The Nims Family Migrations

From a start in 1700 in Deerfield, Massachusetts the descendants of Godfrey Nims can now be found in virtually every state in the United States and in many countries around the world. In most cases the eventual movement of generations of Nims descendants have followed the same pattern that existed for all of the population patterns of Colonial America but there are some unique situations that have proved to be interesting in determining how many of the Nims family ended up where they are today.

In 1700 the European population of Colonial America was concentrated on the eastern seaboard with Deerfield being at the extreme northwestern edge of civilization. The French and Indian wars opened up land west to the Alleghenies and north to the St. Lawrence River. The Revolutionary War expanded the frontier even further west and provided land opportunities for soldiers of the war. The Louisiana Purchase opened up more possibilities even further west than that. From roots imbedded in New England in an agricultural society the land could only be divided so many times and the younger children had to look for new opportunities. In most cases this meant crossing the Connecticut River and subsequently the Hudson where virgin land could be found. It also meant heading north and following the rivers into upper New England. Until 1800 nearly all of Nims descendants could be found in eastern New York State, Vermont and New Hampshire. An event that happened in 1810 changed the look of all of New England. In Indonesia, a giant volcanic eruption sent ash across the western hemisphere over a two year period. For two summers there were no crops grown in New England and it even snowed in July. This created the impetus for larger and longer migrations further to the west. In 1813 the defeat of Chief Tecumseh in western Ohio opened up the Western Reserve (Western New York, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Michigan). During the next 30 years was the time that the next generation of the Nims Family left eastern New York and Massachusetts and started to spread around the country.


John Nims

The family of John Nims is the most heavily concentrated in northwestern Massachusetts. Each generation moved a little further north settling in Greenfield, Shelburne, and Gill, Massachusetts and then up into Windham County Vermont. Some of these grandchildren migrated to Saratoga, Warren, and Cayuga counties in New York between 1890 and 1910. It was from these migrations that further migrations took the Nims families west.

Amasa Nims (1810) and his brother Daniel Nims (1807) (Daniel, Daniel, John) left Bolton, New York in February 1840 and headed west to Indian Territory. They crossed the Mississippi River on ice and settled in Jackson County, Iowa. They founded the town of Maquoketa, Iowa where a very large concentration of Nims descendants now live. Their brother, Elial, took a different route settling in Ohio and Illinois before finally arriving and settling in Maquoketa.

Silas John Nims(1778, Buckland, Massachusetts) ( John III, John Jr., John) left Franklin County, Massachusetts in 1810 and settled in Saratoga County, New York. His son, Alpheus John Nims moved with his family to Wisconsin in 1847. While there he separated from his wife and eight children and remarried and had eight more children as he moved to Missouri, Kansas, and Iowa. He moved his second family to Sumas, Washington about 1884. Their descendants are heavily concentrated in the Sumas area, and southern British Columbia, Canada. The family farm is right on the Canadian border. Our past president, Frank Nims, is a descendant of that family.

Zeeb Taylor (1750, Shelburne, Massachusetts) (Mary Nims, John) moved his family from Franklin County, Massachusetts in 1793 to the Finger Lakes region of central New York. His son, Stephen Taylor and his wife Martha were early converts to Mormonism in 1838. They left New York and met up with the traveling Mormon Saints in Winter Quarters, Nebraska in late 1847. They left Winter Quarters in June of 1848 to emmigrate to Utah. Martha died on the trail in June 1848 and Stephen took his children on to Utah. They have a very large concentration of descendants in Utah, Arizona and California. Stephen Taylor is also a descendent of Thankful.


Thankful Nims

Thankful’s family is the most diverse of the children with descendants spread to every state. They stayed in the Deerfield area for the first three generations then started migrations to other locations in the 1780’s. Migrations at that time moved west to the Berkshires, south to Hampshire County and east to the Worcester area with most going north into Windham and Windsor counties in Vermont and then up the river to Montpelier and thence to the Burlington area.

Probably as a result of the 1810 weather conditions in New England the next generation moved west from Vermont to western New York, northeast Ohio and northwest Pennsylvania. There was also a large migration to the Susquehanna Valley in northeast Pennsylvania. These settlers named both a town in Ohio and a township in Pennsylvania after Deerfield. A group also moved up to northern New York in the St. Lawrence area.

David William Church (b. 1821, Pennsylvania) took his family in 1864 to western Iowa which has accounted for a large grouping of Thankful’s descendants. This group has spread around western Iowa and South Dakota. Our past president, Ronald Graham, descended from this part of the family.

Daniel Arms (b. 1766, Conway, Massachusetts) took his family about 1820 to western New York. His grandson Myron Israel Arms went on to Youngstown, Ohio in 1843 and was a co-founder of the steel industry in Youngstown. In 1863 he was named one of the wealthiest men in Ohio. His mansion still stands on Wick Avenue and is a historical site. There is a large concentration of Thankful’s descendants in the areas around Youngstown.

