Biographies from Historical and Biographical Annals by Morton Montgomery


p. 1644


Among the leading medical practitioners of Berks county, Pa., was Dr. Benjamin Nice, of Hamburg borough, a native of that place, in which he spent his entire life. He was born Aug. 20, 1855, son of Dr. Franklin Benjamin and Elizabeth (Heffner) Nice, and died June 4, 1907.

Dr. Benjamin R. Nice, the progenitor of this family of physicians in this section, was born April 12, 11794, and died July 14, 1862. He married Margaret, daughter of Henry and Martha Brugler, of New Jersey, in which state he had lived prior to his removal to Hamburg. Dr. Nice was one of the first medical practitioners in Upper Berks county, and his field was large, he continuing in active practice for something over forty years. He and his wife were the parents of these children: Margaret (m. John Sunday); Milton B., born in 1818, died in 1876, was thrice married; John (m. Louisa Harpt); Dr. Franklin Benjamin; Annie (m. Rev. Fred Koch); Dr. George (m. Angelina Bond); Angeline (m. Enoch Koller); and Walter (m. a Miss Beard).

Dr. Franklin Benjamin Nice, father of Dr. Benjamin, was born in 1830, and died June 29, 1905. He began practice in Hamburg, where he was born, in 1852 and successfully continued for a period of fifty-three years, his territory consisting of Hamburg and the township around the borough. He owned considerable real estate, consisting of lands and residence property, and at his death left a handsome fortune. In 1851 Dr. Nice married Elizabeth Heffner, daughter of John and Katie (Gehret) Heffner, and to this union were born two children: Dr. Benjamin; and Lizzie H., who lives with her mother in Hamburg.

Dr. Benjamin Nice's early education was obtained in the public schools of Hamburg, and he graduated from the scientific course of Ursinus College, and in 1877 from Jefferson Medical College. In 1883 he was a graduate of the Polytechnic Medical College, New York City, and at once he began practice in his native town, where he continued with great success until his decease. A close and careful student, a skilled surgeon, steady-handed, the Doctor won the confidence of the people of the town in the very beginning, and his practice was large and remunerative.

In 1878 Dr. Nice was married to Etta Mickley, who bore him one son, Dr. Frank M., now deceased. Dr. Nice married (second) Ada Derr, daughter of Benneville and Adeline (Wolff) Derr. To this union was born a son.

Mrs. Nice is a great-granddaughter of John Derr, born April 11, 1774, who died May 24, 1827, aged fifty-three years, one month, thirteen days. His will, made May 18, 1827, was probated Aug. 6th, of the same year, and is on record in Will Book 6, p. 103. The witnesses were John Beiteman and William Smith. John Derr's children were: Israel, Elias and Hannah.

Israel Derr, son of John, was born Jan. 27, 1805, and died Dec. 16, 1861, aged sixty-six years, ten months, nineteen days. His wife, Amelia, was born May 1, 1804, and died June 22, 1875, aged seventy-one years, one month, twenty-one days. Their children were: Amelia, born 1827, married Thomas Samuels, and died in 1856; Benneville, born 1829, died 1880; and Dennes Israel, born 1830, died 1835.

Benneville Derr, son of Israel, born 1829, married Adeline Wolff, and died in 1880. The daughter, Ada, married Dr. Nice.


p. 946


It is believed that the Nice family had its origin in Jacob Nyce, who emigrated to this country Sept. 15, 1754. It is traditional that the name was spelled Nyce, and, in fact, old documents that were signed by Dr. Benjamin R. Nice bear out that fact. The Nyce family are descendants of the early French Huguenots. Dr. Benjamin R. Nice, the founder of the family in this section, came to Hamburg about 1821, from New Jersey, where he was born April 12, 1794. He died July 14, 1862. His wife, Margaret Brugler, a native of New Jersey of English descent, was born Jan. 10, 1800, and died Nov. 12, 1848, the mother of the following children: Margaret (m. John Sunday); Milton B. (was thrice married); John (m. Louisa Harpt); Dr. Franklin Benjamin; Anne (m. Rev. Fred Kulp); Dr. George (m. Angelina Bond); Angeline (m. Enoch Koller); and Walter (m. into the Beard family).

Dr. Franklin Benjamin Nice, grandfather of Dr. Frank M., was born in 1830, and died June 29, 1905. He obtained his early education in the public schools of Hamburg, and in 1852 was graduated from the Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia. He began practicing medicine in 1852, in Hamburg, where he spent fifty-two years, and was very successful, at the time of his death leaving a fortune estimated at from, $150,000 to $200,000. In 1851 he married Elizabeth Heffner, daughter of John and Kate (Gehret) Heffner, and to this union were born Dr. Benjamin and Lizzie H., the latter residing at home.

Dr. Benjamin Nice, of Hamburg, born Aug. 20, 1855, graduated from the Hamburg high school; the Scientific course of Ursinus College, class of 1874; Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, in 1877; and the Polyclinic School in New York City, 1883. He began practicing in the town of his nativity in the latter year, and here he had a very large and successful clientele. He was an expert on gynecology. He died in 1907. In 1878 he married Etta Mickley, daughter of Lewis and Kate (Gift) Mickley, and to this union was born one child, Dr. Frank M., born Feb. 14, 1879. Dr. Nice married (second) Ada Derr, and to this union was born one son, Benjamin Nice, Jr.

Dr. Frank M. Nice received his early education in the schools of his native town, Hamburg, and in 1897 graduated from the Hamburg high school. In the fall of that year he entered the celebrated Jefferson Medical College, of Philadelphia, graduating therefrom in June 1901, and at once he began practice in Hamburg, where he is very successful. He became a specialist on the nervous system. While a college student he was prominently identified with the H. C. Chapman Physiological Society. He is a close student and constant reader, and when not busy visiting patients is engaged in study in his library, which is filled with the choicest works on the various sciences. The Doctor is a forceful and convincing debater, and was very popular on this account during his college days. In politics a Jeffersonian Democrat, he was in the spring of 1906 elected to the office of chief burgess after a spirited contest. He is socially connected with Ontelaunee Tribe, No. 312, Order of Red Men. The Doctor, besides being a very successful practitioner is a deep student of the Theory of Evolution by means of which he solves religious, sociologic and scientific problems.

