Saturday, June 13, 2009

Captain Charles Nelson (1830-1909); Sailor and Businessman

[Photo of Nelson family mausoleum by Michael Colbruno; photo of barkentine from]

Charles Nelson was born in Ballum, Denmark September 15, 1830 the descendant of generations of seafaring people. In 1850, he came to San Francisco and headed for the gold mines. He ended up operating a small schooner on the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers until 1865, during which time he bought more boats.

In 1856 Captain Nelson wedded Miss Metha Clausen, a native of Denmark who died in 1896. The had five children who died in infancy. Their one surviving daughter Margaret married Eugene Bresse and both are buried in the family mausoleum.

In 1865 he purchased an interest in a lumber company owned by John Kentfield at Mission and Steuert in San Francisco, as well as a line of sailing vessels and two saw mills. He owned the first barquentine sailing vessel on the West Coast and was commonly referred to simply as “Captain Nelson.”

Mountain View Cemetery docent Peg Stone discusses Captain Charles Nelson:

In 1879 he sold his interest in the Kentfield lumber company and opened a business that he named after himself. He became a trustee of Mills College, was chair of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and served on the boards of several companies.

In 1901, he married his second wife, Helen Stind, a fellow Dane. At the time of his death on June 5, 1909, his estate was valued at $1 million, a significant amount for the time.

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