Nelson Bros.

As long as I've lived in Midland I've wanted to own a Nelson Bros. engine. After all they were made just down the road, as a matter of fact just a few miles from where I work. They seem to be one of the engines that you always see at a show, yet no one really seems to know much about them, nor do they ever seem to be "really fixed up". My oppertunity to own a "Little Jumbo" came about in the Spring of 2002 at a auction where I became the proud owner of a pallet of parts for the sum of $60. One of my engine club freinds later that day raised an eyebrow to me and asked what kind of firearm I had taken with me to the auction. The engine was complete down to every nut, bolt, screw, and spring except for the magneto. As a matter of fact on the bottom of the pallet was a coffee can, with brand new hand made Nuts, Bolts, Valves and Studs all in Stainless Steel. No, not original, but I used them anyway. A Internet searched turned up very little information on the Company. No serial number lists. There are a few tid bits about the Jumbo Truck line that was built by the company for a breif time. I got on the phone with the Saginaw Historical Society, thinking they must know something and they pointed me to the Hoyt Branch of the Saginaw Public Library. One day after work I ventured there with a couple of bucks worth of dimes for copies and here's what I came up with. To give credit where credit is due, I've never had a more pleasent library experiance in my life! The entire staff at the Library were freindly, helpfull, and litteraly hunted me down in the library to let me know that they had found a bit of info that I had missed!

These are some photos I snapped as I'm waiting for a part I ordered so I can put a final coat of paint onto this engine. Notice the gas tank base.

Ok, here's what I found out about the Company.

The brothers themselfs:

Harry B. Nelson (5/9/1882-10/24/-1935) president, general manager, and purchasing agent.

Clarence A. Nelson (4/3/1880-12/10/1918) superintendent.

Clinton J. Nelson (10/11/1883 - 12/1949) sales manager.

Here is a photo of the site of the factory as it appears today.

I'm standing on Owen Street looking toward what was once Morse. Morse was renamed in 1960 to Garey. The rail tracks in the picture were actually inside of the Plant. The property is now owned and posted by General Motors.

This text is from a book, "The History of Michigan" by Charles Moore Published in 1915. This is from Vol 4. pgs 1919-1920.

Nelson Brothers Company. This is now one of the large and industrial concerns of Saginaw, and the output of gasoline engines, pump machinery, and feed grinders is known to the trade not only in this country, but in various foreign markets, and the reputation of their machinery has been held up to the strictest standards, and has stood the most regid tests of efficiency, whereever used. The Nelson Brothers co-partnership has been a very prosperous enterprise, such as few concerns in the state of Michigan can equal. A few years ago they started in a very small way, and at the present time the annual volume of business will run between a quarter and a third of a million dollars a year. The three partners are Clarence A., Harry B. and Clinton J. Nelson.

These are all sons of Clinton and Harriet (Boughton) Nelson. Both parents were born in Clinton county, Michigan, and the father, who was born in 1852, has prospered and become one of the formost land owners and citizens of Gratiot county, where he owns extenxive tracts of land, and is highly regarded as a citizen and business man. When he was twenty-five years of age he started on his own account as a farmer, moving to Gratiot county, and as he gradually got ahead in this world, all his profits were reinvested in land, and a number of years ago, he ranked as one of the largest landed proprietors in that county. During recent years, all his time has been devoted to the management of his real estate interests. His home is in Alma in Gratiot county.

His wife died several years ago. There were thriteen children and two of these are deceased, the living being mentioned as follows: Burton E., who lives at Alma, and is a farmer of Gratiot county; Clarence A., Harry B., and Clinton J., all members of the firm of Nelson Brothers at Saginaw; Lulu B., wife of William Fowler, of Sumner, Michigan; Ora D., wife of William Bacon, of St. Johns, Michigan; Floyd , a farmer near Alma; Lyle S, a farmer at Alma; Ivan J., a student in the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor; Fern A. and Nellie M., who live at home with their father.

Harry B. Nelson was the first of the sons to turn from farming into manufacturing, and that was in the fall of 1908. He bought an old established machine shop at Alma, long conducted under the name of J. M. Monhigal & Company. A year later he was joined by his brother, Clarence, and during that second year they started the nanufacture of pumping machinery. It was a very small output at first, and after proving themselves successful in one line they added the manufacture of gasoline engines. They soon became convinced that Saginaw was a most eligible place for their business, not only for it's superior railroad facilities, but for the general industrial situation. In 1911. the two brothers were joined by their brother, Clinton, and in December of the same year, they bought several acres of land at Morse and Owen Streets, upon which they built a modern brick plant, up to date in every respect from a sanitary and factory standpoint, installed the latest inproved machinery, and there they business has been steadily prospering from its inauguration. Five mechanics were first employed in their factory, only three or four years ago, and at the present time their force numbers more then one hundred workmen, the greater number of whom are skilled laborers. Besides the manufacture of gasoline engines, and pumping machinery, they put out a general line of feed grinding machines. At the present time a greater part of their product has been successfully placed on the foreign market, and varous parts of the world. Four traveling representitives cover the general trade, and one for the jobbing trade. The states of Ohio and Michigan are exceptionally well covered by the Nelson machines. A few thousand dollars would have covered the aggregate of business during the first year, and in 1913, their gross sales amounted to between two hundred and fifty thousand dollars and three hundred thousand dollars.

