Hickman House

Virginia City Historic District

An 1868 lithograph drawn by artist Alfred Mathews shows a large commercial structure on this lot, but panoramic mapmaker E. L. Sheldon depicted the entire block occupied by single-family dwellings in 1875. Carpenter Gothic style trim originally decorated the porch supports of this one-story L-shaped wood-frame home, marking its owners’ nostalgia for architecture fashionable in the eastern United States in the 1850s. Margaret Hickman, the wife of merchant and territorial legislator Richard O. Hickman, owned the residence by 1888. Margaret was one of many nineteenth-century Montana women to own their family home, but female property ownership was not a straightforward reflection of women’s economic power. Under certain circumstances, married women’s property was protected from their husbands’ creditors, and families often used this fact to protect their assets. The Hickmans moved to Helena in 1889 when Richard became the first state lands agent, but the family’s connections to Virginia City remained strong. After daughter Gertrude married William Thompson, son of another Virginia City pioneer family, the couple moved to New York. However, they remembered their hometown, donating funds to build the Thompson-Hickman Library, now also a museum.

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Virginia City, Montana ~ Private