Cause of Death of 4 is a Mystery – Nichols Tragedy Part 2

Glasgow Times Thursday November 3 1927

“The bodies of four persons, all members of one family, were found in the debris of their fireswept home 4 miles from here at 2:30 Monday afternoon. The dead are Earl Nichols, 37, Mrs.Polly Nichols, 33, his wife; Earline Nichols, 3 year old daughter, and Wendell H., 5 month old son. Besides the two children who died in the fire, the Nichols couple had 3 others, Oval, 11, Joe, 8, and Harvey, 6, who were in school at the time of the tragedy.
“Within 100 yards of where the 4 members of the Nichols family lost their lives Monday, The Times recalls the following tragic events: Oren Broady, October 1920, lost his life when a tree fell on him. JW Reeder in August 1922, was killed when his auto plunged over the bridge embankment nearby. On December 1926, Mr. GT Williamson shot himself at this barn nearby; and about 8 years ago, Sam Crenshaw, colored preacher, was drowned at the creek ford close by.
“Mr. Nichols resided at the old Rev. W> Neal farm nearby (later Dohoney) 4 miles from town on Edmonton pike. Mr. Nichols was in town until 11 o’clock the day of the tragedy. He called at several stores here and returned home about 1 o’clock. He was seen sitting in his car in front of his home a half hour before the house was discovered in flames. A neighbor, Mrs. GT Williamson, had almost reached the house when Mr. Nichols advised her that ‘Polly’ (his wife) was not at home. Mrs. Williamson returned home, and in a few minutes the house was noticed afire. Neighbors, unaware of the dead family in the house, removed some of the household effects, but were unable to penetrate the rooms in which the bodies were lying because of the flames.
“Indications point to the fact that Mrs. Nichols and the two children had tumbled from a closet in which their bodies had been jammed; that Mr. Nichols’ body was in an adjoining room. A hole in Mrs. Nichols’ head, believed to have been inflicted with a gun, was pronounced dead. Mr. Nichols’ body, minus head, was found huddled over a double-barrel 12 gauge shotgun in which two discharged shotgun shells were found.
“Many theories have been advanced how the deaths occurred. Nobody will ever know the truth. Theory that Mr. Nichols, in mental aberration killed his family, fired the house and then committed suicide is most generally expressed. It is also thought all victims were dead when the house was fired.
“There are some who believe that Nichols had killed his wife and two children and put them in a closet, and was awaiting the return of the other children from school, but the visit of the neighbors caused alteration of his plans.
“Mr. Nichols was the son of Mr. HB Nichols. Mrs. Nichols was the daughter of Mr. Dick Shirley. Members of the families took charge of the remains which were interred in the cemetery here Tuesday after funeral services at the Baptist Church.”

On a final note, there have been many tragedies and such in this area that were unmentioned, and this has occurred occasionally there since the first one mentioned. There were probably things before that, which I am sure there were. This is one area full of Urban legends.
What I find disturbing is that the Mrs. Williamson that had come to call had just lost her own husband to suicide that prior December. And also the fact that this took place on Hallowe’en!

About Gclee

I am a long time genealogy and local history hunter from Barren Co., KY. I have many stories to share that may be of interest to other local genealogists and history buffs. I enjoy this as a hobby and hope I can be of encouragement to others. I also hope everyone enjoys my stories as much as I have enjoyed learning about them.
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2 Responses to Cause of Death of 4 is a Mystery – Nichols Tragedy Part 2

  1. Jeane Roller says:

    Have you ever heard any stories about my great grandfather, Rufus Dowell. He was married to the daughter of James Whitfield Hubbard. He was shot by a man named Sexton in September of 1905 near Sulphur Well on Beechville Road. My family has looked for more information/pictures but cannot find any. I great grandmother was Louvenia Hubbard Dowell. One of their children, Oscar Dowell, operated a small store north of Edmonton for many years.

    • Gclee says:

      I have heard of him, but I’m not sure if it was word of mouth or when I researched on “Dode” Dowell. I will go back through my notes on that and then try to backtrack to the source. If I find anything I will share it. Beechville was quite an area back in the day.

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