In the Spring of 1862 church bells rang out over the land, as President Lincoln called for volunteers. In Palermo, Maine, Erastus Foote Nelson was hoeing potatoes. He stuck his hoe in the row he was hoeing and walked to the Branch. When he returned home he told his wife, “Eliza, war has been declared. I have enlisted and am to go to Augusta tomorrow.”
Eliza was left with a farm and four children to care for. Wesley was seven years old, Prince was five, Oville was three, Harriet was two and a new baby on the way. As Eliza recounted to her granddaughter, “I put my wool on my shoulders and carried it to the Branch, had it carded and went to work spinning and knitting. We got along real good. The boys helped real good. When I wrote Erastus that I had a baby boy the day after Christmas, he wrote back on a piece of brown paper, “Name the boy Yeaton Dutton for my two tentmates who have been shot besides me.”
Erastus served with the 19th Maine Infantry from 1862 to 1865. He returned to Palermo and the farm on the hill that is currently the home of Keith Nelson and his sister Jacqueline. The family of Erastus and Eliza grew to include nine children, all of whom were born in Palermo. Erastus Nelson died of pneumonia in 1885. His wife Eliza died in 1921.
The first organized Nelson Family Reunion was held at the home of Erastus son, Frank, on the Western Ridge Rd., in Palermo. This reunion has been held every year since then. Some years it has been held in New Hampshire or Vermont where some of the family settled. This year, the 93rd annual Nelson reunion will be held on Saturday, August 11, at the home of Bob and Marion Foster, in Albion. Marion is the great-great-granddaughter of Erastus and Eliza.