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Museum acquires Victorian furniture from Hicks’ estate

September 10, 2009

hicksGift of Wadell family

The gift of an 1870s Victorian Renaissance bedroom suite by the Wadell family to the Paine-Gillam-Scott Museum not only benefits the Museum but brings with it additional history of Clinton County and the City of St. Johns.


The following information on the furniture – and its original owner – is provided by Catherine Rumbaugh, PGS Museum director.


The furniture was purchased by John Hicks for his then new home on State Street. The four pieces were made in Grand Rapids which was the furniture capital of Michigan at the time.

John Hicks came to St. Johns, moving from DeWitt in 1856. He had been a merchant with his uncle, David Sturgis. He established his St. Johns store in a frame building in the new village. Hicks served the community and its customers for 112 years, closing in 1961.

In 1858, John Hicks began buying grain and built a warehouse. At his death in 1903, he was Clinton County’s oldest grain merchant as well as the oldest proprietor of a dry-goods store. His son, John C. Hicks, took over the family business.

As a service to his community Hicks operated a foundry and he participated in civic projects. When R. M. Steel moved to St. Johns in 1860, Hicks helped in the building of many beautiful brick structures providing employment for many St. Johns residents.

John Hicks helped to establish the First National Bank in 1865 becoming its vice president and later its president. The bank had its own bank notes printed and signed by the President, Charles Kipp, in its beginning. The Museum has one of those bills.

As chairman of the building of the Clinton County Courthouse in 1869, John Hicks and his committee acquired Oliver Hidden of Bay City as architect. They were also responsible for the raising of funds to build the building. Oliver Hidden was to also design the home and carriage house of John Hicks as well as others in the community.

Active in the Methodist Church of St. Johns, he served as chairman of its board and a trustee. The will of John Hicks left a pipe organ to his church and at the death of his wife, Eliza Ann Huston Hicks, the family gave the tower bells. When the 1895 church burned Oct. 10, 1936, only the tower with its chimes were saved and are used in the present church today.

From the quagmire of Clinton Avenue to his mansion on State Street, John Hicks was surely one of the pioneers that brought St. Johns to a prosperous city.


The Museum and the community have the Wadell family to thank for the generous gift. The children of Harry and Mary Wadell, Lyle Wadell, Marilyn Clark, Charles Wadell, Janice Yallup and Betty Hallead, have donated the Hicks’ bedroom suite in memory of their parents.

Harry and Mary Wadell purchased the furniture at a tag sale at the Hicks house in 1946. Bertha, the widow of John C. Hicks, had decided to move to Flint where her daughter and family lived. It was at this time Bertha sold some of the contents of the home.

She sold the house to the R.E. Olds Company of Lansing. Representing the Olds Company, the signers of the deed were Charle Ecker, President and J. Woodward Roe, Secretary. For 74 years the Hicks Mansion was occupied by the Hicks family, and remains a family home today.

The Museum has many fine pieces of donated furniture that allow the Clinton County Historical Society to offer tours of a historic house completely furnished. There is also much Clinton County memorabilia. Each piece of furniture has its history of someone or place, plus artifacts and history on the second floor.

The PGS Museum is located on the west side of the Courthouse Square. It is registered as a State Historic Site with a marker in the yard. Hours are 1 to 4 p.m., Sundays, and 2 to 7 p.m., Wednesdays. Admission is by donation.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Erick J. Richards permalink
    June 25, 2013 4:48 pm

    I would like to get any and all information possible about the Hicks Mansion. Photos would also be great. Wanting to find out more about its history. Thank you.

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