Tuesday, January 18, 2022

#90 - Isaac Hicks, Quaker Businessman from NYS Historical Society Museum Archives

Isaac Hicks, Businessman and Quaker 

From the NYS Historical Archives

Isaac Hicks was born in 1767, into the Quaker farming community of Westbury, Long Island. He was the son of Samuel and Phebe (nee Seaman), and had a prominent extended family within the Quaker community which included Quaker minister Elias Hicks (1748-1830) and artist Edward Hicks (1780-1849). 

While in Westbury, Hicks worked both as a tailor and as a teacher. In 1789, disillusioned with teaching, Hicks moved to New York City: he opened a mercantile shop under the title of "grocer." That year, he also met Sara[h] Doughty (1768-1847). They married in 1790 and had six children: John D. [M. Sarah Rushmore] Robert, Benjamin, Isaac, Elizabeth, and Mary. 

In 1790, Hicks began a series of partnerships; first with Richard Loines; then with Richard Loines, his father William Loines, and William Loines's brother-in-law, John Alsop, Jr. Loines, Alsop, & Company specialized in importing British made dry goods, and it is within these partnerships that Hicks transitioned from the title 'grocer' to 'dry-goods specialist.' 

It is also with Loines, Alsop &Co. that Hicks learned how to supplement his income, as the partnership owned a wharf, rented business properties, and were co-owners of a mill, all to bring in additional income during the slow seasons of their business.

In 1791, Loines, Alsop & Company dissolved. William Loines retired, Richard Loines joined with his brother John to create their own mercantile business, and Hicks and John Alsop, Jr. continued their partnership under the new name of Alsop & Hicks. It was at this point that the pair began being seen in directories under the listing of 'merchant.' For three years, Alsop & Hicks continued acting as an international importer of dry goods. In 1794, after not making the money, they expected and having trouble collecting on debts owed to them, the company Alsop & Hicks changed direction from 'dry-goods specialists' to 'shipping and commission agents.'

This change allowed Alsop & Hicks to act as trusted agents for other merchants, selling goods that were sent to them rather than buying and selling on their own. The firm also helped merchants and captains outfit ships, purchase insurance, and obtain cargo. It was in this venture that Hicks's relationships within the Quaker community were beneficial: Quaker merchants were more likely to trust other Quakers and their families with their goods than they would an outsider. 

In May of 1794, John Alsop, Jr. left New York City for a quieter life in Hudson, New York, though he did continue to maintain part interest in the firm and bring in customers from the Hudson area, including: Thomas Jenkins & Sons, Seth Jenkins, and the Paddock family, among others. 

It is these connections that also allowed Alsop & Hicks to gain commissions in Nantucket and New Bedford, Massachusetts, as well as continuing earlier commissions of cotton, tobacco, and rice, out of Savannah, Georgia. 

After continuing business in this manner for a number of years, Hicks dissolved his partnership with John Alsop, Jr. and formed a partnership with Benjamin D. Doughty-longtime clerk of Alsop & Hicks. However, a yellow fever outbreak led to the death of Benjamin Doughty shortly after this partnership began, and Hicks refrained from creating new partnerships through his retirement.

Now that Hicks was on his own, while continuing to do business in the same manner as he did while part of Alsop & Hicks, Isaac Hicks began focusing more of his efforts towards increasing his sale of whale products-especially oil and spermaceti candles. 

These commissions made up the majority of his revenue until 1800. Hicks was able to increase and keep his trade contacts in the whaling market by being fastidious in attempting to regulate the fluctuating prices of whale oil, even when it was at the loss of a commission. He also attempted to restore some of the former marketing practices of spermaceti candle makers in order to increase the candle makers profits. 

By 1800, Hicks commissions from whale merchants began a steady decline—mostly because of the changing circumstances within the whaling industry, as well as some decisions made by Hicks. Insurance rates were rising, the number of whales was dwindling in the Atlantic, and Hicks allowed his brother, Samuel, to take over many of his commissions when Samuel began his own business. Also, with the falling prices, captains and owners were becoming unhappy with their lack of income, and blamed the problems on Hicks. Because of the dwindling income from whale products, Hicks returned his focus to other forms of shipping and commission.

By 1802, Hicks began considering at least partial retirement from business, as he was beginning to get notices of declining health. It was because of this, that in December 1802, Hicks, along with others in a syndicate, purchased the ship Thames in order to capitalize on trade to St. Petersburg, Russia and quickly increase their earnings. 

