This information is part of the Champaign County ILGenWeb Project. If you have reached this site by means other than The USGenWeb Project, The ILGenWeb Project, or directly, please visit the main Champaign Co, ILGenWeb site for more information regarding Champaign County, IL ancestors. Information contained here was transcribed by Celia Snyder. Please do not repost this information without the express written permission of Celia Snyder.

Champaign County, Illinois

Biography of Henry Nelson

SOURCE: "History of Champaign County, Illinois with Illustrations," 1878


HENRY NELSON resides on section 28, Pesotum Township. His life has been fraught with many difficulties, but through all he has preserved the even tenor of his way and presents the life of a quiet and unobtrusive citizen, fulfilling his duties manfully and enjoying the esteem and confidence of all who know him.

Mr. Nelson is a native of Pendleton County, W. Va., and born March 1, 1811. he was the second child of Benjamin and Delphia (ARBAUGH) NELSON, both natives of Greenbrier County, W. Va., the father born in 1781, and the mother in 1792. They remained in their native State after their marriage until 1822, and then removed to Lawrence County, Ohio, where Benjamin Nelson purchased a quarter section of land in Symmes Township. For a period of nineteen years he endured the hardships of pioneer life, and in due time became the proprietor of 400 acres of land. The household circle included fourteen children, thirteen of whom grew to mature years, married, and raised families of their own. In 1841 the father of our subject sold his farm in Lawrence County, and removed to a point near Anderson, Madison County, where he purchased 280 acres of improved land, which he occupied until his death, in 1846. The mother died in 1877.

The subject of this biography remained a member of the parental household until his marriage, on the 9th of February, 1832. The maiden of his choice was Miss Polly SMITH, of Gallia County, Ohio, and the young people after their marriage located on a farm adjoining that of the father of our subject, and which consisted of eighty acres. This amount Henry soon doubled by purchase, and remained in possession of it for a period of twenty years, when he sold to a Mr. Armstrong who had purchased the farm of his father twenty years before, at the time of the removal of the latter to Indiana.

When Henry Nelson sold his property in Ohio he followed his father to Indiana and located about ten miles north of Anderson, upon a farm partly improved and embracing 317 acres. Five years later he disposed of this also and decided to become a resident of this county. Here he first purchased eighty acres on section 28, in Pesotum Township, where the family residence now stands. He is now the possessor of a half section, thoroughly drained and well stocked, and furnished with all the appliances of a first-class country homestead.

The wife of our subject, the second child of John and Eve (PROCE) SMITH, was born in Gallia County, Ohio, in 1814. Her father was a native of Greenbrier County, W. Va., and her mother was probably from Pennsylvania. The four children born to Mr. and Mrs. Nelson have all passed away. Their son Joseph Washington, who was born March 20,. 1834, married Miss Isabella MCMEAR, of Madison County, Ind., and coming West in 1857, located on a farm which his father had purchased for him in Douglas County, Ill. His marriage took place in 1855 and there was born one child. His death was caused by an accident, which took place at his father’s homestead in this county while he was in Pesotum Township on business. He had his gun with him, and after starting on his homeward journey this was accidentally discharged, both loads cutting across the bowels and going through the thick part of the thigh. He died from the effects of this seven days later, Dec. 22, 1858, after great suffering. Their little son Denham, when but two months old died by his mother’s side in the night, having seemingly been in perfect health up to that time. The daughter, Elsie, died of scarlet fever when eight years of age; the youngest child yielded up his death before he had been given a name.

While remarkably fortunate in many respects, Mr. Nelson has experienced adversity and been quite a sufferer from accidents. While in Ohio, in a playful scuffle with a friend his shoulder was broken, and on the 2d of January, 1861, while in Indiana on business, a horse fell upon him and broke his thigh. After recovering from this he returned to his home in Illinois, and one dark night in 1867, fell from the church steps at Nelson Chapel, breaking his thigh a second time. In 1878 our subject was visited with another affliction in the loss of his wife, to whom he was greatly attached, her death taking place in the spring of that year. Since that time his grandson and wife have had charge of the domestic affairs. This latter gentleman, Morris Cook NELSON, was married in 1877, to Miss Ella SNYDER, of Champaign County, who was born in Coshocton County, Ohio, and is the third child of Jacob and Elizabeth (RIGGIE) SNYDER, also natives of the Buckeye State. To Mr. and Mrs. Nelson there have been born five children, four now living, and at home with their parents and grandfather. They are named respectively Joseph W., Willard C., Elmer R. and Jacob R. Edna P. died when an infant of seven months.

Mr. Nelson is in the enjoyment of excellent health, and surrounded by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, is enjoying, as he deserves, the sunset time of life, comforted with a good conscience and the knowledge that he has fulfilled his part in the great human drama to the best of his ability, always ready to speak a kindly word or perform a kindly act whenever opportunity afforded. He is highly esteemed by all. He possesses in a remarkable degree his mental facilities, his memory being singularly acute, enabling him to readily recall the scenes of his youth and early manhood, with the tales of which he often regales both young and old. He relates an incident of 1832, when the remarkable immigration of squirrels almost entirely destroyed the crops of the farmers in that region. During their passage over the fields Mr. Nelson and his neighbors killed over 2,700 of these little animals by actual count.

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