Nelson Harper was born a slave into the family of William Harper before the civil war, in a cabin near where the Seminary, Kentucky Post Office stood in Cumberland County. Although he was not sure of his actual birthdate, "Uncle Nels" was believed to have been over one hundred years old when he died at War Memorial Hospital on July 18, 1956.
He had suffered a stroke while helping repair the pump to the well at New Hope Church at Highway, where the annual reunion and homecoming was taking place. He lived adjacent to the church and had been a deacon and lay-leader there for a great number of years and was noted for his piety and deep concentration to the cause of Christ.
Uncle Nels would often talk about events that had taken place during and after the Civil War. Older folks who remembered him as a grown man when they were children told how their parents had said Uncle Nels was a good sized boy and able to do small chores on the farm before the war ended.
He first married Mattie Alexander. Their daughter, Pearl Craft, was living in Muncie when Uncle Nels died. After Mattie died, Uncle Nels married Laura Staley and they had four children; David, Clarence, Edgar and Nora. Edgar, his only other surviving child, was living in Cincinnati when his father died. A half brother, Gerald, lived at Highway. Another one, Eugene, lived at Bakerton. He lived to be 101.
Uncle Nels was buried at Harper Cemetery near Seminary, following a funeral at New Hope Church. Both the service and a visitation at Sewell Funeral Home had been attended by a large number of people wishing to pay tribute to the man who was highly esteemed by all who knew him.
He proved to be faithful as a Deacon of his church. He was called a Christian soldier who was ever ready to wage war with the enemy and stand firm until the battle was ended. He loved his church and good preaching and often encouraged the speakers with his amens. The light he left behind lit the path for others who followed.
The burial site for William Harper, who lived between 1815 and 1892, is unknown, but his wife, Mahalia Brown Harper (1814-1888) is buried at Harper Cemetery. There are four graves there: Nelson Harper, Mahalia Brown Harper, Laura Branham Harper (1849-1920) and her mother, Emily Wilson Branham Burchett, a slave brought to Clinton County from Danville, Virginia by Barnabas Branham. Her surname was Wilson. She was sold away from her husband, King Harper, and 3 or 4 of her children. Their whereabouts are unknown.
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