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William W. Nelson M.D.


Posted By: Fran Hunt, Volunteer
Date: 10/2/2001 at 13:48:31

From the Portrait and Biographical Album of Jefferson and Van Buren Counties – 1890
William W. Nelson, M.D. has for thirty years been successfully engaged in the practice of
medicine in this community. His home is in Birmingham. He was born on November 30, 1834,
in Wayne County Ohio and is a son of William and Elizabeth Wilson Nelson. His father was
born in Mercer County Pennsylvania December 5, 1790, and was descended from Irish
ancestry. He served in the War of 1812, and in Pennsylvania, he married Miss Elizabeth
Wilson, who was born in Ireland, May 25, 1791, and who, in her childhood accompanied her
parent to this country and located in Pennsylvania. Soon after their marriage they removed in
1817, to Wayne County Ohio, near Rowsburg, where Mr. Nelson engaged in farming until
1836, when he removed to Richland County, (now Ashland) and located on a farm near
Savannah until 1845, when he traded his land in that locality for a tract in Washington
Township, Van Buren County, Iowa to which he then removed. He was a Whig, afterward an
Abolitionist and in turn became a Republican. Both he and his wife were members of the
Associate Presbyterian Church, but afterward joined the United Presbyterian. He died
September 24, 1860, and Mrs. Nelson passed away on October 7, 1858. In their family were
nine children, of whom seven lived to be adults, while three are yet living—Hugh, a farmer of
Van Buren County; Ann, widow of Joseph Dawson of Washington County Iowa, and the
Our subject is the youngest of the family. Having attended the district schools, he was not
content to consider his education then finished but through his own resources acquired the
means by which he was enabled to attend Washington College for two years. His taste lay in
the line of medicine practice and in 1857, he went to Wooster, Ohio, where he read medicine
with Drs. Day & Wilson. During the winter of 1858-59, he attended a course of lectures in the
medical department of the Iowa State University at Keokuk, and the following year completed
a course of study in the Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia Pennsylvania, where he
graduated March 12, 1860, although he had continued a student up to the present time
keeping himself well informed on all matters pertaining to the profession, its discoveries and
the advancement made in the science.
Soon after his graduation, Dr. Nelson was united in marriage on March 20, 1860, with Miss
Almira Matthews, a native of Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, born July 22, 1839. Immediately
after he returned with his bride to Van Buren County, locating in Pierceville, in the summer of
1860, where they began their domestic life. On August 19, 1862, he was commissioned, by
Gov. Kirkwood, as First Assistant Surgeon of the Fifteenth Iowa Infantry, and mustered into
service by Lieut. Charles J. Ball of the Thirteenth Infantry, United States mustering officer,
September 14, 1862, at Keokuk. He joined his regiment at Iuka, Mississippi, but soon
afterward was taken with malarial fever and lay in the general hospital at Corinth Mississippi
some three weeks, suffering severely, and recovering, he then rejoined his regiment at Grand
Junction, Tennessee. In the spring of 1863, he was ordered to take charge of a smallpox
hospital at Lake Province Louisiana, by order of Gen. McPherson. After a month he was
relieved and placed in charge of the Sixth Division Pioneer Corps, commanded by Capt.
Davis, of the Thirty-second Illinois Infantry. Returning to his regiment in August 1863, he had
charge of the sick of the brigade when the regiments went on the march to Monroe Louisiana.
After a short sickness and an absence, on furlough, of twenty days, given by General Grant at
Vicksburg, he rejoined his regiment and had charge of two companies detached for duty at the
arsenal near Vicksburg, and also had charge of a pioneer corps and engineer regiment
commanded by Capt. John Wilson. He remained with the above command until the spring of
1864, when he was placed in charge of non-veterans and recruits of the Iowa Brigade, and
had charge of this detachment until their respective commands joined them near Huntsville
Alabama, when he was placed in charge of the Third Iowa Veteran Infantry, with which he
remained until it was consolidated with the Second Veteran Infantry near Jones’ Plantation
Georgia, on Sherman’s march to the sea. Thereafter, the Doctor rejoined his regiment and
from December 22, 1864, until he was mustered out he was the only medical officer with the
command. He participated in the battles of Corinth, Vicksburg, Atlanta and Bentonsville, and
the Grand Review at Washington D.C., May 24, 1865, and was mustered out with his regiment
at Louisville Kentucky, July 24, 1865. In the fall of the same year, the Doctor located in
Birmingham, where he has since been successfully engaged in the practice of his chosen
profession, with the exception of 1874, when with his family he visited the Pacific coast in the
pursuit of health and returned the following year. He has a good record as a physician and
surgeon as is indicated by a liberal patronage. He hold the office of Secretary of the United
States Pension Examining Board, of his county, is a Republican in politics and the owner of
two hundred and twenty acres of improved land. Unto himself and wife were born seven
children of whom two died in infancy. Those living are as follows: Meldon W., a farmer of Lick
Creek Township, Van Buren County; Nettie X., Minnie A., wife of Allen B. Adams, of Selma;
Audley E. and Mary L., who are students at Parsons College. The family holds a high position
in the social world and the Doctor has won a like enviable rank in the medical fraternity. In
religious sentiments the Doctor and his wife are independent, and anti-sectarian.
Mrs. Nelson’s grandfather, Jacob Matthews, was born in Maryland, in 1775. His ancestors
were of Alsace, France, or of German descent. He married Miss Mary Boyl, who was born in
Ireland, and their family consisted of three children, one son and two daughters. At an early
day they moved to Lawrence County Pennsylvania; and located on a farm near Edenburg. He
served in the war of 1812, and died at the age of eighty-four. His only son, Phillip Matthews,
Mrs. Nelson’s father, married Miss Nancy Book, of the same county. Their family consisted of
ten children, two sons and eight daughters. One son and two daughters died in childhood.
The other son, George B. Mathews, Mrs. Nelson’s remaining brother, served four years in the
One Hundredth Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, and was killed in the battle of the
Wilderness. One sister died at maturity and three still survive.
I am not related, and am only copying this for the information of those who might find this
person in their family.


Van Buren Biographies maintained by Rich Lowe.
WebBBS 4.33 Genealogy Modification Package by WebJourneymen

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