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N.F. & Anna “Nellie” Carlson – Garfield Cemetery, Garfield, Pawnee County, Kansas

“Last Friday night, during the heavy thunder, the lightning ran down the chimney on the house of Mr. N.F. Carlson, living in the north part of the county, and played some wild freaks. The house is built of sod and the chimney was of sod. The lightning ran down the chimney and tore a large hole in the sod and passed to the head of the bed, on which two children lay asleep. It struck the maple post of the bed and threw slivers all over the house and drove a great many into the wall on the opposite end of the house. It then struck one of the children on the left side of the head, about two inches back of the left ear, ran down the left side of the body and passed off at the foot, leaving a scorched train all the way, and tearing the night-clothes off the children and literally making shred of some of the clothing. It struck another child, in the same bed, on the left shoulder, near the clavicle, ran across the breast and under the right arm, leaving a burned trail about two inches wide the whole distance to within an inch of the spinal column, where it stopped and burned a hole in the flesh about the size of a goose egg. There were five or six others sleeping in the same room and all were shocked, but none hurt except the two named. They were unconscious for about an hour but are now doing well. This was a close call.”1

1 Kinsley Graphic, 13 June 1884 p. 2

At the time of the storm, N.F., his wife, Anna, and four of their nine children were in the house.

Nils Ferdinand Carlson and his wife, Anna “Nellie” Berndtsdotter-Smith were born in Sweden in 1845 and 1854 respectively. At the age of 23, N.F. left a failing farm in Norway and came to seek his fortune in America. That same year, Nellie arrived in America with her two sisters, one brother and widowed mother. Both families made their way to Chicago, Illinois where N.F. and Nellie were married in 1873.

N.F. and fellow Swedes, Adolf Simonson and Fredrik Nystrom, came to Edwards County to build a homestead. Nellie remained in Chicago with two of their children. It took six months for N.F. to build a five-room sod house.

The Simonson, Nystrom and Carlson families remained close in those pioneering days. They helped each other through the trials and tribulations of those days, but also celebrated the good fortune. In 1879, the three men built a school and organized the first Swedish Lutheran Church in Garfield.

The year 1899 was a difficult and challenging year for the Carlson family. Within a two-week period, N.F. passed away at the age of 53 from diabetics. Their second son and third child died from blood poisoning after an operation.

Nellie was left with five children under the age of 12. Together with her oldest sons, aged 23 and 17, they were able to keep the farm running. Nellie passed away in 1928. She is buried with her husband, their nine children and many grandchildren in Garfield Cemetery.

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