Nelson Next Socrates Nelson--Entrepreneur  

      In addition to his general store and fur trading business, Socrates Nelson was involved in the lumber business along the St. Croix River, which played an important role in the growth of the area. Logs were cut and loaded on the river ice during the winter. In the spring, when the ice melted, the logs floated down-river to be caught by chain booms laid across the river and then sorted and counted.

In 1857, Socrates Nelson and Levi Churchill joined with Orange Walker, George Judd, John McKusick, Daniel Mears, William Kent and W.H.C. Folsom to form the St. Croix Boom Company. They first built a boom near Osceola, Wisconsin, before moving it to Stillwater in 1886.

Socrates Nelson and D.B. Loomis formed Nelson, Loomis and Company in 1852. On land owned by Nelson south of Stillwater, they platted a town they called Baytown (now Bayport, Minnesota), and built and operated a sawmill there until 1858, when the company was dissolved. Nelson owned and operated the mill until his death in 1867.

John McKusick, Isaac Staples and Socrates Nelson raised $300,000 to organize the Stillwater and St. Paul Railroad in January, 1867, just three months prior to Nelson's death. The line was completed on December 28, 1870.

W.H.C. Folsom, in his book Fifty Years in the Northwest wrote about his friend and partner in the boom company, "As a merchant he was very successful, being fitted by nature for commercial pursuits. His store stood on Main Street. He built a substantial dwelling [above the store, I believe] and lived in it until his death, May 6, 1867. He was of a free and generous disposition in all his relations of life. His liberality and public spirit did much for the prosperity of Stillwater."