About William Thomas Nichols
Civil War Union Army Officer. Enlisted in the Union Army upon the outbreak of the Ciivl War as a Private in Compaby K, 1st Vermont Volunteer Infantry in May 9, 1861. He served in the unit until it was mustered out of service on August 25, 1861. Over a year later he was commissioned as Colonel and commander of the 14th Vermont Volunteer Infantry, a unit that was enlisted for 9-month service. He commanded the regiment from September 25, 1862 until it was mustered out on July 30, 1863 and led it at the Battle of Gettysburg, where it helped repluse the famed Pickett's Charge on the third day of the battle (July 3, 1863). (bio by: Russ Dodge)
Colonel William T. Nichols Founding Father of Maywood, Illinois Col. Nichols was born March 24, 1829 in Clarendon Vt. As a young man he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1852. Shortly after that he was named assistant clerk of Vermont’s House of Representatives. He also maintained a private law practice, which occasioned him to travel west.
In 1855 on the way to Topeka, he found himself in the middle of the Kansas-Missouri border wars. At the time, “Slavers and “Free Staters” were conducting raids and killing each other in order to influence whether or not the Kansas Territory would enter the Union slave or free. Finding himself on the road with a group of “Slaver” raiders who were intent on destroying the town of Lawrence, Col. Nichols resolved to learn as much of their plans and warn the town. Along the way Nichols met W. A. Phillips, a correspondent for the New York Times who wished to send dispatches to Governor Robinson. At great peril to himself, he volunteered to deliver the dispatches knowing if he were to be caught he would be hanged. Nichols next stop was the raiders camp where he was able enter the camp by bluffing his way past the sentinels. There he learned the plans for the upcoming raid. Armed with this information, Nichols proceeded on to Lawrence, warning the town of the “Slavers” raid giving the town sufficient time to prepare and defend itself. For his actions the territorial governor appointed Nichols to his staff with the rank of colonel where he served for several months before his return to Rutland Vt. in January 1856.
In May of that year, he married Thyraza Crampton. They had two daughters, May and Lucy. Then in 1858 the colonel was elected Vermont’s state’s attorney and reelected in 1859.
When the Civil War erupted Nichols enlisted as a private and saw action in the Battle of Bethel. In September 1861 he was elected state representative from Rutland. In the same year he enlisted, again, as private and rejoined the Fourteenth Vermont Regiment. While away making speeches on behalf of the Union cause, he was elected colonel of the regiment. Although at first he refused the commission, the men insisted and he finally accepted.
On June 25, 1863 the Fourteenth Regiment was ordered to Gettysburg as part of the First Corps. By some accounts the Fourteenth under the leadership of Col. Nichols, along with the Thirteenth and Sixteenth Vermont Regiments, were instrumental in turning back Lee’s final charge, leading to the Confederates surrender. There is a monument at Gettysburg that reads “Fourteenth Vermont-Col. William T. Nichols, July 2, 3, 1863-19 killed-76 wounded- General Stannard’s Vermont Brigade.
It was after Gettysburg that Nichols mustered out and ran for the Vermont Senate. He was elected, and at 34 was the youngest man ever to serve in that body.
In 1865, Col. Nichols took a ship and headed south to investigate business possibilities. En route, he was shipwrecked 300 miles off the Carolina coast and spent three days and nights in an open boat without food or water before being rescued. In that same year, his wife and daughter May died. Nichols remarried his wife’s sister Helen and they had two sons, Edward and Harry.
Colonel Nichol's account of the sinking of the S.S. Republic:
The colonel came to Chicago on February 23, 1868 after his business ventures down south had failed. Together with six other Vermont businessmen he formed the Maywood Co. choosing the name Maywood in honor of his dead daughter. The Company was chartered on April 8, 1869 and purchased a plat of land 1¾-mile long by ½-mile wide from M.C. Niles of Oak Park for the price of $32,640. Nichols and his associates started developing Maywood by planting 20,000 trees, creating a 16 acre park that included a small lagoon, an ice cream stand, enough benches for 2,000 people, a music pavilion, a 124 foot high observatory, and dancing areas. The first house was constructed in 1871 and the village prospered. By 1875 it had over 200 homes, a village hall, four schools, five churches, an active library association, stores, shops, and manufacturing. The village incorporated on October 22, 1881 and the following year Colonel Nichols passed.