Mabel Elvina NICHOLS, circa 1909, Omaha, NE, photo in possession of author.

As a caterpillar changes into a butterfly, my great-grandmother, Mabel Elvina NICHOLS HYDE transformed herself from a forlorn child into a confident young woman. Known for her elegant style, the tall slender beauty became a matron of society. In later years her niece, Helen KIESSELBACH GREENE, wrote on one of Mabel’s photographs,  “…the only truly beautiful woman in our entire extended family.”

My previous blog featured one photograph and story about Mabel. Thanks to my mother and grandmother, I know Mabel through numerous anecdotes. They always referred to her as “Nana.”  As a child I thought it was her given name. Her friends called her “Mabe,” but no one used the middle name she despised, Elvina.

Most of the stories I heard about Mabel mentioned her adult life, one of privilege. She attended social functions; vacationed each summer in Colorado on a scenic ranch; and eventually lived in a beautiful home designed by her son, my grandfather,  the architect John F. HYDE Jr.


There were references to her difficult childhood, but research revealed the obstacles she faced. The fourth child of a Swedish immigrant and a Pennsylvania transplant to Nebraska, Mabel Elvina NICHOLS was born March 31, 1888 in South Sioux City, Nebraska. Located on the eastern bank of the Missouri River, Sioux City was in the center of the western corn belt and was a booming railroad town.[1]


  • John Mathews NICHOLS                            (1857-1929) born in Pennsylvania
  • Mary NELSON NICHOLS                          (1856-1931) born in Sweden
  • Carrie Bertha NICHOLS                              (1881-1915) born in Omaha
  • Charles Clinton NICHOLS “Charlie”         (1883-1930) born in Omaha
  • Fredrick Mathew NICHOLS “Fred”         (1885-1957) born in Norfolk
  • Mabel Elvina NICHOLS “Mabe” “Nana”(1888-1954) born in Sioux City
  • John Lee NICHOLS “Johnnie”                   (1890-1967) born in Omaha

It was the railroad that brought the NICHOLS family to Sioux City. By the end of the 1880’s a web of railroad tracks covered 5000 miles in Nebraska.[2] John NICHOLS, a railroad worker, followed job prospects. He moved his family from Omaha, to Norfolk, to Sioux City and back again to Omaha. The NICHOLS eventually settled in North Omaha, an area densely populated by  Scandinavians, many of whom were railroad employees.[3]

Old Omaha

“Bostwick-Frohardt Collection”, “Old Omaha”, late 1800’s. Permission granted by Durham Museum Photo Archives.

John and Mary NICHOLS initially rented then owned their home at 1402 Jaynes Street. Typical for the late 19th century, the one story home was less than 1000 square feet and probably had two or three bedrooms. Indoor plumbing and electricity were not available yet for that area of town.


NICHOLS home, 1402 Jaynes Street, Omaha, NE, photo courtesy of Nancy NICHOLS Hackett, a NICHOLS cousin who kindly responded to my genealogy inquiries.

Are sibling bonds strengthened when you share small spaces and hardship? I think they are.  Mabel had a close relationship with two of her brothers, Fred and John. One of the stories she related is so typical of brothers and sisters at the dinner table. Mabel had to guard her favorite food on her plate. She liked to save it until last to eat but her brothers would reach over and swipe it for themselves if she wasn’t careful.

The NICHOLS children most likely attended Saratoga school located at North 24th and Ames street, about 1.5 miles from their home. Originally established in 1866 by local citizens, the original one room school house was one of the first public schools in Nebraska. [4]


Old Saratoga School, Omaha, 1885. Courtesy of North Omaha History.


Rand McNally & Co. Omaha. Courtesy of “David Rumsey Map Collection“. 1903.

The NICHOLS shared a neighborhood not only with Swedes, but also Danes, Norwegians, Germans, Austrians, Swiss, Irish, Dutch, Canadians, and English. “In 1900 when the recorded population for Omaha was 102,555, there were 23, 552 immigrants, accounting for twenty-three percent of all Omahans. Most were Scandinavians (6710)…”[5] Their immediate neighbors were a mix of Americans and immigrants, many with children old enough to be playmates with the NICHOLS children. Perhaps one of Mabel’s best friends was a next door neighbor, 12-year old Annie Rick. She had four brothers close in age to the NICHOLS boys; her widowed mother was an immigrant from England. Eventually the two families joined when Charles NICHOLS married Annie in 1906.


