City Directories and History: The South as Frederick Nims Found It, and Its Influence on His Life by Kenneth Godfrey Nims’ Frederick Nims was born May 29, 1810, at Conway, Massachusetts, the son of James and Lucy Boyden Nims. James Nims was a farmer, so it is safe to assume that Frederick’s early life was the same as any other New England farm boy. He received his advanced education at Teacher’s Seminary, Phillips Academy, located at Andover, Massachusetts, and he is listed in the Class of 1834. Apparently he was a very good student, because he received the Academy president’s recommendation for a position of civil engineer for the State of Georgia. Georgia was expanding westward toward the Mississippi River with a major railroad called “Western and Atlantic.” This work took him as far west as Memphis, Tennessee, which impressed him as a “very uncivilized town.” His engineering skills were a small contribution to a large transportation system that tied the southern states together and moved their products to the industrial North as well as to the Atlantic and Gulf ports. During his engineering career, he came into contact with forces that changed his life and his political thinking, even to the point of referring to his Northern kindred during the Civil War as “the enemy.” I am sure the change was gradual, as this way of life began when Frederick was 26 years old; thus, he had ample time to absorb the philosophy of the Southern people and enjoy the lifestyle of an upper-class gentleman. His association with prominent Southern businessmen of the time certainly had its influence upon him. He seems to have remained aloof from the “secessionist movement,” but when the South seceded, he gave the movement his full support. It is well to consider the heritage of the people with whom he ultimately settled. The ethnic composition of North and South Carolina was very typical of the South, with the possible exception of the New Orleans area. The primary groups consisted of Anglo-Saxons, Germans, Welch, French Huguenots, West African (slave and free), and Scotch-Irish. This latter group entered this country in large numbers prior to the American Revolution. Their influence on the region was disproportionate to their numbers. They were an aggressive, politicized, determined people much feared by the war-like Indians. These “Border-Celts:” had never known anything but hardship and strife. They survived the border wars and raids of southern Scotland and contended with the Irish for their farms in Northern Ireland.
Frederick married a Scotch-Irish girl, Elizabeth White, 25 years his junior, in 1855 at Fort Mill, S. C. It is unlikely that his marriage affected his political views, as they were firm in his mind by this time. Elizabeth’s father owned slaves and farmed considerable acreage, which includes my homeplace. At the time of the Civil War, Frederick and Elizabeth had purchased a home in Mount Holly, N. C. and were operating with slave labor a large farm and engaged in other profitable endeavors. Whether Frederick owned the slaves himself, or came by them through his wife, we find from his letters to his brother Horace a great concern for their health and welfare. Their eventual emancipation was welcomed by him, as their care was a great responsibility. Yet the release of millions of landless people was a terrible hardship on everyone, white and black alike. The situation eventually evolved into a share-cropping system that replaced slavery with a lifestyle barely removed from peonage. Frederick was certainly a good manager; most of his letters are directing somebody to do something, especially the ones to his brother Horace, with whom he worked on a number of engineering projects. He suffered some concern and embarrassment from the fact that Horace refused to report for duty as a soldier in the last stages of the Civil War. He wrote several letters encouraging Horace to do his duty. The war’s end saved Horace, who was 48 years old, from arrest as a deserter.
Frederick’s losses due to the war were extensive, but his early death in 1867 spared him the humiliation of the Reconstruction period. That burden fell on his widow, Elizabeth. Her bitter letter dated October 30, 1865, but never mailed to Frederick’s niece in Michigan, gives us some insight into the feelings of that time (The Nims Family, 618-20). Frederick and Elizabeth had seven children, but only three survived to raise families. These three men became prominent citizens of North and South Carolina. Boyden trained as a medical chemist at University of Michigan and later operated a private laboratory in Columbia, S. C. Luther attended Amherst College, then came back to Mount Holly to help establish the Nims Manufacturing Company, a cotton mill. Fred Nims attended Fort Mill Academy and became a respected and successful farmer on land inherited from his mother. Almost all of Frederick Nims’ descendants still live in the South. I am proud to say that they have made solid citizens wherever they have settled. Like all Nims before them, they have served their country in all our wars with distinction and valor, and unlike Uncle Horace, reported for duty promptly when called.
