The spirit of adventure that led the young Canadian, John Nickerson, to book passage on a ship traveling around Cape Horn to join in the 1849 gold rush to California also lead him, following his retirement, as an architect in Canada, to come south, seeking a warmer climate for his wife, the former Elizabeth Ransom, and his children, John Cameron, Lorne and Lella Nickerson. He built sterling grove, now owned by his granddaughter, Bella Nickerson, Mrs. Richard Dudley Chappuis, Sr. John Nickerson’s destinations in Louisiana was Baton Rouge. On this initial trip to Louisiana, he never reached there. Aboard the train traveling to Louisiana, Nickerson met James, Godfrey Parkerson, agent for the railroad being constructed between New Orleans and the west. Parkerson persuaded Nickerson to stop over in Lafayette for at least a week. The way of life Nickerson found in Lafayette, the friendliness and warmth of the people, and the beauty of this section of Louisiana convinced the adventurous Nickerson that he had found his “Shangrila” in this part of the world.
In seeking a site on which to build his house, he decided on the spot to purchase a two – acre tract of land at what is now 310 North Sterling St. Nickerson purchased the property on February 20, 1891 from Miss Martha Greig, wife of Dr. F.S. Mudd. It is part of the former plantation of Charles homer Mouton, and was just at the edge of the town.
Nickerson designed his house in The Victorian’s stall and brought down two carpenters from Canada to do the actual construction. Well suited to its environment, the house, now nearing the century more, shows no sign of where, a testament to the loving care it has had. The growth of trees in which he built his house in the name of the street on which it faced provided the name for it… sterling Grove.
As originally built, Sterling Grove is a two-story house with a two-story gallery across the front and wrapped to the right side. The five square posts of the front gallery have “gingerbread” brackets. Between the posts on the upper front gallery is a balustrade. Also, between the posts at ceiling level is lattice work.
The front door has glass in the upper portion. There is a glass transom above the door. The door is in line with the wide front steps. There is a window on either side of the door. The same plan is used in the upper story. The front door opens into a foyer. On either side of the foyer or double parlors; one originally was used as a dining room.
The parlor on the left of the foyer opens into the master bedroom. Beyond, opening off this room is a dressing room, and a bath and shower. The sliding doors of the parlor have been replaced by open archways. The left parlor now also has an arts opening into the reception room.
Against the left wall of the reception room is the stairway leading to the upper floor. The door in this part of the room opens into a hall with tile flooring off, which is a bathroom. The large pantry that was originally in this area of the house has been converted to a storage and utility area. The tiled Hohle leaves into the kitchen which also has a tile floor. A rear side porch has been enclosed with glass and converted to a breakfast room. This opens into a butler in and from the burglary, the double dining rooms are reached. Double dining rooms were provided, when the right side gallery was enclosed to expand the interior area of the house. Mrs. Chappuis recalls that the open galleries went from that to screen galleries, and then to the enclosure on the right side of the house with glass window walls, thus making the galleries part of the interior space at the house.
To the rear of the house is a two-storied carriage house that has now become the garage with the upstairs portion converted to a guest house. When automobiles replaced horse drawn carriages, it became necessary to extend the lower part of the carriage house slightly to provide complete cover for the automobiles. At one time there was a lattice, work covered walk between the main house and the carriage house.
Although retired when he came to live in Lafayette, John Nickerson became one of the towns leading citizens in an important figure in the development of the town.
His eldest son, John, Cameron Nickerson, was 18, when the Nickerson’s moved to Lafayette. John, Cameron Nickerson’s marriage to Isabel Judice, daughter of Alcide Judice, and 1900 united him with one of the pioneer Louisiana settlers of French ancestry. Three children were born to them: Lucille (Mrs. Wicliffe Black Vennard), deceased; John, Cameron and Alcide Judice, both of whom died in infancy and Bella Elizabeth Nickerson (Mrs Richard Dudley Chappuis, Sr.).
The Judice family in Louisiana has establish the tradition of leader ship and economic, educational, civic and social development of their community and military support of the government. The proginator of the Judice family in Louisiana was Jacquees Judice who came to New Orleans in 1721 from Alsace, France. His son, Louis served as commandant of militia and judge at Cabahanoce in Saint James Parish, from 1765 through 1770 moving the end to Donaldsonville, where he also acted as judge and commandant. He served under Galvez with the rank of lieutenant colonel at Baton Rouge in 1776, earning the Spanish honorary title of “Don“. in 1733 he married Jeane Cantrelle, daughter of Jacquees, Cantrelle, a native of Saint Leger in Picardy. He reached Biloxi Mississippi on June 10, 1720. Cantrelle became the owner of one of the largest land grants in St. James parish. Two sons were born to Don Louis Judice and Jeanne Cantrelle, Louis and Micel. Louis Judice, fils (Jr.) married Marguerite Patin, a member of another old pioneer family of the Louisiana colony. They were the parents of Maximilian Judice, who came to Lafayette in 1800 and became a plantaion owner. On April 10, 1806, he married Celeste Boutte, daughter of Antoine Boutte and Hyacinthe de Gruys. Maximilian brought his bride to his plantation home, which was in the vicinity of what is now South College Road and West Bayou Parkway.
In the Judice tradition Maximilian served as a captain in the Acadian Militia in the Battle of New Orleans. His son, Gustave, served under Gen. Alfred Mouton in the Civil War. Gustave married Elizabeth Doucet. Like his father he also was a plantation owner. However, the war reduced the family fortune. Gustave and Elizabeth were the parents of seven daughters and one son, Alcide.
