Kansas History and Heritage Project- Marshall County

Marshall County Biographies


Godfrey H. Nelson, former treasurer of Lincoln township, the first man to settle in section 23 of that township and the owner there of one of the best quarter-section farms in Marshall county, is a native of the kingdom of Sweden, but has been a resident of this country since 1874 and of Kansas since 1876, being thus very properly regarded as one of the real pioneers of Marshall county, the development of which he has watched since the days of the open range and to which development he has added his full share as a citizen, for years having taken an active and influential part in the public and general affairs of the community. He was born on October 2, 1853, son of Carl August and Mary Nelson, also natives of Sweden, who spent all their lives in their native land, and he remained in his native land until he was twenty-one years of age, when he came to this country and two years later settled in Marshall county. Four sisters and one brother of Mr. Nelson preceded him to this country, namely: Albertina, wife of Claus Anderson, who is a pioneer farmer in section 22 of Lincoln township, this county; Albin, of Chicago; Mrs. Henricka Anderson, of Chicago; Mrs. Mena Chinland, also of Chicago, and Mrs. Selma Nelson, of South Bend, Indiana.

It was in 1874 that Godfrey H. Nelson left his native land and crossed the ocean to the United States, landing here practically penniless. For a short time after his arrival in this country he was engaged as a teamster at Providence, Rhode Island, working for the B. B. Knight Manufacturing Company, beginning that employment at a wage of one dollar and fifty cents a day. Presently that wage was reduced to one dollar and twenty-five cents and then was cut to one dollar, which Mr. Nelson regarded as insufficient and he made up his mind to come West. Borrowing enough money to take him to Chicago, he remained in that city for six months, working at odd jobs until in October, 1876, when he came to Kansas, with a view to joining his sister, Albertina, and her husband, Claus Anderson, who had a short time before settled in the eastern part of Marshall county, in what then was Noble township, but which later was created into Lincoln township. Mr. Nelson missed his train at Atchison, but through the kindness of Superintendent Downs, of the railroad company, was enabled to ride to Vermillion on an extra train. Upon his arrival at Vermillion he walked out to his brother-in-law's farm through the lush grass of the open prairie and the prospect both pleased and amazed him. The broad prairie, with the grass waving in the fall breezes like the waves of the ocean, presented to him a new and novel view and he was deeply impressed by the sight, as well as convinced that land that could produce grass in such amazing luxuriance could be converted into the most wonderful farms. Until the June following his arrival in this county Mr. Nelson remained with his brother-in-law, working for his board, and then he took employment with Capt. Perry Hutchison at Marysville and was thus engaged for more than three years, during which time he aided in the construction of the elevator. After his marriage in 1880 Mr. Nelson rented a farm in Rock township and there made his home for three years, at the end of which time he bought the farm on which he is now living, a quarter section in section 23 of Lincoln township, paying ten dollars an acre for the same, established his home there and has ever since resided on that place, which he has improved and brought up to a degree of cultivation excelled by no other farm in the county. Upon taking possession of that farm Mr. Nelson was the first settler in the section in which his place lies. He put up a small house, twelve by sixteen feet, and started out in a modest way, for he had gone heavily in debt for his farm, having saved but four hundred dollars at the time he bought it. but he prospered from the very start and now has a fine home and a well-improved farm and he and his family are very comfortably situated. Mr. Nelson has traveled quite a bit not only in the United States, but in Canada, and he is always glad to get back to Marshall county, regarding this as one of the best agricultural regions in the entire country. Starting on his unbroken farm heavily in debt and facing responsibilities that might have daunted a less stout-hearted man, Mr. Nelson now does not owe a dollar and has a fine piece of property in Vermillion and now lives as a retired farmer, and believes that any other man can do as well with Kansas land if he tries.

In February, 1880, Godfrey H. Nelson was united in marriage to Augusta Johnson, who also was born in Sweden, in 1848, and who came to this country in 1871, and to this union three children have been born, Effie, who is at home; Mamie, who is now engaged as a stenographer in Kansas City, Missouri, and Everett W. Nelson, who has ever been a capable assistant to his father in the management of the home farm and who recently was appointed postmaster of Vermillion, which important public office he is now filling. The Nelsons are members of the Swedish Lutheran church and for years have taken a proper part in the various beneficences of the same, as well as in the general social activities of their home community. Upon becoming a citizen of this country Mr. Nelson affiliated with the Republican party and continued thus to affiliate until the memorable campaign of 1896, when he became an ardent supporter of Mr. Bryan and has ever since continued a Democrat, long having been regarded as one of the leaders of that party in this county. For four years he served as treasurer of Lincoln township and for twenty-two years as a member of the school board. For four years he was committeeman from his precinct and a member of the Marshall county Democratic central committee. Fraternally, Mr. Nelson is affiliated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and with the Knights of Pythias at Vermillion. In the local lodge of the last named order he has filled all the chairs and is a past representative of that lodge in the grand lodge of the state.

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This website created July 4, 2011 by Sheryl McClure.
2011 Kansas History and Heritage Project