Henry Frances Sanford (b. 1820, Middlebury, Vermont) , great-grandson of Thankful Munn showed up in Tahiti (French Polynesia) about 1840. He left the ship and married into the Polynesian culture. He has left hundreds of descendants in French Polynesia. One of his great-granddaughters married into the royal family and her descendant if there was still a monarchy would be the king of Tahiti.

Philinda Clark Eldridge (b. 1807, Weybridge, Vermont), great-granddaughter of Mercy Nims Munn moved to Green County, Illinois in 1830 with her new husband. In 1832 she and her husband became affiliated with the Mormon Church. In October 1838 they traveled to be with the church members in Far West, Missouri. As they approached Far West they stopped for the night in a village called Haun’s Mill. Early the next morning the village was attacked by a mob and her husband and son were killed along with many others. Philinda was forced to leave Missouri and took her family to Nauvoo, Illinois where she later remarried. She and her husband went to St. Louis until 1850 when they had collected enough funds to follow the church to Utah. She died on the trail in Fort Laramie, Wyoming. Her husband went on to Utah with the children. There are many hundreds of descendants of Philinda in Utah and California.

Ebenezer Nims

Ebenezer’s family was the earliest to leave their native Deerfield. His son David was the first, traveling north to Upper Ashuelot (now Keene, New Hampshire) and establishing a homestead in 1736, later to be forced out by Indian raids and then returning in 1749. His posterity is spread throughout southern New Hampshire and Vermont. Ebenezer Jr’s. family was smaller but moved to Indiana in the 1830’s. The families of Moses Nims stayed in the Deerfield area for about three generations and then started their western migration in the 1820’s to western New York and northwest Pennsylvania and then in the next generation to Ohio and Michigan. Another branch of the family went to northeast New York and then subsequently even to Ontario, Canada. Three branches of the Moses line took off in the 1850’s to the south and settled families in northern Florida, Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina. Descendants of Amasa Nims ended up in northeast Ohio and Michigan.

Albert Sanford Nims (b.1815, Jefferson County, New York) (Joel, Ariel, Moses, Ebenezer) moved to Florida before 1845. His children were born in Tallahassee, Florida. His youngest son, John Jay Nims fathered a racially integrated family with Julia Robinson. They could not be legally married. Their family was raised in Tallahassee and education was the standard of the family. All have proven to be very successful educators, business people and medical doctors. A member of the NFA, Terry Rumsey, is a descendant of this family.

Frederick Boydon Nims (b.1810, Franklin County, Massachusetts) (James, Ariel, Moses, Ebenezer) was hired by the State of Georgia as a railroad construction engineer in 1838. He initially moved to Columbia, South Carolina. Even though he was a New Englander he had sympathies with the South and owned slaves. In 1860, he moved his family to just over the border in Mt. Holly, North Carolina where he added to his family but died in 1857. His descendants are spread over the Mt. Holly, North Carolina and Fort Mill, South Carolina areas.

Rufas Lyman Nims (b. 1815, Deerfield, Massachusetts) (Elisha, Elisha, Moses, Ebenezer) moved to the South before 1850 and married and settled in Baldwin County, Alabama. He set up a stage station near his home. It is said that he avoided being conscripted into the Confederacy by stating that he was from the North and he wanted no part of the war. His descendants settled in Baldwin County, Alabama and Escambia County, Florida, just across the border. Subsequent generations have moved back and forth across the border but have stayed in the same region. 


Abigail Nims

Taken captive to Canada as a four year old in 1704, and not returning, Abigail’s descendants are spread throughout Canada and northern New York and Michigan. While marrying another Deerfield captive her children married into established families of New France. There was a westward migration in Canada as well as in the United States. After leaving Oka, the destination was across the river to the Quebec towns of Vaudreuil and Rigaud and to some extent further across the St. Lawrence River to the towns south of the river but within Canada. The next generations then migrated from Quebec to the most eastern part of Ontario. They settled in all of the areas east of Ottawa and descendants of Abigail can be found in nearly every city in Prescott County.

Starting around the 1870’s there was a significant migration to the Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Franklin counties in northeast New York. All of the towns across the St. Lawrence River have a significant number of Abigail descendants. The town of Tupper Lake in Franklin County, which is located in Adirondack State Park, was a principle destination. If one did research on all of the families in Tupper Lake it could possibly be proven that about half of the inhabitants of the town are descendants of Abigail. Along with the move came also the name changes such as Quesnel becoming Cannell and so on.

While a large majority of Abigail’s descendants have stayed in the west Quebec or east Ontario counties there has been some significant migration north in Ontario to North Bay, Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie. Abigail descendants have used this path to enter Michigan for either the northern peninsula or even for the Detroit area in southern Michigan. Some Abigail descendants are found in Saskatchewan and Manitoba but a larger number traveled even further west and established many communities west of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. In fact many of the towns northwest of Edmonton where they settled have bilingual signs because of the number of French Canadians in the area.