The Bullitt County History Museum

The Name of Nichols

The following article by Charles Hartley was originally published in The Pioneer News on 11 Apr 2024.

Lemuel W. Nichols

My readers likely know that Shepherdsville is named for Adam Shepherd's family, Mt. Washington was named to honor our first president, Lebanon Junction was where the railroad to Lebanon, Kentucky met the Louisville and Nashville railroad, and they likely think Hillview was named for the hills that can be seen from there. But what about Nichols?

A great part of western Bullitt County is referred to as the Nichols community. It is serviced by the Nichols fire department, and of course its one remaining school is known as Nichols Elementary. But why Nichols?

For our answer let me introduce you to Lemuel William Nichols. Lemuel was born in 1833 to Samuel and Mary (Monroe) Nichols as the second of their six children. The family lived not far from where Cedar Point Creek flows into Salt River. It probably wouldn't help if I said that their farm lay between Salt River and Chappell Ridge, for all of that land has been a part of Fort Knox for many years.

In December 1838, the heirs of Joseph Nichols had sold this land to Samuel Nichols. Now we haven't yet determined for certain the relationship between Joseph and Samuel Nichols, but we suspect that Joseph was Samuel's father. The earliest record we have found for Joseph is a marriage record showing that he married Priscilla Lowe in Bullitt County in June 1810. Then, in that year's census record that was enumerated in August, Joseph is listed in Hardin County in a household that included a male 26-44 (Joseph), a female 16-25 (Priscilla), and a male child under 10. As they had been married less than two months by that time, the child was unlikely Priscilla's, but more likely Joseph's son by an earlier marriage.

Since we know from other records that Samuel Nichols was born in 1805, it seems likely that he was the child in that census record.

The land sold to Samuel ran from the mouth of Cedar Point Branch upstream toward Pitts Point, and was part of the 2000 acres patented to Samuel Beall. We suspect that Joseph had a contractual arrangement with Beall or his heirs, for in March 1838 a Beall descendant sold 244 acres to the heirs of Joseph Nichols who had died the previous November. Then in December Joseph's heirs sold their rights to the land to Samuel.

As the Fall of 1842 approached, Samuel and Mary's children ranged in age from Clementine who was 12 down to Melinda who was a year and half. Lemuel, the oldest boy, was in his ninth year and was quickly learning from his father.

Then in October both parents became ill, and died within two days of one another. Such a sudden pair of deaths in a family suggests that they were the victims of a disease like cholera or typhoid, either of which could result in such tragedy.

Even though he was just 37, Samuel described himself as "weak in body" when he made out his will just six days before he died. He left his estate to his wife Mary, and after her death to his children, perhaps hoping that she would survive whatever was afflicting them.

Samuel had designated a neighbor James Arnold as his executor and, with the court's permission, Arnold took upon himself the responsibility of becoming a guardian for the six Nichols children.

By 1850, some of the Nichols kinfolks had moved to Arkansas including Samuel's daughter Clementine who had married John Turrentine, and the youngest Malinda who was living with her Aunt Della's family. Their brother John had been placed with the McMurtry family across the river in Hardin County in 1848, and would continue to live in the Pitts Point area. Of the others, Lemuel Nichols, who was 17 by now (although he told the census taker he was 19), was living on and working what was left of the family farm.

The in 1857 Stuart Chappell bought the Nichols' family farm, and the next time we find Lemuel in a record, it is on an 1863 Civil War draft registration list, where he is identified as unmarried, age 30, still working as a farmer in Bullitt County. He was likely working as a farm hand for others as the county tax records over the next few years listed him without any land of his own.

It was perhaps about this time, or not long thereafter, that he made the acquaintance of Mrs. Samuels, a young widow. Minerva Jane Rawlings had married Lewis Samuels in March 1860. Lewis and Minerva had two sons, George and John who both died as infants before Lewis died in early 1863, and is buried along with his two sons in the James Samuels Cemetery off Cow Branch Road.

Lemuel and Minerva were married in April 1864, a marriage that would last over 52 years, and produce many children.

