Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens
CAPT. DANTON H. NICHOLS. Praise is always due to merit and especially where merit is the product of unassisted energy and perseverance. The self-made man commands our highest respect. The struggles by means of which he has risen from obscurity to honorable distinction cannot fail to enlist sympathy and call forth our warmest applause, and too, the record of a life well spent, of triumph over obstacles, of perseverance under difficulties and steady advancement from a modest beginning to a place of honor and distinction in the industrial world, when imprinted on the pages of history, present to the youth of the rising generation an example worthy of emulation and may also be studied with profit by those of more mature years whose achievements have not kept pace with their expectations. On the roster of the names of those who have been prominently identified with the development and upbuilding of Springfield and southwest Missouri that of the late Capt. Danton H. Nichols merits a place of honor. The major portion of his brilliant career was spent in this city, and ever during that epoch his energies were effectively directed along normal lines of industry and business enterprise-railroading-through which he made distinct contribution to the progress of this favored section of Missouri, and the same may be said of him in other localities of the nation, for he was one of the most prominent men of his field of endeavor in the United States for a number of years and held many high and responsible positions. His life was one of signal integrity and usefulness and such was his association with the varied affairs of the Queen City that it is altogether proper that a record of his strenuous, varied, useful and honorable career be perpetuated in this publication.
Capt. Nichols was born in Lima, Ohio, on August 14, 1849, and was a son of Mathias H. and Sylvia S. (Fisher) Nichols. The father was born in New Jersey in the year 1827, and he spent his boyhood in his native state, emigrating to Ohio when nineteen years of age, among the pioneers, and locating at Lima, and he published the first newspaper in that town, called The Allen County Gazette. He became a prominent man in that section of Ohio, and when only twenty-four years of age was elected to Congress. His death occurred in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the early age of thirty-nine years.
Thrown upon his own resources at the age of seventeen years, Danton H. Nichols carved out his own fortune unaided. He had received a fair education in the common schools of Lima and in the Illinois Military Academy, which he attended two and one-half years. At the age mentioned he came to Missouri and secured a job as peanut vender on trains out of St. Louis. He afterward held various positions on the old Atlantic & Pacific Railroad, which he filled with such satisfaction that the head officials offered him the position of division superintendent of the road. This was in 1875, and in 1881 he was advanced to the position of master of transportation. He was for some time general superintendent of this road, which is now a part of the Frisco System. Leaving the latter road, he went to the New York & New England Railway to straighten out a freight blockade. He did his work so promptly and thoroughly that when it was finished he was made general superintendent of that road. He returned to Missouri a year later to attend to some mining interests, after which he went to Mexico as superintendent of construction of the Pecos Valley System. When this road was built from Roswell, New Mexico, to Amarillo, Texas, he was made general manager and vice president. He later left the Pecos System to become president of the Kansas Southwestern Railway. After two years in this position he returned to Springfield to live, and during the three years following was with the Frisco Company rebuilding its lines in southwestern Missouri. He then went to Monroe, Louisiana, as superintendent of the construction of the Arkansas, Louisiana & Gulf Railway, from Monroe to Hamburg and Crossett, Arkansas. After completing this line he took tip the promotion of the line from Monroe through southwest Arkansas.
It was while Capt. Nichols was general superintendent of the Frisco that a fierce contest broke out among the officials of that road. Vice-president John O'Day was on one side and Capt. Nichols and E. D. Kenna, assistant general attorney, were on the other side. The fight became as bitter as a political campaign and Springfield was the storm center. It resulted in both O'Day and Nichols tendering their resignation, but Captain Nichols remained sixty days after Mr. O'Day. Mr. Kenna remained with the Frisco for a number of years as general attorney, but finally went to the Santa Fe.
The business motto of Mr. Nichols was, "Do that which your sense of right demands, leaving the consequences to take care of themselves," and this he tried to observe at all times. One of the north side organizations of railroad men was named for Mr. Nichols, and Nichols junction, the first station west of Springfield on the Frisco was also named for him, as well as Nichols street in the city of Springfield. He was greatly interested in the upbuilding of the northern business section of Springfield, and he also did much for the development of Drury College and was a decided friend to the churches of all denominations, and every church in this city received aid from him, which was always gladly and freely given, but in a quiet manner. He was charitably inclined, but not in order to gain the plaudits of his fellow-men, rather from a sense of duty and spirit of genuine altruism. He became very religious during the latter part of his life, and was instrumental in establishing Episcopal missions in New Mexico and Louisiana.
Captain Nichols was married in St. Louis on September 9, 1874, to Kate Cummings, a lady of culture and many estimable attributes and a representative of a sterling old family. She is a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Cummings. She was reared in St. Louis and there received an excellent education. Four children blessed the union of our subject and wife, namely: Mary, born in St. Louis on March 4, 1876, is the wife of E. B. Cowell, of Springfield; Sylvia S., born in St. Louis on October 15, 1878, is the wife of Seth Barham, chief accountant of the American Radiator Company, Chicago; Clara, born in Springfield on December 7, 1882, is the wife of Joel H. Rountree, of Springfield, and Arthur D., born in Springfield on December 19, 1884, is superintendent of transportation for the Arkansas, Louisiana & Gulf Railway, and lives in Monroe, Louisiana.
Politically Captain Nichols was a Democrat. Fraternally he belonged to the Masonic Order, including St. John's Commandery, No 20, Knights Templar, and was past master of Wentworth Lodge, No. 113, Ancient Order of United Workmen. Captain Nichols was a charter member of Knights Templar of Springfield and a member of the Mystic Shrine of Salina, Kansas.
The death of Captain Nichols occurred suddenly and without warning at Monroe, Louisiana, on November 27, 1910, at the age of sixty-one years. The funeral was held from the beautiful Nichols residence on East Cherry street, conducted by Rev. F. F. Beckerman, rector of Christ Episcopal church, with which the decedent held membership. Interment was made in Maple Park cemetery. Captain Nichols will long be greatly missed by a very wide circle of acquaintances and friends.
The following resolutions adopted at a meeting of the vestry of Grace church at Monroe, Louisiana, December 5, 1910, signed by a committee composed of Archdeacon M. R. Carson, LeDoux E. Smith and John G. Sanders:
"Whereas it has pleased Almighty God in His infinite wisdom and love to remove from our midst the spirit of Danton H. Nichols, a member of the vestry of Grace church, Monroe, Louisiana;
"And, whereas, his associates on that vestry and the congregation have lost in him one whose counsel and example were at all times helpful and inspiring;
"Therefore, be it resolved, That a formal record be made upon minutes of the sense of genuine sorrow that is entertained by reason of his death.
"In Captain Nichols we saw a man of the deepest religious convictions. At all times charitable, always regular and faithful in his devotions, constantly endeavoring to realize the highest precepts of his church, he stood as a splendid exemplar of the Christian faith. We shall miss him deeply, and we shall long cherish the recollection of his noble life.
"Be it further resolved, that a copy of these resolutions be forwarded the family of Captain Nichols with the assurance of our deepest and profoundest sympathy."
Springfield-Greene County Library