For a long time it was thought that James Hicks (15.3.1810-15.6.1895) was the first member of the Hicks family mentioned in the Illawarra – having applied to the NSW Governor, Sir Ralph Darling, for a land grant at Russell Vale in 1830, when he was still a resident of the Windsor district. Now we know that the birth of his younger brother John George White in Wollongong in 1826 is the first mention and that James himself had probably occupied the Russell Vale land by the time of his 1830 request. James Hicks’ 50 acres was in the environs of the site now occupied by the Russell Vale Golf Course. By the late 1850’s James Hicks had sold the 50 acres to Francis Patrick McCabe who went on to name the area Russell Vale after his son. Nevertheless, below is information on the early land grant.
Below – Hicks St Russell Vale where James Hicks was granted 50 acres
Details of the land grant approval to James Hicks at Russell Vale are found in the Government Gazette of September 21 1839 – approvals at the time were under the authority of NSW Governor Sir Ralph Darling, ie
“1st January, 1839.
633. James Hicks, fifty acres, parish unnamed, near Corrimal, Illawarra.
Promised by Sir Ralph Darling on the 30th November. 1830, and possession given on 6th September, 1831, as a small grant.
Quit rent 8s 4d. sterling per annum, commencing 1st January, 1839.”
Maps below show the early land grants – James Hicks property is shown on Map 2
According to the historian, Michael Adams, James Hicks was illiterate – signing his name with an “X” on a number of documents.
James and Margaret Hicks bought another 48 acres at Bulli Mountain, near to many holdings of other people from old northern suburbs families. By 1858 the Hicks’ had sold the 48 acres to Henry Osborne, as had Edmund Biddulph Henning sold his 150 acres in the same area to Osborne.
Acknowledgement to Sandra Jones for making the images below available from The Jones Family of Sherbrooke Collection.
James Hicks and his wife Margaret had moved, with their family, to Austinmer, then known as North Bulli, after gaining access to 300 acres, of the Chippendale Estate from the bankrupt Captain Robert Marsh Westmacott including “Sidmouth” – there is debate about the precise date of occupancy – 1843, 1846 or 1850’s. The Chippendale Estate property apparently extended from Moore St Austinmer over to the Headlands Hotel area, which was then known as Hicks Point.
Nevertheless, illiterate and uneducated or not, James was no fool, and was successful enough to have afforded Westmacott’s 300 acre Chippendale property. No doubt the sale of the 50 acres at Russell Vale and the 48 acres at Bulli Mountain would have helped. And James Hicks seemed to have valued education for his own children and grandchildren. He was actively involved in lobbying for, and establishing, the Public School at Austinmer , then known as North Austinmer. James donated land for the school and put on its opening celebrations. Some teachers even boarded with the Hicks family during the week, and returned to their homes on the weekends. He is mentioned in Michael Adams’ book “Beyond Bulli – Northern Illawarra Pre-Railway Pioneers 1820-1888 – From Bulli to Helensburgh.
Over the years James sold off a lot of the land at Austinmer – for orchard lots, and also for mining. Later Sidmouth, which was in The Grove locality in Austinmer, would be demolished and replaced by Rathane. James and Margaret’s grandchildren spent some time at Sidmouth, including Edith Florence Joy (nee Hicks) daughter of Henry Thomas Hicks. Edith’s eldest grandson, Ian McKenzie Callcott can still recall that Edith had always wanted to return and live in The Grove Austinmer. However this did not occur and over the years she lived at her parents property Mt Gilead Thirroul, Penshurst, as well as “Everest” Seaview Terrace and Soudan St which are both in Thirroul.
There seemed to be some areas of boundary fencing legal disputation between James Hicks and James Kennedy.
James Hicks’ death in 1895 was reported in the New Zealand newspapers, where he was listed as the oldest Bulli resident, leaving 10 children, 67 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren.