From the Garland Local History & Genealogical Society, Volume 8-Number 1, Spring 1997


Author:                Minor Nickens

James William Nickens, born in Ireland, date unknown, came to the United States about 1825. He settled in Western Tennessee, in Wilson county, married and had two sons, James William Jr., and Matthew; two daughters, Sarah and Martha. Martha died in childhood, and Sarah married John Clark and had four children: Belle, William, Addie and George. Sarah and John moved their family to Southeast Texas near Jasper. Sarah’s great niece, Bessie Nickens, remembered visiting the family as a child and was intrigued by her Aunt Sarah smoking a pipe.

James William Nickens, Jr (born 1827) married (1) Jane Frances (Fanny) Bass, and to this union was born three sons: Jasper Newton (who was my grandfather), James Midas and Matthew. When the oldest son, Jasper Newton (born 22 Nov. 1849) was two years old, the family moved to Southern Illinois. The two youngest boys were born there. Fanny died and he then married her sister, Doretha, not an uncommon occurrence in those days. They had no children. James was engaged in farming when he answered Lincoln’s call for volunteers and joined Company C of the 120th Illinois Infantry Volunteers when it was organized in Johnson County on August 29, 1862. He was mustered into the service of the United States at Camp Butler,  Illinois, on October 29, 1862, by Lt. E.W. Curtis, U.S.A. He served under Captain Uriah Axley, and fought at the Battle of Vicksburg. He entered Washington General Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, on September 28, 1863 after having eaten some bad pork. He died on November 2, 1863, of chronic diarrhea, and is buried in the National Cemetery in Memphis.

Although I was aware that my great grandfather, James William Nickens, Jr. died while in the service of the Union Army, I did not know until recently where he was buried. After much research, and many phone calls, I learned that he was buried In the National Cemetery at Memphis, Tenn. My wife Shirley and I visited the cemetery in January of 1992. After 128 years, I was the first relative to visit his grave, as his family had not known where he was buried. His tombstone only had J.W. Nickens III on it, so we asked for a new tombstone to be erected with his full name, date of death, Co. C, 120th Illinois Infantry on it, and it has since been put up. We then went on to Vicksburg and found his name inscribed in the Illinois Memorial in Vicksburg Military Park, and that was very moving for us.

Jasper Newton came to Texas about 1874, stopping at Duck Creek. There were no railroads but two were built later. He first lived with the Sam Byrd family, and later moved to the Joe Mewshaw home. He was a boot maker and harness maker by trade, and made most of the boots for his community ad also the surrounding towns. Transportation being what it was in those days, he would go to Dallas to get leather for the boots, and carry it home on his back. Once he rode his mule to Dallas to get some supplies, and started back home walking, but when he was about half way home, he remembered that he had ridden his mule this morning, so he had to turn around and go back to Dallas and get his mule. He was known as a great walker, and my sister Annelle tells the story that she was once walking home with him and somebody in a car offered them a ride, but he refused, saying that he didn’t have time because he was in a hurry.

On January 31, 1882 he married Nancy Ann Russell, who had come to Texas from Carthage, Mo. When she was 13, John Russell (his wife died in 1856), Nancy Ann’s father, who had come to Texas earlier, was a neighbor and friend of the Stemmons family in Carthage and later in Dallas County. When Mrs. Stemmons went back to Missouri on a visit, John Russell asked her to bring Nancy Ann back with her, and she came with Mrs. Stemmons, and lived with the Stemmons family for about 4 years. The Stemmons family later became well known in Dallas history. Stemmons Freeway is named after them and they also developed the Trinity Industrial Area. They traveled by wagon, but it was so rough riding, Ann, as she was commonly called, said that she walked most of the way. She joined her father, John Russell, who had come to Texas earlier, her mother having died when Ann was three. She was living with the Hannibal James family, but because Jasper was a Republican, the James family would not permit it, so they were married in the Mewshew home. In those days a Republican in TX was about as welcome as a rattlesnake.