On June 10, 1903, Dr. Nice was married to Mayme Motes, daughter of Martin H. and Caroline (Behler) Motes, and to this union was born a son, Frank M., Jr.


p. 503


Dr. Franklin B. Nice, physician at Hamburg for upward of fifty years, was born in Hummelstown, Dauphin Co., Pa., Aug. 26, 1830, and during his infancy his parents removed to Hamburg, Berks county. After a thorough preparatory education he studied medicine under the direction of his father, and then attended a regular course of lectures in the Jefferson Medical College, from which he was graduated in 1851. After practicing for a while under his father, he established an office of his own at Hamburg, and continued in active and very successful practice until shortly before his decease, June 29, 1905. For several terms he officiated as councilman (1876-77-78) and also as a school controller; but his increasing practice, which extended into the country for many miles, prevented him from doing any considerable work in municipal, social or political affairs. He was recognized as a superior and devoted physician; and the large number of accounts unpaid at his decease evidenced his sympathetic and generous nature. Financial matters engaged much of his attention, and in their management he was very successful.

Dr. Nice was married to Elizabeth Heffner, daughter of Daniel Heffner, a farmer of Perry township, and Elizabeth Graeff, his wife (who was a daughter of Abraham Graeff, a farmer of Maidencreek township), and they had two children: Benjamin H., also a practicing physician at Hamburg from 1877 to his decease in 1907; and Lizzie, who was married to Rev. J. G. Neff, a native of Kutztown, who for a number of years served as pastor of the Reformed church at Shenandoah and Bangor; he departed from this life Aug. 23, 1906.

Dr. Benjamin Reinard Nice, father of Franklin B., was a successful physician with a large practice at Hamburg and vicinity for thirty years, from 1832 to 1862. He was married to Margaret Brugler, by whom he had ten children: John, Milton, Franklin, George, Walter, Caroline (who married Enoch Koller), Margaret (who married John Sunday), Anna Mary (who married Rev. Frederick Kolb, a well-known Presbyterian minister), and two children who died in their infancy. Of this family Mrs. Anna Mary Kolb, now eighty odd years old, is still living at Alburtis, Pa. She is the mother of Rev. John Kolb, a noted Presbyterian missionary, who is doing a noble work in South America.

John Nice, the grandfather , was born in 1767 in Frederick township, Montgomery Co., Pa., and died in 1844. He married Hannah, daughter of David Reinard, who was born in 1768 and died in 1817.

Anthony Nice, the great-grandfather, emigrated with his brother Cornelius from Wales, and settled in Philadelphia county, Pa., where he carried on farming until his decease, at Nicetown, a village named after him.


p. 549


Henry R. Nicks, A. M., an educator of note in this section of Pennsylvania, where he is particularly well remembered in his association with the early days of the now famous Keystone State Normal School, at Kutztown, Berks county, was born Feb. 27, 1833, in the Palatinate on the Rhine.

Melchior Nicks, his father, was born in Germany in 1795, and came to America in 1842. For a short time he remained in Baltimore, Md., and then settled on a farm at Redland, Adams Co., Pa., near Littlestown. He married Margaret Rosenberger, and they had the following children: Henry R., Mary, Margaret, Lizzie (a teacher at Littlestown, Pa.), and Magdalena (who died young).

Melchior Nicks lived to be ninety years of age, and during the last twenty years of his life was blind. He understood the profession of veterinary well, and his services were often solicited by his neighbors. Mr. Nicks was possessed of wonderful psychic powers, and although blind, could tell by touch the ailment from which an animal was suffering. He was also a gifted mathematician, and in his blindness was able to make all kind of difficult calculations. For instance, he could tell by mental calculation, at any time of the day, his own age in minutes and seconds, or that of any friend who would give him the date of birth and the hour of the day. His powers were very remarkable.

Henry R. Nicks came to America with his father in 1842. He worked on his father's farm in Adams county, attending school whenever opportunity offered, and teaching in his early manhood. In 1856, after strenuous endeavor, he was able to enter the junior class of Franklin and Marshall College, and graduated in 1858 with honors, being the salutatorian of his class.

After graduating from college he continued to teach, filling important stations at Limestoneville and Mechanicsburg. Having the ministry in view he had commenced a course of study in the theological seminary at Mercersburg, when he was called, through Rev. Dr. E. V. Gerhart, to come to Kutztown and open a classical school. On Nov. 15, 1860, he located at Kutztown and opened what was known for a number of years as Fairview Seminary, in what is the beautiful mansion of Thomas S. Fister, immediately south of the borough. Here he began with five pupils, and for a period of months it was a severe struggle and a problem as to the success of the venture, but hard work, sound scholarship and superior teaching ability won, and by the spring of 1861, the school had been placed in a flourishing condition and continued until pupils overcrowded the school quarters and the town became filled with boarding students. The success was phenomenal, and by 1863 Professor Nicks began to look around for permanent quarters, and through his efforts a sufficient amount was subscribed to erect what was known as Maxatawny Seminary, which stood where the Principal's office of the Keystone State Normal School is now located. These schools were the beginning of the Keystone State Normal School, and Professor Nicks was the real founder. He broke the soil and sowed the seed, and others came to reap. He led in the work of raising stock to enlarge the institution and turn it into a State Normal School, and if it had not been for his work and the confidence which his success inspired, there would today be no State Normal School at Kutztown.

When the Normal School was organized in 1866 he accepted the position of associate principal and professor of higher mathematics, and filled same with great efficiency until 1867, when he accepted the principalship of Palatinate College, Myerstown, Pa., now Albright College. This position, he held for seven years, and during his incumbency the institution was in a very flourishing condition. Failing health, however, compelled him to resign in 1874, and thus ended his career as a teacher. The remaining days of his life he spent on the farm. known as the old David Levan farm, where he died Oct. 16, 1903, and he lies buried in Hope cemetery. He was an educator of rare ability, untiring, thorough and withal, tactful. He had few equals in the work of inspiring pupils with noble zeal and lofty ambition. and many there are who rise and bless him for his noble work.

