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The Hicks Family

The history of the Hicks family, sometimes spelled Hix, has been intertwined with the Teaster family since at least around 1825. Sometime close to this date, Nellie Teaster, the daughter of Samuel Teaster (1) married Harmon Hicks. Harmon was the son of Samuel Hicks and the grandson of David Hicks, one of Watauga’s first European settlers. This was the first of many marriages between these two families. In the remote mountain area, potential marriage partners were scarce and marriage between cousins was common. The last Teaster/Hicks marriage in Ransom’s (2) line was between his father Harmon and his mother, Susie Hicks.

The complete story of our relatives on the Hicks side is told in the book "The Hicks Family of Western North Carolina (Watauga River Lines)". It traces and describes the Hicks family since before they came to America. This book is the story of pioneers, Indian fighters, farmers and strong women. (See Section on Family Related Books.)


The first of our Hicks ancestors to come to America was Samuel Hicks. He came to Virginia as an indentured servant on May 25, 1637 and settled on the lower Rappahonnock River close to Potomac. He was brought over from England, probably from London by Peter and Margaret Rey. They got 100 acres, known as a headright, for bringing him and one other person.

Samuel finished his indenture and moved to Gloucester County , just north of the York river. There is no record of his marriage or names of his children. The names of his children are reconstructed from names of his grandchildren. (From "Hicks Book " - page 386).

A person usually became an indentured servant in order to obtain their passage from Europe to America. The indenture was a formal contract between the owner , or person with the money, and the servant. The relationship during the indenture was somewhat similar to slavery. The owner had to furnish the servant with "adequate" food and lodging. For doing this, he had almost total control of the time and labor of the servant. Some indentured servants were almost like apprentices and learned a trade. Others were just used for hard farm labor or as household servants.

However, at the end of an agreed upon period that might vary from four to seven years, the servant became free of the indenture. In addition to becoming a free person the servant was usually given 50 acres of land, some food, some clothing and various tools necessary for making a living. Many people in the pre Revolutionary War era came to this country as an indentured servant.

The Samuel Hicks who came to Virginia in 1637 was Ransom’s (2) great great great great great great (six greats) grandfather. Samuel Hicks came to Virginia 229 years before  Ransom (2) was born in North Carolina in 1866. Samuel Hicks was also the great grandfather of David Hicks, one of the first European settlers of the Watauga area.


Story Tellers and Singers

Several members of the Hicks family have become famous for their talents in story telling, singing, playing musical instruments and as preservers of traditional mountain songs and stories. A number of books have been written about these individuals and their family traditions. These books are described in the "Family Related Book" section of this story.

One family member , Council Harmon, son of Sabra Hicks and Andrew Harmon, is credited by historians as being the main individual responsible for passing on the "Jack Tales" from the old English versions of the middle ages. One familiar example of these tales is the story of "Jack and the Beanstalk". Council Harmon married Nancy Elizabeth Teaster, one of Samuel’s (1) daughters.

Another family member, Jane Hicks Gentry, is credited with being one of the people most responsible for remembering and saving a large number of medieval English folks songs including the now well known "Froggie Went A - Courting". This song was originally known as "The Frog and the Mouse." Jane’s story is told in the book "Appalachian Medley." Jane was Ransom’s(2)  second cousin.

Still another family member, Frank Proffitt, is credited with saving and adding to the old mountain folk song that became the "Ballad of Tom Dooley". This song was based on a real story about a man named Tom Dula. The name Dula was pronounced Dooley in the mountains. Dula was hanged in Wilkes County, North Carolina in the late 1800’s. Frank Proffitt heard the song sung by his father and grandmother. The Kingston Trio recorded the song in the 1960’s and it became world famous. Frank’s story is told in the books "The Last Chivaree" and "Jack in Two Worlds."

And still another family member, Ray Hicks, is a renowned teller of folk tales and has won many story telling competitions. Ray is a featured performer at the yearly National Story Telling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee. A recent news article about that festival described him:

Ray Hicks is probably the most famous of that breed (mountain storyteller). Since 1951, he has been publicly passing along Appalachian tales. He dresses in overalls and still lives in the same house in which he was born. Someone said that being introduced to Mr. Hicks is like meeting Rip van Winkle.

According to storyteller Jim Mays, "Ray has been studied by scholars who believe that his particular dialect is closest to the Elizabethan English that we still have among living people. Appreciating a performance by the man who's hailed as the patriarch of storytelling, the large crowd hangs onto every word - most stretched into several syllables (hee-ut for hit, kee-ud for kid, way-lll for well). They roar delightedly at a tale about outsmarting a city slicker."

Ray is shown in the introduction to the TV program "Appalachian Stories" series. This show is produced by the Museum of Appalachia in Norris, Tennessee and is often seen on the Travel Channel. Ray’s story is also told in the books "The Last Chivaree" and "Jack in Two Worlds."

We invite any descendants of Samuel Teaster and his wife Mary Elizabeth Daniels or anyone with questions or other information to contact us at mckteaster@earthlink.net .

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