John Nelson, Ottawa, Kan.One of the leading business firms of that enterprising city is that of John Nelson & Son, dealers in household furnishings of almost every description and variety, their stock being an exceptionally large one of standard merit, thus securing to that city and its vicinity a house furnishing establishment that ranks in size, quality and variety of selection, as the peer of any in the state.
John Nelson was born in far away Denmark, at Jutland on the Cattegat, May 31, 1857. There he spent his youth and received his education, not only in the local schools, but also in the agricultural college at Falster, from which excellent institution he was graduated in 1880. John was the eldest in a family of ten sons and daughters born to Nils and Maren (Jensen) Nelson, both natives of Denmark, where they spent their entire lives, the death of the mother occurring in 1897, and that of the father in 1898. By the time John had reached his twenty-fifth year he resolved to seek his fortunes in the New World, and in 1882 he came to America. He located, first in Grand Island, Neb., but in October of the same year he came to Lawrence, Kan., and engaged with W. R. Pendleton in the produce business. After one year there he returned to Denmark, and in March, 1884, he wedded Miss Karen Sorenson. He and his bride soon bade farewell to their native land and in due time arrived in Lawrence, Kan. After a short stay there they removed to Ottawa, arriving there in December, 1884. Mr. Nelson's first business venture in Ottawa was the purchase of a second hand store for $300, which was on the site of his present great establishment. He took charge of that business in January, 1885, and from that time to the present his trade has increased by leaps and bounds. By 1905 his business had attained such magnitude that he resolved to build a modern up-to-date home for it, and in 1906, soon after the completion of the Nelson block and when every department was filled to its capacity with stock, a disastrous fire destroyed the entire plant, causing a loss of about $75,000, of which $30,000 was covered by insurance. Not the least daunted or discouraged, Mr. Nelson at once let the contract to rebuild, and as a result, the new Nelson block, consisting not only of the immense store rooms of John Nelson & Son, but also of the Nelson House, the first modernly equipped hotel in the city, stands as a monument to the zeal and enterprise of one of Ottawa's foremost citizens. Mr. Nelson has not confined his business wholly to Ottawa, for he and his nephews, S. W. and W. G. Williamson, own and control a large house furnishing establishment at Marion, Kan., managed by S. W. Williamson, and another at Waverly, Kan., managed by W. G. Williamson. Edward Nelson, the junior member of the firm, and the only son of John Nelson, was reared and educated in Ottawa. He supplemented his education there with a course at the St. John Military Institute at Salina, Kan., after which he entered upon a business career with his father that bids fair to sustain the name and prestige of the latter.
Mr. and Mrs. Nelson have two daughters, Sidsell and Mary. The former while yet a student in the Ottawa schools evinced an unusual talent in art, and after graduating from the high school she entered the noted Art Institute of Chicago, where she has advanced rapidly, especially in portrait work, specimens of which display great skill and conception. Mary, the younger daughter, is now in the Ottawa High School.
In 1907 Mr. Nelson was elected mayor of the city and served with honor to himself and to his constituents. Prior to that time he had served three terms as a member of the city council. He is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Knights and Ladies of Security, the Fraternal Aid Association, and both he and his wife are members of the Lutheran church.
Through perseverance, honesty and industry Mr. Nelson has achieved success in his chosen vocation and is one of Ottawa's most successful merchants and respected citizens.Pages 1246-1247 from volume III, part 2 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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