Edwin J Nelson

   Branch: U. S. Army


   Status: Died in Service

   Date of Service: 1918

   Home Town: Bagley

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John Edwin Nelson was born in Lida Township near Pelican Rapids, Minnesota on June 24, 1896. His father Nels (Nils) Nelson had immigrated from Sweden in 1882, first to St. Paul and then to Otter Tail County near Lake Lida. Nels was a carpenter who built houses. His first wife, with whom he had three children – John Otto, Hannah (Moen), and Emma (Ludwig Larson) – had passed away. He married a Norwegian immigrant named Helena who had two sons, Nels Sjogren and Carl S. Nelson. After their marriage, Nels and Helena had Bengta (Betty Engdahl) in 1894 and John Edwin, also known as Edwin J., in 1896.

Some time shortly after the turn of the century the blended Nelson family moved from Otter Tail County to Clearwater County. They homesteaded a 120-acre farm in Sinclair Township one and a half miles east of what is known to locals as Postier’s Corner on land currently owned by the Falk Lake Corporation.

Edwin attended school through the 8th grade, then began helping his dad out on the farm. Little is known about Edwin’s entry into the Army. It can be assumed that he was drafted since he was of prime age and had no dependents. No draft registration exists online, however.

Edwin left for Camp Grant August 4, 1918 and was assigned to Co. 17 of the 161st Depot Brigade. Depot Brigades were training and receiving formations of the U.S. Army during WWI. Their role was to receive and organize recruits, provide them with uniforms, equipment and initial military training and then send them to France.

Edwin is listed as having died of disease at Camp Grant on October 3, 1918. This coincides with the horrendously lethal outbreak of a mutated variety of Spanish Influenza that hit the camp in early October of that year. His body was sent home to be interred at Seljord Lutheran Church Cemetery, an old country church not far from his home farm. His mother, father and brother Carl are also buried at Seljord.

The Bemidji Pioner of October 7, 1918 noted of Edwin, “He was 21 years of age and one of the best known young men in Bagley and his death is greatly regretted.”