Nicoll Family

Alexander Nicoll – My Great, Great Grandfather

(30 Jun 1830 – 5 Oct 1907)

Alexander Nicoll was born in Perth, Drummound Township, Lanark County, Canada. He was the fifth child of Peter Nicoll and Margaret McPhail all born in Canada. His father, Peter Nicoll, appears to have been baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Canada, in 1830 when the first missionaries proselyted in Canada. Peter Nicoll was ordained a Seventy in April 1839 at Adam-ondi-Ahman. He then returned to Canada, where he witnessed the will of his father John in June 1839 and stayed until the birth of the youngest child, Christiana in April 1840.

The 1900 US Census shows Alexander’s immigration date as 1840, when he was 10 years old. This is also the year on the records of the Church of his baptism in Nauvoo, Illinois. The family settled in Keokuk, Iowa, across the river from Nauvoo. This is where Alexander’s mother, Margaret died in April 1843. Within the next year, all of the members of the LDS Church were forced to flee Nauvoo, but the Nicoll family remained in Keokuk for several years. Records show that Alexander’s oldest living sister, Mary was married in Keokuk, Iowa 12 April 1849.

In the Clark County, Missouri 1850 US Census record, Alexander is listed as age 19, living with his father, brothers and sisters, John, age 11; Margarett, age 21; James, age 16; William, age 14; Edward, age 12 and Christiana, age 10. On 15 November 1849, Peter had married Mary Callahan Lisonbee in Clark County, Missouri. Mary was a widow with 5 children, Hugh, age 19; Mary A, age 13; Thompson, age 10; William, age 8; and Alan, age 5. Her husband, Coker Lisonbee, had died of exposure 13 December 1848, while preparing to leave for the west with the Saints. In the 1850 US Census for Utah Territory, Alexander, John, and William Nicoll are listed with Hugh Lisonbee. The later Census is not dated but it appears that the young men may have been about ready to leave for California when the Missouri Census was taken.

According to the family stories, Peter did not have the means required to take the both families west so the three Nicoll brothers and Hugh headed west to earn the money needed for the family to move on to Utah. Alexander, John, William and Hugh readily found work in Springville, Utah, making adobe bricks for homes in the area. They became known as the “Adobe Boys.”

Although the work was good, they were unable to earn enough to send for the families so in 1852 moved on to California, arriving in April at the Calverne Mines. The four young men worked there for 15 months, with Alexander and Hugh returning to Utah with the money for the family. According to the story, when Alexander and Hugh arrived in Ogden, they met Alexander’s father Peter, on his way to join the boys in California. Hugh continued on to Missouri to bring his mother and siblings to Utah.

Peter continued on to California to work with William and John, Alexander traveled to American Fork to visit the Adams family he had known in Perth, Canada.

Alexander married Sabina Ann Adams, the fourth child and oldest daughter of Arza Matson Adams and Sabina Clark, oldest friends of the Peter Nicoll family from Perth, Canada on 17 February 1854. Alexander and Sabina settled in American Fork and lived there until 1869-1870 when they were called by the Church to help settle the southwestern part of Utah.

Alexander and Sabina left their comfortable, established home and family in American Fork and with 7 children traveled south to a new and unsettled country. Alexander built a two story, brick home in Washington, Utah for his family that is reported to be still standing. Alexander owned one of the first mule teams in Dixie and engaged in freighting from Southern Utah to Barstow, California. He was known as a fair and just man to his family and friends.

His older daughters were employed in the cotton spinning and weaving factories in the area and were paid in fabric. When the girls would bring the fabric home, it is told that Alexander would pay the girls for the fabric and give it to his wife, Sabina, to use for the family.

After 1876, Alexander and Sabina moved their family to Kanab, Utah. By this time, they had eleven children born to them. Margaret, the fourth child and fourth daughter was born in 1861 and died in 1862 while they lived in American Fork. Their then, youngest child, Edward, born in 1874, in Washington, Utah, died in 1875. The three oldest daughters, Sabina Ann, Mary and Elizabeth, had married while living in Washington and had their own homes. Julia Aseneth, Alexander, Orpha Elzetta, the twins, Armina and Armetta, and Arza Peter, moved to Kanab with their parents.

In the written history of the Kanab area, Alexander is said to have owned some fine dairy cattle and started the first dairy farm in Kanab. Alexander Nicoll’s dairy provided butter, cheese, milk, and cream to the area. Butter and cheese was packed in wooden tubs for the Major Powell Coast and Geodetic survey group from Washington D.C. While living in Kanab, their youngest son, Joseph Franklin was born in 1878.

Once again, Alexander and Sabina were asked by their church leaders to move to another location to help settle a new area. In 1879, the family packed up and moved, arriving in Woodruff, Arizona in time for Christmas. By New Year’s Day, they had moved on to Salem, Arizona, soon to be known as St Johns, Arizona. Of the families called to settle this new place, the Nicoll family was the first to arrive.

When asked about this last move for the family, Julia Aseneth is quoted as saying, “Father and Mother did everything well. We had good harness and wagons. The horses were sleek and well cared for. Our wagons were filled with good clothing and bedding. The children were kept clean, and our food was well prepared.”

In St Johns, Alexander built his last home. It was a fine, two-storied home, made of plastered adobe with wood for roof, doors, windows, stairs and inside construction. Many visitors would like at it’s fine appearance and ask if this is where the Bishop lived. Alexander helped build homes in St Johns but specialized in building bridges.

In St Johns he returned to freighting with the help of his sons. They provided service between Albuquerque, Fort Defiance, and St Johns. Alexander was able to provide clothing and fine furniture for his family because of his travels and was able to provide an organ for the family when the twins, Armitta and Armina started taking music lessons. Alexander loved the music the girls provided. They learned to sing and play is favorite Scottish ballads and would play, at his request, waltzes for the family to dance.

As a young man, Alexander was a very tall and handsome young man. He is described as tall with dark hair and eyes with black eyebrows. His nickname was “Black Nicoll”.  In his later years, Alexander bagan losing his eyesight and became a familiar figure with his cane. He answered every call his Church made of him. He was known for his honesty and just dealings, kindness and helpful spirit. He was loved and respected by his family and friends. His son Franklin said of him, “Father was a silent man. His ideals were expressed in deeds, not in words.”


Life sketch of Alexander Nicoll submitted by children of Armitta Nicoll Gibbons: Pauline, Genevieve, Roy, Armitta and Leona also by Hazel Nicoll Lewis daughter of Joseph Franklin Nicoll.