Clarence Nelson, the oldest of the three partners, was born april 23, 1880, awas educated in the grammar and high schools, and also in a commercial college, and by his marrage to Miss Olive Church, a native of Gratiot county and a daughter of Frank Church, there are six childern, as follows: Thelma, Irene, Ronald, Earl, and Helen and Hazel, twins. Harry B. Nelson, the second in age, was born May 9, 1882, received educational advantages similar to those of his brother, and in 1902 married Miss Cora Rowley, of Gratiot county, a daughter of Frank Rowley. The have one daughter, Ruth Nelson.

Clinton J. Nelson, the youngest of the firm, was born October 11, 1883, and is a lawyer by training, having graduated B.A. from the University of Michigan in the class of 1909, and having taken his degree in the law department in 1911. Clinton Nelson married Miss Harriet Baily, who was born in Livingsont county, Michigan, a dughter of James "Baily. To this marriage has been born on daughter, Myra.

The brothers are all Progressive Republicans in politics and likewise most progressive business men, their enterprise in this industrial field characterizing their relations with the general community.

From the Saginaw Daily News of Sept., 13, 1911


Contract Awarded For a $25,000 Building byt the Nelson Bros. Company

W.A. Qualmann Secures the Contract for the New Structure Which is to Be Completed Within Ninety Days.

Work was started Wednesday upon the new factory to be erected by the Nelson Bros. company, of Alma, at the corner of Owen street and Morse avenue, this city. The new building is to cost $25,000 and the contract has been awarded to Walter A. Qual;mann. the building to be completed within 90 days.

This is one of the new factories brought to the city by the M. & M. association with the co-operation of the board of trade and it will engage extensively in the manufacture of gas engines and pump jacks, employing a number of skilled workmen. The site of the new factory is in the district for which permission was asked from the coucil Monday night to lay a sidetrack across Owen, Howard and Brown street. and connecting with the Grand Trunk main line. Service will be given the new factory by this sidetrack, which is also intended to serve other factories to be located in the sme part of the city.

From the Saginaw Daily News of October, 11 1912
Machine Shop and Foundry Company Will Increase Plant.

The Nelson Borther Company whose large machine shops and foundries were removed to Saginaw last winter from Alma is showing remarkable progress. The large new factories constructed a year ago on the Morse avenue site between Howard and Owen streets have already proven inadequate for the firm's rapidly growing business. The firm has today purchased from the Merchants & Manufactures association seven additional lots adjoining the present factory site. Plans are now in preperation for the construction of a large factory addition and warehouse which, it is expected , will be conpleted in time for the rush of business expected in the spring of 1913. The plans for the new building provide for a receivng and loading track under cover. The entire factory establishment will be strictly modern and uup-to-date. No expense will be spared in the way of labor saving devices, fire protection, sanitation, etc.

Company's Progress.

When first establised in Saginaw the business of Nelson Brothers Company was confined to the manufactore of pump jacks and farmers' small gasoline engines. The firm has since added to its line gasoline engines of greater power and is also manufacturing a complete line of feed grinders. Their line of pump jacks has also been enlarged. In addition to its extensve manufacturing the firm is also building up a fast increasing jobbing business in kindered lines.

From the Saginaw Daily News of March 14, 1914



J. P. Beck has receintly sold one of the latest model Republic trucks to Nelson Brothers and the truck is now on display in Beck's salesrooms, where it is receiving much attention and favorable comment.

The Republic is of 2,000 pounds capacity and is made by the Alma Motor Truck Company. The makers of this truck have accepted a convertoinal design and only standard parts of established reputation are used. From radiator to tail-gate, and top to bottom, every part of a Rebulic truck is built to take care of 50 per cent more strain than it ever will have to bear. As a result practically no replacement of parts are ever pequired in this truck, This superiority in manufacture aslo brings on decreased cost of moving merchandise and makes this truck a saving in handling business

The Republic truck is of 116 or 124 inch wheel base, 3,500 pounds, 56 inch track, Continental motor, Schebler carburetor, Eiseman ignito, left hand steer with center control, and contains every improved device used in truck construction.

From The Saginaw Daily News of Jan. 18, 1918

Two and One-half Tone Model is Produced by the Local Company.

New Plant Will be Constructed as Soon as Conditions Change.

The microfilm of this artical is so badly damaged that the fine print is not readable. The jest of the artical is that the company is making a few trucks, but they are unable to meet demand. The "New Plant to be built when Conditions Change" seems to be in referance to the high cost of building materials due to the war. It seems 3 prototypes were built in 1917 and the "target cost of the truck is $2,100". A ad on the same page says "We sell War Savings Stamps, Buy Yours Today."

