Biography of Nicholas J. Nilsen
Humboldt County, CA Biographies





NICHOLAS J. NILSEN. - Prominent among the dairymen of Humboldt county, and especially of the vicinity of Eureka, may be mentioned Nicholas J. Nilsen, who is owner and manager of the Bucksport dairy, one of the most thoroughly modern and best equipped dairies in the community. Here the latest sanitary methods are employed, and here an especially high standard of excellence in every department and detail is maintained. Mr. Nilsen has been a resident of Humboldt county since 1885 and has been variously employed during the intervening years and the time that he first engaged in the dairy business. He is a brother of O. Nilsen, proprietor of the grocery firm of O. Nilsen & Co., of Eureka, and both of the brothers are regarded as citizens of the highest type and are highly esteemed wherever they are known. N. J. Nilsen is a native of Norway, and was born at Mandal June 30, 1855. His father, Nils Christian Nilsen, a tailor by trade, died when this son was but twelve years of age. His mother, Johanna Christine Nilsen, bore her husband seven children, of whom all but the two sons now residing at Eureka died when still very young. After the death of the father the burden of support fell largely on the shoulders of the twelve year old Nicholas, and he was obliged to work very hard during his entire boyhood. In fact he had commenced working when he was but seven years of age, being employed in the match factory at Mandal. He attended the public schools and was confirmed in the Lutheran Church at the age of fourteen. The following year he went to sea as a ship's cook on a sailing schooner, but did not like the work and later secured employment in a sawmill, where he remained for two years. He then again went to sea, being engaged in the lumbering business, carrying lumber from his native land to Denmark on sailing sloops. His next berth was on a three mast barkentine, which sailed between England, Ireland and American ports, and in this connection he paid his first visit to America, landing at Baltimore, Md., when he was seventeen years of age. Returning to England, he was wrecked off the west coast of Ireland, and his escape from death was almost miraculous. He afterwards sailed to Australia, England, France, Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Portugal, the Mediterranean Sea ports, South America and North America, continuing to follow the fortunes of the sailor until 1883. In the meantime, in 1880, he had married at Mandal Miss Magen Gunderson, whose father was a sailor and ship carpenter, at which trade Mr. Nilsen had worked for two years.

It was in 1885 that Mr. Nilsen came to California and located in Humboldt county. His brother, O. Nilsen, whose sketch also appears in this edition, had come west the previous year, and his reports of the opportunities offered in the new country were such as to make the elder brother anxious to make the change and settle here. Leaving his wife in Norway (where she remained for five years before joining him in California), he arrived in Eureka in May, 1885, and very soon he found work as a carpenter. He helped to build the Minor mill at Glendale, and also helped to get out the necessary timbers, but overwork broke down his health, so that for a year he was unable to do anything. Upon recovering he and his brother and brother in law (Hans Gunderson, who had come to California with him) cleared and grubbed land under contract, meeting with an appreciable succes. In 1890 his wife joined him, and they settled in Eureka. Mr. and Mrs. Nilsen were the parents of one child, a daughter, Johanna, born in the mother country. She came with her mother to California, where she died at the age of thirteen years. Mr. Nilsen had been engaged in the pursuit of his trade as a carpenter, but after the death of his daughter he engaged in dairying on Mad river. Later he moved to Bayside and again rented a dairy farm, meeting with much success in this new undertaking. From there he came to Bucksport, in the fall of 1902, and rented Henry Deering's dairy ranch of one hundred seventy acres. In 1912 he bought his present place on the historic site of old Fort Humboldt, where he owns seven lots, and where he has built a handsome bungalow of seven rooms, with all modern improvements and conveniences. On this location General Grant was in command during the winter of 1853-54. Mr. Nilsen has also built a large dairy barn which is the most modern in scientific and sanitary construction, and which has accommodations for forty mulch cows. His ultimate intention is to install the latest scientific milker and other modern improvements for dairying. This site is especially desirable for a home place, as it is within reach of Eureka by electric car service, and is on a high plateau overlooking Humboldt bay, with a magnificent sweep of scenery.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Nilsen have many friends in the county and especially in Eureka and vicinity. They are members of the Norwegian and Danish Methodist Episcopal Church, where they take an active part in the denominational activities. Mr. Nilsen is well liked wherever he is known and his business integrity is acknowledged to be above question. During the early years of his life, and even for a few years after he came to California, he was beset with many difficulties and met with discouraging reverses and misfortunes; but within later years he has been prosperous and successful, and today is one of the influential and progressive men of the vicinity where he lives.

From:
History of Humboldt County, California
With a Biographical Sketches
History by Leigh H. Irving
Historic Record Company
Los Angeles, California 1915


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