Frederick C. Hicks, South Wellfleet Summer Resident

By the time Professor Hicks bought the oldest of the Arey homesteads in 1936 he had become an accomplished professional. Born in Auburn, New York, October 14, 1875, the son of an immigrant English gardener, Professor Hicks graduated from Colgate University in 1898. His first position was in the Map Division of the Library of Congress, an assistant at first, and then as Assistant Chief of the Division. While working there, he studied at Georgetown University’s Law School, receiving his degree in 1901.

He returned to Auburn to practice law, but soon moved back to librarianship when he took the position of librarian at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. While there, he also attended Brown University, where he earned a Master’s Degree in 1907. In 1908, he became the Assistant Librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library. In the 1910 federal census, he is living in Brooklyn. Soon he moved to Columbia University, where he was Superintendent of reading rooms, and then promoted to Assistant Librarian. By 1915, he was promoted to Law Librarian of Columbia Law School, beginning his career as one of America’s premier law librarians.

Hicks married Susan Morgan on April 24, 1912. In the 1920 federal census, they are living at 530 West 123 Street on Manhattan’s west side, near the University. In 1924, on his passport application, he notes a two-month European trip in 1912, perhaps a wedding trip. On his 1924 trip to a number of European countries he both represented the University and traveled for pleasure.  Professor Hicks and his wife traveled to Europe several times in the 1920s.

In 1928, Hicks was appointed Law Librarian of Yale University’s Law Library, and also appointed a Professor of Legal Bibliography; later, he was promoted to Professor of Law.

Professor Hicks is known today as “The Dean of Law Librarians.”  He recognized early in his career that law students needed assistance in their work as the casebook system of legal instruction developed, and lawyers became university-trained instead of apprenticing to a practicing attorney. A 1913 Hicks publication “Aids to the Study and Use of Law Books” became, by 1923, his important book, “Materials and Methods of Legal Research” published through three editions. You can still find the 1942 edition on Amazon today.

Hicks wrote many other books – more than twenty in all. He also wrote 52 journal articles that appeared in more than twenty publications. Furthermore, he developed a course that taught legal research.

A Renaissance man, Hicks had many other interests as well. His photographs won several prizes in the New Haven Camera Club competitions. He was a skilled painter in both watercolors and oils, and he played the flute in the Business and Professional Men’s Orchestra of New Haven. A glowing essay on his life, cited below, describes Frederick Hicks as “a quiet gentleman of Napoleonic stature but minus the pomp, imbued with human interest and understanding, and with a kindly nature. He was a man of zeal for learning and progress.”

Professor Hicks married twice. Susan Morgan Hicks died in 1926. In 1930, when the federal census was taken again, Frederick’s wife is listed as Helen Morgan Hicks, and they have a son, F. Morgan Hicks, noted as adopted.  Possibly Hicks had married his first wife’s sister, but this could not be verified.

With his busy work life, and steady employment through the Depression, Frederick and Helen Hicks were able to purchase the oldest of the two South Wellfleet Arey houses, across from the South Wellfleet Cemetery. The owner at that point was Albert Arey of Roslyn, New York, the son of Oliver Arey, whose father was Reuben Arey. The Arey family was the subject of an earlier blog piece.

Professor Hicks and his wife made their purchase in January, 1936. For a total of $2300, they now owned the house, its furnishings and its outbuildings, over eight adjoining acres, and another parcel of eleven acres! The label of the adjoining land as “the Taylor lot” suggests that this was the land that Lydia Ward Arey Taylor (second wife of the first Reuben Arey) owned with her second husband.

In a 1938 letter to Albert Arey, Hicks states that he had “spent a great deal of money” to restore the Arey home, and was taking a “great deal of pride in the place.” He had become curious about the exact year the house was built, and was urging Arey to get back to him with more information about the dates of the two Reuben Areys, so he could figure out the date when the house was built. Arey had told him that the house was built in 1808 “of timber cut on the premises and the floor boards as well.” But others who had examined the house thought it was older. Hicks was trying to find the answer, but there’s no record if he did.

As I’ve researched South Wellfleet, several historians have noted that the original timber growth on the outer Cape was pretty much used up by the early eighteenth century for houses, boats, fuel, and wood for the fires for trying whales. Telling the Professor that local timber was used for the house sounds like a sales pitch.  To answer the Professor’s questions about the two early Reuben Areys, the first was born in 1750 and died in 1801. This first Reuben Arey married for the first time in 1773, and married his second wife, Lydia, in 1777. He is on the Wellfleet tax roll for 1798. This house was probably built for either his first or second marriage, but definitely earlier than 1808, unless it was a replacement structure.

