1. Illawarra Beginnings of the Hicks Family

Our Hicks family started as an early pioneering White Anglo Celtic family of the Illawarra in NSW, in the mid 18th Century, although quite a few members are also connected to the First Fleet in 1788, like James Hicks‘ older and younger sisters Sarah and Elizabeth. Across  the Hicks-McKenzie branch of the family, there has in fact been an unbroken chain of occupation across seven generations of Hicks-McKenzie‘s in the Northern Illawarra since 1837, ie within the original bounds of the North Illawarra Council local government area. And likewise, an unbroken chain of occupation across seven generations of Hicks-McKenzie‘s within the bounds of the Bulli Shire Council Local Government area since 1842.

And, in terms of our  19th Century Illawarra origins, it is becoming clearer that James Hicks‘ sister Sarah Hust/Hurst (nee Hicks) and step father, Thomas White, were in the Illawarra from as early as 1823, according to the Muster of 1823-24-25. James Hicks’ mother Margaret, and some of his siblings were also here by1826That is as much as 18 years earlier than Joan Adams and David Christian had previously agreed was the case.

For nearly 50 years, James Hicks (15.3.1810-15.6.1895), the son of Richard James Hicks and Margaret Howe, was believed to have been the first member of the  Hicks family associated with the Illawarra. That was when he applied to the NSW Governor, Sir Ralph Darling, for a 50 acres land grant at Russell Vale in 1830. Earlier investigations suggested that James was still a resident of the Windsor district at the time of the land grant application, and that he did not occupy the land until 1842 – ( click here for history of Windsor but no mention of Hicks, Brain or Daley families).

Looking up Hicks St Russell Vale towards the Illawarra Escarpment

Looking up Hicks St Russell Vale towards the Illawarra Escarpment

Over the last 25 years there has been a progressive re-thinking on this view of James Hicks in the Illawarra. Now in 2013, the earlier view of 1967  has been turned upside down:

  • James Hicks was a resident in the Northern Illawarra from as early as 1830-32, possibly even in 1826
  • members of his family were in the Illawarra by as early as possibly 1823
    • sister Sarah Hust/Hurst (nee Hicks) is listed in the Muster of 1823-24-25 as being in the Illawarra
    • step-father Thomas White is listed in the Muster of 1823-24-25 as being in the Illawarra
    • mother Margaret White (nee Howe) gave birth to her youngest child, John George (White) in Wollongong in 1826,
    • sisters Sarah Hust/Hurst (nee Hicks) and Ann Hicks, also children of Richard James Hicks & Margaret Howe – both mentioned as being in the Illawarra in the Census of 1828. Sarah had also come before the courts in the Illawarra in 1827. 
    • presumably also in the Illawarra were the other younger siblings step-sister Elizabeth (White) and step-brother Thomas (White), as well as James’ step-father Thomas White. And later, his step-brother Thomas White would marry in Wollongong in 1848.
    • James claimed that his father in law had been lost in a shipwreck and he had responsibility for his mother, a widow with five other children. That was the basis of James‘ 1830 request for the 50 acres land grant at Russell Vale. However, given that James was an illiterate, un-educated 20 year old, perhaps he confused the terms step-father and father-in-law. His step-father Thomas White, a sawyer, had been lost in the 1829 shipwreck of the Foxhound (carrying Cedar and Pumpkins) off Coalcliff, on a run from the Five Islands to Sydney. Again, this ties James‘ family to the Illawarra in the early 1820’s.

Previously the accepted view was that neither James Hicks nor any members of his family had lived in any part of the Illawarra, for any period at all, until 1842. That seems to be now turned upside down totally !

It is also increasingly being seriously considered that James Hicks, himself, had occupied his desired land grant site of 50 acres in Russell Vale from as early as 1830, and that he was probably living in the Illawarra area in the period 1830-1832. However it would appear that he had returned to the Castlereagh area by his 1834 marriage, and at least his three oldest children were born up there. By 1842 James and Margaret, together with their 3 eldest children, had moved down to Russell Vale, (according to his death announcements in newspapers in 1895). In 1843, Anne,  the first of their Illawarra-born children had arrived. Initially they lived on what was known as Hicks’ 50 acres, in the Illawarra’s north-  (click here for original 50 acres land grant details etc). This was originally part of the North Illawarra Council local government area, which would become part of the Bulli Shire LGA in the years to come. Presumably James and Margaret Hicks would have undertaken dairy farming ( click for a history of dairying in the southern Illawarra).

Outside the Russell Vale Golf Course at Hicks St Russell Vale (2012)

Outside the Russell Vale Golf Course at Hicks St Russell Vale (2012)

There is some conjecture as to when James acquired and/or occupied the 300 acre Chippendale Estate  property in Austinmer, from the bankrupt Captain Robert Marsh Westmacott, (of coal mining entrepreneurial fame), possibly from as early as 1843 to 1846 or the mid 1850′s.  This also included Westmacott’s house, “Sidmouth” .”Sidmouth” was demolished and later replaced by “Rathane“, in The Grove area of Austinmer – which was sold in2008. (1865 Details on land transferring or being promised : William Chippendale, Robert Marsh Westmacott, James Hicks). James would describe his occupation as “Farmer Gentleman”.

