What prompted me to write about Thomas A. Nichols?
The Background to the Research
Some of my readers have requested that I personalize my ancestor stories. Thus, before I continue the saga of Thomas A. Nichols and his Civil War experiences, I will recount what compelled me to research him.
It started with a simple black leather box, lined with rich blue satin and written on the inside in gold letters was “W.H. Mortimer Manufacturing Jeweler, Pottsville, Pa”. Encased in the box was an elaborate silver medal inscribed with the name “Thos A Nichols”, and “Presented May 11th to Thomas A. Nichols by service Anthracite Lodge F&AM No 285”. I wondered what is the Anthracite Lodge, and why did Thomas A. Nichols have this medal?
My maternal grandmother, Anna Jane Beaton Hyde, had saved this item among boxes of memorabilia she stored on a shelf in her closet. Each time I would visit her she would share stories of her childhood and her past. I would pepper her with questions, fascinated by the anecdotes she told about her parents and her adventurous life. Unfortunately, she had already passed away before I started this doing genealogy, but all the documents and memorabilia she saved have enhanced my research. Going through those boxes years later, I would sit for hours examining with great detail the contents, pondering how the pieces fit together in our family puzzle.
The black jewelers box was one of those puzzle pieces. Who was Thomas A Nichols, and how was he related to Mary Nelson Nichols my mysterious Swedish great great grandmother? Census records revealed that Thomas A. Nichols was from Pottsville County, Pennsylvania, and he was the father of John Matthews Nichols. Marriage records stated that John Nichols married Mary Nelson, so Thomas A. Nichols was Mary Nelson Nichols father-in-law. Part of the puzzle was pieced together. The history of the medal and its meaning will be included in a later chapter of Thomas’s life story.
Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania was a mere three hours from Washington D.C. where I lived, so a genealogy trip ensued. Three days of research at the Pottsville library, courthouse, and historical society, provided more knowledge and created more questions.
Back in D.C., I headed to the National Archives to examine Thomas Nichols Civil War pension record. It was a moving to handle the original paperwork that documented a significant part of Thomas’s life. I read graphic medical reports of the injuries he sustained during the war, many petitions for a pension, and letters written and signed by Thomas verifying his experiences. When Thomas A. Nichols volunteered to serve in the Civil War, he had no idea what lay ahead in the next four long years.
© 2014 copyright Kendra Hopp Schmidt. All rights reserved.
Name: Thomas Ackley Nichols
Parents: Matthias Nichols and Sarah Ackley?
Spouse: Helena Knerr and Lillian Watson Bull
Children: John, Bertha, Charles and Mary, Florence, Howard
Relationship to Kendra: 3rd great grandfather
- Thomas Ackley Nichols
- John Mathews Nichols
- Mabel Elvina Nichols Hyde
- John Frederick Hyde Jr.
- Jean Hyde Hopp Eichorn