From the Saginaw Daily News of 12/11/1918


Clarence A. Nelson, vice president of the Nelson Bros. Co. and and officer of the Nelson Motor Truck Co., died about 7 o'clock Tuesday evening of acuite indigestion at his home, 1008 Owen street. He was ill only about seven hours.

Mr. Melson was one of the three Nelson brothers who came here in 1911 and established a little factory at Owen and Morse streets for the manufacturing of gas engines and pump jacks. The business grew by leaps and bounds and bigt additons to the plant were required almost every year until the concern became one of the city's leading industries. Less than a year ago the Melson brothers formed a company for the manufacture of motor trucks and the business conducted under the name of the Nelson Motor Truck Co., has given great promise for the future.

Clarence A. Melson was born April 3, 1880, on a farm near Elwell, Gratiot County. He was married September 20, 1903, to Miss Olive Church of Alma. He leaves his father, Clinton Nelson of Elwell, His widow, seven children, Thelma, Irene, Ronald, Earl, Hazel Helen, and Louise and six borthers and four sisters, Harry B., Clinton J., and Ivan J. Nelson and Mrs. Bruce Wood of Saginaw, Floyd Al, Lyle S., Burt E., and Miss Fern Nelson of Elwell,, Mrs. William Fowler of Sumner Mich., and Mrs. Ora Bacon of Detroit.

This is the house at 1008 Owen as it looks today in 2003. The house is about 6 blocks or so from where the plant was.

From the Saginaw News of 6/17/1934

Nelson Brothers Factory Started On $1,000 Capital

A motor plant, less spetacular than the General Motors units in Saginaw but more complete in it's line, is Nelson Brothers company

Nelson Brothers started business in 1911 with a capital of $1,000, and from this beginning the compnay has gradually grown until it's assets now are valued at approximately $1,000,000.

The first products were a line of pumping jacks. As markets developed other produts were added until now the firm manufactures internal combustion air and water cooled engines, feed grinders, sawing machinery, concrete mixers, hand jumps, centrifugal pumping units and hand and power operated diaphragm pumps.

Makes Many Castings.

The company produces a considerable tonnage of gray iron castings for other manufactures, in the automotive, electrical and refrigerating feilds.

The first plant was in Alma, but a year after the start of the company it was moved to Saginaw and established on the present site, Morse and Owen streets. It has had a force of 600 employes, and at present the payroll is increasing and now has 250 men on it.

H.B. Nelson is the president of the concern, and other officers are: Vice president, I.J. Nelson; secretary-treasurer, C.J. Nelson; assistant secretary-treasurer, J.E. Calkins.

From the Saginaw News of 6/26/1937


Moved Here in 1911; Refrigeration Castings One of Lines Now.

Products Shipped Far

Organized in 1909 at Alma, Nelson Brothers company moved to Saginaw in 1911 and it's plant is numbered among the oldest in this city. Originally the company manufactured pump jacks and gasoline pump parts and castings, the latter line being continued in addition to the later and more recent addition of refrigeration castings and parts.

The company moved to its present Saginaw location as a tri-partnership composed of C.J. Nelson, now president of the company, and his two brothers, the late H.P. and C.A. Nelson. The company was incorpoerated in 1917 as Nelson brothers.

Nelson's is strictly a Saginaw industry, with no outside affiliations General business in sastings is carried on, in addition to specialized manufacture of refrigeration castings and those for the automotive industry. Gasoline pump parts, one of the original company lines, are still a large part of the company's output.

Employing about 275 men, the firm sends its products to all parts of the United Staates for use in various fields of completed products. Present officers are: President, general manager and secretary, C.J. Nelson; assistant general manager, W.S Costigan; assistant secretary, E.B. Galbraith; vice-president and treasurer, J.E. Calkins.

From the Saginaw News of 6/21/1940

Nelson Bros. Sale Brings $137,587
Machinery Brings High Price At Auction.

Sale of Nelson Brothers company assets at public auction brought $137,587, according to a report filed Friday in Saginaw circuit court by Deward B. Galbraith, receiver.

Dallas E. Winslow of Grand Blanc brought the empty plant, the concern's real estate and inventroy. Machinery went to buyers from various parts of the country. A good market at this time for tools resulted in some of the 15to20-year-old equipment bringing a higher price than it cost, according to Ferdanano D. Heilman, attorney for the receiver.

Winslow paid $17,300 for the plant and property surrounding it and $19,500 for the inventory. The machinery, small tools, and office equipment sold for $83,487.05.

"The Un-Offical Nelson Bros. Registry"

All the e'mail that has been genterated by this page, has led me to put together "The Un-Official Nelson Bros. Registry". A place that as I collect photos and data on engines I can build a public database of info on Nelson Bros. produced engines. Feel free to e'mail me photos, specs., and data on your engine to add to this database. Also I can scan photos and return them for those who do not have a digital cam or a scanner.

The Registry

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