere memories, the minister led him back to the
pleasant years before whisky entered his life ; he
brought to mind his prosperous days and his
happy home. Gradually, by those invisible cords,
Higgins drew him on until at last they prayed
together at the feet of One who gives freedom
and forgiveness. When they arose they were
brothers in Christ Jesus.
120 PRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
Moore knew he was free* He also knew his
weakness and, wishing to cast off the old associa-
tions, he migrated with his family to Canada. A
letter from his wife told of his life there. **Both
my husband and son united with the Presbyterian
church here, and when they brought my husband
from a northern camp, bruised and dyings his
faith held fast to the Savior who took him from
Money was god in the villages, the golden calf
was its image; and the shrines were numerous
where the worshipers offered their wages in sac-
rifice. It was respectable to do wrong and make
money by it. Greed was the first commandment
of the law and the second was like unto it : get all
you can and get it quickly. Seeing two lumber-
jacks spending freely in a notorious saloon, Hig-
gins drew near. A gambler immediately added
himself to the group to defeat, if possible, the evi-
dent intention of the minister.
** Getting too full to handle money, boys,*' said
Higgins. * ' Better let me be your banker till morn-
*' That's a good idea," said the older man, who
passed over his money and valuables, among
which was a Confederate medal conferred for
bravery. Higgins took the Southerner to a hotel
and put him to bed, then returned to the saloon.
HELPING THE DOWN-AND-OUTS 121
The soldier ^s companion was nowhere in sight.
He had already been drugged, robbed, and
dragged into the snake-room where Higgins found
him. In the few minutes ' absence the gambler had
been diligent in business.
** Where is this man^s money and watch! '^ asked
**You don't think I went through him, Mr. Hig-
gins, '* countered the gambler.
**You had him in charge. You ought to know.**
It was a wide-open town with the saloons in
full power. Justice had no influence, being a non-
resident. The money and watch were gone be-
yond recall. There was nothing to do but put the
lumberjack to bed and pray for the day when the
saloon and its influence would no longer exist.
Weak men, knowing they could not fight temp-
tation, leaned heavily on the pilot. They de-
pended on him to escort them past the saloons and
see them safely to the trains.
**When will you be in town, Pilot r*
*^I want you to see me through. 1*11 come right
up to the house.**
**That*s right, Billy, depend on me.**
Since they could not trust themselves, they made
him their banker, and Higgins sent their money
to their homes. The pilot *s home became a van-
122 FRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
tage groundy and day or night the men, not always
sober, came for help, advice, or to deposit their
fnnds. Mrs. Higgins was much alone, owing to
her hnsband's long trips, and to be awakened in
the dead of night by strange voices demanding
admission was a common occurrence. One night
when she was alone a noise awakened her. Some
one was trying to effect an entrance. The pres-
ence in the house of considerable money which the
pilot held in trust for certain lumberjacks added
to her fears. Mrs. Higgins cautiously investi-
gated and discovered a man on the woodshed roof.
He was a drunken lumberjack who, in his blurred
condition, was searching for the pilot. He knew
Higgins lived there; he needed him; and, in at-
tempting to find him, he gave Mrs. Higgins an
Another experience was with old man Johnson,
who had been a prodigal all his life. Now old
age was approaching, or perhaps wisdom had been
bom with years. Whatever the cause, he came to
Higgins for help.
**Mr. Higgins, IVe come to Robbers' Boost to
get cleaned out again,*' he said in greeting.
** Every year it's been the same. I can't keep my
money. I have two hundred and seventy-five dol-
lars, but I won't have a cent in the morning.
They'll go through me for it alL"
HELPING THE DOWN-AND-OUTS 123
He wept as he sat by the fire — a tired man,
weather-beaten, weary, and very old.
**You will have every cent of it,'* replied the
positive minister. **I'll run the game this time.
Hand over your cash — every cent of it. I'm your
banker. You can't have your money until you're
ready to place it in something permanent."
** Glory be!" ejaculated the old man. ** We've
done it, HigginsI I've made a safe landing — ^the
first time in years," and he handed over his
While they sat there rejoicing in the dawn of a
better future, a saloon **tout" ^ came to the house
in search of old man Johnson.
