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John Nelson

Also Known As: "Jan Nelse"
Birthdate: (80)
Birthplace: near, London, Middlesex, England
Death: November 15, 1734 (80)
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts
Place of Burial: Mamaroneck, Westchester County, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Robert Nelson, Jr and Mary Nelson
Husband of Elizabeth Nelson
Father of Rebecca Lloyd; Paschal Nelson; Temple Nelson; Elizabeth Hubbard and Margaret Steele

Occupation: Fur Trader, Governor of Massachusetts
Managed by: Arik Vladimir Russell
Last Updated:

About John Nelson

John Nelson (1654 to 1734) was an English colonial merchant, trader, and statesman, active in New England.


John Nelson was born near London, England in 1654 to Robert and Mary Nelson. He was a nephew of Sir Thomas Temple,[2] a British proprietor and governor of Nova Scotia, and inherited much of Temple's estate, including his territorial claims to Nova Scotia (which had been restored to France as Acadia in the Treaty of Breda).

He came to Boston in 1680 and married Elizabeth Tailer, who was 12 years his junior; they had six children. Rebecca, who married Henry Lloyd, Elizabeth, who married Nathaniel Hubbard, Mehetable, who married Captain Robert Temple, Margaret who married Captain Thomas Steele, Temple, and Pachal.

Nelson and his wife were active in the activities of King's Chapel from 1700 to 1719.


Land deals

During 1690, John Nelson bought all of the property from the tenants on Long Island with the exception of four and one-half acres owned by Thomas Stanberg, a shopkeeper from Boston. Stanberg was one of the original tenants on Long Island. Nelson was well connected politically being a close relative of Sir Thomas Temple, and the husband of Elizabeth Tailer, the niece of Lieutenant Governor William Stoughton and sister to Lieutenant Governor William Tailer. On June 4, Nelson mortgaged his Long Island property to William and Benjamin Browne from Salem, Massachusetts for 1,200 pounds. Henry Mare managed the Browne's house and land on Long Island.

Capture by the French

In 1692, John Nelson was captured by the French while on a trading or privateering voyage to Acadia, and was imprisoned in Quebec. It was common for local privateers to receive commissions in Boston but were considered pirates by the other nations of the world, especially the French and Spanish, who were the superpowers at the time.

While in prison, Nelson learned about secret French plans for attacks against the Massachusetts colonies. Nelson discreetly informed the Massachusetts authorities of this information from his prison cell. For this act, Nelson was punished by being transported across the Atlantic Ocean to the Bastille prison in France. In 1702, after ten years of imprisonment, his relative, Sir Purbeck Temple, obtained his release. Nelson immediately returned home to Nelson's Island (Long Island) as a local hero.

^ "The Islands of Boston Harbor", in "Some Events of Boston and Its Neighbors", Chapter 4, printed for the State Street Trust Company, Boston, Massachusetts, 1917.

"The island [Long Island] is chiefly noted as the residence of John Nelson, who is looked upon as a hero by the American people. He was captured by the French in a voyage to the eastward and imprisoned in Quebec. While there he informed Massachusetts that the French were forming plans against the New England Colonies, and for this he was sent to the Bastille. He was finally released, and on his return to Long Island the Nelson family gave him a great feast of welcome, and part of the table-cloth is believed still to be preserved by his descendants".

Nelson married his wife, Elizabeth Trainer, circa 1886 and had six children. Rebecca, who married Henry Lloyd, Elizabeth, who married Nathaniel Hubbard, Mehetable, who married Captain Robert Temple, Margaret who married Captain Thomas Steele, Temple, and Pachal.

  1. Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
  2. The Founders: Portraits of Persons Born Abroad Who Came to the ..., Volume 3. By Charles Knowles Bolton. Page 797
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John Nelson's Timeline

London, Middlesex, England
November 15, 1688
Age 34
Boston, Suffolk, MA, USA
Age 46
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts
Age 46
November 15, 1734
Age 80
Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts
Mamaroneck, Westchester County, New York, United States