John Nicks was born in North Carolina during the Revolution and entered the United States Army as a captain in the Third Infantry July 1, 1808. He served with distinction through the War of 1812 and was commissioned a major of the Seventh Infantry October 9, 1813. He was honorably discharged from the army June 15, 1815, and on December 2nd following was reinstated as a captain in the Eighth Infantry with the brevet of major. On June 1, 1816, he was promoted to his majority and transferred to the Seventh Infantry. In 1818 he was in charge of the recruiting station at Philadelphia securing recruits for the Seminole War in Florida. During that war he was actively engaged in assembling and furnishing rations and equipment to the soldiers in Florida and commanded troops in Florida and Georgia. He was later in command of the Seventh Military Department with headquarters at Fort Scott, Georgia.
On June 1, 1819, Nicks was commissioned lieutenant colonel and exactly two years later, after thirteen years of service in the army, he received his honorable discharge. On September 28, 1821, he was appointed sutler to the Seventh Regiment then at Fort Jesup, Louisiana, and accompanied that part of his old regiment under Colonel Arbuckle that went to Fort Smith by water and reached there early in the year 1822. After Colonel Nicks took up his residence at Fort Smith he was elected to the Third Territorial Legislature of Arkansas and represented Crawford County in the House of Representatives from October 1823, and was re-elected to the Fourth Legislature serving from October 3, to November 3, 1825.
Upon the establishment of Fort Gibson in April 1824, Colonel Nicks moved with the Seventh Infantry as sutler at the new post. Colonel Nicks led a busy life at Fort Gibson in discharging the duties of sutler and representing eastern
Oklahoma in the Arkansas Legislature. After the death at Fort Towson October 20, 1826, of Major William Bradford who was serving there as sutler and was also brigadier-general of the militia of Arkansas, Nicks was appointed brigadier-general to fill the vacancy and thereafter was known as General John Nicks. When Lovely County was organized in October 1827 the Legislature of Arkansas appointed a commission to locate the county seat. John Nicks was one of the three commissioners and the site selected for the county seat in the present eastern Oklahoma, was named Nicksville. The buildings erected here on Sallisaw Creek for a trading settlement afterward were acquired for the use of Dwight Mission when it was established in 1830. General Nicks was appointed postmaster at Fort Gibson February 21, 1827, the second in Oklahoma, a station he held to the time of his death. It was during the service of Nicks as sutler at Fort Gibson that Sam Houston visited Washington and applied for the post held by him upon the supposition that he would be removed as the result of charges made against him and Colonel Arbuckle for seizure of contraband liquor introduced by traders into the Cherokee country. Colonel Nicks, however, was not removed and Houston did not secure his post. During the year, however, General Nicks became ill at Fort Gibson with pneumonia and after ten days he died on December 31, 1831. His funeral was held the next day at which the Protestant Episcopal service was read, after which he was interred with full military honors due his rank and service.
While living at Fort Smith, Colonel Nicks became acquainted with Miss Sarah Price Perkins to whom he was married July 13, 1824, by the Rev. William F. Vaill of Union Mission on Grand River. By this union there were born two children, Eliza Perkins Nicks and John Quinton Nicks. Mrs. Nicks survived her husband and was known far and wide as an interesting woman of great force of character. When Washington Irving visited Fort Gibson he met Mrs. Nicks who made such an impression upon him that he made some interesting notes of her in his journals. The firm of Nicks and Rogers did a prosperous business and received large shipments of merchandise by steamboat for their stores at Fort Smith and Fort Gibson, and on his death, General Nicks was
possessed of an estate worth $20,000.00 according to Washington Irving.1
A few months ago Mrs. Foreman and I undertook to locate General Nick's grave in the National Cemetery at Fort Gibson. The records in charge of the custodian showed that he was buried in the cemetery and though search was made for the location designated by the records, it was impossible to find it. We consulted a former custodian who said that he remembered years ago having seen a fragment of a monument lying along the fence of the cemetery containing the words "Gen. John". This indicated that after 1867 when the remains of soldiers were removed from the cemeteries at the old Fort Gibson garrison to the present National Cemetery only a part of General Nicks's headstone was preserved and through carelessness this had been misplaced and perhaps carried away. We then took the matter up with the proper branch of the War Department with the result that an order was made directing a new monument to be erected in the National Cemetery to replace the old one. The monument was then prepared and was set up May 25, 1932, in the center of the National Cemetery in what is commonly called "Officers' Circle."
Colonel John Nicks is probably the highest ranking officer who saw service in the War of 1812 definitely known to have been buried in the only National cemetery in Oklahoma and it is a source of considerable satisfaction to know that a suitable marker for this distinguished officer and early citizen of this state is now in place; and it has seemed proper that an account of the above facts should be set down here and made a part of the records of this society.
It is hoped that the above information will suggest to the Oklahoma Historical Society or some other patriotic organization the propriety of observing in some fitting manner the placing of the monument to this veteran and useful early citizen of Oklahoma.
1A detailed account of General John Nicks and his wife by Carolyn Thomas Foreman is to be found in the Chronicles of Oklahoma, Volume 8, Pages 389 to 406. Briefer mentions of General Nicks are to be seen in Pioneer Days in the Early Southwest and Indians and Pioneers, by Grant Foreman, and also in Heitman's Historical Register and Dictionary of the National Army.