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What Happened to Frederick Nicholas

Three important documents have been discovered that may finally solve the mystery about Frederick Nicholas, brother of Charles Nicklos and son of Ernest Nicholas, the immigrant ancestor to the Nicklos name.  You can read more about this branch in an earlier article, here. To recap, family legend states that Frederick joined the Civil War as a youth, only to disappear into thin air. Presumably, he died heroically in battle, per this account of Edith Nicklos, the earliest Nicklos family historian:

Charles Nicklos’ father came from Saxe Coburg, Germany and settled in Rochester, New York. He married Elenora Brown. They had two children, Fredrick and Charles. Fredrick was seven years older than Charles. Their mother died when Charles was only a few years old, his father remarried, and when the war of States was on Fredrick enlisted as a drummer boy and was never heard from again. In the meantime, the father died and the step-mother remarried. Conditions were very bad during the war years so they moved to Canada. 

Gordon Nicklos, Charles’ grandson, later hired a professional genealogist, part of whose mission was to learn the fate of Frederick. The genealogist did an excellent job of tracking Frederick’s early years. He found Frederick listed as a 2 year old with his parents, Ernest and Charlotte, on a ship manifest from Germany. He found Frederick, age 7, living with his parents and his year old brother, Charles, in the 1855 NY census. Then he found Frederick twice in the 1860 US census. First, living with his father and stepmother with brother Charles and newborn half-sister Anna. Second, there is listing for a Frederick C Nichols, age 12, residing as a convict in the Rochester House of Refuge. 

The last reference to Frederick can been seen in the “The Rochester NY Union & Advertiser”, 31 Mar 1862 ( when a judge sentenced Frederick Nicholas, age 14, to the House of Refuge for burglary. The Civil War did not end until 1865 so it is entirely possible that Frederick still joined the army to serve his country. However, no record has yet been found, so 1862 became the end of the line for Frederick. Until now. 

Is this our missing Frederick Nicholas?
New Document #1: The 1914 Marriage of Frederick Nicholas of Ontario

Two new related marriage documents have surfaced for a Frederick Nicholas who married a younger women, Nellie Wilson, as his second wife in 1914 (note that Brighton is a suburb of Rochester in Monroe county, and Holcomb is part of East Bloomfield in Ontario county)

from “New York, U.S., County Marriage Records, 1847-1849, 1907-1936” (
On 10 Jul 1914 in Rochester NY, Frederick Nicholas, 62, a widowed produce dealer residing Holcomb, born Brighton NY to Ernest Nicholas b GER & Mary Appleton b. Brighton NY, married Nellie Wilson, 35, a widowed house keeper residing Rochester, born Niagara Falls NY to William Brott b. Glens Falls, NY & Mary Lalbrook b. CAN, Second marriage for both

from “Episcopal Diocese of Rochester Church Records, 1800-1970” (
On 10 Jul 1914 in Rochester, NY, Frederick Nicholas, 65, of Rochester, son of Earnest & Mary Appleton Nicholas, married Nellie Wilson, 35, of Rochester, daughter of William & Mary Sosbrook Bratt 

Let’s call this man “Frederick of Ontario”. He is the right age, raised in Rochester, and, most importantly, names his father as Ernest Nicholas. Frederick of Ontario left a trail of his life in censuses, newspaper articles, and his gravestone. The details can be seen below for those so inclined. Small inconsistencies surface in these documents, but, overall, the records give a very clear picture of this man.

1870 US Census of Richmond, Ontario, NY (
Fredrich Nichols, age 21, born NY, works as farm hand. Living with John H Wilson (age 35), a farmer, and his wife Mary (age 33). Also present is Phebe N Wheaton, 17, born NY, working as a domestic

1875 NY Census of West Bloomfield, Ontario, NY (
Fredrick Nichols, age 26, born Monroe Co. NY, farmer, married to Phebe Nichols, age 22, born Ontario Co. 

1880 US Census of West Bloomfield, Ontario, NY (
Fred Nickolas, age 32, born NY, farmer, parents born Germany, married to Phebe, age 27, housewife, father born MA, mother born NY, with daughter Jessie, age 3, born NY

1892 NY Census of Bristol, Ontario, NY (
Frederick A. Nicholas, age 44, born US, agent, married to Phoebe A., age 40, born US, with daughter Jessie W., age 16, born US.