Looking down over Austinmer where James & Margaret Hicks lived with their family

Looking down over Austinmer where James & Margaret Hicks lived with their family

By 1858 James Hicks had sold the 50 acres land grant in Russell Vale to FP McCabe. And along the way,  he had also bought another 48 acres at Bulli Mountain, and by 1858 had definitely purchased the Westmacott 300 acres in North Bulli, now known as Austinmer.

Alexander McKenzie Jnr would eventually leave the Illawarra, moving to Goulburn, and then settling in Canowindra. However James Hicks would remain, living and working in the Northern Illawarra  until his death in Bulli in 1895. Likewise, his wife Margaret remained until her death at Thirroul in 1905.

 James and Margaret Hicks‘ eldest son, Henry Thomas, had remained in the Illawarra. He had married Mary Ann McKenzie (1839-1930), first Australian born child of Alexander McKenzie Jnr and first wife Anne McLean.  They spent most of the rest of their lives in the Northern Illawarra. In 1887,  Henry would become an Alderman on North Illawarra Council – and many other family members, & partners, would also become Council Aldermen, Councillors & even a Mayorover the following century or so.  Henry Thomas died in 1909 and Mary Ann in 1930.

Mary Ann Hicks (nee McKenzie) and Henry Thomas Hicks photocopof photographs

Mary Ann Hicks (nee McKenzie) and Henry Thomas Hicks photocopy of photographs – source : Ted Finn

MaryAnn’s fatherAlexander McKenzie Jnr & his family arrived in Australia back in 1837 as part of the first wave of Bounty Immigrants on the William Nicol from the Isle of Skye Scotland, and settled initially in the Fairy Meadow area, which was part of the North Illawarra Council local government area until the four way merger which created the Greater Wollongong Council local government area in 1947. Note – The Organs were also in the first wave of Bounty Immigrants, arriving in Wollongong, viz two years after the McKenzie’s earlier arrival in 1839. 

It was believed that there are none of James and Margaret Hicks‘ descendants currently living  north of Bulli, however there are four still in Thirroul, spanning three generations. In fact members of our family have lived in the Northern Illawarra suburbs, viz  Austinmer, Thirroul, Bulli, Woonona, Russell Vale, Corrimal, Fairy Meadow-Ellengowan-Para Meadow-Balgownie, virtually  continuously since 1837 – with the McKenzie‘s arriving from the Isle of Skye, Scotland, in 1837, and the Hicks, from Windsor, in Sydney’s west, by 1842. And it now seems likely that we had Hicks-Howe-White family members living in Wollongong from at least 1826 to 1832.

Some descendents from the Joy Callcott branch of the Hicks Family at a Reunion - 9.2.2013

Some descendents from the Joy Callcott branch of the Hicks Family at a Reunion – 9.2.2013 – some of whom still live in the Northern Illawarra

Additionally, one of Henry’s sisters, Alice McEwan (nee Hicks – married William McEwan), left and then returned,  remaining until her death in 1919, while the rest of their siblings had moved north or south. And it cannot yet be discounted that there are some descendents of  Alice McEwan (nee Hicks) left  in the area as well – however this is yet to be clarified. Especially as  there are still some residents in the Northern Illawarra bearing the name McEwan/McEwen/MacEwan.

Another sister, Minnie Margaret Blundell, moved to Sydney on her 1899 marriage. Henry‘s other siblings moved either to Northern NSW or to the far South Coast. All of Henry’s children would live, for parts of their lives,  in the bounds of the original North Illawarra Council Local Government area, and one for his entire life.

The Hicks-McKenzie branch family members that remain in the Illawarra, all  descend from Edith Florence Joy (nee Hicks) – many in the original Hicks Northern Illawarra localities, and other descendants of Edith Florence Joy, live in the Southern Illawarra. Only one of Edith‘s two dozen great grandchildren has moved out of the Illawarra.

Hicks Burials in the Illawarra

By February 2013, of the nine generations of Hicks who have lived in the Illawarra, there were six generations of Hicks Family members laid to rest at St Augustine’s Bulli – fortunately there have been no deaths in the  9th generation as yet. Details on those laid to rest at St Augustine’s Bulli are as follows :

  • James & Margaret Hicks
  • Son Henry Thomas Hicks & his wife Mary Ann (nee McKenzie)
  • Daughter Minnie Blundell (second wife of Archibald Blundell)
  • Granddaughter Mary Alice “Biddy” Cook (second wife of Alexander Cook)
  • Granddaughter Edith Florence Joy and her husband John Charles Joy
  • Great granddaughter “Molly” Mary Constance Callcott (nee Joy)  – her former husband Louis Russell Freeman Callcott is buried at the Bulli General Cemetery)
  • Wife of Great Great Grandson Ian McKenzie Callcott – Lola (nee Martin)
  • Great Great Granddaughter Joan Lois Adams (nee Callcott) and her husband Cyril Ross Adams
  • Great Great Great Grandson Ian Craig Callcott
Gravestone of James and Margaret Hicks, and their daughter Minnie

Gravestone of James and Margaret Hicks, and their youngest child Minnie Blundell

One Response to 1. Illawarra Beginnings of the Hicks Family

  1. Pingback: 1 – Discovering the Stories of the Glen Roy Bungalow’s WWI Owners – Henry “Harry” Thomas Hicks Jnr & Eva Kate | The Hicks Family

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