The Nichols Family

Retyped from Beers "History of Greene County" by Annette Campbell



Matthias Nicoll, private secretary of Richard Nicoll, the first English governor of New York, and supposed to be his nephew, was a native of Islip, Northamptonshire, England.  In 1672, he was mayor of the city of New York, and from 1683 to 1687 one of the judges of the Supreme Court.  He died in Queens county, Long Island.  His son William obtained a patent for a tract of land on Long Island, which, in memory of his native place, he gave the name of Islip, now a flourishing town in Suffolk county.  William, the second son of the patentee, obtained by purchase and by the will of Giles Sylvester, who was the first proprietor of Shelter Island, a very large estate on that island.
 
Between Long Island and Connecticut there was from the very first a constant intercourse, and from some member of his family, who removed at an early period, was probably descended Captain George Nichols, who was a resident of Waterbury in the early part of the last century.
 
John, son of Captain George Nichols, was born in 1748.  It is sufficient proof of the ample means and superior station of the family, to know that he was educated at Yale College, at a time when a collegiate education was within the reach of very few.  He was graduated in 1773, and being intended for the Episcopal ministry, was about to proceed to England for ordination to holy orders, when the outbreak of the Revolution caused an entire change in his plans.  He received the degree of Master of Arts, in 1776, and at the time of his preparation to proceed to England, he was provided with letters of the strongest commendation to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.  He married Sarah Horton, March 2nd 1775, and, after some changes of residence, settled at Kinderhook, where he founded an academy which attained some distinction as an educational institution.  At one time he numbered among his pupils Martin Van Buren, afterward president of the United States.  He removed to Athens about 1800, and lived at first in the upper village, or Esperanza.  His children were Isabel, who married Joel Post, of Hebron, Connecticut; Nancy, wife of _____ Rowley; Jane, wife of James Ransom; Grace, wife of Castle Seeley; Prudence, wife of Dudley Watrous; Sarah, wife of Dr. Elbridge G. Dunnell; Harriet, wife of Jeduthan Steele; Julia, wife of Nathan Clark; Henry, who died at an early age; William, who resided at Troy, and afterward at Poughkeepsie; and Sylvester.
 
Mr. Nichols died December 15th 1815, aged 67, and his tombstone may be seen in the Episcopal Cemetery of this village. 

Sylvester Nichols was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, October 11th 1795, and came to this place with his father.  Gifted with decided business capacity, he entered at an early age into mercantile affairs.  He married Lucy, daughter of Samuel Hamilton, July 19, 1817.  In 1834 he was elected to the Assembly of this State, and a second time in 1840.  He was judge of the Court of Common Pleas for eleven years, and was repeatedly elected supervisor of the town, and trustee of the village.  In his business affairs he was a remarkable exception to the proverbial effect of having "many irons in the fire," for although engaged in carrying on many branches of real estate in Athens, entered largely into the manufacture of brick and lime, and at one time might have been seen at the river front, quite a fleet of steamboats and sailing vessels owned by him, and laden with articles of his own manufacture.  In addition to all this he carried on a farm of 300 acres in a most successful manner.  He died August 20tyh 1868.  Mr. Nichols was the father of eight children: Henry, who died at the age of 14; George Sylvester; Samuel Hamilton; William Theodore; Charles Post, of Troy; Sarah A., wife of Lysander Myers of Kingston; Elbridge Dunnell; and Henry O.

George Sylvester, the second son, was born January 12th 1820.  He attended school at Lenox, Mass., then at Fairfield, Herkimer county, NY, and afterward at Kinderhook Academy, founded by his grandfather.  He commenced business as a clerk in his father's store, and continued with him in his various branches of business till 1837, when he went as captain of the sloop "Science", in which capacity he continued to act until 1846.  He then went to Troy, where he was wharf agent for Colonel I. H. Hooker, who was at that time the largest freighter on the river.  The "California fever" found in him a ready victim, and he was one of the passengers on board the Steamer "Crescent City" on her first voyage to Chagres, February 5th 1849. After remaining on the isthmus a month, waiting for a chance to embark, he went to San Francisco, which at that time gave little promise of it's future greatness.  He remained in California two years, his place of business being Sutters Mills, now Coloma.  He then returned to Athens and purchased the house built by Seth Hamilton in 1803, afterward owned by Abraham VanBuskirk, and later by William Bedell, from whom he obtained it, and since that time he has been a resident of this village.  In the war for the Union our country found in him a man ready for the hour.  He entered the army as major of the 9th regiment of New York cavalry, November 23rd 1861, and rising through the various grades, he became colonel of the regiment June 11th 1864, and was engaged in all the important battles fought by the army of the Potomac, among which may be mentioned Yorktown, the second battle of Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Culpepper, in which one quarter of the regiment was destroyed, the battle of the Wilderness, the Trevillian Station, in which the colonel, William Sackett was killed and he succeeded to the command.  He took an active part in more than sixty engagements, and his regiment was never off duty.  At the close of the war he received the commission of brevet brigadier general, and once more engaged in the pursuits of peace.  He was in the New York custom house six years, and is at present time special examiner of the pension department.  He was elected to the State Senate in 1855, in which body he served on the committee on Indians and on insurance.  In 1852 he was supervisor of the town.  In all walks of life, General Nichols richly merited and justly received the confidence of his fellow citizens. 

Samuel Hamilton, third son of Sylvester Nichols, has been during life a prominent resident of Athens, and for the greatest part of the time, he has been closely connected with its business affairs, having been for twenty years justice of the peace, and having held other important offices, which are mentioned simply as proof of the confidence the community reposed in him.  In 1882 he was elected member of Assembly and was on the committees on insurance, villages, and agriculture. Of quiet and unassuming manners, which veil, but do not conceal, superior business capacity, he may well be considered one of the representative men of the town and village.

 Henry O. and Elbridge D. are well known business men of the place and have been connected with various enterprises with a good degree of success. 

William T. has twice represented his town in the board of supervisors.

 Samuel H. married Cornelia, daughter of Captain John B. Coffin, and the children are Edwin, Franklin, John & Minerva.  General George S. Nichols married Ann Nettenville, daughter of James G. Foster, and their children are Mary, Foster, Sylvester, Charles and Arthur.


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