BIOGRAPHIES OF TRAILL COUNTY
- N -
North Dakota History and People - Outlines of American History
The E. J. Clarke Publishing Company
1917 - Chicago
Oluf Nelson is conducting a blacksmith and repair shop at Clifford and has been very successful in that connection, building up a large and profitable patronage. His birth occurred near Bergen, Norway, April 26, 1864 and he is a son of Nels and Helga (Oleson) Nelson, the former of whom is still living in Norway, while the latter passed away in that country.
Oluf Nelson, who is one of seven living children of a family of fifteen, was reared and educated in Norway, where he remained until he was about twenty-three years of age. He emigrated to America in 1887 and, making his way at once to the northwest, located in Traill county, North Dakota. He learned the blacksmith's trade while in Norway and after arriving here established a shop in Clifford. He does all kinds of blacksmithing and his shop is well equipped for general repair work. He is a very skillful artisan and is well patronized by the people of Clifford and the surrounding country. He not only does general machine repairing but has specialized to some extent in automobile repairing. He owns stock in the Farmers Elevator Company and in the Traill County Telephone Company and is in very comfortable circumstances.
In 1902 Mr. Nelson was united in marriage to Miss Mary Erickson, also a native of Norway, by whom he had five children, Hilda, Norman, Otto, Mabel and Olga. The wife and mother passed away in 1911 and was laid to rest in the Norman cemetery.
Mr. Nelson endorses the principles of the republican party and is now serving as one of the supervisors of Norman township. His religious faith is that of the Lutheran church and its teachings guide his life. His success is doubly creditable in that it is due entirely to his own efforts and although he has given the greater part of his time and attention to the building up of his business interests he has found opportunity to cooperate with movements seeking the general welfare and is recognized as a man of public spirit.
The Civil War Database of the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum has this information: "WI 47th Inf Co D. Residence: Scandinavia, Waupaca County, Wisconsin. Born “Tosten Nilsen Quien” on 15 Mar 1826 at Vang, Valdres, Norway. Married to Sidsel Gullicksdatter. He, his wife and seven children came to America in April 1861. Two children born in America. Civil War: Farmer. Age 39. Married. Blue eyes, brown hair, dark complexion, 5’9”. Enlisted for one year on 23 Jan 1865 at Scandinavia. Mustered 10 Feb 1865 at Madison, Wisconsin. Bounty $100, $33.33 paid. Private. Discharged from the service for sickness (tuberculosis) on 4 Sep 1865 at Nashville, Tennessee. Post war: Moved to Mayville, North Dakota, in the 1880s. Died 18 Jun 1887 at Mayville. Buried in Mayville Cemetery. Sources: (WHS Series 1200 box 188-5; red book vol 52) (Letter Marwin Wrolstad, Scandinavia, Wisconsin) (e-mail, Marwin Wrolstad, received 16 Feb 1999) (“Stener, the Sheriff from Telemark”, by Harold Wenaas, Great Falls, Montana; p42,43) (Lester Peterson, Rosholt, Wisconsin) “Kvien, Tosten Nelson” “Kvie, Tosten Nilsen.”" In 1890 Tosten is living in Mayville and on 22 August of that year he started receiving his pension. Burial, Portrait, Tombstone Picture.
RAGNVOLD ANDERSON NESTOS
Thirteenth North Dakota Governor
Ragnvold Anderson Nestos was a native of Norway, born in the mountainous region of Voss, Norway on 12 April 1877. He died on 15 July 1942 in Minot, North Dakota.
The oldest of ten children, he was sixteen and spoke no English when he came to the United States to live with his aunt and uncle at Buxton, North Dakota. He traveled to America on a small boat called The Prince, using money borrowed from his Buxton uncle. The trip from Liverpool to Philadelphia took thirteen days, and when he arrived, he had 85 cents in cash, and a stash of hard tack and butter. Unfortunately, the container smashed and covered his only good suit in butter; but the hard tack was still enough to last until he reached Buxton.
In his memoirs, Nestos recalled, the Fourth of July was celebrated in that little town that year, but I had a lone nickel with which to celebrate the day. From the middle of July I worked long hours in haying for 75 cents a day, harvesting at $1.25, and threshing, $1.25 to $1.50 to pay my uncle for my ticket, to get clothes, and to get ready for school.
In November 1893 he entered the first grade at Buxton and attended school in
between working odd jobs. Ragnvold was in charge of herding the cattle for his board and on Saturdays worked in his uncle's harness shop, and because their farm was so isolated, he rarely had the chance to attend school, averaging only about three months of school a year. When he immigrated to the United States at age 16, his education was equivalent to a fifth grade in American schools, and he could neither speak nor understand English.
Four years later he passed the teachers' examinations and taught in a country school. He completed studies at Mayville Normal School (teachers' college) while homesteading in Pierce County. In 1904 he graduated from the University of North Dakota Law School and moved to Minot, where he began practicing law with attorney C. A. Johnson. He became adept
at debating and public speaking, and got interested in politics, first getting elected as a state legislator.
By 1916, Nestos had started making a name for himself and narrowly missed being elected to the U.S. Senate. Four years later, he was endorsed by the independents to run for governor, but his friend and colleague, Bill Langer, joined the Non Partisan League and beat him. The following year, a delegate convention of the Independent Voters' Association met in Devils Lake to consider the state political future. The convention was called to consider
whether any of the officials inaugurated in January should be recalled.
After nearly two days of debate, they decided to recall the Governor, the
Attorney General, and the Commissioner of Agriculture and Labor and selected Nestos by unanimous vote to make the race for the governorship against the man who then occupied the office, Lynn J. Frazier. A long and bitter recall campaign in 1921 followed with the election resulting in victory of the Independent candidates on October 28, 1921. Nestos won as governor by a majority of 4,102. On November 23, 1921, the newly elected officials were inaugurated, the first to be elected in a recall election. It was a time of bitter political discontent and bickering between the NPL (Nonpartisan League, which supported state-owned industry) and the IVA (Independent Voters Association, which opposed state ownership of Industries). In June of 1922, Nestos won the Republican nomination for governor and was reelected for another term.
Nestos worked hard to make the new state-owned businesses (State Mill and Elevator and the Bank of North Dakota) a success. He also campaigned against illiteracy. During his administration, North Dakota came into national compliance for registering births and deaths, and North Dakota had a full-time health officer for the first time.
Governor Nestos never married. He received national recognition for his work on behalf of the Boy Scouts of America and the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America.
Adapted and Transcribed From North Dakota State Historical Society, North Dakota Humanities Council and North Dakota Public Radio by Mike Peterson.