I never got to meet my grandfather Bernhard Nilsson who past away as early as 1924. The little I knew about him I was told by my mother: A week after she was born in September 1899 he left his wife and four daughters in Arild, Sweden to work with his brothers who had a smaller boatyard in Baltimore, USA. There he was staying for about ten years before he returned to his family and became a building-contractor.
Grandfather Bernhard Nilsson in America. He is standing to the right. But who is the other guy?
Through the years I have been curious to know more about that boatyard and the six brothers of my grandfather who emigrated from Sweden. Today internet gives you the opportunities to find out more.
With the help of Ancestry I found two of grandfathers brothers: Leonard J Nilson and Julius W Nilson living in Baltimore, Md in the 1900th and following US Federal Census.
The first years of the century there were even four of their brothers: Frithiof, Axel, John Albin and my grandfather Bernhard, all working as shipcarpenters. But after some time they moved to other states in US or like my grandfather back to Sweden. In 1910 only Leonard and Julius were still staying in Baltimore.
I also discovered the boat-yard, called “the Nilson Yacht Building Co”. But how and when was that founded? How could they have the knowledge and money for it? Leonard was born in Sweden 1862. He came to USA as a sailor 1883 He lived 1889 in Boston, 1893 in District of Columbia before he came to Baltimore. Julius was a carpenter, born in 1872 and immigrated 1891.
In the City Directories for Baltimore 1897 there was:
1897: NILSON BROS (Leonard J and Julius W Nilson), yacht bldrs, Winan’s Cove,
1898: Leonard J Nilson, manager for the Marine Dept at Jos. Thomas & Son
1902 : Nilson Yacht Bldg Co (The), ft Marchall av, Md, Tel Henrietta 452
Could Nilson Yacht Building Co in the beginning be a mixture of Nilson Bros and the marine department of Jos. Thomas & Son ??? Some years later Leonard stands as the proprietor.
1907: Nilson Yacht Bldg Co, The, L J Nilson propr, bldrs steam and sailing yachts, marine rys and machine shop. Ferry Bar.
When I searched at Google I found to my surprise that their work was on a bigger scale than I could imagine. They built larger luxuary-yachts often with steamengines and a number at the same time: “…..At the yards of the Nilson Yacht Building Co, Ferry Bar, various stages of yacht construction appear from newly laid keels to big first raters almost ready to be slid into the water”.
There must have been a great number of workers employed. Leonard was the manager and is even mentioned as constructor and designer of the yachts.
Besides building yachts they even supplied equipment for the building of the Panama Canal, which was opened in 1914. What sort of equipment it was is unclear. Could it be tugs, like them on the photo, or steam engines?
Here is what I found at Google:
This private steam yacht, named “Chilhowee”, was built in 1898 by the Nilson Yacht Building Co in Baltimore,MD. Its displacement was 95 ton.; length 125′; beam 16′ 6″; draft 7′; speed 14 knots. Propulsion one 250hp triple-expansion engine. In the first world war “Chilhowee” was acquired by the US Navy, where she served till 1919
New York Times 1900 April 20; ……..The auxiliary yawl Natka, New York Yacht Club …… ….. was built by L.J. Nilson at Baltimore in 1897, and has done a great deal of coastwise cruising. Her original dimensions were 63 feet over all, 45 feet 9 inches on the water line, 16 feet beam, and 6 feet draught.
