An Update on the Lonely Cabin

When I write one of these history stories for my blog, I do my research, polish up my writing, and then hold my breath a moment before clicking the blue “Publish” button that will send my baby out into the world. My work may not reach much of an audience, but it provides me with an outlet for my history habit.

Occasionally, however, I get a surprise. This happened recently when, out of the blue, I received an email from a descendant of Robert and Agusta Nelson. She had stumbled across my blog (Tales from a Lonely Cabin) while researching family history. Then her sister contacted me, sending not only wonderful details of the family history but also copies of historic photos. It’s been a treat for me to make this connection.

With permission from the family, I am sharing these photos as a supplement to my earlier story. Credit for the additional family information and photos goes to Theresa Peterman.

Robert Blackwood Nelson is the man on the far left.

According to Theresa, Robert Blackwood Nelson was born on March 10, 1859, in Shubenacadie, Hants County, Nova Scotia. He was in North Idaho by 1889 when he filed a declaration of intent to become a U.S. citizen. (This was necessary for anyone planning to file a homestead claim.) He was granted citizenship on May 12, 1902.

Agusta Nelson

Agusta Wilhelmina Magnusson was born in Sweden. A family story says that they met when Agusta (also spelled Augusta) placed an advertisement in the newspaper, looking for work as a housekeeper, and Robert answered the ad. She and Robert married on January 31, 1895, at Garfield Bay.

The Nelsons had six children: Lovell (1895), Fremont (1897), Bell (1899), Archibald (1900), Maude (1902), and Florence (1904). Agusta died on her husband’s birthday, March 10, 1904, less than two weeks after the birth of their last child. She’s buried in the Hope cemetery.

Nelson children (front to back): Florence, Maude, Archibald, Bell, Fremont, and Lovell.

As I mentioned in my earlier story about the Nelson family, they had experienced tragedy even before Agusta’s death. While living in the Kootenai area late in 1903, Maude, a toddler just a year and a half old, wandered onto the Northern Pacific  tracks and was hit by a train. She survived despite her serious injuries. I had wondered about her life after this terrible accident, but there she is, cute as can be, sitting behind her little sister on the big draft horse. Maude later married and had twelve children and numerous grandchildren – including Theresa and her sisters.

Maude Nelson

Bringing things full circle, some of the Nelson family descendants are having a family reunion this summer in North Idaho. They plan to hike into the little log cabin, built so many years ago by their great-grandfather. The sunny clearing beside the Pack River will once again fill with happy Nelson voices, and the loneliness will fade for a brief time.



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12 Responses to An Update on the Lonely Cabin

  1. says:

    Dear NIPP, Love the story of the Nelson family. Amazing to think that family members are going to be at that cabin this summer. Poor Augusta, she was a productive lass and seems to have paid the ultimate price…no word on how she died? Thanks for the update, Lynn



    • nancyrenk says:

      Yes, she certainly was productive! It’s probable that she died from complications following the birth of her last child. Unfortunately this was not uncommon in the early 1900s. The family did not mention any other possibility. Thanks, Lynn!


  2. Sandy Gleason says:

    I’ve so enjoyed following this. Thank you, Nancy. S


    • nancyrenk says:

      Thanks, Sandy! This is the cabin that we walked to as a group, after enjoying lunch at the Pack River Store. I was sorry you couldn’t join us that day but we’ll get you out there another time.


  3. Pauline Hary says:

    Nancy, you certainly have captured my attention. Not just the
    the story, but your delivery. Thank you!


  4. Merla Barberie says:

    Hi Nancy,
    This is a lovely picture with the teams of horses in front of the cabin. Augusta had all those children one after another so close together. My grandmother died of tuberculosis when my mother was 3. The doctoring just wasn’t good enough yet and living remotely isn’t for sissies. Thank you for this true story. Keep it up. You could easily write a book! Those pictures are priceless!
    Best, Merla


    • nancyrenk says:

      Thanks, Merla! It’s been such a treat for me to connect with relatives of the Nelson family. After reading my original story, one of the granddaughters sent me these photos. I think they help the story come alive. I’m grateful.


  5. Heather Hellier says:

    Loved reading both these stories, Nancy! You do a fine job with your history writings. Thank you.


  6. Eileen sisson says:

    I am interested in the Nelsons family history on the Glengary Peninsula. I was raised on the farm where Nelson’s built the two cabins that Bob Newington speaks of and their still remain remnants of these structures. As a child, Occasionally Bob would come to visit our family after my Dad purchased the property. Do you know if they were the original homesteaders on that piece of property. Thank you for all your information on Bonner county history.


    • Hi Eileen, You must be Max and Berniece Pierce’s daughter? My husband and I met them in 1977 when we were doing a survey of historic buildings on the Glengary Peninsula. I remember them as being very warm and gracious, generous with their information and hospitality. They gave us Bob Newington’s address in Hot Springs so we wrote to him with a few questions–and he responded with a 40 page, hand-written letter full of wonderful information! The museum has a copy. From what I have been able to find out, Bob Nelson had filed a homestead claim for the land but had not yet proved up to get his title. Around 1894, he sold his claim to Thomas Newington who then proved up and gained title in 1905. Much of the land across the road belonged to the Northern Pacific Railroad so Newington had to buy that 80 acres–for 50 cents an acre! The original log cabins were in disrepair when we recorded them in 1977 and they were still standing last time I drove by several years ago.


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