OLAF AND JOSEPHINE (THON) NELSON
User Contribution
By Maurice R. Nelson
Olof Gustaf Nelson was born at Sadie Bottom, Montana on his father's ranch, July 1, 1892, the son of Olof Paar Nelson and Selma (Jonsson) Nelson. He had a brother John Rudolph Nelson, and a sister, Selma Christina Nelson (Boylan). In his growing up years he attended grade school in Sadie Bottom in a log school house, which was moved during the time he attended to a site which was near the present abandoned Paragon School. This site where he attended school washed into the Yellowstone River a long time ago.
He attended high school in Miles City. He grew up in his teen years with a very close friend who spent a lot of time at the Nelson Ranch, Leon Bracht (1894-1976), known as Loney Bracht, whose half brother Avory Buckner was raised by the Nelsons. Olof Jr. and Loney spent a lot of time hunting together during that time in their lives. As a young man he worked on his father's ranch and also helped him with the county road work. After his father passed on the ranch was divided between him, his mother Selma Nelson and his sister Selma (Nelson) Boylan. In the early 1920's he sold his part of the ranch to the B.B. Sheffield Ranch. At that time he was county road supervisor for that part of Custer County. He maintained all county roads west of Miles City and north of the Yellowstone River and extending to Sunday Creek area. During this time he also helped run his mother's and sister's places.
He liked horses and used them for all his ranch work until 1945, when he purchased his first tractor. When working for Custer County as road supervisor, he did all his road work with horses. When the county mechanized their equipment he was given the opportunity to continue, but decided to devote his full time to ranching. When he worked with horses on the dirt roads for the county he had several close calls with runaways. He always kept his horses in top condition so some of them were quite frisky. He served on the Paragon School Board as a trustee for 20-25 years. He was judge at the local voting precinct for a long time. Around 1930 he purchased a ranch in partnership with his nephew, Clarence Johnson, which they ran together for a number of years, raising sugar beets and cattle. They divided up the ranch in the mid 1930's. He started running cattle and raising hay on his part, which he continued to do until he retired in 1961. He then leased the ranch out until he sold it in 1971 to Chet Larson of Rosebud Creek.
Olof married Josephine Thon March 4, 1917. She was born August 6, 1891 at Cottonwood, Minnesota, the daughter of John Swen Thon, born in Norway December 25, 1856 and Ella (O'Toole) Thon born in the state of New Jersey September 16, 1867. Josephine attended grade school in Hillview, in Ottertail County, Minnesota. She worked a number of years on cook cars during grain harvest in North Dakota, at the time steam engines were used to run thrashing machines. She came to Montana around 1916 with her sister, Winnie Thon, to visit her sister, Annie (Thon) McCauley, at Paragon, while her brother-in-law, Frank McCauley, was a section boss for the Milwaukee Railroad. She worked as a housekeeper in Miles City for a time for the county surveyor. After she and Olof were married they lived on a desert claim several miles north of the Nelson Ranch near the head of Stagger Creek. This claim had a spring on it so they used to call it the Springdale Ranch. From there they moved to the part of the Nelson Ranch that Olof had inherited. During the years they lived on the desert claim they told of hearing the wolves howl in the winter time at night. This was about the end of the wolves in that part of the country. Olof and Josephine "Josie" had two children, Eugene Nelson, stillborn around 1918 and Maurice Russell Nelson, born January 4, 1923, whose story is given separately. They left the ranch to live in Miles City in 1970. Olof passed away at the age of 80, July 28, 1972. Thereafter Josephine lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, about a year, returning to Miles City in mid 1973 to live out her life. Josephine passed away March 12, 1976. Both are buried in Custer County Cemetery at Miles City, Montana.
By Maurice R. Nelson
From Custer County Area History As We Recall