Submitted by Descendant: Lynda Nelson BODELON
John Nelson was born Jens Nissen 22 April 1812 in Haderslev, Denmark. According to family oral history, at the age of 12, he was sold by his father as a hired servant, soon after running away to sea. He spent several years at sea, eventually leaving the sea when he made port in St. Joseph, Florida. He spent the rest of his life as a resident of the northwest Florida area.
John settled in Holmes County, marrying Eliza Evans and fathering two children before her death. He was instrumental in bringing the Baptist denomination into the area helping establish Holmes Valley Baptist Church, which later changed its name to Ebenezer Baptist Church. After Eliza’s death, John married Sarah Hix, and fathered six children. He moved his family to Orange Hill in Washington County.
When the Civil War began, John was too old to enlist, but instead became a member of Captain William B. Jones’ Home Guard. After the defeat of the Confederate troops in Marianna, the Union soldiers surprised the Home Guard, killing several and taking John prisoner. He spent the remainder of the war in prison at Elmira, New York. Upon release he walked along the Appalachian Trail and arrived at home in such bad health that his family did not recognize him at first.
John voted in the first election in Florida in 1845. He was registered in Washington County at Roche’s Bluff.
John Nelson was first established as a Florida Pioneer in 2005