1900 US Census in East Bloomfield, Ontario, NY (
Fredrick A Nicholas, age 52, born Jun 1847 in NY, salesman, parents born NY, married 29 years to Phebe A, age 47, born Feb 1853 in NY, father born MA, mother born NY, had 1 daughter, Jessie W, age 23, born July 1876, in NY and who works as a servent.

1910 US Census in East Bloomfield, Ontario, NY (
Fred Nicholas, age 61, born NY, a produce dealer, father born Germany, mother born NY, married one time for 39 years to Pheobe, 56, born NY, who had one child, father born MA, mother born NY.

From “The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle”, 2 Sep 1913 (
One of Best-Known Women of East Bloomfield is Dead.
Canandaigua, Sept. 1, – One of the best-known women of the town of East Bloomfield, Mrs. Phoebe Wheaton Nicholas, wife of Frederick Nicholas, died at her home in Holcomb Saturday evening after an illness of Bright’s disease. Mrs. Nicholas was about 59 years old. Many years ago, she married Frederick Nicholas, a well-known resident and produce dealer of East Bloomfield, who is still living. She also leaves a daughter, Mrs. Lewis Pierce, and a granddaughter, of Iona; a brother, Edgar S. Wheaton, of this city and four nephews and two nieces. Mr. Nicholas is widely known throughout the western part of Ontario County, being a Justice of the Peace of the town of Bloomfield, and Mrs. Nicholas was almost as widely known as her husband. The funeral will be held at the late residence at Holcomb Tuesday afternoon at 2 o’clock and the remains will be taken to Bristol for interment.

From Ontario County Journal 5 September 1913 (
The death of Mrs. Fred Nicholas occurred at her home at Holcomb on Saturday evening after a year’s illness. Deceased was 60 years of age and the greater part of her life had been spent in this vicinity, where she was highly esteemed. She is survived by her husband, one daughter, and a granddaughter, Mrs. L. L. Pierce and Ruth Pierce of Ionia. She is also survived by a brother, Edgar Wheaton of Canandaigua. The funeral was held from the family home on Monday afternoon conducted by Rev. W. D. Robinson, pastor of the Congregational church, of which Mrs. Nicholas was a member. Four nephews of the deceased acted as bearers and interment was made at Bristol.

Monroe County Office of Vital Records (Monroe County Vital Records Department)
Frederick Nicholas, age 66Y 5M 10D, widowed, a produce dealer, residing Unknown, born NY to Unknown Nicholas b. Germany and Unknown mother, b. unknown, died 20 Mar 1915 in Rochester, NY of Suicide by Shooting.. Burial in Bristol, NY. [Calculated birth date is 10 Oct 1848].

From Ontario County Journal 26 March 1915 (
Victor, N. Y. – The funeral of Frederick Nicholas was held at the Universalist church on Tuesday afternoon. Mr. Nicholas, with his wife and daughter, were for many years residents of the town of Bristol, at first working S. H. Wheeler’s farm and later acting as agent for the McCormick machinery. He was a member of the old E. K. O. R. organization and for a long time was its president. For years he was treasurer of the Universalist church society and a regular attendant at the church and it was with regret that his neighbors saw him move to Holcomb some years ago. While there he was a successful business man. His wife, Phoebe Wheaton Nicholas, died some two years ago and he leaves a daughter, Mrs. L. L. Pierce, of Ionia, and one granddaughter. Burial was beside his wife in the Evergreen cemetery. The daughter has the sincerest sympathy of her many Bristol friends. Mr. Nicholas was 62 years old and died at Rochester by his own hand, after taking the life of another.

Gravestone Inscription in Evergreen Cemetery, Bristol, Ontario, NY (
PHEBE A. WHEATON / HIS WIFE / 1853 – 1913

New Document #2: The Case File of Frederick Nichols at the Western House of Refuge

The New York State Archives in Albany holds the Rochester House of Refuge records.  They were able to locate the Frederick Nichols file. If you read the file, you will see that Frederick is clearly the brother of our Charles. Starting at age 11, he had a total of three brushes with the law that landed him in the Western House of Refuge. These incarcerations lasted until 1866. He would not have had an opportunity to enter the Civil War which ended in April, 1865. 

