Select Nelson Miscellany

Here are some Nelson stories and accounts over the years:

Nelson Surname Origins

The Nelson surname Nelson seems to have been of early medieval English origin, and is a patronymic form of the Middle English given name Nel(le), itself coming from the Old Gaelic Irish personal name Niall. This was adopted by Norsemen in the form Njall or Njal and was brought to England by Scandinavian settlers and introduced by them to the north of England and East Anglia where they settled.  

Patronymic forms of the name appear regularly towards the end of the 13th century usually as Neilson or Nelleson.  The Ne(i)lsons of Craigcaffie in Scotland are said to have traced their descent from Neil, Earl of Carrick who died in 1256.The first record of the full Nelleson name seems to have been John Robert Nelleson in the 1324 Wakefield rolls

John Nelson, Catholic Martyr

The son of Sir Nicholas Nelson of Yorkshire gentry, John Nelson was born at Skelton near York in 1535.  He was firm in his conviction that Catholics should be bold in professing their faith and did not accept the practice of attending Protestant services to avoid penalties.  However, it was not until he was nearing forty when he received his training as a Catholic Priest. 

Father Nelson's ministry did not last long.  He was posted to London, a hotbed of Protestantism.  After less than a year he was arrested when priest-catchers burst into his residence "late in the evening as he was saying the Nocturne of the Matins for the next day following." They arrested him on suspicion of being a Catholic.  He proudly said that that was true.He was executed in February 1578 in the particularly vile manner of the time.

Nelsons of Hiborough

Horatio Lord Nelson is traditionally associated with the village of Hiborough in Norfolk.  His grandfather, father, uncle, and brother were all rectors of its All Saints parish church.  He may neither have been born there nor have died there.  But as the current rector explained: “We’ve got seven Nelson bodies in the graveyard.  What more do they want?”

Horatio Nelson’s ancestry goes back to William Nelson who was born at Dunham Parva in Norfolk in 1654. Three generations later came the Rev. Edmund Nelson, the first of the Nelson rectors at Hiborough and Horatio’s grandfather.  His daughter Alice married the Rev. Robert Rolfe, the next rector of Hiborough.  His son Edmund, and Horatio’s father, was rector of nearby Burnham Thorpe

Scotch Tom and Nelson House in Yorktown

Thomas Nelson was called Scotch Tom even though he came from Cumberland in England rather than from Scotland.  His line in Cumberland went back to Hugh Nelson who was born in Penrith in 1658.  His parents were cloth merchants. 

As a merchant himself, he had made two previous trips to Virginia, in 1696 and 1698, before deciding to move to Yorktown in 1705.  Within ten years he had established himself as a man of wealth and influence in Yorktown.He was a merchant there, an operator of a ferry and a mill, a farmer, a gentleman jurist, and a trustee for the port landing. 

He lived in Yorktownl for all of forty years, before his death in 1745.  The epitaph on his monument read:

“Here lies in certain hope of resurrection in Christ Thomas Nelson, gentlemen, son of Hugo and Sarah Nelson of Penrith in the county of Cumberland.  Born on February 20, 1677, he well fitted the fold of a merry life.  He died October 7, 1745 aged 68 years.”

Family tradition has it that he started construction of his mansion on Main Street in Yorktown in 1711.  Some records suggest that it started out as a wood house.  What was handed down was a brick house.   This house stayed with the Nelson family through the 19th century.  During the Civil War, it was a hospital for Confederate soldiers and later for Union soldiers.

The family sold the home in 1907 and it was acquired by the National Park Service in 1968.  It has undergone a thorough restoration since that time.  Still, there are said to be some old ghosts around, including one of a young British soldier killed in the siege of Yorktown.  The British had commandeered the Nelson House during the fighting at that time.

Carl Nelson, A Pioneer in Nicollet County

In the year 1858 four Swedish families arrived with ox-teams in Nicollet county, Minnesota from Illinois, including Carl Nelson and his family.  They found the county a wilderness, uninhabited with the exception of Indians.

In August 1862, their little community learnt that the Indians were on the war path and had prepared to attack the settlement.  The Johnsons hid in the tall grass near their place but were found out.  Mother and son were killed.  The Nelsons hid in the cornfields near their home.  The Indians came rushing by, but fortunately did not stop to search them out.  Carl Nelson then set off on a 20-mile hike to Henderson across the prairie to spread the news of the massacre.

A company of soldiers was formed to accompany him to the vicinity the next morning.  They searched through western New Sweden where the Indians had frightened the settlers but failed to find anyone, living or dead.  Most of the cabins and grain stacks had been burned to the ground.

Carl Nelson’s son Carl was in 1925 one ofNew Sweden’s oldest living pioneers in Nicollet county.  He was seven years old at the time of the Indian massacre.  The sights he saw and the experiences he and the members of his family and the neighbors had were indelibly stamped on his memory.

Nelson as a First Name

Nelson has been a popular first name for boys in recent times.  There has been Nelson Rockefeller, Nelson Piquet, Nelson Eddy, Nelson Riddle, and – most famous of all - Nelson Mandela (who was given the name of Nelson by his teacher).  Nelson has been particularly popular in Portuguese-speaking lands such as Brazil.

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