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Lancaster County SC Genealogy

Jim Nisbet's Memories

submitted by Louise Pettus

James Douglas Nisbet, now over 80 years of age, was born in the Indian Land just north of the village of Van Wyck in Lancaster County. In the past 3 years, he has written his 5th and 6th books. The first four books were related to high temperature alloys and the stock market. The last two reflect on his remarkable life.

Boyhood on a Farm, an especially charming memoir, came out in 1995. After a little family background going back to the arrival of the pioneers Alexander and Agness Nisbet in the Waxhaws of Lancaster County, and a brief history of the village of Van Wyck, Nisbet turns to his childhood.

His mother, then Miss Strauss Walker, came to Van Wyck in 1906, aged 19, to teach school. The following year she married Ed Nisbet, a Van Wyck storekeeper who would soon farm 1400 acres.

Jim Nisbet and 5 siblings grew up on that farm and the nearby Catawba River. Jim was particularly close to his brother Oliver. Their adventures (some hair-raising) are told in a very readable style. The book ends with Jim Nisbet's arrival at Clemson College when Clemson was all-male and nearly as military as the Citadel.

In his more recent book, Wheels Up, Nisbet tells of his fascination with flying which began when he witnessed Capt. Elliott White Springs of Fort Mill, a World War I flying ace, flying under Buster Boyd Bridge.

At Clemson College, Nisbet joined the Clemson Aero Club and learned to fly. He received a degree in mechanical engineering and was hired by General Electric. GE assinged him to a research division that was on the cutting edge of new technology in the areas of metallurgy and gas turbines. His 16 years of experience and knowledge got the attention of other companies so he resigned from GE to go with Cyclops in Pittsburgh as Director of Research and Development.

After 3 years at Cyclops, Nisbet decided that Cyclops wasn't innovative enough to risk money on his special interest in vacuum melted titanium, molydenum, zirconisum and columbium. He resigned to form his company, Allvac Metals, in 1957. He built the plant in Monroe, NC on an old army base, Camp Sutton.

Nisbet then built a showplace house on a large farm he called Aero Plantation. His farm was not typical, though it did have beef cattle and a dozen lakes, but for runways for his planes and those of his friends. The house had a combination carport hanger which extended over a runway.

In the mid-60's Nisbet's business expanded by merging Allvac Metals with Vasco Metals and the new company became of subsidiary of Teledyne of California. Nisbet built a new titanium plant near Monroe along with a new airport. He also established a venture-capital company he named Ventures, Inc.

Nisbet had married Kay Gehrig, a former airline stewardess, who was equally enthusiastic about flying. They had four children. Kay flew in the 1966 Powder Puff Derby across the United States. On August 27, 1967, after flying out of a Connecticut airport, Kay was killed when she encountered extreme turbulence over New York State and her Baron was struck by lightning.

Two years later, Nisbet married Margy Hazard. They divide their year between a summer home in Weekapaug, Rhode Island and a winter home in Naples, Florida.

Over 80 years old now, Jim Nesbit writes, ". . .I want to climb to the top of Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, get harnessed up in a hang glider, race to the edge of the cliff and jump off, and solo silently down to the valley below...flying has been a highlight of my life...I haven't given up on the idea of getting back into the air!"

Jim Nisbet thinks maybe his genes "contain a few helixes that twist and turn to avoid, rather than conform to, the status quo." He's probably right.