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John H. Nelson. A man of strength, force and character is John H, Nelson, president of the Bennington State Bank and mayor of Bennington, having been thrlce elected to this highest municipal office. He comes of sturdy pioneer ancestry and belongs to a family that had become prominent and honorably influential in Kansas in less than a half century.
John H. Nelson was born at Placerville, California, January 9, 1856. His parents were Christian and Nancy Jane (Hereford) Nelson. The father was born on a farm near Bergen, Norway, in 1823, and died at Bennington, Kansas, September 17, 1897. The mother was born in Illinois, in 1836, and died at Bennington, July 4, 1902. Of their nine children John H. was the second in order of birth, the others being: Susan Jane, who is the wife of P. P. Talle, a retired merchant at Pasadena, California; Sarah Maria, the wife of Adolph Gilbert, who is president of the Chapman Valve Company, formerly a resident of Bennington but now of Maseaehusetts; Mary, twin sister of Sarah Maria, who is the wife of Robert McCollen, who formerly lived at Bennington but at present is in the tin and plumbing business at Salina, Kansas; Emma C., who is the wife of Edward C. Davis, of Massachnsetts, secretary of the Chapman Valve Company; Lena, the wife of David Binns, who is well known in the financial field, resided at Minneapolis, Kansas, and is cashier of the Ottawa County Bank and prior to accepting that position was cashier of the Bennington State Bank at Bennington; N. T., who is connected with a department store in Kansas City, Missouri, was formerly a farmer near Bennington; W. O., who is assistant cashier in the Minneapolis National Bank; and E. H., who is a resident of Bennington and in association with his next older brother owned 800 acres of land near Bennington.
Christian Nelson remained in Norway until 1850 and then, a man of twenty-seven years, came with praetically no capital to the United States and located at Dodgeville, Wisconsin. He performed such general work there as he could secure until in the following year, when he joined a prospecting party and went to California. He was one of the thousands that swarmed there in that year, and he met with success in his undertakings and remained in California until 1856, when he returned to Dodgeville, Wisconsin, with his little family, having married in California. He engaged in farming until 1868, when he went into a mercantile business, in which he continued until 1870.
After disposing of his Wisconsin interests in 1870, Christian Nelson came to Kansas and bought a section of land in Ottawa County and became the founder of the town of Bennington, which stands on a part of his farm. He was a man of large ideas and when given the opportunity proved business capacity that was unexpected. He lived on his farm here until his death, as before noted. He became a leading factor in democratic politics until his party repudiated the gold standard and after that was identified with the republicans. Reared in the Lutheran Church, he was faithful to his early religious teaching but later, as a matter of convenience, became a member of the Presbyterian Church and was liberal in his support of the same. He belonged to Minneapolis Lodge No. 143, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons.
John H. Nelson attended the public schools at Dodgeville, Wisconsin, and later the Kansas State Agricultural College at Manhattan, and was a student there in 1876 when the institution was under the able direction of President Anderson. He returned then to his father and worked on the home farm until 1880, and from then until 1884 farmed for himself, but then embarked in a mercantile business at Bennington, which he carried on for several years and then succeeded his father as president of the Bennington State Bank. This bank was founded by Christian Nelson and Adolph Gilbert as a private bank in 1883, becoming a state bank in 1884. The present officers of the bank are: John H. Nelson, president; William H. Rowe, vice president; and E. M. Morris, cashier. The bank is a thoroughly sound institution and works with a capital of $12,000 and with surplus and profits of $15,000. The bank building is situated on Nelson Avenue, which was so named in honor of Christian Nelson, and Mr. Nelson’s handsome residence is also on this avenue. He owned 500 acres of land, a part of which is the site of the eastern portion of Bennington. As a public spirited citizen Mr. Nelson had done much for the town and it had been largely through his efforts that Bennington had its present fine modern water system and its electric light plant and many other advantages.
In politics Mr. Nelson is a staunch republican and as a sincere citizen it was perfectly reasonable that he should accept his party’s vote in 1912 and gratify his ambition to be mayor, having old family interests here and being anxious to further movements of permanent importance. His fellow citizens displayed their appreciation of a wide-awake, honest public official by re-electing him mayor in 1914, and still were not willing to have him retire from office in 1916, although his business responsibilities seem enough to absorb the time of the ordinary man.
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Mr. Nelson married at Bennington, in 1880, Miss Mary E. Miller, whose father and mother were natives of Pennsylvania and are both now deceased. Her father, Daniel Miller, was a farmer. Mrs. Nelson came to Bennington with her two brothers in 1878 and was married two years later. Mr. and Mrs. Nelson have six children, namely: Edward F., who is a graduate of the Bennington High School, is a railroad employee at Salina; Fred M., who is a farmer near Niles, Kansas; D. A., who is a capitalist and resided at Salina; Florence, who is the wife of Dr. Carl L. Brown, of Cawker City, Kansas; Naney, who is a high school graduate, lives at home; and Harry, who is attending the public school in Salina.
Mr. Nelson and family belong to the Presbyterian Church. For the past forty years he had been a member of Minneapolis Lodge No. 97 of the Odd Fellows, and to the general lodge of Knights of Pythias, Bennington Camp, Modern Woodmen of America, and Bennington Lodge, American Order of United Workmen. He is a member and the treasurer of the Bennington Commereial Club and belongs to both the Kansas and the American Banking associations. His name stands for business integrity wherever it is known.