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Knute Nelson

Gov. Knute Nelson

  • January 4, 1893 - January 31, 1895
  • Republican
  • February 2, 1843
  • April 28, 1923
  • Other
  • Married Nicolina Jacobson; five children
  • Resigned
  • Representative, Senator
  • National Guard


KNUTE NELSON, the twelfth governor of Minnesota, was born in Voss, Norway on February 2, 1843. In 1849, he immigrated with his mother to the United States, settling first in Chicago, Illinois and later moving to Wisconsin. During the Civil War, he served with the Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, was wounded in battle, captured, and was held in the prison at Port Hudson, Louisiana. After his release, Nelson returned to complete his studies at Albion College. He studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1867, and then established his legal career in Cambridge, Wisconsin. Nelson entered politics in 1868, serving as a member of the Wisconsin Assembly, a position he held until 1869. After moving to Minnesota in 1871, Nelson continued his career in public service. He served as the Douglas County attorney from 1872 to 1874, was a member of the Minnesota State Senate from 1874 to 1878 and served as a presidential elector on the 1880 Republican ticket. He also was a University of Minnesota regent from 1882 to 1893 and served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1883 to 1889. Nelson next secured the Republican gubernatorial nomination and was elected governor by a popular vote on November 8, 1892. He was reelected to a second term in 1894. During his tenure, a board of state capitol commissioners was organized; and the Panic of 1893 was dealt with, as well as an 1894 forest fire that devastated an enormous portion of the state. Nelson resigned from office on January 31, 1895, upon his election to the U.S. Senate, a position he held until his death. Governor Knute Nelson passed away on April 28, 1923, and was buried in the Kinkead Cemetery in Alexandria, Minnesota.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 2, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

Minnesota Historical Society


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