**What do you want with him!" inquired the
**A little business," replied the man non-
^^ Johnson has transacted all his business. I
have every cent of his cash and your whole gang
can't get it from me. Now, you bloodsucker, hike
or I'll kick you off the premises I" And the door
slammed in the fellow's face.
^^Made a landin'. Pilot, but too close for com-
fort," said old man Johnson.
One February day in a lumber town incidents
crowded one upon another in a way that kept the
lAn agent for a low resort.
124 PRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
pilot hastening through all its hours. The de-
mands began at the breakfast table, when a logger
told of a workman who was playing the fool at the
games and at the bar. The logger treated the
matter indifferently, but Higgins made the round
of the saloons, found the jack, and took him to a
lodging-house. Next came a hospital visit, where
more than a score of the boys were gladdened
by the fruit Higgins brought and were encouraged
by his prayers and his presence. While there he
heard of one of the jacks who had left the hos-
pital that morning, too weak to work, without
credit, and generally distrusted because of his
former dissolute life. Higgins searched until he
found him, placed him in charge of the hotel
keeper, and became security for the bill. Later,
another woodsman who was finding the way of the
transgressor no easy road to travel, was given
assistance and advice. The day ended in a gam-
bling den where a traveling man, who at roulette
had lost his own and his employer's money, was
saved from suicide by the prompt action of Hig-
gins. For Higgins, like his Master, was touched
with the feeling of men's infirmities; and **he
went about doing good, ' ' asking no selfish return.
To his enemies he gave the same treatment that
he extended to his friends. Men who had lied
about him, who had disturbed his meetings and
HELPING THE DOWN-AND-OUTS 125
made the * * sledding hard, ^ ' were brought into en-
thusiastic friendship through his generous, open
hand. Once, when the word went about that Hig-
gins had found a violent opponent in need and
had succored him, there were many wha would
not believe the report so they asked Higgins.
**Sure,'^ replied the unresenting Higgins.
"When God gave me a chance to help a man, do
you think I'd turn it down?'* *— ^ — •
In the old days, when the dog-team played its\
part, in a camp near Tenstrike, Minnesota, worked \
Quebec, a powerful French Canadian, a bigot
by training and intolerant by nature. He hated
Higgins because he was a Protestant, and as a
disturber of meetings Quebec had no equals. His
profanity and Billingsgate distressed the whole
camp. But he was one of the men with whom the
pilot did not care to try physical conclusions.
Quebec was elastic, tough, tempered metal, and a
physical leader in camp and on the river. It was
better to be discreet than beaten; so both Quebec
and Higgins apparently thought, for each avoided
the contest. Higgins tried in many ways to win
the man who returned his kindness with sneers \
and profanity. - .. ..— ^
In Tenstrike, on a bitter Sunday night, Higgins
went to the hotel bam to care for his dogs be-
fore retiring. Cakes of ice littered the yard near
126 FRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
the ice-house ; and, as he carefully picked his way,
he stumbled over the body of a man. The body
was cold and apparently lifeless. Higgins ran to
the hotel for assistance. Quebec sat on the end
of the bar, swinging a lighted lantern between his
legs. He was about to return to camp after an
evening in the saloon.
* * Hurry, Quebec, ' ' cried Higgins. * ' Bring your
lantern. There's a dead or dying man lying
out yonder on the ice.''
Quebec hastened after the preacher.
**Take hold of his feet," suggested Higgins.
But Quebec objected. **No. You carry him,"
he said. **I'll light the way."
The man still lived. Higgins worked over him
until consciousness returned. While Higgins
worked, Quebec sat near, holding his lantern and
studying the preacher.
**This fellow will need to stay here for a few
days till he gets over his drunk and the freezing,"
remarked Higgins to the hotel man. ^ ' He has no
rngjiey. Charge the bill to me. ' '
The next time Higgins visited the camp in
which Quebec worked, Quebec was there and he
was silent. Higgins momentarily expected an out*
break but none came. The campmen waited, won-
dering when the fireworks would begin, but Quebec
listened to the sermon — ^the most attentive hearer.
