Members Only Area
Bookmark and Share
sidebar menu icon


NICHOLS, JAMES WILSON (1820–1891). James Nichols, Indian scout, was born on December 27, 1820, in Franklin County, Tennessee, the son of George Washington and Mary Ann (Walker) Nichols. At age twelve he began a journal that was eventually published as a book of memoirs, Now You Hear My Horn (1968). This account vividly describes his life, beginning with his travels to Texas. The Nichols and Johnson Day families traveled the Tennessee, the Mississippi, and the Red Rivers to Natchitoches, Louisiana, and from there they traveled overland to Guadalupe-Gonzales counties, Texas. Nichols's journal says the party crossed the Sabine River into Texas on December 16, 1836. The families took up residence near Gonzales on March 2, 1837. Some historians have suggested that Nichols was present at the battle of the Alamo; however, these dates disprove such speculations. Another entry in Nichols's journal recalls the crowds waiting in San Antonio to see David Crockett's gun. There is no previous mention of Crockett.

Like his father and his grandfather, Nichols frequently moved, but he always settled back in Guadalupe-Gonzales counties. He served as a member of the Texas Rangers, the Frontier Battalion,qqv and the Minute Men. In 1839 he scouted for Capt. James Callahan. In 1841 he fought Comanche Indians under Capt. Jack (John Coffee) Hays; in 1842, while serving under Hays, the troop encountered a messenger from Gen. Rafael Vásquez on the outskirts of San Antonio, asking for the city to surrender. Hays had only 100 men, so he called for an evacuation of San Antonio. By the time other Minute Men had heard the news and traveled to San Antonio, Vásquez had retreated to the Rio Grande. Nichols served with Mathew Caldwell in the battle of Salado Creek against Adrián Woll in 1842. During the Mexican War he fought with Hays.

He also made furniture for a local wood shop. With this occupation, he traveled to San Antonio to make trades and bargain with others for goods. For two years he was employed in the furniture business. In the late 1850s Nichols came into conflict with secessionists because of his Unionism. Men from a town committee voted on a resolution ordering him to leave the county within the next ten days but Nichols answered that when they came for him, they would be greeted by "two double-barrel guns. Now you hear my horn." (Hence the title of his memoirs.) He was convicted of trumped-up horse-stealing charges, but Governor Frances R. Lubbockqv granted him a pardon and the court reversed the case. In 1861 he moved to an adjoining county. Nichols married Mary Ann Daniell, daughter of Rev. George Daniell of Gonzales County. He and his wife had twelve children. He died in Kerrville on October 8, 1891.


Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Cynthia Schellenberg


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Cynthia Schellenberg, "NICHOLS, JAMES WILSON," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed August 29, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.