Judge Francis L. Nichols
a.k.a. "Leech" Nichols
From Norway, NY to Toledo, OH

Note: Judge Francis L. Nichols was the son of Lieutenant Shibnah Nichols, who was second in command in Capt. Jared Smith's militia company.

FRANCIS L. NICHOLS was born July 11, 1805, in the Town of Norway, Herkimer County, New York. His father was a farmer, and his opportunities for obtaining an education were meagre, consisting of an annual term of three months in an ordinary country School. His father had a large tract of wild land in Jefferson County, same State, and from 1819 to 1824 was engaged in clearing and improving the same, with no School of any sort accessible for two years, when a little log school-house was provided, without chimney, and with but three small windows of four lights each. Anxious for better educational facilities, the son proposed that his father allow him to return to Fairfield, Herkimer County, that he might attend an Academy there and thus qualify himself to teach. The parent not approving such plan, the son continued work on the farm; but having obtained from a friend, a grammar, he carried the same with him, studying it as he had opportunity at work in the field and elsewhere.

When 21 years of age, he resolved to leave the farm; but fortunately for him, about that time his father exchanged his farm for one in Fairfield, Herkimer County, near to which was an Academy, which the son attended for one term and until qualified to teach a common country School, which he did for four terms. Without means requisite for pursuing his plan of studies, he turned his attention to the pursuit of business, and soon entered a store, acting as clerk at $5.00 per month for one year, when he engaged at another place at $300 per year, with Hon. Alex. H. Buell, remaining there three years, and then without capital began business on his own account, in his native town. In 1830 he married Miss Jeannette Bushnell and continued in trade until August 19, 1835.

Then leaving that country, he came to the West, with $70 in cash, and without known destination. He left Herkimer by an Erie Canal line-boat, being one week in reaching Buffalo, whence he proceeded by steamboat to Sandusky, and by stage and on foot to Mansfield, Mt. Vernon and Newark; thence by Canal to Cleveland, and by Steamboat to Detroit. Starting from there for Chicago by open mail stage, he proceeded as far as Michigan City, when for financial reasons, he deemed it better to return East. Taking a steamboat at Detroit for Toledo and Cleveland, he proceeded to the latter place, not daring even to land at Toledo, from fear of the "Maumee," as the prevalent malarial diseases there were then called. He engaged as clerk in the Bank of Cleveland, and continued there until January, 1836, when he accepted a proposition to come to Manhattan, a new Town then just projected at the mouth of the Maumee River, to assume charge of a store to be established by the Manhattan Company. The Cashier of the Cleveland Bank, Alex. Seymour, remonstrated against such movement, predicting that if undertaken he would not live six months. January 19, 1836, he took stage for Manhattan. The Manhattan Company soon discontinued the store. Mr. Nichols then took the small stock left and continued business until 1837, when came the financial crash so memorable of those days, which made a suspension of his business necessary. At that time the Township of Port Lawrence comprised what afterwards were Port Lawrence, Manhattan, Washington, Oregon and part of Adams. Mr. Nichols was one of the Trustees of Port Lawrence. Afterwards when Manhattan Township was organized, he became a Trustee of the same.

In 1841, he was, against his will, elected by the State Legislature an Associate Judge of Lucas County, vice John Berdan, deceased. At the outset the Court was confronted with a bitter County-seat controversy between Toledo and Maumee, and the Judges not agreeing as to which of these places was the legal seat of justice, no Court was held in the County for two or three years, resulting in serious damage to individual and public interests. Finally, Judge E.D. Potter, President Judge of the Circuit, and Judge Nichols, determined to hold a term of Court at Toledo, without the presence of the two Associate Judges favoring the claim of Maumee. Sheriff E. S. Frost, of Maumee, refusing to attend such session, the Court appointed Daniel Segur as Sheriff pro tem. The Court was held at the Northeast corner (up stairs) of Summit and Cherry Streets. The action of the Court was limited pretty much to probate business, granting of licenses for ferries, tavern keepers, &c. James Myers was appointed Clerk of the Court, and held the office until April, 1844, when Judge Nichols succeeded him, resigning the Judgeship, and removing to Maumee, then the County seat, where he purchased the residence vacated by M.R. Waite, now Chief Justice of the United States, on his removal to Toledo.

Upon the expiration of his term as Clerk, Judge Nichols removed to Toledo, and built the residence since occupied by him at the corner of Galena Street and Summit Avenue. The County-seat was again located at Toledo, upon the vote of the people in 1852, and Judge Nichols was elected County Clerk under the new Constitution in 1854, serving for three years. John Fitch was first chosen Judge of the Common Pleas Court at the same election. Elijah Dodd was then the Sheriff. At the expiration of his term as Clerk, Judge Nichols retired to his little farm then just outside the City limits, to spend the remainder of his days in the quiet of retirement. At the expiration of his last term as Clerk, Judge Nichols embarked in the Stove and Hardware trade, with Mr. J.N. Stevens, but soon disposed of his interest to Mr. Mayor Brigham, now one of the veterans of Toledo.