When all was said and done, Hicks made a handsome profit-grossing nearly $14,000 ($292,611.21 in 2018). After a time, Hicks and his syndicate sold the Thames, and yet while Hicks continued to put on excursions to the Black Sea, none were as profitable. Regardless, by 1805, Hicks left New York City to return to Westbury and by 1807 had officially retired from business at the age of 38.

Throughout Hicks's career, he was a staunch abolitionist and active in the Quaker Meeting. He was a member of an anti-slavery organization that mixed both Friends and prominent non-Quakers, as well as a member of the New York Manumission Society. 

As part of this society, he was a fundraiser for the African Free School, and while these might have been a small distraction during his career, it became all-consuming after Hicks entered retirement.

Isaac Hicks was also extremely active in the Quaker Meeting, acting on multiple committees. In 1816, he was nominated for Clerk of the Westbury Meeting. He was also well known in many other Quaker circles outside of the Meeting, mostly thanks to his cousin, Elias Hicks, who Isaac traveled extensively with. Hicks also worked closely with his cousin, Edward Hicks, in an attempt to bring him back to preaching and away from painting by paying off his debts. 

After an active and varied retirement, Hicks fell ill on January 10, 1820, and died shortly thereafter at 52 years old.

Copied in its entirety from:

The website at the New-York Historical Society Museum & Library, Guide to the Isaac Hicks Papers 1791-1820 (MS 297) 

This collection should be cited as 
Isaac Hicks papers, MS 297, The New-York Historical Society New-York Historical Society Collection processed by Jennifer Gargiulo.
Descriptive Summary:
Creator: Hicks, Isaac, 1767-1820
Title: Isaac Hicks papers
Dates [inclusive]: 1791-1820
Dates [bulk]: 1791-1806

Lineage to my great-grandmother:
Isaac Hicks and Phebe Seaman - > 
 John D Hicks and Sarah Rushmore - > 
  Isaac Hicks and Mary Fry Willis - > 
   Marianna Hicks and William Ephraim Hawxhurst->
    Bertha Hawxhurst and Chester J Tyson

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

#89 - Resolutions for 2021

Review and Resolutions 

The year 2020 in review. 2020 started well, but it rapidly unraveled. It is akin to being on a cruise ship at port and not allowed to disembark.
It's been a year full of disorienting, scary and confusing global events. The number 1 problem is the coronavirus. Then a series of natural disasters, including prolonged wildfires in Australia and the West Coast. 
There were internet rumors and conspiracy theories gone wild, and a president who denied the virus, got it, then lost an election but still refuses to concede defeat. Meanwhile I was schooling grandchildren every day and not going anywhere. 
Shopping can be an event with many shelves cleaned out by others and the supply chain unreliable. 
And yes, some of my relatives contracted the CoVid-19, and a few of them died. 
As for the big holidays of the year, they were either canceled or minimal. Events were online. At the end of fall, right before winter, we got the 4th largest snow fall on record on this date. 
Resolutions 2021
I draw on what I learned in 2020 for my 2021 resolutions. I'll not allow events make me cranky - at least not for long.  
2020 served as a reminder that focus is a critical piece of my attitude adjustment. 
3 Practices to Retain in 2021:
In light of that, I list three practices to help with my focus (and by extension, my attitude)  in the coming year.
First, I want to rejoice in the moment. 
Second, necessary part of health is recreationI want continue to take the beauty outdoors. 
Finally, as a family historian, I think much of people. 
For those who have passed, I am thankful. For those still living, I'd like to cherish them more.
Genealogy-related resolutions are two: continue scanning photos and to go update the old entries to this blog.

1 Rejoice: 
No matter what the season, there is always something to engage in and enjoy.
1964 me enjoying the snowy day

2 Romp! 
Enjoy the great outdoors. It's a beautiful world!
Sundown: the little house surrounded by nature

3 Reflect and Remember
How people, not things, make/made my life sweet.
Ma or mom: she's the bomb!

Photos: ACJ collection

Thursday, December 17, 2020

#88- Winter Letters from an Esther Hicks to Margaret Tilton re Isaac Hicks of Long Island, NY


I love winter letters. They are the best. Especially when you have genealogy involved.
Isaac Hicks' home, father of Mariana Hicks Westbury LI NY

Book Esther refers to

Letter 1 from Esther Hicks (daughter of Henry Hicks) Emory to Margaret B Tilton (Walmer) on  cards picturing the Old Friends Meeting House in Westbury,  NY

 January 6 1995

Dear Mardy,

Thanks so much for your letter I am still in Westbury but expect to return to Foulkeways in about ten days.

