ARTICLE WRITTEN ABOUT REV. NICHOLAS IN 1947
This article and photos sent in by adoptee, Billie Wayne Parker, Tahoka, Texas
WEST TEXAS CHILDREN'S AID AND WELFARE ASSOCIATION
REV. W. A. NICHOLAS SUPERINTENDENT
Brother Nicholas and children Bro. Nicholas and Nick Crain
For many years it was a familiar sight in West Texas to see a white-haired, bearded old gentleman touring the country-side carrying on one arm a basket with a tiny baby inside.
Hundreds have seen Rev. William A. Nicholas board a train with his perennial baby. taking it to some Christian home. He traveled all over the country finding homes for helpless children. This man who has placed more than a thousand children in Christian homes is better known to West Texans as Brother Nicholas.
Brother Nicholas was born in Virginia, June 28, 1854. His father was a farmer, and for a while young William followed farming. Perhaps this explains how in later years he was able to cultivate happy lives for more than a thousand homeless children. Soon he felt the call of God to preach the gospel and after prayin abouy the matter decided to go to the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
Graduating from the seminary, he took a position as missionary in Cuba.
Money was very scarce for the early missionaries, and many times the children needed things that Daddy could not buy. This problem confronted Brother Nicholas many, many times on the mission fields.
He recalls one special instance when he had promised his little girl a new pair of shoes. She had asked for the shoes one Monday morning, and Brother Nicholas had told her he would buy her a pair the following Saturday.
Saturday morning came and he did not have any money with which to buy them. She was so happy looking forward to wearing the new shoes that he could not disappoint her. What was he to do? All he knew to do was to pray about the matter, and that he did.
After prayer it seemed that something led him down to the beach. While walking along, he stubbed his toe on a stone. There beside the stone was a dollar bill! He picked it up and went to a store where he bought a pair of shoes.
Brother Nicholas spent six and one-half years in Cuba and then took a pastorate in Silver City, New Mexico. In Silver City he heard a Presbyterian preacher tell about his work as a welfare worker, and it wasn't long before Brother Nicholas joined him in this welfare work. For a while he was affiliated with the New Mexico Children's Aid and Welfare Association, but quit the position with them after a few years and moved his family in 1913 to Abilene, Texas in order that his girls could start to school at Simmons College, now Hardin-Simmons University, Mrs. Nicholas had died in Albuquerque in 1909.
He formed the West Texas Children's Aid and Welfare Organization. It was with this organization that he did his greatest work. Of more than one thousand which he placed in homes, there were ten sets of twins and seven colored babies. Every home in which a baby was placed was investigated carefully and rigid requirements had to be met by those who aspired to be foster parents.
The four principal requirements were:
(1) They had to be churchgoing people. (Only Protestant and Baptist homes were acceptable.)
(2) They must agree to adopt the child legally six months after they took it.
(3) They must promise to tell the child of his adoption.
(4) The woman of the family must not smoke.
It is not honest for an adopted child to grow up believing that his foster parents are really his own, Brother Nicholas says in speaking about the third requirement, because the child will learn that he is adopted sooner or later and will be grieved about being deceived.
When you ask him about the last requirement, he looks disgusted and replies, I don't want any of my babies going into homes where the mother would puff tobacco smoke into their lungs.
After a family had been approved, Brother Nicholas would place the baby in his basket, Prepare the necessary milk and bottles to feed it, then board a train and take the baby to his foster parents.
Many times women on the train would have pity on him and want to look after the baby for him. Usually Brother Nicholas preferred to feed the baby, change his clothes, and care for him without help.
On one occasion a woman sitting just across the aisle decided that he needed help and offered her services. After he had told her he could manage the baby all right, she insisted rather sharply that he let her care for the baby. Brother Nicholas then became a little angered. Why should I let you care for him? I've cared for many more babies than you have.
She then sat down and minded her own business, he told me, a twinkle in his eye.
On another occasion Brother Nicholas had just picked up a baby in Lubbock, Texas, and had boarded a train that would take him to his headquarters in Abilene. A young man saw the baby and asked him what such an old gentleman was diong with a baby.
Brother Nicholas told the young man that the baby was his, but the man still looked dissatisfied and wanted a better answer. I have 750 more just like this one, said the white-haired preacher. The young man walked away thoroughly disgusted.
Back in those early days in New Mexico Brother Nicholas heard of a white baby who had been deserted by his parents and was in the care of a Negro woman. Brother Nicholas persuaded the woman to let him find for the baby a suitable home.
He then placed the child in the home of Mr and Mrs. Frank Crain of Dexter New Mexico. When the child was legally adopted by the Crains, they named him for his benefactor, calling him Nicholas Crain.
The baby grew up and graduated from high school. His foster parents enlisted again the help of Brother Nicholas, who secured a scholarship in Simmons College for one semester only.
When Nick Crain enrolled for that first semester he was determined not to quit until he had earned a diploma. Nick found a job washing dishes at a downtown hotel. He was given a pallet in the basement of the hotel where he was permitted to sleep at night. Later Nick Crain worked a while for an automobile concern. A better job opened up at the Baptist hospital where he worked until he received his degree from Simmons College.