Professor Nicks married Sarah Levan, daughter of David and Lydia (Jarrett) Levan. David Levan was a son of John Levan, who was the grandson of Jacob Levan, the immigrant, and one of the most prominent early citizens of this section of the county. The children of David Levan were: Anna Eliza m. James G. Treichler, a well-known farmer and business man of Kutztown; Sarah m. Henry R. Nicks; Alvin m. Anna Weidner, and died at Kutztown in 1888. Professor Nicks and wife had three children, namely: Annie, m. to Nicholas Rahn; Marne, m. to Dr. Oscar W. Sellers, of Philadelphia; and David Levan.

David Levan Nicks, an expert civil engineer at Kutztown, was born April 8, 1869, at Myerstown, Pa., and was educated at the Keystone State Normal School and at Lafayette College, from which he graduated in 1899. During 1890 and 1891 he was employed by the Pennsylvania Schuylkill Valley Railroad Company, and from 1902 to 1904 by the Lehigh Engineering Company, Allentown, Pa. For one year he was also in the employ of the United States Bureau of Forestry, and was stationed in the Adirondack Mountains and in the State of Maine. For the past three years he has been in the employ of the city of Reading, being one of the resident engineers in the department of public improvements.

On Oct. 23, 1900, Mr. Nicks married Annie E. Stoudt, daughter of Francis and Catherine (Emore) Stoudt, and they have one child, Jarrett Levan, born Oct. 15, 1901.


p. 781


Frederick W. Nicolls, son of Gustavus A. Nic-olls, was born in Reading, Feb. 7, 1870. He was educated by Edward Carroll, a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, who for many years conducted a successful preparatory school in Reading. He entered Harvard University in 1888, where be devoted himself principally to history and literature, and was also an editor of the "Harvard Advocate," one of the oldest college publications in the country. He was also greatly interested in the game of chess and held the championship of the college for the four years of his residence there. He graduated in 1892 with a magna cum laude degree. After graduation he returned to Reading, and began to study law in the office of his half-brother, Henry A. Muhlenberg, being admitted to the Bar of Berks county in November 1895. While pursuing his legal studies he wrote a series of six lectures on the "Puritan Revolution in England," which lectures were delivered in Reading under the auspices of the "University Extension Society," and were received with favor by the public and by the press. After his admission to the Bar, and while building up his practice, he continued to study the theory of the law with some assiduity, and though never attending a law school, he covered the greater part of the work taught in the three years course at Harvard, and also familiarized himself with other textbooks and authorities. In 1900 he was elected Solicitor of the Reading School District, held the office for a year, and was subsequently elected for a term of two years. For a number of years he was the principal lawyer of the Taxpayers League, an organization formed for the protection of the public against municipal corruption and conducted a number of important public cases in this capacity. In March 1908, he formed a law partnership with William Rick, then mayor-elect of the city, and has since then been engaged in conducting the law practice of this firm, which is rapidly increasing in size and importance. Owing to the official duties of his partner, Mr. Nicolls handles almost all the court work of the firm, and is acquiring an experience which in addition to his thoroughness and studious habits, makes him regarded as one of the most promising of the younger members of the Bar. In 1898 he was married to Minnie R. Taylor, by whom he has had four children, Gustavus A., Sarah T., Frederick W. and Anne H.

Anne H. Nicolls is a woman who deserves men-tion, even in a work whose principal object is an account of the lives of men. She was the daughter of Dr. Fred-erick A. Muhlenberg, a well known physician of Lancaster, a granddaughter of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, founder of the Lutheran Church in America, and thus a member of that distinguished Muhlenberg family, prominently con-nected with the early history of the nation, the state, and the country. She was married in early life to her cousin Henry A. Muhlenberg, 2d, who died while a member of the 34th Congress. Mrs. Muhlenberg was studious and cul-tivated, and as her second husband, G. A. Nicolls, was a man of thought, of information and of intellectual tastes, her associations, in connection with her natural quickness of perception and adaptability, made her a woman of understanding and liberal attainments.

Mrs. Nicolls was a woman of wide acquaintance and of strong character. In her youth she was remarkably beautiful, and even in later years retained a charm of manner and appearance which endeared her to a large circle of friends, and with her capacity and strength of character made her influence strongly felt in the community. She was a natural leader, not only on account of her birth and associations, but also by her abilities, her pleasing address, and her high character, and until the day of her death she kept up her social relations and delighted in the companionship of younger people. She was connected with the management of a number of charitable organizations during her life time and for some years was Regent of the Berks County Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, an organization which she aided not only on account of its supposed aristocratic tendencies, but because of the good it might accomplish in creating historical interest fostering national patriotism. She was the President of the Reading branch of the Needlework Guild of America, a charitable organization designed to assist the deserving poor with clothing, a directress of the "Home for Widows and Single Women," and connected as a contributor with many other local charities. For almost thirty years she lived in a large brownstone house at, the northwest corner of Fourth and Walnut streets, and though for many years her health did not permit her to take active exercise, her face and figure were a familiar sight at the corner where she resided. She died January 14th, 1906, survived by two sons, Henry A. Muhlenberg 3d, and Frederick W. Nicolls.


p. 520


Gustavus Anthony Nicolls, for many years prominently connected with the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad Company, and one of Reading's most distinguished citizens, was born April 3, 1817, at Abbey View, Thomastown, County Kilkenny, Ireland. He was the eldest child of Colonel William Dann Nicolls, of the English Royal Artillery, who married Maria Graves, daughter of Anthony Graves, a land proprietor in County Kilkenny, Ireland. Three children were born to Colonel and Mrs. Nicolls: Gustavus Anthony, born April 3, 1817; William Jasper, born in 1824 at Exeter, England; and Maria Anne, born in 1825 at Woolwich. The Nicolls family is descended from John Nicolls, of Arran. in Strathmore, near Inverness, Scotland, born in 1546.

