WILLIAM H. NELSON, secretary of the Arkansas City Commercial Club, an office through which he has rendered inestimable benefits to that community, is an old time business man of the city, having located there more than thirty years ago.
Mr. Nelson had the distinction of being postmaster of Arkansas City at the time it had its greatest population. He was appointed postmaster by President Harrison in 1889, and held the office four years and five months. It will be recalled that in 1889 the original Oklahoma Territory was opened for settlement. Then and for several years previously Arkansas City had been the chief point of rendezvous for the Oklahoma boomers, and the city transacted an immense volume of business as the chief outfitting point for entrance into the Oklahoma lands. The high tide, however, came with the opening of the Cherokee Strip in 1893. Before the gun was fired on the 16th of September of that year, giving the signal for the rush into the coveted land, there were 60,000 people temporarily residents of Arkansas City. The postoffice obviously became gorged with mail, and it required eighteen clerks to handle the volume of business.
Mr. Nelson is of English ancestry and was born in Rockville, Parke County, Indiana. He is of Quaker lineage. His grandfather, James Nelson, was born in Yorkshire, England in 1798, grew up and married in his native country, was a farmer by occupation, and in 1841 brought his family to America, locating at Bloomingdale, Indiana, where he spent the rest of his life. He was a man of rugged mord and was as temperate and regular in his habits as could be expected of the most ideal Quaker. He lived to be ninety-four years of age, dying in Bloomingdale in 1882. In politics he was a republican. He married Miss Chapman, who was born in Yorkshire, England, and died near Bloomingdale, Indiana.
Thomas Nelson, father of William H. Nelson, was born in England, in Yorkshire, in 1826. He came to America with his parents at the age of fifteen, and came to manhood near Bloomingdale, Indiana. His early life was spent on a farm, and in a similar environment he passed his active years. He was both farmer and stockbroker, and died in 1903 at the age of seventy-eight near Bloomingdale. He was a man of more than ordinary prominence in Parke County. As a republican he served as a county commissioner nine years, and for a number of years was a member of the Indiana State Board of Agriculture. It is noteworthy that he served on that board with I. D. G. Nelson, father of the late Col. W. R. Nelson, famous as the editor of the Kansas City Star. He married Elizabeth Chapman, who was born near the old home farm at Bloomingdale, Indiana, in March, 1829, and is still living, at the age of nearly ninety, her home being at Bloomingdale, Indiana.
William H. Nelson lived on an Indiana farm for his early home, attended district schools in Parke County, and after that finished his education in Quaker institutions. He attended the Quaker school at Bloomingdale, known as the Bloomingdale Academy, where he graduated in 1876, and then entered the largest Quaker college in the Middle West, Earlham College, at Richmond, Indiana. He finished the sophomore year there in 1878, following which he spent two years on a farm in Parke County. For 4 1/2 years he held the office of deputy auditor of that county, having been appointed January 1, 1881.
Looking to the West, with its broader opportunities and fresher atmosphere, Mr. Nelson came to Arkansas City in 1885. Since that year he has been actively engaged in the real estate, insurance and loan business, and is one of the oldest men in that line in Southern Kansas. His offices are in the Hill Investment Company Building. As secretary of the Commercial Club he has offices in the Security National Bank Building. Mr. Nelson knows conditions in Southern Kansas, has wide acquaintance with men and affairs, and as secretary of the Commercial Club has been able to render conspicuous services. For one thing he was instrumental in bringing to the city the Milliken Refinery Company, a $1,000,000 plant. In various other ways he has looked after the best interests of the city.
Mr. Nelson is a republican and is affiliated with Inaugural Camp No. 867, Modern Woodmen of America. Among other business connections he is president of the Crescent Oil Company and secretary of the Crewel Oil Company. He is owner of much city real estate, and in 1886 put up his comfortable home at 308 South B Street. Mr. Nelson is secretary and is a trustee of the Presbyterian Church.
In 1885, at Rockville, Indiana, he married Miss Cora K. Kirkpatrick, daughter of David and Minerva (Wilkinson) Kirkpatrick, both now deceased. Her father was for many years a merchant at Rockville, Indiana. Mr. and Mrs. Nelson have one son, Harlan Kirkpatrick, who still lives at home and is engaged in the oil business.
A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written & compiled by William E. Connelley, 1918, transcribed by Lucinda Duree and Donny Elkins, students from USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, March 15, 1999.
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