What Do Richard and Anne Evers Say?

The Evers’ marvelous Images of America book is an enigma.  It quite correctly rejects the idea that Elias Hicks founded Hicksville, and it embraces the notion that Valentine Hicks and his cronies diverted the LIRR’s route so that they could enrich themselves through land speculation.  It further points out that Jericho served as a retail hub for the earliest settlers of Hicksville, indirectly supporting the idea that the original Quaker land speculators never developed their Hicksville properties.

And yet, the authors devote precious space in their little book to Elias Hicks, as if he had played some crucial role in the founding of Hicksville – a suggestion that I reject.  In the decades before Hicksville came to be, the Hempstead-born preacher (who considered Westbury his true home) found his calling, and he traveled constantly.  He spent years preaching to slave-owning Quaker pioneers on the Pennsylvania and Ohio frontiers, quite possibly crossing paths with Daniel Boone.  He eventually devised his “Hicksite” religious ideas, which caused such a schism within Quakerism that his very presence was unwelcome in many traditional Quaker communities.  On one of his rare later returns to Long Island, he and his followers in Westbury freed their household slaves, bolstering the community of free blacks who lived just west of Hicksville.  There’s a lot to say about Elias Hicks, but the Evers don’t say it.  Instead, they inject pastoral pictures of Jericho (including his home there – actually, it’s his wife’s family’s home) as if the gloss of those images might suggest that Hicksville had an early Quaker history.  It didn’t.

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