As one travels along Interstate 77 north of Bolivar one can see, especially in the winter, an abandoned house sitting amongst overgrown trees and bushes along Sherman Church Road. This windowless and empty shell was once a family’s home, and that home has a story to tell.
A note about addresses: House numbers and street names often change over time.
The Hickman family arrived in Ohio in 1844 when Daniel Hickman (1804-1886) and his family settled on land in Pike Township, Stark County that had been granted to Daniel’s father by the United States. The Hickmans were originally from Pennsylvania and all of the children were born there before the move to Ohio. Daniel had three children by his first wife, Rachel Nealin (c. 1805-1836), and three more by his second wife Sarah Black (1805-1875).
Daniel established his farm and agricultural pursuits on 83 acres of land located in the southwestern corner of Pike Township, nestled against the Tuscarawas County line. Daniel and his family were active in their church and he served in a number of official capacities in Pike Township, including as a township Trustee. The Hickman family, by the 1860s, included five surviving children and consisted of four sons and one daughter. Among the sons was the first child by Daniel’s second wife, James B. Hickman (1839-1917).
James, like his siblings, was born in Pennsylvania and worked on his father’s lands as a child. When the Civil War began James watched as his older brother William (1835-1863) enlisted in the 107th Ohio Volunteer Infantry only to die while serving in the defenses around Washington, DC. James enlisted in 1864 in the 100-day, 162nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment where he served as a Corporal. The 162nd Infantry saw service mostly in Ohio and its claim to fame was in helping recruit the 117th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry. After his service expired, James returned home and married Margaret Jane Evans (1843-1901) of Tuscarawas County. The couple initially settled near James’s father’s home but, by 1880, were raising their own family in Zoar in Tuscarawas County.
James and Margaret’s family included four children, two sons and two daughters, though one of the sons died at the age of 9. James purchased the land north of Bolivar, just under 90 acres, that would become the family’s new home in the spring of 1882 from Daniel Kline. There was already a house on that property when the Hickmans purchased the land, but James and Margaret determined to build a new home on the property in an architectural style that was just beginning to catch on.
The Hickman House on Sherman Church Road was constructed in the Queen Anne style of architecture that was becoming popular in the early 1880s. The exact date of the construction of the Hickman House is unknown, but likely falls in the 1882-1890 timeframe. The house was designed as a cross-gable version of the style with steeply pitched roofs, textured surfaces in the gable-end eaves, porches with decorative spindles and elements, and a shed-roofed addition on the back side of the house. Some of these details are still visible in on the house today.
As the Hickman children aged, the Hickman’s “country house” served as a gathering place for the extended Hickman family. Weddings and family reunions were held on the property and James and Margaret’s children, after they had married and moved out, would visit their parents regularly at the farm. The Hickman house made the newspapers in the summer of 1897 when a neighbor of theirs, who had been hunting groundhogs on the Hickman farm, managed to shoot himself in the head in the process.
James Hickman regularly attended reunions of the men of the 162nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry regiment for the remainder of his life, even after the death of Margaret in 1901. Shortly after her death, the Hickman house hosted the wedding of the couple’s youngest child, Naomi Hickman (1880-1966). James Hickman continued to live on the property in his old age, though he turned the operation of the farm over to his son William Hickman (1869-`1948) and his family.
James Hickman died on Christmas Eve in 1917, leaving the family home to his son William. The house and farm stayed in the family one more generation beyond William, eventually leaving the family when it was sold by James’ elderly grandson in 2007. The next time you find yourself north of Bolivar and see the Hickman House in the distance, picture the days when the house bustled with life the way your own home does.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.