HELPING THE DOWN-AND-OUTS 127
The meeting was almost disappointing I Even
Higgins wondered if Quebec were sick. At
the close of the meeting he motioned to the
** How's our manr* Quebec asked.
**0h, he's all right.''
** There it is, Pilot," said the Frenchman,
thrusting out his hand. ** That's yours now.
Will you shake it? After what I saw in Tenstrike,
I'm settled. You're willing to do for us poor
fools what we ain't got sense enough to do for
ourselves. Anything I can do for you, Pilot,
And maybe the camp didn't enjoy the scene
when the two big fellows shook hands !
From that day on, it wasn't safe to interfere
with Higgins' meetings when Quebec was around.
That would have been the same as slapping Que-
bec's face, and no north woodsman was ever in-
sane enough to do that. In many ways Quebec
showed his admiration for the missionary. Once
he saw Higgins coming along a sidewalk thronged
with lumberjacks. Quebec cast them right and
left, without gentleness or ceremony, at the same
time explaining his action: **Open up the road
for the Pilot. He 's made easy sledding for many
a one of us, and I '11 road-monkey for him. ' ' Need-
less to say, the way was cleared.
128 FRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
Among the campmeiXy shut off from the mails,
separated from amusements, far from home,
friends, and the common things that make life
pleasant, Higgins found his opportunity to enter
into the hearts of men. He was fortunate in that
his interests were always the interests of the man
with whom he talked. Strangers told him their
troubles without reserve or reticence; men held
nothing back. So with all their thoughts before
him, spurred on also by his own compassion, he
could easily aid in the solving of problems. His
was a sympathetic nature lighted with glowing
In one of the camps Higgins discovered a young
fellow, one of whose feet had been amputated.
The man was in the throes of despondency; he
felt that all his chances of success were gone, now
that he was crippled. His days were somber, his
nights were black, until Higgins spoke, after hear-
ing his story:
**Why, man, God has something better in store
for you than being a lumberjack. You are going
to go through life by the power of your brain, in-
stead of being propelled by your legs. Don't you
see it ? ' ' Higgins awakened him so that he caught
the vision, applied himself to books, and later be-
came a successful physician.
Was there anything in that bleuy crowd of
HELPING THE DOWN-AND-OUTS 129
drinkers, leaning for support against the bar, to
call out affeation? Yet — '*I love these fellows, ''
said Higgins, and his eyes confirmed his words.
* * I love to pick men out of the gutter. It 's more
fun than helping Pharisees. And it pays. You
can help a man best when he finds himself help-
less, when he is disgusted with himself. Then
his pride is gone, the bottom is knocked out of
his little world, and there is no place for his feet.
If I can get at him then, it 's easy to land him for
God. You see, when a man is sure of himself, he
has no time for religion, but when his cocksure-
ness is gone, when he is * walking on his uppers,'
that's the time for Frank Higgins to get in his
work for Jesus Christ. So I hang around those
places. I've been criticized for doing it. They
say it is no place for a minister. But the dirt
doesn't shock me — ^I'm thinking of clean souls.
Of course, there is lots of profanity, but it isn't
the words I hear but the words I use that I have
to account for. I know affairs are foul and coarse
and brutal. Sometimes the sordidness of the
saloon arouses in me a desire to kill, but most of
the time that side never touches me. I'm too busy
looking for an opening into a heart. I love these
fellows. I just can't help it."
And the love of Higgins begat love in the men.
* * I would give twenty years of my life if I could
130 FRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
have the devotion of the men as Higgins has it/'
one of the camp missionaries exclaimed. ^^The
Master gave the secret ; it is a wonderful one and
worth learning; *If any man would be first, he
shall be last of all, and servant of all/ "
AND MEN SAW THAT IT WAS GOOD
SOME things cannot be hidden. Frank
Higgins' work was staged in the unknown
camps, far from the daily press, far from th^
sonnd of cities ; nevertheless, it came to the light
of publicity. When transformed men cast off, like
filthy rags, their lawlessness, others naturally in-
quired the reasop. Homes in all parts of the land
were gladdened by a word from, or the return of,
wandering sons, brothers, and husbands, and the
home folks learned that Higgins was back of the
movement. When worthless workers became in-
dustrious, honest, and reliable, when grouchers
whistled at their work, and talked on wholesome
topics, employers could not shut their eyes to the
mission that changed problems into dividends.