Some of the dates in this document need explanation. First, The “4th of July” likely refers to the date when the document was written, not Frederick’s date of birth. Secondly, the file gets the immigration year wrong. It was actually nine year ago in 1850 that Frederick arrived with his family. Finally, the phrase “six months since” implies that Frederick’s mother died around January 1859. It puts into question whether Anna is a sister or a stepsister to Charles. Other records suggest a birth in either July or August. This timeframe means that Anna, aged 1 year in the 1860 census, could have been born as early as July 1858.

Transcription of the House of Refuge Case File for Frederick Nichols
June 29th, 1859
Frederick Nichols, from the Rochester Police Court, aged 11 years the 4th of July, 1859. Born in Germany. His parents came to this city seven years ago. His mother died about six months since, and his father Ernest, who is a blacksmith, now lives on Davis St.

Frederick went to school, but recently he got into the habit of playing truant and sleeping out at night. Recently he stole a piece of stove pipe belonging to a family who lived in his father’s house, and sold it for eight cents, and for this his father entered complaint and he was sent here. Conducts well here, and does not appear to be vicious.
Enters 2d Class.
1860 Aug 25. He was discharged to the care of his parents
1861 April 1st. He visited appearing well.
1862 April 2nd. He was returned for Burglary – through the Monroe Co. Sessions.
1864 Feb 5. He was placed James Dorr a Lawyer of Scottsville, Monroe Co.
1865 Dec 18. He was returned through Justice Court for stealing a boat and gun belonging to Mr. Dorr , also a load of corn.
1866 Sept 8. He was placed with Nathaniel Mosher a farmer of Caledonia, Livingston Co.

Western House of Refuge Case File for Frederick Nichols
New Document #3: The Newspaper Death Notice of Frederick Nicholas of Ontario

Most individuals usually sail quietly into the night. Not in this case. Life did not end well for Frederick of Ontario or his second wife, Nellie Wilson, age 35. He developed a fixation on this young divorcee when she worked for him as his housekeeper. After he convinced her to marry him, events quickly degenerated. He found out that her previous divorce had not been completed, so he got an annulment. Nellie also appeared to be interested in someone closer to her age. Yet, rather than let her go, he shot her, then himself in a murder suicide. The Rochester newspapers were full of the details for a few days. Although his age is given at 62, his gravestone indicates his true age of 67, born in 1848.

Democrat & Chronicle, Rochester NY, Sun. 21 Mar 1915


Woman Of 37 Sent To Her Death in Her Flat in Plymouth Avenue South By Man 62 Years Old.


Jealousy brought about murder and suicide yesterday afternoon in the little flat at No. 707 Plymouth avenue south. Mrs. Helen Wilson, divorced wife of a Rochester attorney, also known as Mrs. Nellie Ridley, was shot in the head and instantly killed by Frederick Nicholas, a one-time prosperous produce dealer at Holcomb, Ontario county.

After the woman fell, Nicholas walked a few steps to a corner of the kitchen where a mirror hung. Taking deliberate aim as he faced the mirror, he pulled the trigger of the revolver and sent a bullet through his brain. He died at St. Mary’s Hospital last night at 11:40 o’clock.

Nicholas had planned to kill the man who, he charged, had come between him and Mrs. Wilson.

Twenty years ago the dead woman was Miss Helen Brett, of Niagara Falls, when she was 17 she was married to one Edward Wilson. According to information obtained after the tragedy, three children were born to the couple. Two boys, now 19 and 14, live in the city, and a girl, Rita Wilson, who is about 11 years old, lived with her mother.

In course of time the Wilsons parted, and in 1909 Mrs. Wilson was married by [to] Luther C. Benedict, an attorney, who boards at 116 Main street west. Last year Mrs. Benedict sued her husband for a divorce and on September 28th, obtained a decree before Justice Benton in equity term.

