Nicholas Joy Crain Page



One day in May, 1911, curiosity got the better of a group of ladies in Roswell, New Mexico, so they marched in a body to Aunt Mat King.

Aunt Mat King was a colored washerwoman, well past the age for such things, but the ladies of Roswell agreed that everytime lately they had brought their washing to her they had heard a baby crying. So they buzzed the word around and made the march.

They weren't prepared to what they found. Aunt Mat smilled when they demanded to know her secret.

"Sho," she laughed, "I'se got me a baby in here." She motioned toward a back room. The ladies crowded around the basket the bubbling and cooing was coming from.

Their chins dropped in unison:
It was a white child; a chubby, bouncing little pink-bottomed boy.

"A lady and a gentman come to my door with this chile last week," Aunt Mat told her astounded listeners. "They gave me a $100 and says keep their baby for 'em." And that's how the world discovered Nicholas J. Crain.

Abilene Reporter News *** 1950s (no exact date on this article)


Photo of Brother Nicholas and Nicholas J. Crain

Nick Crain was three weeks old and homeless when Rev. W. A. Nicholas took him in a wicker basket and placed him in a New Mexico home in 1911. Nick Crain, whose real name is Nicholas, was named after Rev. W. A. Nicholas.

Nicholas J. Crain was reared by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Crain of Dexter, NM., and came to Abilene after he was graduated from high school.

An uneventful farm life ended for Nick Crain when he was graduated from high school in Dexter NM and decided to attend college. He turned to Brother Nicholas for advice. Brother Nicholas had moved to Abilene some years before, so he asked Nick to come to Simmons University.


A raw country boy swung down from the train in the fall of 1929 at Abilene. It was by far the biggest town he had ever been in. He had never seen a football game, a streetcar, a four story building, a college --- his education was about to start.

Article in the "Bronco," a Simmons University Publication in 1933.
Photo sent in by Mike Ziegenhagen, Abilene, Texas

The first person he went to, of course, was Brother Nicholas -- and Nick wanted a job. Brother Nicholas took the country boy out to see President J. D. Sandefer of Simmons University. But no job came out of the interview. However, President Sandefer liked the spunk of young Crain so he made him an offer.

He'd give Nick his first year's tuition free if the boy would promise him three things. During the year Nick mustn't drink liquor, smoke or dance.
Nick who had never had a drink, couldn't afford to buy cigaretts if he did smoke, and didn't know how to dance, agreed happily.

Stone broke, Nick searched for work and found a job with Cliff Baldwin, then chef and proprietor of the Grace Coffee Shop. For room and board, Nick was busboy and dishwasher. His "room" was alongside the boiler room in the hotel basement. Nick, full of jubliation at finding a job , bought an old cot from the Army Store, he paid 35 cents a week for it.

After several months with the coffee shop, Nick took a job parking cars in the second floor of the Fulwiler Ford house. This lasted until one day when Nick ran a car off the elevator that brought them up.

Nick, by now had started to Simmons and was "batching" with Brother Nicholas whose daughter had died, leaving him alone. He was still barely keeping body and soul in shape for school, so he was glad to get a job at the West Texas Baptist Sanitarium (now Hedrick Hospital) which ran into 12 hours per night.

From 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. he ran the elevator. Then he fixed midnight supper for the night nurses. Having picked up a lot of cooking from Chef Baldwin, he was favorite with them. After 1 a.m. Nick could go to bed, in his room but was still on call, and his were the meanest jobs in the hospital -- bedpans, enemas, and scrubbing out the operating room.

"Some nights I would get called two or three times," Nick recollected. This played cain with college. By the middle of the first semester of the first year, Simmons authorities were ready to kick Nick out of school for sleeping in class. Dragged on the carpet, he told the dean what he was doing. He became probably the only student ever to get permission to sleep in class at Hardin-Simmons. Nick got out with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1933.


For Nicholas and Gwendolyn Crain
Photo sent in by mike Ziegenhagen, Abilene, Texas

Not much for a young man with a degree, but enough to marry on Nick decided. So he journeyed up to Anson and had Dr. Sandefer marry him and Gwendolyn Smith, who has also been an Hardin-Simmons student.