(Information courtesy of and from: YCGHS – The Quarterly Magazine)
FREDERICK NIMS OVERSEES THE BRIDGE CONSTRUCTION @ THE CATAWBA RIVER
By far the biggest project in the construction of the rail line was building the bridge over the Catawba River. From the United States Census of 1850 for York District, South Carolina, we learn the names of most of the men responsible for the completion of the bridge, which at that time was one of the longest and most important railroad bridges in the nation. The contractor for the Catawba Bridge and evidently for another bridge over Sugaw Creek was William Murdoch, a native of Scotland, born about 1811. His wife was Sarah S. (–), born in Massachusetts about 1812. We can tell from the birthplaces of their children that Murdoch probably was moving about the United States in those days building bridges for whoever had need of his skilled services: a daughter, Marian C., was born about 1838 in North Carolina; William A. was born about 1842 in Charleston, South Carolina; and Lemuel C. was born about 1845 in Graniteville, South Carolina. Living in the same house with the Murdoch family was James M. Powell (aged 21 years), who was probably a clerk/secretary to Murdoch and who was a native of York District. Living nearby was one of the senior managers of the project, Samuel Smith of North Carolina, born about 1798. Another North Carolinian, John Simpson, aged forty-seven years, was also a manager and lived in the household of James D. Glover.
Some miles south of the River stood Steele’s Tavern, called Traveler’s Rest (property of Joseph Steele), located at the intersection of the Landsford Road and the old Saluda Road. At this site (which is now within the city of Rock Hill) lived Frederick Nims and Francis Wing, natives of Massachusetts. Nims was an engineer (aged thirty-five years) and Wing was his assistant and a project manager (aged twenty-three years). *** Documents also show that Frederick Nims lives at the Ann H. White Home and rented one of her slaves as an errand boy for his business and personal needs.
Living in shanties on the Owen Matthews farm were the following: The Owen Matthews House was on the Fort Mill side of the Catawba River near the White’s Store.
John McCarns, 26, native of Ireland
William Meade, 22, native of Ireland
James Kilistker, 37, of North Carolina
William Selda, 22, stonemason, native of England
Robert Abernathy, 42, laborer, of North Carolina
Thomas Ryan, 45, laborer, of North Carolina
James Edwards, 37, laborer, of North Carolina
Abner Hanter, 25, laborer, of North Carolina
John Newman, 24, a native of Germany
On the farm of Daniel F. Schooley lived these stonecutters: Schooley Plat – Heritage Plat Maps by Mayhugh. The Schooley house was just South of the trestle construction site, within easy walking distance.
James Ballou, 37, from Rhode Island
William Anderson, 45, of Scotland
William Ford, 27, of Rhode Island
William Hemphill, 26, of Virginia (he was a laborer)
John Bayne, 26, of Georgia (he was a miner)
Stephen Ballou, 39, of Rhode Island
John A. Clark, 26, of Maine
John A. Hunt, 24, of Massachusetts
Artemas Jaquith, 39, of Massachusetts
Charles B. Mason, 24, of Maine
William Emory, 25, of Maine
Arnold J. Whipple, 26, of Rhode Island.
On a nearby farm lived another stonecutter, Joseph E. Ide, 34, of Pennsylvania. Evidently, he had brought his family to the South when he came. With him were his wife, Sarah J., 25, of North Carolina, and a son, 6 months, John R. Ide, born in York District, South Carolina. This child’s age tells us that the Catawba railroad bridge had been in construction for more than six months at the time the Census enumerator called on the family.
We also find these men living in the household #355:
William Longrain, 60, of Ireland, a stonemason
William Longrain, 19, of North Carolina
John Longrain, 16, of North Carolina
Edward Longrain, 13, of North Carolina
James Longrain, 12, of North Carolina
Joseph Longrain, 6, of North Carolina
Jasper Acock, 21, of North Carolina
Under the direction of John Simpson, the manager mentioned above, there were thirty-one Negro slaves, of whom thirty were males and one, female, ranging in age from sixty years to three years. One of the men was probably married and had his wife and two young children living with them in the construction camp. It is likely that these workers belonged to the area residents under contract to the railroad company. The Census record of all the people involved in the building of the railroad bridge shows conclusively that this endeavor was a large operation involving workers from several states and foreign countries and which could not by any stretch of the imagination be called a usual or run-of-the-mill affair.
As John Springs III had predicted, the advent of the railroad raised the value of all the property along the line from Columbia to Charlotte. In a letter dated November 23, 1850, David B. Miller of York District, South Carolina, writing to his cousin Hanna Dorcas Black of Union District (McBrideville P.O.), S.C., said: “…The railroad is fetching Ebenezer [Ebenezerville] out of the ashes: it is raising the price of land very fast….” His was the expectation of good times to come, and we know from later events that he was not to be disappointed.
(Along the Landsford Road, by Wm. B. White, Jr. Vol., I – 2008)
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