On March 31, 1881, Robert and Anna Hicks, with their two kids, Marion and Ethel, loaded their wagon and headed west out of Kansas. They were looking for a better way of life – to breath air that hadn’t already been breathed. The Homestead Act of 1862 promised 160 acres to those who were looking for land to settle on, improve, and farm. The plan was to find a new place in what is now Washington state.
Robert’s and Anna’s spirit of exploration and industry was inherited from a long line of hard-working farmers from Virginia who came to America during the mid-1700s. Robert’s dad, Jacob, was born in Virginia. He ended up in Kansas by way of Ohio and Missouri. “He was an honest and scientious man, a good neighbor, a kind and loving husband and father.” He married Harriet Hall in 1837.
Anna’s family was from Missouri. Her dad, William Henry Lile, fought for the Confederacy and was captured and sent to prison in Alton, Illinois. He took the Oath of Allegiance to the North and was then set free. He walked home to Missouri and died a few months later due to the deplorable conditions put upon him while in prison. His wife, Sarah Angeline, lived on and kept the Lile legacy alive.
Robert and Anna followed the Oregon Trail along with some other folks from Kansas looking for a better life. Within a few months, the wagon train combined with another coming from Texas and together, they traveled on to Cokeville, Wyoming where they all decided to spend the winter of 1881-82.
Robert worked at getting lumber and making railroad ties for the Union Pacific Railroad. Anna helped cook for the laborers. In Cokeville, Robert received a bullet from a “quick triggered” bad man and was nursed back to health by Anna. He was shot in defense of chivalry and respect for the women of the wagon train which he was traveling with.
In the spring, the wagon train set out again on the Emigrant Trail. This trail led up through Eagle Rock, now Idaho Falls, Idaho, through Arco, Bellevue, and Camas Prairie. The beauty of the prairie and green grass was a sight to behold and the party split.
The Hicks’ stayed along with Andrew Fletcher, M.L. Davis, Jonas and Wilson Carter (brothers). Andrew Fletcher settled at the head of Chimney Creek. Here he built a dug-out in the side of the hill and settled for the winter. Jonas and Wilson Carter selected land at the head of Corral Creek. Martin and Sarah Davis settled on a branch of Corral Creek. Robert and Anna Hicks settled on a creek further up the Prairie called Hicks Creek, now called Boardman’s Creek. They too built a dug-out for winter accommodations.
It was necessary to stockpile food for the winter, so the men arranged to return to Kelton, Utah which was the terminus of the railroad. Robert and Anna claimed two, 160-acre plots – one wooded and one for farming.
In 1886, Robert made a deal with some newcomers to the prairie. H.F. McCarter and his family bought both parcels of the Hicks’ land. As far as is known, the McCarter family still owns and operates the farm to this day.
The Hicks’ moved their family to what was called, The Swamp, in Camas Prairie. They lived there for some time. Some surmise that Robert grew tired of farming and was attracted to the mining operations that were cropping up throughout Idaho. Small, private claims were being developed all over the state, and Robert wanted in on the prospects of a more lucrative future.
So, Robert moved his family north to Salmon and filed claims to minerals rights on a place above town, near Stormy Peak. He created a high-pressure water system to wash the soil into his sluice boxes, where the gold collected. According to family records, Robert shared the water with a rancher below his claims. The pressure system operated on the principle of gravity, so it took some time to build up enough water up-stream to create pressure.
Robert built a cabin near his claims and lived there throughout the week. On weekends, he headed back to town to be with Anna and the kids. Legend has it that at one point in his mining operations, Robert hired a man to do roustabout work on the claim. The man turned out to be a thief and was caught stealing some of the gold stored in the cabin.
After a heated argument, Robert ended up shooting the man. The guy reportedly stayed alive and made his way back to town where he filed a complaint with the local law enforcement in Salmon. The officer who took the report told the man, “You were caught stealing Mr. Hicks’ gold. I would’ve shot you, too!” No charges were brought in the case.
Anna died in June, 1928. Robert died five years later in February 1933. Both are buried in the Gooding, Idaho cemetery.
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