After three years, Nick had built his "career" from $10 a week to a position of non-official manager of an office supply business making $80 per month.
Nick Crain, with the help of Brother Nicholas was able to secure a loan 0f $500 from a local bank in Abilene and started an office supply business. He ran home to his wife and gave her $10 and took the remainder to buy stock for the new store.

After a dismal start in the depression, Crain parlayed borrowed $500 into a multi-store operation in Abilene, and Odessa.

His first office was a 12 by 25 foot space on North Second Street, it cost $12 a month rent. Each year conditions improved in the United States and for Nick Crain. Today Nick Crain owns three drugstores and his office supply house in Odessa. The three drugstores , the Smith-Crain chain, are owned by Nick Crain and managed by Warren Smith.

Crain is active in Boy Scout work, the Baptist Church and the Abilene Kiwanis Club. He said that his greatest work was seeing that the West Texas Childrenís Aid and Welfare Association goes on. Crain assumed Superintendent of The WTCA & W in the early 1950s. He has taken the place of Brother Nicholas and keeps all the old manís papers and files in a special office at his office supply store.

Abilene Reporter News

14 December 1950


Nick Crain, Abilene businessman, declared Thursday he would pay medical and hospital expenses of the "few cases" each year of unwed mothers in delivery of their babies --- if he were allowed to place these children for adoption.

Crain, successor to the late Brother W. A. Nicholas as director of the West Texas Children's Aid and Welfare Association, a child-placing agency, said this association, which had operated for 60 years, had been refused a license to place children as required by a strict law passed by the Legislature last year. The association's charter is still in effect, however.

Crain indicated he would go before the County commissioners Court at its Dec. 26 meeting to offer his help. He pointed out that, under the law, however, he would have to be granted a license by the State Department of Public Welfare before he could legally undertake this task.


An orphan himself, Crain was placed by Brother Nicholas and keenly feels the desire to help other children. he said he feels himself fully qualified to determine the proper home for these children. He said he was not certain of the reason he was turned down for a license, but said he thought it was because he had not attended a school for social welfare workers, or that he had not hired a trained social welfare worker who had graduated from an accredited school to help with his association.

Crain said he had 600 to 800 applications on file with the association now from families desiring children for adoption.

"Every day's mail brings in a new request for a baby," he said.

The Rev. Frank Travis, chairman of the City-County Child Welfare Board, urged the Commissioners Court Monday to accept financial responsibility for "the few cases each year" of medical and hospital expenses incurred by an unwed mother in childbirth. He said that responsibility is not now placed, but that the Child Welfare Agency here was the only licensed child-placing agency in Taylor County and that it should be given authority and financial backing to handle cases where unwed mothers refuse to go to a maternity home.


The welfare board met Wednesday and declared that only a few Abilene doctors were involved in placing unwanted and illegitimate babies in homes for adoption. This was a follow-up and supporting the Rev. Travis's assertion before the Commissioners Court Monday that Abilene doctors were "selling babies" in return for payment of medical and hospital expenses, an allegation that the Taylor-Jones County Medical Society, through its spokesman, Dr. C. E. Adams, denied.

The welfare board pointed out that the bill passed by the Legislature last year made it illegal for any person or agency not licensed by the State Department of Public Welfare even to help or serve as a go-between in directing a mother in placing her child. The mother herself may turn the child over to whomever she wishes, but anyone helping her is guilty of a misdemeanor.

The welfare board's statement:
"we are hopeful that this public discussion of the practice of placement of children for adoption will give opportunity for phases of the adoption law to be publicized in order that the community may be aware of the law and that ideally the law may be enforced.

"Our knowledge of the number of unlicensed placements indicates they have been made by a few doctors and we do not wish to leave the impression that more than a few have followed this practice."


"Therefore we appreciate the cooperation that we have received during the past years from the Taylor-Jones County Medical Society and hope that it will continue. We wish to point out specifically that according to the amended public welfare act of 1941, which was passed by the state Legislature on June 14, 1949, that:
"Any person who arranged for the placement with a third party of a child not related to him or aids or abets in such placement, shall be deemed to be engaged in a child-placing activity."

Members of the welfare board attending the meeting were the Rev. Travis, chairman; Dr. J. P. Gibson, Mrs. Bryan Bradbury, F. R. Higginbotham and Frank Etter. Mrs. Dorothy Curlee is supervisor of the local child welfare agency.

