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.


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.


[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).

New York Times – Rotogravure – 30 June 1918

The Library of Congress has a new collection of The New York Times Rotogravure from World War I.  I was excited to see that the Library of Congress had the same material that I have which meant that I could use it and not need to scan my own collection. The LoC quality was excellent; they had whole pages instead of my partial pages. Then I saw that they don’t have all of the issues.  I looked at my collection and the next one I was going to write about was the June 30, 1918, issue. It isn’t available in the Library of Congress Rotogravure collection. My search of the collection showed they have June 2, June 9, June 16, and June 23, but not June 30, 1918.

Top half of the first of six pages included from teh New York Times, 30 June 1918, Rotogranure
Top half of the first of six pages included from my 30 June 1918 collection. This half of the page includes: “Jitney Tank;” Lieutenant Aviator Leps; Lieutenant Guerin; Lieutenants Reno, Fonck, and Milton; a Shell-Shelter Village; and a Camouflaged French Road. Click the image or here for the OCRed pages.

Oh my — my collection suddenly became much more important. If I have editions that the Library of Congress does not have, then my collection might be unique. If so, I really need to preserve it digitally. Sadly, in the pages that I have for 30 June 1918, one photo was cut out. It affects that page and the reverse side but not the other pages. I photographed all the pages I have from this June 30th 1918 edition. Then I OCRed (used Optical Character Recognition) the images. There is one page that contains a full-page ad for Tintex, but no war photos, so I did not OCR that page and did not include it in my final product.  I assembled the OCRed images into a single Portable Document File. I wish that I had the technology to either photograph the entire image or to be able to adequately stitch the images together; however, I was not happy with the results of my trying to electronically stitch the images.

Here is my attempt with the 30 June 1918 issue.  I hope you find the images and stories as interesting and as fascinating as I do.

The 42nd: Shell Shelters, Headquarters, and In the Trenches.

Over There

This Veterans Day, like most Veterans Days, I honor my veteran ancestors. This day was originally known as Armistice Day because an armistice – the cessation of hostilities – went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.

Original 42nd Division Rainbow Patch.
Original 42nd Division Rainbow Patch.

Today, I also take a look at the men of the Forty-Second Infantry Division, U.S.A. Known as the “Rainbow Division,” Douglas MacArthur suggested its formation from multiple states that would “stretch over the whole country like a rainbow.” The division was created in 1917 from 26 states, including Maine, and was one of the first divisions of the American Expeditionary Force to go to Europe. Douglas MacArthur was promoted to Colonel as the Division’s Chief of Staff.

The photo below is of some of the Forty-Second Division soldiers hanging out at a shell shelter.  Two of the men are sleeping, one on the cold ground, the other on what looks to be a really uncomfortable ridge of the shell. However, it is the expressions of the other soldiers that makes me wonder.  They are all looking at something off to their left. Two of the men have odd smiles on their faces.  I wonder what they are seeing. Something definitely interesting.

Shell Shelters in use by men of the Forty-Second Division, U. S. A.

Next, we see a commander’s post.  It is unclear if this with the 42nd Division’s command post during the Champagne-Marne campaign (15–18 July 1918) or sometime before that.

A commander’s Post of the Forty-Second Division.

Finally, the New York Times gives us a glimpse of the 42nd in the trenches.  Crowded, guns at the ready, bayonets affixed. Ready for combat.

In the Forty-Second Division’s Front Trenches
From March until July, 1918, the Germans were losing about 20,000 soldiers a month on the Western Front. Total causalities were well over 100,000 soldiers a month during the same period. Four months after this picture, the armistice was signed and the bloodiest war in European history (at that time) was over.

Yes, today is a day to remember our veterans and thank them for their service. But it is also a day to reflect upon the “war to end all wars.” As a Vietnam veteran, I wish we could just find a way to only create peacetime veterans and not have any wars. Deterrence is better than battle.

The Great War – Over There – 7 April 1918

By Don Taylor

Wartime Wednesday
This week, I continue with images from the New York Times this time from “over there.”

(© Underwood & Underwood.)New York Times – 7 April 1918

This first image is one of the most iconic images I know of regarding the Great War.  The desolation of the landscape, the smoke of the diesel engines of the tank, the trench fortifications, all add together to provide an image of war.