Nicholas Man of 62

Just when Nicholas and Mrs. Wilson, as she usually calls herself, met, neither Captain Whaley, of the Detective Bureau, nor Assistant District Attorney James C. Mann knows. For several years past Nicholas conducted a produce business in East Bloomfield. His office and depot were in Holcomb, a hamlet on the New York Central railroad. There the man transacted much business and accumulated considerable money. He owned a house there, and after his wife died four or five years ago he endeavored to keep up his establishment. It was after the death of his wife that Nicholas came into contact with Mrs. Wilson.

Although 62 years old, Nicholas became strongly attached to the woman. She was employed as his housekeeper and went to live at Holcomb. Her little daughter, Rita, accompanied her. Nicholas was very fond of the child, whom he often addressed as “little daughter” and “girlie.” How long Mrs. Wilson remained at Holcomb has not been learned, but she probably did not continue there as Nicholas’s housekeeper for more than a year at the most. She eventually found her way back to the city, and she lived at different periods at No. 330 Jefferson avenue, No. 56 Elba street and at No. 707 Plymouth avenue south.

Used Different Names

The house in which the tragedy occurred is a two-story Boston flat. A year ago the woman lived in the upper flat, which consists of four small rooms, a bath and a kitchen. After leaving the flat last year Mrs. Wilson went to Elba street. She was known at the Jefferson avenue house as Mrs. Wilson, while at the Elba street house she went under the name of Mrs. Fred Nicholas. It is believed that Nicholas intended to move to Rochester and marry or board with the woman.

One of Nicholas’s letters, found among the woman’s effects, was written from Holcomb. In it he spoke of having disposed of his business and said parties were about to take his house and lot. His letters were dignified, but plainly void of his affection for the woman. Not a word of suspicion or complaint was contained in any of his communications. Among Mrs. Wilson’s acquaintances was Martin H. Ridley, about 40 years old, an employee in a furniture store. For four years or more, at divers times, Ridley boarded with Mrs. Wilson.

Words Between the Two Men

Nicholas, it appears, did not approve of Ridley’s presence in the Wilson domicile, although none of his letters to the woman mentioned the man’s name. He had intended to remove to the city last July and begin keeping house with the woman, but for some reason he did not do so. Ridley told Captain Whaley, when summoned to police headquarters, that he had met Nicholas. He said the man wanted to buy the furniture he had bought and given Mrs. Wilson, but they could not agree on the price. He admitted that they had had some words at one time at her flat regarding his presence, and that he had told Nicholas “a few things.”

For some time of late Nicholas had been living at No. 152 South Main street in Canandaigua. He wished to become a secret-service agent, and the late Frank Rice, of Canandaigua, made efforts to obtain an appointment for him. Only recently Nicholas received the appointment.

It is known that for two months past Nicholas had planned to kill the Rochester man. On February 27th he obtained from a Canandaigua magistrate a permit to carry a revolver. He bought a Colt 38-caliber revolver. He bought pattern.

Intended to Kill Ridley

With this gun Nicholas intended to [?] addressed to the public, he wrote that he had tried to “get” Ridley, but the latter bore a charmed life or kept out of his path purposely.

In a letter to Mrs. Wilson, written several days ago, Nicholas told of his love for her and little Rita and said he wanted to buy a piano for the child. On Thursday he called at the woman’s flat and told her he had bought the piano for Rita and that the instrument was on its way to Rochester. He said it had been shipped to himself at the Plymouth avenue house, and that he would pay for the “hoisting” of it into the flat. He gave Mrs. Wilson $6? to pay the men for the “hoisting,” as he termed it.

Nicholas took an affectionate leave of Mrs. Wilson that afternoon. He did not call again until yesterday afternoon. It is not known at what time the man went to the flat. Mrs. Mary Bates, who lives in the lower flat with her husband, did not see any person enter or leave the upper flat during the day. She did not hear the quarrel or the two shots fired. She was in the yard most of the afternoon, she said.

Shooting Not Seen or Heard

It will never be known what took place before the shooting. The little girl was not present when the final scene was enacted. She was some distance away, playing with some school friends.