The Evening Times, Washington, Wednesday, February 20, 1901” ……At the yards of the Nilson Yacht Building Co, Ferry Bar, various stages of yacht construction appear from newly laid keels to big first raters almost ready to be slid into the water. The largest yacht which will be turned out this season from the Baltimore yards is a 70-foot keel yawl ordered at a cost of 7,000 Dollars…. Narkeeta is the name which the yawl will sail under………
J.F. Donuhue, of Sandusky, Ohio, has placed an order for a racing yawl, 21 feet on the water line. This will bear the name of Lucinda and will be used exclusively in Lake Erie racing events. Mr Nilson, the designer, expects to attain much speed in the light yawl………
New York Times 1901 April 22: The auxiliary yacht Lesbia, owned by R B Evans of Boston, has been sold … to William h Bromley —– of Boston. The Lesbia, formerly The Terrapin, is an auxiliary schooner 67 feet over all, 45,7 feet water line, and 5 feet 4 inches draught. She was built by Joseph Thomas & Son of Baltimore, MD, from design of L J Nilson in 1898. Her first owner was J G Neafie-Whitaker,
New York Times, 1902 March 16: Notes for the yachtsmen, ……. Sold the auxiliary yawl Dione, formerly owned by Albert Pope of New York, to Gouvernor Spalding of New Haven. The Dione is 55 feet over all, 35 feet water line, 14 feet, 6 inches draught. She was designed and built in 1900 by the L J Nilson Yacht Building Company of Baltimore.
New York Times, 1902 December 3 Biggest Yacht Built in Baltimore. BALTIMORE, Md., Dec. 2. — There will be launched at the Nilson Yacht Building Company’s works here next Saturday afternoon the largest private yacht ever built in Baltimore. She will probably be named the Constant, and is being built for Richard P. Hart, a millionaire cattle dealer, now residing in New York………
Steam Yacht Constant painted by Thomas H Willis.
New York Times, 1904 Febr 19: .Auxiliary Yawl Ideon Sold. The Rev. Dr. Wilton Merie Smith, Seawanhaka Yacht Club has purchased … the auxiliary yawl Ideon from William E Holser, Baltimore, Md. The Ideon is 55 feet over all, 35 feet water line, 14 feet beam, 6 feet draught; designed and built 1903 by The L J Nilson Yacht Building Company, Baltimore. She is constructed in the best possible manner, copper fastened throughout, and provides one large stateroom and four berths in the main saloon. The yacht will be brought north just as soon as the ice in Chesapeake Bay permits.
Photo by Rosenfeld and Sons during Larchmont race week, 1947. Image shows gathering of S Class sloops and Atlantic Class sloops undersail. The ILSE III (1905, Nilson Yacht Building Co.) appears to be the committee boat for this race.
L.A. Layne’s Southern Breeze, in the Houston Yacht Club harbor.” 1931, Southern Breeze was formerly owned by Jerry Mitchell and named North Wind. Southern Breeze was built 1911 by the Nilson Yachts in Baltimore 1911. To USN 1942 as YP 158, sold 1943
THE ketch Kona was designed by Commodore R. M. Munroe for the purpose of tarpon fishing in the rivers of Cuba. She was built in Baltimore and is very strongly constructed of wood and is coppered.
Kona is 56 feet 6 inches on the water-line and 17 feet beam, and has a centreboard and a Craig gasolene engine of 25 horsepower. Her draft is but four feet, for, although the rivers of Cuba are deep, there is a bar at the mouth of almost every river on which there is generally not much more than four feet of water at high tide.
The career of this little vessel is probably unique for in eight years she has sailed 38,917 sea miles. She has weathered the dreaded Cape Sable, Nova Scotia, eight times and has passed Cape Sable, Florida, even more often. She has rounded the inhospitable Cape San Antonio at the west end of Cuba fourteen times, and has made the voyage between New York and Key West eleven times.
The Ketch Kona, Nilson Yacht Building Co, Baltimore
She was commissioned as USS Tuna (SP-664) on 12 June 1917. Assigned to the 2nd Naval District in southern New England and based at the Block Island section base in Rhode Island, Tuna patrolled the coastline between Long Island, New York, and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts for the rest of World War
The Nilson Yacht Building Co still existed and even extended in 1920. That year you could read in the magazine “The Rudder”:
The Nilson Yacht Building Company, Inc., of Baltimore, Md., have extended their plant. They will have three marine railways, and a modern machine shop is now being erected on the property. Mr. L. J. Nilson is the general manager and will be pleased to hear from his many friends.
