A ca. 1910 photograph of Nelson, showing floodwaters stretching across the entire width of Main Street as people try to navigate in boots, atop wagons, or barefoot while carrying shoes

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The Early Floods of Nelson, MN

We thought these historic Douglas County photographs seemed appropriate for today’s rainy weather…

In its early days, the town of Nelson was plagued by dramatic flooding. High water levels would overflow the ditch north of Nelson and then collect in the town’s main street. Although these floods often came during spring thaws and rains, these floods could occur throughout the year whenever the water levels were sufficiently high.

Throughout the 1910-1930s, many additional ditching and tiling projects were completed across Douglas County as WPA projects, but a special effort went into constructing ditches near Nelson.

People responded to the floods with good humor, evidenced by postcard format photographs of flooded streets jokingly used as swimming or hunting locations.

A black-and-white humorous photograph of a man who has apparently "capsized" and is swimming in the flood water on Main Street in Nelson, MN, ca. 1910s
A black-and-white humorous photograph of a man who has apparently “capsized” and is swimming in the flood water on Main Street in Nelson, MN, ca. 1910s
A ca. 1910 photograph of Nelson, showing floodwaters stretching across the entire width of Main Street as people try to navigate in boots, atop wagons, or barefoot while carrying shoes
A ca. 1910 photograph of Nelson, showing floodwaters stretching across the entire width of Main Street as people try to navigate in boots, atop wagons, or barefoot while carrying shoes

Images from DCHS Collection:

Image 1: A black-and-white humorous photograph of a man who has apparently “capsized” and is swimming in the flood water on Main Street in Nelson, MN, ca. 1910s

Image 2: A ca. 1910 photograph of Nelson, showing floodwaters stretching across the entire width of Main Street as people try to navigate in boots, atop wagons, or barefoot while carrying shoes