15 Sep 2014
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The History of the Nelson Family

We’ve been to their home in Old Poway Park, but how much do we know about one of the earliest families to settle in our city?

The History of the Nelson Family The History of the Nelson Family The History of the Nelson Family The History of the Nelson Family The History of the Nelson Family

The Nelson family home, originally located at 14283 Garden Rd. in Poway, was moved to in the early 1990s. This, however, is not the original Nelson family home, but a later house built when the family fortunes had improved.

It was the home of Niles and Helene Joranleid Nelson and their four children. The family had lived in San Diego, where Niles had a business that failed during a financial crash in the early 1880s. Niles was a good friend of Alonzo Horton, the founder of New Town San Diego.

After the loss of his business, Nelson and his family moved to a homestead in Poway, where he began improving the land and building a home in an area that was practically wilderness. He met with success, eventually owning 430 acres of land devoted to raising grain and cattle, table and raisin grapes, as well as an eight-acre orchard. 

Both the Nelsons were born in Norway but left for America to better their lives. Niles was 10 years old when his family left for America. They settled in Illinois and began farming. Mrs. Nelson came to America in 1856 and married Niles Nelson in 1865.

At 19, Niles left for the gold fields of California with his half brother, Thurston Knudson. They left on April 25, 1852, after joining a company heading for the same destination. It took them six months to reach California’s Shasta County. There they engaged in placer mining for about four years, meeting with considerable success. As they made money, they sent it back to Illinois to purchase land. In 1856, they decided to return home. They left San Francisco by steamer but encountered the Panama riots of 1856, where Niles was robbed of $1,500 in gold dust but was fortunate to escape with his life.  

After returning to Illinois, he went back to farming until 1865, but was not content with life in Illinois. In 1873 he sold his farm and returned to California, ending up in San Diego where his friend Horton lived. If it had not been for the financial crash of that period, the Nelsons would have probably stayed in San Diego.

When you visit the Nelson House in Old Poway Park, remember that the house is a gentrified version of the original home. However, many of the contents are appropriate for the time period when the family lived there. 

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