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Saturday, 28 February 2015

Thomas Nelson "Nels" Boulton (1880 - 1957)

Thomas Nelson was born on January 15, 1880 in  New Dublin, Ontario near Brockville.  He was the third child of William Benjamin "Ben" Boulton and Margaret Chapman.  The family lived and farmed the family lot near Lamb's Pond until about 1900, when they moved west following Ben's sister Ann and her husband Benjamin to the southwest Manitoba area.  Ben bought many acres of farmland and his sons would have been involved in that business as well but at some point headed farther west and went into the retail hardware business.

In the 1901 Manitoba census he was living with his parents and siblings and in 1906, he was enumerated as a 26 year old farmer with his 21 year old wife Annie at 20-6-27 with his brother Cleve.  

Thomas Nelson or "Nels" as he seems to be more commonly known, married Annie Archibald who was born in Saskatchewan 1885.  They went on to raise 4 children;  Gladys born in 1900, Gertrude in 1907, William Archibald in June 1908 in Tyvan and Bessie in 1910. Bessie was likely the daughter of his brother William Benjamin who died suddenly in 1916 and his young wife who died in 1909. Nels, Annie and these four children are recorded on the 1911 census in Tyvan.

An online book available at our, written in 1987 by Myles C. Kinney called As It Was in the Beginning, gives the community history of Tyvan, Saskatchewan.  The above picture shows Nels on the far right in 1912 as one of the curlers.

Photo postcards above of Tyvan are from the website prairie put online by Glen Lundeen.  

On page 204 of his book, Mr. Kinney says Nels was the third man in Tyvan to own an automobile, a 1911 Ford Model T.  Nels had purchased the Hardware Store in Tyvan in 1908.  He was a member of the Village Council in 1909, 1910 and 1912.  He sold the business in 1915.  The following tale is told on page 214 of the book:

In 1907, the T. Eaton Co. started their Western Canada mail order business in Winnipeg.  The variety of their stock, and generally lower priced items appealed to a great many.  No doubt business in small Centers was affected.Nels Boulton, Tyvan's hardware merchant at the time, displayed a canny way of illustrating the advantage of shopping locally.It appears that a certain farmer (who will remain nameless) asked Boulton the price of an axe handle, then complained about the price saying that he could get the handle for less money from Eatons.  Boulton obliged by agreeing to meet Eaton' price.  The customer waited some minutes then requested his axe handle.  Boulton asked, "When would you get it from Eaton's?"  The farmer had to admit it would take a week for mail order delivery.  "Well", replied Boulton, "Come in next week and your handle will be here."When next in town the farmer went in for his axe handle only to be informed (regretfully) by Boulton that the handle had been broken in shipment and had to be returned (as might have been the case had it been ordered from Eatons).  The next week the farmer called at the store again, and this time got his handle at Eaton's price.  It looked suspiciously like the handle he could have bought for a few cents more than the Eaton's price a few weeks earlier.  No doubt , Mr. --- got the message.  Boulton thought it was a huge joke.  The story made the rounds of the community.

The pictures above were sent by Keith Sly and were identified on the back of the originals as Boultons.  I believe the one on the right look like the curler above so guess that it is Nels and Annie.  The one on the left would be one of his brothers Travers or Cleve and his wife.  Any readers of this blog with any further information, please let me know.

On the 1916 census, the same family of six is living at 1205 5th Street in the city of Moose Jaw and Nels is listed as owning a hardware store.

A digital service file under regimental #55514 and can be found online at Library and Archives Canada and it contains over 80 documents pertaining to his military service.  On April 28, 1916 at age 36, Nels signed attestation papers to enlist in WW1 in Moose Jaw, SK.  He was described as 5 feet 8 inches tall with fresh complexion, brown eyes and grey hair. Nels would have bid goodbye to his wife and family of four young children ages 9 down to 5 and then arrived in England on April 22, 1917. Unfortunately, he was seriously injured in combat on September 29, 1918.  At Cambrai in France, he was hit with a shell in the left side of his chest.  It resulted in damage to his left arm causing impaired function of his left hand and arm.  As a result, he was discharged from service on December 11, 1919.  

In November 1923, a border crossing record was made of Nels passing through International Falls, Minnesota on his way to Morrisburg, New York to visit his brother in law William Bell.

The only other fact I know is that Nels died in Vancouver on April 27, 1957.  His injury in the war no doubt made earning a living much more difficult.  Any further information to tell Nels' story can be included in the comments below or email me at

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