Biography

MASTER BUILDER
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Died: 1/10/1756

The master builder John Nicholas was the son of Samuel (d. 1709) and Margaret (Moore) Nicholas (d. 1743) of Philadelphia. He was one of the earliest members and a possible founder of The Carpenters' Company, although no Company records prior to the 1760s survive to confirm the date of his election or, for that matter, the actual founding date of The Company. Nicholas married Jane Roberts in 1723, and in 1731 he was an original subscriber to Benjamin Franklin's Library Company. He served as a Director of the Library Company, 1732-1733. (Nicholas was not the only master builder among the twenty-five founders of the Library Company; see Reese Lloyd.)

Between 1723 and 1743, Nicholas was working for James Logan at his country house, Stenton. The surviving records are not adequate, however, to attribute that important house to Nicholas. He is also recorded as having measured the State House (Independence Hall) in 1741, the same year he measured (with Joseph Rakestraw) the new stone bridge over Pennypack Creek and joined the Thornhills on Christ Church steeple. In 1736 he received forty pounds as a legatee of James Portues. Like most leading builders of the colonial period, Nicholas served as a witness, executor, or appraisor for the wills and estates of his fellow craftsmen. He was, for example, executor (with Edward Warner) of the will of Philip Johns, tavernkeeper, in 1735; an overseer of the estate of Reese Lloyd in 1743; performed (with Joseph Fox) the inventory of the estate of Thomas Rush, carpenter, in 1745; and was appointed executor of the will of John Ingram, bricklayer, in 1747.

Nicholas died in 1756. In his will he provided for the manumission of a lad by the name of Richard Read, "and I gave & Bequeath unto him, all his Working Tools & Utensils of his Trade & Mystery to hold to him...."

Written by Roger W. Moss.

Clubs and Membership Organizations

  • Library Co.
  • Carpenters' Company of Philadelphia

 

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