Vintage Horse-Drawn Conveyances

Ohio collector concentrates on horse-drawn buggies and wagons

| November 2009

Wagons, buggies, surreys & buckboards: Those are the pride and joy of the Higgins family of Meeker, Ohio. Theirs is a fascination with modes of transportation common in the days before Henry Ford put the automobile within the grasp of nearly every family in America. They find and restore vintage horse-drawn conveyances. Rarely will you find a finer collection of such pieces.

Roger Higgins Sr. has always been interested in agricultural items. However, he decided early on that he would not become a collector and restorer of antique farm tractors. Instead, he went further back in time. Long interested in horses and horse-drawn equipment, he focused on that, with one qualifier: He wanted to be able to use any piece of equipment he bought. And that led to restoring early farm wagons.

Creating a chuck wagon

One of his first acquisitions after starting a collection in 1971 was a World War I supply wagon. Put on an auction by the Defense Supply Center, Columbus, Ohio, the wagon was purchased by Ohio farmer Delbert Rush, who stored it high and dry in his haymow. More than 30 years ago, Roger learned of the wagon and began a campaign to persuade Rush to sell. Eventually, he did.

The wagon was in “quite decent” condition, Roger recalls, but needed a lot of tender loving care. He put new running gear under the wagon box and made other modifications. Later, he converted it to a chuck wagon and used it on the Ohio Wagon Train Club’s annual drive through northeast Ohio. He mounted a water barrel on one side and a pantry on the other. Then he and his wife, Darlene, and son, Roger Jr., loaded up their team of Belgians and their wagon joined the train.

Roger and his son are members of the Ohio Wagon Train Club of Holmes County. They also belong to the Black Swamp Driving Club and have traveled extensively through Ohio and to the Horse Park near Lexington, Ky. (See Don Voelker’s article in Farm Collector, May 2008.) Father and son have joined the groups during displays at county fairs, festivals and other events, and regularly use their Arabians to pull vintage wagons and surreys.

Collection offers variety

The Higgins collection currently numbers about 30 pieces, including wagons, buggies, surreys and buckboards. Roger’s latest endeavor is restoration of a Rockaway carriage. The occupant’s compartment is completely enclosed, and features doors with beveled glass windows, a beveled glass windscreen and rear window. When the carriage was driven in inclement weather, snow, slush or other debris could land on the carriage’s step. A clever feature counteracted that: When the door swings open, a cover makes contact with the step, sweeping it clear before passengers emerged. The driver, meanwhile, is perched in the open. A speaker tube allowed communication between passengers inside and the driver.