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March 20, 2013

NA BICENTENNIAL: The Civil War: Lucy Higgs Nichols

NEW ALBANY — Through the passage of time, history has a way of forgetting those who have roamed this earth. The deceased might be remembered by their loved ones for a while, but when that generation, too, departs this existence, memories dissipate like smoke in the wind. All that’s left of a life well-lived are at times only a few brief mentions of a name on a roll of microfilm. 

Lucy Higgs Nichols was more than just a line in an old dusty book. Her heroic acts despite personal heartache are the stuff of legends. But unlike the Greek tales of lore, the writings about Nichols were buried under the trash heap of time. Thanks to a little digging by Pam and Curt Peters and Vic Megenity, Nichols’ 150-year-old narrative has been resurrected so future generations can know her remarkable life. 

“It’s a pretty wonderful feeling [to discover Nichols’ story] especially because I think black history in Floyd County had been neglected and it’s an important link to the past for the black community,” Pam Peters said. “It’s one more thing for them to be proud of.”

Peters speaks about “Lucy” with the familiarity one usually reserves for friends. But when she first met Nichols through a friend’s old stories, Peters didn’t realize the importance of the former slave to New Albany.

Years later, as Megenity was attempting to protect the old Floyd County Home on Grant Line Road, he too found evidence of Nichols and verification that she had lived at the site and shared the news with Peters.

Hoping to obtain a historic marker and save the historic landmark, Megenity, Peters and her husband traveled to Bolivar, Tenn. From this town in the summer of 1862, Nichols had fled from the chains of slavery. With a toddler and the child’s believed father in tow, the 23-year-old woman journeyed three miles and joined the Union forces of the 23rd Indiana. 

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