History of John Laird Nelson, by Carol Nelson as told by his daughter Carma Jane Nelson
The parents of John Laird Nelson lived in the little town of Newton, Utah 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 his mother, Jane Laird Nelson. 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, John Laird Nelson was born into the world on January 19, 1867 in Logan, Utah. Then before the next child, little Annie, was born, his mother felt that she would have a better life way from her husband. So, leaving her little boy John with Grandpa's relatives she took off for Oregon where she had kinfolks.
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 three children, Isabel, Wallace, and Mathew. 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 every say he was mistreated, but he always had to work very hard, as did everyone else in those days. He endured many heartaches and loneliness in his early life.
When he was about 16 years old he ran away from home and went to Oregon. Perhaps he knew that his mother was in the 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?" The man replied. "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 Nora.
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 two 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.
After my father's second divorce he left all he had accumulated in Oregon and came back to Cache Valley to the little town of Newton. Here is where his father and some of his relatives were living. He worked hard and went into construction work using horses. He did very good. He invested his money into saloons. He owned three during his stay at Newton. His last one was at Cache Junction located south of Newton.
His father was his best customer. He took advantage of my father until my father lost the saloon on the bad debt of his father. It was then that my father went to work on the railroad and became a bridge foreman. He was working near Willard, Utah when he chanced to make the acquaintance of Rachel Rebecca Baird who became my mother. My father, at this stage, had lived a hard rough life, and had seen lots of gambling and drinking. For all what my father did in the line of gambling and drinking in his life up to the time he married my mother, I can never recall of having seen him gamble or take a drink stronger than beer.
My father was 44 years old and my mother was 30 years old at the time of their marriage on December 21, 1910, in Ogden. It was not long after his marriage that he quit the railroad and took up farming and stock raising. My father took great pride in his animals.
When my mother gave birth to her first child in 1911, it nearly cost her life. Through her faith and the power of the Priesthood she was saved. Though my father was not a Mormon at this time, he felt the spirit of the Lord and acknowledged that there certainly must be something to a religion that could bring beck the near dead. He later was baptized into the Church and went to the Temple. He was, however, never active in the Church.
Eventually he had more children, three boys and a girl. There names were Baird, Roy, Robert and a little girl Ann who died soon after birth. All together, my father and mother had five children. Father had a total of ten children and at least three wives. I have been told he may have had seven wives. He took great pride in his children and loved them very much. Everywhere that he went his son, Baird, went also. He kept in touch with his children by his second marriage in Oregon. The way he loved his children, it must have been hard for him to be separated from the ones of this previous marriages.
In my father's patriarchal blessing in 1938, he was blessed that his personality would increase so that he would be able to give counsel and that he would be a peacemaker and able to render much service. He was blessed with wisdom and tact and with the ability to do good. My father was a friend to all people and was one who loved his fellow men. He felt sorry for Emma, his father's second wife, and helped her out when he could. His father ran up bills wherever he went. Since my father thought a great deal of his own good name, he used to pay the bills when he was told of them.
My father was a good teacher for his children. He was a very honest and hard working man and a good provider. He was a farmer and a stock raiser. he always took good care of his animals especially his horses and cows. During the first world war, he rented land which he farmed. His family always had a good living but there was not much cash to be had. My mother was a wonderful manager and hard worker consequently the family was a happy one. He was constantly telling his children that they can take everything away from you but an education. He did all he could to see that his children got an education.
One by one his children left home to marry and make a home of their own. When the grandchildren started to arrive, it was a great day for him. His life seemed to center around them. It is unfortunate that he did not live long enough to enjoy all of the grandchildren that came later on. It was late in October of 1939 that he took sick. As he explained it himself, "One day I rolled over and got a pain in my side and it never left." He suffered a great deal of pain during the last two months of his life. He remained at home until the last few days, at which time he was taken to the hospital where he died on December 21, 1939, his wedding anniversary. He was buried the day before Christmas. The autopsy showed a large black mass built up around his kidneys. From the symptoms and appearance of the kidneys, the probable cause of death was cancer.