Like the uncle after whom he was named, General Gustavus Nicolls, of the Royal Engineers, Mr. Nicolls was intended for the army. His early education was directed with this in mind, under the personal supervision of his father, and later he was a student for some years at the Waterford Classical and Mathematical Academy, an institution noted for the scholarship of its pupils. He finished his schooling at the Wanstead Military College, near London. His proficiency in all branches of mathematics was well shown in his subsequent success in civil engineering. It was his father's wish to have him sent to the East Indies immediately upon the conclusion of his student life, and his uncle, Sir Jasper Nicolls, who had served with distinction in South America and India and was then commander-in-chief in India, promised to give him an appointment as aide-de-camp on his personal staff. But the young man had other ambitions, and believing that the United States offered a more congenial field for his talents and energy left for this country, sailing from England in September 1834.

Arriving in Philadelphia, Mr. Nicolls studied law for a time in the office of Henry M. Phillips. In April 1835, he was appointed a rodman in the engineer corps of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad Company, and in 1836 was promoted to assistant engineer, taking charge of the completion of a section of railroad between Douglassville and Exeter. In 1837 he became principal assistant and was stationed at Reading, and the next year he became superintendent of transportation, holding that position for eight years, until 1846. He then became chief engineer and general superintendent of the company, holding both positions for thirteen years, by the end of which time the duties had become so arduous that it was necessary to divide the work, and Mr. Nicolls chose the position of general superintendent. He served as such from that time until February 1871, when he was appointed to act also as president's assistant. This change made it necessary for him to remove his residence from Reading to Philadelphia where he resided until his return to Reading in May 1877. Meantime, in 1873, he was elected second vice-president of the company, and was unanimously re-elected to that position in 1875 and 1876. In 1877 the positions of first and second vice--president were abolished. and then Mr. Nicolls was elected president of the following branch railroads of the company: Reading & Columbia, East Pennsylvania, East Mahanoy, Allentown, and Chester & Delaware River. In 1876 he was chosen president of the Susquehanna & Tide Water Canal Company. These various positions be continued to fill, by annual re--elections, until his death. He was in the employ of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad Company for over fifty years, and his ability, energy and integrity could have no better witness than his long retention in the various positions to which he was chosen.

Coming to Reading in 1836, at the very dawn of the great developments which have taken place through the combination of iron, coal, and steam, Mr. Nicolls was foremost among the men who directed that development, and his name will always be prominent among the leaders of his day. During his unusually long term of service with the Philadelphia & Reading Company, covering over half a century, he saw the company ad-vance from a modest beginning to colossal proportions, and had the satisfaction of knowing that his interest and energy had much to do with its growth and progress. During his entire career as an official his constancy to the interests of the company was a prominent character-istic, and his intelligent, systematic management not on-ly resulted in great financial benefit to the road but in many other advantages, as well as in contributing to the safety and comfort of its patrons. His courage and re-source were never better shown than during the great riots of 1877 at Reading, when the whole community was aroused and alarmed over the rebellion of excited and dissatisfied railroad employees. He was fearless in occupying his prominent position at the passenger sta-tion, giving valuable suggestions for the preservation of the company's property and for the movement of regular trains. His attachment to the company was no less marked than his consideration for its employees. On one occasion during the riots he was endeavoring to quell some disturbance, when one of the rioters said to his companions: "Let's shoot that fellow!" "No, that's Nicolls," said the strikers who knew him, "and if you try to kill him, you must do it over our dead bodies."

Though be was probably best known in his connection with the Philadelphia & Reading Company, Mr. Nicolls was a man too broad and widely sympathetic to confine his activities to any one line. He was a director of the Reading Fire Insurance & Trust Company from the time of its organization in 1868 until 1875. In 1862 he was elected a trustee of the Charles Evans Cemetery Company, and continued to serve as such until his death. He was also a director of the Schuylkill & Lehigh Railroad Company. During the year 1882 the "Reading, Marietta & Hanover Railroad", a branch line of the Philadelphia & Reading system was completed mainly under his supervision. He was a charter member of the Philadelphia, Reading & Pottsville Telegraph Company. In the organization of the company in 1847 he was elected a member of the board of managers, to which position he was annually re-elected for a long period.

As a citizen of Reading, Mr. Nicolls always manifested the keenest interest in its material development and prosperity. Enterprises of various kinds received his active encouragement. He assisted in erecting the cotton factory and the steam forge shortly after 1850, two large and costly establishments which proved largely instrumental in building up the respective sections of Reading in which they were situated, affording constant employment to many working-people.

In the Civil war period Mr. Nicolls showed himself thoroughly in sympathy with the Union. He attended and encouraged a number of public meetings held by prominent citizens regardless of political affiliations, supported the government by his voice and material aid, and was constantly liberal in encouraging voluntary enlistments. When the State was threatened with invasion in 1862 he enlisted in Company E, 11th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia commanded by Capt. Charles H. Hunter, and served as a corporal. This Company was named after him, being known as "Nicolls Guards." After the war he devoted much time and influence to commemorate the distinguished part which Berks county took in its successful prosecution. In 1883 he prepared a suitable and superior design for a monument. and suggested the center of Penn Square as a proper place for its location, believing that patriotism should be grandly typified in the form of a "Soldiers' Monument" placed permanently in the most prominent place in the community, where the eyes of future generations could behold what their forefathers had done to commemorate the services and sacrifices made by the people to preserve and perpetuate the Constitution and the Union. In politics he was originally a Whig, later a Republican. In 1864 Mr. Nicolls was offered the nomination for Congress by the Republican party, but his numerous business duties, particularly those concerning the Philadelphia & Reading Company, made it impossible for him to accept.

Mr. Nicolls was active in the various charities supported in the city. He was always a generous contributor to the work of the "Reading Benevolent Society," of which he served as president for eleven years, from 1860 to 1871. The Young Men's Christian Association also found him a liberal and ardent supporter of its work, and he served as president for over two years, from 1880 to 1882. For a number of years he served as one of the managers of the Reading Dispensary and of the Reading Hospital. He served the "Home for Widows and Single Women of Reading" as chairman of the building committee in the erection of its handsome and commodious stone structure; and the Reading Society of .Natural Sciences received his earnest support and attention from the time of its organization in 1869 until its dissolution in 1884. During this period one of its most active members, Mr. Hiram Hollenbush, a few years before his death made for Mr. Nicolls a cabinet containing a beautiful and complete collection of the various kinds of woods found in Berks county.

