A Community Steeped in History
In 1662, the present Nichols area was deeded to the Town of Stratford by an Indian tribe, and in 1670, the Stratford residents began to use it for outlying farms and pastures. The Nichols family took a large tract in the center and about 1690, built the first house at the northeast corner of Center Street and Huntington Turnpike. They were followed by the Fairchild, Curtis, Brinsmade, Plumb, Hawley, Peet, and Ufford families among others.
From 1690 to 1800, Nichols was a typical farm village, completely self-sustaining except for church going in Stratford and Trumbull Center. It produced its own food and clothing, leather goods and shoes, tinware, and lumber.
About 1800, local industry expanded and carriage and saddle-making grew until in the 1850s, about 500 people were employed, riding and driving carriages in from the surrounding villages or boarding in Nichols. In 1848, the Episcopal and Methodist churches were built, beginning the first steps taken in local organization, since previously all church and civic activity had been centered in Stratford and Trumbull Center.
By 1880 the carriage and saddle factories gave up to western competition and eventually were torn down. At that time, most of the families still had the family names of the first settlers. They had their small farms, had saved up some money, and were able to live comfortably, although many of their children left to find work elsewhere.
All was not harmonious in Nichols, however, The War of the Revolution had Tory sympathizers. Religious differences were serious in those days, set family against family, and created bad feelings which lasted well into the 1900s. Even the local self-governing school district caused violent controversy. They did, however, agree to be buried in one cemetery, organizing the Cemetery Association in 1853 after the small plot on Unity Road became filled.
With this history of 200 years, it is most interesting that this group of rather highly individualistic people could, in 1889, agree to come together in a community organization. It was probably the result of their individual good housekeeping. At the time, Nichols was outstanding for the neatness of its homes, nearly all well-painted and surrounded by white picket fences to keep out the many horses and cattle. In contrast, the bad roads, no sidewalks, and no street lighting had an appeal for action and led them in 1889 to organize the Nichols Improvement Association.
Children are engaged in small groups and individual activities. At the center of it all is the belief that kids should be kids.
There’s a lot of history to this place…