Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Hicks Family and Me, by Norman Lee Hicks

The Hicks Family and Me

Norman L. Hicks

The Hicks Ancestors

            Robert Hicks arrived at Plymouth Mass. on  November 11, 1621, on the ship Fortune, the second ship to reach the new colony after the Mayflower.  Originally Robert was to sail with the Mayflower on the Speedwell, but this ship proved unseaworthy and he had to delay his departure until 1621[1].   As a result Robert missed the first Thanksgiving by about two weeks. He was a leather dresser from Bermondsey, Southwark, near London.  His father, James Hicks, was lineally descended from Ellis Hicks, who was knighted by Edward, the Black Prince on the battlefield of Poitiers in 1356 for bravery in capturing a set of colors from the French. From Ellis Hicks comes the family coat of arms, and the family motto Nondum metam, “not yet the goal”[2]. A picture of Ellis Hicks, at age 90, was still hanging in Witcombe Hall in 1909, the home of Sir William Hicks-Beach.

Margaret Winslow, the wife of Robert, and their children, arrived on the ship Anne, which arrived at Plymouth during the latter part of June, 1622. [3]  The family settled in Plymouth and Duxbury[4], Mass. Robert was a friend of Miles Standish, among others[5].  At the time of his death, he was living on land originally owned by John Alden. Robert had five children by his first wife, Elizabeth Morgan, and four by his second wife, Margaret Winslow.  John, the son of  Robert and Elizabeth was educated at Oxford and followed his father to Massachusetts in 1635. John Hicks married four times.  His first wife was Horod or Herodias Long.  Horod, became an ardent Quaker and she and John separated and divorced in Rhode Island. She subsequently remarried to George Gardiner in a Quaker ceremony. On May 11, Horod was traveling as a nursing mother from Newport to Weymouth to give religious testimony.  She was arrested and jailed on the charge of adultery, as Quaker marriages were not recognized in Massachusetts. She was then sentenced by Gov. John Endicott to receive ten lashes and 14 more days in jail. The Puritans, having been victims of religious persecution, were quick also to deal in it. At the end, after the punishment had been carried out, the record showed that Horod kneeled down and prayed the Lord to forgive Gov. Endicott.

In 1642, John Hicks migrated to Hempstead, Long Island. His son Thomas(b. 1640) had twelve children, and the majority of old Long Island Hickses are descended from this family. Thomas’ son Jacob was a captain in the revolutionary war, and the grandfather of Elias Hicks (1748-1830) the famous Quaker preacher. Several of Jacob’s children joined the Society of Friends.[6] Thomas’ son Isaac moved to New York, and became a very successful merchant and commission agent, engaging in trade with Europe and up and down the American coast[7]. After amassing a considerable fortune, he moved to Westbury where he built a large house and became more directly involved with the affairs of the Westbury Meeting. Isaac is my direct ancestor. His son James would be my great-great-great grandfather.

During the Revolutionary War, the Hickses were on both sides, and in the middle as well.  Devout Quakers refused to fight for independence, causing animosity with their neighbors. Many were Tories who supported the Crown.  However, there were those who were either not Quakers or not so devout that did support the cause.  One of these was John Hicks, descended from a brother of Robert Hicks.  He participated in the Boston Tea Party. He lived in Cambridge and responded to the call to arms issued at Lexington, April 19, 1775, even though he was fifty years old at the time. He was engaged in delaying the advance of the British by removing the planks from the main bridge over the Charles River.  With others from the town, he set up an ambush for the retreating British troops, but were surprised when the British outflanked them[8]. He was shot dead on the corner of Massachusetts and Rindge Avenues, along with two companions.  A monument exists today marking the spot.

Jacob was also the forefather of Henry Hicks, the founder of Hicks Nurseries in Westbury, which has been in business for about 148 years.  Theodore Roosevelt’s wife ordered plants from Hicks’ Nurseries, and the receipt can be seen today at the house on Sagamore Hill, which is today a national park.  Thomas’ son John apparently had three sons who left Long Island and settled in Granville County, North Carolina.[9]  As a result, Hickses from the same ancestors were found on both sides of the civil war, although many Long Island Hickses, being Quaker, did not fight.

