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Well if it ain’t Ai

Based on an article in the Daily Times Chronicle, Tuesday, January 10, 1984, called Burlington Past & Present, by John ‘Ed’ Fogelberg (Article # 236)


His first name looks like it should be pronounced “eye,” but it was pronounced in two syllables, the first sounding like “ay” as in “stay,” and the second sounding like “eye.” So if you heard his full name spoken, you’d assume it was “A.I. Nichols.”

Nope! No initials. Just Ay-eye.

Elizabeth Lowther could remember his saying of himself to get a laugh, “If I ain’t Ai, who be I?” Where his father got the name to give the son, born to the Nichols family in 1870, is anybody’s guess. If it’s Biblical, it’s the old name for the Canaanite royal city north of Jerusalem. Joshua conquered and burned it to the ground so that Ai came to mean a “heap of stones.” Why would anyone name their child after a heap of stones? Ai died in an accident in 1940. His father’s name was just as odd. It was another little-known Biblical name: Alpheus.

Alpheus is mentioned once in St. Matthew and again in St. Mark: “And as he (Jesus) passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alpheus sitting at the receipt of custom and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him.” At least his parents had named him after a person. Alpheus lived in a little house near Chestnut Hill Cemetery, a house now long gone. But Ai’s house is still standing at the curve of Bedford Street as it rounds that cemetery opposite the old Shaw place. It is now owned and occupied by Mae Vaillancourt.*

As for odd names, Woburn and Burlington records abound with them.

  • The first marriage in Woburn was George Farley to a person named Christian Births.
  • Edward Winn’s son was named Increase.
  • The Simonds family have a Zebedee and a Bathsheba.
  • The Snows have a Zerubbabel and a Benoni.
  • And the Wymans are not to be forgotten, for they have a Peleg, a Hephzibah, a Zebediah and a Nehemiah.

*UPDATE: She sold to Valerie Curtis

Ai Nichols house today (built in 1850)
The Ai Nichols house today, 54 Bedford Street, built in 1850. It abuts the Chestnut Hill Cemetery.

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