Next, American Troops in the Aisne Sector, believed now to
be among those fighting side by side with the French and
British against the German Drive halting on a
hillside for “chow.”
New York Times – 7 April 1918

I found the photo of the American troops eating “chow” on a hillside very interesting.  It doesn’t appear that any of the people are interacting. No smiles, just serious eating or personal contemplation gazing off in the distance.

These soldiers didn’t know that a few weeks later, on May 27th, the Germans would have a major attack along the Aisne River and overrun the French and British positions along a forty-mile front.

The French, owing to the scarcity of horses, making
increasing use of dog teams.  Here is an American husky
hitched tandem fashion to one of the new French rubber-tired
 ammunition carts in use on the Front.
New York Times – 7 April 1918

Finally, I am reminded that “necessity breeds invention.” According to Wikipedia, the first practical pheumatic tire went into production in 1888, Thirty years later they found use in ammunition carts and, as we can see, gained further use as the basis for dog drawn transportation. For some reason, this image brings a smile to my face. I can visualize myself riding in a cart like this. It would be fun today, but, I’m sure, wasn’t fun in 1918 France.

An image of the entire page in context is available from The New York Timespages on Newspapers.com.  My images for this date are here.

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The Great War – Over Here – 7 April 1918

By Don Taylor

Wartime Wednesday

Recently actually an old shipmate of mine, John Travers, from the USS Kitty Hawk (1972), came across issues from the New York Times showing photos of the Great War. He didn’t know what to do with them and asked me if I would like to see them.

I immediately thought of my Grandmother Madonna (Donna) and her efforts with the Preparedness Bazaar. Also, The Great War is interesting to me in general, so I said “sure,” and he sent me a box of newspaper pages. Wow. Amazing materials. I looked at the photos and decided to group the images into three categories.

Over Here – Images of the Great War from here in the United States.
Over There – Images of the Great War from the battlefields of Europe.
Somewhere – Images of the Great War from somewhere else, typically Great Britain.

This week, I’ll write about my thoughts about the Great War, Over Here.

 The Great War – Over Here – 7 April 1918

A Vista of Lower Broadway shows in the background.
(Times Photo Service)
New York Times – 7 April 1918

The first photo reminds me that it was commonplace to see large numbers of men drilling all across the country. Rather than having the men drill exclusively on military bases, it was common to see them drill at parks all across the nation. I think, in many ways, this helped Americans stay committed to the Great War and accept the hardships that the war made people endure.

(“Abbe.”)New York Times – 7 April 1918

Ann Pennington was an actress who was known as a “shake and quiver dancer.” During the “Midnight Frolic” she performed a “syncopated frolic.” That style reminds me of the many dances that grandmother Donna did during her shows. She starred on broadway in Ziegfeld Follies in 1913. 1914, 1915, 1916, and again in 1918 immediately following her time with “Midnight Frolic.”
Ann, unlike my grandmother, went on to achieve fame in both silent and sound motion picture. Even though the war was going on, it was important to show home beauties. Being only 10 months younger my Donna, Ann was a contemporary show business personality who also moved from coast to coast – New York to California – in pursuit of a show business career. I am certain my grandmother either knew or knew about.

Leaving for Base Hospital No. 1, Williams-
bridge, Bronx. Bearing Fruit and Flowers for the
Soldiers Recuperating There. They Are, Left to
Right: Missus Theodora Booth, National
President of the Guard; Vera Royer, and Augusta
Davis. (Press Illustrating Service, Inc.)
New York Times – 7 April 1918

Like all wars, the Great War, injured and crippled so many of our young Americans. While in the hospital, usually far from home and family, it is always such a blessing to be visited by a friendly face. The men and women who provide cheer to our military men and women while in the hospital are a special group whose selfless actions are often forgotten. I thank the many who volunteer to bring joy and hope to our military and veterans hospitals for their service.

Thank you again, shipmate, for forwarding these images to me.

Note: These images are reduced in size for the web. I also have the same images at much higher resolution. For example, the Girls of the National Honor Guard is on the web at a resolution of 764×778, but I also have it at 2143×2183.  I am looking for a permanent home for these images. If you know of a site that would provide permanent access to the higher resolution images, I would love to hear from them. Just use the contact section below.

These images are also available from The New York Times pages on Newspapers.com.

See my images for this date here.

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