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Nichols, George W

Letter to Robert Davis

From Mary Ann Wortman


Dear Mr. Davis:

I read a few of the items I am including in article concerning Cowley County Fairs and Fair Grounds at Winfield, Kansas, to Dr. Bottorff on the phone this morning. He told me to send you the following, which concerns Policeman George Nichols.

Am a novice at sending E-mail and everything else on the Web, and am usually too busy to even correspond with anyone.

I have over 200 pages on the Winfield fairs/grounds and only worked my way through 1884 in the Winfield Courier. The remainder of the material I used came from Arkansas City newspapers and from items in "Flyers" data I collected from the 1919-1920 era, which is where I first started. I was trying to find out about the early flying development in Arkansas City by Pete Hill, Errett Williams, Walter Beech (who ended up in Wichita as Beech Aircraft), and other early flyers.

All this was brought about by a local lady, Terry Eaton, giving me an envelope containing correspondence, etc., by Mrs. Oldroyd, who had compiled three books [Between the Rivers] concerning Arkansas City. Mrs. Oldroyd was very embarrassed when she talked to some Wichita ladies concerning "Irl Beach," founder of Beach Aircraft. The ladies all quizzed her after her talk about whether Irl was the same as Walter of Beech Aircraft. Mrs. Oldroyd and others, such as Mrs. Berger, gathered all their material for these three books from ORAL SOURCES. Mrs. Oldroyd finally realized how wrong she was about Irl Beach being the same person as the story given to her.

To make a very long story short, I hope, I researched like mad in the Traveler items concerning the early-day flyers and found data much more interesting than Mrs. Oldroyd’s attempts. SHE STILL INSISTED ON ORAL HISTORY. One man blatantly lied to her and told her that he flew with Walter Beech and others and that he owned a plane in the hangar that held eight planes. [He was still in school during this time frame...not sure if he was in grade school or high school.]

Turned out there were two flyers: Irl Beach and Walter Beech. Walter Beech was known as a "wing expert" and worked in the basement of a local garage for Pete Hill’s brother, where the planes were assembled and fixed. Long story. Hangar burned down due to no water being available where it was located in north part of Arkansas City. Otherwise, we might have ended up as the "flying city" in Kansas instead of Wichita.

Back to your main interest: George Nichols. Story follows.

Hope this helps with your story.


George Nichols


Arkansas City Traveler, Wednesday, August 16, 1922.

Winfield, Kan., Aug. 16.—Playing a return engagement in booze selling cost the liberty of three camp followers of the racing game Friday night when they were caught in the act of dispensing liquor to two young men of the country near Winfield.

Policemen George Nichols and W. C. Tucker, who were lying in wait close to where the transaction was pulled off, made the arrest shortly before midnight. The men gave their names as Ed Hadley, Ernest Hanley, and Walter Jackson. The arrest took place at the edge of the timber just to the west of the carnival at the fair grounds.

Night before last the night policemen arrested two young men, who had a quart of liquor in the car in which they were riding. The officers recognized them as the men who are not suspected of being in the business, merely customers of the bootleggers. But the fact of liquor being in the car made the car liable to seizure as a booze car. With this as a lever, the men after some argument, agreed to help the officers to the arrest of the men from whom they had bought the liquor.

Last night the young men came in from the country and got in touch with the police. The bootleggers were seen and arrangements made for a second purchase and sale. The boot-leggers told the customers that a quart could not be furnished, but that as much as they had left would be brought to the place designated. When the whiskey was delivered as agreed, it was a little over a pint, which was all the bootleggers had at that time, they said. The officers were hiding close enough to see the transaction. The arrest was then made.

Hadley, it appears, is the financier of the trio. He has in his possession a car from which he has been selling peaches. When the officers picked up the car last night, it was full of peaches, large, luscious Elbertas. This fact served to remind the police of the reported robbing of a peach orchard near Arkansas City the first of the week. The orchard was that of E. B. Barnes, south of Arkansas City. In this orchard trees estimated to have contained about twenty bushels of peaches were stripped a few nights ago. Hadley, it is said, came here from Oklahoma, which would have brought him past the Barnes orchard.

The Arkansas City police have been informed of the peaches in Hadley’s car so they can investigate. The prisoners probably will be turned over to the county for prosecution.

From the Nichols file that Kay had, I gleaned the following information.

The first census of Cowley County taken February 10, 1870 lists E. G. Niccolls, E. G. Nichols, E. G. Nichols, and C. Niccols, J. B. Niccols, M. I. Niccols, and O. C. Niccols.

John W. Nichols was 30, and his wife Lucy A. was 25, when the Winfield census was taken in 1874.

