Village of Hicksville Home » History of Hicksville, Ohio
Short History of Hicksville, Ohio (1836-2009)
Updated March 2015. The article below was written in 2008. Since then, several new companies have moved to Hicksville. Fort Worth Tower has moved into the old Dietrich building. Arc Solutions has moved into the building vacated by APT Manufacturing Solutions (previously known as A&P Tool) when APT moved into the old Nemco building. Both of those buildings are located in the industrial park. Stoett Industries has moved from Defiance into the old Dotco Cooper building. Other new businesses include Hicksville Auto Recyclers and Gordon Creek Granite. R & S Automotive has grown and moved into a new larger facility on Defiance Avenue.
In 2009, the 3,500 inhabitants who call this village with the funny name “home” are proud of their heritage and have a fierce determination to continue its greatness.
Hicksville has always been framed by residents who don’t give up, who largely depend on themselves and who look out for their neighbors by providing money, food or strength. Let’s look at how all of this came to be.
The Treaty of Greenville in 1795 and Ohio’s statehood in 1803 brought fur traders, loggers and land developers to the fertile western sections of Ohio. Arriving late in 1836, in what is now Hicksville, Ohio, was Alfred P. Edgerton (1813-1897), a young lawyer who represented the Hicks Land Company.
Mr. Edgerton was sent by the Hicks Land Company in New York to purchase property ($1.25 per acre in 1837). The Hicksville area abounded with large trees needed for the timber to build this company’s fleet of ships.
Mr. Edgerton’s initial northwest journey into Hicksville followed the current Defiance and Paulding Countys’ Clemmer Road. He found swampy forest land, a few settlers who were squatting or had purchased property from earlier land agents, and two or three friendly Potawatomi Indians (A tribe once aligned with the Ottawa Indians, the Potawatomis had a village on the St Joseph River, near Leo-Cedarville, Indiana, 23 miles northwest of Hicksville). After the forced removal of Native Americans from Ohio in the 1830’s and ‘40s a few Potawatomi remained in the area while others escaped to Canada.
Note: In 1843 the Wyandot Indians, also called Huron Indians, were the last Native Americans to be removed from Ohio, and shamefully moved to a reservation in Kansas, the same place the Potawatomi had been taken.
Over the years Alfred Edgerton would sell 107,000 acres of land in the Hicksville area, while purchasing 40,000 acres. He sold much of this at very generous terms to settlers moving into Defiance and Williams counties. At one time Defiance and Williams counties were one, with the county seat at Williams Center Ohio. When the county was split, the county seats became Defiance and Bryan, Ohio. Residents named Bryan after John A. Bryan, a former auditor of Ohio, and the person who donated the land for the Williams county seat in 1846.
When Alfred Edgerton came into what is now called Hicksville, he kept in mind his instructions from Henry Hicks (his employer) to find a region with timber and possible land holdings for expected settlers. It was to be a desirable location between the established Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Defiance, Ohio, and to be called Hicksville.
Hicksville, New York, on Long Island, is named after the same business and family. Edgerton was evidently close to the Hicks’ family, as he and his wife Charlotte named their first born, Henry Hicks Edgerton.
The virgin timber in and around Hicksville has been described by Dr. Robert Boehm (former history professor at Defiance College) as “being so large in diameter that six adults could hold their arms out encircling the base of the tree.” Large trees were plentiful, and other timber and land speculators followed Edgerton.
Modern day Ohio Route 2 was an Indian trail that started at the Indiana line and followed the western edge of the Great Black Swamp as it twisted and turned toward Toledo. Melting ice and Lake Maumee (a glacial lake) formed the landscape for the Great Black Swamp.
The plain of the Great Black Swamp can be viewed near Hicksville by looking south while passing the Six Corners Cemetery on Route 2 in Defiance County. The beach and sloping remnants of the glacier (edge of the Great Black Swamp) are especially evident after crops are removed in the fall. The Great Black Swamp’s water issues really weren’t tamed until the 1880s, benefiting from the passage of the Ohio Ditch Law in 1859.
Hicksville is not served by important river tributaries that were so important for early settlement, but did have high water tables especially on the southern outskirts of the present village.
South of Hicksville on Defiance County Lake Road, artesian wells still bubble water up from the ground. In places pipes have been put into the ground to allow people to collect this treasured fresh drinking water.
The availability of a high water table led to the creation of various businesses, including a barrel-making operation in around the 200 block of High Street and Millcreek Drive (the area was more of a large pond from High Street to the current swimming pool at the park),and the Harkey Canning Company at this spot in later years.
