Nichols Memorial LibraryNichols Memorial Library

NorthEast Alabama Genealogical Society, Inc.

NEAGS is located in the Nichols Memorial Library, One Cabot Avenue, Gadsden, Alabama.

The Cotton Mill was built in Alabama by Dwight Manufacturing to meet their competition. Converting cotton in the south saved money. And cost control is a main ingredient of Manufacturing.

Howard Gardner Nichols had finished college at Harvard in 1893 and he joined Dwight Manufacturing Company. Since his father was the Treasurer, it was probably an easy decision.

H.G. Nichols seems to have done well with the company and was chosen to oversee the construction of the new mill to be located in Alabama City, Alabama. On Christmas Day, 1895, one year after the announcement of the planned building of the new southern cotton mill, a button was pressed at the Dwight’s Chicopee, Massachusetts mill to set in motion the giant Corliss engine in Alabama City to begin the mill operation. In his daily journal, Howard Gardner Nichols recorded that on Friday, February 7, 1896, workers opened the first bale of cotton and threw it into the feeder.

Before daylight on May 23, 1896 he went to the mill to supervise the moving of an electric generator. The night shift had worked feverishly to place the huge dynamo in its proper place. Young Nichols joined the work crew.

When everything seemed secure for the final move, the huge scaffolding timbers cracked and splintered in a deafening crash as the machine and Nichols fell together. He was pinned in the rubble.

He suffered severe internal injuries and remained unconscious during the morning as local physicians attended him.

A surgeon was called from Chattanooga, and early the next morning, he operated on the patient in his cottage.

The doctors told the parents that their son could survive but a few hours. The young man rallied, however, and the doctors gained hope for his recovery.

A doctor was summoned from Atlanta to assist in the treatment. Eight days later Nichols was moved by special train to a sanatorium in Atlanta.

He arrived in good spirits, confident of his recovery. He sent greetings to friends in Gadsden and instructions for continuing the work at the mill in Alabama City.

Nevertheless, in mid-June complications developed, and despite the best medical care then available, he died on June 23, 1896.

The Library building was constructed between 1898 and 1900. The distinctive white columned building that is now the Howard Gardner Nichols Memorial Library became the first public lending library building erected in Alabama.

The Nichols Library was the first public lending library in Alabama.

Another memorial to Mr. Nichols was in the lovely Union Church which featured unique Alpine architecture. His sister placed a stained glass window in the church as a gift in his memory. When the Union Church was dismantled years later, the window was moved to a special place of honor at Gadsden’s Holy Comforter Protestant Episcopal Church, where Howard Gardner Nichols had worshiped during his years in Alabama City and Gadsden.

In the mid 1930’s books were transferred to the Alabama City branch of the Gadsden Public Library System.

During World War II the old library was operated as a child care center so women could work in the mill. Cone Mills sold the building to the Hamil family in 1971. They operated a day care center until 1973. On June 30, 1973 the library was sold to NEAGS. Jerry Jones [now deceased] was responsible for the purchase.

While genealogy is our goal, NEAGS’s objective is to keep the Nichols Library a Treasure of Gadsden. We are part of city tours giving visitors a taste of Gadsden History.

The Nichols Memorial Library was placed
on the National Register of Historic Landmarks
December 27, 1974.


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Comments 13

  • I understand that the society is in the process of naming the graves in the old CLAYTON cemetery for a publication (book) or already has done so. The society was trying to find the names of actual burials but no stones.
    During the past few months which I have been researching my family members, I have found out that my Grt Grmother is buried there but no marker/stone. I can easily prove this. Let me know who to write to to give them the information I have plus there may be others that I can help identify. I have the name of Julie PAYNE in my notes. I can be reached at the email address below or cell (931) 952-3509. 621 St Clair, Tracy City, TN 37387

  • My husband was born in the old Albertville/Boaz Clinic on August 14, 1955, to John and Eloise Bannister. On his birth certificate, it shows he is a twin and the names on it are Vinson Melton (his name) and Winston Milton Bannister but they were told it was a mistake. Is there always to know for sure. My husband and his parents have passed away .

  • Hello. I am interested in doing more research on my family ancestors. They are all local Gadsden settlers. One of those ancestors is Emma Sansom.

    Would you mind sending out an email when you determine the reopening of the Nichols Library. I will be traveling from out of state.

    Thank you.

  • We wanted to visit the library, so we came on Thursday, but it was closed. My husband’s family lived in Blount county and we have not been able to find much information. We were hoping a local library might have something. Is there anyway someone could check to see if there is any information on a Dr. John Lowery buried in Nesmith Cemetery in Brooksville? If it looks like you might have information, we will setup appointment to come back

  • Are You still doing descended of First Families certificate? Mine read I’m the gr gr gr gr gr granddaughter of Adam Shuffield/Sheffield.

  • I’m fairly new to genealogy. Would you please tell me how I access the 1820 census for DeKalb County, Alabama?

  • Hi,
    I would like to purchase Joshua Price’s book on the 48th Alabama Regiment, CSA. Both my great, great grandfather and his father were members of this regiment. I contacted Josh several times over the past few years and the books were not available. Either hard copy or electronic copy will work for me. You might be interested to know that my doctoral dissertation is “The Bands and Musicians of the Confederacy.” It is not commercially published, but I would be willing to get a copy to you if you can help me get the 48th Alabama book. Thanks,
    Benny P. Ferguson

  • I visited the Nichols Library many times while researching the novel I just published, “You Can’t Ride This Train” . My book is set mostly in my fictional version of Alabama City in the early 20th century. Several scenes take place the Nichols Library, which I call the Amory Addams White Memorial Library. I will be in Gadsden in late May and would love to talk to you about it.

    • Hi Jane,
      We are currently closed to visitors due to Covid-19. We would love to talk to you when we reopen. Thank you so much!

  • I have not received the quarterly for this year. Please send, for it is my only link to my Alabama kin. Carol valladares

  • Hello

    My father’s cousin, Anna Linton Praytor, died without direct descendants. We inherited the family Bible of her mother Anna Linton (who married Arthur Praytor in Talledega 1892). There are several references to births/deaths in Talledega County. We are kin to Anna Linton Praytor on the Praytor side. Since the Lintons are only “kissing cousins” I would like to give the Bible to a Linton. Would you have any knowledge of Lintons who are still in Talladega?

    Thank you,
    Paula Hazelrig Hickman

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