Returning to Nichols: Town sees promise, challenges on its road to recovery

Pee Dee

NICHOLS, SC (WBTW) – Not far from where the Lumber and Little Pee Dee Rivers cross paths, you’ll find the tiny town of Nichols.

It’s a tiny town that’s faced struggles in recent years that are anything but.

Nichols, which is near the Marion-Horry County line, watched flood waters swallow homes and businesses after Hurricane Matthew in 2016, and again following Florence in 2018.

“The water was rising,” longtime resident Sarah Devers demonstrated to us along her home of over four decades. “It came to this porch. Then it covered the step, then it came to here.”

She remembers watching the water rise after each of the two storms.

“You couldn’t see anything, but water and houses sticking out of the water,” she recalled. “You just feel like you’re going to lose everything.”

Her home was largely spared, but many others on town weren’t as lucky.

“Some of those people have gone- they’ve moved,” she said of residents who saw more extensive flooding. “Damage was too much and just too hard to take after two.”

Nichols Mayor Lawson Battle said that flooding in recent years has severely impacted 95 percent of all homes, all 22 businesses and all six churches.

He’s been fighting hard to get the town back on his feet with what he said was limited state and federal assistance.

“We kept an eye on it,” he said. “It wasn’t coming to Nichols. I don’t know where it was going. I think everyone should get their portion. But I don’t know another area or town that was more devastated than Nichols. Twice.”

The mayor said money for homes has begun to trickle down, but slowly.

Some businesses and residents have begun to return, along with many new faces, he said.

But Nichols still struggles with a reduced tax base since many have not come back yet.

“You need everything going to keep the municipal side going,” the mayor said. “And that’s something we’re struggling with too. To keep everything going here. So we can help people get back home. If we’re not here we can’t help them get home.”

Nichols, though, is working hard to get more businesses and homes back in the town limits.

Town Administrator Sandee Rogers showed News13 the town’s vision for a revitalized downtown area.

“Why not take what we were given and make it workable?” she said. “Make it work to where other towns that have this problem in the future can say, ‘Hey, okay, we don’t have to flood over and over. Let’s see what Nichols did. They raised it, they elevated it. They made it unique and trendy, but they kept the hometown charm.'”

She said the town worked closely with Clemson to develop the vision for an elevated downtown. She said an investor would need to come in to make the idea happen. It would prove a big part of the financial puzzle the town is working to solve.

A small glimpse of that vision can be found at the Grey Nickel. It’s a small boutique ran by mother-daughter-duo Crystal and Savannah Tiller.

They first opened their store up in Myrtle Beach, but have since moved locations.

“We saw all the devastation of this after the second time this had happened,” Crystal said. “So we decided instead of moving back and adding and back up in Myrtle beach, we would try to revive our small town of Nichols.”

They report seeing even more business than they did in Myrtle Beach.

Sandee Rogers says she is working hard towards her visions for what Nichols can be.

“I want Nichols to be what I know it can be, which is a charming town with people with great hearts, low crime, and an adventure for anyone who wants to come in and visit,” she said.

The town says it is still using part of the money given to the town after Matthew to operate. Mayor Battle says one of the biggest needs is still more federal and state funding.

Latest Headlines

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending stories