Nelson, John V. "Vic," Sr.

1896-1968 | Alaska Sportsman and Chief Timekeeper, Alaska Railroad

John Victor “Vic” Nelson Sr. was a well-known sports figure in Alaska and all-time Alaska Centennial Sports Great for his basketball achievements.   He pitched baseball every summer in Anchorage for over twenty years, played different positions in the infield and outfield, and was a goodwill ambassador of the sport. During the late 1930s, he held the all-time strikeout record for Anchorage city intermural leagues—twenty-two in one game.[1]

On August 17, 1940, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in “Foul Tips,” gave this account of Nelson as a pitcher:

“There are a lot of guys who wish that they had the endurance of Iron Mike Vic Nelson. Vic went into the game in the sixth inning and had Fairbanks eating out of his hand. After 21 years as a pitcher, he is still able to mow them down as fast as they come up.”[2]

An athlete who captured the hearts of local baseball fans during Anchorage's early years, John Victor "Vic" Nelson was born in Ridgeway, Elk County, Pennsylvania on March 22, 1896. He grew up in Ridgeway. In 1917, he was employed as a stenographer by the Eek Tanning Company of Ridgeway but left this position to enter military service after America’s entry into World War I in April 1917.[3]

Nelson arrived in Anchorage in 1920 to be a mine inspector for the U.S. Bureau of Mines at the Eska coal mine on Moose Creek at the southern end of Wishbone Hill in the Matanuska Valley, sixty miles north of Anchorage. In April 1917, the Alaskan Engineering Commission (AEC) purchased the mine from the Eska Coal Mining Company for $15,650 to supply the Alaska Railroad with coal. In 1920, the AEC then temporarily shut down its operations at Eska when the Evan Jones Mine opened because it was the intention that the mine be only used to supplement private production and not to interfere with private business.[4]

In 1921, Nelson met Hulda Campbell in Anchorage. Hulda Campbell was born in East St. Louis, Illinois on March 29, 1897. She attended high school in Vancouver, Washington, and arrived in Alaska in 1920. She worked for the AEC from 1920 to 1922. They were married in Seward in 1922.[5] The couple had three children: John Victor (born in 1923); James R. (born in 1926); and Joan (born in 1927).

After the Eska coal mine temporarily closed in 1920, the Nelsons moved to Anchorage. Nelson was hired by the AEC and then worked, subsequently, for its successor agency, the Alaska Railroad, as chief timekeeper until his retirement in 1951. During the years in Anchorage, he was well known as a baseball player. His specialty was pitching, and many in Anchorage considered him one of Alaska's greats of baseball. He was honored at the Alaska Centennial All Sports Banquet in 1967 and received an award for his past activities on behalf of baseball.

Nelson was a member of the Pioneers of Alaska, Anchorage Elks Lodge, and the Anchorage Masonic Lodge. He was World War I veteran.[6]

Hulda Nelson was an avid gardener and also enjoyed watercolor painting. She was a member of the First Presbyterian Church and the Pioneers of Alaska.

After Nelson’s retirement, he and his wife, Hulda, moved to Homer, Alaska, in 1954. They remained there until he died at the age of seventy-two on March 30, 1968, at Providence Hospital in Anchorage.[7]

Hulda Campbell Nelson died on July 21, 1994, at South Peninsula Hospital in Homer. In addition to her husband, John Victor, she was preceded in death by her son, James R., in 1981. Hulda Nelson was survived by her son, John, of Anchorage; and her daughter, Joan Gordon Wahto of Anchorage. John V. “Vic” Nelson is buried in the Pioneer Tract of Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery. Hulda Campbell Nelson's ashes were scattered over Kachemak Bay.[8]


[1] “Anchorage All-Star Lineup Numbers Many Prominent Sports Figures of Coast,” Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, August 7, 1939, 4, (accessed September 12, 2016); and “Anchorage All-Stars are Here,” Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, August 15, 1939, 6, (accessed September 12, 2016).

[2] “Foul Tips,” Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, August 17, 1940, 5, (accessed September 12, 2016).

[3] Draft registration card, John Victor Nelson, 3rd Ward, Ridgeway, Elk County, Pennsylvania, n.d., National Archives Microfilm Publication M1509, World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, Roll PA88, U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line], (accessed September 10, 2016).

[4] Bonnie Houston, Eska Coal Mine, Wishbone Hill, Sutton, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, AK, HAER No. AK-19 (Washington, DC: Historic American Engineering Record, National Parks Service, n.d.), 2-3, (accessed September 12, 2016).

[5] Obituary, Hulda Campbell Nelson, Anchorage Daily News, July 29, 1994, B-5; and John P. Bagoy, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage: Publications Consultants, 2001), 180-181.

[6] “Alaskan Sportsman ‘Vic’ Nelson Dies Here,” Anchorage Daily Times, April 1, 1968, 2.

[7] Entry for John V. “Vic” Nelson, “End of the Trail,” Alaska magazine, v. 34, no. 6, June 1968, 52; “Alaskan Sportsman ‘Vic’ Nelson Dies Here,” Anchorage Daily Times, April 1, 1968, 2; and John Victor Nelson Sr., U.S., Find a Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line], (accessed September 12, 2016).

[8] Obituary, Hulda Campbell Nelson, Anchorage Daily News, July 29, 1994, B-5.


This biographical sketch of John V. "Vic" Nelson Sr. is based on an essay which originally appeared in John Bagoy's Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage:  Publications Consultants, 2001), 180-181.  See also the Vic Nelson file, Bagoy Family Pioneer Files (2004.11), Box 6, Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Anchorage, AK.  Photographs courtesy of the Nelson family.  Edited by Mina Jacobs, 2012.  Note:  edited, revised, and expanded by Bruce Parham, September 12, 2016.

Preferred citation: Bruce Parham, “Nelson, John V. ‘Vic’,” Cook Inlet Historical Society Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940,

Major support for Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940, provided by: Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Atwood Foundation, Cook Inlet Historical Society, and the Rasmuson Foundation. This educational resource is provided by the Cook Inlet Historical Society, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt association. Contact us at the Cook Inlet Historical Society, by mail at Cook Inlet Historical Society, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, 625 C Street, Anchorage, AK 99501 or through the Cook Inlet Historical Society website,