But after that it is not mentioned in the City Directories for Baltimore. Could the company have been sold or chanced name ?
As late as in 1927 Leonard himself is in the Directory as yachtbuilder, but in the 1930th Census he is toolmaker at the Airport.
His brother Julius is in 1927 shipwright and 1930 carpenter-shipbuilder, but where did he work at that time?
This is what I have found about “The Nilson Yacht Building Co” so far. I am still trying to get more informations and whould be very happy if anyone could help me to get more facts, details and photos.
Appendix: What I have found about Leonard and Julius Nilsons families.
Leonard Nils Johan Nilsson was born 1862 July 15 in Fleninge, Malmöhus län, Sweden. His parents were the carriage-builder Johannes Nilsson and his wife Olu Mauritz.
Leonard probably cane to USA as a sailor in 1883. He got his Naturilizion Document the 5th of june 1889. He then lived in 124 Beacon Street, Boston, Mass. He now wrote his name: Leonard J. Nilson.
He was married in Manhattan, New York the 26th October 1890 to Emelie Seyfried who was born 1866 August 26 in Donaueschingen, Baden, Germany. Her parents were August Seifried and Karolina Bauer. Emelie came to New York 1888 November 14 with the ship Fulda. She was the only passenger with the name Seyfried.
They lived first in District of Columbia (Washington?) when their two eldest daughters were born in 1891 and 1893. In 1897 they lived in Baltimore, first at Hanover street and later at 30th street.
Emelie Seyfried Nilson died in 1930 and Leonard J Nilson in 1938. They are buried at Lorraine Park Cementar, Woodlawn, Baltimore.
Leonards and Emelies four daughters:
1. Amelia Elvira Nilson was born 1891 August 22 in District of Columbia, Died in 1981. She was married 1916 to Robert Theodor Pause, born 1876, died 1939. Their children was Ann Pause, born 1918, Betty E Pause, born 1920 and Peggy Pause, 1923 – 1996
2. Amanda Nora Nilson was born August 1893 in District of Columbia. In 1910 she was living with her parents, but in 1920 I can’t find her. Perhaps she was married and got a new familyname?
3. Margareth Nilson was born in August 1897 in Baltimore, Maryland. She was married to Charles Arthur Neu, born in April 1894 in Maryland, He died in july 1975 in Baltimore. Their son John C Neu, 1929 – 2013
John Neu John Charles Neu, 83, a 5-year resident of Bay Woods and previous 35 years in the community of Providence in Annapolis, died of cardiac arrest February 4 after being diagnosed with Amyloidosis two months prior to his death. Born February 10, 1929 in Baltimore, John attended Clifton Park Elementary and graduated with honors in 1946 from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute (High School). He entered Johns Hopkins University as a sophomore from Poly and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Mechanical Engineering degree in 1949. John worked as a Mechanical Engineer at Bethlehem Steel/Sparrows Point from 1949-1956, where he met his wife. He was employed by the National Brewing Company in Baltimore as Plant Engineer from 1957-1964 and was hired by Noxell Corporation as Production Manager from 1963-1981, where he retired as Senior Vice President of Operations. He was a reservist in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for 17 years (1949-1966). John was serving as President of the Bay Woods Cooperative Housing Corporation and President of the BCHC Board of Directors at the time of his passing. He enjoyed sailing, photography, and hunting with his sons. He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Anne L. Neu; two sons, John Neu of Severna Prk and Robert Neu of Annapolis.
4. Ulla Nilson was born 1901 in Baltimore, Maryland. She lived 1920 with her parents. But I can’t find her 1930.
Julius Valdemar Nilsson was born 1872 June 7 in Brunnby, Malmöhus län, Sweden. His parents were the carriage-builder Johannes Nilsson and his wife Olu Mauritz.
He emigrated to USA in 1891. He now called himself Julius W Nilson. In the 1900 Census he lives with his elder brother Leonard and his family.
