Timothy Nicholson was born in North Carolina and was educated at Belvidere Academy in North Carolina the Friends’ School in Providence, Rhode Island. He was then named principal of Belvidere and later taught at Haverford College, near Philadelphia.
In 1861, he moved to Richmond where he joined his brother, John, in the book and stationery business. He later became president of this company, Nicholson and Brother, and later of the Nicholson Printing Co.
But he is best known for his life of public service. A prominent Quaker, he held numerous positions in the church including elder, clerk of the Yearly Meeting of ministers and elders for 22 years, and clerk of the Whitewater Monthly Meeting for twelve years. He was also active in various Sunday school organizations.
He was a trustee of the Richmond City Schools from 1865-66 and from 1867-73 a trustee of Indiana State Normal School at Terre Haute. For nearly fifty years he was a trustee of Earlham College. In honor of his dedication to education, in 1925 the Whitewater School located at North G and 13th Streets was remodeled and renamed the Timothy Nicholson Elementary School.
In 1864, when Robert Morrisson founded the Morrisson Library, he appointed a committee to select the original collection, and Timothy Nicholson was a member of that committee. He also served as a member of the Morrisson Library Committee for 23 years.
He was active in many social reform movements, most notably in prison reform. He was instrumental in many reforms in the Indiana prison system, including the establishment of the Women’s Prison and Reform School for Girls. In 1889, state law created a Board of State Charities, and Nicholson was one of the first appointed and served for nineteen years. Locally he was on the board of the Home for the Friendless. A life-long temperance advocate, he was elected president of the Indiana Anti-Saloon League when it was founded in 1898 and held the title until his death.