The Hicks’ next-door neighbor was Isaac Paine, known as Ikie, and his wife, Mary. Ikie lived in the second Arey home, built for the second Reuben Arey.  A number of years later, Professor Hicks wrote an essay about Ikie which will be posted here soon. (My thanks to a couple of neighbors who passed this essay along to me.)

Professor Hicks became an active member of South Wellfleet’s summer community. He was one of the founding members of the South Wellfleet Neighborhood Association in 1938. Their booklet includes a photograph of the Arey house, which Hicks named “The Bowed Roof.”  I have an early memory of its green sign posted on Route 6, just before the turn onto Old Wharf Road. That sign is now in the old barn/garage still on the property.

Thanks to our neighbors, I had a tour of the Arey house. Its beautiful restoration includes the traditional central chimney providing fireplaces on three sides. A very steep stairway climbs to the upstairs rooms. It’s a very snug Cape Cod House that would have been close to the South Wellfleet church and its graveyard, and not far from the Kings Highway, east of the cemetery.

Another of our neighbors remembers going to the Hicks house as a boy when musical evenings would be offered, with Professor Hicks playing his flute.

Professor Hicks also played a role in the effort in 1939 to create a “Marconi Park” on the site where Marconi sent his first wireless message to England in 1902. This effort did not succeed, as the military use of the site increased in the 1940s, and the site was kept inaccessible to the public. Finally, with the installation of the Cape Cod National Seashore, this part of South Wellfleet’s history could be visited at last.

Professor Hicks’ hobby as a photographer seemed to blossom as he explored the Cape landscape. The Wellfleet Historical Society and Museum has several Hicks photographs in their newly-digitized collection.

Professor Hicks also took photos of his home and surrounding places. He made a brochure about his home, and may have rented to roomers for a while. Here are a few photos I have:

HICKS brochure on his home

HICKS brochure on his home

HICKS photos of his home

HICKS photos of his home

HICKS photo of Cook's Camps

HICKS photo of Cook’s Camps

Hicks also took a number of photos in other towns. Here is an image of the Orleans Movie Theater in 1946 when this Tarzan movie dates from.  Looks like there was a gas station across the street then, as there is now, but the building now houses the CVS store.

HICKS Photo of Orleans Theater 1946

HICKS Photo of Orleans Theater 1946

Professor Hicks also sold a number of his photographs to Boston’s Tichnor Company which produced thousands of images printed with a linen texture from the 1940s to the 1960s. His images of “the Thoreau House,” Main Street Wellfleet, Holiday House, “Captain Tim’s Bridge” (now Uncle), the Wellfleet Congregational Church, and Our Lady of Lourdes Church are part of the Tichnor collection. His photo of “The Colonial Hall” in Wellfleet gives us a picture of the former South Wellfleet Congregational Church, after it was moved to Wellfleet and restored, but before it became the Town Hall.  He also photographed the Old Mill in Brewster (which we now call “the Grist Mill”), the Sturgis Library in Barnstable, and the Nauset Coast Guard Station for the company. The Boston Public Library owns the collection but has made it available here.

Hicks printed many of his Wellfleet photographs as small images on heavy cream stock, possibly looking to sell them to vacationing visitors.

Helen Morgan Hicks died in 1947. In that year, Professor Hicks had a stroke. He was never able to speak again, and lost the use of his right arm, so he could not write. He spent the last years of his life with these severe disabilities, and died on April 30, 1956, at age eighty.

His obituary in The Cape Codder in early May that year noted his multiple accomplishments as ”a student, lawyer, author, legal biographer and bibliographer, editor, musician, painter and outstanding contributor to the progressive advancement of the legal profession.” His adopted son, Morgan Hicks, was living in Seattle, Washington at that time. He died in 1989, and is buried in a cemetery in Westerly, Rhode Island, alongside his mother, Helen, and his wife, Mildred. Professor Hicks is buried in the Soule Cemetery in Sennett, Cayuga County, New York, with his parents nearby.


“Frederick C. Hicks: The Dean of Law Librarians” Stacy Etheredge. Published by Association of Law Libraries, 2006, and available

The Cape Codder online at

Barnstable County Deeds available at

Newspaper account online at

U.S. Federal Census and U. S. Passports collection at







Family history researcher living in New York City.
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3 Responses to Frederick C. Hicks, South Wellfleet Summer Resident

  1. Pingback: Professor Hicks writes about his neighbor, Ikie Paine | South Wellfleet, Massachusetts

  2. saltontail says:

    That last picture is not the S. Wellfleet church and parsonage. It is the Truro Congregational church and the entrance to Truro Town Hall.

    • THANK YOU!! ..for your correction on the Hicks photo. If I’d been thinking properly, I would have realized that the
      South Wellfleet church was falling apart much more than Hicks’ 1930s photo shows. I’m glad to learn which church it is.


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