Thursday, September 3, 2015

Lorain High School Class of 1898 Graduate Looks Back

Last week I posted an article about the Lorain High School Class of 1957B. Well, here's one about a graduate of an earlier class – namely, the Lorain High School Class of 1898. His name is J. Bert Nichols and besides enjoying a fine career as a civil engineer and surveyor, he was also a historian.

In the article, written by Bill Wilgren, Mr. Nichols shares a few reminisces about what Lorain was like at the turn of the century. It appeared in the Lorain Journal on September 23, 1964.


Lorain Hi Grad Of 1898 Recalls Pioneer Youth

A Lorain man, who graduated from Lorain High School in 1898, is compiling a series of stories about pioneer life here, which will be published soon.

John B. (Bert) Nichols, 336 Oberlin Ave., was in the 10th class to be graduated from LHS. There were two boys and six girls in the class.

His stories, which will probably be compiled into book form, deals with incidents in the lives of the pioneers. Some stories will deal with the present.

"I tell folks I'm 19, you turn it around and that's it, 91 years old." This is the way he answers when he is questioned about his age. Nichols will be 92 years old in January.

1874 Map of Black River Township showing location
of Nichols farm, just east of the present day railroad
undercut where W. 21st Street meets Route 6
Nichols lived and worked on the family farm, which is now the site of the Country Club Estates until his mother died in 1899.

He moved to town. "I thought I'd like to be an attorney, but I knew I had to earn a living," Nichols said.

His math background in high school qualified him for a job with Lester Fauver, Lorain's first city engineer.

After spending two years with Fauver, he set up a private engineering and surveying practice.

Then he was asked to become city engineer and after several years on that post, he returned to private practice.

Nichols, who practiced civil engineering for 61 years, has lived in his Oberlin Ave. home since 1900.

Discussing civil engineering, he said, "There wasn't much accuracy in the old days. Temperature was not taken into account as it is today."

He noted that every 16 percent of temperature makes a difference of one-eighth of an inch in constructing a building or a bridge.

His children included the late Sterling R. Nichols, who was also a civil engineer; the late Harold Nichols, who was a physician; the late Harvey Nichols, who was a physician, and a daughter, Mrs. Edith Daniels of Sandusky.

Recalling his boyhood days in Lorain, he said he remembered the old Brownell House on Fifth and Brownell.

Leavitt Rd. was then the western boundary of Lorain, he said.

Driving into town with a horse and buggy, he said he could recall the major business section on W. Erie Ave. and Broadway.

There was Farrels Saloon on the east side of Broadway; the Kennard House (similar to a hotel); the Farrel Hotel; Noxon Bakery; Jewett & Clark, a combination drug and jewelry store; Shumaker & Carney Shoe Store; Davis' Red Front Drug Store and the George Chandler Barber Shop.

Asked whether he thought that man has progressed a great deal since the pioneer days, he said:

The FBI issued a report recently that the cost of crime in the U. S. was about 22 billion dollars annually.

"I tried to find out how much money that is. I went to the bank and got some silver dollars and found that setting them on edge, you can get nine silver dollars to an inch.

"This means that 22 billion is enough to circle the earth and have 7 billion left over," he calculated.

Calculating the 22 billion dollars another way, he said that he estimated that if you put that much money into 10 ton trucks, based on the average of $17 silver dollars per pound, it would take 64,705 trucks to hold the money and the trucks would take up 612 miles.

He thought, after finding out how much money 22 billion was that pioneer days were better. Then, he said, neighbors would walk 10 miles to help each other build homes. "There was love all the way through," he said.

Several publishers are negotiating with Nichols for the publication of his stories on Lorain history. No definite date has been set yet for publication.

He is a member of the Senior Fellowship Club, the Lorain Methodist Church and the Masons.

Mr. Nichols passed away on December 24, 1965 at the age of 92. Although I’m not sure if he was able to publish his book before he passed away, he did write A History of Lorain (1924) which used to be available on the Black River Historical Society website. I posted an excerpt from it back here on this post.

You can also find a generous sampling of it here on the website, where it is referred to as The History of Northern Lorain County.

Mr. Nichols’ longtime former house at 336 Oberlin Avenue is well-known to lovers of ice cream in Lorain. That's because the house is part of the K-Cream Korner property.

Here's how it looked back when the ice cream store was located in the old gas station building just north of the house. (Note the Ohio Edison plant in the background.)

Courtesy Lorain County Auditor website
And here are a few more recent shots of the remodeled house, which is now connected to the store.
Courtesy Lorain County Auditor website
Courtesy Lorain County Auditor website

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