Friday, 07 August 2009 00:00
About 1843, Charles and Ann Herrick, and their five children, moved onto a farm neighboring Isaac U. Willets’ property on the west side of what is now Shelter Rock Road, just north of Old Courthouse Road. It was near the heart of the land owned by William Herrick two centuries before. The somewhat mysterious William, who died at Maspeth, Queens in the 1650s, left no children, while his brother, James Herrick of Southampton, had hundreds of descendants. Charles Herrick was not a descendent of James, and was not from the Suffolk County Herrick clan. He was from the extensive Herrick family of Maine (his close relatives included two Maine Congressmen), and came to Long Island by way of Minnesota.
The original published family histories, compiled by General Jebediah Herrick of Maine in the 1840s, attempted to connect the Southampton Herricks with the various New England branches, and to connect the Herricks in America with those in Leicester, England. These Leicestershire Herricks (or Eyricks) of Beau Manor castle traced their lineage all the way back to a 13th century knight and, by tradition, to a line of Scandanavian kings and to Eric the Red, the Viking explorer.
The General wrote decades before the widespread publication of town records, wills and other legal documents made historical research considerably easier and more objective, and it became clear as the years went by that some of his educated guesses were not correct. Jebediah had guessed that James Herrick (he missed the existence of William completely) was the son of Thomas Herrick, Chamberlain of Leicester. By 1950, family genealogist Herrick Crosby Brown wrote that the evidence for this particular guess had some flaws: “Even the most naive will recognize the danger of assuming a conclusion based on such evidence.” The Herrick family historians in Leicester researched the issue and came to this conclusion: “Who was James Herrick of Southampton?”
Jebediah and other early Herrick historians also confused the Henry Herrick who was in Salem, Massachusetts by 1629 with the Henry Herrick who was in Virginia by 1641. Virginia Henry was an actual son of Sir William of Leicester, and Salem Henry, the progenitor of many of the New England and New York Herricks, was someone else. Notable bands of Herricks are still floating around in the genealogical ether. These include the Herricks from Maine, from the Hudson Valley (the Peekskill Museum is located in Herrick House, the 1870s Victorian-style house designed for prominent citizen Dwight Stiles Herrick and his family) and from Albany (a long series of Herricks have served as judges, district attorneys and state legislators in Albany and Renssalaer Counties).
Herrick family genealogists now acknowledge that while James Herrick of Southampton and the mysterious William might have been connected in some way to the Leicester Herrick clan, and to all the colorful knights and kings that come along with them, there is no actual evidence of this.
So the 1840s Herrick of Herricks and the 1640s Herrick of Herricks may have been related, perhaps through Henry of Salem two centuries before, or perhaps through the original Eyrick six centuries before, or perhaps not at all.
However, it doesn’t seem that Charles and Ann Herrick dropped into Herricks, North Hempstead totally out of the blue. Ann was a member of the vast Cornell family, by the 1840s spread throughout the United States and had close family right nearby. Charles died in the 1870s and Ann and her children, now adults, moved to Lakeville Road. Two of her sons, John C. Herrick and the younger Daniel, farmed in the area for many years, usually as employees on local estates. In 1889, John C. Herrick was nominated by North Hempstead Republicans to be the town’s tax collector (he was not elected). In the 1930s, the two elderly and retired brothers lived together (Daniel had been widowed) in a rented house on Cutter Mill Road in Great Neck.
Web sites and even local historical associations still publish incorrect or discredited information about the Herrick family and its background. The Herrick story is a good example of why local histories must continually be tested, reviewed and rewritten to reflect new information and interpretations.