The strong Quaker belief in abolition, however, meant that many Quakers participated in the “underground railway” which helped runaway slaves escape to Canada and Nova Scotia. One important stop on this system was the “Old Place” in Westbury, on Post Ave.  This house, which was built in 1695, was then owned by Joseph and Lydia Hicks, and their children recount the secret comings and goings at night which were later revealed to be their parents feeding and sheltering runaway slaves. The house still stands, but is no longer in the Hicks family.[10]

Elias Hicks, Quaker preacher, and abolitionist.
Hero to the young Walt Whitman
Elias Hicks was a popular preacher, and attracted many large audiences.  Walt Whitman’s parents took him to hear Elias when he was a boy. Walt was 10 at the time and Elias was 81, and a year from his death. Nevertheless, the power of Elias preaching made an indelible mark on young Walt, who noted that in the end “Many, very many, were in tears”.[11] His teaching eventually led to a split in the Society of Friends, with Elias’ followers known as a the liberal wing or “Hicksite” Quakers. His emphasis was on the “Inward Light”, and the idea that the “entire work and process of salvation is within man”[12].  In Whitman’s words, “Elias [speaks] to the religion inside of man’s own nature. This he incessantly labors to kindle, nourish, educate, bring forward and strengthen.” [13] Elias fought hard against slavery and was instrumental in finally having it abolished in New York State. He traveled widely up and down the East Coast, preaching abolition and reform. Many of the traditional Quaker meetings branded him as a heretic, and refused to hear him. Most Long Island Quakers were “Hicksite”. Elias’ house is now the Milleridge Inn in Jericho. Elias married a first cousin once removed, Sarah Hicks. Elias’ father and Sarah’s grandfather were brothers.[14] Elias and his family were known to provide unlimited hospitality to travelers, a service for which they did not charge[15].

Another famous Hicks is Edward Hicks (1780-1849), the painter, known particularly for his rendition of “The Peaceable Kingdom”, a painting which he produced some 80 times.  He is now considered one of the best primitive painters of the 19th century, although he was largely forgotten and only rediscovered in the 20th. Edward was also a descendent of Isaac Hicks and a cousin of Elias and Valentine Hicks. His grandfather, Gilbert, was Isaac Hicks’ son.[16] Gilbert was a Tory, and fled with the British to Nova Scotia at the end of the Revolutionary War.  Edward was raised in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where he became a Quaker, and worked a decorator of carriages and maker of signs. He also toured as a Quaker preacher.

Elias’s daughter Abigail married Valentine Hicks in 1804.  Valentine and Abigail were second cousins, as Abigail’s grandfather John Hicks, and Valentine’s grandfather Benjamin Hicks, were brothers, sons of Jacob Hicks. [17] 

Valentine and his family lived in a large house in the middle of Jericho, which is now the Maine Maid Inn. In 1837 he was elected second president of the Long Island Rail Road, and was influential in bringing the railroad out to Long Island. Valentine purchased large amounts of land in mid-Long Island, and formed the Hicksville Land Association which laid out streets and sold lots. Apparently, there was some debate on the route to be taken, some favoring a more northerly route to Oyster Bay.  Valentine preferred the plains route, which would eventually link to Greenport and provide a connection to Boston, avoiding the hills of Connecticut. He persisted in his version, which took the railroad to the middle of Long Island, and coincidently to land which he owned.[18] In March, 1837 the Long Island Rail Road station was opened with the name “Hicksville”, probably in his honor, although there are some who claim the reference was to Elias and the Hicksite Quakers. For a number of years the railroad ended in Hicksville until it was eventually extended all the way to Greenport, which was reached in 1844. The trip from New York to Boston could be done in ten hours, including a two hour ferry ride across Long Island Sound.  However, four years later a rival railroad succeeded in building a more direct line along the Connecticut shore, and the LIRR lost its New York – Boston business.

The town of Hicksville, despite the railroad, remained fairly dormant in its first years.  In 1849 Frederick Heyne and John Heitz purchased over 1,000 acres in the Hicksville area, laid out streets and sold home sites. In 1850, the first public school was erected, and a Lutheran church was established.  A post office was established in 1855, and the cornerstone for a Catholic church laid in 1859.[19].    

