Samuel Hicks–Weaver

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20201105tp samuel hicks3 Submitted

We have much in common with the first settlers of Madison County.

Their ability to live productive lives was often defined by the technology and economics of their day.

Today we may have different technologies and economic circumstances, but the emotional ebb and flow to our lives are equal.

At Pendleton Historical Museum we have tools from many different trades that expose the commonality we have with our early settlers.

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One tradesman was the buggy maker. New technology came along as the automobile and forced the buggy maker’s shop to close.

The buggy maker certainly felt a range of emotions as he closed his doors.

His family and friends were affected as well. They had no idea what the future held. The family was losing an income, while the community was losing a business.

Their plight could be a headline in today’s paper.

Another example is the weaver, Samuel Hicks, who made a coverlet owned by the Museum.

He worked on a Jacquard loom. This high-tech loom of its time used a series of holes punched in cards to activate the harnesses of the loom and create intricate multicolored patterns in yarn.

Some historians believe this use of hole-punched cards was an important step on the road to computers.

Samuel Hicks was born in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania on Sept. 17, 1804.

By 1834, he had purchased land in Millerstown, built a log cabin and married Sophia Shafer.

One of his oldest known coverlets is signed Samuel Hicks, Millerstown, Lebanon County, Penna., 1834.

There were more than 65 looms working in the area, so the Hicks family went by wagon in 1835 to Chambersburg, Ohio.

Three years later he moved his family one last time to Indiana. The three-week trip meant sleeping in the wagon and cooking by campfire to bring all their belongings and a 4-year-old son to Adams Township, Madison County, Indiana.

Samuel purchased 40 acres of heavily timbered land and built a log home for his young family.

As his business succeeded he was able to purchase another 80 acres of tillable land and replace the log cabin with a larger frame house. As best I can tell, the first purchase was in the Alliance area that today is near the intersection of State Road 109 and County Road 600 South.

Samuel and wife Sophia belonged to the United Brethren Church. He was an active Democrat until he changed parties to vote for Abraham Lincoln. Sophia died in 1863 while the three Hicks sons were off fighting with the Union Army in the Civil War. She is buried in the Gilmore Cemetery near Ovid in Adams Township.

Samuel supplied the homes in the area with coverlets for more than 25 years. His coverlets were a status symbol.

Most of his coverlets are typical Pennsylvania Dutch birds, shrubs and vines in brilliant colors. Every housewife who could afford one wanted a jacquard coverlet to display in her new frame home.

Improving transportation allowed housewives to travel miles to order a coverlet from their favorite designer.

Most weavers purchased cheap land when they first arrived in Indiana and became weaver-farmers.

The onset of the Civil War virtually closed down the weaving because the cotton and wool went to supplies and uniforms.

After the war, the self-employed weavers never returned because steam-powered factories had taken over in the United States just as they had in Europe.

When the weaving bubble deflated, Samuel and his second wife Anna moved to a log cabin in Ovid.

In his later years, he walked down the lane from the house to the road lopping off the heads of flowers and weeds with his cane.

I found Anna listed in the 1880 census along with a son, Andy.

There are several grave markers in the Gilmore Cemetery with the last name of Hicks. One is for Oliver N. Hicks, died Sept 7, 1871, at age 11 years and 2 months, son of S.M. Hicks and A. Hicks. It reads, ‘Sweet little bud for earth too fair. Has gone to Heaven to blossom there.’ The small gravestones in a row appear to be infants and young children of Samuel and his two wives. Samuel is buried in Gilmore Cemetery near Sophia.

Samuel and his family moved twice to improve their opportunity for an income.

They started out with little and worked their way up in the world. They felt the pain of leaving family behind when they moved and clearly suffered the loss of beloved children.

They endured the pain of sending sons off to war.

New technology offered them the opportunity to improve life. But when that technology changed, the local economy changed as well.

Just like the buggy maker, the weaver had to close shop and figure out what came next.

We have a lot in common.

Noel is president of the Pendleton Historical Museum board.