Emeraon of Concord said something about the
132 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
world making a path to the door of the man whose
work was good. In this missionary to the camps,
Emerson's remark was again verified, for the
wilderness worker, without advertising and seek-
ing no honors, became the center of a widespread
At Cass Lake, Minnesota, a friend of the forest
missionary entered into conversation with Mr.
Thomas Nary, a man of prominence in the lumber
industry of the state. He wished to learn the log-
ger's thought concerning Higgins and his mission,
and this is what Mr. Nary said: **When Mr. Hig-
gins first asked to hold services in our camps, I
told him it was useless. He persisted in his re-
quest and I reluctantly granted permission. I felt,
however, that nothing could help the men. I have
changed my opinion, for Higgins' work has intro-
duced new possibilities. In such work is the hope
of the lumberjacks. A few more men like Frank
Higgins and we would have less of hell in the
pineries. ' '
*^Is the camp mission accomplishing any-
thing?" a contractor who was the employer of
many men was asked.
**Well, rather! Some of the jacks are savin'
money, takin' occasional baths, an' can pass a
saloon without battin' an eye. Ain't these
results ? ' '
MEN SAW THAT IT WAS GOOD 133
Another logger answered the same question;
**This preaching has braced many a weak back,
and I know a number of honest men that, in the
old days, I couldn't trust out of my sighf
Logging is a dollar-creating proposition, not an
organization to benefit humanity. It is sordid in
that it destroys beauty for utility's sake. Beau-
tiful woodland scenes are viewed as logs, and the
giants of centuries are shorn of glory, becoming
the food of saws and finally marketable board
feet.. Sentiment has no place in lumbering. If
the camp mission had not helped the workmen, the
companies would have been the first to know it.
When, however, they found their men more satis-
fied, cleaner, better workers, the companies en-
couraged the visits of the preadiers and passed
the word to other concerns. The work was help-
ing morale and morale meant more dollars. The
corporations were not interested in the spiritual
side; that was secondary, for ** business is busi-
ness ' ' ! Because the mission helped the industry,
the companies encouraged it and contributed to its
All through the long years of the past, the log-
gings companies have been guilty, with here and
there an exception, of scanty attention to the ques-
tion of housing. Too many, far too many, men
were compelled to sleep under the same roof.
■icr- - -
134 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
Personal cleanliness was impossible because no
provision had been made for such an urgent need
as bathing. In the bunks, men were not the only
living creatures. The sleeping quarters had little
merit beyond sheltering the men from wind and
Poorly ventilated, f oul-smelling, infested camps
were the rule when Higgins began his work. It !
is not fair to credit Frank Higgins with all the
changes that have been wrought; others have
helped greatly, but to him must be given a meed
of praise. He, at least, was one of the first, per*
haps the first, publicly to describe camp condi-
tions to the outside world. He talked with ab-
sentee owners, men who had never seen the inside
of their own camps, and secured their personal in-
terest and help. He made suggestions to foremen
and officials, and gradually improvements were
In the newer camps of the far west (though not
in all of them) a marvelous movement has begun.
Sanitation and order have obtained a prominent
place. The workmen are housed in smaller
groups and privacy becomes possible. Shower
baths add to self-respect. The long evenings and
longer Sundays have become bearable through
recreation rooms. Steam heat, running water,
and electric light are parts of the camp equip-
, AND ADEQUATE
TDK NFW VohK
A8T0R. LENOX ASC-
MEN SAW THAT IT WAS GOOD 135
ment Clean white sheets, washed bla^okets, and
iron bedsteads with mattresses, have robbed the
former pests of their time-honored immunity.
There are camps where no workman is admitted
imtil he has first taken a shower bath and his
clothing has been fimiigated.
The filthy camp has not entirely disappeared.
There are some owners who are impervious to
reason, to the gospel of cleanliness, and the march
of improvement. Such will still continue to rear
their abominations; but the larger companies,
with few exceptions, have seen the light and are
following the gleam. If Frank Higgins had done
nothing more than hastened the coming of this
better day, he would have earned the lumberjacks'
The idea has grown beyond the mere question
of housing. Out of it has come a welfare move-
ment which includes the recreations and education
of the workers. This phase has been fostered
largely by the Young Men's Christian Associa-
tion, and secretaries have been placed in a few
Appreciation came to ffiggins personally.