My Family

Our family is descended from Thomas’ third son Isaac (1676-1745, see annex for complete family tree). The famous Hickses such as Elias, Valentine, Edward and Henry are not my “ancestors”, since I am not descended from them. However, we all have common roots in Robert Hicks, and his son John, and his son Thomas. My grandfather was James K. Hicks (1845-1919) who was a blacksmith and postmaster in Jericho, NY. James had three wives, five children by the first, none by the second, and seven by the last (Annie Lawrence). Of the children of Annie Lawrence was my father, Norman Lee Hicks, born on July 4, 1898. I remember him telling me that Theodore Roosevelt would ride down to Jericho from Sagamore Hill to have his horses shod at his father’s shop.

My father drove a team of horses to deliver food for the local general store, although the story goes that he also spent a lot of time visiting his girlfriends in the process. He seems to have learned the carpentry trade from his brother Harry, after leaving school after the eighth grade. In 1917, at the age of 18, he joined the US Army, and became a member of the 7th Engineers, 5th Division.
Young Norman Hicks Sr. in uniform. 1917.

He served in France at St. Mihiel and in the Meuse-Argonne theatres. While he worked as an engineer on bridges and roads, he also served as a motorcycle dispatch rider. He mentioned to me that he would often get vague instructions on what direction to take in “No-Mans Land”, and would go in the a general direction until he heard the sentries speaking German. Then he would turn around and go the other way. He returned home in 1919.

He met my mother, a Catholic, and they were eventually married in 1927.  By this time he was an accomplished carpenter, and before the marriage borrowed money from his future mother-in-law to build a house, which still stands at 34 Park Ave in Hicksville.   My father was not a practicing Quaker, and my mother was a strong Catholic who insisted that any children be raised Catholic.  This dispute delayed the wedding until my father finally consented. He never attended at church services, with the rare exception on an occasional Christmas service. My mother would take us all to church on Sunday, and my father stayed home. After a series of heart attacks, he died in 1953 at age 55. 

They had three children; Phyllis (1930), Jeannine (1933) and me, Norman (1939).  During the Depression there was little work for my father and he worked only 1-2 days per week.  As a traditional American, he refused to go on welfare.  As a means of making ends meet, my mother rented out the house on Park Ave., first moving the family in with her mother in the old farm house on Old Country Road (now a Marriott Hotel), and eventually to other rented houses including one in Port Chester, NY.  When I was born in 1939, we had returned to the house in Hicksville, but my father was working in Maryland, coming back home every two weeks. In fact, he did not go visit my mother in the hospital when I was born until very late in the day, on account he had to set out his zinnias before leaving.  When I plant zinnias in the spring, I think of this.

My mother, born Eleanor Wesnofske in 1904, was raised on farm on Old Country Road. While initially a general farm, it eventually specialized in potatoes. She was one of ten children, five boys and five girls. Four of the boys also became potato farmers, and one a potato wholesaler. She went to eight years of school, like my father, and then one year of commercial training in Brooklyn. When she met my father, she was working at the Seaman and Eisemann Insurance agency in Hicksville, a job she eventually returned to after my father’s death.

My father worked as a carpenter, but later in life primarily as a carpentry foreman and construction job superintendent. At about 1950 he announced that his new job would pay him $100 per week, considered by everyone a substantial salary. He worked primarily on large construction projects, such as high schools and factories.  During the war he worked on the addition/construction of the Grumman Aircraft Corporation. My father died in 1953 from a heart attack, at age 55. He had suffered a series of attacks prior to this, and collapsed at work in Oceanside. His death had a profound impact on the family, and while we got by, it was not the same as the previous decade of good times.

My Life

Growing up in Hicksville at that time was very pleasant.  It was a small community of 5,000 surrounded by farms although after 1948 the farms disappeared and were replaced by housing developments. During the summer time, we had a choice of beaches, either the ocean or the Long Island Sound. When not in school we would occupy our time playing baseball, football and even croquet. Making and flying model airplanes was a hobby we all enjoyed. When I was a teenager I learned to sail, which was an opportunity for several adventures.

My grandfather Wesnofske died in 1947, and the family quickly sold off his farm land. The purchaser sold it a year later to Mr. Levitt, and the land became part of Levittown, or at least the Levitt development in Hicksville. The only mistake my mother’s family made was to listen to the dire predictions of the economists of that time that were predicting a return to the conditions of the Depression in the post-war era.

