by Marjorie Barnhart, Fort Wayne News-Sentinel
ORIGIN OF NAMES: Hicksville was named for Henry W. Hicks, of the Hicks Land Co., 80 South St., New York City, which owned many acres of land in the area when Hicksville was founded.
Hicksville’s gleaming, white, 106 year old land office building is a “there it is” landmark to me. Entering the town from the west, I watch for the little colonial building on the main street at the edge of the business district.
It is strange how the eye seeks out the landmarks, as if perhaps they won’t be there is time. When at last you see the Lincoln Tower in the skyline, you seem to say to yourself, “There it is,” and you know for sure that you are coming into Fort Wayne. I’m in Hicksville when I see the little white building.
I didn’t know it was a historical treasure when I first noticed it. I thought it was a library or a post office and I admired the taste of the architect who designed the unpretentious but stately little structure. From the exterior, it looks to be in as good repair as if it had been built a few years ago. I have not yet been on the inside, which is now the office of the Hicksville Building, Loan & Savings, Co., founded in 1890.
This building was built in 1840 by A. P. Edgerton, who was sent in the area in April 1837, by Henry W. Hicks. The Hicks Land Co. of New York and the American Land Co. of Columbus, O. owned thousands of acres in Northwestern Ohio in those days. From that building, lands in Hicksville and Defiance County were sold and plans were made for the development of the area.
The history of the lands dates back to Mad Anthony Wayne, who entered an agreement with the remnants of the Wyandotte, Shawnee, and Ottawa Indians for the lands in 1795 in the Greenville Treaty. The lands, which were sparsely settled, eventually came into the hands of the two land companies and the site of the town of Hicksville was entered in 1835, and named for Mr. Hicks who had visited the area. But work did not progress as rapidly as Mr. Hicks wished and he assigned Edgerton to a promotion job at $1,000 a year plus a commission on the land sales.
A. P. Edgerton Served the Town in Many Capacities
Edgerton appears to have been an interesting fellow and I am sorry that the only quotation I could find by him was that life “consisted of uneventful toil.” But he must have had more spirit than that. Within 10 days after his arrival he made the first land sale in Hicksville Township, 100 acres to a man with a peculiar name of Buenos Ayres. Ayres was the father of the first child born in Hicksville. It was a boy born in 1837. The first girl was born in 1838 to Mr. and Mrs. Joseph O’Connor on the site of the present Lawrence Hart home. The Ayres farm was located on the Bryan Road and is now known as the Frank Clemmer farm.
Shortly after Edgerton’s arrival in Hicksville, the panic of 1837 caused land value to drop from $5 an acre to $1. Edgerton, a man of vigor and leadership, pushed the building of his town through the dark times.
He was the postmaster when the first mail service was started in 1838. Mail came every two weeks. Edgerton had much to do with the survey of the Fort Wayne, Hicksville, and Bryan road. His name appears again in the fight to bring a railroad to town.
The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was built past the town in 1874 and today is the town’s only means of travel other than private trucks and cars, since the town has no bus connections. A private flying field is located near the town.
Father of Woman, 94, Rode with the Mail
I heard something about the early days from frail, little Mrs. Margaret Reisch, 94, who was attending her 69th annual Defiance County Fair the day we visited the town. Her father, Conrad Slough, carried the mail on horseback from Fort Wayne to Defiance, O., and back, a two-day trip. Mrs. Reisch, who used to ride horseback and prefers the horse races to other fair features said that her father often met drunken Indians on his trips. She said that although he didn’t drink, her father would tip the bottle to his lips in pretense in order to keep the Indians friendly.
Mrs. Reisch’s son-in-law, Jack Blalock, 82, served on the fair police force for 50 years and has attended 65 of the 69 fairs held there. He can remember the woods which surrounded the first fairgrounds and the stumps which covered the ground in the early days of the fair.