 Did any of your family ever see the book “Isaac Hicks, Quaker Merchant”? He married Sarah Doughty, and their son John D married Sarah Rushmore, our common ancestor (on the Phipps property).

Isaac prospered in NY but retired in 1805 “with enough of the world’s goods” and built the house on Old Westbury Rd. which we knew as a Cocks home thru a daughter’s marriage.

It was sold for very little during the Depression and all Isaac’s 10,000 business records unopened for 130 years or more were brought to “the aunts’ parlor” [Grace & Marietta].

A history professor seeking a subject for a Harvard dissertation learned about them, was permitted access and researched a good publication. We all got to know him-Robert Davison-of nearby Hofstra University.

Isaac, who must be identified as Isaac I (he died in 1820 I think) had worldwide shipping interests. The first vessel flying an American flag to enter the Black Sea was his ship “Thames.” Another vessel was the “Sally.”

Papers for it were signed by George Washington and that document was found by Aunt Marietta in the treasure trove of papers. Well, she kept it and included in the “red books’ as we call them. Don’t tell anyone! – she shouldn’t have done it.

Last line: the 2  aunts who preserved; and were naughty!?

I wish I had known that your mother [Elizabeth Tyson] visited Old Westbury Gardens with a group. 
Perhaps  I could have arranged to join her for at least a short time.

Glad she was pleasantly received.  We are impressed with the friendly outreach of the place. - do not think of the Phipps family just as “rich folks.” Many volunteers contribute in all sorts ways.

I expect you have recovered from holiday activities. We had a fine time, ten people for several days with my daughter hosting a Dec 26 lunch, ourselves and Edwin’s descendants in town then.

The IH [Isaac Hicks] book is out of print—might be interesting to seek in book sale or otherwise.

Please tell me where and how Margaret [Tyson/Bouchelle] is.

Happy New Year, Love Esther [Hicks] Emory

Letter 2 Regarding Isaac Hicks (II) & Westbury

March 18, 1995
Dear Mardy

Thanks you so much for your letter and the books containing all the Meeting records you assembled. What an undertaking carefully completed!
    The Phipps family did live briefly in the house John Doughty Hicks built in 1825. They soon moved it south of the turnpike near the house I now have to empty.
It burned in 1910 so that is the end of that. There have been eight Hicks homes in direct descent, ending with Fred who know runs the Hicks Nursery business (started in 1853) and others as well, all of which I can remember and four others (only two gone) and all within about a mile.
    Our main highway is the Jericho Turnpike (Route 25). The area now the incorporated village of Old Westbury is on the north side of it. The rich sporting people bought it all up from the Quaker farmers starting about 1900. Now no business is allowed even tho’ the nursery still has twenty acres. Fred could sell only what might be grown on it, but he concentrates on a smaller garden center to the south.

     You asked what became of the 1837 house built by our ancestor Isaac Hicks II who changed from dairy farming to the nursery business in 1853.
I was born there, but my parents built one the south side in 1905. We came to call it the aunts’ house (for Grace and Marietta). It descended to my brother Edwin but neither he nor his son wanted to live there. It was bought by the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities. They renovated it and put it up for sale under their revolving fund, with restrictions. The first owner could rarely be there. That is the girlhood home of your great-great grandmother Marianna [Hicks M. Hauxhurst].

    When the big house built by the first Isaac Hicks in 1805 had to be sold at the bottom of the Depression years, all the business records Isaac brought from NY City came to the aunts’ [previously mentioned Grace and Marietta] house for safe-keeping. There were 10,000 letters, a dozen letter books, ledgers and journals.  

They all went later to the New York Historical Society, Port of N.Y Authority collection. I actually went there because I thought someone from my generation should see them. A few of the ledgers were brought out for me.

Isaac the merchant’s money was passed on: a record exists that his grandson John D Hicks (a posthumous child b. 1829) decided he would do better investing the money -$10,000-left to him by his grandmother Sarah Doughty Hicks than what he tried to make farming with his brothers

front piece of above book 

    Our ancestor, the second Isaac [Hicks] must have inherited the same and he also received the 20 acres where he built in 1837 and carried on a dairy farm before expanding into the nursery. He later bought the property on the south side of the turnpike and I believe it extended all the way to the railroad.
             Will write more in Westbury.

