The Mahaska County Historical Society protects and preserves the history and heritage of Mahaska County for present and future generations.
Incorporated in 1942, the MCHS began preserving artifacts of local interest and displaying them for visitors on the 3rd floor of the Mahaska County Courthouse in Oskaloosa, IA. In 1958, siblings Roy and Lillian Nelson bequeathed their family's homestead to the MCHS. The bequest charged the Historical Society with honoring the pioneer legacy of the Nelson's grandparents by creating a museum and maintaining the original buildings. The Nelson Pioneer Farm & Museum was born.
The MCHS moved eleven historic buildings to accompany the original four Nelson buildings to create a "pioneer village." The site now hosts 15 historic buildings, 2 large barns to house and display an expansive agricultural collection, a traditional museum building with genealogy library, nature trail, and rental venue. Our exhibits and collections share the story of Mahaska County from its first inhabitants to the present. Our historic buildings date from the 1840s to the 1970s.
about the nelson family
Daniel and Margaret Carden Nelson arrived in Iowa from Ohio in 1841. They settled in Fairfield for a time and had their first child, William. After the "New Purchase" was opened to settlement in 1843, the young family made their way to what became Mahaska County. Their second child Barbara was born just north Eddyville, along the Des Moines River, during the winter. Once the weather permitted, they made their way to Oskaloosa and settled just north of town on 230 acres of land adjacent to Daniel's uncle, James Comstock.
The family built a double log cabin and added three more children to the family - James, John, and Martha. In 1852, the Nelsons began construction on their two-story brick home and moved in after its completion in 1853. The youngest daughter, Sarah, was the only child born in the new house.
John Nelson married Mary Polly Green and had two children, Daniel Roy and Lillian. They built their house on the north side of the Nelson farm, about a quarter mile from the main house. Roy and Lillian grew up surrounded by family and often visited their aunts Martha and Sarah, who never married and lived the remainder of their lives in their brick family home. After Sarah passed away in 1936, then Martha in 1942, Roy and Lillian cared for the home. In 1956, they boarded up the house, with the furniture and possessions still inside. Lillian passed away on June 6, 1958, followed by Roy on July 9, 1958. The Nelson family is buried in Forest Cemetery in Oskaloosa, IA.