Group of women posing for a photo outdoors

Sunday School Picnic at Big Hill, 1931. Photograph of women attending the Presbyterian Church’s Sunday School picnic at Big Hill. Back row: Susie Walbridge, Molly Valentine, Laura Lammers, Catherine Swanson, ? Silver, ? Hamblin. Front row: ? Hanna, Vernice Brown, Mary Nichols. (Kelley House Collection, Kelley House Photographs)

January 8, 1947 – Mrs. Mary Nichols, cousin of Mendocino Beacon editor and proprietor Auggie Heeser, passed away. Mary was “as near and dear to him as any sister could have been; who, somewhat his senior in years, took an older sister’s interest in him in childhood, and in her mature years continued to concern herself over his welfare.”

She was born in Mendocino in 1873, the daughter of Alfred Nelson (brother of Auggie’s mother, Laura Nelson Heeser) and Catherine O’Meara. Mary grew up in Mendocino and attended the public school here.

In 1891, she married Joseph Henry Nichols, the younger brother of James Nichols who co-owned the Jarvis & Nichols store on Main Street. The Nichols family lived in San Francisco for about 10 years, then returned to Mendocino. She was the mother of 13 children, 9 sons and 4 daughters. The loss of her eldest son, Joseph, in France during the first World War was a heavy blow to the family, and their grief may have contributed to her husband’s death in 1919 from tuberculosis.

Mary was very active in Mendocino’s community life. “For years she was secretary of the local Rebekah Lodge; she was a member of the local Presbyterian church; a worker in its Ladies Aid; a member of the Study Club. She was one of those people who could always be called on in time of need whether it was illness in another family or the promotion of any good cause or work, and she responded smilingly, and with a warm interest for some one else’s welfare. A long list of devoted friends will miss her only slightly less than the members of her family.”

Walking Tours of Historic Mendocino – Join our expert docents for a stroll and lively commentary. You’ll pass by early pioneer homes, historic meeting places, and buildings that make up the the Mendocino Historic District.