Water allowed timbering to prosper, including the Crook and Miller Handle Factory (still in operation), and other logging entities that transformed the virgin trees into lumber for Eastern shipping fleets, and grade lumber for construction in farming while supplying the wood to build area homes and buildings. Left over slab wood provided fuel for area clay kilns to make tile for draining and ditching. The last clay tile-making operation was the Hulbert and Tomlinson Company that stood on the east side of the 100 block of South Bunnell Street which closed in the 1980s.
Recognizing the need for commerce, Mr. Edgerton also became the community’s postmaster in 1838, as he petitioned a mail route to come through Hicksville. In 1840 to sort out the sale of property to settlers and investors, Edgerton had a land office built in Hicksville. (It remains as an historical site and is located beside the Johnson Memorial Library in the 100 block of West High Street). In 1841 he was Involved in vacating haphazard lots in the village which designated Hicksville’s streets and property locations.
Alfred Edgerton was elected to the Ohio Senate in 1845 and the United States House of Representatives in 1852 as a member of the Democrat Party. Interestingly, he moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1857 and kept his large home in Hicksville as a summer mansion. This mansion was located in the 100 block of West High Street where the Johnson Memorial Library now sits.
When the Edgerton family residence was moved it was so large that three homes were created from it and placed in various parts of Hicksville. One part was taken to 332 West High Street. Another section is the large home on the most southwest corner of South Maple Street. The author is unaware of where the third was taken.
In 1845 Edgerton was instrumental in petitioning the Ohio General Assembly to build a toll road between Hicksville and Antwerp, Ohio, at the cost of $5,000. Called the Antwerp Pike, it basically followed present day Ohio Route 49 south to Antwerp.
Using the Antwerp Pike, a fee was assessed to take goods and services to the Miami and Erie Canal in Paulding County, Ohio, (an effort to link the Ohio River and Lake Erie). Wagons were taken across the Maumee River near Antwerp by ferry boat.
The Antwerp Pike (a wooden corduroy road) was under constant repair as the logs would rot, and the mosquito-infested trail was not really tamed until the large ditching efforts began while draining the Great Black Swamp.
Later, Mr. Edgerton would use his influence to get the Baltimore and Ohio railroad to run a main track through Hicksville, instead of Newville, Indiana. This probably saved the community, ensuring that goods, services, and crops could economically be transported.
Residents, of course, traveled on the railroad, often stopping a train where a field met the tracks or using the railroad station that was housed above the viaduct.
Hicksville has had two railroad stations serving the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. The first railroad depot was on the south side of High Street and across the road from the current Crook and Miller Handle Factory on Railroad Street.
The first depot was abandoned, and a second railroad station was built on the northeast side of the hill where trains pass over the High Street viaduct (sadly the station was demolished by the B&O railroad in the 1960s). Early photos have shown that a sloping drive was accessed on Rock Street that could take wagons and trucks to this elevated depot. Cement steps can still be seen coming down to High Street from this last rail station.
The earthen raising of the tracks and the construction of viaducts was to maintain safety after a horse- drawn buggy and driver were fatally struck by a train where the railroad crossed Oak Street. The raising of the track was also developed to allow trains to more easily make the grade allowing them to move faster and carry heavier loads. Immigrants from Eastern Europe constructed the railroad mounds, mostly by hand, and with the help of beast and the steam shovel.
Transportation is still important in Hicksville, with Ohio Routes 2, 18 and 49 for trucking, and the CSX railroad road line serving the village.
In 2007 Hicksville Mayor, Larry Haver, and the Village Council took a prominent stand in discussions with the state in keeping the Route 49 north corridor to the Ohio Turnpike open. These leaders echoed that transportation and the movement of goods and services encourages economic development and better odds of keeping residents gainfully employed. Of course, this is the same logic Alfred Edgerton used in bankrolling the civic development of Hicksville, securing state aid to construct the Antwerp Pike, or steering the Baltimore and Ohio railroad through his favorite town.
Mr. Edgerton lived to see the village populated and incorporated in 1875. He grew rich with the sale of his land holdings and used his self-made wealth as a philanthropist.
In his twilight years, Edgerton donated property for the construction of all early churches (Protestant and Catholic), the school and other ventures. Edgerton can be considered a founding father, and the neighboring village of Edgerton, Ohio, is named in his honor. His surveyor, Miller Arrowsmith, has the Arrowsmith country road named after him (located between Hicksville and Edgerton, Ohio, while running in an east and west direction).
This era also brought a large influx of families who may have traveled the rail from Holmes County, Ohio, to Defiance County. Boon, Bevington, Kerr, and Battershell (in 1852) are all familiar Hicksville names that came from that region.