Christmas in Hicksville, 1948:
From left: Norman Hicks , Sr, Norman Jr, Eleanor Wesnofske Hicks (mother), Jeannine Hicks (sister) and Phyllis Hicks (sister).

In 1957 I graduated from Hicksville High School, and went for a brief period to Rensselaer Polytechnic in Troy, NY.  Eventually I transferred to Hofstra (then College, now University), and graduated in January 1962 with a B.S. in economics and business. Part of my education was financed by my aunt, Hannah Hicks Spiro, who was my father’s sister. After working for nine months at the Nassau County Planning Commission, I went on to graduate school at the University of Maryland and emrolled in the Ph.D. program in economics.  I choose Maryland principally because they gave me a teaching assistantship which paid my tuition and gave me an annual stipend of $2000 per year.  That, combined with savings and summer jobs, was enough to survive, just barely.

I finished my studies at Maryland, and took a position with the Nassau-Suffolk Planning Commission in Hauppauge, New York. I agreed to work for a low salary on condition I be given time and data to work on my dissertation, which I completed in September of 1967. I eventually received my degree in January 1968 I lived at home between January and August, 1966, at which time Ann Marie and I were married in Plains, Pa., and moved to an apartment in St. James, New York.  

We left St. James in 1967, having received an offer to work with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Accra, Ghana in West Africa.  After some orientation in Washington, DC, we arrived in Ghana in early 1968.  I worked as an economist in the resident mission, while Ann Marie taught school at the newly established Lincoln School in Accra, a school she helped to found. We returned to the United States via Europe in 1970, where I took up a position in the World Bank. While at the Bank I worked on countries such as Pakistan and the Philippines, did research, and spent 10 years working on Latin America.  We settled in Annandale Va., and Ann Marie gave birth to our first child, Norman Alexander (“Sander”) in February, 1971.  Over the years we adopted three more children: Lee Ann, Mary Elizabeth, and Kenneth James.  In 1977, we moved to a house in Falls Church Va., and I continued working for the World Bank, until formally retired in 2003.

Norman Lee Hicks
3602 Bent Branch Ct.
Falls Church, Va.
January 19, 2016
Nhicks4 [at]

Hicks Family Tree:

Ellis Hicks (b. 1315)
John of Totworth
            Thomas (1445)

John Hicks of Totworth and Margaret Atwood had
            Thomas of Totworth (b. 1475)
            John (1477)
            Richard (1480)

Thomas Hicks of Totworth and Joan Darney had
            John (1500)
            Baptist (1526)

Baptist Hicks and Nancy Everard had:
            Baptist (1548)
            James (1550)
            Mary (1555)

James Hicks and Phebe Allyne had:
            John (1574)
            Ephraim (1576)
            Mary (1578)
            Robert (1580)
            Samuel (1582)
            Thomas (1585)
            Phebe (1587)
            Lydia (1589)
            James (1590)

Robert Hicks[20] married, first, Elizabeth Morgan had:
            Elizabeth (b. 1600)
            Thomas (1603)
            John (1607)
            Stephen (1609)
            Sarah (1607?)

Robert Hicks married, second, Margaret Winslow[21] had:
            Samuel (1612)
            Ephraim (1616)
            Lydia (1617)
            Phebe (1618)

John Hicks[22] married Horod (Herodias) Long and had:
            Thomas (1640)
            Hannah (1641)
            Elizabeth (1642)

Thomas Hicks married, first, Mary Cornell Butler, and had:
            Thomas (1667)
            Jacob (1669)

Thomas Hicks married, second, Mary Doughty and had:
            Isaac (1678)
            John (1679)
            Benjamin (1680)
            Charles (1683)
            William (1684)
            Elizabeth (1685)
            Stephen (1686)
            Charity (1688)
            Phebe (1689)
            Mary (1694)

Isaac Hicks married Elizabeth Moore and had:
            Charles (1703)
            Benjamin (1705)
            Gilbert (1707)
Margaret (1708)
            Henry (1711)
            John (1716)
            Isaac (1717)
            Edward (1718)
            Thomas (1719)
            James (1722)
            Mary (1723)