R. E. Greer, 85, has missed only one of the fairs and that was because he was sick. He served 39 years at the gate. Mr. Greer believes that more people used to attend county fairs than do now. He said the Defiance County fair was held too early this year for the farmers who couldn’t get their exhibits ready. Mr. Greer has noticed that the modern fairs have more carnival concessions than they used to have. Mr. Greer, who “retired” as decorator and painter 15 years ago, did “some painting” last summer, he said. He still sings in the United Brethren Choir.
In the early days, the town used to turn out in force to celebrate the Fourth of July. An historical account related that on July 4, 1853, “Tom Robinson manned the village cannon and between whiskey and his patriotic ardor got himself” killed. Hicksville’s first great fire occurred in 1840 when a grist mill burned with a loss of $20,000.
Hicksville is Known as a Church-Going Town
Hicksville has always been known as a church-going town. The Presbyterian Church, built in 1858, but remodeled since then, is said to be the oldest. Its stained glass windows picturing a beehive and a bunch of grapes are quaint. The Methodist Church, which was built when the former church was destroyed by fire, is a striking building showing the mission influence.
Beside it on the main street is the Episcopal Church, an unusual “little church by the road” which Myron J. Schell, retired newspaper editor and historian, told me was built before Hicksville was incorporated (1876). “Time has not changed it,” he said. “It still has the same organ and pews, is lighted by coal oil lamps and is heated by a stove.” The town has 12 churches.
The oldest merchant in active business is Ira Culler of the Culler Hardware Store, who began his career 60 years ago on the site of the present store. His son, W. P. Culler, is active manager of the store now, and his grandson, Don, a senior in the high school, helps in the store in his spare time.
Interesting Industries in Agricultural Town
When we visited the town with the assistance of Miss Bernice Sauers, Hicksville teacher, the fair was on and everyone was there. The stores and factories were closed and the town fathers were busy judging horse races and exhibits, sitting in the grandstand cheering, or otherwise engaged.
Lawrence E. Hart, son of A. E. Hart, News-Sentinel correspondent for many years, furnished us by letter with much of the information we were unable to get on the scene. He wrote of the W. L. Johnson Construction Co. which is located in Hicksville and is one of the largest general construction firms in the state of Ohio. At present, the firm is constructing a flood wall on the Ohio River at Newport, Ky., and has been awarded the contract by Patterson Field, Dayton, O., for runways.
Hicksville is primarily an agricultural town. Corn, tomatoes, potatoes, wheat, and oats are the chief crops. Livestock and poultry raising are conducted on an extensive scale in this surrounding community.
The Crook Sons & Co. Handle Factory was organized in the 1870’s by the Kerr brothers to make all types of wooden handles. The firm was reorganized in 1907 under the present name. Other industries are: Gerig Supply Co., poultry equipment such as brooders, feeders, waterers, etc.; Hevall Mfg. Co., loaders, buckrakes, and hoisting lifts; Harkey Canning Co., tomato canning; Stewart Cigar Factory and Allen Wright Cigar Factory, cigar manufacturing.
Hicksville Officials Headed by H. W. Carr
The town officials are: H. W. Carr, mayor; Ethel Fry Harkey, clerk; and Harold Bricker, treasurer. Members of the council are E. A. Geauque, Robert Longsworth, Herbert Ginther, Elliot Meeker, Roscoe Winn, and Kenneth Driver. On the Board of Public Affairs are Olen Moore, Paul Evans, and Charles Thayer.
The town has three on the police force. They receive their office by appointment from the Mayor.
The town does not have its own light plant but does own the water works and sewage disposal plants. The water is obtained from deep wells. The fire department is composed of 25 volunteer firemen. The town has two fire engines which also serve the country areas.
The town has one school with R. C. Fox as superintendent. Mrs. Goldye Belknap is librarian. The young people of the town opened a Teen Canteen in one of the office buildings on the main street, we noticed from the lettering on the window. Among the active organizations of the town are: Rotary Club, Lions Club, American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary, Veterans of Foreign Wars and their auxiliary, Masonic Lodge and Order of the Eastern Star, and Ladies Literary Club.
News-Sentinel Feature: Nearby Towns and Cities No. 21
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