Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Howard Gardner Nichols Memorial Library

Yesterday's post was the history of N.E. Alabama Genealogical Society.  The early members of NEAGS were responsible for preserving a part of Gadsden, Etowah County and Alabama history.
They purchased the library building built in memory of a young Harvard graduate, Howard Gardner Nichols.  Not only was this a very important part of Gadsden and Etowah County history it was also the first lending library building in Alabama.  There were other lending libraries in Alabama when the HG Nichols Memorial Library was built, but they were housed in other businesses. Shortly after his Harvard graduation,  Howard Gardner Nichols was sent to Alabama to oversee the building of the Dwight Cotton Mill and the surrounding village for the mill workers. He was a well liked young man and very hands on.  His drive to be part of everything cost him his life.  While helping to install equipment in the mill, a piece of machinery  fell and crushed the young man.  He was carried by special train to Atlanta and at one time it was thought that he might survive his injuries but it was not to be.
After his death his body was returned to his home in Haverhill, Mass. for burial.  Several prominent members of the Etowah County community made the trip to show their respect.After a time of mourning the Nichols family sent workers and materials back to the community that Howard Gardner Nichols loved to honor his memory by building a library in the Dwight Mill Village.  The library was stocked with books and opened in late 1899. Only men worked in the mill at that time and they were the only people allowed to borrow books.  No Women!

That changed with the onset of World War II, the men went to war and the women had to go to work in the cotton mill.  Since they had young children, the library became the childcare center for Dwight Cotton Mill.  Mrs. Ola Hamil was hired as the nursery's director.  When the mill closed the Hamil family bought the building and continued to use it as a daycare until the late 1960's.
When the daycare closed the building was placed on the sales market.

Jerry B. Jones recognized the importance of saving the little building and contacted the Etowah Historical Society and asked them to buy it.  They declined and Mr. Jones asked the members of N.E. Alabama Genealogical Society if they would buy it.  The society agreed and Mr. Jones took a personal loan at Alabama City Bank and purchased the Howard Gardner Nichols Memorial Library.  Various organizations and community leaders contributed to the repairs that were necessary.

After the repairs were made, Nichols Memorial Library became the home of N.E. Alabama Genealogical Society and as they say the rest is history.  The library is on the National Register of Historic  Places.  For more information on the society or Nichols Memorial Library please contact us. We're always ready to help with your genealogical research needs in our area also.

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