“Bostwick-Frohardt Collection” “State of Nebraska”, Immigrants in front of parade float. Permission granted by Durham Museum Photo Archives, 1916.

Mabel, her sister and three brothers probably didn’t learn very much about their Swedish heritage.  This wasn’t unusual for Swedish immigrants. The majority of Swedes and Danes who originally settled  in Omaha were former peasants. They escaped a life controlled by the landed gentry. “In the United States, they rejected their past life to the extent that few made an effort to teach their children the rudiments of Swedish or Danish.” [6]

Mabel learned a few words in Swedish.  She fondly referred to her granddaughter,  my mother, as “Vacker flicka” = pretty/beautiful girl. I imagine that Mary used the term to describe her two daughters, Mabel and Carrie. Mary passed along her Swedish language cookbook to Mabel as well as her enjoyment of cooking and baking.  Unfortunately, the cookbook and memories of favorite Swedish recipes have been lost.


While researching The Gate City A History of Omaha, one event triggered my imagination. It described the grand Trans-Mississippi International Exposition held from 1 June – 31 October 1898 in Omaha.


Detroit Photographic Co. “Grand Court, Looking West. Trans-Mississippi Exposition”. Photograph. Detroit, Michigan, 1898. From Library of Congress. (accessed 9 April 2018).

Inspired by the success of the Chicago World’s Colombian Exposition of 1893-4, Omaha’s community leaders decided to host a similar affair. After suffering through a financial depression in the 1890’s, the Exposition offered a rebirth for the growing Midwestern town. The exposition grounds spread over 184 acres at the northern edge of Omaha, just a few blocks from where the NICHOLS family lived on 1402 Jaynes street.

Ten year old Mabel may have attended the wondrous spectacle with her family. They may have visited during the two Swedish-American Days, June 24 or September 28. If not, perhaps they visited on Railroad Day September 17  or during Railroad week October 27-29.[7]

Trans-Mississippi Exposition Map 1897 3

Grover, Alva. “Trans-Mississippi & International Exposition guide map of Omaha. Omaha Nebraska, 1897.From the Collections of the Omaha Public Library. (accessed 9 April 2018).

Were they among the over 2.6 million visitors who came from far and wide to experience the magical city constructed from temporary structures? Twenty-one classical buildings featured products and sites from 40 states and 10 countries.

“…throngs walked the tree-lined avenues, lounged on the green lawns, marveled at the multitude of flower gardens and fountains, took in the exhibits, sweltered to Little Egypt’s hoochie-coochie dance, then cooled off with a lemon phosphate.”[8]


Rinehart, F.F. “N.E. Section Grand Canal”. Photograph. Omaha, Nebraska, 1898. From : Wikimedia Commons. File: Trans-Mississippi Canal. (accessed 9 April 2018).

  • Venetian Lagoon with small craft and gondoliers.
  • Moorish palace
  • Japanese Tea Garden
  • Old English Country Fair
  • Streets of Cairo
  • Chinese Village
  • Hawaiian Theater
  • Mammoth Whale
  • Ostrich Farm
  • Wild Animal Show
  • Great Omaha Wild West Show

Although I’m not sure that Mabel attended the grand event, I’m inclined to think she did. I picture the impressionable 10-year old wholly enthralled by the fantastic sights, just as I would have been.


The NICHOLS family lived in a working class neighborhood where opportunities for men, but especially for women, were limited. When Mary NELSON arrived in Omaha in 1875, she worked as a servant until she married John NICHOLS in 1881. During the following two decades job options for women didn’t improve. After leaving school at about age 16, girls had two choices; they worked low paying jobs and lived at home or they married. After marriage they usually only worked part-time to supplement their husbands income.

Occupations listed for women:  1900 census, Omaha, NE, Enumeration district 46 (NICHOLS’S neighborhood)

  • teacher
  • saleslady
  • domestic/servant

Occupations listed for men – 1900 census Omaha, NE, Enumeration district 46 (NICHOLS’S neighborhood)

  • bar keeper
  • barbour
  • bike repairer
  • blacksmith
  • boilermaker
  • bookkeeper
  • butcher
  • clerk
  • delivery clerk
  • coach cleaner (railroad)
  • dairy farm
  • farmer,
  • fisherman
  • florist
  • gardener
  • grader
  • hide packer
  • horse trainer
  • iceman
  • machinist
  • painter
  • peddler
  • rendering packing house
  • sheep butch
  • shoemaker
  • stenographer
  • tinner
  • U.S. Army

