Poway Historical and Memorial Society

Poway History, Poway Pioneer Families, History Museum - Poway Historical and Memorial Society

Preserving the Past for the Future

Nelson House and Exhibits

Dedication and Grand Opening July 2, 1994

Nelson House

Approximately 5,000 people toured the house that 4th of July weekend. Operation of the Nelson house is through the Poway Historical and Memorial Society (PHMS).The following information is provided by the PHMS. We hope this makes your tour through our house more enjoyable. Our docent will answer any other questions you might have regarding this house, the Historical Society, the Museum and the Heritage Park.


June 27, 1883 the patent for this homestead was obtained by Niles Nelson. The home, which is now in the park, is not the home originally constructed in the late 1800s, but a later Nelson residence which dates to the early twentieth century.

Mr. Nelson, who at one time served as trustee on the Poway School Board, died in 1921. In 1925, Helene Nelson, wife of the deceased and administrator of his estate, settled his final accounts. The farm was willed to the three Nelson children subject to a life estate of Helena Nelson.

On October 2, 1930 the children Albert J., Oscar and Ida Nelson Stone, daughter, terminated the life tenancy of Helene Nelson, deceased.

In 1943 the farm was sold to H. W. Frame of Poway Ranch. The Frame family, Harry, Agnes and daughters Linda and Judy lived there from 1943 to 1956. The home served as a rental from 1956 to 1959.

It was then purchased by Leo and Meck Armstrong. They lived there until 1980 and then rented it out until 1987 when it was sold to Sun Cal Development. In 1988 it was sold to Imperial 11, then again in 1988 sold to Robert H. Jackson. In 1990 it was sold to Bodan, Inc.

The City of Poway acquired the homestead, moved it from Garden Road to Old Poway Park, and in the fall of 1991 the City and the PHMS agreed to the restoration of this house.


Niles Nelson, among the oldest settlers of San Diego County was born near Kongsberg, Norway on July 15, 1832. He was the son of Ole and Anneken (Stabeck) Nelson. In 1842 they sold their farm and made the long journey to the New World, bringing their family. The father died while crossing Lake Michigan. Mrs. Nelson had a brother who settled in Illinois in 1839 and the family therefore settled in that area.

When 19, Niles Nelson and his half brother, Thurston Knudson, joined a company starting for the gold fields of California. Outfitted with oxen teams and wagons, they left on April 25, 1852, crossing the Missouri River at Council Bluffs and on up the Platte River. They crossed the summit of the Rockies and followed the Old Oregon Trail. They arrived in Shasta County, California after a trip of six months. There they engaged in placer mining on Clear Creek for about four years, meeting with considerable success. As they made money, they sent it to Illinois and purchased land. In April 1856, they decided to return to the east. They left San Francisco by steamer but encountered the Panama riots of 1856 where Nelson was robbed of gold dust worth $1,500, but was fortunate to escape with his life. Returning to Illinois, he went back to farming.

He returned to California in 1861. He mined at the Orofino mines, next in Josephine County, Oregon where he stayed until 1862. He then made his way to the Caribou mine on Williams Creek, B. C. , staying until fall. Then he went to the Boise Mines in Idaho. In the fall, he then went to Astoria, Oregon where he remained until the spring of 1865.

Niles returned to Illinois and married Miss Helene Joranleid on October 25th, 1865. Her parents were farmers near Christiania, Norway and came to America in 1856. He farmed near Davis, Illinois for the next eight years, but the Pacific Coast had such an attraction for him that he could not be content in Illinois.

In May of 1873, he sold his farm and returned to California. During his mining experiences in the west he had met and formed a friendship with A. E. Horton, the founder of San Diego.

He started a business in San Diego with the prospect that the Pacific Railroad would be built, but when the financial crash came, and the Railroad was not built, his business failed.

He then located on a homestead in Poway and there began improving a farm and building a home in what was then practically a wilderness. He met with success, eventually owning 430 acres of land devoted to raising grain and cattle, table and raisin grapes, as well as an orchard of eight acres.

Niles and Helene were the parents of four children; three sons, Henry Oscar, Albert and Nels (who died in his teens) and a daughter, Ida Clarisse. The sons were both farmers in Poway until their deaths. Ida married William L. Stone who was the Poway blacksmith for many years.

Excerpted from As I Remember Poway by Mary van Dam