The 1875 Kansas census lists:

John Nichols Age 30 M Born in Missouri

Lucy Nichols Age 24 F Born in Missouri

George Nichols Age 7 M Born in Kansas

Archer Nichols Age 4 M Born in Kansas

Jessie Nichols Age 1 M Born in Kansas


Winfield Courier, June 12, 1874.

John Nichols has removed his barber shop to A. A. Jackson’s building east side of Main St., where his friends will find him ready to give them a shave or hair cut at a moment’s notice.

Winfield Courier, November 5, 1874.

The barbers in this city have made another change. John Nichols and Will Roberts sold out to Mr. Pattison of Arkansas City, who has formed a partnership with Mr. Baker, and are located at Nichols & Robert’s old stand. John Nichols has opened out in Baker’s old stand, and Will Roberts is going back to Michigan.

Winfield Courier, October 21, 1875.

Prof. Jno. Nichols, he of the towel and razor of this city, has moved into the building one door north of Green’s drug store.

Winfield Courier, October 21, 1875.

Perry Hill has removed his boot and shoe shop to the room formerly occupied by W. H. South as a jewelry store, and John Nichols has moved his barber shop into the room vacated by Mr. Hill.

Winfield Courier, May 25, 1876.

JOHN NICHOLS has whitewashed his shop and made sundry other improvements, which puts it in the lead of other tonsorial rooms of this city. There being two other shops, he has plenty of time to whet his razors. Go see him.

Winfield Courier, July 20, 1876.

JOHN NICHOLS has made quite a change in the appearance of the city barber shop. He has caused it to be repainted and papered, and everything is arranged for the convenience of his customers, even to a paper of pins on the wall.

Winfield Courier, August 3, 1876.

The first of August was celebrated by the colored folks of this county near Arkansas City. They had a pic-nic and dance. John Nichols and family attended from this city. There are over sixty freed-men in Cowley.

Winfield Courier, August 10, 1876.

Who are they? Three chivalrous men informed JOHN NICHOLS, the barber, that if he voted for Col. Manning, they would not have their shaving done by him. O, noble ku-klux! What cheek, or cheeks to shave! Give us their names, John.

Winfield Courier, September 14, 1876.

The City Hotel has a new register and blotter. The blotter contains the advertising cards of Messrs. Webb & Torrance, Wm. and Geo. Hudson, M. L. Read, J. D. Pryor, John Nichols, W. G. Graham, J. M. Reed, A. G. Wilson, B. F. Baldwin, Joe Likowski, Henry Jochems, J. B. Lynn, W. B. Gibbs, McGuire & Midkiff, and Hill & Christie. It the neatest register in the valley. Mr. Hudson is starting off on the right foot this time.

Winfield Courier, September 21, 1876.

JOHN NICHOLS and the Foults Bros. did a rushing barber business last Saturday.

Arkansas City Traveler, November 8, 1876.


The darkey barber that came down from Winfield to electioneer for Manning in West Bolton Township distinguished himself considerably at the polls. In fact, he made a good stump speech, something after the following style: "Ise been a slabe sixteen years. I knows de Democrats. De whites set me free, and Ise goin’ to stan by um. If the Pyburn man is elected, he will try to put me back in slavery. Vote for de Republican. He’s honest. He won’t steal."

The judge then asked him if he had been naturalized, but he didn’t comprehend. He then asked him if he was a citizen of the United States.

"I don’t know anything bout de naturalizing de United States. I was born in Alabama. Where is dese United States."

It was disgusting to some of the better elements of the Democratic party in Bolton, and they did not hesitate to say so. One of them said, "I had a notion to knock him over." "Well, why didn’t you?" "I would have, but there were four other big niggers standing by." The barber evidently made some votes for his man, for word came over in the evening that Wilkinson and the other niggers would carry the Township.

Winfield Courier, May 17, 1877.

John Nichols has caused his barber chair to be furnished with a brand new covering and spring bottom. When you go into John’s shop, you will not only get a good, clean shave, but will find it a pleasure to sit in the new chair.

Winfield Courier, July 12, 1877.

John Nichols informs us that he will hereafter give his customers a good clean shave for ten cents. We can afford two shaves a week now.


Arkansas City Traveler, July 25, 1877.

War in the tonsorial business. You can get a good square shave now-a-days for ten cents. John Nichols will get away with opponents on a shave or in war to the razor.

Winfield Courier, August 30, 1877.

Tom Baker, who left Winfield about a year ago and went to Arkansas City, is again engaged in the tonsorial profession in this city. He is assisting in John Nichols’ shop.

Winfield Courier, August 30, 1877.

Winfield Laundry. Remember your old washer-woman, Mrs. A. Nichols, the neatest and best washer in town. Try her once and see. Leave all your orders and clothes at the barber shop of John W. Nichols.

