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Profiles of Washington Territorial Librarians – Urban East Hicks, 1858


Urban Hicks

Urban Hicks, the man with the paradoxical name, was born May 14, 1828 in Missouri where he learned the printing trade in the towns of Paris and Hannibal. Coming to Oregon Territory in 1851 as part of the Ruddell Party, he lived in several places before settling in Olympia. Hicks held a variety of local offices, including County Clerk and Assessor. Served with distinction during the Indian War of 1855-1856, rising to the rank of Captain. He was charged with erecting blockhouses for the protection of the settlers during the hostilities. Hicks was a school teacher in what is now Lacey 1856-1857. Appointed as Librarian/Auditor 1858, and later as simply Auditor 1865-1867. During his first term, according to Briahna Taylor, the Library was not Capt. Hicks’ primary concern:

“Financially, Hicks’ tenure as auditor was burdened by a territorial debt from the Indian War. Under the federal Organic Act, counties served as the collector of local and federal taxes. Of those taxes remitted to the federal government, Congress appropriated funds to the territory to finance territorial government operations. But counties faced challenges collecting all taxes owed, thus reducing revenues submitted to the federal government and ultimately allocations to the territory. Hicks faced mounting territorial debt.”

In between his terms as Auditor he published the Vancouver Telegraph, 1861-1862. He returned to Olympia and produced the Washington Democrat, 1864-1865. His editorials bought about accusations from Republicans that he was a Copperhead. Even so, he was sworn in as Territorial Quartermaster General in 1865. After the Civil War he continued to be on the move and working in the newspaper business up and down the Pacific Coast. In later years he lived on Orcas Island and eventually became a resident of the Soldiers Home and Colony in Orting, where he died in March 1905. The family name lives on geographically through Hicks Lake in Thurston County. 

More information can be found in the work Pioneer Reminiscences of Urban E. Hicks.

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