Sunday, April 3, 2016

Rev. William S. Nichols

Today, as a historic church in Marblehead, Massachusetts, celebrates its TriCentennial (1716-2016), I am thinking of my grandfather, Rev. William S. Nichols, who served as minister there 1943-46.  His portrait hangs in a room now called the Nichols room.

For more about the TriCentennial, visit

I had hoped to attend today's ceremony.  Instead, I'm at home selecting some photos of my grandfather to scan and share here.  For instance:

Rev. William S. Nichols
Click on photo to enlarge

Rev. Nichols at Star Island
Photo reproduced in a booklet in his memory
published by the Unitarian Church, Marblehead, 1960.
I love this photo of him in front of the stone chapel at Star Island (Isles of Shoals). He attended Unitarian conferences there every summer for many, many years, I'm told. Unfortunately he had died before I, as a teenager, first discovered Star. I worked several summers on that island, and people sometimes exclaimed that it was good to have a Nichols on Star again. (At first, I didn't understand the reference, not realizing that my grandfather had preceded me.)

Here is a 1952 photo of my grandparents, Granddaddy and Nana, as I knew them in their retirement years.  I remember them so clearly! We lived right next door to them in Danvers. We ran freely from our yard to theirs, and spent many hours in their home. Grandaddy built us a playhouse, and took time to read books and play games with us. A delightful grandfather!

I want to share, from the 1960 "In Memoriam" booklet, some information relevant to family history and the history of the Marblehead church.  Here's an image of the booklet cover:

A Preface states that this "little brochure" was prepared and published by the Fund Raising Committee of the Unitarian Church of Marblehead "in loving memory of Doctor William Stanley Nichols, minister emeritus"  who "though already retired, gave in good measure his valued services during the years of World War II."  Four of his sermons were selected for reproduction in this booklet.

From the "Editor's Forward" (see below), we learn that my grandfather preached again in Marblehead May 18, 1958, just days before he died. 
Click on image to enlarge
The editor, Ruth Goodwin, wrote at the end, "Thus do we quote, remember and honor our valued friend and leader who was the great great great grandson of Edward Holyoke, who was ordained the first minister of our Marblehead Unitarian Church two hundred and forty-four years ago this month." She was writing in April 1960. 

Now it is 300 years since my ancestor Rev. Edward Holyoke started that church. I gather from the history posted on the website that he didn't intend to create a new church. A controversy erupted when he, as a candidate for minister of an older church, was not chosen; people who favored his candidacy broke away and established a new church for him. He served there for 21 years, until appointed to become President of Harvard College.

Growing up in Danvers, I heard relatives speak of a famous ancestor, Edward Holyoke, who was a president of Harvard long ago. I didn't then comprehend the connections to Marblehead or to ministry. (All presidents of Harvard in those early days had to be ministers...)  Nor did I see my grandfather as a minister.  He was 100% "Granddaddy" as far as I was concerned.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Tiddlywinks Golf

The Danvers Herald published my column on tiddlywinks golf in mid-January. See

I had written and submitted the piece while I was in the midst of planning an event featuring a different kind of indoor golf.  Memories of playing my father's version of golf kept coming to mind, so I took a brief pause and wrote that column, submitting it with a photo of the hooked rug crucial to the game.

Not until today did I check to learn whether the Herald had actually accepted my submission. I'm pleased to see that the rug photo (taken in 1942, when that hooked rug was new) was included in their online posting.  I don't know how it looked in the printed paper, as I don't see that edition.  I live far from Danvers, and gave up on the paper subscription years back, realizing that I rarely had time to look at the issues; my priority each morning is to read the newspaper(s) covering my current community.

Lack of time, sufficient time to follow-up on many interesting things, is a theme in my life. You might say that my problem stems from having too many interests.  'Way too many, I confess.  Band rehearsals, library meetings, band gigs, writing group at the Senior Center, community meetings – plenty of action/distraction each week.

And I'm STILL busy planning a miniature golf event that will happen April 9 - just one month from today. It is a new fundraiser for our public library, being organized by the Friends of the Library, of which I have been President since last August. Recruiting sponsors for the event, especially for each of the 18 "holes," has been my task. This is indoor golf on a large scale, much larger than the old hooked rug in Danvers. Five levels of our newly-expanded public library will be included in the golf course!  We hope hundreds of people, especially young children, will come and have fun.

So, I've been ignoring this Danvers blog, and failing to write more columns for the Herald, because I'm having too much fun focusing on Mini Golf in the Library!  If curious, you may learn more via this web address:

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas fern


I saw this lovely Christmas fern yesterday in the woods near Ashley Reservoir (Holyoke, MA). The day was misty and mild, more spring-like than typical of December days. I recognized this distinctive fern by its little leaflets shaped like Christmas stockings all in a row. My mother taught me that identification clue years ago in Danvers, and I've never forgotten it. 

Today I saw many other examples at the Mount Tom State Reservation, and paused along the Bray Lake trail to take this photo of a few Christmas ferns by a small flowing brook: 

The New York Times published a related article online today: The Christmas Fern, a Cold-Weather Frond by David Taft. He writes, "There is little mystery about how the Christmas fern got its name. Its timing was right; it is green when much of the natural world is brown, absent or dormant. There is, however, a more subtle reminder of the holiday season to find among its fronds. Each of the pinnae — the individual leaflets of any fern — is shaped like a little Christmas stocking, and with a bit of imagination, you can picture the little feet marching up the fern’s central stem, or rachis."  
Exactly.  Merry Christmas to all!