Hicksville Never Burned to the Ground

In theory, it can be very difficult to prove that a given thing never happened.

I am confident, however, that there never was a Great Fire of Hicksville – because if it HAD occurred per the Fable, it could only have happened after the railroad reached Hicksville (March 1837) and before the first German immigrants arrived (i.e., about July 1849). One can easily review the records of historical events that cover those twelve years.

As the LIRR approached its new “Hicksville” terminus in 1837, weekly news reports described both the technical progress and the plans to celebrate the event publicly. The “Big Day” occurred without incident. Please note that the news reports of 1837 in no way imply that there was ANYTHING at Hicksville that could burn down, let alone the “fifteen buildings” of the Fable. The place is not described at that time as a village or town but rather as a mere geometric “point just south of the village [of Jericho].”

04 1837 0202 Hixville is only a pointLong Island Star 2 February 1837
This may be the first time that the new village’s name of Hicksville ever appears in print; hence, the description tells readers that it is not Jericho but a new place.
From that day forward, the newspapers immediately began publishing schedules for the railroad and the stage lines that served its stations. Occasional minor delays were duly reported, but from 1837 into the 1840s there were no reports of any significant fire at Hicksville. That finally changed after seven years.

05 1844 fire BEStar Jul 2Brooklyn Evening Star for July 20, 1844Although the financial loss was newsworthy, only one building burned, and it contained only one railroad car. The fire did spread to a wooden snow plow, which likely had been parked outside for the summer, next to the Car House. This was no widespread disaster.

No significant Hicksville fire was reported again in the newspaper archives until the Civil War era when local LIRR agent Henry Gould locked up the station for the night and accidentally left an oil lamp burning. To his dismay, the lamp eventually exploded, and the station burned to the ground. Again, only one building was lost.

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