Mrs. Wilson had occupied the flat only five weeks. Ridley was a boarder. Early in the afternoon she went to the store of William Scheiber  at No. 407 Plymouth avenue south, and ordered some groceries. Shortly after 3 o’clock Fred Payne, a delivery boy employed by Scheiber, was sent to the flat. Young Payne rapped at the door downstairs. Receiving no reply, he opened the door and entered the hall. He climbed the stairs, intending to leave the groceries on the floor or a table. Peering into the little kitchen at his left, Payne was astounded to see two bodies lying on the floor. Blood was from bullet holes in their heads.

Police Informed of Tragedy

Payne ran out of the house and did not stop until he reached the Scheiber grocery. There he told of what he had seen, and telephoned to the Bronson avenue station. Patrolman John Dwyer was the first officer to reach the flat. He was followed by Captain Ryan, Inspector Ryan, Detective-Sergeant John McDonald and acting Detective Daniel J. Murphy. Inasmuch as the woman lay dead, Coroner Kleindienst was notified and he went to the house at once. The ambulance of St. Mary’s Hospital was summoned, and Nicholas, unconscious, was removed to the hospital.

The woman evidently had been shot in the right temple as she was putting a shovelful of coal into the kitchen range. One lid was off the front part of the stove. Her body lay outstretched on the floor.

The body of Nicholas lay beside the kitchen sink, above which was the mirror. The revolver was on the floor near the man’s body, two chambers empty. The bullet entering Nicholas’s head passed through the brain and must have lodged in a wall of the kitchen.

Many Letters Found

For the time being the police were at sea as to the identity of the man and the woman, and the rooms were searched for letters and papers. It was seen at once that the woman was in possession of the premises. Her rent book was made out to “Mrs. M. Ridley.” Many letters found were addressed to the dead woman by friends, including Ridley, Nicholas and her sisters, Edith and Renée Brett. A faded portrait of Horace Grafton Wilson, one of her sons, was found in her dresser. Insurance policies were found, showing that she kept up insurance on her children and former husband, Luther Benedict. A pile of post cards were unopened.

A couple of letters written by Ridley at a time when evidently, he was not boarding with her were of interest to the police. In one Ridley warned Mrs. Wilson of evil intrigues and told her he was her “true friend.” A photograph of Nicholas was found in Mrs. Wilson’s bedroom. Patrolman McCarthy, of Central station, who knew Nicholas, identified the picture. Later he went to the hospital and identified the dying man.

Son of Woman Notified

News of the shooting reached Fred Wilson, the older son, who lives in Mitchell street, an hour or so after it happened. He telephoned to Ridley, who later went to headquarters with Detective-Sergeant McDonald, and talked with Captain Whaley and Assistant District Attorney Mann.

Ridley said he knew Nicholas but little, but he had known the woman for some time and had boarded with her on and off for four years. He is married, but separated from his wife, several years ago. Mrs. Ridley lived in the city, he said. He once lived at No. 73 Mill street.

Ridley said he had boarded with Mrs. Wilson for a year or so of late. He had heard that Nicholas was a “boozer,” although he had never seen him in liquor. He said last summer Nicholas talked pretty strongly to Mrs. Wilson, and he cautioned him not to go too far. He insisted that his relations with Mrs. Wilson were of the most correct sort.

Before leaving Canandaigua Nicholas wrote four letters on Webster Head stationery. One was addressed to Mrs. L. L. Pierce of Ioina, Ontario county, who is his daughter; another to Ridley, a third to the “public,” and the fourth to Fred Chapman, of Canandaigua, probably a friend.

“Mock Marriage” to Nicholas?

Captain Whaley sorted out of the mass of papers Mrs. Wilson’s decree of divorce from Benedict. Ridley said he understood that Mrs. Wilson and Nicholas had been married, but was told that they had gone through a “mock marriage.” Ridley had not lived with his own wife, he said, in nine years.

In his letter to Ridley, Nicholas flayed the man without mercy. He scored him for coming between himself and Mrs. Wilson and applied all manner of names to him. It was a scorching letter throughout. In another letter Nicholas told of having made plans to shoot Ridley, but said they had miscarried. He had decided, he wrote, that the only way to adjust matters was to kill the woman he loved and himself.

