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Preserving Hicksville’s History

If you’ve ever wondered what Hicksville was like back in the 1800s, James Janis is the person to ask. Janis is the Hicksville historian as well as a reference librarian at the Hicksville Public Library. He works on organizing the archives of Hicksville’s history, as well as preparing them for the future.

“I’m working in the past, I’m trying to prepare for the future, and at the same time, I’m working in the present,” said Janis.

The archives have original material that go back as far as 1896 and research articles that go back to the 1840’s. Some of Janis’ prized possessions in his archives include the Silver Star and Purple Heart of a Hicksville resident named James Madden who was killed during World War II, as well as a letter from the Western Union informing the parents of Charles Wagner that he died in World War I.

Janis received his masters in Library Science from Queens College and starting working at the the library five years ago.

Many people come in to the library to do research on families, Hicksville history, as well as school assignments. People also like to look at the yearbooks, and the library has a good collection of the yearbooks starting from the early 1930’s.

“I try and pay attention to what goes on in Hicksville and if something interesting happens, I try and preserve it and put it in the archives," said Janis. He collects vertical files on anything about Hicksville including horses in Hicksville, and even famous murders and serial killers from Hicksville.

“Everything is eventually going to be digitalized, and the archives should eventually be available online,” said Janis.

One of Janis’ daily duties include searching the The New York Times archives to find articles that have any mention of Hicksville. “The first article about Hicksville was in 1854,” he said. “It was about a woman named Betsy Baldwin, who fell down a well and the news made it into The New York Times.”

Janis is currently working on a program about Hicksville residents in World War I. He has previously done programs with Hicksville in World War II and Hicksville in the Spanish American War. The programs received good reviews and Janis plans on continuing with more programs, until he eventually covers Hicksville in all of the wars.    

“While working on these programs I do a lot of original research,” he said. “I end up tracking grandparents or descendants, I find documentation, and I find out things that nobody knew about Hicksville.”

Janis hopes to present the program on Hicksville in World War I in time for Memorial Day.

For more information, visit www.hicksvillelibrary.org