Santa Cruz Good Times

Monday
Sep 01st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Seven Things to Know About London Nelson

blog louden1No, that’s not a typo in the headline. The local historical figure and namesake for Louden Nelson Community Center was actually named London—not Louden—Nelson. Which brings us to the first of seven fascinating facts about the man, who was born 213 years ago this Sunday, May 5.

1. His name was London, but, starting in the 1930s, it appeared as Louden. In an April 2007 missive, local historian Phil Reader wrote, "One of the more perplexing and frustrating aspects of the London Nelson story is the constant misspelling of his given, or Christian name. Perplexing in that it is difficult to determine the origin of this mistake and frustrating because of the countless number of well-meaning people who continue to perpetuate and compound the original error." In his investigation into the matter, Reader found that all primary sources up until the 1930s correctly listed Nelson’s first name as London. But after that, it mysteriously shifted to Louden. The source may be the engraver of (or the person who gave the engraver the text for) a marble headstone, which read "Louden," that replaced the original wooden monument to Nelson. Reader concludes his memo with the following plea: "It is my hope that someday, someone will bring this mistake to the attention of those who can take the necessary steps to change all of the monuments and plaques so at last the true name of LONDON NELSON can take its rightful place of honor in our community."

2. He was born May 5, 1800 as a slave on a cotton plantation in North Carolina that was owned by the Nelson family. He worked in the fields starting at a young age. 

3. The Gold Rush led to his freedom. He eventually became the property of one of the Nelson family’s sons, Matthew Nelson, who took him to Tennessee and then, in 1850, on a journey west lured by the promise of gold. The two slaves he brought were given the opportunity to buy their freedom once they completed the journey. Matthew Nelson eventually headed back to Tennessee, and London, now a free man suffering from what is now known as tuberculosis, decided to stay in California.

4. By 1856, he was living in Santa Cruz, where he was one of only two black residents.blog london2

5. He grew melons, onions and potatoes on a rented piece of land and also worked as a cobbler to supplement his income, eventually making enough money to buy his own parcel of land. According to the Museum of Art & History (MAH), London could see the Mission Hill School from his small home. Around this time, the school closed due to lack of funds.

6. Upon becoming deathly ill in early 1860, London established a will that gave over his entire estate—$372—to the Santa Cruz School District. Although he never received an education, he wanted to be sure future children could. According to a document written by Reader in the MAH archives, the will established that the donation was "for the use and benefit of said School District forever, for the purpose of promoting the interest of education ... " This generous donation would forever put him down as a local hero in Santa Cruz history.

7. He died on May 17, 1860 and was buried at Evergreen Cemetery, where interested residents can still visit the headstone dedicated to him. The MAH oversees the historical cemetery, and offers tours from May to October (call 429-1964 ext. 7020 for scheduling info), as well as a map for self-guided tours.

Source: MAH archives. Photos, courtesy of the MAH, are of a gravestone rubbing on display in the MAH's History Gallery, and artist Jack Sprow's rendering of what London Nelson may have looked like (there are no known photos of him). 

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Mercury Enters Libra

It’s the week of Burning Man, the temporary, intentional, alternative, art-filled community on the playas of Nevada. Mercury, messenger of the Sun, enters Libra this week. Libra is the equalizer, a sign of balance and right human relations. Sometimes with Libra, we can be indecisive and confused while learning how to make balanced and right choices. Sometimes to keep the peace we communicate only what others want to hear. Eventually, we learn how to speak from the heart.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Banter and Spark

Engaging actors, wry script distinguish lightweight rom-com ‘What If’

 

Back to Silicon Beach

With a new wave of startups, the future of Santa Cruz tech looks more promising than ever
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Himalayan Kitchen

Chef Purna Regmi on the secrets of Nepalese cooking

 

What’s the nicest thing you’ve done for someone this week?

Germany  |  Beekeeper

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

A Cab To Be Coveted

I first tasted Villa del Monte’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon at a Fourth of July party, where the hosts had bought a case of it because they love it and didn’t want to run out. It’s one of those wines that will grab you—in the best way—with its full body and rich fruit characteristics.