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Nelson Family Stories February 26, 2010

Their Roots were Long and Deep has many great Nelson family stories.  Also, Edmond Nelson — Jane Taylor Family History compiled by Mansel H. Nelson is a great resource. Most of the stories I’ve gathered are from this book. If you don’t have this as part of your family history library you’ll want to get it. It was published by J. Grant Stevenson in 1970 and there are several newer additions. The last one was in 1997. I have an address for him but I’m sure it’s out of date. However, the Family History Department does have a copy.

LaVerle really does a great job of telling the Nelson story. Let me just give you some family tree info so you’ll understand where she’s jumping in on the story. Lucy’s mother was Samantha Johnson, daughter of Warren Marshall Johnson and Samantha Nelson. Samantha Nelson’s father was Price W. Nelson and her mother was Lydia Ann Lake.

Their Roots were Long and Deep pages 202-205, “Price’s “Nelson” line goes back to the early 17th century through Edmond, Thomas, Abraham and Thomas Sr., when the first Thomas moved his family into North Carolina with a group of Scotch- Irish settlers from Pennsylvania. His son, Abraham, born about 1732, helped survey the city of Winston-Salem when it was founded in 1677. Both men and their wives, whose names are unknown, are buried in a strip of jungle on the Nelson cemetery near Hillsborough N.C., surrounded by the graves of 20 or30 other family members. Their weathered headstones remain intact with a few inscribed letters still readable.

The names of Abraham’s nine children, all born in Orange Co. between 1758 and 1775, are given in the last will and testament of his oldest son, James. From information found in old deeds and other court records, it is known that Thomas, the sixth child, born in July 1767, married Martha “Patsy” Williams. At that time it was customary for couples to put up a 500 pound bond, (money, not weight) in order to get a marriage license. Another custom was for couples with limited means, who could not raise so much money, to be married by common consent.

Such was the case with Tomas and Martha [also known as Patsy]. Soon after the birth of their first son, Martha, who already had a daughter by an earlier marriage, became discouraged and decided to leave her new husband and take the children with her. Since they were not legally married, she rationalized, he had no real claim to the baby. Thomas was of a different mind, and considered their vows to be sacred and binding.

When Martha was ready to leave, he refused to give up his son, and a bitter argument ensued. She took him to court and Thomas was ordered to give her the baby, but in defiance of the court, he took Baby James deep into the southern jungle and left him in care of his two most trusted Negro slaves. Consequently, their story is recorded in the Orange Co. records of 1794.

(In 1964, when Nelson descendants visited the area, they found this place covered with timber and dense undergrowth. It was loaded with chiggers, ticks and snakes, and they could easily imagine what it would have been like 200 years ago.)

As Thomas was well respected and honored by his neighbors and friends in the court, he was never prosecuted. In May, 1756, after he and Patsy had settled their difficulties, they were married by bond and the law was satisfied.

(A genealogist, who explored the court records, was impressed by Thomas’s love for his little son, and made this comment: “The amazing thing about this incident was the way Thomas fought to keep his baby. Most men would have been glad to be rid of the responsibility. In fact, this is the only case of it’s kind, I have seen. Thomas must have been a wonderful man.)

We know very little about the Williams family, other than Patsy had a sister named Penny, and a brother Price. Thomas and Patsy had four more sons, Abraham, Hyrum, Edmond and Thomas Jr. born in North Carolina. IN 1808, when their daughter Martha arrived, they were in Bedford Co. Tennessee, and by 1817, had moved into Monroe Co. Illinois where Thomas filed on a quarter section of land.

Thomas left his mark on Monroe County. His name can be found in the 1818 Census and other public records. An example of interest is his appearance in the Court of Justice, Apr. 20, 1818, to claim his legal reward for the wolves he had killed – at $2.00 a scalp. He was noted for his superior marksmanship with a rifle and could out-shoot most Indians with his bow and arrow. He prided himself on the amount of timber he could cut in a day.

