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The Nelson Furniture Company

By Keith J. Doll

Havre/Hill County Historic Preservation Commission

Earlier this year I was touching up and oiling my daughter's antique walnut desk. The desk was well cared for through the years, I can trace it back to two owners before my daughter got it. It has a serpentine front with claw feet. When I looked in the back, the shipping label read: Nelson Furniture Co. Havre, Montana, I did some research on it and this is what I found:

In 1917, two brothers Robert and Curtis Nelson started the Nelson Brothers' Transfer Company.

It was located on Third Avenue in the first building across the alley and south of the F. A. Buttery Company, now the Atrium parking lot. They were the first to use trucks in Havre and the surrounding area for delivery services. Five years later, in 1922 they moved to the south side of First Street between Second and Third Avenues, below the Oakland Hotel, now the east side of the Eagles in the Broadwater-Pepin Block. In their new store, the brothers rented out storage space and started a sample room. The sample room was unprofitable so they used that area to sell used furniture on consignment.

This was profitable, they made more room and devoted most of their time selling used furniture.

Curtis Nelson bought out his brothers' interest in 1925 and devoted most of his time in the furniture business adding a new furniture line.

Ruth Nelson, at that time, became involved with her husband's furniture store and helped manage it. Curtis would go on buying trips to Chicago each year. In 1929, The Nelson Furniture Company made its third and final move to the Clinic Building on the north side of Second Street between Third and Fourth Avenues, now the Wells Fargo parking lot. The Nelson Furniture was on the west side of the main level and The Havre Natural Gas Company was on the east. On the second level, five office rooms were facing Second Street. Twenty-five rooms were occupied by the Havre Clinic with most of their equipment being moved from their former location above the Owl Drug store, now Gram's Ice Cream. In 1945, Curtis Nelson, because of health reasons, sold his business to Ole Belland and it became the Belland Furniture Store. Curtis and Ruth also sold their house and moved to California. In 1946, at their home in California, they had their 25th wedding anniversary, many of their Havre and Hi-Line friends were there.

Curtis Nelson was very active in Havre and supported it, especially sports, he remained a Havre booster even in California.

When they left Havre, they would get the Havre Daily News in California so they could keep up on Havre news and sports. They came to Havre many times to see friends and watch the Blue Pony games. Curtis recalled in 1911 being a guard on the Blue Ponies first basketball team, it was played in a "cage" where there was about a 12-foot fence, metal or rope, around the court to keep the ball in. The spectators could sit closer on chairs since there were no bleachers. It was also legal to double dribble. The question was where to practice, they were able to use the McIntyre Opera House twice a week. Their school clothes were fine, but they had to wear tennis shoes. When they would get there, they would light the large pot-belly stove, set up the baskets and practice. They were shocked when they were told about the skimpy uniform they had to wear. (remember this is 1911) They told their mothers the size they needed but forgot to say the color. Yes, the court was colorful. One of their first games was with Fort Benton, the Fort Benton players came out wearing uniforms of the same color, numbers on their back and initials on the front, but the Blue Ponies came out wearing different colors and their uniforms were homemade.


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