Biography of John M. Nelson

John M. Nelson is one of the oldest business men of McPherson County, and had continuously been dealing in hardware and implements at Lindsborg for thirty-four years. One of the oldest merchants, he is also one of the oldest settlers, having come as a boy with his parents to McPherson County almost fifty years ago. From pioneer times to the present his family have been an important factor in the material development and general well being of this section of Kansas.

Mr. Nelson was born November 1, 1852, on Boberg farm, Sunne Wormland, Sweden, a son of Jan and Stena (Janson) Nelson. His parents were also natives of Sweden. The father was born in 1829 and died at Lindsborg, Kansas, in 1902, while the mother was born in 1832 and died at Lindsborg in 1868, the year the family arrived in America. Hers was the first death that occurred among the permanent white settlers in the county. After the birth of their children they sought in 1868 the better opportunities of America. They came to this country without capital, and their first home was a piece of Government land a mile south of the present town of Lindsborg. They were not only among the first of the Swedish colony in this section of the state, but also among the first of any white settlers there. Mr. John M. Nelson was the oldest of seven children, five sons and two daughters. Fred, the second, was born in 1855 and is a resident of Lindsborg. Gust, born in 1858, is also living at Lindsborg. Hannah, born in 1860, is the wife of Thomas Darrah, of McPherson, Kansas. Swen August, born in 1862, lives at San Diego, California. Axel, born in 1864, is also a resident of San Diego. Sofhia, born in 1866, died in 1903.

John M. Nelson was sixteen years of age when he came with his parents to America. He had complete recollections of the voyage from the old country, the landing in America, and the first experiences of the family in making a home on the bare prairies of Central Kansas. He was able to do almost a man’s part in the heavy work of the old farm. Besides the advantages he had in the Swedish schools he also attended school for a time in McPherson County. The year after the family came to this country he found employment in railroad construction work in the building of the old Kansas Pacific. Subsequently he was with the Santa Fe, and altogether put in six years with these two railroads. In 1874, after reaching his majority, Mr. Nelson located a pre-emption claim in McPherson County, eight miles southeast of Lindsborg. He occupied his land three years, and not only made a living from the crops but also did much to develop it as a farm. His habitation in the meanwhile was merely a dugout, and being unmarried he lived there alone, did his own cooking and housekeeping in addition to the planting in the fields. Besides farming he operated a threshing outfit for five years. In 1878 Mr. Nelson brought the first steam threshing outfit to the northern part of McPherson County.

Perhaps it was something of a natural genius for the handling of things mechanical and also an instinct for commercial pursuits which brought Mr. Nelson into the field of commerce at Lindsborg. In 1883 he established his hardware and implement business, and had conducted it with growing success to the present time. He had sold implements to an entire generation of farmers in this part of the state. In that time he had handled many varied types of farm machinery, including some of the crude examples of labor saving devices of thirty years or more ago and also some of the remarkable machinery now in use.

While building up his own business he had not neglected the upbuilding and welfare of his home town. He had applied himself conscientiously to his obligations as a member of the Swedish Lutheran Church and for many years served as deacon and trustee. He also sat in the city council for a long time, and whenever called upon he responds with the best in his nature.

On August 2, 1879, at Lindsborg, Mr. Nelson married Miss Elizabeth Anderson, who was born in Sweden February 24, 1855, a daughter of John and Helena Anderson. Her parents immigrated from Sweden to America in 1869, and Mrs. Nelson followed them in 1871. Both her parents are now deceased. Seven children, five sons and two daughters, have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Nelson.

Israel, born August 17, 1880, graduated in 1899 from Bethany College at Lindsborg, completed his course in the Yale Law School in 1903, and is now successfully practicing law as a member of the bar at Seattle, Washington. In 1908 he married Miss Esther Swenson. She was born at Lindsborg in 1883 and is also a graduate of Bethany College. To their marriage have been born two children, Helena Clare and John Marshall.

Phillip Theodore, the second child, was born December 25, 1882, and was a Christmas gift to his parents. He graduated from Bethany College in 1904, and later had two years in the civil engineering department of the University of Kansas. In 1914 he married Miss Vivian McDonough.

Karl Oscar, born October 16, 1884, was graduated from Bethany College with the class of 1904, and is a member of the class of 1917 in the University of Wisconsin.

Lydia H., born July 13, 1890, is a graduate from the music department of Bethany College in 1914, and on January 17, 1916, married Arba J. Heald. Mr. and Mrs. Heald now live in Richmond, California, and have an infant child born January 17, 1917.

The three younger children of Mr. and Mrs. Nelson are Reuben L., Agnes E. and John V. Reuben was born April 28, 1892, finished his education at Bethany College and is now in his father’s store. Agnes was born October 4, 1894, graduated from Bethany with the class of 1916 and is a teacher. John V. was born July 3, 1898, and is still in school.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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