I recently posted a walk-through tour, complete with pictures, of the once-grand old home at 8601 Dixie Highway in Louisville, KY. In the process of googling the address to determine the house’s history, I stumbled across a great deal of armchair historians–and one genealogist–who made several significant claims, but never backed up anything they said with any tangible evidence. So here, I’m going to try to set what I can of the record straight. I figure if people are going to speculate (which they will) they ought to do so from the vantage point of fact.
I started off with the idea that Dr. John H. Hicks was the occupant of the house somewhere in the 1940’s as this is what was indicated in the Valley Report (April 2009, May 2009). With that being a rather bold claim on zero evidence other than anecdote, I did a search of Dr. Hicks for the census records between 1910-1940, the era that the home was allegedly built. Imagine my surprise when Dr. Hicks never showed up at 8601 Dixie.
According to the 1910 census, John H. Hicks (26 years old) was living in Woodburn, KY with his wife, Bennie (24), and infant daughter, Brilla.
By 1920, John (34) had moved to 524 S. 28th St, Louisville with his wife, Bennie (33), daughter, Gabriella (10) and son, Stanley (7). Two female boarders are also living in the home.
John (44) and Bennie (43) then moved to 524 S. 28th St, Louisville in 1930. Living at home are John’s sons Stanley, now 18, and John H. Jr., 6. It was in this census that he was joined by one Sarada Hicks (81), who is listed as John’s mother, and John Embry (56)–his father-in-law.
By 1940, John (56) and his wife Albennie (53) were living at 4136 Market St. Louisville with John Jr (16).
Indeed, while the census records only extend to 1940 at this point, US Public Records (a town directory, to be precise) place Dr. John H. Hicks at either 4136 Market St or 524 S 28th St, Louisville until his death in 1960. As it a genealogist working for the descendants of the Hicks family reported to the Valley Report, one location was the physician’s home, the other his office.
With Dr. John Hicks never on the record as having lived at 8601 Dixie, I started to look into other possible culprits–namely, his brothers, Elmer and Clydus. Both searches through the census records came up completely empty.
In 1920, both Elmer and Clydus are living in other counties in Kentucky and are certainly not in Louisville.
In 1930, Elmer does show up on a rural route in Louisville facing the L&N Line, but the street names nearby put him in East Louisville near Beckley Station, not on the rural 31W. Clydus is living on Seneca Street in the middle of Louisville.
In 1940, Elmer is living on Zoneton Road in Shepherdsville, KY. Clydus is living nearby on the Old National Turnpike, or State Highway 1020 as it’s known now.
With the information on the men stacking against any of them living at 8601, much less building the place, I started looking into John’s son, John Jr., who according to a comment on the Pretty Pickle’s blog, had built a house on the hill above the house at 8601. That’s where I hit the good stuff.
On Ancestry.com, a Public Directory for Valley Station lists John H. Hicks Jr. at 8601 Dixie Highway as early as 1974. Later dates that put him in that location include 1981, 1993-1995, and 1997-2002. This naturally begged the question–where was John Hicks Jr. after 1940, the last available census record, and before 1974 when he shows up at 8601?
I believe the answer lies in his draft registration from 1943. John Hicks Jr. was drafted and likely shipped to war in that year. At that point, I knew that one of two things was happening: it was possible that John Jr. was a career military man and didn’t return home until after his retirement (he would have been about 50 in 1974), or he was in fact living at 8601 earlier than 1974, but because the census records only extend to 1940 and there were no further directory records placing him there before ’74, I was simply unable to see that.
With this in mind, I plunged into google, where I found more interesting information. There were two patents issued to John H. Hicks Jr. at 8601 Dixie Highway–one in 2001 and one in 2003. Mr. Hicks invented a face mask that can be worn with a helmet, perhaps something that is used in construction or mining. Either way, that information further links Mr. Hicks to the home in the 21st century and provides a bit of interesting insight into what kind of man he was.
Further google searches then turned up the one person I had been trying to find: John Jr.’s wife. The obituary for Anna Mae Hicks (nee Wright) indicates that she died across the river in New Albany, IN in 2011 and that her husband, John H. Hicks Jr., was still alive. This would validate the comment on a Pretty Pickle’s blog wherein a poster states that the house remains in the trust of the John & Anna Hicks Estate.
While finding John Jr’s wife didn’t prove anything in and of itself, it came in handy when a search involving her name brought up a business registration in the state of Kentucky for one John H. Hicks, agent and incorporator, and Anna M. Hicks, incorporator. Stillmeadow Builders, Inc was registered at the address of 8601 Dixie Highway, Valley Station, KY… in the year 1965.
This jives with an April 2009 post on the Valley Report that indicates that in addition to “Hicks” being listed on an old mailbox in front of 8601, there also appeared to something along the lines of “Hillmeadow Builders” spelled out on the box.
This business record provides more insight into John Jr., but it also puts John Jr. and his wife at 8601 nearly 10 years earlier than the earliest directory record.
So, the facts in review:
1. Dr. John Hicks Sr. never lived at 8601 Dixie Hwy, nor did any of his brothers.
2. John Hicks Jr. lived at 8601 Dixie Hwy from at least 1965 – 2002.
3. Neither John Hicks Jr. nor Dr. John Hicks Sr. built the house at 8601 Dixie Hwy.
3. John Hicks Jr. clearly rented the house at 8601 out to tenants. While someone who contacted the Valley Report indicates that the house was rented by John Jr. as early as the 1950’s, it is not possible to say when the property became a rental without further records.
4. It’s also not possible to say when John Jr. stopped living at 8601 himself and built the house on the hill without further evidence.
5. Despite the fact that the property was rented at some point, John Jr. listed himself as living at 8601 Dixie Hwy from 1965-2002 and even cites the 8601 Dixie Hwy address on his patent applications as late as 2002.
Because I can’t help myself, some of my speculations regarding John Jr. and the house at 8601:
1. John Hicks Jr. likely lived at 8601 while his children were young, building the house on the hill at a later date.
2. The house on the hill above 8601 may have been listed at the address 8613 Dixie Hwy based on an old discarded mailbox found at the 8601 house.
3. John Jr. may have rented rooms early on in his ownership of the home at 8601, which could possibly explain how there was a tenant living in the house in 1950 (if that report is in fact correct).
It has been an interesting day of research to say the very least. Of course, with the Hicks Family’s involvement at 8601 Dixie Hwy nicely defined by the census records, a business registration and town directories, the next thing to determine is who built the mystery house off Dixie. Stay tuned…more research to follow!