HARVEY NELSON has one of the fine country homes of Wayne Township, Edwards County, section 7, township 24, range 17. This locality has been the scene of his experiences and good and bad fortunes, since the winter of 1886. His first settlement was upon the southwest quarter of his present section. That was railroad land. When he came here he was accompanied by his wife and two children and they came out from Bureau County, Illinois, one of the richest and most fertile sections of the Prairie State. A large proportion of the population in Bureau County is the sturdy and thrifty Swedish people and Mr. Nelson is of that nationality.
He was born in the District of Merlunda Soken, Sweden, August 26, 1855. His early childhood was spent near Kalmar. His father, Charles J. Nelson, was born in the same locality, was a farmer there and married Christine Gustafson, a daughter of Eric Gustafson. In 1857 the Nelson family took passage on a vessel that brought them to America from Gothenburg. Their destination was Lake County, Indiana, in the extreme northwest corner of that state. The father arrived in America without capital, and his efforts at earning a living were chopping wood. He also worked as a farm hand until he was able to buy an ox team. He employed oxen in his efforts as a farmer for ten years. On getting the team he rented some land, and at the end of eight years was able to buy forty acres. When he left Indiana he sold this forty acre tract for $700. He took the proceeds to Bureau County, Illinois, and there he was again a renter three years, and at the close of that period bought eighty acres of the fine soil around Wyanet. He became one of the prosperous farmers of that section, and subsequently bought another 160 acres in Bureau County. All this land he owned and retained until his death, though it was left under the care of a renter when he came to Kansas. The father died at Garfield, Kansas, in 1887, at the age of sixty-one. His death resulted from an injury received in a runaway. His wife was injured in the same accident.
During the Civil war Charles J. Nelson was drafted for service but was exempted after examination showed him to be unfit. He was a republican voter and a member of the Lutheran Church. His wife survived him until 1903. Their children were: J. August, who became a prominent and successful farmer near Garfield, served Pawnee County as county commissioner for a number of years, and was one of the leading republicans of the county. He died leaving a family of four sons and five daughters. The next in age is Harvey Nelson. Aaron, the third son, was also a successful farmer near Garfield, where he died leaving a family of two sons and three daughters.
Harvey Nelson grew up on a farm in Illinois and the reason he came to Kansas was the presence in this state of his older brother, J. A. Nelson, and also his parent. On leaving Bureau County he shipped a carload of goods, containing five head of horses, a bull calf, household goods and a hundred bushels of Illinois corn. The land he purchased was a part of the old "Black" Sheep Ranch. He contracted to pay $1,200 for this-quarter section. Upon it was a small box shanty 16x24 feet. That was the home of Mr. Nelson and his family for fourteen years and it is still doing duty as a store room for the family.
Doubtless there were many times during the first ten years when Mr. Nelson wished himself back in Illinois, where in addition to fertility of soil there was a reasonable and adequate supply of rainfall. It was difficult to keep himself in seed from his own crops and his steadiest resource from the fields was feed for his stock. For some five or six years altogether the farm failed to supply the wants of his family. In that crisis Mr. Nelson was compelled to borrow money or supplies at Garfield, and his father-in-law carried him for the interest due on his land payments. It required the most rigid econony to eke out a living under such conditions and most of the settlers who could get away from the country abandoned their holdings. Those who were compelled to stay had their reward in later years when the soil responded to their husbandry.
Almost at the beginning Mr. Nelson attempted to grow wheat, but for ten years it was all he could do to get back the seed for the next crop. Nature finally made good her promises to the wheat growers, and since then many fortunes have been made from that crop and the growing of it is no longer an experiment and a source of loss. Mr. Nelson has been one of the extensive wheat growers. His best crop yield was thirty-three bushels to the acre, and taking many years for an average he has had twenty-two bushels to the acre. At one time he sold it at 35 cents a bushels, and the best price ever given him for the cereal was $2.55. In all the years of his experience the crop of 1916 was the best. With corn he has had a yield of forty bushels to the acre, and one season when corn was only 11 cents a bushel he was guilty of burning a small quantity for fuel. This practice he considered a wickedness, and he permitted himself a very moderate indulgence therein.
After the tide turned in his favor as a farmer Mr. Nelson became permanently attached to Kansas as a home and center of industry, and began looking out for more land. For his second quarter section, in the same section, he paid $1,500. For the northwest quarter of that section he paid $750. In section 18 he bought a quarter for $2,400 and in the same year secured crops enough to pay for half the land. All his buildings and other improvements are on his home quarter. His residence of thirteen rooms is the successor of the pioneer house above mentioned. His barn in 40x5O feet and his cow barn 42x52 feet, while he has a granary and machine shed 36x4O feet. All this represents the investment of a large amount of capital, and his prosperity as a whole is due to his efforts made on Kansas soil.
Mr. Nelson also knows something about forestry, as a practical proposition on his own land. He had not been in the state long before he tried to grow some trees, but his grove of cottonwoods failed to live. He also planted orchards of fruit, but the trees have furnished little more than foliage and shade. His chief success has been with the locust trees. They survived the drought, and, together with a number of soft maples, supply the beautiful grove which partly hides his residence and gives it attraction as a home center. Mr. Nelson is able to recall few actual calamities or disasters beyond crop failures. In 1905 a cyclone destroyed his barn. Part of it was carried half a mile from the foundation. Other parts were thrown against other buildings and cut off his windmill bodily.
When Mr. Nelson first came to this locality his children attended school district No. 11. Later No. 13 was organized and it was there they received most of their advantages. For three terms he served as treasurer of Wayne Township. He began voting in Illinois, his first presidential candidate being General Garfield. In Kansas he joined the alliance movement and later the populist party, and in late years has been inclined to favor the democratic principles and candidates. Locally he votes for the best man, Mr. Nelson is a Swedish Lutheran, with church connection at Garfield, which congregation is now just beginning to use the English language in its church services. This is due to the fact that the older generation has almost gone and their successors are practically unacquainted with the mother tongue.
Mr. Nelson is one of the stockholders in the Farmers Elevator at Lewis and also in the Home State Bank there.
About five years before he came to Kansas Mr. Nelson married, in Illinois, January 5, 1881, Miss. Hannah Polson. Her father was Andrew Polson and her mother Mrs. Carrie Abrahamson. Mrs. Nelson was born in Bureau County, Illinois, November 28, 1859. She had no sisters, but four full brothers, Andrew, Charles, Frank and August, and her half brother, Alfred Polson. The oldest child of Mr. and Mrs. Nelson is Esther, wife of Clarence Snyder of Edwards County, Kansas. They have three children: Mildred, Lorain and Eunice. Mrs. Snyder finished her education in music at Lindsborg and also took a business college course there. Alvin, the second child, graduated from Bethany College, at Lindsborg, and died in April, 1917. He married Lillian Cramer and left two children, Alvin, Jr., and Kenneth Juaquin. Carl Raymond, the youngest child, graduated from Washburn College at Topeka in 1917 with the A. B. degree, and was engaged in the vulcanizing business at Marion, Kansas, until he enlisted and is in training at Kansas University for the Engineer Corps of the Army. He married Miss Marguerite Allen of Topeka.
Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. [Revised ed.] Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919, c1918. 5 v. (xlviii, 2530 p.,  leaves of plates): ill., maps (some fold.), ports.; 27 cm.
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