Eli Nichols was a conductor on the Underground Railroad in New Castle, Ohio.
Nichols was born in 1799 in Loudoun County, Virginia. While still a child, Nichols and his parents moved to New Castle, in Belmont County, Ohio. Nichols's parents raised their son as a Quaker, but as an adult, Nichols ended his membership in the Society of Friends. He became a farmer and also worked as one of the first attorneys in Belmont County. Nichols also became involved in politics, winning election to the Ohio legislature.
Nichols was also active in the abolition movement. Despite facing bodily threats from pro-slavery people, Nichols routinely made presentations on slavery's injustices. He also served as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, opening his home to fugitive slaves. Most runaway slaves whom Nichols aided escaped from eastern Tennessee and Kentucky.
Nichols represents the growing tensions over slavery between Northerners and Southerners during the early nineteenth century. While many Northern states had provisions outlawing slavery, runaway slaves did not necessarily gain their freedom upon arriving in a free state. Federal law permitted slaveowners to reclaim their runaway slaves. Some slaves managed to escape their owners on their own, while others sometimes received assistance from sympathetic Northerners, such as Nichols.
- Bahmer, William J. Centennial History of Coshocton County, Ohio. Chicago, IL: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1909.
- Garrison, A.J. Interview by Wilbur H. Siebert. 20 August 1895. The Wilbur H. Siebert Underground Railroad Collection. The Ohio Historical Society. Columbus, OH.