They first met at the Point Truth Primitive Baptist Church near Nickelsville, VA. Charles Nickels was the clerk there, and Mary Louvinia ‘Lula’ Burke came up on Sundays from her family’s home in Grassy Creek, just across the Russell County line.
Isaiah ‘Zur’ and Sarah Burke didn’t encourage their daughter’s budding romance. Charles and Lula were not allowed to be alone while they were courting. They had to sit in the room with her parents, but occasionally managed to hold hands when the older folks weren’t looking.
On a number of occasions, Charles rode to Grassy Creek with the intention of asking for Lula’s hand in marriage. Having figured out the young suitor’s intentions, when Zur saw Charles coming, he would feign a headache or some other ailment so he could go in the house and avoid talking to Charles.
Charles Nickels was not a wealthy man: he was a traveling photographer by trade. He’d begun to operate The Rural Studio in 1903 while still living at his parents’ home. Charles traveled as far as Georgia to take pictures. When he returned home, he developed the negatives and printed the photographs. His cameras used negatives made of glass coated in various chemicals to obtain the image, and so developing the final image was a rather tedious and dangerous procedure. Finally he printed the picture on a penny postcard and mailed it to the customer. All of this for a dollar!
Could Charles Nickels’ humble profession have been a contributing factor to Zur Burke’s reluctance to encourage the couple?
On the third trip to Grassy Creek, Charles called out after Zur that there was no use going inside, because this was going to be the day he asked for Lula’s hand. Finally the old man relented and gave his permission for them to be married. Charles was so excited he wrecked his buggy on the way home.
Charles and Lula were married on January 12, 1907 in Scott County, VA. They went on to have 9 children together—Pearl, Gilbert, Blanche, Madge, Mary, Henry, Jim, Charles Harold, and Mildred. All reached adulthood except Mildred, who died at just over a year old.