Civil War veteran, farmer, politician and businessman, Jay Elijah Nash was born on March 29, 1843, in Hadley, Massachusetts. At the age of 18, he enlisted in the Union serving with Company D of the 27th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Nash re-enlisted in 1863. During the long bloody course of the war Nash fought in twenty battles and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant. He was wounded in action at Petersburg on in 1864. The following year Nash was captured in North Carolina, and held as a prisoner of war for 19 days before he was exchanged. After the war was over, Nash returned home to Hadley. On April 8, 1865 he married a woman from Springfield, Massachusetts named, Martha M. Davis. Four years later Jay and Martha Nash moved to Minnesota, taking up residence in Minneapolis. In 1874, Martha gave birth to George S. Nash. In 1880, Nash purchased 40 acres of land in what was then Crystal Lake Township. He established a dairy farm with 82 head of cattle. Nash opened a hardware store a coupe years later. Martha and Jay divorced in 1885. The following year Nash remarried, a Vermont native Clara Louise Cooper. Four years later, Clara gave birth to Jay’s younger son and the couple’s first child together, Floyd E. Nash. In 1895, their daughter, Ruby L. Nash was born.
Nash spent a great deal of time reflecting upon his Civil War Experience and decided that war was little more than organized murder. He advocated pacifism and argued that socialism was the best way to guarantee peace. In 1899, Nash became one of the founders of the Social Democratic Party of Minnesota and in 1902, Nash became the gubernatorial nominee for the Socialist Party of Minnesota. He received less than one percent of the vote, but Nash’s star continued to rise. On February 22, 1904 the state convention of the Public Ownership (Socialist) Party of Minnesota, meeting in Minneapolis, elected Nash as State Secretary and later that year he became party’s nominee for the office of Governor. Nash did a little better the second time around. He received 1.91% of the vote. The party grew during Nash’s tenure as State Secretary, In 1905 the Public Ownership (Socialist) Party of Minnesota averaged 791 members in good standing by 1908, there were 1,837. By 1915 the party had 5,600 members. They managed a few victories during Nash’s tenure winning a seat in the legislature and mayor elections in Brainard, Two Harbors, Crookston and Bemidji. In 1912, Nash ran for for the office of State Treasurer. He won 12.65% of the vote. Undeterred Nash, took to the speakers’ circuit and gave speeches all over the state. Nash ran for the office of State Treasurer again in 1914. He won8.96 percent. On July 30, 1915 At the age of 72, Nash was thrown from his wagon and died. George Nash took over the family hardware store. Clara continued live in Nash’s Crystal Lake home until she passed away in 1944. Their daughter Ruby lived in the family home until her death in the 1960s.
In 1916 Floyd E. Nash built a bath house on his family’s property at Crystal Lake. The new bath house opened with 24 lockers, later increased to 100 and still later, 900 lockers. It was a recreation center, widely known for good, clean, wholesome fun—bathing, toboggan slides into the water, boating, fishing, picnics, dancing, and cottages. He also operated the Nash Land and Fuel Company for about 10 years.
Each vote counted, even in the 1916 village council election, when a recount on March 16 showed Leo M. Kuch was elected Trustee by four votes. Others elected were William H. Johnson, President; Arthur Jones and J. A. Peterson, Trustees; J. A. Trump, Recorder; C. H. Hubbell, Justice of the Peace; and S. E. Sinclair, Constable.
This post is part of a series loosely based on the book Robbinsdale Then and Now by Helen Blodgett.