For many years Mr. Nicolls was a vestryman of Christ Episcopal Church of Reading. He served as a member of the building committee which had charge of the alterations of the church edifice when it was remodeled from a brick building to the present beautiful and costly structure, which. with its towering and graceful spire, became at once the most imposing house of worship in Reading. He served as vestryman until 1871. From the time he came here he was a devout and consistent member of the Protestant Episcopal Church.

For over forty years before his death Mr. Nicolls was an indefatigable traveler. In 1848 he made a trip to the British Isles which covered a period of three months, during which he visited all the places of importance. In 1856, with a party of friends, he made a trip through the South and also visited the Island of Cuba. While sojourning in Cuba be addressed a series of letters to the Reading Times which were published in that paper, narrating the experiences of the party in that country, the sights observed, impressions received, and other interesting material. In 1872 he visited all the countries of Continental Europe. In 1878 he again went to the Continent, visiting the Paris Exposition, England, Sweden and Russia; some of his letters home were published on account of the general interest they possessed and the information they contained. In 1884 he again crossed the ocean, spending several months in the British Isles.

In May 1846, Mr. Nicolls married Rosa Catharine Muhlenberg, daughter of Hon. Henry A. Muhlenberg, who for a number of years was member of Congress from this district, and who was also the first minister from this country to Austria. He was at the time of his decease, in 1844, the Democratic candidate for Governor. Mrs. Nicolls, who died May 15, 1867, was a woman highly esteemed for her intellectual superiority. She was distinguished for her activity in charitable work in the city, and during the Civil war was untiring in her efforts in behalf of soldiers and their families who needed assistance. She was foremost in the movement which resulted in the formation of the first Ladies' Aid Society in the country, served as its president from the time of its organization until the close of the war, and was constantly active in performing valuable services by collecting useful materials and forwarding them to the men on the field of battle, as well as in aiding the families of soldier's. Her kindness and devotion were highly appreciated, and her name became proverbial in that connection among the many who felt her unselfish and well-directed efforts.

In January 1869, Mr. Nicolls married Annie Hall Muhlenberg, daughter of Dr. F. A. Muhlenberg, of Lancaster, Pa. His only child, Frederick William Nicolls, was born to this union Feb. 7, 1870. He is now actively engaged in the practice of law in the City of Reading.

For many years Mr., Nicolls made his home at the southeast corner of Penn and Fourth streets, Reading. In 1870 he began the erection of the handsome and commodious double residence, three stories in height and constructed of sandstone, at the northwest corner of Walnut and Fourth streets, the first costly improvement of the kind in that section of the city. The plans be prepared himself, and the building was put up under his personal supervision. It was finished in 1871, and even now, after the lapse of many years, is regarded as one of the most dignified and tasteful homes in the city.

Though his schooling ended at the age of seventeen, Mr. Nicolls by constant reading and study continued his education until the latest years of his life. He was well acquainted with the Latin and Greek classics, from which, like English gentlemen of education, he was able to quote freely, and could both read and speak French with some fluency. He was fond of English literature in all its forms and was particularly versed in, natural sciences and mechanics, of which he had made a careful study. He took a deep interest in the great discussion occasioned by the publication of Darwin's works and was well acquainted with most phases of the controversies in science and religion, so characteristic of the latter part of the nineteenth century. He collected a library of some three thousand volumes, distinguished more for the variety and solidity of the subjects than for the mere beauty of the bindings.

He was a man almost six feet in height, erect in carriage, rather striking in appearance, and with a dignity and courtesy of demeanor which marked him as the gentleman by birth and breeding. But though intellectually an aristocrat, he was socially a democrat. He believed in the true equality of man, and practiced this principle by being courteous to the humble, no less than to the high, and by treating all men in the same manner.

Mr. Nicolls always kept the motto of his family, "Fide et Industria," as the guiding rule of his life; and to this influence his success may be attributed. Those who knew him best know that his triumphs were the well deserved rewards of constant and devoted labor, of untiring thought and an unshrinking sense of duty, His name will ever be associated with the development of the best that has contributed to the growth of his adopted city, whether from a material or educational standpoint, and his memory is held in profound respect in the many circles with which he was identified.


p. 393


John G. Niethammer has been engaged in business in Reading on his own account for the past twenty years, and during his honorable career has sustained the high reputation which the name Niethammer has long borne in this city.

Balthaser Niethammer, grandfather of John G., was a native of Germany, where he followed farming and engaged in the cattle business, and where he died. He and his wife, Anna Maria Seager, were the parents of two children: Elizabeth, who married and died in Germany; and John George, father of John G., of Reading.

John George Nietharnmer was born in Wurtemberg, Germany, and there received his education. He came to America July 19, 1852, landing in New York City, at nine o'clock in the evening, and after spending two days there came to Reading. His first occupation was as super-intendent of a large sawmill near that city, from which mill came the timbers used to build the bridges along the Schuylkill and Tulpehocken rivers. Mr. Niethammer was next employed at the Berks County House for several years, and then moved to Muhlenberg Hall, No. 757 Penn street, and this he conducted successfully until his death, March 30, 1890, a period of thirty-three years. He was one of the first importers of Rhine wine to Reading, mak-ing a special trip to Europe for that purpose. He was connected with the Teutonic Lodge of Masons. Mr. Nie-thammer was married in Reading, in March 1855, by the Rev. Mr. Keller, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, to A. Mary Gessler, also a native of Germany, born Sept. 17, 1833, who came to America March 18, 1853. After the death of her husband Mrs. Niethammer continued the busi-ness for eight years, and in 1898 removed to No. 122 North Eleventh street, where she died June 21, 1905. Both she and her husband were buried at the Charles Evans cemetery. Of their children: Mary Catherine m. Samuel P. Brown, and died in 1883; Anna Margaret and Ella Eliza-beth, both single, live at the Eleventh street home; John G. is mentioned below; Annie M. died in infancy; Peter B. married Luca Miller, and resides in East Reading; and Jacob B., an inventor, and a very popular young man of the city, who took a prominent part in the work of the Y. M. C. A., died Jan. 19, 1894.

