The nine children of Fred and Christine (Schmidt) Nelson of Tabor, Yankton County, South Dakota pose together here circa 1915. These six sisters and three brothers span nineteen years in age; from eldest to youngest, they are Anna, Julia, Ole, Andrea, Louise, Helena, Mary, Fred, and Myron Nelson. [Update: Since writing this piece, I have located another copy of this photograph with a date of December 1917 handwritten on the back.]A strong family resemblance can be seen in the nine Nelson siblings. Anna and Julia stand at center; they are wearing plain buttoned blouses and skirts, as is Andrea, seated left. Louise and Helena, standing at left and right, wear almost identical dresses with wide collars, pleated bodices, and belted waists. Their dresses were almost certainly sewn by hand from the same pattern.
Mary, the youngest sister, seated at right, is dressed in the most striking manner in a plaid dress with a ring of beautiful braids coiled atop her head. As the story goes, while they were growing up, the Nelson sisters would line up each morning to braid the hair of the sister standing before them.1 Someone clearly spent extra time on Mary’s hair on the morning that this photograph was taken!
The brothers, regardless of age, wear sturdy wool jackets. Ole’s jacket is open over a dark shirt or sweater that seems to be in the style of a turtleneck, while young (and very blond) Fred and Myron wear their jackets buttoned over shirts and ties. They lean towards Ole, their arms propped beside his on the arms of his chair.
In 1915, not all of the Nelson children remained at home, although all continued to live in the area. Anna, the eldest, was married, and had started a family.2 Julia was a schoolteacher,3 the profession pursued by her younger sisters, Andrea and Louise, who were students at the nearby Springfield Normal School.4 They would soon be followed by Helena and Mary, who at this point likely still attended the local school with Fred and Myron. Ole, the eldest brother, was a carpenter, and worked on the family farm.5
Was there an occasion for this photograph? In March of 1915, Fred and Christina (Schmidt) Nelson would have celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.6 Perhaps a photograph of their progeny was in order, either by their request or as a gift from their children. Regardless, this is the last known photograph of all of the Nelson children together, and it’s a lovely one.
1 Phyllis (Wiese) Adam, conversations with the author, 2012; notes in author’s files.
2 1920 U.S. census, Yankton County, South Dakota, population schedule, Mission Hill, Enumeration District (ED) 251, p. 6151 (penned), sheet 1-B, dwelling 10, family 10, Anna Jorgensen; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 4 November 2013), citing National Archives microfilm T625, roll 1726.
3 “South Dakota, State Census, 1915,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 04 Nov 2013), Julia Nelson, Tabor, Yankton, South Dakota, United States.
4 The Echo, Vol. 1 (Springfield, South Dakota: Springfield Normal School, 1916); private collection of Brian Adam [personal information withheld].
5“South Dakota, State Census, 1915,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 04 Nov 2013), Ole Nelson, Tabor, Yankton, South Dakota, United States.
6“In Memoriam: Christine M. Nelson,” undated clipping, ca. January 1961, from unidentified newspaper.