Friday, February 17, 2017

Pvt. Edward John Nesser (1895-1918)

The following day we had another shock, when Ed. Nesser died after a brief illness. This was the third death in less than two weeks, and everyone was beginning to get a little worried. It was the overwork that caused the weakened condition of the men and made them susceptible to the different diseases.1

Just a day after surgeon William Kantner died suddenly from a heart attack, Private Edward John Nesser became Base Hospital 50's third casualty when he died of pneumonia on September 19, 1918. Ed was the third of eight children born to Andrew Nesser and his wife, Ida Goodmanson (Gudmanson). Five of the Nesser children survived infancy, but, like Ed, the entire family were victims of untimely deaths.

Ed’s father, Andrew Nesser, was an immigrant from Norway, arriving in the United States circa 1888, according to census records.2 He married Ida Goodmanson, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on December 4, 1890.3  Ida was a native of Wisconsin and herself of Norwegian heritage. By late 1891, when their first child – daughter Dora Hattie – was born, Ida and Andrew Nesser had moved to Seattle. Sons Ingwal Andrew and Edward John followed in 1893 and 1895. Norman and Hattie arrived in 1904 and 1907, respectively.

The family lived in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood – a separate city until 1907 – at 5810 20th Avenue NW. Andrew was a successful halibut fisherman and Ballard was home to the region’s burgeoning Scandinavian community and commercial fishermen due to its ready access to Puget Sound. Although Ida and Andrew lost several children in early infancy, their first major brush with tragedy occurred in 1905 when their oldest child, Dora, died of typhoid fever at the age of 13. Dora was buried at nearby Crown Hill Cemetery, which opened just two years prior.4

The family was next rocked by Andrew Nesser’s accidental drowning in 1915. His body was found floating in Elliott Bay three weeks after his family had declared him missing. A witness reported seeing Nesser leaning over the seawall the night he disappeared. He might never have been discovered had there not been a dynamite blast in the area which caused the body to float free from under the pier. The coroner conjectured Andrew became suddenly ill and had fallen into the bay.5 As the body was being transferred to the morgue a bouquet was dropped squarely on the casket by aviator Herbert Munter as he flew over the waterfront. Brothers Ingwal and Edward took over captaining their father’s fishing boat, the Ida N. 

The brothers responded together on June 5, 1917, to the mandatory draft registration. Both brothers were described as tall, blue-eyed, brown-haired fisherman.6 Although Ingwal is also noted as being ‘stout’. Ingwal died in December later that year in Los Angeles, of tuberculosis. Less than a year later Edward was dead from pneumonia in France, where he was serving with Base Hospital 50. Edward was buried at St. Mihiel American Cemetery.

Ida eventually remarried Timothy Small in 1926, a decade after Andrew’s death.7 Her two surviving children both succumbed to tuberculosis; Norman in 1926 and Hattie in 1928. Ida’s second marriage likely wasn’t successful as her marital status is listed as 'separated' on her death certificate. Ida Goodmanson Nesser died alone in 1934 – an inmate at Western State Hospital in Steilacoom – having outlived her first husband and all her children, a sad end to a large Seattle family.8

  1. United States. Army. Base Hospital No. 50. The history of Base Hospital Fifty : a portrayal of the work done by this unit while serving in the United States and with the American Expeditionary Forces in France. Seattle, Wash. : The Committee, 1922. 
  2. 1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Ballard, King, WashingtonEnumeration District 58, sheet 23A, Andrew Nesser household; National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 1743; digital image,, (Accessed 17 February 2017).
  3. Minnesota Marriages, 1849–1950. Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009, 2010. Index entries derived from digital copies of original and compiled records. Andrew Nesser and Ida Goodmanson. 4 December 1890, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
  4. Dora Hattie Nesser. Find a Grave,, Memorial #6219036. (Accessed 23 January 2017).
  5. Flowers Descend on Nesser's Body. The Seattle Daily Times. June 2, 1915, pg. 3.
  6. "U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918," digital images, (, : accessed 17 February 2017); King County, Washington, Seattle, Draft Board 1. Ed. John Nesser and Ingwal Andrew Nesser entries, dated 5 June 1917.
  7. Pierce County Auditor, Marriage Records, 1876-1947; 1984-2014, Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, accessed 17 February 2017. Timothy Small and Ida Nesser. 
  8. "Washington Death Certificates, 1907-1960," database, FamilySearch ( : 17 February 2017), Ida Small, 30 Apr 1934; citing Ft Steilacoom, Pierce, Washington, reference 258, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Olympia; FHL microfilm 2,023,101.