Edward Dickson Hicks Family Papers

Identifier: MSS.0855

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

The Edward Dickson Hicks collection, 1798-1979 is comprised of letters, farm records, legal contracts, photos, drawings, receipts, newspaper articles, and account books of or relating to the members of the Hicks family. It also includes various artifacts from E.D. Hicks II’s experience in the California Gold Rush and E.D. Hicks IV’s time serving in World War I. Much of the content consists of personal correspondence between relatives. There is also a significant amount of material relating to the management of Devon Farms and the various organizations E.D. Hicks II, E.D. Hicks IV, and William Hunter Giers Hicks were involved in. Overall, this collection offers insight into the lives of the members of this family and their contributions to and involvement in the Nashville community. The collection spans over four generations of Hicks. The large majority of the materials pertain to E.D. Hicks II and his immediate family, with a significant amount of material on E.D. Hicks IV and his family as well. Very little content directly relates to E.D. Hicks I and III.


  • 1798 - 1975

Conditions Governing Access

This collection may be viewed only in the reading room of Special Collections in the Jean and Alexander Heard Library. Collections should be requested 2-3 days prior to visiting in order to facilitate easier access. For questions or to request a collection, contact specialcollections@vanderbilt.edu.


6.25 Linear Feet (5 Paige boxes)

Language of Materials



The E.D. Hicks Family Papers collection contains the personal and buisness records of the Hicks family. The collection spans the life of four generations of the Hicks family. The Hicks family was a prominent cattle farm owning family in Nashville, Tennessee. The majority of this collection's materials focus on the 2nd and 4th generations of the family.

Physical Location

Offsite Storage, Special Collections & Archives

Edward Dickson Hicks II

Edward Dickson Hicks II (E.D. Hicks II) was born in 1831 to Nancy and Edward Dickson Hicks in Davison County in Nashville, Tennessee. Born into a prominent family in the area, he would grow up to become an influential individual in the development of Nashville’s history. As a child, E.D. Hicks II spent his summers with his grandfather John Davis, a founding father in Nashville, on his family’s farm along the Harpeth River (1). At the young age of 18, E.D. Hicks II set out for the west coast, enticed by the promise of great wealth the California Gold Rush seemed to offer. After experiencing little success, E.D. Hicks II returned to Nashville in 1851, and married Mary Ann White shortly there after in 1855 (1). In 1865, he inherited what would become Devon Farm from his widow aunt, Fanny Davis Harding, with whom he had spent most of his childhood (1). Soon after, E.D. Hicks II began importing Devon cattle from England and breeding them on his property, thus creating Devon Farm. In 1884 he established the American Devon Cattle Club and served as its president for many years (1). Additionally, during his life he would serve as the secretary of the Nashville Commercial Insurance Company, president of the Board of Underwriters, director of the Nashville Northwestern Railroad, and secretary of the Board of Trustees of the University of Nashville (which he had briefly attended before leaving for California) (1). He and his wife would have four children- Emma Hicks, Fannie Hicks, Gordon D. Hicks, and Edward Dickson Hicks III. When he died in 1894 his land was equally divided between his children. E.D. Hicks III would later sell his portion of land and migrate west to Missouri, leaving his children and siblings behind (1).

1. Cornwell, Ilene J. "Devon Farm: Harpeth Landmark." Tennessee Historical Quarterly 34, no. 2 (1975): 113-29. http://www.jstor.org/stable/42623513.

Edward Dickson Hicks IV

E.D. Hicks IV, son of E.D. Hicks III, grew up on Devon Farm and discovered a passion for agriculture there. From 1917-1919 he served in the United States Army as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 122nd Field Artillery. He spent the majority of his time in the military in France teaching at Saumar Artillery School. Not long after his return to Nashville, E.D. Hicks IV married William Hunter Giers, the granddaughter of renounced daguerreotyper and photographer Carl C. Giers (1). William Hunter Giers remained an active member of Nashville society throughout her life as a member of several social organizations including The Daughters of the American Revolution, American Legion Auxiliary, and the American Red Cross. Together they had one child, Sarah Hunter Hicks. In 1926 E.D. Hicks IV founded the Dobson-Hicks seed Company and served as its manager for 33 years (1). The company was a wholesale seed distributer which primary sold a strand of corn called Hicks Yellow Dent Corn. When E.D. Hicks IV’s sister Emma died in 1944 he purchased her portion of the family land (1). In 1946, he bought another portion of Devon Farm owned by his uncle, Gordon Davis Hicks, in an effort to reunite the family property as it had been when his great, great grandfather John Davis originally settled their (1). To this end, he spent years refurbishing the family home, and cultivating the fields once again (1). Outside of Devon Farm, E.D. Hicks IV served as founder and president of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce Farmers Club, and took an active interest in District 4-H Club camps (1). He also helped to establish local farmers markets in Nashville and was an active member of the Farmers Club (1). Upon his death in 1961 much of the agricultural activities at Devon Farm ceased.

1. Cornwell, Ilene J. "Devon Farm: Harpeth Landmark." Tennessee Historical Quarterly 34, no. 2 (1975): 113-29. http://www.jstor.org/stable/42623513.

Alternative Names

All “Edward Dickson Hicks” referred to as E.D. or Ed.

Mary Ann (White) Hicks- “Bonner”

Emma Hicks McDonald- Aunt “Humpa”

Fanny (Fannie) Hicks Woolwine- “Daughter”

Finding Aid for the Edward Dickson Hicks Family Papers
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Vanderbilt University Special Collections Repository

Special Collections Library
1101 19th Ave. S.
Nashville TN 37212 United States


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