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George Herman Nicholson Papers

Manuscript Collection no. 180



The papers of George Herman Nicholson were donated to the Kansas State Historical Society by Esther Aspelin Hogle in 1986. The collection consists of biographical and genealogical information, miscellaneous correspondence, documents, and financial papers; correspondence concerning the settlement of his estate, and 44 volumes of pocket diaries. The material covers the period 1883-1967, is arranged chronologically, and contained in two boxes. There are no restrictions on these papers.


George Herman Nicholson was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, August 11, 1883. His parents were Jens (John) Peter Nicholson and Thora Elizabeth Jessen. The family immigrated to America, arriving at Ellis Island on George’s seventh birthday, August 11, 1890. They traveled by train, in a boxcar, to Junction City, Kansas, where they settled temporarily. In early 1891 they moved to their homestead in Liberty Township in southeastern Geary County, Kansas.

After attending “Quaker” school, Nicholson left the farm at age eighteen. He wanted to be a lumberman and went to work in a lumber yard in Kansas City. He later worked in a Chicago lumber yard. In late 1905 he moved to St. Louis and in February, 1906, was hired as a wagon helper by American Express Company. Nicholson served in various positions in Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas. He was the “grievance man” for the Brotherhood of Railway Clerks for several years before election as general chairman. He retired from railroad work at the end of 1948. He died February 2, 1965.

Scope and Content

The Nicholson papers are enriched by a reminiscence written by his niece, Esther Aspelin Hogle, which includes family history beginning with Jens (John) Peter Nicholson. Peter served in the Royal Danish Guard as a guardsman for the king. He met and married Thora Elizabeth Jessen, the tutor for the king’s children. Peter’s brother, Terkel, a University of Copenhagen graduate in engineering, was first to come to America. He served as a U. S. government architect at Fort Union, New Mexico, and later at Fort Riley, Kansas. He was an influential architect in Junction City, Kansas. Terkel sponsored Peter’s family, as well as others, who came to America.

After arriving at Junction City, Peter settled in Geary County with his wife and there they raised seven children. One son, George Herman Nicholson, is the subject of this collection. In a letter dated January 12, 1949, George wrote an autobiographical sketch concerning his life’s work. He went to work for American Express Company in 1906 and retired in 1948 as general chairman of the Kansas and Oklahoma Board of Adjustment of the Brotherhood of Railway Clerks.
During most of these years, Nicholson kept diaries (1909-1910, 1920, 1923-1964) in which he noted financial expenditures, payments, weather conditions, business and personal activities. One volume contains names of officers and/or members of lodges of the Brotherhood in Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

Nicholson recorded business and personal information in his diaries. Accounts of wages, commissions, tips, and freight payments while he was an employee of the Express Company comprise the early entries. After his election to office with the Brotherhood, he also recorded the lodge information for those he served, including: names & addresses of members, officers, organizational activities, trips made for the Brotherhood, negotiations with government regarding control of railroads, notes on employee grievances, secret signals for messages and identification between union and railway men, records of daily appointments, and a business-like conclusion early in the 1949 diary regarding his retirement.

Personal notes included daily weather conditions, location, expenditures for room, meals, clothing, medical, insurance, and investment payments. It is interesting that he notes buying a revolver and holster. He also recorded car mileage and tax payments in the later volumes. From 1949 on, financial information regarding his investments becomes more detailed. He noted removal from his Kansas City residence to his lakefront property and the many visitors he had there. He also noted his lawn, garden, and boating activities. In the last volume, 1964, his deteriorating health was recorded. His last two entries were made on file cards dated Nov. 8 & 9, 1964, upon admittance to the hospital, and include information on his treatment for those two days.

Upon the death of George Herman Nicholson, his niece, Lola Aspelin was named executrix of his estate. The correspondence between Miss Aspelin and Kent L. Thompson, lawyer, and other heirs, debtors, businesses or individuals concerned with this estate, comprises the rest of the Nicholson papers.

Joan R. Renek
January, 1987

Contents List

Box 1 Biographical information, letter d. Jan. 12, 1949.
  Genealogical information, reminiscence of Esther Aspelin Hogle.
  Correspondence & financial papers - ca. 1930-1964.
  Correspondence re: settlement of estate - Feb., 1965 - Sept., 1967,
  and undated correspondence.
Box 2 44 volumes of pocket diaries - 1909-1910, 1920, 1923-1964.
  Two file cards, with personal notations regarding his admission
  to hospital, d. Nov. 8 & 9, 1964. One Christmas Shopping List
  booklet, including names, gifts and amounts paid, undated.