Father John T Nicholson

nicholson nyt

Father Nicholson was a Roman Catholic priest at Limburg from the end of Jan 1915 until mid June 1915. For most of this time he was the sole recruiter for the Irish Brigade. Casement made a few recruiting speeches, but in reality Faher Nicholson was in sole charge of sounding out men unto Plunket arrived and the miain bout of recruiting intervies was between 9 May and 18 May 1915. The recruiting men were Keogh, Quinlish and Bailey, who conducted the interviews during this period. As each man signed up he was transferred to a barracks outside the camp. On May 25 these recruits were transferred to Zossen, except for Keogh, Quinlisk and Dowling who were to stay at Limburg to try to get more men. Once the men had moved to Zossen Nicholson effectively moved out of the picture and returned to USA leaving Holland on 15th June. His biography is as follows.

Some of the men were convinced that Nicholson was not a priest at all, because of his political positoin, but he clearly was a priest.

1868. Fr. Nicholson was born in Tubbercurry, County Sligo, Ireland. He was 66 years of age at the time of his death in Feb 1935

1885 He worked for Duff & Co, Ballaghadereen

1889 He studied at Mungret, in Ireland, going there at the age of 21 and studying for 5 years

1894 He then went to the USA and arrived in 1894 (from his own census data) and finished his studies at the ollege of the West at Cincinnatti

1897 He studied further at Cincinnati, where he was ordained in 1897 for the diocese of Galveston. While pastor in Houston he contracted malarial fever, and found it advisable to seek a higher altitude. In Wyoming he was pastor successively at Newcastle, Buffalo, and after his return from Ireland, Laramie

1900 May. Became a naturalised US citizen in Galveston, Texas. He was lucky not to be in the church building in Galveston in 1900 when it was destroyed by a storm.

1902, under the leadership of Father John T. Nicholson, the third pastor, the building of St. Thomas High School (then known as St. Thomas College located at the corner of Franklin and Crawford Streets) was purchased and moved to the parish property near the corner of Pierce and Fannin Streets. It was renovated and used as a new school building and residence for the Sisters who staffed the school. Father Nicholson painted this building green, and it was thus known as the Green House. The vacated, two-story Annex was converted into a rectory.

1910 census

1910 In census Houston Ward, Harris Texas.

1911 Father Nicholson acquired a two-story, wooden home to use as a rectory and had it moved to the parish property and placed between the Green House and the church. The Green House, or school building, was demolished to make room for the present church, and classes were then conducted in the old Gothic church and Annex.

1914 Dec 24. The German ambassador in Washington Count von Bernstorff gave notice of his arrival from the United States: “ [Nicholson] speaks Irish well; has visited Germany and is in fully sympathy with the work we want done. Born in Ireland but is an American citizen.”

1914 Dec 18. Sails from New York to Naples. The Germans "arranged to have passport for Italy and Switzerland. Is in every way qualified. Speaks Irish well: has visited Germany and is full of sympathy with the work we have done. Born in Ireland but is an American citizen".

1915 Jan 21. Father Nicholson arrived in Berlin. Casement went from Limburg to Berlin to meet him. He is described as the Irish Clan na Gael representative from Philadelphia, but born in Kiltyclogher, Leitrim. Ordained to Galveston, Texas. Keogh states that Nicholson's views were "pointedly extreme in the spirit of Irish Fenianism". He could be seen daily voicing arguments as to Ireland's right to Independence and urging the men to join the Irish Brigade.

1915 Mar 8. Nicholson writes to Meyer from Limburg thanks him for sending 240 Marks. He says to Meyer "I am firing off all the arguements I can which cause discussion in the camp, but any gerneral change is not yet apparent. But I have not lost hope"

1915 May 9. Plunkett is at Limburg, and meets Father Nicholson and Crotty

1915 Jun 9. Nicholson writes to Count Wedel saying that he intends to return USA the following week and that Father Crotty can attend to the men's needs

1915 Jun 15 (circa) Casement accompanies Plunkett and Father Nicholson to Zossen, where the Irish Brigade had now moved, for Plunkett and Nicholson to say goodbye to the men. Nicholson was returning to New York, and Plunkett to Ireland.

1915 Jun 15. Nicholson sails from Holland aboard the Rotterdam. It is held by the British for searching for 7 or 8 days

1915 Jul 11. Nicholson arrives back in New York on the S S Rotterdam. He gives his address as Apostolic Mission House, Washington DC.

1920 census

1916 Coming to Wyoming for his health in the latter part of 1916. He was pastor in Newcastle and Buffalo until his transfer to Laramie in 1920.

1919 Aug 20 Writes to Keogh fromm Buffalo

1920 In USA census at Johnson, Buffalo, Wyoming.

1921 Jan. Rev. John T. Nicholson was appointed pastor of Laramie, and at the same time vicar-general of the diocese. With the passing of the years the parish of St. Lawrence O’Toole had grown; for the official census of 1920 credited the city with 6,300 inhabitants. Realizing that the attendance had outgrown the small church of pioneer days, Fr. Nicholson at once began preparations for the erection of a larger edifice. An appeal was made to the congregation, which numbered about 200 families, and committees were appointed to solicit the necessary funds. Progress was slow, but finally the corner-stone was laid by Bishop McGovern July 19, 1925.

He arrived at St Lawrence O'Toole Parish Chuch, Laramie. Their records say Father John T. Nicholson, was a native Irishman who had come to the United States as a youth to make his seminary studies, but who never lost his affection for Ireland. It is related of him that he spent some time in Germany in 1916, and that, while there, he tried to aid Sir Roger Casement in securing German assistance for the Irish cause. In doing so he aroused the wrath of the English Government. Happily, he did not fall into their hands.

Father Nicholson had been ordained in 1897, and had served in Houston, Texas, until coming to Wyoming for his health in the latter part of 1916. He was pastor in Newcastle and Buffalo until his transfer to Laramie in 1920. A scholarly man, he was devoted to his people and solicitous in every matter than concerned them. It was he who built this church, taking the design from a church he had admired in Germany. Many of the tiles and designs in the sanctuary were of his own creation. He died in 1935, and through a fortunate investment he had made, willed a bequest of $20, 000 to the parish. This later was a decisive factor in making the parochial school a reality.

1931 Sep 23. He visited Ireland and gave an interview to Irish Press. In it he says during his five month stay in Germany he only met Casement three times.

1935 Feb 7. After a devoted service of fourteen years, the Very Rev. John T. Nicholson, V.G., departed this life amid his parishioners Feb. 7, 1935, and was buried beside his predecessor in the Catholic cemetery. A fortunate investment that he had made in a gold mine in the Black Hills had turned out most profitably, so that he was able to provide in his testament a fund of $20,000.00 for the education of deserving children of slender means.

1935 Nov 22. There is reference to a Nat Archives of Ireland document

'Department of the Taoiseach' Copy letter to Mr Patrick Little, Dublin, from Agatha Bullitt Grabish, 22 November 1935, enclosing a list of members of the Irish Brigade. She states that it is hard for her to suggest who among them might be worthy of consideration under Father Nicholson's will. [Under the terms of this will those in the Irish Brigade who remained true to the cause of Irish independence and who had no further link with the British Army are entitled to benefit] ref cabinet .s 8817


Irish Brigade