Praise touched him deeply, awakening a spirit of
self-depreciation. He seemed unaware of having
done unusual work. It all appeared commonplace
to him. He claimed no credit even for his big
136 FRANK HIOGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
endeavors — ^he did not know how to pose as a
hero. All compliments made him conscious of his
littleness; they did not puff him up; one might
almost say they humiliated him.
Once, near the close of a heart-breaking winter
that had demanded overmuch of his strength,
Higgins found himself going to the camp with
aching muscles, unsteady step, and throbbing
head. He was wretched, nauseated with sickness,
and scarcely able to travel against the wind-
driven snow. No shelter offered itself and there
would be none until the distant camp was reached.
How he covered the miles he never knew. A haze
crowded his recollection, blurring the hours.
When at last he reached the camp-clearing, he was
spent; his body could go no farther and he fell
forward, unconscious. There the lumberjacks
found him lying in the snow. With rough kind-
ness they carried him to shelter, put him to bed,
and wondered how they could minister to his
necessities. They wanted to do much for the man
who had done much for them, they had little to
do with, and the case was urgent.
In the bunk house the men discussed the pilot's
** Whisky's a good thing for one that's ailinV'
they hazarded. But every man knew that whisky
wouldn't keep in that camp.
MEN SAW THAT IT WAS GOOD 137
It was the same with all the remedies sug-
gested ; they were not to be obtained,
**We ean^t give him medicine, for we haven't
got it,*' said a Christian sawyer, *^but I'll tell you,
boys, we can pray for the man who is always pray-
ing for us.''
Then came silence. The idea gripped these men
unused to prayer. Helpless to do, wishing to do
much, why could they not pray for the pilot ? And
because they knew not how to pray, they were
silent in the presence of their great perplexity.
< i yf-Q 9yQ never logged much on that land, ' ' said
a driver. Turning to the sawyer, ** Johnson, you
start the deal, for you are onto that game. Say it
out loud and we '11 sort of keep you company. ' '
And so, in the voice of one, the whole camp
united its petition for the health of the man who
was always praying for them.
When Higgins heard of the praying lumber-
jacks he wept, and when he told of the incident
his eyes dimmed. ** Does n't it make a fellow
humble to meet with a thing like that ? ' '
The lumberjacks are wanderers, fixed to no
place or position. Minnesota may know them this
winter and the Pacific coast or Southern camps
the following summer. They are birds of passage,
nesting in the forest camps. Many states receive
their labors and few their citizenship. At first
138 PRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
Frank Higgins worked in central Minnesota, but
the restless jacks in other places wanted religious
services and other missionaries were enlisted to
meet the increasing demands. A camp preacher
was placed in the lumber district of Maine ; Mon-
tana's scattered camps received services; while
Idaho, Washington, and Oregon also became
centers for camp preaching. The Synod of New
York organized the work in the Adirondacks and
the Synod of Michigan appointed its messengers
This is the present extent of the effort made to
reach the woodsmen, and this covers only a small
part of the great lumber field. Lumbering is an
important industry in two thirds of our states,
and only eight of them have the assistance of or-
ganized effort. A good beginning has been made
along the lines blazed by Higgins, but only a be-
ginning. Perhaps, in the wider lines of the Inter-
church World Movement, the day is not far dis-
tant when new states will enter on the work and
the great opportunities of the hour will then be
seized for Christ and his church. May the day be
hastened, for the need is vital and very present.
The work has proved its own worth. It needs
no justification even in states where it has not yet
entered. The old-timers everywhere are always
ready to welcome it. Speaking of his first trip to
MEN SAW THAT IT WAS GOOD 139
the State of Washington, Higgins said: **In a
town where no religious organization was at work,
I held service in the dance hall. There were sev-
enty-five present, sixty of whom were woodsmen.
After the meeting two lumberjacks hailed me.
* Hello, Pilot 1 We're from Minnesota. Heard
you preach in the Clearwater Camps back there.