Alcide settled in the area later to become the Town of Scott. He purchased the land from Gomingue Cayret. Cayret had come to Louisiana in the 1700’s from Bordeaux, France, where he had been a general contractor. He established a plantation in what is now the Scott area and also raised horses. All of his horses except one were confiscated by the Yankees during the Civil War. After the war he established a cotton press in Lafayette.
Cayret was married to Hortense Duhon. Their daughter, Anais, married Alcide Judice, who established a small country store on the land he had purchased. Alcide kbecame a leading figure in the area and is credited with instituting the first rural school bus system in the United States, when he introduced and put into effect a plan to transport children to a rural school built in Scott in 1895 under his encouragement. He became the firset president of the Lafayette Parish School Board, serving in that capacity for many years. USL’s first Hall on the USL campus in named for him in recognition of his service to education.
Children born to Alcide and Anais Cayret Judice were Isabella and Leo. Leo Judice followed in his father’s footsteps also serving as president of the Lafayette Parish School Board, a post he held for 27 years. He also from 1930-1941 was Mayor of Scott and was a member of the First Constitutional Convention of the State of Louisiana. Leo Judice was married to Hunter Fergusson. No children were born of this union.
With the marriage of Bella Elizabeth Nickerson to Richard Dudley Chappuis, Sr. the Nickerson family was joined to yet another pioneer family of French ancestry, Chappuis’s great grandfather, Stephen Chappuis and his great grandmother, Mary Louisa Sourd Chappuis, were natives of Lorraine, France. They went, when very young, to Cincinnati. They were married to Cincinnati while quite young. They lived there until 1840. They then came to Thibodeaux, Louisiana. Chappuis’ grandfather, Anselm S. Chappuis, left Thibodeaux at the age of 19 and returned to Cincinnati, where he learned the tinner’s trade. He returned to Louisiana, practiced his trade for about five years, moved to Napoleonville and then to Rayne. Here he established a hardware business and also invested in real estate. He became one of the wealthiest men in Acadia Parish, served on the Board of Aldermen in Rayne and as a clerk of the Police Jury. He and other business leaders established the first rice mill in Rayne. He was married to Emma Bergeron and following her death to Josephine Christman of Opelousas.
Chappuis’ father, A.A. Chappuis, a rice planter, was also active in the town and parish. He served on the Police Jury for a number of years. He was married to Elise Daboval, daughter of Emile and Marie Angela de Lesseps Daboval. Emile and his wife came to Rayne in 1890, where Emile purchased a major interest in Rayne Rice Mill, the first rice mill in Louisiana outside of New Orleans.
ant of pioneer Louisiana settlers. She was a descendant of Alexander de Lesspes, brother of Ferdinand de Lesseps of the Suez and Panama Canal fame. Chappuis’ mother was also a descendant of the Monteguts and of Joseph Franz Deynoodt of Antwerp, Belguim, who was Belgian consul at New Orleans. The first of the Monteguts came to Louisiana around 1765-1770.
Richard Chappuis, a graduate in petroleum engineering at LSU, was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Organized Reserve Corps of the U.S. Shortly after Pearl Harbor he entered active duty in the U.S. Army and established a brilliant war record. He was awarded a number of citations including the Silver Star with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Bronze Star Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, Frence Croix de Guerre with Palm, Belgian Fourregere, Victory Medal as well as numerous lesser citations. He attained the rank of Lt. Colonel during World War II and maintained active status in the Organized Reserve Corps until his retirement in 1964 with the permanent rank of Colonel. In civilian life Chappuis was active in oil, land development, cattle ranching and banking. He was also a leader in civic and religious affairs. Sterling Grove became the home of Richard and Bella Nickerson Chappuis in 1960. Mrs. Chappuis is the third generation of Nickersons to call Sterling Grove home. She was the first Lafayette girl to be Queen of the city Mardi Gras. Grandchildren of John Cameron and Isabella Judice Nickerson are: Lucille Vennard (Mrs. Huey Keeney); Wickliffe B. Vennard, Jr.; John Cameron Vennard; Richard D. Chappuis, Jr.; Bella Elizabeth “Cherie” (Mrs. Ralph Kraft); John Nickerson Chappuis and Edward Randolph Chappuis, deceased.
Great grandchildren are: Huey C. Keeney, Jr.; Randolph Vennard Keeney; Elise Lockett Chappuis; Richard D. Chappuis, III; Cameron C. Chappuis; Elizabeth Ransome Kraft; Scott Brantley Chappuis and Sarah Nickerson Chappuis.
Great, great grandchildren are: Randolph Vernnard Keeney, Jr. and Katherine Hunter Keeney. John Cameron Nickerson became a gentleman farmer, rancher and real estate developer. He further developed the additions his father started and also developed Mudd addition and other subdivisions in Lafayette.
He provided USL’s first president with the young oak trees that he and USL President Edwin L. Stephens planted on the main campus known as the “Twentieth Century Oaks,” because they were planted on the first day of this century. His love of flowering shrubs and exotic plants is still to be seen on the grounds of Sterling Grove. Lafayette’s designation today as “City of Flowers” is owed to people like Nickerson who constantly urged that azaleas, camellias and other flowering plants be planted in Lafayette yards.