Minerva was a daughter of Lewis and Lorinda (Shoptaw) Rawlings

Prior to their marriage, Minerva purchased two tracts from Caleb Samuels along Weaver's Run, and another two tracts from her late husband's siblings, together totaling about 200 acres that lay atop what later became known as Nichols Hill in far western Bullitt County.

The 1870 agricultural census painted a picture of their farm of about 200 acres showing that 85 acres had been "improved" while the remainder remained woodland. Looking at a topographical map of the area suggests that they were farming the mostly level ridge top with the hillsides covered with trees. The census shows their livestock included small numbers of horses, mules, dairy and beef cattle and about 30 pigs. Lemuel was growing wheat, corn, oats, potatoes and hay. By this time they had three children: Gladys, Charles, and Roberta.

A decade later in 1880, three daughters had been added to the family: Cora, Alma and Mary. In that census, all of the children were attending school except Mary who was only five. The census also shows that both Lemuel and Minerva were able to read and write. Clearly education was important to them, and it seems likely that the children attended school in a log school house located up Cow Branch Hollow.

The log building was replaced with a frame structure around 1888. According to the research of Ken and Barbara Bailey, that school was located on an acre of land sold by Simon and Roberta Arnold to the trustees of School District #9. The trustees at that sale were B. H. Blair, James T. Ferguson and John T. Griffin.

We know that it was still located there by 1912 for it was identified on the 1912 Kosmosdale topographical map as "Nichols School." (Shown below.)

We suspect without documentation that it became known as Nichols School because at some point Lemuel Nichols had been the school trustee; a position in those days similar to that of a school board today.

Perhaps it started being identified as "Lemuel Nichols' school" which was later shortened to "Nichol's school."

In our research we discovered that Orville Stivers, who was superintendent of Jefferson County Schools for 40 years, was once the teacher at the Nichols school in 1904. More than fifty years later he still enjoyed returning to the community for school reunions.

Children would continue to attend that frame school up the hollow until 1918 when the new building was finished out on the main road (Highway 44). Although he was now in his eighties, Lemuel Nichols' connection to the school continued as he was appointed to the committee to handle the sale of the old school.

The Pioneer News reported in June 1917, "A committee consisting of H. E. Brown, E. L. Ridgway, and L. W. Nichols being appointed by the school board met last Saturday at the old Nichol school house and after due advertisement, received bids for the sale of the house and ground. The highest bidder was Tom McNutt, whose bid was $200. And possession will be given not later March 1, l918."

And in July 1918, the paper reported that "Miss Eunice Ridgway and Miss Sallie Self have been chosen to teach the school at Nichols, near Cupio. School will begin as soon as the new school house is completed."

Minerva died in January 1917. The paper wrote, "Mrs. Lem Nichols, a highly respectable lady of Cupio and grandmother of Miss Eunice Ridgway died Monday at her home of cancer from which she had been a sufferer for several years."

Lemuel lived on until November 1923. The paper wrote, "Mr. L. W. Nichols died at his home near Knob Creek Monday morning, aged about 92 years. Mr. Nichols was one of Bullitt County’s best citizens and was liked by all who knew him. He leaves two sons, Charles and Will Nichols, and five daughters, Mrs. B. B. Samuels, Mrs. Ambrose Skinner, Mrs. Elmer Ridgway, Mrs. John Pendleton, and Miss Mary Nichols, all of this county. His remains were laid to rest in the Knob Creek Cemetery Wednesday."

And in the 7 Oct 1927 School News column of The Pioneer News, was written, "Several from here attended the recent family reunion at Cupio of the well known Lem Nichols family, one of the pioneer settlers of that section. The 'Nichols' school, one of the largest rural districts in Bullitt County, was named in honor of this fine old gentleman who died only a few years ago, leaving possibly more near relatives than any other man in the entire county."

The new school continued to be called the Nichols School, and gradually the area took on the school's name until today that whole region of western Bullitt County is known as Nichols. I think Lemuel would be honored.

Copyright 2024 by Charles Hartley, Shepherdsville KY. All rights are reserved. No part of the content of this page may be included in any format in any place without the written permission of the copyright holder.

The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Saturday appointments are available by calling 502-921-0161 during our regular weekday hours. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 15 Apr 2024 . Page URL: