Meredith Nicholson was born on December 9, 1866 in Crawfordsville, Indiana, United States. He was the first of four children of Edward Willis Nicholson and Emily (Meredith) Nicholson. His father was a substantial farmer of Kentucky ancestry and a Union officer in the Civil War. His maternal grandfather was a printer-journalist of Centerville, Indiana. The family moved to Indianapolis in 1872.