John Nelson, Merchant and US patriot

showthumb.ashxAncestral Records and Portraits vol. 1 New York 1910, records that an ancestor of the Teackle family, Thomas Nelson, or Neylson, of York, Merchant of the Staple, was Lord Mayor of York, 1454 to 1465. His will was proved 22 Mar 1484-85.  One of the Lord Mayor's direct descendants, by Joane his wife, was William Nelson of the city of York, whose son, William Nelson, of Belfast, County York, married Elinor Oglethorpe of that place. Their son, William Nelson, was of Bedale, County York, and his son was Robert Nelson, of Barnard's Inn, London.

The Pedigree of Nelson, as recorded in the College of Arms continues the family history and describes the coat of arms as follows: Arms: Per pale argent and sable a chevron between three fleurs-de-lis countercharged. Crest: a cubit arm quarterly, argent and sable, holding in the hand proper a fleur-de-lis per pale of the first and second)

Robert Nelson, of London Esq., also of Barnard's Inn, was buried at St. Dunstan's-in-the West on 21 Dec 1641. Will dated 14 Dec 1641, proved in 31 Jan following. vescyHe married Hellen, executrix of her husband's will 1641. She was still alive in Sep 1678.   His arms are described as Or, a cross patonce sable.

robert nelsoncu31924092885312 0114His son was Robert Nelson, of Gray's Inn, where he was admitted 11 Mar 1630. Will dated Sep 1678 proved 4 Aug 1698. He married Mary Temple, third daughter of Sir John Temple, of Staunton Bury, Knt., and sister of Sir Thomas Temple, Bart., Governor of Nova Scotia.   

They had three children, John Nelson, the eldest son, went to America, possibly as early as 1670, although others cite 1680 and 1685. He was the executor of the will of his uncle Sir Thomas Temple. He died in 1734 and was buried at Boston. He married Elizabeth, daughter of (William) Taylor or Tailer, of Dorchester near Boston, New England.


392px-john-nelsonThis eldest son John Nelson (1654-1734) was an American patriot, a New England merchant and statesman. Nelson came to Boston from England about 1670, and by his own admission became involved that same year in the trade his uncle, Sir Thomas Temple, was conducting with the French in Acadia and New France. He became Temple’s principal heir after the latter died in 1674. Nelson was so familiar with the French colonies that he was sent to Quebec in 1682 to negotiate a settlement of grievances between New England and New France. Nelson resolved the dispute temporarily and emerged with permission, effective to 1684, to sell fishing and trading permits for the Acadian coast.  Nelson’s name next crops up in 1689, when he played a major role in the overthrow of Governor Sir Edmund Andros and the Dominion of New England. Andros had angered many colonists by vacating land titles, enforcing the Navigation Acts, and promoting the Church of England. A year later he proposed an expedition against Port-Royal, Nova Scotia. When a William Phipps was chosen leader instead of him, Nelson refused to have anything more to do with the venture. Nevertheless, in 1691, after Port-Royal’s capture, he and six other merchants concluded an agreement with the Massachusetts government to provide a garrison there in exchange for a monopoly of the area’s trade for the next five years. Nelson had been on such good terms with the French authorities that he had been able thus far to maintain a warehouse in Port-Royal. While trading in Acadia in 1691, however, a French cruiser captured Nelson and a number of other New Englanders, and Nelson was sent to Quebec.  While at Quebec Nelson was treated with the utmost courtesy, but his vast knowledge of New France apparently precluded his release during King William’s War (War of the League of Augsburg).

bastille 20060809His privileged position came to an end after he bribed two French soldiers to smuggle word to Boston of an impending border raid. Nelson’s actions became known to the French and he was sent to France, where he languished for several years in prison, first in a dungeon of the castle of Angoulême and then in the Bastille.  In 1694 he was released on parole and sent to London to transmit a French proposal for the neutrality of America. When the French plan was peremptorily rejected, Nelson turned propagandist, and advanced several proposals of his own for the union of New York and New England, and for the capture of Canada. He also proposed that the St. George River, and not the Kennebec, be recognized as the boundary between Acadia and New England. nelson bookThe Board of Trade showed some interest in the schemes, but no serious steps were taken to implement them. At the end of the war in 1697 Nelson returned to Boston, resuming his trade with Acadia, which he pursued until at least 1706. He continued to be active in New England and continental affairs for some time, and in 1730 finally sold the claims to Nova Scotia which he had inherited from his uncle, Sir Thomas Temple.   
A book was written about him by Richard Johnson - John Nelson, Merchant Adventurer: a Life Between Empires. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press 1991.

The other children were Temple Nelson, of Gray's Inn, Esq. eldest son, died 1671, without issue. Will proved 15 Nov 1671 by Thomas Fines, Esq., executor.

Margaret Nelson, heir by will to her brother Temple Nelson, anno 1671.

John had at least five children, Paschal Nelson who died in London unmarried. He was buried at St. Martin's in the Fields; will dated 19 Jul 1757; proved 19 Sep 1760.

Mehitabel married 11 Aug 1721 Robert Temple, of Boston, New England, descended from Ireland. They had three sons Robert, John and William.

Margaret, m. (Capt. Thomas) Steele of New England, Elizabeth, m. (Nathaniel) Hubbart of Connecticut; both dead, Rebecca, m. Henry Lloyd, of New York, both deceased.

The eldest son was Temple Nelson, who died July 1739, aged 39 and was buried in the King's Chapel at Boston. He married Mary, daughter of John Wentworth, Lt.-Governor of New Hampshire.

Temple’s four children were John Nelson, Esq. born at Boston, 12 Dec. 1730. Collector of Nevis, (died in Grenada, W.I.)

Temple, who died in infancy, Mary who married Jonathan Warner, of Portsmouth, in the province of New Hampshire. She is dead, he living in 1769. Margaret, married Nathaniel Warner, of Portsmouth, brother of Jonathan: both died there, without issue.

Note:  It is stated in The Heraldic Journal, Vol. 1 p. 94, that John Nelson was in Boston as early as 1685 and that his wife was the daughter of William Tailer, Esq. of that city, and sister of Lt. Governor Tailer, and that her mother was sister of Lt. Governor Stoughton. The insertions in the pedigree in brackets above are from the same source.

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