Nicholas J. Crain and Gwendolyn Smith were married at Anson Texas in 1934

Nicholas J. Crain -- Born 11 April 1911 *** Died 08 August 1981
Death notice in newspaper: Nicholas J. Crain, 70 of Plano, Texas. Crain was the retired owner of a drug store. Graveside services at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Georgetown cemetery, about four miles north of Pottsboro, Texas. He is buried in Lot 27, Block 21, near the southwest corner of the cemetery.

The man in charge of the cemetery records is:
Harris Deaton
113 Pearce Dr.
Pottsboro, Texas 75076-7053

Click This Link to view photo of the Georgetown cemetery.

Gwendolyn Smith Crain -- Born 26 Jan 1912 *** Died 2 April 1988
Death notice in newspaper: Gwendolyn Smith, 76, died Saturday at a Dallas nursing home. Services will be at 4 p.m. Monday at the Elliott-Hamil Funeral Home Chapel of Faith, U.S. Highway 277, with the Rev. Trott officiating. Burial will be in Elmwood Memorial Park, Abilene, Texas.

A longtime Abilene resident, she was a sales clerk for Grissomís Department Store and retired in 1982.

She was a Baptist.

Survivors include a daughter, Joy Crain Hunt of Dallas, a son, Gary Crain of Carrollton, Carl Smith of Florida; and four grandchildren.

Sent in by Mike Ziegenhagen of Abilene, Tx

Obituary notice for Mrs. Frank W. Crain (adoptive mother of Nicholas J. Crain)
Click This Link to view grave site at Cedar Hill cemetery in Abilene.

Mrs. Frank W. Crain -- Born 11 Oct 1882 *** Died 25 Sept 1939

Funeral services for Mrs F. W. Crain, 56 well known local welfare and church worker here for nine years, was to be held today at 4: p.m. at the Central Presbyterian Church. The Rev. E. B. Surface, pastor will conduct the services. Burial will be in Cedar Hill cemetery under direction of Elliott's funeral home.

Mrs. Crain died late yesterday afternoon at the Hendrick Memorial Hospital following a two week illness.

She suffered a cerebral hemorrage Sept. 11th after returning from an automobile trip.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Crain have been active in church work and the West Texas Children's Aid and Welfare Association, since they came to Abilene from Dexter, New Mexico in 1930. He is Secretary-Treasurer of the association.

The residence is 1621 North Second Street.

Survivors inclide a son, Nicholas, Abilene business man; a sister, Mrs Esther Myrtie Albert of French Camp Cal; two brothers, Floyd Ogles of Roswell, New Mexico, and Lloyd Ogles of Twenty-Nine Palms, Cal.

Pallbearers are E. S. Cummings, R. C. Granger, E. M. Collier, W. A. Stephenson, T. S Lankford, and Leslie Reed.

Sent in by Mike Ziegenhagen of Abilene, Tx

Obituary notice for Mr. Frank W. Crain (adoptive father of Nicholas J. Crain)
Frank W. Crain -- Born 11 Mar 1874 *** Died 23 July 1940
Click This Link to view grave site at Cedar Hill cemetery in Abilene.

Crain funeral set for Thursday

Funeral for Frank W. Crain, 66, will be held at 10: a.m. at the Central Presbyterian church.

The Rev. J. A. Owen, pastor of the Matthews Memorial Presbyterian church, Albany, will officiate.

Ill for more than a year, Crain died yesterday at the home of his son, Nicholas J. Crain, 1734 Cypress street. He was preceded in death less than a year ago by his wife. She died September 25, 1939. He will be buried beside her grave in Cedar Hill cemetery.

Crain had lived in Abilene eight years, during which time he had been associated with the Rev. W. A. Nicholas, superintendent of the West Texas Children's Aid and Welfare association, in child welfare work. He formerly was a rancher and farmer at Dexter, New Mexico, where he lived for 30 years.

He was an active member of the Central Presbyterian church.

Besides the son, survivors include one sister and two brothers.

The body is to lie in state at Elliott's funeral chapel until Thursday morning.

Active pallbearers will be Lex Buchanan, R. C. Granger, L. T. Reed, R. L. Bland, E. L. Finley and A. B. Lankford.


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