m. 20 MAY 1847
Facts and Events
Elbert Beecher Nixon
07 May 1869 - 03 Aug 1943
On 07 May 1869 Elbert Beecher Nixon, father of M. Irene Nixon Wilke, was born in Wintersville, Ohio to Thomas Bailey Nixon and Mary Crawford.S2 Elbert (E.B.) was the 11th of 13 children. He had five sisters and seven brothers. Elbert grew up in Ohio and like most children of that era, he and his siblings worked on the family farm.
We don’t know much about Elbert’s childhood. One undated society article from his young adulthood in Wintersville announced that he and “…Miss Lulu were guests of Mr. and Mrs. John Minor of near Richmond, Sunday afternoon.”S14 Mrs. Minor was Elbert’s elder sister Fanny, who had married John Minor in 1896. Miss Lulu was Elbert's youngest sister. Elbert would have been 27 at the time. This would indicate that he had not left home to make his way in the world before 1896.
Elbert’s brothers picked a variety of occupations and left Ohio. The eldest, Isaiah, moved to Missouri to raise a family and farm; George moved to Colorado to run a store and then became Postmaster; Greenbury Crawford became a dentist and though he stayed in Ohio moved outside the county; and Franklin was a “shingle sawyer” in Everett Washington. The sisters, on the other hand, appear to have married farmers and stayed in Ohio.
George B. Nixon, elder brother of Elbert, settled in a little town in Elbert County, Colorado in November of 1888 (E.B. would have been 18 at the time). George owned a little store in this town and on November 22, 1888, George filled out an application to establish a post office. Descriptions of this elder brother are not those of a cowboy, but rather an entrepreneur or one more interested in town life. On February 4, 1889, George Nixon became the first postmaster at what came to be Arriba (“Air-ah-bah” with the accent on the first syllable), Lincoln County, Colorado.
There exists an undated article describing a visit to Colorado by a Dr. G.C. (Greenbury Crawford) Nixon. In this article, Dr. Nixon describes visiting a brother who is a “veritable cowboy”. Though they both lived in Colorado, this description fits with the documentation for Elbert Nixon better than for his elder brother George. It’s possible that Dr. G.C. Nixon arrived to visit Elbert and family after their brother George died in 1898. S15 The article title indicates “Relatives” plural, so it may have been referring to Elbert’s wife and children. Since we do not know the date of the article, it is difficult to know who G.B. Nixon was visiting.
It was in Arriba that Elbert met a school teacher by the name of Nellie Malloch. On 02 Jun 1898 Elbert married Nellie Malloch in Arriba, Lincoln County, Colorado.
"...Mr. E.B. Nixon, a prosperous young cattleman of Arriba, Lincoln county and Miss Nellie Malloch, one of our most popular school teachers of this district, having taught the same school for the past five years, were united in marriage, Rev. C. W. Smith performing the ceremony in his usual happy manner; after which an excellent wedding supper was served....
In an interview with Elbert's daughter in 1984, Mary Irene mentiones that her father bred Black Angus cattle and would go with join with others to brand the calves in nearby Bovina.
Elbert and Nellie’s first child, daughter Mary Irene Nixon was born on April 2, 1899 in Arriba, Colorado. A year later, the census on June 1, 1900 shows Elbert is 31 years old and living in Bovina, Lincoln County, Colorado with his wife Nellie V. and daughter Mary who is one year old. Elbert’s occupation is listed as “Livestock grower”. A second child, son Greenbury Crawford was born on October 12 1901 in Greely, Colorado. On 10 August 1906 Elbert acquired a land patent for 160 acres in Lincoln County, Colorado as part of the Homestead Act. He did indeed appear to be living the life of a young Colorado cattleman.
Sometime during his married years in Colorado, Elbert worked digging irrigation ditches and as a "ditch rider" for an irrigation company. A ditch rider is one who rides along the company's irrigation ditches, making sure there aren't any breaks or weak spots, making small repairs, operates gates and controls the irrigation systems . The family lived in tents at the project and while there, E.B.’s wife Nellie became sick, possibly with typhoid fever. Nellie was taken to Denver Hospital for medical attention. After they returned to the camp, young Crawford became ill and they had to take him into Denver to be seen.
Nellie’s sister Nettie Disbrow and family moved from Nebraska to Kalispell, Montana by June 1900 . The Disbrows must have believed there was opportunity in Montana and probably convinced the Nixon family to join them. Railroads were spending thousands to promote Montana, agricultural technology had advanced and there were new tools and techniques to make farming easier. Elbert may not have been able to take advantage of homesteading or farming, but there were other opportunities in a growing population. Whatever the reason, Elbert and his family moved to a house on the West side of Kalispell, Montana in 1907. Two years later, on March 24, 1909, Donald Chester Nixon was born in Kalispell, Flathead County, Montana. The next census, in 1910, lists Elbert and Nellie living in Kalispell, with daughter Mary I. age 11, son Crawford age 8 and son Donald C. age 1. Elbert’s occupation is given as “Odd Jobs.”S11
At some point early in 1910 a sliver became lodged in his hand which developed into blood poisoning to his shoulder. Nellie was able to stop the infection with poultices and probably saved his life, however his arm had to be amputated at the mid forearm. He may have gone to Canada to have his arm amputated. In a letter from Nellie to sisters Fannie and Maggie dated Sept 24, 1910, “Elbert came home from Canada two weeks ago. He left the hospital the 14th of July, but has been at my brothers ever since.” We can only guess how difficult working on a ranch may have been for him without two hands. He did learn to write and tie his shoes with his left hand. His grandchildren also remember that their grandfather used his stump draped with a tea towel to dry dishes.
