Jerome Nelson

From the “Commemorative Biographical Record of the Upper Wisconsin”
Chicago; J. H. Beers & Co. 1895

JEROME NELSON. In Amherst Township, Portage County, it might be difficult to find a name which the people would more delight to honor than that of Mr. Nelson. It is known throughout northern Wisconsin in connection with the milling product which he has made famous for its quality;Jerome Nelson it is known as that of a brave officer who served throughout the Rebellion; it is known as that of a pioneer who has been identified with the material advancement of the State; it is known as that of a legislator. The name has been commemorated in the village Nelsonville, named from him. He is public-spirited, and perhaps as well known as any one in the county.

Mr. Nelson was born at Attica, N. Y., January 9, 1829, the eldest child of Adin and Sally (Randall) Nelson. Adin Nelson was a native of Massachusetts, and at the age of sixteen moved with his parents to Genesee county, N. Y. In 1828 he was married, at Attica, to Sally, daughter of Miles Randall, a native of New Hampshire, who prior to the war of 1812 moved with his wife to Canada, but was forced to return when hostilities opened because he would not take the oath of allegiance to King George. He settled in New York. His children were Betsy, Statira, John. Sally, Esther, Harriet, Horace and Aurilla. Adin Nelson was a farmer and a merchant. Seven years after his marriage he removed to Rochester, N. Y., where he secured a position as overseer for the New York Central railroad during its construction. In 1836 he moved to Michigan, where he engaged in farming in Hadley township, Lapeer county, until about 1850, and then selling his land he came to Fond du Lac county, Wis., and opened a general store. In 1853 he sold out and moved to Amherst township, Portage county, where he farmed and also carried on a small mercantile ‘business until shortly before his death. Desiring to revisit the scenes of his childhood, he went east at the age of sixty-nine years, and after a short illness died at the home of his sister in Massachusetts. His wife lived until 1892, when she died at the age of eighty-four years. To Adin and Sally Nelson six children were born: Jerome; Harriet, now Mrs. Amos Wilts, of St. Joseph, Mo. Miles R., a salesman in a large New York City mercantile house, who died while visiting his brother Jerome in Amherst, in 1856; George (I), who died when a boy; Orpha, who died in infancy; George (2), who married Miss Marion Phillips, of Amherst, and is now a merchant of Waukegan, Illinois.

Jerome Nelson attended the schools of New York and Michigan in his boyhood, assisting on the farm and in the store lip to the age of nineteen, when he started out in life for himself. He spent one summer in Chicago, then went down the Mississippi river to Vicksburg, Miss., where he engaged to cut timber in the cypress swamp for $20 per month. Two years later, with the money he had saved, he started in the same business for himself in partnership with Frank Johnson, a South Carolina planter. Following this successfully and profitably two years, he, in 1852, came to Wisconsin, and for a short time helped his father on the farm. He then opened and for two years conducted a store of general merchandise at Barton, Washington County. Trading this for real estate in the same county, he sold out two years later and settled in Amherst, where in the summer of 1855 he had engaged in sawmilling.

In October, 1861, Mr. Nelson enlisted in Company H, Third Wisconsin Cavalry. Entering winter quarters at Janesville, Wis., the regiment was sent to St. Louis in March, 1862, and two months later to Leavenworth, Kans. Here its mission was to exterminate Quantrell’s notorious guerrilla band, then committing depredations and atrocities along the western border, and to guard supply trains from Fort Scott to Fort Gibson, on the Arkansas River. Mr. Nelson served in the West until the close of the war, and was promoted to first lieutenant during his service. When mustered out he returned to Amherst and resumed his milling operations.

In 1855 Mr. Nelson built a sawmill, which, to use his own words, “wore out.” In 1868 he erected the gristmill at Nelsonville; in 1873 purchased a large flouring-mill at Amherst, and in 1874 he put upNelsonville Mill circa 1930? a steam sawmill in Nelson, all of which mills he has since operated, the product of them finding a market all over the State. He was the first man to build a dam at Nelsonville, and utilize the excellent water-power there found. The land on which his mills and elegant home stand he bought of the government in 1854. He is also interested in a sawmill in Oneida County, Wis., which cuts some ten million feet of lumber each season. Mr. Nelson furnished the capital, and the company is known as the Nelson Lumber and Boom Co., the industry being located on the Pelican River.

In May, 1853, Mr. Nelson was married, in Washington County, Wis., to Miss Marilla A. Yerkes, who was born, in 1835, in Pennsylvania, a daughter of David and Caroline (Calkins) Yerkes, the former a native of Pennsylvania, the latter of New York State. They for a time resided in Michigan, whence about the year 1847 they came to Wisconsin, settling in Barton Township, Washing-ton County, where Mr. Yerkes engaged in the sawmilling business. There they died, the mother in 1868, the father in 1893, the parents of seven children, as follows: Marion (now Mrs. Philips, of Amherst); Oliver J. (a farmer of Colby. Clark Co., Wis.), who was a soldier during the Civil war, in a New York Cavalry regiment; Hannah E., who died in Michigan at the age of fourteen; Marilla A. (Mrs. Jerome Nelson); Lovilla L. (Mrs. Baker), living in Kansas; George W., in Wisconsin; and Sara E. (Mrs. Eli Flanks), of Washington county, Wis. Mr. and Mrs. Nelson have no children of their own, but have an adopted daughter, Flora S., who has lived with them since her infancy; she is now the wife of John S. Loberg (who is in Mr. Nelson’s employ), and they have three children: Russell Jerome, Ruby S. and Eva L. (editor's note: see also Mark Nelson) Mrs. Nelson is a prominent member of the Episcopal Church. Socially Mr. Nelson has been a member of the F. and A. M., since joining Evergreen Lodge of Stevens Point, in 1878, and also of the Crusade Commandery, same place; but on account of the distance from his home he has been unable to attend the meetings with any degree of regularity. In politics he is a Republican. In 1876 he was elected a member of the State Legislature; was elected justice of the peace, but refused to qualify, for the reason that the judicial duties were distasteful to one of his sympathetic nature. He has served several terms on the town board. Mr. Nelson is foremost in all matters relating to the welfare and improvement of his township and county, is public-spirited, and ever ready to encourage worthy enterprises. He is a typical self-made man, never having received assistance from any one. The industry he has founded has proved a source of much revenue to the surrounding country.

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