After Nick graduated from college, he wanted to go into business for himself. Brother Nicholas and Nick's father-in-law signed a note making it possible for Nick to borrow $500 from a local bank. With the $500 Nick started into the office supply business. Today, Nicholas Crain owns two large office supply stores and two large drug stores.
Nicholas Crain is one of the outstanding examples of the work that Brother Nicholas has done. Of late he has taken a load off the old gentleman's shoulders by assuming most of the latter's responsibilities as superintendent of the West Texas Children's Aid and Welfare Association.
However, Brother Nicholas still maintains a fatherly interest in his many children. He likes to point to some outstanding community leader and say, I took that boy in when he was just a bit of a thing. He's done mighty well for himself.
During the war over one hundred of his children were in the armed services. These several hundred children in most cases became good normal citizens -- which Brother Nicholas characterization -- because the welfare association took them away from surroundings of poverty, vice, and crime and placed them in Christian homes. The association saved many from hunger, cold, and neglect. At the same time childless homes were made happy.
Now he can see the fruit of his work in the lives which he has blessed. Seldom does he lose contact with his children.
Recently Brother Nicholas was going by train to visit one of his children. A young lady across the aisle was having trouble with her baby. The baby was crying loudly, while the mother was trying frantically to calm the child. Brother Nicholas asked if he might help. Soon the baby was fast asleep in his arms.
Brother Nicholas had four girls and two boys in his own family. Two daughters and one son are living at present. Besides six children of his own, he had eleven grandsons and four granddaughters. Add over a thousand more and you will have the Nicholas family because he says that they are my children.
His daughters are alumnae of Hardin Simmons. Through the years Brother Nicholas has developed great love for the school. In February of last year when old Abilene Hall burned, Brother Nicholas was the first to start a fund for rebuilding the structure. The morning following the fire, before the business manager of the university had reached his office, Brother Nicholas was standing outside with a $25.00 check. He wanted to help out a little.
Then Brother Nicholas stepped to the phone and called Nick Crain. I'm sure you will want to help, too, he said. Nick did. He added $500 to the fund started by Brother Nicholas.
Two years ago Brother Nicholas became ill and was a patient for several weeks at Hendrick Memorial Hospital. They liked him so well as a patient that the superintendent asked him to remain on the staff. Brother Nicholas agreed. Now he has his basement room arranged to suit himself.
A large wooden desk, literally bulging with pamphlets, books, letters, and other personal belongings, almost hides one wall in the small room. The walls are covered with pictures of his children, Scripture quotations, and souvenirs.
The outmoded upright typewriter on his desk doesn't remain idle. When he can't secure a typist, Brother Nicholas uses it himself to answer dozens of letters from his children.
His age? Brother Nicholas doesn't consider himself old at ninety-three!
Abilene Reporter News -- Wednesday, July 19, 1939
Click to enlarge
The Reverend W. A. Nicholas, superintendent of the West Texas Children's Aid and Welfare association, shown carrying a basket laden with a bright-eyed, chubby-faced youngster, is known to bus drivers and railroad men over the state as "the man with a basket."
One day he travels with a baby in his basket, feeding it himself and quieting it when it crys. Following day finds him retracing his steps with only a pillow and blankets in his basket -- on his way back to Abilene after placing another baby in a Texas home.
Rev. Nicholas, who recently observed his 85th birthday, has found homes for almost 2000 homeless children in Texas.
He will be interviewed by Gail Northe on her TSN radio program at 9 o'clock Friday morning.
Carole Paulk Ziegenhagen's Page -- Photo of a little orphan girl Rev. Nicholas handed out to people, and has a message on back of card, sent in by Carole Paulk Ziegenhagen, Abilene, Tx., --- newspaper articles about Rev. Nicholas.
Adoptee, John DeBusk On 12 February 1933, I was found in a pasteboard box about ten miles west of Abilene, Texas. I have several Abilene newspaper articles on this page about this event. Yes, Brother Nicholas touched my life too.
Addresses By Year -- The addresses by year for the West Texas Childrens Aid And Welfare Orphan's Home in Abilene, Texas and a rare photo of Rev. Nicholas' biological children, sent in by Carole Paulk Ziegenhagen.
Photo Sent In By Ann Crum -- Ann has reported to this Web Site this is a orphans home of W. A. Nicholas in Abilene, Tx in about 1930, sent in by Ann Crum, Killen, AL
Our Photos -- Photos of the W. A. Nicholas Orphans Home in Abilene, Tx --- Brother Nicholas' office --- his grave site in the old cemetery near downtown in Abilene --- Carole Paulk Ziegenhagen's Mother.
About Nicholas J. Crain Crain assumed Superintendent of The WTCA & W in the early 1950s. He took the place of Brother Nicholas when the old gentleman became too old to operate the organization.
TxCARE -- TxCARE Adoption Search Registry, is a free service provided for all family members separated by adoption.
Cyndi's List of Genelogy Sites on the Internet. Cyndi has more than 123,550 links with an excellent Category for adoption.