In 1900, twelve-year old Mabel, her two brothers Fred, age 14, and John, age 9, attended school. Carrie, 18-years old, worked long hours as a servant and 16-year old Charlie as a day laborer doing odd jobs. [9] As unskilled workers they likely earned about ten cents an hour on average, or $5.50 a week. [10] In contrast, their father, a railway switch man with 20 years experience, made about $1.42/hour. [11]


1900 U.S. census, Douglas County, Nebraska, Omaha, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 46, sheet 2 (handwritten), dwelling 25, family 25 , line 9, John Nichols, digital image, ( accessed 29 Mar 2018); citing NARA microfilm publicationT623 , roll 1854.

In the following decade technology and economic growth opened job opportunities for young women like Mabel.  The 1910 census for the NICHOLS’S neighborhood listed the same unskilled jobs for women such as laundress and servant, but it also included occupations that commanded more respect. Women could work as a nurse, teacher, stenographer, telephone and telegraph operator, or as a clerk at a retail store/office. Granted, the choices were limited but “as one early twentieth century editor put it, “Maggie” in the mill became “Miss” in the store.”[12]

Mabel completed four years of high school and searched for work. I don’t know what her first jobs were, nor what kind of training she received. Did she scan the want ads in the local newspaper, the Omaha Bee, for possibilities?

Stenographer wanted 1907 Omaha2

Advertisement for Clerical and Office. The Omaha Bee, 26 July, 1908, accessed 10 April 2018.

I couldn’t find Mabel listed in the, 1906, 1907 nor 1908 Omaha directory.  She would have been 18-20 years old and working age. There is a Mabel E. Nichols listed in the 1906, 1907, and 1908  Lincoln, Nebraska directories, but is she my Mabel? The Mabel in Lincoln worked as a clerk for three years at the Nebraska Telephone company and lived near the university. I searched to see if a “Mabel E Nichols” appeared in other records for Lincoln from 1900-1920 but the name only appears in the directory for the three years that my Mabel is missing from Omaha. My Mabel turns up again in the 1909 Omaha directory. She lived at home with her parents and successfully found employment as a clerk/office assistant for J. F. Hyde.[13] The new job changed her life.

NICHOLS_Mabel_1909_Omaha_dir_clerk 1

Omaha Directory Co., Omaha, Nebraska, City Directory for the Year 1909, p.841, Nichols surname; digitized in “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,: database, Ancestry ( : accessed 27 March 2018).

Her employer, a handsome young physician, graduated from the University of Lincoln, Nebraska in 1907. He moved to Omaha and opened a practice in the Brandeis Building.  Recovering from the rejection of his former fiancee, was Dr. HYDE susceptible to the charms of his attractive blue-eyed assistant?

Stay tuned for PART II.


Mabel NICHOLS, 1909, Omaha, NE, Brandeis building, photograph in possession of author.



Mabel NICHOLS, back of postcard, 1909, Omaha, NE. Photograph in possession of author.


The story of MABEL NICHOLS HYDE is dedicated to my mother in appreciation for her passing on family history and sharing so many inspiring memories with me.


© 2018 copyright Kendra Hopp Schmidt. All rights reserved.


[1] History of the Counties of Woodbury and Plymouth, Iowa Including an Extended Sketch of Sioux City. Chicago, IL: A Warner & Co., 1890. Accessed September 12, 2017.
[2]Larsen, Lawrence H, and Barbara J Cottrell. The Gate City A History of Omaha. University of Nebraska Press, 1997.
[3] Fletcher, Adam F.C. “A History of Scandanavians in North Omaha”. North Omaha History, 26 Jan. 2017,

[4]Fletcher, Adam F.C. “A History of schools in North Omaha.” North Omaha History, 22 Sept 2013,
[5] Larsen, Lawrence H., and Barbara J Cottrell. The Gate City A history of Omaha. University of Nebraska Press. 1997.
[6] Ibid, p. 160.
[7] “List of Special Says at the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition.” Trans-Mississippi & International Exposition. 1899.

[8]Rowley, Walter H. “Omaha’s First Century.” 1954.
[9] 1900 U.S. census, Douglas County, Nebraska, Omaha, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 46, sheet 2 (handwritten), dwelling 25, family 25 , line 9, John Nichols, digital image, ( accessed 29 Mar 2018); citing NARA microfilm publicationT623 , roll 1854.
[10] Schlereth, Thomas J. Victorian America Transformations in Everyday Life. Harper Collins, 1991.