In 1831, Judge Nichols united with the Protestant Episcopal Church, which connection has continued since that time. For many years a prominent member of Trinity, he was one of the principal organizers of Grace Church, Stickney Avenue, Toledo, contributing liberally toward placing the new organization on a good footing. On the breaking out of the Rebellion in 1861, though then by several years exempt from military service, he enlisted as a private Soldier in Company C, Captain Richard Waite's One Hundred and Thirtieth Ohio Regiment, organized primarily for the defense of Ohio from Rebel raids, but serving chiefly on Johnson's Island and on the James River and Appomattox, Virginia, under General Grant. At the latter place the command remained until the expiration of its term of enlistment, in September, 1864, when it returned and was mustered out.

Politically, Judge Nichols was originally a Democrat, and acted with that party until the lines between Freedom and Slavery were so squarely drawn in the attempt to force Slavery into Kansas and Nebraska, and into all domain of the Government, in 1854. He was Chairman of the first County meeting held for organization against the Slave power which led to the Republican party, with which he has since been an earnest and active member. Beginning with Andrew Jackson in 1828, he has voted at every Presidential election since that time. For several years past, his attention has been largely directed to the management of his real estate. Never blessed with children of their own, Judge and Mrs. Nichols had the care of a nephew of Mrs. Nichols, Geo. F. Colby, from infancy, whom they educated and prepared for the practice of law; but his eyesight failing, he was compelled to relinquish the profession.

Information about Mr. Nichols from the 1880 Census of Toledo, Lucas County, Ohio:

NameRelationMarital StatusGenderRaceAgeBirthplaceOccupation Father's Birthplace Mother's Birthplace
Francis L. NICHOLSSelfMMaleW74NYEx Judge AssociateRICT
Jennett NICHOLSWifeMFemaleW72NYKeeping HouseCTCT
George F. COLBYNephewMMaleW31OHLaborerMANY
Clara H. COLBYNieceMFemaleW26MIAt HomeARAR
Moriah ST. CLAIRSister-in-lawWFemaleW39NYAt HomeCTCT
National Archives Microfilm Number T9-1042, page 4C

From: "Norway Tidings," Sept. 1, 1887

"Many of our old readers will remember Leach Nichols, a native of this town, who followed Horace Greeley's advice "Go West, young man," long before it was given. He left Norway sixty-eight years since, when but 14 years of age. A few years later he located at Toledo, Ohio, where he secured wealth and honors. He now resides at Eaton Rapids, Mich. He has not forgotten his mother town and we hope to see him at our Centennial. In a recent letter he relates the following remarkable dream: "I dreamed that I was in Norway and that there were wonderful improvements going on there, - old buildings torn down and new ones erected in their place. I noticed the old Presbyterian church and the Frederick Mason house being over-hauled. I told some one near me that I was at the raising of both those buildings, remembering it as distinctly as though it was but yesterday. One large stone foundation was being laid on the side hill near where Dudley Smith once lived; it seemed to include an acre of ground. I was told it was for a flower garden with fine drives and walked, and being built by a German of great wealth. Now if anybody in the world is prophet enough, or the son of a prophet, that can interpret this wonderful dream, I would like to have them do it." Who knows but what a "boom" will strike Norway yet."

From: "Norway Tidings," Centennial Number

Letters of regret for not being able to attend the September 7, 1887 Norway Centennial included that of Judge Leach Nichols. However, Judge Leach provided a photograph of himself. Non-county residents in attendance at the Centennial included A.J. Nichols, Ohio, and Joseph "Bushneil", Auburn, NY.

From: "Norway Tidings," August 1888

"We have some "grand old men" for correspondents. Dr. Wm. Mather has been heard from, and will doubtless favor our readers again. Judge Francis L. Nichols will be remembered as "Leech" Nichols and for a short time was a merchant in our village of the firm of Stevens & Nichols. He "went west" at the right time and has been a most successful man. The second letter from Gaylord N. Sherwood shows the intense interest he feels in our local history. He was born in the "Hardscrabble" district of Fairfield, lived in Norway for a few years, taught school at Newport, and afterwards became a partner with A.H. Buell in the mercantile business of Syracuse and elsewhere. He writes a clean, handsome hand, that beats any of our old time correspondents."

