History of Jane Laird Nelson
Written by Nora Lund as told by Carma Jane Nelson
My grandmother, Jane Laird Nelson Houge, was born on September 8, 1848. She was the daughter of John and Marion Calhoun Laird. I never did see Grandmother, for when I came along she and Grandfather had separated and she was living in Grants Pass, Oregon.
I regret that my information of her life is so meager, but I have a strong feeling that I should write down the few things that I have heard my father tell of his mother.
He said that his parents lived in the little town of Newton, a few miles from Logan in Cache County. His father, John Williamson Nelson, had a very great craving for alcoholic drinks. This was a great trial for Grandmother. When he was sobber he was a good kind man but when under the influence of liquor he was altogether different. He seemed to forget his responsibilities as a husband and father.
It was under these sad conditions and uncertain home life that my father was born in the world on January 19, 1867 in Logan, Utah. Then before the next child, little Annie, was born, Grandma felt that she would have a better life away from Grandpa. So, leaving her little boy John, my father, with Grandpa's relatives she took off for Oregon where she had kinfolks.
I think I will put in here a very brief sketch of the life of my father because, if my grandmother's life had been different, he certainly would not have experienced the loneliness and heart aches that he did endure.
I have heard him say that his childhood was spent in the home of one Nelson relative and then another. Perhaps some of the time he lived with his father, who married Emma and had several children. They also lived in Newton.
In the homes of his uncles and aunts he helped with the chores inside and out, even drying the babies diapers in front of the fireplace during the long cold winters. At Christmas time he got to lick the candy after his cousins had laid it down, toot their horns and play their games after they had tired of them. He did not ever say he was mistreated, but he always had to work very hard, as did everyone else in those days.
When he was about 16 years old he ran away from home and went to Oregon. Perhaps he knew that his mother was in that area, but he did not know where to locate her. He worked industriously at anything he could do. One job he had was that of driving a stage not far from Grants Pass, Oregon. He became quite well acquainted with his relief driver and respected him very much. One day as this man came to the station to take over the stage and drive to the next station, the man asked Father his name. Quickly Father answered John Laird Nelson. The gentleman seemed greatly surprised and then asked him what his mother's name was. So Father said, "Who are you anyway?" "I am Jimmy Laird and my sister is Jane Laird Nelson Houge, and she lives only a few miles from here, take a horse and go see your mother."
Father did not need further urging. Thanking his new found Uncle, he made haste to visit his mother whom he scarcely remembered. When Grandma saw Father standing before her door, she could hardly believe her eyes, but she instantly recognized this young man as the baby she had deserted so many years ago in Newton, Utah. At this time she was married to a Mr. Houge and had two daughters, Lillian and the other name I do not know.
Eventually he homesteaded some land at Portland, Oregon. It was right on the water front, and perhaps today it is most valuable. Father married a young woman and had 2 children. I do not know just where he was living at this time, nor what the woman's name was. The story goes that he was working in a logging camp and was away from home quite a bit. He unexpectedly returned one day to find that his wife was having an affair with another man. That was the end of that marriage. Later on he married a woman by the name of Rillie Hardman on September 3, 1870. While living in Reston, Oregon, Myrtle and Raymond were born. Another child, Blanch, was born in Bandon. This marriage also ended in divorce.
Father then decided to come back to Utah. He secured employment on the railroad. He was working near Willard, Utah. Here he chanced to make the acquaintance of Miss Rachel Rebecca Baird, who later became my mother. She was born October 29, 1880 in Willard, Box Elder County, Utah. She was the daughter of a stalwart, and faithful Mormon couple, Robert Bell and Ann Gwenthlyn Baird. Grandpa Baird had charge of the early day telegraph office in Willard and Mother operated it. Grandpa depended entirely on Mother at the station, but he wondered if the job was keeping her from marriage, so he asked her, but she assured him that the right man had not come along yet. When Mother saw Father she knew he was the one she had been waiting for. It may seem strange that a man 15 years her senior, twice married and divorced should attract her, but nevertheless, they fell in love and were married on December 21, 1910 in Ogden, Utah. Grandpa Baird thought sure he would have to give up the telegraph station then, but his young son Clarence, just 14 years old, learned the telegraph codes from Mother and took over the responsibility.
It was October 3, 1911, when Mother was to realize the great job of Motherhood. I have always been proud that it was me that gave her the title. However, the ordeal nearly cost her life. She was just a little whisk of a thing and 31 years old. She became so very ill. Grandpa Baird and Bro. Dalton came and administered to her. Grandpa had great faith that God would answer his humble and earnest plea for the life of his beloved daughter and her child. Through the Holy Priesthood, he promised her life, health and strength and it was granted. Though my father was not a Mormon, he felt the spirit of the Lord at that time, and acknowledged that there certainly must be something to a religion that could bring back the near dead. He later was baptized into the Church and went to the Temple, which was a great satisfaction to mother to be sealed and have her children sealed to them. He was however, never active in the Church.
Eventually they had more children, three boys and a girl. There names were Baird, Roy, Robert and a little sister Ann who died soon after birth. Altogether, father had a total of ten children.
He kept in touch with his children, by his second marriage, in Oregon. I remember when I was a little girl we had two ladies come to visit us. It was hard for me to understand that these two older women were my sisters.
Now back to Grandma. She seemed pleased to know that I was named Jane for her. Once she sent me a beautiful ring. It was gold with a large ruby set surrounded with little pearls. I loved that ring, but oh, the folly of youth. I let a boy take it once and I never did get it back.
Though I never did get to see Grandma in person, her pictures showed her to be a nice looking woman, with hair parted in the middle and drawn to a bob in the back. I used to be so pleased and excited when a box of clothing would come from the folks in Oregon.
It was August 28, 1944, when word came to us that dear Grandma had died in Grants Pass, Oregon, where she had lived for so many years. Had she lived 3 more weeks she would have celebrated her 96th birthday. Father was unable to go to the funeral, but I am sure loving relatives and friends laid her to rest there in Oregon.