Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Few Snippets about Henry Nelson

I guess this could be part of the Lunch with Grandma Behnke series. I am going to talk about some of the combined stories about Henry Nelson as told to me by my mother and great grandmother, and even a few quickies from my grandmother's brother. From what I have heard, I have already stated that the correct spelling of his surname is Nielsen. My mother told me that Ruth Prudence Finney Nelson, wife of Charles Nelson told her that the reason for him changing the spelling of his surname is that when first residing in Illinois, there were many Nielsens living in the town or block and would receive other people's mail or they would receive his mail.
Henry came to the United States with a brother. My mother thinks that the brother's name may have been Thomas. Henry was about sixteen years old, his brother about eighteen. Now here is where things get fuzzy; Supposedly the reason for the young men to travel to the New World is that the brother was about to be drafted into the military, had they stayed in Denmark. My mother has said that Grandma Behnke told her that when arriving in New York the two brother's became separated in the crowd. Not being able to speak English at the time, it was difficult for them to be able to ask the people around for help finding each other. Grandma Behnke also told me this story.
Yet, Ruth Nelson told my mother that the two brothers did to make it to Illinois together. Once in Illinois they had a falling out. Supposedly the brother wanted to "Go West Young Man!". For whatever reasons, Henry wanted to stay in Illinois.
I would love to find descendants of this brother, who may also be doing research on the family and see if they have been able to trace family information in Denmark. Like I had mentioned, the father of Henry Nelson was Niels Powelson. I am not sure of his mother's name, as Henry did not report her name on his and Lizzie Kallis' marriage license, from April 21, 1890. I wondered why and asked out loud to my mother. She said that Grandma Behnke told her that Henry's mother died when he was a small child. He had a step-mother that he did not like. Without knowing the mother's name, the search into Denmark becomes rather difficult as there were probably many Niels Powelsons in Denmark who had a son named Henry. As for Henry's brother, he could have changed his surname to Nelson, kept the Nielsen spelling or even another possibility is using the father's surname of Powelson.

While in Illinois Henry worked as a dreyman where he would have a team of horses, pick up freight at the train depot. From there he would deliver the items to the local merchants. He had also done some beer delivery. Supposedly, he had been asked by Anheuser-Busch to drive for them, like those horses ya see on the Budweiser commercials at Christmastime. Henry declined the offer, as he chose to keep the family living in Illinois.
Henry's wife, Elizabeth, had been suffering from TB in 1909. This was in the days that people with TB were told that the best thing was to get fresh air. When Elizabeth wasn't feeling well Henry would call up Elizabeth's sister, Emma Kallis, who was a cook at a hotel in Braidwood, where she would come into Wilmington to look after the kids, so that he could take Elizabeth for a buggy ride and go on a picnic. Elizabeth eventually passed away in June of 1909. Henry seemed to have taken this hard. He would spend much time at the saloon.
After Emma Nelson, oldest daughter of Henry and Elizabeth Kallis Nelson, married Donald Shenk in 1911 in Illinois, the family moved into the Shenk farm in Illinois. At some point, Donald Shenk bought a farm in Durand, Michigan. Eventually the Nelson followed them and they moved to Durand in 1914.

I had talked to one of my grandmother's brothers. He remembered his grandfather fondly. Henry lived at the Shenk farm the entire time he lived in Durand. I guess Henry still had a bit of an accent. So growing up the kids would try to get him to say thirty-third. Which from Henry sounded like "tirdy-turd." He also recalled that Henry loved his beer and Limburger cheese. Henry had the cheese in a barrel in the basement of the Shenk farm. He was not allowed to eat it upstairs, as it was very pungent.
Henry passed away in Durand, Michigan on April 15, 1929. He is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Wilmington, Illinois, Lot 43.

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