Theodore Nicholas killed his uncle retired doctor, Andrew Mead in Allegany, NY in December 1869.
In his eight decades of life, Andrew Mead proved himself a remarkable individual -- saw-mill builder, doctor, jurist, town supervisor, church leader, fraternal lodge founder, and storekeeper. The Hornelville Tribune of Dec. 24, 1869 (as quoted by the New York Times on Christmas Day, 1869) described him as "a resident of the county for the last fifty years, a very respectable and influential citizen."
About the year 1832, Dr. Andrew Mead built a saw-mill near the mouth of Four-Mile Creek. In 1838 it became the property of Seymour Bouton.
Previously active in nearby Olean, he came to the community of Allegany in 1847. Allegany is a village in the Olean metro area situated along the Allegany River in the Southern Tier region of New York State. The community name derives from Indian term for "long river" or "fine river." It is the home of St. Bonaventure University.
In 1848, Dr. Mead donated a store building he had in Olean to that community's First Baptist Church for use as a place of worship. He had been one of the congregration's earliest members. The building continued to be used by Olean Baptists as their church until 1860. In 1852, he helped establish the Olean Lodge, No. 252, F. AND A. M., serving as one of its first officers.
In 1854, Mead and the Rev. E. F. Crane presided at the founding meeting of "the First Baptist Society of Allegany." Mead served as a trustee of the society that for many years held its worship services in the village school-house. But the society never did construct its own church ediface and eventually ceased activity.
One of the early county judges, Dr. Mead was elected justice of the peace at various times through the years (1833, 1842, 1859) and elected town supervisor in 1868. Even into his late years, he continued activity in Cattaraugus courts.
Additionally, for many years Mead had maintained a considerable practice as a physician. Dr. Mead mentored run-away slave Sarah Johnson. Sarah became a very successful midwife who practices for years and delivered a multitude of babies in the Olean area.
A bachelor, Dr. Mead lived alone in a building on the west side of Main Street, Allegany, which also served as his place of business. By 1869, he kept the front part of his building more as a grocery than a medical office since he had given up his medical practice a few years earlier. After all, though quite muscular and still active, he was at that point in time pushing 80.
The evening of December 18, the retired doctor/jurist was by himself in his grocery when a young man named Theodore Nicklas entered. The 19-year-old was in desperate need of cash, having been barred from his own home by his parents. Apparently his ways of behaving were too much for them and for their German family tradition of personal self-descipline. Dr. Mead was well aware of the teen's unruliness and the parents' disapproval. Theodore was his nephew.
Nicklas "asked" his uncle for $2, a "request" that may have sounded to the old man more like a demand. His refusal led to an exchange of words that escalated into an altercation. With an iron stove implement that he had grabbed, Nicklas struck repeated blows to Mead's head, rendering the doctor helpless. His assailant took $55 from Mead's pants' pocket and a watch from the doctor's vest. Locking the store door behind him, Nicklas fled into the night, leaving his victim to die on the floor. The robber ran to Olean where he hopped aboard a freight car headed to Buffalo via Hornelville.
A $1,000 reward -- a vastly huge sum in that era -- was offered by the community for capture of the killer. The youth's wild spending of his ill-gotten gains and his sale of his victim's watch reportedly contributed to Nicklas' apprehension in January, 1870. A New York Timez report of Jan. 28 quoted from a Buffalo Express account of an interview with Nicklas while the youth was detained in Buffalo.
Nicklas claimed he wanted to "borrow" $2 from Mead for passage to Dunkirk, N.Y., but when the doctor refused to loan him the money, the youth determined to take it by force. However, Nicklas said that in the ensuing struggle, "The doctor was too strong for me and got me down. . . The doctor got up and locked the door and locked me in. I thought he was going to get a gun to guard me, for he keeps a gun and is an awful tempered man when he gets mad. I seized a small shovel by the stove and hit him over the head two or three times, the key fell from his hands and I don't know but I struck him once or twice after that. I took the watch and the money, unlocked the door, went out, locked the door after me, and started for Oleans. ”
Nicklas acknowledged he had one prior arrest, that being for allegedly stabbing a man.
"Now I that have no hope of escaping the gallows, I shall only strive to obtain the forgiveness of God."
After being detained in Buffalo for the murder of Dr. Mead, Nicklas was incarcerated in Little Valley where he was tried, convicted and on March 18, 1870, hanged.
Five hundred dollars was allotted to the Sheriff's Office for the execution, just about half of which went to the construction of the gallows. Some of the money may have been spent on closing off the execution area from public view so as to conform it to the 1835 New York law banning the public viewing of executions.
The New York Times account of March 19th, 1870, detailed the execution:
"The gallows was erected in the jail yard. The condemned left the jail in charge of Sheriff Cooper, leaning upon two deputies. He was proceded by Father Sorg and Bloomer, and followed by some of the county officers. He ascended the platform with a firm step. The death warrant was read and the rites of the Catholic Church performed. He was overwhelmed at the moment and wished Father Sorg to say for him that he was sorry for all the sins he had ever committed and that he hoped for salvation and trusted that his fate would be a warning to all young people. He dropped eight feet and died without a struggle. His body was delivered to his friends."
This is a very interesting website. Check it out for history within Cattaraugus County and New York State.
The following are notes from webmaster Thomas McCarthy, General Secretary/webmaster of NY Correction History Society.
The 1879 L. H. Everts History of Cattaraugus County, NY dates the Mead murder taking place in 1870 and the Nicklas execution in 1871 whereas the actual NYT and other newspaper clippings clearly establish the crime taking place in December 1869 and the execution in March 1870.
-- Everts History of Cattaraugus spells the last name of Dr. Mead's convicted killer as Nicklas as does Daniel Allen Hearn in his excellent Legal Executions in New York State. His book cites March 1870 stories in the NY Herald and the Jamestown Daily Journal. In its execution story the NYT spelled his last name Nicklos whereas in the arrest story the newspaper spelled it Nichols. We go with the Everts and Hearn's spelling: Nicklas.