Julius is married in 1900 (?) to Annie Wiesner who was born in April 1873 in Maryland. Her parents were Hartman and Lena Wiesner.
Julius and Annie got three children between 1900 and 1904. After that Annie must have died. In the 1910th Census she is not there and Julius stands as a widower. He lives with his three children and his parents-in-law Hartman and Lena Wiesner. In 1930 Julius lived with his daughter Elvira and her family.
Julius and Annies children:
1. Raymond Austin Nilson was born 1900 in Baltimore, Maryland. He was living with his father in 1910, but not in 1920. What happened to him???
2. Elvira Nilson was born 1902 in Baltimore, Maryland. She was married to William L Hawkins, born 1900 in Maryland. Their four sons; William L Hawkins born 1927, David N Hawkins born 1930, John W Hawkins born 1933 and G Farring Hawkins born 1934
Died on March 14, 2004, JOHN W. HAWKINS, beloved husband of June B. Hawkins (nee Burow); devoted father of Susan Carol Hawkins and Ann Clemence Tracey; dear brother of William L. Hawkins; dear grandfather of Brittany Ann Tracey and John Robert Tracey; dear father-in-law of Robert Lee Tracey
3. Julius W Nilson (Junior) was born 1904 in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1930 and 1940 he lives in Dade, Florida. He was not married at that time.
I whould be very happy for more informations and photos of Leonard and Julius and their families. Please write to:
Appendix 2: The Nilson families:
Skåne is a province in southern Sweden. It belonged to Denmark until 1658 when it was conquered by the Swedes. As long as we can follow them the Nilsons ancestors were living here as farmers and crofters in the northwestern part of Skåne; north of Helsingborg and east and west of Ängelholm.
Johannes Nilsson was born 1841 January 21 in Välinge (between Helsingborg and Ängelholm) . His father Nils Jönsson was a schoolteacher (unexamined) in the village school. The mother was Elsa Nyman, Johannes had a brother, Hans, born 1836 and a sister, Elna, born 1838.
In 1862 June 6 Johannes was married to Olu (Ulla) Mauritz. She was born in 1836 November 6 in the nearby parish Strövelstorp. Her father Bengt Mauritz was a soldier . (The farmers within each “rote” had to provide one soldier to the regiment of that province.). The mother was Boel Lafvesdotter. Johannes had learned to be a carriage-builder and worked first with that, but also as a carpenter. The family moved from Fleninge to Väsby and Höganäs and from 1868 to Bräcke in Brunnby parish, where they should stay for the rest of their lives.
Johannes and Olu got ten children: 1. Leonard Nils Johan, born 1862 July 15 in Fleninge. 2. Edvin Martin Bernhard, born 1864 July 2 in Väsby. 3. Elvira Terese, born 1866 April 2 in Höganäs. 4. Ernst Fabian, born 1868 April 1 in Höganäs. 5. Axel Sigfrid, born 1870 July 4 in Brunnby. 6. Julius Valdemar, born 1872 June 7 in Brunnby. 7. Anna Sofia, born 1874 may 10 in Brunnby. 8. Frithjof Gotthard “Fred”, born 1877 march 2 in Brunnby. 9. Maria Tina, born 1879 February 6 in Brunnby. 10. Johan Albin, born 1882 august 28 in Brunnby.
In Brunnby Johannes Nilsson worked as a building-contractor. Here is a picture of Johannes Nilsson at work from 1902. Detail from the photo below. All his sons learned their handicraft by working for him in their younger years.
In 1898 December15 Olu Mauritz Nilsson past away by heartdeseas only 62 years old. Two years later, 1900 may 4 Johannes married Carolina Nikolina Pettersson. She was born 1862 and daughter of Olu’s sister Lovisa Mauritz Pettersson.
Johannes, Lovisa Mauritz and Nikolina
Johannes Nilsson died 1923 June 27 and was buried at Brunnby Churchyard with his first wife Olu (Ulla). The second wife Nikolina died in 1936.