John Walter Nichols
Story furnished by Clarence
Though the two old mills
built in 1856 and 1890 were still being powered by a 24 foot water
wheel, a turbine and a few large electric motors, the new plant built
in 1902 was powered by two steam engines. The engines turned a large
pulley (about 24 feet in diameter, (if I remember correctly) which
pulled overhead shafts on each floor of the new mill by ropes, which in
turn pulled the individual machines by belts. John Walter Nichols was
given charge of these steam engines. While shop men on the second and
third shifts looked over the steam engines during their shifts, Walter,
though not a Supervisor, was chief operator and in charge of their
maintenance for almost 50 years.
Walter, the son of John and
Margaret Rhinehart Nichols, was born June 8, 1888 in Haywood county
N.C. Coming from Pacolet Mills, S.C. where he had ventured into the
mill with his father as a young boy and had worked for a short time,
“Walt” as he was called, was employed by Glendale Mills on June 3, 1903
at the age of fifteen. His first job was in the spinning room where he
worked as a doffer which involved removing bobbins of thread from the
spinning frame to be used as filament. When Walt first came to
Glendale, he lived in a log house on the outskirts of the
Walt married Eva Allen
Bagwell, born August 10, 1903 and they became the parents of five
children. One daughter, Lee Ila and three sons, Dewy L, John Irby, and
Virgil Nichols. An infant daughter, Andra died at birth, October 9,
After the looms, spinning
frames and other machines had been individually motorized in the late
1940s and early 50s, the steam engines which Walt had operated most of
his life, were discontinued. For a short while Walt worked as an
electrician helping to motorize the machines. He retired at 64 years of
age after 49 years with Glendale Mills, having taken time out only to
serve as a cook in the U.S. Army during WW1. He saw action on the
battle fields of France.
At the time of his
retirement, Walter, his wife and children who were still at home, were
living in one of the renovated original homes in the village. It was
one of the first ten or twelve houses built in Bivingsville by Dr.
Bivings back in the 1830s on “Main Street” as it was first called. In
an interview he gave to a Spartanburg Herald Journalist following his
retirement, he related how he had gone to work for twenty five cents
per day with pay day coming only once per month.
Mrs. Eva Nichols died
on October 29, 1954. Her obituary which was published in the
Spartanburg Journal, Saturday, October 30, stated that she had died on
Friday morning at her home following several weeks of declining health.
Her funeral was held in the Glendale Methodist Church with interment
following in the upper Glendale Cemetery. She was survived by her
husband and four children.
John Walter Nichols 81, died
February 18, 1970. His obituary published in the Spartanburg newspaper
on Thursday, February 19, 1970 stated that he had died on Wednesday in
the Spartanburg Medicenter after a brief illness. He was survived by;
one daughter, Mrs. Lee Ila Nichols Hall,; three sons, Dewy L, John
Irby, and Virgil Nichols, all of Spartanburg, S. C. He was also
survived by two sisters,; Mrs. Nannie Jackson of Leicester, N.C. and
Mrs. Etta Burnett of Glendale; five grandchildren and two great
grandchildren. His funeral was held at the Bobo Funeral Chapel with
interment following in the upper Glendale Cemetery.
Lee Ila Nichols married
Albert Jack Hall . Lee Ila died in May of 2001
Dewy L. Nichols married Christine Hunter. Dewy died in June of 2010
John Irby Nichols married Sally(maiden name not known) Irby who
died in April
Virgil B. Nichols married Ann l. Rash. Virgil died in February of 2002.
Walter and his family were
very active in the community life and were well known and appreciated
by all his neighbors. This writer knew Walt and his family all his life
and was happy to call them “my friends“.
This web site has been started as a
public service to share the story of Glendale. The web master and
person to contact about putting information on the web site is Mary
McKinney Teaster. Contact her at:
or by telephone at (843) 873-8117. See
more information about Mary and her Glendale connection at Mary McKinney Teaster.