Cottage Grove sentinel. (Cottage Grove, Or.) 1909-current, July 13, 2016, Page 12, Image 36

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    12
BOHEMIA NUGGET 2016
G OLD
Continued from page 3
The waterwheel ran the mill
in the daytime, the electric
light generator at night, so
electricity was available only
from dusk until 10 o’clock.
Later that was extended until
midnight. At fi rst there were
only 50 lights and no ap-
pliances of any kind – not
even irons. Business rapidly
outgrew the capacity of the
fi rst dynamo, so he added a
larger one.
The Nov. 21, 1896 issue of the
Eugene City Guard reported,
“Andy Nelson, owner of the
electric light plant, is mak-
ing arrangements to increase
the power of his plant and
improve the light. Another dy-
namo will be put in to be used
exclusively for street lighting
purposes and the present
one to be used exclusively for
interior lighting. The plant
will be moved from its present
site and a new one built on
the bank of the river some dis-
tance below Main Street (122
N. River Rd). The building is
now underway and the change
will take place soon. Back
water interfered with the wa-
ter wheel at the electric light
plant here Sunday night and
the people had to use lamps
and the streets remained in
darkness.”
Tragedy was no stranger in
Andy’s life. While working
at the Piper Hardware Store
he fell in love with the boss’s
daughter, Nola C. Piper. He
was just 36-years old when
she died in 1902, and he never
remarried. They had one
child, Ray Nelson.
On Nov. 1, 1900, his new
steam plant burned down and
he didn’t rebuild it. In frus-
tration he said, “Every time I
start to make money the city
has grown and I have to buy a
bigger engine and a bigger dy-
namo.” He sold his franchise
to W.H. Abrams, who worked
with Mr. G.H. Stone, the fl our
mill owner, to furnish the
building and adequate water
supply for a turbine water
wheel for a new light plant.
After purchasing Andy’s
franchise, Mr. Abrams moved
it after a few months to the
railroad track beside the
Brown Sawmill. There, slabs
from the mill were used to fi re
a boiler for a 75-hp Corliss
steam engine to power the
plant. Visitors were impressed
by the 10-foot high fl ywheel
that ran the generator. At that
time a $1 monthly fl at rate
was charged for lights and $3
per month for an iron. Many
housewives didn’t list their
irons with the light company,
and at about 10 o’clock in the
morning the steam engine
would begin to pull down. The
owner would climb into his
automobile and start check-
ing houses. The irons were
hidden, and the engine would
perk up again.
Electrical power was supplied
by this plant until IT burned
down about 1927. On July
27, 1935, Andrew Nelson’s
life ended quite suddenly and
unexpectedly at the age of 69
in an industrial accident at
the W.A. Woodard Lumber
Company, where he worked as
an electrician. His body was
found on the ground outside
of the main building of the re-
manufacturing plant. He was
doing electrical work and had
to reach through the window
and fell 20 feet to his death.
His son, Ray, followed his
father into the electricity
business, and by the mid-20th
century earned the nickname
“Radio Ray” as the sole pro-
prietor of Nelson Electric. Ray
was a popular local business-
man who had a passion for
preserving Cottage Grove’s
unique and colorful history.
He was one of the chief organ-
izers of the wildly successful
centennial observance of
Oregon Statehood in 1959.
He was a founding member of
the Prospector & Golddiggers
Club, which established the
Bohemia Mining Days Festi-
val. Today, we fondly refer to
Ray Nelson as the “Father of
BMD”.
Thanks to Joanne Skelton
and the Cottage Grove Ge-
nealogical Society for their
biographical research on
Andrew Nelson and to the
Cottage Grove Historical
Society’s publication, “Golden
Was the Past, 1850-1970,”
both were invaluable to writ-
ing this story. – C.W.