After losing his arm in 1910, E.B. made a decision to try work as a traveling salesman for Grand Union Tea Company, selling tea, spices and other household goods door to door with a horse-drawn wagon. On September 24th of 1910 he started learning the trade. Nellie wrote in her letter “Now [Elbert] is selling goods for The Grand Union Tea Co. He thought he could manage that all right. They furnish the horse & buggy and pay $10 a month toward feeding the horse and he gets a commission on what he sells. He hasn’t the job for sure but is going around with the old man this month to learn the business. Just started yesterday.”
Elbert’s wife Nellie had not been well and her doctor must have suggested surgery. Nellie scheduled the surgery for Monday, September 26th, while her husband was away selling so as not to stress him. Within days of the surgery on October 1, 1910, Nellie died at the age of 36 from “shock due to the operation”. As indicated by the census that same year, M. Irene was only 11, Crawford 8 and Donald just over a year old.
When Nellie died, Elbert sent his daughter Irene and eldest son Crawford to live with relatives in Ohio for five or six years. It appears, based on what the granddaughters remember that the youngest boy Donald stayed in Kalispell and was cared for by his father and Nellie’s mother Catherine Malloch.
By 17 Jan 1920 when the next census takers arrive, Irene and Crawford are back in Montana, living with their father. Elbert is still in Kalispell and remained a widower. He owns his own home. His occupation is listed now as “Commercial traveler/Tea & spices,” as a “worker” not an owner. Children living with him are shown as Irene M. age 20, Crawford G. age 19 (working as a laborer in a lumber camp) and Donald C. age 10. S12
The 1930 census that includes Elbert is taken on 15 April. He is still in Kalispell in his own home on 5th Ave. West, but now 62 years old. His occupation is listed as Salesman and the industry or business is given as “Farm Journal”. The boys, Crawford who is still working as a logger and Donald who is 21, are still living with him.S13 Irene married Carl in 1923, so is no longer in their household.
Louise and Carlene would visit their Grandfather and Crawford in town. A creek ran through the back yard, there was no grass and the house was not painted – not unusual in those days. “When visiting he and Crawford north of Kalispell, where they lived at one time, he had a donkey he let Carlene and I ride. It wouldn't move but lay down to get us off his back.”
E. B. was a quiet, easy going man. Granddaughter Carlene remembers her mother telling about the time she got into an accident with the family car. “Mother told of smashing the headlight on the Model T and wondering what he would do, figuring she was in big trouble with her dad. But instead, all he said was “I see you gave her a black eye” . Elbert’s grandchildren remember him with snow white wavy hair. “He was very proud of it and may have even blued it to keep it from yellowing,” Grandfather E.B. drove a Chevy coupe, using the stump of his arm to steady the wheel while he shifted. The grandkids enjoyed riding in the coupe with the rumble seat.
Grandpa Nixon had a little fox terrier with a stubby tail, named Spot. Granddaughter Elaine remembers her Grandfather’s little terrier as “A small dog that I put on my wagon which was tied to my tricycle and pulled him around the yard that way.”
Granddaughters Carlene and Louise remember their grandfather taking them on various trips. One trip was to his cabin west of town when they were about 8 and 6 years old respectively. They hiked on an old skid trail which must have been steep. He taught the girls to turn around and walk backwards to rest and ease the strain on the knees. Louise remembers staying at the cabin with her cousin Bob Damon. “Staying at Grandpa's cabin with Bob, we killed a porcupine. Grandpa said when people were lost in woods they ate them, so we skinned and cooked it. Was pretty tough. Didn't cook it long enough I am sure. Didn’t eat much of it….We picked a lot of huckleberries and brought them back to sell….When sleeping you could hear the pack rats walk across the roof at night.”
The grandchildren took other trips with their grandfather. Once they rode a logging truck to a site, the dust in the road as high as the truck bumper. He also took them on a boat to a fish hatchery on the other side of Ashley Lake and they had a meal with their Uncle Crawford and his wife “Nita” .
Sometime after the 1930 census, possibly after he became ill, E.B. Nixon moved to live with his daughter Irene Wilke’s family. E.B. lived on the farm in the “playhouse” paying $25 a month out of his social security money to his daughter for room and board. Elbert’s son Crawford took Ebert to Missoula to see a doctor where the final diagnosis of esophageal cancer was made. He thought he’d gotten cancer from siphoning gas by mouth as he had once swallowed some. E.B. Nixon was a pipe smoker, however and that is the more likely reason for his cancer.
E.B. Nixon was able to be up and around until he died, but he did lose weight and was unable to eat solid foods. During his illness, his daughter made him eggnogs so he could get nourishment, since it was difficult for him to swallow. E.B. died in the "Playhouse" on Aug 3rd 1943 at the age of 74.
EB Nixon is not buried next to his wife. His wife Nellie’s grave is indicated on the back of the tombstone for her mother Kate (Campbell, Malloch) McGregor, apparently sharing a lot and the stone, possibly because the money was tight at the time. E.B.’s grave is some distance away, in a part of the cemetery that only allows flat name plates. Both graves are located in Conrad Memorial Cemetery, Kalispell, Montana.