John G. Niethammer was born in Reading in 1862, and received his education in his native city, first attending the public schools and subsequently E. E. Post Commercial College, where he was given thorough training in business methods. Then he went to Lancaster, Lancaster Co., Pa., where he was employed by a Mr. Casper Kohler, having charge of the office for about a year. Returning to Reading at the end of that time he assisted his father as clerk for a few years, remaining with him until he started in business for himself. When Mr. Niethammer was about twenty-three he opened the establishment known as Niethammer's Cafe, at No. 13 North Eighth street, and engaged in the hotel and restaurant business very successfully for nineteen years, becoming as well and as favorably known in his line as his father. He finally sold out to a Mr. Harner in order to devote himself to another enterprise, the manufacture of cigars. On March 21, 1904, he commenced this business in the old Rainbow fire house, No. 23 North Eighth street, where he conducted a thriving establishment in partnership with Charles E. Nagle and Hiester C. Nagle, the firm being known as the N. & N. Cigar Company, until Jan. 1, 1909, when he purchased his partners interest and is now the sole owner of the business. Employment is given to twenty-five skilled workmen, and only high grade products are made, a few of the brands being the "Triple N.," which is in both five and ten-cent varieties, the "Jerry Murphy" and "Honor Bound," both five-cent brands, the "Major N.," a ten-cent product, the "N. B."' and the "J. G. N.," both fifteen-cent cigars, and the "Hoya-Uneva," a twenty-five cent cigar. The local trade is large and steady and there is also an extensive out-of-town business. Besides his manufacturing interests, Mr. Niethammer has a retail cigar store at No. 17 North Eighth street, and in connection therewith has six bowling alleys, three pool tables and a billiard table. He put up the building in which this establishment is located, a fourstory structure, in April 1904. Mr. Niethammer's energy and progressive spirit have won him a standing among the substantial business men of the city, and he enjoys the confidence and respect of his associates wherever he is known.

On April 16, 1885, Mr. Niethammer married Eleanora Loewen, and their home is at No. 45 South Eighth street. Mr. Niethammer devotes his time and attention to business chiefly, but he has served fifteen years as treasurer of the Rainbow Fire Company, in whose welfare he is much interested. Mr. Niethammer has been the owner of some very fine horses, and at one time owned the famous "Major N.," widely known and a great favorite throughout this circuit.


p. 576


Edward C. Nolan, of Reading, enjoys the distinction of being the youngest vice-president of any national bank in America. Reading between the lines, this means that he has a natural aptness in the management of financial affairs. While this is true, it is also true that the death of his father threw heavy responsibilities on him at a very early age. It is but justice to say that Mr. Nolan, to use a common expression, has "made good." He was born in Reading, Aug. 8, 1880, son of William and Catherine (McDonough) Nolan.

William Nolan, the father, was for many years one of the heaviest railroad contractors of the city, his death, on Feb. 28, 1903, at the age of sixty-three, removing from the business circles of Reading a well known figure. His wife, Catherine McDonough, was the daughter of Dr. Charles McDonough, a prominent practicing physician of Berks county for man years, and a member of a family celebrated in the medical world. Their children , nine in number, were: Anna, wife of Charles P. Bower, a prominent civil engineer of Philadelphia, but residing in Reading; Catherine, who married Fred Jones, of Philadelphia; James B., a contractor; William, president of the Nolan Construction Company, and also of Nolan Brothers; Charles J., a contractor; Thomas G., a civil engineer; Barnard J., who studied at Villa Nova College, class of 1907; Francis Reilly, a student at Villa Nova College, class of 1909; and Edward C.

Villa Nova College furnished Edward C. Nolan with his literary education, his graduation taking place in 1899. A course at the Inter-State Business College followed. Mr. Nolan's first entry into the business world was as bookkeeper and timekeeper for his father and brothers, William, Jr., and Charles J., the brothers at that time conducting operations under the firm name of Nolan Brothers, being the largest contractors in the city. After two years Mr. Nolan engaged in the real estate business, and had hardly made a fair start when the death of his father occurred. This event changed the course of his life. He at once took hold of the work which his father had so summarily laid down, becoming a director in the First National Bank in his stead. In 1904 Mr. Nolan, in company with his brother William and C. P. Bower, organized the Nolan Construction Company, in addition to Nolan Brothers. In 1905 he was elected vice-president of the First National Bank, being the youngest man to hold that important position in the country. In September 1905, in company with his brother-in-law, C. P. Bower, and William Nolan, Jr., Mr. Nolan bought the G. W. Hawk Hosiery Co., one of the largest of the kind in the State, and doing a splendid business, and he is serving as treasurer of the company. Mr. Nolan is already one of the leading business men of his city. He continues his real estate and insurance office at No. 24 North Fifth street, having established a fine patronage in that line. He has been president of the Keystone Vehicle Company since February 1907; is president of the Arnold Safety Razor Company; and a member of the Board of Underwriters.

Although a very busy man, Mr. Nolan finds time to indulge in the social amenities of life, being a popular member of Reading's most exclusive clubs, the Wyomissing (in which he is a director and treasurer) and the Berkshire, and he is also a member of the B. P. O. E. He belongs to the Pennsylvania Forestry Association, and is much interested in its work. In religious life he is a communicant of the Roman Catholic Church, with membership at St. Peter's. In political faith he is a Democrat.

On Nov. 6, 1906, Mr. Nolan was married to Cora, daughter of Clarence H. and Emma Lou Sembower.


p. 456


James Nolan, president of the Reading T rust Company, and for many years engaged as a railroad contractor, was born Jan. 9, 1844, in the town of Clonaslee, Queen's County, Ireland. James Nolan, his father, was born in Ireland in 1798. He married Annie Bennett, of the same country, by whom he had children as follows: Mary married Dennis McAvoy; Catharine m. William Kearns; Charles m. Katherine' Eisenbise; William m. Kate McDonough; Thomas m. Nellie Jackson; James; Edward m. Mary Leader. The father, in 1849, determined to emigrate to America and he and his two daughters proceeded to New York to make arrangements for the rest of the family, the mother and sons joining them the following year. He carried on the business of stone-cutter at New York until 1855, and then moved to Wernersville, Berks county, to engage in stone bridge work on the Lebanon Valley railroad. He died in 1857, aged' fifty-nine years; his wife survived him forty-two years, dying at Reading at the remarkable age of ninety-four years.