J. W. Nichols was 33, and his wife L. A. was 26, when the Winfield census was taken in 1878.

The Second Baptist Church was founded in 1885. It is still at its original location of 1600 South Main. It was founded by those who had been attending the First Baptist Church but felt the need for a church of their own. Among these founders were John Nichols and his wife Lucy.


Winfield Courier, August 2, 1883.

John Nichols challenges any colored man in Cowley County for a discussion on the prohibition question as related to the material interests of the state. John will make the fur fly on any colored gentleman who accepts the challenge.

Winfield Courier, August 30, 1883.

The aged father of Mr. John Nichols is visiting him from Illinois. Though over seventy-five years old and the father of twenty children, the old gentleman is hale and strong.


John Nichols had a son, George Nichols. On June 4, 1893, George was united in marriage with Catherine A. Schaffer. George was Winfield’s first colored policeman.

The Courier of October 7, 1916, reports that John Nichols died October 6, 1916, and was buried in Highland cemetery. He was born January 15, 1842, in Jasper County, Missouri. His wife’s name was Lucile (Lucy). His family was the first colored family in Winfield. His son was George Nichols, the Winfield policeman.

Jas. Nichols was 29, and his wife S. E. was 27, when the Winfield census was taken in 1880.

James Nichols was 30, and his wife S. E. was 28, when the Walnut twp. census was taken in 1881.

J. C. Nichols was 31, and his wife S. E. was 29, when the Walnut twp. Census was taken in 1882.


There was another John Nichols in Winfield. He was born April 28, 1834 in Stockhausen Hesse, Dannstodt, Germany. He died April 30, 1915 and was buried in Highland mausoleum. He was married November 27, 1873, to Mary Dorr and they had two children.


From the Courier of October 7, 1916.

John Nichols, one of the oldest colored residents of Winfield died at St. Mary’s hospital Friday evening at 7:30. He was born a slave, and he and his wife "Aunt Lucy" were the first colored family to settle in Winfield, way back in the early seventies. For the past few years he has been one of the janitors at the court house. He was a barber here for about thirty years, was well known and generally liked. Winfield will not be the same without "Uncle John Nichols." He has been ailing for months but was supposed to be getting better and they started to take him home, but he collapsed and the end came quickly. He did not know his exact age but it must have been around seventy-five. He leaves his wife, "Aunt Lucy," and a large family of children and grandchildren.

From the Courier of June 23, 1944.

[Note: They had a picture of George Nichols. MAW]

Death came to George Nichols this morning at 7:40 after seven weeks of serious illness at Newton Memorial hospital. Mr. Nichols had been an active member of the Winfield police department since 1898 and had won the respect and admiration of all who knew him. A statement made by one of his friends a few days ago might well express his general esteem among the people: "If everyone was as good as George, we wouldn’t need a police force."

George came to Winfield in 1871 from Topeka where he was born Feb. 1,1868, and lived on a farm on Silver creek from 1889 to 1892. He was educated in the Winfield city schools and was married to Catherine Schaffer on June 4, 1893, with whom he observed his fiftieth wedding anniversary in 1943.

His career with the police force began, really, in 1896 when he was elected to the office of constable. Two years later he was made a member of the city police force and, except for when he was off work being treated for gunshot wounds received on duty, he had not been absent from duty because of illness until this spring.

Nichols was on the force at the time of the famous Twigg shooting in August of 1903. He was seriously injured in 1911 when he encountered two men robbing a store known as the Beehive Notion store in the ten hundred block on Main. A shooting took place and Mr. Nichols was struck by a bullet in his left leg. He was injured again in 1925 when he broke his knee cap. He fell as he was chasing a man who was taking a coat from a parked automobile near the present site of the Courier building. It was following this incident that Mr. Nichols was made desk sergeant, the first desk sergeant ever appointed on the city police force of Winfield.

Mr. Nichols was baptized and became a member of the Second Baptist church in 1891 under the pastorate of the Rev. F. S. Alwell. He was also affiliated with the Kansas State Peace Officers association.

He is survived by his wife, two sons, E. L. Nichols of Pittsburg and Welcome Nichols of Winfield; seven brothers, Archie L. and Arthur C. of Los Angeles, Calif.; Eugene and Harry H. of Detroit, Mich.; James E. of Waterloo, Iowa; Wilbur and Roy, twins, of Los Angeles; and one sister, Mrs. Edgar Clemmons of Corona, Calif. Three of his brothers, Archie L., James E., and Harry H., were present at the time of his death and will remain for funeral services.

The funeral will be held at 10 o’clock Monday morning from the Second Baptist church and burial will be made in Union cemetery.

The last conscious words of Desk Sergeant Nichols were spoken several days ago to the members of his family gathered around his bedside — "It’s curtains for old George."


Cowley County Historical Society Museum