Robert Hicks Family Papers

Summary Information

Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections
Hicks family, (Robert E. Hicks, 1892-1986)
Robert Hicks family papers
Date [bulk]
Bulk, 1836-1986
Date [inclusive]
0.33 Cubic feet

Preferred Citation

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: "Item title, Collection title, Collection Identifier, Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collections, East Lansing, Michigan."

Return to Table of Contents »

Biographical Note

Robert E. Hicks (1892-1986), and his father, Stephen H. Hicks (1855-1952), were instrumental in the development of the "Flowerpot" subdivision of East Lansing, Michigan. In 1912 Stephen Hicks bought a 160 acre farm in Ingham County, starting a dairy business and family-run farm called "Lilac Farm Dairy." The property was located on the west side of Harrison Road, extending south to Trowbridge Road.

In 1919 the Hicks family decided to sell some of their land to the Michigan State Police to use for housing for new recruits. This venture proved to be profitable, and since the family was finding the dairy business too demanding they dissolved the "Lilac Farm Dairy" and formed "S. H. Hicks and Sons Inc." Eighty acres of the farm were divided into building lots, and Robert Hicks built houses on a majority of the lots. Soon roads, sidewalks, and street names appeared. The subdivision became known as the "Flowerpot" neighborhood because all of the streets were named from flowering plants. The back eighty acres remained farmland. In the 1948 Michigan State University wanted to buy twenty acres of the Hicks farm for a new disposal plant for the University and for the City of East Lansing. Robert Hicks refused to sell only twenty acres and he would agree to sell to MSU only if it purchased the entire eighty acres for $75,000 to which MSU finally agreed. That same year the state Highway Department took over these eighty acres which eventually became part of U.S. 127 and I-496.

The life of Robert Hicks spanned nearly a century, and Hicks remained active his entire life. He built roads, swimming pools, a boat, and more than twenty-five houses. Hicks was also skilled in floriculture and landscaping.

Robert Hicks was born in St. Johns, Michigan and married Zoe Thurber of Lansing in 1916 and had seven children. Married fifty-six years, they lived in the "Flowerpot" area until they died. Zoe died in 1972 at the age of 77, and Robert was 93 when he died in 1986. During East Lansing's 75th birthday in 1982 Hicks was honored as the city's oldest resident.

Return to Table of Contents »

Scope and Contents note

The Robert Hicks family papers (1836-1986) consists of family documents, oral history interviews, memorabilia, and two published family histories.

The bulk of the collection is contained in an album and three folders consisting of photographs, news articles, documents, family histories, and a history of the development of the "Flowerpot" subdivision in East Lansing, Michigan. The album's arrangement is based on subject content, the first part detailing the history of the Hicks family and their involvement in the "Flowerpot" subdivision. This is followed by an outline of the Thurber family history, and account of Robert Hicks' life from 1972 to 1986 and minutes from the annual Hicks Family Reunion. A letter written by Moses Fieldhouse of Lockport, New York, in 1836 tells about his trip to Canada to visit his brothers, discusses the activities of relatives, and mentions farming and the price of food.

A letter dated 1847 from I. Kedwell of Terre Haute Indiana, discusses the finances of encyclopedia book sales.

In ten oral interviews recorded on cassette tapes, Robert Hicks discusses his early life in Clinton County, his parents, and the development of "Flowerpot" neighborhood. A recording of the memorial service for Robert Hicks is also included in the collection.

A History of the Van Sickel Family, published in 1880, originally belonged to Martha Jane Finch Sickles, grandmother of Zoe Thurber Hicks. The book also contains a handwritten genealogy of the family and newspaper clippings (early 1900's reporting marriages and deaths in the Finch and Sickles family.

"Hicks-Thurber Family History: Robert and Zoe", by Helen Hicks Kilfoy, records the Hicks family history from 1811, a Thurber family history traced back to 1652, and Michigan history from the 1600's to the early 1800's.

Return to Table of Contents »

Administrative Information

Publication Information

Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections

Conrad Hall
888 Wilson Road, Room 101
East Lansing , MI, 48824

Revision Description

  December 2008

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Legal Status

Copyright: Michigan State University except for published family histories. Property Rights: Michigan State University.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from this collection must be obtained from University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.

Custodial History

Gift of Helen Hicks Kilfoy.

Return to Table of Contents »

Controlled Access Headings

Family Name(s)

  • Thurber family, (Robert E. Hicks, 1892-1986)
  • Van Sickly family, (Robert E. Hicks, 1892-1986)


  • Family histories
  • Letters (correspondence)
  • Sound recordings

Geographic Name(s)

  • East Lansing (Mich.)
  • Saint Johns (Mich.)

Personal Name(s)

  • Hicks, Robert E., 1892-1986
  • Hicks, Zoe Gladys Thurber, -1972
  • Kilfoy, Helen Hicks


  • Agriculture -- Canada
  • City planning -- Michigan -- East Lansing
  • Land subdivision -- Michigan
  • Neighborhoods -- Michigan -- East Lansing

Return to Table of Contents »

Collection Inventory



Letters 1836-1847 


Document : Discharge of Executor of the Estate of William Baines" 1911 


"Life Story of Stephen Hicks" 1940 


The Life Story of Stephen Henry Hicks" n.d. 


What I Remember 1968 


Hicks Family Histories: Zoe Gladys Thurber Hicks 1971 


"Letter to Wally Robertson" 1972 


The Van Sickle Family n.d. 


Plat of Lilac Farm No. 1, Lansing Twp. 1951 


Addendum to Hicks-Thurber Family History by Helen Hicks Kilfoy 2008 


Return to Table of Contents »



Vol. 1: Family Album 


Vol. 2: A History of the Van Sikle Family  (in box) 


Vol. 3: Hick-Thurber Family History: Robert Zoe 1982 


Return to Table of Contents »

Audio Cassettes 


Oral Interviews/Family History 

No. 948: Clinton County 1892-1912, 1975 

No. 949: Dad and Mom 1977 

No. 950: Early Memories 1977 

No. 951: Various Things 1977 

No. 952: St. Johns and the Subdivision 1981 

No. 953: Trip to Elsie, Michigan 1981 

No. 954: The Family and the Subdivision 1981 

No. 955: Interview, Slide 1 and 3 1981 

No. 956: Interview, Slide 2 1981 

No. 957: Memorial Service 1986 

No. 958: Trowbridge and East Lansing 1912-Present, n.d. 

Return to Table of Contents »