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CAMC Collection 086. Nelson, Olof. Civil War Letters of Olof Nelson and Family History Materials, 1864-1945: Overview

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Collection Description

Nelson, Olof.  Civil War Letters of Olof Nelson and Family History Materials, 1864-1945.  CAMC Collection 86.  42 folders.

The Olof Nelson Civil War Letters and Family History Materials collection primarily contains correspondence from Nelson to his family written while serving in the Union Army’s 55th Illinois Infantry during the American Civil War from 1864 to his discharge in 1865.  In Addition, there are muster Roll Calls from his enlistment, the pension and death records of Nelson and his wife Jennie, articles of his family history, and a photographic history of the Civil War.  This collection gives insight into the lives of Swedish immigrants.  Most correspondence is in Swedish, but translations exist for most letters.

Biographical Note

Olof Nelson was born in Lyngby, Christianstad, Skåne, Sweden on 20 February 1843 (1842, 1845)

His daughter, Mary, wrote in 1955 that Olof grew up in a peasant home at Maltesholm estate, but that the local minister, Pastor Rodhe, encouraged his parents to send him to school in Göteborg.

A letter sent in 1873 to Olof from Peter Wieselgren, renowned dean of the cathedral at Göteborg, scholar, and social agitator, seems to confirm this.  Wieselgren says that Olof took the entrance examination for study for first communion (i.e. confirmation class) in Göteborg in May 1857, and that he did so much better than the other students that Wieselgren used him as a example to present influential educators of the need for good public education, as defined by the Royal Public School Law of 1842, which Wieselgren found to be unenforced.  “Ole Nilsson from Efverod was thus an important person in the important battle which was intended to make the Royal Public School Law of 1842 a truth.”  That letter is included in the collection.  Olof was confirmed in April 1858.  He was a shoemaker’s apprentice at the time.  He emigrated in 1860.

Olof settled in the Chicago area, working for the Illinois Central Railroad.  It appears that his parents joined him during this time.  His older brother, Andrew, settled in Peosta, Iowa.

On 1 February 1864, after several earlier attempts, Olof enlisted in the 55th Illinois Infantry.  He was mustered in on 8 February.  Olof was discharged with the rank of sergeant on 14 August 1865, at Little Rock, Arkansas.  His letters are written to his parents and brother.

After his discharge from the army, Olof went back to work for the railroad, this time at Peosta, Iowa, a tiny town nine miles southwest of Dubuque, where he was stationmaster.  He married Jenny Bolander, a native of Stockholm, Sweden, in Chicago in1871.  In the late 1870’s, Olof moved his family to a 160 acre soldier’s claim in Polk County, Wisconsin, which he sold four years later.  He then farmed at Charles City, Iowa until 1889.  From there he moved to Tenhassen in Martin County, Minnesota, where he farmed until moving to Fairmont, then to Sherburn.  Olof died in Fairmont on 21 August 1924, at age 82.

* Possibly written by Edith Thorstensson

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