city-bakery-building-nonpareil-james-nicollCourtesy photo The Nonpareil
James Clark Nicoll owned the City Bakery building located at 130 W. Broadway in Council Bluffs.

James Clark Nicoll


James Clark Nicoll
52 YOA
Council Bluffs, IA
Pottawattamie County
March 17, 1885


James Clark Nicoll, a 52-year-old baker from Perth, Scotland, who emigrated to Council Bluffs, Iowa with his wife and five children in 1871, was found dead Tuesday morning, March 17, 1885, lying frozen in about 15 inches of water in a Tenth Avenue Council Bluffs ditch that led into Indian Creek.

A successful businessman, Nicoll was known as a well respected community member.

Pottawattamie County in Iowa
Pottawattamie County in Iowa
Council Bluffs in Pottawattamie CountyCouncil Bluffs in Pottawattamie County

He’d left his home about 8 p.m. the previous evening, Mary Lou McGinn reported in a (Council Bluffs) Nonpareil article published August 4, 2014. When found, McGinn said, Nicoll was “without hat, shoes or stockings.”

Despite an investigation, the mystery surrounding Nicoll’s death was never solved.

Coming to America

Nicoll’s first bakery store in Council Bluffs, City Bakery, was located on the north side of Broadway across from the Ogden Hotel, and the family lived above the business.

Business thrived, and in the summer of 1884, Nicoll built a new building at 130 West Broadway, where he moved his home and business.

McGinn said of the business district’s history:

The 100 Block was the business district of the early Mormon settlement in the valley of Indian Creek. The area was known as “Miller’s Hollow.” The stores, mostly outfitting stores built of wood, were destroyed by fire in 1853-54 and subsequently replaced by brick buildings.

The building erected by James Nicoll replaced a one-story bakery. The nomination of the district to the National Register of Historic Places notes the elaborate pressed metal cornice on top with a simpler metal cornice above the storefront, and the second-floor tri-partite windows with decorative stone or pre-cast hoodmolds (see photo). The original entry was recessed, with double doors. The building, still standing, remained a bakery well into the 20th century.

The 100 Block of West Broadway, a local landmark, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

~ Council Bluffs Nonpareil, Aug. 4, 2014

Nicoll’s children would go on to play significant roles in Council Bluffs history.

When Nicoll and his wife, Amelia (Hutton) Nicoll first arrived in Iowa in 1871, they had five children: James Clark Nicoll II (10 years old), George (9 years old), Frank (5 years old), David (3 years old) and William (1 years old). Once in Council Bluffs, they had two daughters: Amelia, who died as a young child, and Margaret.

James C. Nicoll II went on to become chief of police in Council Bluffs, and two sons held positions with Western Union Telegraph — George in Council Bluffs and Frank in Omaha, the Nonpareil reported. David went on to become a typesetter for The Nonpareil.

nicoll-family-headstoneCourtesy photo Jenny Watton,
The Nicoll family members are all buried in the Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs.
About James Nicoll

James Clark Nicoll was born Jan. 15, 1833, in Perth, Scotland in Perthshire County to David and Helen (Mcintyre) Nicoll. He married Amelia Hutton and they had five children before emigrating to the U.S. Two other children were born in Iowa.

James Nicoll was laid to rest in the Fairview Cemetery in Council Bluffs, Pottawattamie County, Iowa.

His last remaining child, daughter Margaret Nicoll, died in 1957.


5 Responses to James Nicoll

  1. Tammy Renee Lind says:

    I wonder if he had an illness that doesn’t show signs like fever etc. A brain tumor comes to mind and can have such effects on the person as walking out in the middle of winter without shoes and hat. Just an idea.

  2. Mary e, oneill says:

    I’m the great
    Great granddaughter of James Nicoll and the same thought came to me Linda, maybe he was having an affair! M.O.

  3. James Sayles says:

    Since his son was the police chief, I bet thre are files from his era that document investigative efforts. If he found an answer that would cast his father in a bad light, I would suspect that the investigatioin ended then. Better unsolved than disgraced I guess.

  4. Linda Moore says:

    This is just a thought…beings he wasn’t wearing that shoes or stockings maybe he was having an affair and got cought by the husband?

Comment Policy

We encourage thoughtful discussion here but ask that comments remain civilized and constructive … i.e. without personal attacks or name-calling. Be respectful of others and remember that victims' family members visit these pages, too. If you'd like to provide us with information regarding a suspect or have other sensitive details to relay, please email us directly. Thank you in advance.

Share Your Thoughts