When but five years old James Nolan emigrated with his mother and four brothers to America, landing at New York. He received his education in the public schools of that city, and when seventeen years of age began an apprenticeship as a stone-cutter in the erection of the great St. Patrick Cathedral, on Fifth avenue and Fifty-first street. After he had been so employed for, two years the building operations were suspended on account of the Civil war. He then turned his attention to learning the trade of a boiler-maker, and continued at it for four years, after which he entered the employ of his brothers, Charles and William, railroad contractors. After working for the brothers several years, until 1870, and showing great aptitude for the business, he was admitted into the partnership, and under the firm name of Nolan Brothers they did business for thirty years. They were prominently identified with the construction work of the Pennsylvania railroad and the' Philadelphia & Reading railroad on all their branches, and, in carrying out their contracts I established a very high reputation, being recognized in railroad and financial circles as one of the most successful firms of Reading and the country. Though not inclined to engage in municipal contract work, they constructed at Reading the Hampden reservoir and several squares of the Buttonwood street sewer, west from the railroad, which was the beginning of the extensive storm water sewer system in Reading.

Mr. Nolan has been identified with the financial institutions of Reading for more than twenty years. He is at present a director in the Farmers National Bank, Reading Steam Heat and Power Company, Reading Brewing Company, Reading Stove works, and is president of the Reading Trust Company, the Reading Electric Light and Power Company, the Reading Academy of Music Company and of the board of trustees of St. Joseph's Hospital. From the time of attaining his majority, he' has been in active adherent and supporter of the Democratic party. In 1903 he was given the nomination of secretary of Internal Affairs by the Democratic party on the ticket with Robert E. Pattison for governor and G. W. Guthrie for lieutenant-governor.

Mr. Nolan married Kate Stewart, the only child of 'Dr. Lemuel and Angeline (Smith) Stewart, and they had three children: James Bennett, who graduated from Cornell University, and is a' member of the Berks county Bar, married May Smink, a daughter of Frank C. Smink, president of the Reading Iron Works; Angela married Thomas Hall Ingham, of Philadelphia; Mary is not married. The mother of these children died in 1882.


p. 448


William Nolan, deceased. In recalling the names of those former citizens of Reading who contributed through many years to her commercial development, that of William Nolan comes naturally to mind, for he was a man whose native ability, executive capacity and high sense of business integrity made his life one of usefulness in many directions. He was born in Queens County, Ireland, March 17, 1840, and died Feb. 28, 1903, after an illness of six months, at his home at No. 520 Walnut street, Reading. His parents were James and Annie (Bennett) Nolan.

The parents of William Nolan were natives also of Ireland. In 1846 James Nolan brought his family to America and established his first home in the city of New York. From there he subsequently removed to Reading, where he died in 1858. In the twelve years of life accorded him after landing in the United States, James Nolan proved himself a man of intense energy, within that period accomplishing more in his special line of activity than many others complete in a whole lifetime. He engaged in railroad building and contracting and was one of the capable constructors of a part of the Lebanon Valley railroad and that section of the Philadelphia & Reading railroad that connects Auburn with Dauphin. He was the father of the following children, who, with their mother, returned to New York after his decease: William, Charles, James, Thomas, Edward, Kate and Mary. Kate is the. wife of William Kearns, of Reading, and Mary is the wife of Dennis McAvoy, of Norristown.

William Nolan was six years old when his parents came to America and he went to school both in New York and in Reading. Although he returned to New York with other members of the family after the death of his father, he had made friends in Reading to whom he was anxious to return, one of these being Henry Jacobs, who was then master mason for the Philadelphia & Reading Railway Company, with whom he secured employment as a stonecutter. Even then, Mr. Nolan exhibited those steadfast traits that later so thoroughly characterized him, and before be had attained his majority he was appointed foreman of a large gang of workmen, who were employed by the large contracting firm of Riley, McGrann & Co., of Lancaster, in their building for the Lehigh Navigation Company. His work on this and other similar tasks was so satisfactory that it not only satisfied his employers but it also gave him the courage to embark in business for himself. He selected as a partner John Jacobs, a man who was industrious and ambitious like himself, and, although the firm started with no appreciable capital, they made some money out of their first large contract and also brought their ability to the attention of those requiring any kind of stone or mason work.

In this business connection, like every other one with which he was associated, Mr. Nolan was a leader, possessing the foresight which is often as necessary to success as is technical ability. He kept on the alert and secured contracts at Reading, Easton and other points for work of more or less importance, and thus was fully experienced when, under a sub-contract, he completed the Eighth street bridge for the Philadelphia & Reading Railway Company, at Reading, a piece of work which commanded the admiration and approbation of the ablest engineers of the country. Mr. Nolan was always disposed to feel that this was the real foundation stone of his subsequent uninterrupted business success. Shortly after this came the organizing of the firm of William Nolan & Co., his partners being his brother, Charles Nolan, and John Dunn. With William Nolan at the head, the firm was busy and prosperous, and during its duration completed many bridge contracts, not only in Pennsylvania but also in other States.