In the meantime, two railroads, the MKT and the Sante Fe were built, and the town was moved to Embree and later to the intersection of the railroads, and renamed Garland. Some people say it was named for the then attorney general of the United States. Besides being a boot maker and harness maker, Jasper also became a farmer, and had a 150 acre farm at the corner of what is now Forest lane and Shiloh Rd. he was later joined in the operation of the farm by his son, William Hillen, who was my father. Jasper died 8 May, 1925, at the age of 76. Jasper and Ann were the parents of six daughters, and one son, all born near Garland (before Garland was incorporated). They were:

Bessie Ann, born 1 Nov. 1883, died June 23, 1973. She was the traveler of the family, having been in all of the states except Vermont and Alaska. She also traveled to Europe, Canada, Mexico and Central America. She never married, and taught school for many years in Arlington, Grapevine, Brownsville, Garland, and Cumberland Hill. The 1918 Dallas City Directory lists her as a teacher at Cumberland Hill, where she taught for more than 40 years.

Grace Newton, born 2 Oct. 1887, died 16 Sept., 1958. She never married.

William Hillen born 2 Sept., 1887, died 9 Nov. 1965. He married Ethel Mae Minor 31 Oct., 1912, and they had four children: William Murray, Annelle, Martha Francis, and Minor.

Mary Alice born 18 July, 1889, died in 1970. She married Enoch Wesley Brooks 19 Dec. 1909, and they had four boys: Everett Newton, Melvin Russell, James Milton, and Robert Wesley.

Fannie Elvira, born 19 Oct., 1891, died 23 Feb., 1973. She was first married to John F. Smith on 26 March, 1921. They had one child who died shortly after birth. After the death of Mr. Smith she married Fred Barnhardt on 16 Sep. 1961

Llewellyn Mae, born 12 Aug., 1894, died 14 Feb., 1982. She was first married to Roy Bynum 19 Oct., 1916, and they had three children: Anna Wynnelle, Roy Estil Bynum, Jr., and Charles Maurice. After his death she married Roy Giggleman on 18 Oct., 1967.

Lennie Russell, born 17 Nov., 1898. She married Everett Eugene Morgan 3 Jan., 1916, and they had five children: Katherine Delvine, Venola Eugene, Everett Eugene, Laverta Ann, and Tommy Joe (he only lived 6 months)

James Midas Nickens, brother of Jasper Newton and Matthew, was born 6 Oct., 1851, in Illinois and died 19 March, 1940, in Dallas. His first wife was Nancy Chalky Keene who died 27 May, 1883. They had two children: a son, Clarence Winford was bron 28 July, 1881, and died 24 January, 1937. He was gassed in World War 1, and was paralyzed for many years. He and his father are both buried in Garland Memorial Cemetery. They had a daughter born 16 Nov., 1882, and died 12 Dec., 1882. After his wife died, he married her sister, Elvira Keene Moore, who was born 1 Nov., 1852, and died 2 March, 1933. Three children were born to them. They were: Claude Earle, Nora (who died at age 5), and Frank Adair.

Matthew Nickens was born 6 March, 1853, in Illinois, and died 2 Jan., 1927. He married Nancy Alice Province in that state and they came with their four children to Texas in a covered wagon, and settled down in the Centerville community on a large farm. The only remainder of that farm is a road named Nickens Road. Nancy was born 8 Apr., 1862, and died 19 Sept., 1930. They are buried in Pleasant Ridge Cemetery, with two of their children: Beatrice (born 31 Jan., 1895, died 12 Feb., 1896), and J.A. (born 1 Mar., 1882, died 24 Oct., 1902). Their other children were: Jimmy Albert, Minnie Maud, Dennis Newton, and Cora May.

NOTE: The bulk of information for this brief history of the Nickens family was gathered by my aunt, Bessie Ann Nickens, assembled and organized by my sister, Annelle Davis, and my cousin, Betty Morgan. I have made some additions, deletions, and corrections due to my own research.

Minor Nickens