EATON RAPIDS, Mich.                 July 10, 1888

EDITOR NORWAY TIDINGS: I was much interested in your July number, especially in the school roll of Miss Loomis. I knew nearly all the names on that roll. It was in that ancient school house that I learned my A.B.C.'s, taught by Selah Griswold in 1810. My father joined farmed with Silvanus Ferris, at this time, but he soon after traded farms with Nathaniel Salisbury and moved down near the state road. I recollect one of the Austin boys who lived with Col. Jared Thayer, who often frightened me as I passed to and from school. Before the war of 1812 my father bought a tavern stand of John Pinney at the intersection of the Jersey field and state roads and kept tavern during the war. I remember of seeing the large cannon that passed our tavern on the way to Sacketts Harbor, and once a regiment of soldiers halted in front of our house for dinner. I was stationed in the garden to keep the soldiers from stealing the vegetables, but gave them all the onions they wanted. A school house was only a few rods distant from father's tavern, where I went to school winters until I was fourteen years old, when my father traded his farm and tavern for 800 acres of wild land in the town of Antwerp, N.Y. The next five years I did not attend school. About 1819 my father traded his Antwerp property for a farm in Fairfield on Lawton street, when I got to leave to attend a select school at Newport one quarter and afterwards another quarter at the Fairfield academy, boarding at home and carrying my dinner. These two terms completed my education.

I well remember the Corp family; the names of the children were Isaac, Caleb, Betsey, John, William, Rebecca and Lucinda. Caleb and Rebecca were apt scholars. Caleb afterwards studied medicine and attended lectures at Fairfield in 1826, when I was clerk in the store of Geo. Kretsinger at $5 a month. Caleb Corp was awkward in appearance and bashful; the students made much fun of him on account of his appearance, but when examination day came he was ahead of them al, and graduated at the head of his class. I know not how he succeeded in the practice of medicine; think he went to Courtland county as did his brothers John and William.

I visited Norway in August, 1885. A large number of my relatives and old friends rest in your village cemetery. From you village I went via Gray to what was once Jackson's Mill and thence through the Barnes district to Dairy Hill school house. Looking through the window I verily believe I saw the same old box stove that was in use 75 years ago. A nail pulled from the siding as a keep sake, I bid good bye to the old school house, and passed on to visit my birthplace in the south meadow of the farm now owned by Oney Smith; the barn that my father built remains, but all else how changed, except the little brook gurgling along down between the hills, where once I took delight in fishing for trout. From thence the Wanton Sweet farm and the graves of the Sweet family were visited, also an old neglected grave yard where lie my uncle Maze Nichols and wife, and cousin Horace Nichols. The old Dr. Todd place and Burrells Corners were noted on my way to Little Falls. But a word more of Dairy Hill and its school house. One of the old teachers named Charles King I remember well; he was a confirmed old bachelor and it is said the reason he gave for not marrying was that three things connected with married life he did not like to do, viz: split wood, churn, and rock the cradle. Dudley Burwell was another of the famous teachers of that old district. He was an eminent lawyer, but quite eccentric during the latter part of his life and died at Little Falls. I knew Col. Daniel Wright and Capt. Jared Smith, the latter was one of Norway's prominent men and held the office of justice many years. He unite din marriage my cousin Betsy Gardner with Alvah Tanner. I was at the wedding. My father Shibnah Nichols succeeded Capt. Smith as captain. My father was ordered to march to Sacketts Harbor to meet the red coats, but the order was countermanded before reaching their destination. I recollect most of the men in his company. This letter is too long but when I get on the subject of the days of "Auld Lang Syne," I don't know when to stop. To-morrow I expect to celebrate my 83d birthday; hale and hearty.


BUFFALO, N.Y., June 31, 1888.

DEAR SIR: The July number of TIDINGS is at hand and again it carries me away back to my boyhood days. In that military document I see many familiar names. Lieut Shibnah Nichols, Jacob L. and John Sherwood were my uncles.

I recollect well the old school teacher Charles King. Arphaxed Loomis was one of my early teachers, and I received a nice letter from him a few days before he died.

Dr. Lyman H. Wilson I kew long ago, and all the Wilson children except him were my scholars at Newport.

I remember Almira Sheldon wife of Benjamin Hurd, when a girl; her brother Giles J. Sheldon and myself were students at Fairfield academy away back say 70 years ago, and roomed together. Finally a great many named in the paper I remember well, and I assure you NORWAY TIDINGS helps me to live over my young life again.

                Very truly yours,

G.N. SHERWOOD, nearing 84 years.

Sources: "History of the city of Toledo and Lucas County, Ohio." Clark Waggoner, editor. New York and Toledo: Munsell & Company, 1888, and "Norway Tidings," privately printed by The Kuyahoora Valley Historical Society, 1987.

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