Perhaps the main work of William Nolan's business career was the organization of the firm of Nolan & Brothers, now the Nolan Construction Company, which, for a period approaching a half century, has stood at the head in the line of railroad contracting and bridge building in this section of the country. The firm was made up of William Nolan and two of his brothers, Charles and James Nolan, all men of the same fiber, fitted by nature for this close association. The firm established headquarters at Oil City and the series of stone bridges which they built on the Oil Creek & Allegheny railroad, in the face of many natural difficulties, not only thoroughly filled an imperative need at that time but possessed the substantial qualities which made them enduring and also the artistic attractiveness which was so often a marked feature of Mr. Nolan's work. A recount of but a small part of the enormous amount of building and construction work done by this progressive and able business firm, dating from 1871 in the recital, would include some of the finest roads, viaducts, bridges, arches and other structures that adorn the landscape and make possible the great transportation industries of a large part of the Atlantic seaboard. This firm executed all the mason work on the Philadelphia & Erie railroad between Renova and Driftwood, including the large stone viaducts at Hemlock and St. Mary's; built thousands of feet of masonry on the low grade division of the Pennsylvania railroad from Driftwood, on the Susquehanna, to Redbank on the Allegheny; built the Linden line for the Pennsylvania railroad around Williamsport, and also the bridges across the Schuylkill, at Port Clinton, for the Philadelphia & Reading railroad.

In 1873 this company secured the contract to erect the great Richmond street bridge at Philadelphia, with its twenty-three tracks, for the Philadelphia & Reading Company, and in the following year began the building of all the mason work on the Bound Brook railroad, from Bound Brook, N. J., to a point in the same State on the Delaware river, an undertaking of great magnitude, which was promised and successfully completed for the accommodation of visitors to the Centennial Exposition in 1876. During the next four years this firm built the connecting links between the New York City & Northern, and the Sixth avenue electric railways; the Askew arch over the Fairmount Park drive, on the west bank of the Schuylkill; double-tracked the main line of the New York & Erie railway, from Callicoon to Hawkins, N. Y.; built the great drawbridge across the Hackensack, the bridge over the Susquehanna river at Susquehanna, and the bridge over the Chemung river, at Corning, New York.

In 1882 this firm continued it's large operations. In connection with Thomas A. Reilly, capitalist, of Pottsville, they built the branch railroad from Shamokin to Milton, Pa., for the Pennsylvania system, and this included all the grading and mason work, together with the erection of that noble bridge, with its mighty spans and total length of 2,600 feet of strength, which was proved when the floods of the memorable year of 1889 beat upon and over it and it stood the strain, when many lesser structures went down. Another piece of fine work was the building of a portion of the Perkiomen bridge for the Philadelphia & Reading railroad and also a portion of the Pennsylvania railroad, between Reading and Pottsville. In association with J. N. DuBarry, this firm built nine miles of the Tomhicken branch of the Pennsylvania railroad. In the latter part of 1889 the firm completed the Allentown Terminal railroad; built the railroad bridge at Port Jervis, N. Y.; a bridge at Hornellsville, for the New York & Erie railway; the bridge spanning the Delaware, at Hancock, N. Y.; other bridges located in the environs of Philadelphia; and in the short space of eighteen months built the beautiful bridge on the Norristown branch of the Philadelphia & Reading railroad, over the mouth of the Wissahickon.

In the face of such a remarkable aggregation of completed work, it is totally unnecessary to dwell upon the difficulties met and overcome, for even the casual reader must recognize that undertakings of such magnitude would involve the handling of an immense working capital and the directing force of master minds. One of these belonged to the late William Nolan. With his brothers, he personally supervised much of the work as it progressed, and so careful, so practical and so thorough were his methods that no fault of construction ever escaped him. He was a man of ideas also, and not content with the opportunities offered in his own land, great as they were, went abroad and in his later work incorporated many details of form and construction which he gained from contemplating many of the most notable buildings in Europe. Mr. Nolan continued as the active head of the firm until 1896, when he retired, an accident which he suffered in 1888 probably contributing as a cause. During his later years, while still connected with the administrative work of the firm, he was a frequent guest at several leading hotels in Philadelphia and when there met socially and in business relations by men of affairs and prominence from every section.

No mention has yet been made of Mr. Nolan's connection with business interests outside of those connected with the firm of Nolan & Brothers, these, in fact, being large enough to have occupied the whole time and attention of an ordinary man. But Mr. Nolan was not an ordinary man, and he became identified with other important enterprises, many of these being directly concerned with the upbuilding of Reading, the city of his pride. He was a stockholder in a number of successful concerns, a director in many, and was the promoter of a number of the infant industries of the city which later became giants. He was a man of public spirit and of such benevolence that, while a member and one of the trustees of St. Peter's Catholic Church, and its munificent benefactor, his distribution of charity was not confined to his own religious body, but was given to those in need, no matter what creed might be theirs. Since his death St. Peter's congregation has built a fine new edifice, and its great organ, which cost the sum of $6,500, was placed there by Mr. Nolan's nine children, as a memorial to their father and mother. Genial by nature, broadened by travel and educated largely by contact with men of broadened view and enlightened understanding, William Nolan commanded respect and enjoyed the warmest friendship and esteem. He was too prominent a man not to be more or less of a politician, but he never accepted any political preferment and served in but one office, and that without compensation, being a trustee, for a time, of the Huntingdon Reformatory. In his views on public questions he was an ardent Democrat, and he was frequently sent as a delegate to State and national conventions of his party.

Mr. Nolan married May 9, 1867, Miss Katherine McDonough, and to this happy union was born a family of nine children, namely: Anna, Kate, James, William, Jr., Charles J., Thomas G., Edward Campion, Bernard J. and Reilly. Anna, the eldest daughter, married Charles P. Bower, a civil engineer. Kate is the wife of Frederick G. Jones. William, president of the Nolan Construction Company, married Margaret Coppinger. Charles J. married Lottie M. Schaeffer. Thomas G. married Annie M. Cavanaugh. Edward Campion, vice-president of the First National Bank of Reading, married Cora Louise Sembower, daughter of Clarence H. Sembower. The family is one of both social and financial prominence in Reading.

Last Modified Thursday, 16-Oct-2008 20:56:37 EDT

Previous       Home Page       Index       Next
404 - Error: 404


Category not found

The Page you are looking for doesn't exist or an other error occurred. Go back, or head over to Home Page to choose a new direction.

You may not be able to visit this page because of:

  1. an out-of-date bookmark/favourite
  2. a search engine that has an out-of-date listing for this site
  3. a mistyped address
  4. you have no access to this page
  5. The requested resource was not found.
  6. An error has occurred while processing your request.