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Saturday, October 12, 2013

More Clues for Corpl. Thomas Nelson

Saturday, January 21, 1911, Hinsdale Doings, page 1, vol. XVI no.16

"Well Known Character Dies

Thomas Nelson, a much respected and well known colored citizen of Hinsdale passed away, Tuesday, January 17, at his home, corner of Vine and 3rd Streets.  Mr. Nelson was born in Mississippi and at the time of the Civil War believed himself to be about 30 years old.  He served as army nurse in a small pox hospital during the conflict, and later entered a colored regiment where his strict attention to duty soon caused him to be raised to the rank of Corporal.
While in the Army he received much praise also for bravery.  At the close of the war he came North and had been a resident of Hinsdale 33 years last April.  Soon after coming here he married Eliza, his wife, a woman who has done more for her race, in proportion to her means than many a millionaire whose gifts have received world wide fame.  Mr. Nelson was an honored member of the GAR and marched with their ranks on each recurring memorial day celebration.  For the last five years he has been in the express business and has always been held in high regard by all in Hinsdale.
He was buried from his late residence on Friday afternoon.  He leaves a widow and many who find comfort in his many high qualities and kindly deeds."

Wow.  This obit is chocked full of information about our Thomas Nelson.
Let's go comb through the obit for each tidbit:

1.  Confirmation of his date of death : January 17, 1911.  Also given, the day of the week : Tuesday.

2.  Confirmation of his place of residence, at the corner of Vine and 3rd Streets, which is 307 South Vine Street as recorded on other documents.

3.  Mentions his place of birth as Mississippi.  This matches the information on half of our previous documentation.  Other places mentioned in census records and pension records have recorded his place of birth as Alabama.  Hmmm.

4.  He believed himself to be about 30 years old at the time of the Civil War.  Well, his death record states he was about 85 years in 1911.  Other records state various other ages that could pin his birth anywhere between 1827 and 1839.  Hmmm.

5.  He served as an Army nurse in a small pox hospital.  Really?  A search for military hospital records might bring some new information.

6. He joined a Colored Regiment and was promoted to the rank of Corporal.  This is documented in his compiled service record, which I was able to obtain through

7. He was a resident of Hinsdale for 33 years.  This would mean that he first came to Hinsdale about 1878.  According to census records he lived outside Janesville, Wisconsin in 1870, and indeed he was a resident of Hinsdale in the the census of 1880.

8.  Marriage is mentioned, to Eliza, soon after he arrives in Hinsdale.  Well, partially true.  He was living in the same household with Eliza in 1880, in Hinsdale. She is mentioned as being his wife.  However, their marriage is not recorded in the county of DuPage until 1886.

9.  Eliza was obviously involved in some organization (s) that would have been of benefit to the African Americans of the time.  This is another avenue to research in the future.

10.  Thomas Nelson was a member of the GAR and marched with the ranks each Memorial Day.  He should be mentioned in the local GAR membership publications of that time, and perhaps in the newspaper articles written around the time of each annual celebration.  More research on the horizon.

11.  Thomas was in the express business during the last five years of this life.  Looking in to the business directories, advertisements, etc. in the early 1900s, along with any business records might prove to be interesting.  The Hinsdale Historical Society may have these in their files and records.

12.  The day of burial was on a Friday, and he left a widow, Eliza.  It does not mention the two children that were living with them in the census records of 1900 and 1910.  Magnolia and Henry were two children that I had assumed were the offspring of Thomas and Eliza.  Time to look into birth records and announcements.

Just look at all of the things that came from one, very well written, obituary on the front page of a local newspaper.  And the research goes on.

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