which are available to the public. The building gives them a space to host meetings. Best of all, they have combined their already vital family history mission with a commitment to preserve a valuable public treasure.
The Nichols Public Library was built in 1899 by the Nichols family, who owned the Dwight Manufacturing Company. They opened the space in 1901 as reportedly the first building in the state established specifically to house a
public lending library. They offered their mill workers and the community free access to books, magazines, and newspapers. The facility was open on weekday evenings and Sunday afternoons. The Nicholses named the library after their son, Howard Gardner Nichols, a graduate of Harvard who died in 1896 of injuries suffered while overseeing the construction of the Dwight Cotton Mill and Mill Village.
Gadsden relocated the library’s books to the Alabama City Library during WWI, converting the building to a daycare for millworkers during the rush of war-time production. The building served a number of purposes in subsequent years, until it was purchased by the NEAGS. The organization has been sustaining the building ever since.
The National Register of Historic Places listed the library in 1974.
group members have established a satellite chapter in Boaz, in partnership with the Boaz Public Library.
Along with the oversight of the library, the NEAGS offers classes, works with local schools, and does research for those who need help. They host one of the state’s most successful annual genealogy seminars, bringing in renowned
speakers. In March they partnered with the Alabama Bicentennial Commission and drew people from at least seven states.
A year after its founding, the organization established the Northeast Alabama Settlers journal, which has been in continuous publication ever since. When the Alabama Bicentennial Commission put out the call in 2016 to Alabama’s historical and genealogical societies to consider allowing the digitization of and free online access to the backlist of their journals, the NEAGS was one of the first to offer more than two hundred journals. The journals can be found at http://digital.archives.alabama.gov in the “Alabama Genealogy and History Publications” collection.
The NEAGS also supports cemetery preservation and is the caretaker of the Clayton Cemetery. It teaches grave dowsing classes and encourages cemetery research and upkeep. Members have created several cemetery books,
culling data from Alabama Power Company records, which detail the cemeteries displaced and, in some cases, covered by Weiss Lake. Two more cemetery books are currently under development.
In addition to the journals and cemetery books, the NEAGS has thousands of other publications. Research books related to twenty-five states make up the largest portion of their collection. They hold nearly six hundred general
reference books and several hundred family histories. As an affiliate library of the Latter-Day Saints Family History Library—genealogy’s largest repository—the Nichols Library also provides visitors with online access to that vast
library’s resources, including local death certificates dated 1908 to 1974, which can be printed for researchers.
The Nichols Memorial Library in Gadsden, reportedly the first
public library building in Alabama, was purchased by the Northeast Alabama Genealogical Society in 1973.
The organization also encourages genealogical research by offering certificates to those who have been able to prove that their ancestors were in certain counties by a specified time. To qualify for a First Settlers of Etowah County certificate, a researcher must demonstrate an ancestor’s presence by 1866.
The First Settlers of St. Clair County requires a proven presence by 1820, the time of statehood. Certificate fees collected for St. Clair County support the local Springville Preservation Society and the St. Clair County Historical Society.
The NEAGS opens the library to the public every Thursday between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., or researchers can request to visit by appointment. For details visit their website at www.neags.com.