Harvey Nelson and the USS Mongolia

By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.I always enjoy a fresh, new, project. Jumping in and documenting a new tree getting to know new ancestors is my idea of fun. My client knew very little about her maternal line, so I began looking closely at her grandfather.  Certainly, I have more research to do for Harvey Nelson, however, this is a good start. Harvey was a wandering soul. Born in Wisconsin to Danish immigrants, he moved and bounced around quite a bit in his youth.  Finally, he settled down in Southern California, but still moved throughout the area living in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties.

Cassel Project 2017 – Ancestor #6

List of Grandparents

  • Grandfather: Harvey Nelson
  • 1st Great-grandfather: Lars Nelson

Harvey Nelson (1891-1974)

Harvey (NMN) Nelson was born on 19 April 1891 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin[i].  We know he had at least five older siblings — four brothers and a sister. His parents were Lars P. Nelson and Nicoline “Lena” Larsen. Lars and Lena were born in Denmark, married in 1872, and immigrated to the United States in 1873.

  • Chris born in 1874 in Pennsylvania.
  • Ann Elizabeth born in 1878 in Wisconsin.
  • Theodore “Ted” born in 1882 in Wisconsin.
  • Emil (or Amiel) born in 1884 in Wisconsin.
  • Arthur born in 1887 in Wisconsin.
  • He certainly had another sibling whose birth and death occurred before 1900.
  • It is unclear if he had one or two more siblings. He may have had a sister, Hortense and possibly brother, R.C Nelson.

Sometime between 1891 and 1900, the family relocated to Hastings, Adams County, Nebraska. They lived at 321 Kansas Ave.[ii]  Today, Realtor.com indicates the house at that address was built in 1920 so there does not appear to be a photo of the family homestead in Nebraska.

I am not sure where Harvey Nelson was during the 1910 Census. There are several Harvey Nelsons who were living in boarding houses around the country, but there are none that are clearly Harvey.

The Great War

When the Great War draft occurred in June 1917, Harvey was living at 1732 ½ Derby, Portland, Oregon. He was single, 5 feet, 9 inches tall, medium build, slightly bald, light hair, and had blue eyes[iii].

Library of Congress photo of the USS Mongolia

U.S.S. Mongolia covered with soldiers

Harvey enlisted in the Navy on 10 Oct 1917[iv] and served aboard the U.S.S. Mongolia. The S.S. Mongolia was launched on 25 July 1903 as a 616 foot, 13,369 ton, passenger/cargo liner. In March 1917, the Mongolia was chartered as an Army transport and received a self-defense armament of three 6-inch/40 caliber (150 mm) guns which were manned by U.S. Navy gun crews. It was the first American vessel to encounter, and drive off, German submarines after the US’s entry into World War I.

On 27 April 1918, the US Navy requisitioned the vessel, reconfigured her for greater troop capacity, and commissioned her on 8 May as USS Mongolia (ID-1615). She completed twelve turnarounds at an average duration of 34 days and transporting over 33,000 passengers, before being decommissioned on 11 Sept 1919.  Harvey Nelson was on board during this time.

Photo of U.S.S. Mongolia

U.S.S Mongolia – First American ship to sink a German U-Boat after the US entered the war.

Harvey wrote a letter to his sister, Mrs. William Binderup of 6320 East 44th Street, Portland, OR in July of 1918 and said:

“The new German submarine is 318 feet long and has eight-inch guns. They don’t travel alone anymore, but go in squads. They get a range on a ship then they take a chance on getting hit. It is hell when you see a bunch of four or five of them come up and you don’t know from one minute to the next how long you can float. But, we made the trip fine and dandy and are still floating. We have good gun crews, the best in the navy. We had target practice going over and every gun got four shots out of five good square hits. We worked like a lot of Trojans going over, had 4000 men and they all got sick and had a rotten time of it for a while. They were mostly drafted men. Coming back, however, we had it fine.[v]

U.S.S. Mongolia 10 April 1919

Harvey was released from Military duty on 20 August 1919. Three months later (Nov 1919), he applied for a marriage license to marry Florence Hanson.

Marriage:

It wasn’t until 17 March 1920 that Harvey and Florence (or Flora) Hansen tied the knot. Both were living in Long Beach, California. Harvey worked as a steelworker.

The young couple lived throughout southern California for the rest of their lives. Laguna Beach in 1930[vi], Los Angeles in 1940[vii], Corona Del Mar in 1942[viii], San Diego in 1960[ix], and Encino in 1974.  Harvey worked as a painter through much of his adult life.

Harvey Nelson died on 22 December, 1974 in San Diego, California. I have not been successful in finding funeral information regarding Harvey, so far.

Endnotes


[i] Los Angeles, California, Ralph Thomas Cassel – Rosalie Elizabeth Nelson – 18 Sep 1942. “California, County Marriages, 1850­1952,” database with images,: 28 November 2014), FHL microfilm 2,114,963. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K8VT-K9C.; Family
[ii] 1900 Census, Family Search, Lars P Nelson – Hastings, Adams, Nebraska – ED 12, Sheet 2A. Line 1 – Accessed 2 June 2-17. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M3BN-DGD.
[iii] U.S., World War I Dra  Registration Cards, 1917-1918, Ancestry.Com, Harvey Nelson – Birthdate: 19 Apr 1891. See:  U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 – Harvey Nelson.pdf. http://Ancestry.com.
[iv] U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010, Ancestry.Com, Harvey Nelson – Birthdate 19 Apr 1891 – No Image. http://Ancestry.com.
[v] Oregon Daily Journal (Portland, OR), 1918-07-09 – Page 5 – Harvey Nelson. Story at bottom of 1st column. http://Newspapers.com.
[vi] 1930 Census (FS), Family Search, Harvey Nelson – Laguna Beach, Orange, California – ED 30-47, Sheet 6B. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XCDK-CWL.
[vii] 1940 Census (FS), Family Search, 1940 Census – Harvey Nelson – Los Angeles, California. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K9HL-VR1.
[viii] U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942, Ancestry.Com, Harvey Nelson. Residence 1942 – Corona Del Mar, California. http://Ancestry.com.
[ix] 1960-08-25- Ann Elizabeth (Nelson) Powers – Obit.pdf., Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, California (Newspapers.Com).

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