Biography of Oscar Nilsen
Humboldt County, CA Biographies





OSCAR NILSEN. - Among the most desirable citizens that come to America from foreign shores there is no question but that the Scandinavians rank well at the head of the line, their industry, honesty, sobriety, and general high class of natural ability leaving little to be desired. Such an one is Oscar Nilsen, of Eureka, at present one of the most prominent general grocers that the city supports, and a man of sterling qualities of mind and heart. He came to America many years ago and has acquired his splendid business through his own efforts, ably assisted by his wife, and later by his children, all of whom are highly esteemed wherever they are known.

Mr. Nilsen is a native of Mandal, Norway, where he was born August 17, 1857. His father, Nils Christian Nilsen, was a tailor by trade, but he died August 12, 1866, when Oscar was but nine years of age. His mother, Johanna Christine (Jensen) Nilsen, thus left a widow with two small children (there being another son, Nicolai Johan Gustav, two years older than Oscar, who is now a dairyman at Eureka) was beset with difficulties to provide for the needs of her little family, and Oscar started to work in a match factory when he was but nine years of age. He was educated and confirmed in the Lutheran church, and when he was fifteen years of age he went to sea as a sailor, following this line of occupation until he was twenty two years of age. He sailed on various Norwegian ships for several years, and later engaged in sailing in the coasting trade on the eastern coast of North America. During that time he visited practically all the principal ports of England, Holland, Germany, Belgium, Scotland, the North Sea, the Atlantic coast of Canada and the United States and the Gulf of Mexico. Finally chance sent him to Hull, England, and while there he married Miss Theodora R. Gabrielsen, a native of Mandal, Norway, and together they returned to their native city. While in England Mr. Nilsen had been in correspondence with an old schoolmate, James Osmundsen, who was engaged in bridge building in Humboldt county, Cal., and he became desirous of coming to California to make his home. Accordingly he left his wife in Norway and made the journey alone, coming by way of Philadelphia, and from there crossing the continent to San Francisco. From there he came to Eureka, arriving July 16, 1884. Three years later Mrs. Nilsen joined her husband and since that time they have made their home in Eureka.

Mr. Nilsen first found employment in the lumber camps and saw mills, working for a time at Korbel, and later in the shingle mills at Eureka. When the mills finally closed he took contracts to clear land, meeting with much success in this undertaking, in which for a time he was in partnership with his brother, they employing often as many as six men. After his wife came and they were located in Eureka, Oscar Nilsen was employed for two years as a longshoreman. Later he was employed as deliveryman for J. H. Trost, in the grocery business, and there learned much of the detail of that business. For five years he worked in a feed and seed house, and later for a feed, seed and farm implement house for another period of five years. Sixteen years ago he engaged in business for himself in partnership with A. R. Abrahamsen, under the firm name of O. Nilsen & Company, and as such has continued to do business continuously since. The firm makes a specialty of staple and fancy groceries, hay, grain and seeds, enjoying a large and splendid patronage. They soon purchased the corner of Fifth and A streets and eight years ago they erected a two story structure which is occupied entirely by their business. Even this has proved inadequate and in addition to it they now rent space on A street for their feed and hay business. They also deal extensively in seeds, carrying a large and assorted stock of garden, grass and farm seeds, without doubt the largest and most complete line of seeds carried by any dealer in Humboldt county. They conduct both a retail and wholesale trade and are modern, up to date and progressive in all their business methods and pride themselves in carrying only the highest grade of stock.

The home life of Mr. and Mrs. Nilsen has been especially happy. They are the parents of ten children, and lost one child in infancy. These children are all grown and are a credit to the community, being, like their parents, intelligent above the average, industrious and progressive men and women, and well and favorably known in Eureka. They take an active part in the affairs of the community, being interested in social, religious and fraternal affairs, and all are engaged in business pursuits. In this they are closely associated with their father, who is a prominent member of the Norwegian Nordmanna Literary Society. Of the children we mention the following: Sigurd H., who is the buyer for the grocery department of O. Nilsen & Company, married Miss Della Miner of Ferndale, and they have two children, Margaret and Baby; Margaret N. is the wife of Ben Anderson, of Eureka, and the mother of two children, Benhard and Clarence; Carl O. is an employe of his father's establishment; Nellie is the wife of Harold W. Hansen of Eureka, who owns and operates a machine shop on D street; Thomas, Joseph, Minnie (Mrs. Marcussen), Selma, Richard and Oscar, complete the family.

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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