Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - John Nelson aka Johan Nilsson

What will we argue about now? What mysteries are left to explore? We have discovered where John is buried. Now what will we do?
For the past few years my dad, my Uncle Don and I have been "arguing" about what happened to their Grandpa (James) Nelson's, brother, John. We had all seen the simple black stone in the cemetery outside of Osage City, Kansas. Uncle Don insisted that he had been buried there but we had doubts about that because he died a long way from his family home.
Johan Nilsson was born in Snårestad, Malmöhus län, Sweden on May 6, 1866. He followed his brother, James, who had left Sweden a few months after their father died in 1883, to America when he was about 21.
Gr gr Uncle John became a miner. He mined  coal around Osage City on his brother's land just at the edge of Dog Town, which is what their part of Osage city had been dubbed. He was injured in the mine early on and walked with a little bit of a limp from then on. Later in his life he found himself mining gold in the Rocky Mountains near a little town called Cripple Creek, Colorado. His nephews remember that he would visit his family in Kansas about once a year and always dug a new hole for their outhouse during his visit.
I wish I had a picture of him. Since I don't, I'll have to use my imagination for this one. I've seen pictures of gold miners in Colorado and that is what I imagine when I think of him. Maybe he still had a slight limp from the earlier mine accident. He never married, so I imagine he arrived in the same type of clothes he worked in every day.
The story we had up until a month ago was that he died in Cripple Creek Feb. 4, 1945 at the age of 78. His sister, Ellen, traveled to Colorado and had his body brought back to Osage City, Kansas before telling the rest of the family that he was gone. We had no proof one way or another but it seemed a little hard to believe that they would bring his body back from Colorado.
That was before my niece, Erin, and her family moved to Colorado Springs. My dad put her husband, Tom, on the project and together, they started investigating. The letter that arrived in the mail a few weeks ago contained some pictures of a mountain town, Cripple Creek, and a one page letter from Erin. They had visited the town the day before and had found something interesting.
An obituary article in the Journal Free Press, dated February 7, 1945 told about the funeral service that would be held in Osage City, Kansas, for him on February 8th. It also stated that he had lived in Trinidad, Colorado for many years after leaving Cripple Creek and that is where he died.
For now we will have to accept that he is truly buried in the cemetery in Kansas...

or WAS he.....?

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