[11] United States, Bureau of Labor. “Rates of Wages in Various Occupations.” Bulletin of the United States Bureau of Labor, No. 29, Volume V, 1900, p. 766, Fraser Discover Economic History Federal Reserve.

[12] Schlereth, Thomas J. Victorian America Transformations in Everyday Life. Harper Collins, 1991.

[13]Omaha Directory Co., Omaha, Nebraska, City Directory for the Year 1909, p.841, Nichols surname; digitized in “U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,: database, Ancestry ( : accessed 27 March 2018).


Genealogy Sketch

Name: Mabel Elvina NICHOLS “Nana” b. 1888 – d. 1954
Parents:  John Mathews NICHOLS b. 1857 -d. 1929 and
Mary NELSON b. 1856 – d. 1931
Spouse: Dr. John Fay HYDE “Doc” b. 1885 – d. 1950
Children: 1. John Frederick HYDE b. 1911 – d. 1980   m. Anna Jane BEATON b. 1907 – d. 1998

2. Joan HYDE b. and died 26 Sep 1921
Relationship to Kendra: 2x great-grandmother

  1. Mabel Elvina NICHOLS HYDE
  2. John Frederick HYDE Jr.
  4. Kendra HOPP SCHMIDT



About treeklimber

An interest in history and travel lends itself to a passion for genealogy. The more I research, the more I realize there is to discover. It is a never-ending puzzle.
This entry was posted in Biographies, My Family Ancestry, Photographs and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Amy says:

    She certainly was beautiful! Great post. You really brought her story to life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. pen4hire says:

    I t was exciting for me to read this story. First, what a lovely looking lady! I particularly like the picture of her at her desk. Those non-studio photos are even more exciting finds that the posed photos in a studio. I perused “The Gate City” for clues to a great uncle. As a lawyer, he had a much more privileged life than Mabel’s childhood was, but was a self-made man. And their lives could very well have overlapped in social circles after she was married. I have a picture of him in his office, too! (If your email program strips out links, go to Ancestors in Aprons and do a search for John Franklin Stout.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • treeklimber says:

      Vera, it was exciting for me too to read about your great uncle. Agreed, the non-professional photos reveal much more information. Your great uncle’s story resonated with me because I have other ancestors from Omaha who accomplished the same as John Franklin Stout. Yes, our ancestors probably did know one another because I have several families (Orcutt, Beaton, Hyde) who belonged to the Omaha Country Club and were prominent at the same time. I have yet to write about them but they will follow after I finish Mabel’s story.
      I admire your writing style and is something for me to strive for as I still struggle with writing. My husband is my editor because my thoughts my writing often goes off on tangents and I have too much I want to incorporate. I realize it is a matter of practice, but if you have any writing tips please share them with me. 🙂


  3. Kelly says:

    That is so cool you have a photo of her at work! Also, I think you look a bit like her.


  4. Val says:

    Beautiful young woman. How lovely to have all this family history at your fingertips! 🙂 I did my family tree years ago and have already passed it on to my family. But I collected nowhere near the amount of info you’ve gleaned. How lovely!

    Liked by 1 person

    • treeklimber says:

      Did you also write stories Val about your family? I initially compiled the information but found by including historical context I enhanced my knowledge about each individual and family groups. I have so many stories to write that I know I’ll never finish all of them.


      • Val says:

        I didn’t have a blog or website at the time that I got all the info together, but I made two documents for each branch of the family (three branches as one of my grandfathers was an orphan and nothing was known of his family), one just a plain tree of ancestors and descendants, the other several pages of photos and with as much info and anecdotes as I could find.

        Some of the content of my current blog, while not of my own family, uses a similar approach to your own, here.

        Liked by 1 person


  6. Mabel was truly stunning in her ca 1909 photo. I recently posted pictures of my Granddad Hemmingsen’s first wedding -1905. His Caroline unfortunately died shortly after their wedding – but, otherwise, there would be no me. She wore a similar hairdo and I’ve have wondered how secure it would be, as well, what went into its making. Must research it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • treeklimber says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, Mabel was a beauty and her hairdo did require time and talent to create. Your photos of your Granddad Hemmingsen and Caroline are wonderful. How tragic to do from consumption so soon after their marriage. Like you I have Scottish and Scandanavian ancestors and there is always another brick wall to solve.


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