James Branch Cabell

Literary Life and Legacy

Louisa Nelson – death notices and obituaries (1904)

The following are transcriptions of several of the death notices, obituaries and memorial tributes to Mrs. Louisa Nelson. These clippings were preserved by James Branch Cabell in his scrapbook. A cabinet card portrait of Mrs. Nelson also kept by Cabell figures in his description of her in the book Let Me Lie (1947). 

Passed Away.  Richmond Planet, Feb. 20, 1904, p. 1newspaper clipping. Obituary for Louisa Nelson. Richmond Planet [View Image]
Richmond Planet, Feb. 20, 1904, p. 1
preserved by James Branch Cabell in his scrapbook
Special Collections and Archives, VCU Libraries

Feb. 7. — At nine o’clock p. m., Louise Nelson, one of the oldest and most respected members of our race passed peacefully unto God. Aged eighty-four years.

The death of this good woman deserves more than a passing notice since her life and death were so intimately connected with two phases of our people.

She was born in the days of slavery and was owned by the Braader family but to them she was never considered a slave, rather the companion of her first mistress Miss Patsey Braader and in Louisa Nelson’s childhood she was the playmate of the grandmother of the boys she afterwards so tenderly cared for and was largely instrumental in making the promising young men what they are today. No mother to them have been more loyal, loving and affectionate. Their success was her greatest joy, and whatever success they may attain can but be largely the result of her patient influence. They recognize and gladly attest to this fact since to them their mammy’s name is the synonym of the finest qualities of which our race is capable. Louisa Nelson was kind, good patient, just and never too tired to serve others.

These are the qualities that endear, ennoble, and will give our people an undying place in the annals of time. For a quarter of a century Mrs. Nelson lived in the family of Mrs. Robert G. Cabell, and it was at their home she breathed her last.

Mrs. Nelson was a member of Independent Order of St. Luke, the Independent Order of Good Samaritans and daughter of Samaria and the Nelson Council 227 Order of St. Luke was named for this good woman. The funeral services were held Tuesday, Feb. 9th at the First Baptist Church, Rev. W. T. Johnson officiating. The exercises were chaste and dignified. The text of the sermon being peculiarly appropriate “The memory of the just is blessed.” The boys she brought up were the pall bearers and the best people of two races assembled to do her the last honor.

In sister Nelson’s death and the tribute paid her a fine lesson has been taught both white and colored, for it has given a practical evidence of the love and depndence [sic] existing between the two races and give our people an honest proof that no matter what the race or who the people that “The memory of the just is blessed.” Two daughters survive to mourn their loss. Mrs. Virginia Ganeway and Miss Julia Sims.


Newspaper clipping. Obituary. Feb 9 1904 [View Image]
Times-Dispatch (Richmond), Feb. 9, 1904, p 10
preserved by James Branch Cabell in his scrapbook
Special Collections and Archives, VCU Libraries

Death of a Respected Servant. Times-Dispatch (Richmond), Feb. 9, 1904, p. 10.

One of the few remaining servants of the old regime passed away to a well earned rest on Sunday at 9 o’clock that evening, Louisa Nelson, after a brief illness, died at the home of her employer and friend, Mrs. R. G. Cabell, No. 1509 Grove Avenue.

She was in her ninety-fourth year, and had been, in ante-bellum days, the property of the Brander family, having been raised by Miss Patsy Brander, her beloved first mistress. For the last twenty-five years she has been in the Cabell family, first as nurse to the boys, and afterwards as maid to Mrs. Cabell. They alone who remember a quarter of a century of unfaltering love and loyalty know how noble a soul God has taken to Himself. The funeral will take place this afternoon at 2 o’clock from the First Baptist Church, the pall-bearers being James Branch Cabell, Robert G. Cabell, John L. Cabell, H. Godwin Boykin, Watson Y. Arrington and Thomas B. McAdams.


newspaper clipping Anne Cabell memorial for Louisa Nelson [View Image]
Newspaper clipping (source unknown)
preserved by James Branch Cabell in his scrapbook.

Special Collections and Archives, VCU Libraries

IN MEMORIAM. 

Mrs. Louisa Nelson Peacefully Laid to Rest. 

One of the most respected and highly connected of our sisters passed into eternal rest Sunday, February 7th — LOUISA NELSON, aged eighty-four years. For a quarter of a century she had lived in the family of Mrs. Robert G. Cabell and it had been her greatest joy to bring up her three children — James Branch Cabell, now an author, Robert G. Cabell of Thomas Branch and Company, and John Lawrence Cabell, a professor in the Virginia Military Institute — from the day of their birth to manhood; all three being glad to testify tha[t] whatever success they have attained in life was due largely to their dear mammy’s counsel and example. To her her boys were perfect and whatever they were, they were the result of that good woman’s precept and example: since to them she offered her best, and her best were the finest qualities of her race, patience, sobriety, unfailing kindness and a desire to serve God.

Those whom she served and her friends feel there is no honor too great to do her justice: no tribute of which she is unworthy, and that God who she so worthily served will reward her accordingly.

Both Orders rendered their beautiful services at the burial, and she was laid to rest in Union Mechanics’ Cemetery with many friends, both white and colored assembled to do her honor.

MRS. A. B. CABELL.

Mrs. Louisa Nelson Answers the Roll Call. 

On last Sunday night at 9:15 o’clock, Mrs. Louisa Nelson, one of the oldest citizens of our community, was called from labor to reward at the residence of Dr. and Mrs. Cabell of Grove Ave. where the last twenty-five years of her life had been spent. She was regarded by this family and its connections as one of themselves and during her sickness and at her death all that love and affection could suggest was done. Her remains were borne by the loving hands of six of the young men of these families from the above residence Tuesday afternoon at 2 o’clock and the funeral services were held at the First Baptist Church, Rev. Dr. W. T. Johnson officiating. The choir rendered beautiful music and the ceremonies were most impressive. The flowers were unusually rare and beautiful. She had been a member of America Council No. 148, I. O. of St. Luke from its organization and was held in the highest esteem by its members and those of the fraternity. Nelson Council named for her by Deputy Ella O. Waller at its Consecration showed its love and respect by most appropriate resolutions and a beautiful design. She was a consistent member of Shining Star Lodge, Samaritans. She leaves a devoted daughter Miss Julia Nelson, to mourn her loss.

Servant of God, well done,
Rest from thy loved employ,
The battle fought, the victory won,
Enter thy Master’s joy.

A. D. Price funeral director.


Louisa Nelson and James Branch Cabell

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