THOMAS ACKLEY NICHOLS
When I started this blog about Thomas Ackley Nichols it was Memorial day and I wanted to honor a Civil War ancestor by recounting his sacrifices and his tale. My intention was to complete his story in just a few entries. It grew and grew and sprouted new buds and leaves that blossomed into other chapters. As Veteran’s Day approaches I am very close to finishing. The next chapter is one of love both lost and regained.
It was the spring of 1875 in St. Clair, Pennsylvania. The external forces that directly effected Thomas Nichols included the ongoing strife between the labor unions and the Molly Maguires at the coal mines. There had been battles, strikes, and deaths in Schuylkill county since the 1860’s as the miners sought safer working conditions. These matters certainly concerned Thomas since he clerked at a coal mine and lived in the midst of the conflict. They were secondary compared to the loss of his beloved wife.
On 25 May 1875, Helena Knerr Nichols died at 6:30 a.m. Was it a lingering illness, or was she taken suddenly? Her obituary in the Pottsville Miners Journal is very brief, and no death certificates exist for that time period in PA to explain her cause of death.
“NICHOLS – At St Clair, on Tuesday, May 25th, Helena, wife of Thomas A. Nichols, in the 44th year of her age. Funeral on Thursday afternoon at 2 P.M. From the residence of her husband, corner of Third and Hancock streets, St. Clair. Internment in Presbyterian Cemetery, Pottsville. Friends and relatives respectfully invited to attend.”
Helena left a bereaved husband and three children. Charles, the youngest, was age 10, Bertha age 13, and John the eldest, was age 18. What about Helena’s birth family, her father John Knerr and her 3 siblings? Did they learn of her death? Their whereabouts remains a mystery.
At age 51 Thomas Nichols became a widower. For the next 5 years he remained in St. Clair with his children. In 1880 Bertha at age 18 and Charles at age 15 were no longer in school. John, age 23, had moved to Nebraska to work on the railroads. He would eventually settle and marry in Omaha.
Meanwhile, Thomas remained active in the GAR and the Masons. Perhaps he counted among his friends a prominent Schuylkill county resident and fellow Mason, Ross Bull, who hailed from Port Carbon, PA where Thomas had once resided. Ross had two sons who had served in the Civil War, and he had an attractive unmarried daughter, Lillian Watson Bull. Although Thomas was 30 years her senior that was not a hindrance for marriage.
On 9 December 1880 at 7 P.M., Thomas A. Nichols, age 56, of St. Clair and Lillie Bull, age 26, of Port Carbon, married at the parsonage of the First Methodist Episcopal church in St. Clair by Pastor S.N. Chew. The witnesses were Mrs. S.N.C and (Colonel).
The newlyweds relocated to Port Carbon soon after their marriage. It didn’t take long before Thomas Nichols became a father again with the birth of his fourth child, Mary Watson Nichols, born 27 April 1882. Two years later another daughter arrived, Florence Ackley Nichols born on 13 August 1884. A son and last child, Howard Ransloe Nichols, was born 26 December 1885.
The war wounds contined to plague Thomas. He sent repeated requests for an increase in his pension. He was over 60, had a young family and wife to care for, and a reduced income.
What lay ahead for Thomas Nichols?
© 2014 copyright Kendra Hopp Schmidt. All rights reserved.
Name: Thomas Ackley Nichols
Parents: Matthias Nichols and Sarah (Ackley- surname not determined)
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