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Who was Jessie Elwin Nelson?

(1)  "History of Long Beach and Vicinity  Volume II"   Published 1927

     Mrs. Jessie Elwin (Le Master) Nelson, whi is affectionately known among her fellow citizens as                " The Mother of Signal Hill," holds an enviable place among those whose energies and activities have been devoted to the development and welfare of that locality, and no resident of Signal Hill commands to a greater degree the confidence and esteem of it's citizens.

     Mrs Nelson was born in 1871 and reared in Clarksville, Tennessee, whence on April 15th, 1903, she came to Long Beach with her husband, the late Z.T. Nelson, a native of Illinois.  After coming to this City, Mr Nelson became extensively interested in the real estate business; erected the Z.T Nelson Business block on Fie=rst street and took an active interest in everything relating to the development of the city.  During the World War he rendered valued service as a member of the Selective Service System, being duly appointed to local No. 1 for the county of Los Angeles.  Soon after coming to Long Beach Mr. and Mrs Nelson bought seventeen and a half acres of land at Signal Hill, to which they later added two other tracts, of five acres and four acres respectively.  These properties they subdivided and sold.  Mrs Nelson took an active interest in the affairs of Signal Hill from the beginning.  She did much newspaper corresponding, contributing a column of Signal Hill as well as Los Cerritos local news to the Long Beqch Telegram.  She furnished the oil news concerning Signal Hill during the period of it's development, and her writings were extremely interesting, being marked by a distinctive literary style.

     When the movement was started to annex Signal Hill to Long Beach, Mrs Nelson became active in her opposition to the movement for the reason that many people who had become residents of Signal Hill had been obliged to abandon their homes because of the oil industry, and reseiving no remuneration therefrom, could ill afford to pay a higher tax rate than that already imposed upon them.  It was largely through her indluenc4 that the movement was defeated.  She then started the movement for incorporation of Signal Hill into a city of the sixth class.  In this she was also successful and the city was incorporated April 7, 1924.  She was elected a member of the Board of city trustees and having received the highest number of votes, was made chairman of the board, which automatically made her mayor.  Hers is the distinction of having been the first woman mayor in California.  She served vary ably and considered the interests of her constituents, without fear of favor or selfish ends.

     Later, because of ill health, Mrs nelson resigned that position.  She has been active is all civic affairs, being zealous in her efforts to advanc4 the community's welfare along all loines.  She organized the Ebell Club of Signal Hill, of which she was the first president, and she was also president of the Civic League.  During the World War she took an active and effective part in the Red Cross and Liberty Loan Drives and in every possible way contributed to the success of local war measures.  A woman of strong individuality, tactful and gracious in manner, she has long been recognized as one of Signal Hill's most progressive citizens while in the social life of the community she enjoys a well merited popularity, having a host of warm and devoted friends. (1)

Z.T. Nelson: (Zachariah)

From Becky Burlsen post:

My research with Z.T. began with his wife Jessie Nelson. Jessie Nelson was the first mayor of the city of Signal Hill, California, in Los Angeles County. Census records show Z.T. and Jessie coming to California in 1902. Mrs. Nelson's obit says she and Z.T. came to California from Iowa in 1903.

Z.T. figured prominently in Long Beach and Signal Hill real estate and improvement activities in Los Angeles County politics. He was a member of the Long Beach exemption board during the World War. Z.T. died on July 4, 1922 of a cerebral hemorrage at 73 years. He was survived by his wife Jessie and sons Roy, Charles, Lloyd (sic), and Lady M. Nelson. He is buried in the Fairhaven Mausoleum in Santa Ana, California. Roy died on June 16, 1927. He is also buried at Fairhaven. They are in the North Corridor, Crypts 45 & 43, Tier D.

The 1910 Census lists Z.T. as 61 years old and in the real estate business; the 1920 Census lists Z.T. at Head of household. His son Roy is listed as 39 years old, and as a poultryman.

Press-telegram Obituary:

Pioneer is suddenly stricken. Died 7/4/1922 of a cerebral hemorrage. He was 73 years of age. Lived on Signal Hill at Hill and Cherry for 20 years at a time when there were only 3 homes in the area. Was instrumental in securing the Pacific Electric car line from East Long Beach to Willowville. Survived by wife, Jessie; sons Roy, Charles and Lloyd; daughter Lady M. Nelson.

Land Holdings  (the current City Hall sits on a portion of this tract)

Z.T. Nelsons Signal Hill Tract No. 2: Being a Resubdivision of Z.T. Nelson Signal Hill Tract and a portion of Farm Lot 115 American Colony Tract.  Recorded April 4, 1905. Proprietor: Z.T. Nelson. Surveyed March 1905 by V.W. Hayes. Bounded by Hill on the north, 20th on the south, Walnut on the west, and Cherry on the east. Map section: Subdivisions - 1900's PublisherAlamitos Water Co. Map Book


Signal Hill names street for 1st mayor By BOB ANDREW V- Staff Writer ,

Signal Hill's first mayor, or as the'office was then titled, President of the Board of Trustees -- is finally Getting some recognition because of the efforts of one of dier successors. sb The Signal Hill City Council has approved naming the street running in front of City Hall "Jessie Nelson Circle." The City Hall sits on the former site of Mrs. Nelson's home in a large lemon grove at Cherry Avenue and Hill Street. It was in that house that the city's Incorporation election was held April 7,1924.  Mrs. Nelson later donated the land to the city for its fcivic center, according to Mrs. Gertrude Beebe, Signal Hill's most recent female mayor and leader of the cause for any kind of official recognition for Mrs. Nelson. Jane E. Harnett and Walter H. Case's "History of a-Long Beach and Vicinity" published in 1927 refers to the late Mrs. Nelson as "affectionately known among her fellow citizens as 'the mother of Signal Hill and no president of Signal Hill commands to a greater degree the confidence and esteem of its citizens. She is credited by that history as being largely influential in the defeat of Signal Hill's annexation to Long Beach and the person who started the incorporation movement.  City records show that she carried the highest vote in the board of trustees election, held simultaneously with.the incorporation vote, and became president of the board at its first meeting on May 1, 1924.  She resigned from that position March 30, 1925, for reasons of health, 'according to Case's narrative.  Oddly enough, the street named for Mrs. Nelson curves through her former property separating the City Hall from a tree-studded park named for Signal Hill's second mayor, W. E. Hinshaw, with whom Mrs. Nelson was not on speaking terms for a number of years before Her death in the mid-1920s. - Mrs. I.L. Ely, the daughter of Signal Hill's first city clerk, George H. Cooper; recalls that the land was willed, Signatures on recall verified...

Z.T. Nelson and Jessie Elwin Nelson

More interesting information:

There are very few photos of Jessie Nelson, only 3 as of this date.

Remember, women could not vote until Aug 26th, 1920 when the 19th amendment was passed.

Jessie was votet mayor in April 1924 and was mayor for abour 1 year. She stepped down due to health concerns.

Jessie Elwin Nelson 1871 -1929

Z.T Nelson was Jessie's 2nd marriage.  Z.T. died in 1922.

In four of the community-property states, California, Idaho, Nevada, and New Mexico, if the wife died first, all community property went to her husband, whereas if he died first, she could only claim half, and he could bequeath his half to whomever he pleased.

The story is that due to these type of inheritance laws,  Jessie married her stepson, Roy Nelson to protect their 26 acre property. Roy passed away in 1927. All are buried side by side at the Fairhaven cemetary in Santa Ana.

Link: http://lbschoolbonds.net/newsletters/article_jessienelson.html