“You’re pretty lucky,” observed Whaley to Ridley.

Fred Wilson took his little sister to his home last night. The young man maintained a solid front, although it was evident that he suffered keenly. The little daughter was hysterical at the time.

Democrat & Chronicle, Rochester NY, Mon. 22 Mar 1915


Decides It’s Not Necessary To Hold Inquest 


Understood Nicholas Left Will In Which He Directed At His Estate Pass To Mrs. Roy Pierce, Corner Issues Death Certificates

Autopsies were performed at the morgue yesterday morning on the bodies of Mrs. Helen Wilson and Frederick J. Nicholas, 37 and 62 years old, respectively. The woman was shot and instantly killed in her kitchen at the No. 707 Plymouth Avenue south on Saturday afternoon by Nicholas. The bullet penetrated the brain. Nicholas then shot himself in the head and died nine hours later at St Mary’s Hospital.

Corner Kleinsienst gave a certificate of death by suicide in the case of the man in death from a bullet wound in the case of the woman. There will be no inquest, and so far as the authorities are concerned the tragedy is a closed incident.

Yesterday relatives of the woman saw the corner and it was arranged that her body would be removed from the morgue. This was done in the afternoon. Nicholas’s body will be shipped to Ontario county to-day for burial. Roy Pierce, of Ionia, son-in-law of the dead man, called on the corner yesterday. He said the dead man’s daughter, Mrs. Pierce, was grief-stricken.

Left Money To Daughter.

 it was learned yesterday that when Nicholas disposed of his business interests in Holcomb he converted all of his property holdings into cash. This money is said to be on deposit in the bank at Ionia, and in a will you left it all to his daughter. Nicholas was considered fairly well-to-do.

The man was well-liked in western Ontario county, where he did business among the farmers for years. He formed a strong attachment for Mrs. Wilson after he employed her to act as his housekeeper. In fact, he married Mrs. Wilson when she was in his employ, but where the ceremony took place neither Corner Kleinsienst nor Captain Whaley have been told. Mrs. Wilson evidently did not tell Nicholas that she was at one time the legal wife of a Rochester attorney.

In time Nicholas became aware that his wife had contracted a bigamous marriage with him, and he at once took steps to have the marriage annulled. This was accomplished. It is said that his activity and obtaining the annulment caused Mrs. Wilson to return to Rochester.

Did Not Forget Woman.

At all events, the woman instituted divorce proceedings against her Rochester husband, and obtained a degree in September last. At this time Nicholas lost none of his interest in her, despite the fact that Martin H. Riley, an acquaintance of a few years’ standing, and her household is a border

Nicholas went to Canandaigua to live last fall. He bought an automobile and apparently enjoyed life. It was after he received an appointment as a secret service agent that he bought his revolver and obtained from a Canandaigua magistrate a permit to carry the weapon.

Yesterday Captain Russ, of the Bronson avenue station, turned over the keys to the Plymouth Avenue flat to Horace G. Wilson, 21 years old, eldest son of the dead woman.2

At this point, I say that we have found our missing Frederick Nicholas. However, you can make arguments for and against this conclusion. 

Case in favor that Frederick of Ontario is our Frederick
  1. He was born in 1848 which matches our Frederick. The June birth month on the 1900 census may also match depending on how you interpret the immigration manifest.
  2. There is only one Ernest Nicholas living Rochester or Ontario counties between 1850 and 1860.  Furthermore, the 1850 census shows no signs of any Ernest, Mary or Frederick disputing Frederick of Ontario’s account of his Rochester birth.
  3. Frederick of Ontario states in the 1880 Census that father/mother were born Germany/Germany (although, to be fair, the 1900 and 1901 censuses give NY as his mother’s birthplace.)
  4. Our Frederick worked as a farmhand in 1866 in Livingston county. Frederick of Ontario county also worked as a farmhand in 1870.
Case opposing the notion that Frederick of Ontario is our Frederick
  1. The mother’s stated name is Mary Appleton born in Rochester. This represents the most problematic issue for our Frederick. His mother has been identified as Charlotte Zierjacks (per immigration and Charles’s birth records). However, to date, no possible Mary Appletons, or Appletons in general could be identified in Monroe county. 
  2. Frederick of Ontario always lists his birthplace as Rochester, not Germany. 
  3. Frederick of Ontario lists his middle initial as “A”. The 1860 census record suggests the middle name of “C”. 
None the negatives disqualify Frederick of Ontario from being our Frederick. We can trace our Frederick up to 1866. Frederick of Ontario starts on 1870, a gap of only 4 years. During Frederick’s time in the reformatory school system, Ernest Nicholas left Rochester for Canada. Ernest died in 1871, further isolating Frederick from his family.  Not surprising that Edith Nicklos would hear a rosy account of her missing uncle. Now, with the wealth of these new documents, we can a write an updated look at our Frederick Nicholas. 