After their children were all married and leading lives of their own, Thomas and Patsy, retired to Mt. Vernon, Jefferson, Co. where they are thought to have lived out their remaining years.
The lives of Thomas and Patsy’s children closely coincided with the early beginnings of the Mormon Church. Edmond married Jane Taylor in 1820, at Waterloo, Monroe Co. not long after Joseph Smith received his marvelous vision in Palmyra New York. They were living in Keokuk, Iowa when Price William, their first child, was born, where Edmond and some of his brothers worked in the timber and perhaps, ran a ferry boat. Though it was a new town at that time, Keokuk, situated on the southern tip of a peninsula jutting down between Missouri and the western bank of the Mississippi River, would become an important “jumping off” place for the Mormon wagon trains of 1853. By 1824 Edmond and Jane were living at Mt. Vernon, Jefferson Co., Ill., where their next seven children were born.

Edmond and a younger sister joined the Mormon’s, as did several of his brothers. A brief history is inscribed on the monument erected in his honor by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers:

In June, 1870, the Deseret News printed Jane’s obituary:

“Jane Nelson, aged 66 years, 4 months and 1 day died June 2. Deceased was born in Paws Valley, Tennesee. at the age of 16, she was married to Edmond Nelson. She was baptized in Grand River near Adam-Ondi-Ahman by Lyman White; was driven to Shoal Creek. Afterwards moved to Nauvoo with the Saints, living there until 1846, then moved to Mt. Pisqah, remaining there 4 years.

She came to Utah in 1850. After her husband died in Mountainville, Utah Co. She was among the first settlers in Franklin, where she resided until her decease. She was a faithful Saint and affectionate mother, and was highly esteemed by all who knew her. The people of this city turned out almost enmasse to pay their last respects to her remains.”

Meanwhile, Edmond’s oldest brother James, who as a baby had been of so much dissension, joined the Church. He helped build the Nauvoo Temple, where he and his wife were able to be baptized and do the work for many of their kindred dead. He was a friend of Joseph Smith, who called him on a mission in 1844. After coming to Utah, he started a freighting business and continued it on for the rest of his life.

On Sept 30, 1853, he and three other freighters left Manti bound for Salt Lake City with their wagons full of wheat. They camped for the night at Vinty Springs, (now Fountain Green, San Pete Co.) and were attacked and massacred by Indians. Their bodies, when found, were mutilated almost beyond recognition.

Martha, the little sister, also came to Utah. She married Dr. William Gano Goforth in 1837. He died after their three children were born. She was baptized in 1844 and moved to Nauvoo to join the main body of the church along with her brothers. In 1850, when she and her children crossed the Plains, her nephew, Price Williams Nelson, drove her team and looked after his aunt. He was young and strong, quiet and retiring, but her slightest wish was his command.

When her oldest boy died and was buried on the way, they built a fire over his grave to keep the Indians or prairie wolves from digging up his body. Although they had no trouble with the Indians as they traveled, prairie wolves often howled near their camps at night.

At Green River, Wyoming, while trying to cross the river, a wagon box floated off and began drifting down stream with a woman and young child inside. While everyone was standing around wondering what to do, a daring young man by the name of Price Nelson, jumped in the cold water and swam to the rescue. In so doing, he caught the attention of a young girl in the company by the name of Lydia Ann Lake, who later became his wife.”


4 Responses to “Nelson Family Stories”

  1. hbingham Says:

    Hi Sharon,
    I love this book! You can find it at Steven’s Genealogy in Provo, UT. You can also buy it AND/OR a CD of the book here. I’m not sure if he’s in it – I leant my copy out and now probably need to buy a new one myself:)

  2. hbingham Says:

    I don’t have anything – that I know of. It’s been a while since I’ve done much with my genealogy so I could have something that I haven’t gotten to yet. If and when I come across something I will let you know!

  3. Karen Taylor Farr Roper Says:

    I am descended from Jane Taylor Nelson’s brother, Rev Matthew Taylor. Do you have any info on her family tree back to a Col Thomas Talylor b. 1741 Old Rappahannock Co, VA? Mansel told the story of his murder in Chatham Co NC during the Rev War.

  4. Sharon Buck Says:

    I would love to buy the book Their roots were long and deep”. I understand that it has Jihn Shaffer listed in it. Do you know where I could find this?

    Thank you very much

    Sharon Buck

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