James Hicks and Deborah Hicks had:
            Stephen (1755)
            William (1759)

William Hicks and Nancy McCord had:
            Mary (1784)
            Deborah (1787)
            Stephen (1789)
            Sarah (1771)
            James (1793)
            William (1795)
            Charles (1797)
            Catherine (1801)
            Henry (1805)
            Martin (1807)
            Richard (1809)

James and Hannah Tappen had:
            John J. (1834)
            Catherine W. (1837)
            Elizabeth (1839)
            Caroline (1840)
            Charles C. (1842)
            James K. (1845)
            Adelaide (1847)

James K. Hicks married, first, Martha Russell and had:
            Roy (1869)
            Daisy (1876)
            Irene (1874)
            Edna (1872)
            Charles (1877)

James K. Hicks married, second, Mary Weeks (no issue).
James K. Hicks married, third, Annie Lawrence, and had:
            Daniel Lawrence (1887)
            James Knox (1888)
            Edith (1889)
Harry (1893)
            Hannah (1896)
            Norman (1898)
            Annie (1901)

Norman and Eleanor Wesnofske had:
            Phyllis (1930)
            Jeannine (1933)
            Norman Jr. (1939)

Norman and Ann Marie Wysocki had:
            Norman Alexander, later changed to Sander Elias (1971)
            Lee Ann (1974)
            Mary Beth (1976)
            Kenneth (1980)

Norman Alexander married Holley Anderson, and had:
            Coleman Anderson (2005)

Lee Ann Hicks married Bruce MacNeil and had:
            Matthew (1999)
            Abigail (2004)
            Ella (2005)
            Shane (2005)
Mary Beth Hicks married Carlos Holloway and had:
            Dominic (2003)
            Isaac (2010)

[1] Mass, Sister Mary Martin, R.S.M. The Hicks Family as Quaker, Farmers and Entrepreneurs,  St. John’s University Ph. D. dissertation, 1976. Available on Xerox University Microfilms, Ann Arbor Michigan, 48106. p. 8
[2] Mass, p.8
[3] “John J. Hicks, Nonagenarian, Laid to Last Rest, Friday”, Oyster Bay Guardian, March 2, 1928.
[4]  Some sources give this as Sudbury, but since Duxbury is close to Plymouth, and Sudbury is west of Boston, Duxbury seems more logical.  This is also supported by records of probated wills of Robert and Margaret Hicks. See Robert Hicks at RootsWeb. Duxbury is supported by Oyster Bay Guardian article (above).
[5] “Elias Hicks Saw Birth of Nation”, Long Island Press, November 29, 1970.
[6]  Dr. George L. Williams, “The Hicks Family in Three Villages” Long Island Forum, winter 1992. 25-34.
[7] Mass, chapter II.
[8] Eugene C. Hicks, , Sir Ellis Hicks (1315), Capitan John Ward(1598), John Wright (1500), Philip le Yonge (1295) and 7812 Descendants. Wilmington Publishing Company, Wilmington NC, 1982, p. 244, note 56, also “The American Revolution Comes to Cambridge”,
[9] Eugene C. Hicks, p. 241-43.
[10] Mass,  pp. 167-171.
[11] George DeWan, “Spreading the Word: Elias Hicks, Jericho’s Spell Binding Quaker Preacher, Opposed Slavery, Going Far and Wide”, The quote is from Whitman’s November Boughs.
[12] Williams, p. 26 quoting from Rufus M. Jones’ biography of Elias Hicks.
[13]  Walt Whitman, Specimen Days
[14] Eugene C. Hicks, op.cit. p. 255, note 200.
[15] This fact appears on the back of the Milleridge Inn menu.
[16] Mass, p. 133.
[17] Eugene C. Hicks, op.cit. p. 251, note 114.
[18] Ibid. 
[19] Fred J. Noeth, “The History of Hicksville” (undated,  Noeth was editor of the Mid-Island Herald during the 1940s and 1950s).
[20] Arrived 11 Nov. 1621 at Plymouth, Mass on ship Fortune. See also:
[21] Arrived  June, 1662 on ship Anne, with her children.
[22] Born in England, educated at Oxford, arrived Massachusetts in 1635, and Hempstead, Long Island 1642.

See also: Descendants of Thomas Hicks

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