In 1838 Robert Nickells, from Virginia settled South of what is now New Point. Shortly thereafter, his brothers Frank and John followed. Frank Nickells staked a claim to the Southeast Quarter of Section 8, Township 60, Range 37.
Another early settler in Nodaway Township was Lewis W. Jones from Illinois. He settled in the same neighborhood as Frank Nickells.
Because Holt County had only been open to settlement by the white man for a few years, most of the land was still heavily timbered and especially prized were lands with a stream of good, plentiful water. Such were the lands settled by Frank Nickells.
Soon Frank began having troubles with his neighbor L. W. Jones. Since the year was 1843 there were no newspaper accounts to fill in the details of the nature of the dispute. Was this merely a boundary line dispute or were both men claiming the same ground alleging that the other was illegally squatting on what was rightfully his. We shall probably never know.
Finally things came to a head between Nickells and Jones. They couldn’t wait for the Circuit Judge David R. Atchison of Platte City to make his rounds to decide the case. So they both agreed that the next time they were in Oregon, that the matter would be settled by fisticuffs.
According to Stephen C. Collins, another early settler in his reminisces in 1881, stated that Nickells and Jones did meet in town after having selected their seconds. A group of about 200 formed a ring about them in front of the variety store by holding hands. Nickells and Jones stripped off their coats and shirts and began the battle. Both contestants were evenly matched and the battle went back and forth. It was indeed a prize fight in every sense. To the victor would go the undisputed title and ownership of the land. However, this was no street brawl, all formalities of the ring were observed.
Finally, Jones shouted enough and Nickells was declared the victor. Some 16 years after title was decided, Frank Nickells finally obtained a land patent for the ground. A year later in 1860 he deeded a portion of the ground to the Missionary Baptist Church for church grounds.
Although he lost the title fight, Jones did not leave the area. In fact, in 1846 he obtained a land patent to lands lying to the immediate west of Nickells land, now known as Nickells Grove.
The land in that area must have been truly special for two men to have fought so valiantly and honorably for it and then to have remained as neighbors in a state of peace (no other incidents having been reported).
This ends the tale of the first and (to our knowledge) the only prize fight in Holt County.
This undated story is a part of the Nickell family file, housed in the Genealogy/Research Center in Mound City. (Shared by Becky Smith, Holt County Historical Society)