Biography of Frederick Nicholas (1848 – 1915)
Frederick Nicholas was born Jun 1848 in Saxony, Germany to Ernest and Charlotte (Zierjacks) Nicholas. The family immigrated to Rochester, NY in 1850. His mother died when Frederick was young, sometime after the birth in 1853 of his brother, Charles. He struggled as a youth being sent to the Western House of Refuge three times, starting at age 11. During this time Frederick became separated from his family who moved to Ontario, Canada where his father died in 1871. His life changed in 1870 when he met his future bride, Phebe Wheaton, on the farm of John and Mary Wilson of Richmond, NY where he worked as a farm hand, while she served as a domestic.  Phebe was born 1853 in Niagara Falls NY to Seth and Phoebe (Stone) Wheaton.  Frederick married her in 1871, and the couple would continue to live together in Ontario county afterwards. Frederick worked variously as a farmhand starting on S. H. Wheeler’s farm, salesman as agent for McCormick machinery, produce dealer, and even as a secret-service agent at the end of this career. He served as a Justice of the Peace, and he was a treasurer of the Universalist church societyFrederick and Phebe had one daughter, Jessie, born 1877 in West Bloomfield, NY. She married Louis L Pierce in 1903 and bore Frederick and Phebe a granddaughter, Ruth, in 1905. Phebe died in 1913 of Bright’s disease. That’s likely when Frederick’s early demons reappeared. The 65 year old Frederick married in 1914 Nellie Wilson, age 35, a young woman who worked as his housekeeper. She was the daughter of William and Mary (Glassbrook) Brott. Unfortunately, she had not yet finalized her divorce, forcing Frederick to soon annul this marriage. Nellie died tragically in 1915 in Rochester when Frederick shot her. Frederick then took his own life. Frederick’s remains were taken back to Ontario county where he and Phebe were buried together in Evergreen Cemetery in Bristol, NY. 

Search of Additional Records
  1. The death record arrived from the Monroe County Vital Records Department, and it adds nothing to our understanding.  The only useful piece of information, his birth date of 10 Oct 1848, conflicts with the 1900 census which lists the month of June. Unclear who provided this date since no informant is named. Based on a review of the documents, I’m sticking with Jun 1848 as the best estimate for Frederick’s date of birth.
    • Frederick Nicholas, age 66Y 5M 10D, widowed, a produce dealer, residing Unknown, born NY to Unknown Nicholas b. Germany and Unknown mother, b. unknown, died 20 Mar 1915 in Rochester, NY of Suicide by Shooting. Burial in Bristol, NY. [Calculated birth date is 10 Oct 1848].
  2. A new record (A3139) from the Western House of Refuge arrived from the New York State Archives. It contains the same background information of Frederick with no additional insight.
  3. Unfortunately, no DNA exists for analysis since Frederick’s only known granddaughter, Ruth (Pierce) Leaty, died childless in 1977.

At this point, it looks like we have exhausted our list of possible records. Back in Edith’s time, the family historians tended to focus on the nobility of the family line. “Lost in the Civil War” would fit that narrative. Times have changed. This story reflects an unvarnished understanding of the events that occurred. Wish the research had a happier outcome, but always glad to make progress on a member of the family.

Images associated with our Frederick Nicholas
Images associated with Frederick Nicholas of Ontario