Hicksville and the surrounding area have always been largely supported by agriculture, with a strong tradition of hard work and love of the land. Today, most of these family farm operations use satellite- guided high technology equipment to plant and harvest crops. Most family livestock operations have ceased, as the area trend is toward large factory mega-farms. The railroad, elevator, banks, feed mills, farming and fertilizer businesses have supported these ventures.
1945-1963 were an active time in the construction of new Hicksville homes (for returning World War II veterans who were marrying and had children) and the building of factories that provided employment in Hicksville.
Many of those large manufacturing business have since left, reflecting the national economic downturn of the early 21st century. In 2009 the largest local employers are the Community Memorial Hospital, and the school system. Many residents also drive to outlying communities for employment in Bryan, Defiance and Fort Wayne, Indiana.
1950- 1970 were a strong civic time in Hicksville with the building of factories, the Community Memorial Hospital, a swimming pool, and park system with a plan for ongoing growth that has served residents well in current times.
From April to July, thousands are at the park using the baseball diamonds, soccer fields, or tennis courts- watching, playing or picnicking. The football stadium and bleachers are second to none, with aluminum bleachers for the home and visitors.
In the 1970s the local Rotary and late philanthropist Roland E. Doeden (founder of DOTCO which is currently named Cooper Tools and a manufacture of high speed precision pneumatic tools) were instrumental in building an enclosed pavilion to celebrate family events at the park. It is located beside an all-weather walking track for adults and a track and field site for students.
Education and improving has always been important to the residents of Hicksville.
The first formal one-room school in Hicksville was at the intersection of High Street and Bryan Street (in the area of the present Shell Speedy Mart). The Hicksville area into the early 20thcentury was also well served by other rural one-room school houses. In an un-written rule of that era, female teachers tendered their resignations when marrying.
In 1873 a school district was established in Hicksville with voter approval being 59-3. By 1897 a beautiful two-story twelve grades school building was constructed at the intersection of East Smith and North Main Street. The school sat almost directly on North Main Street and where the 1939 high school and 1966 junior high parking lot were situated.
In 1939 a new Hicksville school was built on the same property, and was placed about 200 feet east. It, too, was for first grade through twelfth grade students (kindergarten was not an option) and was constructed during the Depression years as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s W.P.A. federal works projects. In the high school entrance, a large plaque depicts this accomplishment.
In the mid 1950s the K-6 students moved from the 1939 combination high school-grade school site to a new elementary school, built in the 200 Block of West Arthur Street.
The public library was also in the 1939 school building, but was relocated in the 1950s to its present spot in the 100 block of West High Street. The Johnson Memorial Library occurred because of a generous donation from Carma Rowe, and in the library a large picture is placed in her honor. Mr. Johnson was Ms. Rowe’s father and this family was the owners of Johnson Construction that built many roads in the area including Ohio Route 18 to Defiance, and then called the Brunersburg Pike.
In 1966 a new junior high school was built beside the 1939 high school. In August 1967 the Four County Career Center began construction. The Career Center provides education for 11th and 12th grade Hicksville students (and students from 21 other school districts in the most northwestern four Ohio counties. In recent times, an Amish school was constructed on Meuse Argonne Street).
Finally, the crown jewel of the Northwest Ohio is the new Hicksville K-12 building, constructed in the 900 block of East High Street. Students will grace the halls in January 2009. Fittingly, the bell from the 1897 school adorns the new school’s bell tower.
This 2009 school is a $28 million-dollar project (72% state funding 28% local funding). Construction for this project was overwhelmingly voter approved because farsighted school leaders brought together all elements of the community for the planning, even involving students going door to door in a massive explanation campaign on a Saturday morning. Residents had a voice, were informed and said, “Do it.”
Hicksville, Ohio, in 2009 is a community with affordable housing, grocery stores, a new K-12 school system (with low millage), a new state-of-the-art hospital, a flourishing business district adorned with 1890’s style street lamps, a McDonald’s and other restaurants, a weekly newspaper, nineteen places of worship, the site of the Defiance county fair, an expansive public park, a senior center, new sidewalks, a new water treatment plant, a new fire station, and established police, fire and EMT squads.
Service to others has continued over the years. The nineteen Hicksville churches stock Christ’s Cupboard with food and staples for those with needs, hold blood drives in cooperation with the American Red Cross, and hold family fund raisers. The Community Memorial Hospital Auxiliary offers gently-used clothing. Groups like the Eagles and the Rotary bankroll scholarships. The beginnings of a free medical clinic are even in the offing. People are looked out for and taken care of in Hicksville. It’s a place that has grown on people for 173 years.
Submitted by James Battershell, Jr. November 2008.Author of The History of Hicksville Ohio, It’s such a Nice Place. © Copyright 1975.