Nelson Ranch History

Our History

James D. Spirlock arrived in what is now Thurston County in 1858 from Texas by way of the California Gold fields. In 1861, he paid $211.47 for 40 acres of land. He cleared the land and began farming. He was also a livestock trader who bought cattle from all over the territory and drove them to Olympia where he loaded them on barges for shipment to Canada. James D. Spirlock married his neighbor Cordelia Ricker Plumb in 1867. Two of their daughters married Swedish brothers, Andrew and Gust Nelson, who worked on the farm. Gust married Pearl in 1909 and remained on the farm where they had two children-Jim and Bob. Between 1920 and 1940, they operated a dairy. By 1940, it was mostly a beef operation with a small flock of sheep. At the same time, a mill was added to the farm and Gust’s son Jim became the sawyer. The logging was done selectively on the farm using horses. The logs were cut at the mill and sold to Olympia Harbor Lumber. The farm acquired its first tractor in the early 1950’s but still used draft horses for harvesting the hay and oats until the 1970’s.

Jim and his wife Elna ran the farm with his brother Bob and wife Katherine. Jim and Elna had four children-Maria, Ginny, Ron, and Rick. Today the farm is run by Rick, Ron and his wife Kay, joined by their children Scott and Jill. Ginny, her husband, two children, and four grandchildren frequently return to the farm to show the next generation the joy of working on the farm and the peace of the country.