1839 - 1910
John Wesley Nichols was born January 28, 1839, in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, to Samuel and Katharine Maxwell Nichols. Little is known of his early years. In 1860 he married Sarah Elizabeth Dearborn, also born in Crawford County.
Nichols joined the Union Army on August 15, 1862, and served as a private in Captain Huidekoper's Company, subsequently Co. K, 150th Regiment Pennsylvania Infantry, also known as "The President's Bodyguard." He was mustered out with the company and honorably discharged as a private on June 15, 1865.
As a member of President Abraham Lincoln's bodyguard, Nichols saw the President almost daily between 1862 and Lincoln's death in 1865, according to a newspaper interview late in Nichols' life. During his presidency, Lincoln spent summers at the Soldiers' Home, 3 miles north of the White House. Nichols was on duty there one August night in 1864 when he heard a rifle shot and approaching hoof beats. A bareheaded Lincoln soon appeared, saying that the shot had scared his horse and caused him to lose his hat. Nichols calmed the horse and led it and its rider to the Executive Cottage. After stabling the horse, Nichols and a corporal searched the grounds for Lincoln's hat. They found it near the main road, where the sound of the shot had originated, with a bullet hole through the crown. Upon delivering the hat to the President the next day and pointing out the bullet hole, Mr. Lincoln remarked humorously that it was made by some foolish marksman, and added that he wished nothing said about it. However, the Bodyguard believed that it had been an assassination attempt, and after that Mr. Lincoln never rode alone.
"I don't want any guard tonight. If you want to go to the theater you may." Those were the words Mr. Lincoln spoke to his guard before he left for Ford's Theater on April 14, 1865. After the assassination the guards were in attendance at the White House and the funeral. Nichols remained in the President's Bodyguard for Andrew Jackson [sic - Johnson] until June of 1865.
John and Sarah Nichols came to Omaha in 1866. He worked as a brickmaker and later was the watchman for the Omaha post office. He also was a member of Omaha's first volunteer fire department. Mr. Nichols died on February 11, 1910, at the age of 71. Sarah died in 1925 and is buried beside him.
Historic marker dedicated on May 30, 2005