We're the ones that rustled the crowd for you
to-night.' On another occasion I was to speak
in the open air. An old Minnesota campman
brought a pitcher of lemonade and placed it by
my side. After the meeting he invited me to his
home and wanted me to make it mine while I
labored in that place. ' '
Until the spring of 1909, Frank Higgins de-
voted almost all his time to actual work in the
camps, allowing himself only occasional visits to
the near-by churches, where he presented the
story of the woodsmen. The many invitations to
**gad about the country" did not appeal to him;
he preferred the boys and the woods, where he
was happiest when telling the story of redemption.
He was too busy to respond to the call of the
The demand, however, became insistent ; and in
1909 the Board of Home Missions arranged an
itinerary through the eastern churches, where he
met a welcome that amazed even his most enthusi-
140 FRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
astic friends. A secretary of the Board said, **I
do not know of any other home missionary who
has so stirred the churches with the story of
frontier work. It is not possible for him to re-
spond to the numerous invitations that are flood-
ing the office. ' '
TEis rough man of the forest made a deep and
lasting impression on the cultured and wealthy
churches. He was lionized, accepted by rich and
poor, and was equally at home in the rescue mis-
sipja and in the mansion. When he rose to speak
at theSocial Union of Philadelphia in the Belle-
vue-Stratford, he said: **I'm not used to all this
fuss and feathers, and I'd be scared to death if
it weren 't for one thing ; I know more about my
subject than any of you, and while I stick to that
I'm safe. I assure you, gentlemen, I'm going to
Utick to my text. ' '
When the news of successes drifted back to
Minnesota, his friends wondered how this sudden
popularity would affect him. His life had been a
constant struggle. Sacrifice had trod on the heels
of sacrifice. The scant praise that had come to him
had been the embarrassed words of simple folk,
of rough men, of publicans and sinners. Would
he be spoiled, — changed from the simple, free-
handed, lovable fellow into a vanity-possessed
manf This was the question of many. A wealthy
MEN SAW THAT IT WAS GOOD 141
lumbermaii wrote him with all the tenderness of
a father :
**My dbab boy Frank :
* * I know you are a man, almost as old as myself,
but to me you will always be a big, lovable boy.
In these days of triumph, may God keep you and
send you back to us the same boy that went away.
The plaudits of men and the praise of new people
must not lift you off your feet. This is your time
for prayer so that prosperity shall not change
you. I am afraid that all this attention may un-
consciously work in you a feeling of your own
strength, and we are praying that it will drive
you, in weakness, to cling closer. You were used
of God as you were, and if you so remain he will
use you still more. * '
And a lumberjack wrote to him :
^^Dbab Sky Pilot Higgins:
^*WeVe heard how you're hitting it high in the
east and we're interested. We knew you'd make
good. Any windjammer who can log with us can
break a safe load anywhere. Don't let the fizz go
to your head ; keep it below the belt. If your hat
pinches, bolt for the timber. We 're glad you are
it, we wanted you to be, and we knew you had the
right bark mark. Keep cool, hew to the line, and
don't get punky or you'll be left with the slash-
142 PRANK HIGGINS : TRAIL BLAZER
All these fears were groundless. His friends
should have known better than to doubt him.
Nothing changed him; he was the same big boy,
a little wiser and broader-minded, but of un-
% While in the east he might, perhaps, have
passed for an easterner; but even when far from
the pineries, his thoughts were ever with **his
boys'* and he rejoiced when the time came to
shoulder his pack-sack and tramp to the camps.
On his return he told of his trip, interspersing
the narration with inimitable comments. Most
of all he laughed over the ' ' breaks * ' he made. One
jiOJiem was as follows: A dinner given in his
r honor was more elaborate than any he had ever
attended. Near the end of the meal he was con-
gratulating himself that he had escaped its many
pitfalls, when a fine, cut-glass finger-bowl, in
which floated a rose, was proffered to him. Hig-
gins, unaware of its purpose, looked admiringly
at the rose, then he took the flower and placed
it in his buttonhole. On looking around, he saw
the next guest daintily dipping her finger-tips in
her bowl. Then he knew why the other guests
were consciously busy with needless actions. He
realized that he had made a mistake.
