"When we got in sight of Nicodemus the men shouted, "There
is Nicodemus!" ... My
husband pointed out various smokes coming out of the ground and said,
"That is Nicodemus." The families lived in dugouts.... The scenery was not
at all inviting, and I began to cry."
-- Williana Hickman, in the
Spring of 1878
The desperate families of the South listened with rapt
attention and in the late summer of 1877, 308 railroad tickets were
purchased to take them to the closest railroad point in Ellis,
Still fifty-five miles away, the families walked to
arriving in September 1877.
Within one month the first black child was born in Graham
County to Mr. and Mrs.
homes along the Soloman River in dugouts, the original settlers found
more disappointment and privation as they faced adverse weather
conditions. In the Promised Land of
they initially lacked sufficient tools, seed, and money, but managed
to survive the first winter, some by selling buffalo bones, others by
working for the
Pacific Railroad at Ellis, 55 miles away.
Yet, others survived only with the assistance of the Osage
Indians, who provided food, firewood and staples.
Though most stayed, many were disillusioned by the lack of vegetation
and the starkness of the land, quickly returning to the green fields
of Kentucky and Tennessee.
Of those who stayed, the spring of 1878 brought hope and
opportunity as the new settlers began to farm the soil.
The spring of 1878 also heralded more "Exodusters from
the South and a local government was established, headed by "President
Smith. One woman
arriving in the spring, Williana Hickman said years later of arriving
"... "When we got in sight of Nicodemus the
men shouted, "There is Nicodemus!"
Being very sick, I hailed this news with gladness. I looked
with all the eyes I had.
I said, "Where is Nicodemus? I don't see it." My husband pointed out
various smokes coming out of the ground and said, "That is Nicodemus."
The families lived in dugouts.... The scenery was not at all inviting,
and I began to cry."
Despite the living conditions and their longing for the
forested hills of Kentucky, Williana and her husband Reverend Daniel
Hickman stayed, organizing the First Baptist Church in a dugout with a sod
structure above it.
By 1880, a small, one-room, stone sanctuary had been
erected at the same site. This structure evolved from limestone to stucco,
and in 1975, a new brick sanctuary was built.
Today, the church still stands in