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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). 

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Heart Me Up

In defense of Valentine’s Day

 

“be(ing) of love (a little) more careful”—e.e. cummings

Wednesday (Feb. 10) is Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins. Friday (Feb. 12) is Lincoln’s 207th birthday. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. On Ash Wednesday, with foreheads marked with a cross of ashes, we hear the words, “From dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return.” Reminding us that our bodies, made of matter, will remain here on Earth when we are called back. It is our Soul that will take us home again. Lent offers us 40 days and nights of purification in preparation for the Resurrection (Easter) festival (an initiation) and for the Three Spring Festivals (at the time of the full moon)—Aries, Taurus, Gemini. The New Group of World Servers have been preparing since Winter Solstice. The number 40 is significant. The Christ (Pisces World Teacher) was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights prior to His three-year ministry. The purpose of this desert exile was to prepare his Archangel (light) body to withstand the pressures of the Earth plane (form and matter). We, too, in our intentional purifications and prayers during the 40 days of Lent, prepare ourselves (physical body, emotions, lower mind) to receive and be able to withstand the irradiation of will, love/wisdom and light streaming into the Earth at spring equinox, Easter, and the Three Spiritual Festivals. What is Lent? The Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, comes from an ancient spring festival, agricultural rites marking the transition between winter and summer. The seasons reflect changes in nature (physical world) and humanity responds with social festivals of gratitude and of renewal. There is a purification process, prayerfulness in nature and in humanity in preparation for a great flow of spiritual energies during springtime. Valentine’s Day: Aquarius Sun, Taurus moon. Let us offer gifts of comfort, ease, harmony, beauty and satisfaction. Things chocolate and golden. Venus and Taurus things.

 

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