*'So that's the idea,*' he laughed, *'a bath, ehf
That's another good one on me. Well, if you want
MEN SAW THAT IT WAS GOOD 143
a lumberjack to take a bath, you'll have to pro-
vide a bigger tub.**
" Higgins often slipped off a log, but he always
bobbed up smiling.
The churches saw more of Higgins after his
first trip east. They found that he possessed rare
ability and awakened a genuine interest in frontier
missions. He was a part of the life he described.
The tang and spice of pine flavored his speech.
He was a breeze from the big woods, — ^human, in-
spired, lovable, and on fire with zeal for his
*'boys." Others caught his unselfish spirit and
unselfishly lent him assistance. On a number of
occasions he addressed the General Assembly,
speaking with the same telling effect and as force-
fully as if addressing the men of the bunk houses.
In behalf of the work, he visited Canada and
England, where his story met a hearty welcome,
resulting in a multitude of invitations to address
churches all over the British Isles. Men saw the
generous soul, seeking not its own, and knew that
he deserved the **well done, good and faithful
_ THE MARKS OF THE MASTER
DURING the fall of 1913, the first symptoms
of the malady which caused Prank Hig-
gins' death made their appearance. He
was at that time in Princeton, New Jersey, where
he had lectured to the Seminary students. As
he passed out of Miller Chapel, a depression in
the sidewalk caused him to stumble, and a severe
pain shot through his left shoulder. Careful
examination failed to reveal the seat of the
trouble. Prom that time on he was never free
from discomfort. The following March, while
on his way to the western camps, his -train was
wrecked near Spokane. Higgins received minor
bruises and was sent to a hospital where the X-ray
made clear the old trouble in the shoulder. It was
sarcoma. Later, an operation, which resulted in
146 PRANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
the removal of a portion of the left clavicle, gave
temporary relief and hope. In less than three
weeks he was again on the platform, pleading the
cause of the woods. But his once powerful frame
was forced slowly to give up its strength, al-
though his spirit retained the old-time vigor and
enthusiasm. As the fall approached, the right
collar-bone became the seat of distress. A second
operation revealed the same condition there.
The hard, body-breaking labor of former days
was presenting its demands for payment. Those
heavy loads, carried over many snowy trails to
give comfort to the wayward foresters, were the
direct cause of Frank Higgins' death at the age
of forty-nine. Where the shoulder-straps of the
packs had pressed, there the disease appeared.
He was dying, bearing in his body the marks of
the Master. He had lived for a cause and for that
cause he died on the fourth of January, 1915.
He was faithful unto the end. Although suffer-
ing greatly, he insisted to the last in presenting
the lumberjacks' cause. At North East, Pennsyl-
vania, Higgins could scarcely stand while making
an address, yet never did he speak with such con-
viction. His bodily vigor was absent and in its
place a pervading quiet had come.
Tenderly, lovingly he pleaded, the same earnest
Higgins but strangely, grandly new. The same,
THE MASKS OF THE MASTEE 147
yet different, re-made, spiritually refined. Those
who heard him knew the pilot's feet were touch-
ing another shore. His last drive was almost in,
his contract was cut, and the landing was in sight.
A few days later, when leaving New York on his
way to Bryn Mawr for what proved to be his last
speaking engagement, the beloved sky pilot was
forced by weakness to call a porter to his assist-
As the colored man took his satchel, Higgins
said, ** Brother, I'm about all in. I'll have to lean
on you, ' ' and he put his arm over the supporting
shoulders of the negro.
When they came to the train, Higgins offered
the customary tip, but the porter waved it aside.
**I couldn't take your money."
^*Why nott" asked the astonished Higgins.
** Don't you know? You called me hr other; you
asked about my mother, my wife, my children. I
just couldn't take your money."
When Higgins returned to New York, he
needed assistance far more than when he went to
Bryn Mawr, but he didn't have to ask for it. The
same colored brother saw him, ran to his assist-
ance, and almost carried him to a taxi-cab. Again
Higgins offered a tip and again the porter waved
148 PEANK HIGGINS: TRAIL BLAZER
**I couldn't take your money; you called me
Higgins had paid his way, not with corruptible
things such as silver and gold, but with brother-
hood — ^a coin of the Kingdom of Heaven.