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Collection 185 Papers of Albert and Muriel Nichols

Identifier: CN 185

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, photos, negatives and miscellaneous documents concerning family events and career decisions relating to the Nicholas’ missionary work in Sierra Leone. The bulk of the letters were sent to family during a two year period while the Nichols were serving as missionaries to Sierra Leone, where Albert was director of Industrial Education at Albert Academy. Topics include life in and methods of education of an urban missionary school in the 1920's, teaching industrial education at Albert Academy for the United Brethren Church, curriculum and effectiveness of teaching methods, the indigenous population, and African tribal customs and church services, Christian literature production, and organizational communication.


  • Created: 1904-1952

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical Information

Albert Sylvanus Nichols was born March 3, 1896, in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, one of seven children. After high school graduation in 1915 in Westerville, Ohio, he attended Otterbein College between 1917 and 1921; one of those years was spent in the Army and he afterward received a B.A. in 1921. During his senior year, he and Muriel Murray became engaged while both were at Otterbein.

Muriel was born February 12, 1899, in Knox County, Illinois, also into a family of seven children. She spent a year at Illinois Normal at Bloomington, another year at Knox College, 1918-1919, and received a B.S. degree at Otterbein in 1922. Albert and Muriel were married March 2, 1922, while Albert was teaching high school in Warrensburg, Illinois.

The Nichols spent the next two years, 1923 to 1925, as missionaries for the United Brethren Church in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Albert was Director of Industrial Education at Albert Academy, teaching woodworking and printing, while Muriel taught science.

After returning to this country in 1925, Albert earned an M.A. in education along with two years of study in architecture, both at the University of Illinois. The Nichols' son, Roger L., was born in 1927. For the next twelve years, Albert worked in public school administration in Illinois districts. The Nichols' daughter, Cynthia, was born in 1931. Albert completed a Ph.D. in educational administration at the University of Chicago in 1941. After positions at Macalester College, Minnesota, and Grinnell College, Iowa, he came to Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois, in 1944 as professor of education and psychology. With other responsibilities, he began in 1946 assuming duties of Admissions and retired as Director of Admissions in 1960.

Muriel Nichols returned to grade school teaching in Wheaton-area communities between 1951 and 1964, when she retired at age sixty-five. Both the Nichols were active at Wheaton Bible Church, and were responsible for founding of Countryside Chapel in Glendale Heights. In 1961, Albert designed the church building. Both taught in the Sunday school and attended Moody Bible Institute for further Bible study. The broadcasting station, ELWA, established in Liberia, West Africa, was the result of conversations with college students in the Nichols' living room.

In August, 1967, Mr. and Mrs. Nichols were both injured in a car-train accident in Wheaton from which Muriel recovered only after a prolonged period. A reception for all family members and friends was held at Wheaton Bible Church in March 1972 in honor of their fiftieth wedding anniversary. A second car accident in October 1979 was ultimately responsible for Muriel's death on June 22, 1980. In July, 1981, Dr. Nichols moved to New Hope, Minnesota, to live with the family of his son, Roger.


2 Boxes

1 Negative File

1 Photograph File

1 Oversize File

Language of Materials


Arrangement of Material

The material in this collection consists primarily of correspondence, negatives, and photographs, all concerning family events, college years, career decisions, and a two-year period spent by Albert and Muriel Nichols in Sierra Leone as missionaries. Most of the negatives and photographs are not identified, but span the decade of the 1920s and contain some scenes photographed in Africa.

The bulk of the correspondence (folders 1-6 to 1-15) was exchanged by Albert and Muriel with family members and friends during the years spent in Africa at Freetown, Sierra Leone, where Albert was Director of Industrial Arts at Albert Academy. These folders are divided by months and years where dates are known. Folders 1-12 to 1-15 contain undated correspondence which was sent from Sierra Leone between 1923 and 1905, when Dr. and Mrs. Nichols were living there. The remaining folders include correspondence, a few documents, and clippings for dates between 1904-1952. Folders 2-5 to 2-7 hold undated correspondence which did not originate in Africa. All pictorial postcards are in folder 2-4.

The content of the folders with correspondence from Sierra Leone ranges over the whole spectrum of life in an urban missionary school in the 1920s. Most of the letters were written by Mrs. Nichols to her family and give an intimate and candid picture of relationships with other missionary personnel, both British and American, the native population, and successes and failures of communication and evangelizing. There is comment on physical beauties and problems of environment, African tribal customs, including polygamy, responses of Africans to white western culture, and descriptions of African church services. The curriculum and effectiveness of teaching methods are discussed, as are length of missionary terms, expenses, and entertaining duties.

Folder 1-7 contains a copy of The Academy News, describing all the types of services offered at Albert Academy and praising the contribution of Dr. Nichols as Director of Industrial Education. In folder 1-10, a letter written January 19, 1925, describes Christmas in Sierra Leone. Also in this folder is a memo describing plans for the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the United Brethren Mission in Africa. Folder 1-12 contains a pen-and-ink drawing of the Nichols' house in Freetown. Other folders also include occasional drawings by Dr. Nichols of activities at the school.

Of particular interest is folder 2-1 (see also folder 1-11) which contains an exchange of letters between Dr. Nichols and the members of the Executive Committee of the Foreign Missionary Society of the United Brethren in Christ concerning Dr. Nichols' proposed changes in regulations for the management of the Albert Academy manual training workshops. These letters offer a study of the interaction of state-based governing mission boards with field committees who are charged with working in the indigenous setting. A basic disagreement over methods of educational missions and inability to resolve areas of responsibility in this instance was the cause of the Nichols' terminating their work in Africa. Copies of the regulation included in these folders also reflect the operation of mission schools in Sierra Leone at this period. Folder 2-1 also contains a report, dated 1926, titled "The Provision of a Christian Literature for Africa." The paper discusses the languages then translated on the African continent, numbers of books available and by whom produced, and suggests the need for more indigenous Christian literature as an urgent need for the mission field.

The order of this collection was established by the processor either by date where known or from external and internal evidence of individual letters. Not all letters are complete.

Accruals and Additions

The materials for this collection were received by the Billy Graham Center Archives in August 1981.

Accession 81-84, 81-150

December 31, 1981

Frances L. Brocker

J. Nasgowitz

Collection 185 Papers of Albert and Muriel Nichols
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Roman Script

Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

501 College Avenue
Wheaton IL 60187 US