Esther [Hicks/Emory]

Letter 3  frm Esther J Hicks [Emory] b. 1902 to Margaret  Tilton [Walmer] 2 Apr 1995

Westbury, NY
Apri 2, 1995

Dear Mardy,  
    I am enclosing various papers, copies of originals, with your own books. High praise for all your work on them and thanks for letting me see them.
    Occurring south of Westbury is the largest natural prairie east of the Mississippi—twenty miles long and about sixteen wide. Hence the early names Plainedge and Woodedge. In the early days if was used as a common summer pasture and cattle and sheep (with earmarks) were returned to their owners in the fall. No trees grew there.
The aviation industry grew up there (also Lindbergh’s take-off and return) to be succeeded by shopping malls and suburban growth.
I can even remember, though, that it was open land in my childhood. We drove to Hempstead on rutted wagon tracks as the straightest direct way there.

Here is an enclosure of Westbury’s early history written by Harold Hawxhurst, brother of your grandmother Bertha [Hawxhurst who married Chester Tyson].
As I understand it, the house all the family lived in was moved a little north and turned the opposite direction perhaps just before 1900.

The four pages with pictures of many old homes was prepared from records I supplied (as well as the first article, which I wrote).
I had waited until now to send it to you—the map had been prepared for Aunt Marietta [Hicks] by Cousin Harold.
Turn  [it] so Jericho Turnpike goes east and west. I’m sorry this is such a poor print. Anyway, you will see where Marianna Hicks (Hauxhurst) grew up, daughter of Isaac Hicks II.

The “Old Fashioned Christmas” [see above] is a copy of a greeting sent out by our nursery [Hicks Nursery, 100 Jericho Tpke, Westbury, NY]  some years ago. It shows the house where Marianna, Gilbert and Edward Hicks, much smaller then.
I remember, from age 7, when the second story of the middle front section was raised to allow a big front bedroom and indoor plumbing at the back.  
The next [?] extension was only one story when built in 1837, roof raised next about 1866, back wing 1874 (big kitchen) Up to 1906, nursery office was in the back parlor. My gr gr grandfather Isaac Hicks II had converted a dairy farm to the beginning of the nursery in 1858.
I was born there—my parents were married in 1900 and built the house across the road, which I’m now supposed to empty, in 1995.

Your story of the supposedly destroyed piano is this –  Emma Jarvis came to teach in Westbury about 1860. (She boarded with the Hicks family) and married son Edward Hicks in 1866 and brought her melodeon [forerunner of the pump organ] from her Cooperstown, NY home.
I believe it was “Preacher Rachel” [b. Seaman, married Abraham Hicks, son of Stephen & Mary] Hicks who when calling, was about to lay her bonnet on it, said, “Isaac, I advise thee to chop it for kindling.”
It remained there till the time the house was bought by the Long Island Preservation Society.
We always called it “the aunts’ house” – Grace and Marietta [Hicks] were quite dominant in the business and in the family. 

Great preservers of old records which I am  not trying to get to the right places!
A last enclosure – a copy of a letter written by a young mother whose husband felt duty called him to accompany elderly Elias Hicks on his preaching missions.
He wrote a little later, “I feel clear to build us a new house next year.” (c. 1825)
That is the one on the site of the Phipps mansion.
That John D. [Hicks, of Isaac Hicks I] died in 1829, leaving Isaac II, Lydia, Robert, Samuel, Stephen and (posthumous) John D [she named most of his children] Sarah [R. Rushmore, his wife] brought up six children alone and lived to 103!

If you want further explanation and stories that may be rattling around in my heard, better ask me soon! How long will I live? Doctors have been interested when I relate that I had to go back to 1730 before I could find a maternal ancestor who had not lived to between 90 and 100—and that doesn’t count Sarah at 103 on the Hicks side. (Many of those mothers were over forty –as was I.)
I have rambled on too long with this poor pen and poor writing. How I wish I had taken a business course somewhere along the line. Even so, I could never master modern computers as you are doing—all hail to you!

[Note: Esther Hicks Emory lived part of the year at Foulkeways, a Quaker retirement community at Gwynedd  PA.  She died in 2004 at 102; the recipient of the letter Mardy, was b. 1930 and died 1998.]


Where'd I get all this?

1 Copy of the Hicks Home (Isaac--> John D--> Isaac -who built it ) from MB Tilton Walmer Collection. Mine is digital & colorized.

2 Advertising card of "Hicks Nursery" - Many of them. This was mine. AC Johnson, collection 

3 Letters between Esther Hicks Emory and Margaret B Tilton Walmer; MBW Collection Mine are digitized copies

4 Book: Isaac Hicks by Davison. My own copy.