Wouldn’t it be nice to have a museum in the area dedicated to military history? A place where younger generations could engage with history, stories could be shared, and important documents and artifacts preserved and displayed. Jesse Nelson thinks so and dreams of making that idea a reality.
Jesse, a 14-year-old Newborn resident, has collected WWII memorabilia, among other categories, since he was five. That’s when he found an old lighter on his parents’ property.
“My interests grew from there,” he stated.
Jesse has several thousand items currently stored in his bedroom. They fill shelves, display cases, and a closet, which makes the space look less like a bedroom and more like a micro-museum with a bed in it. Uniforms, helmets, canteens, lighters, coins, buttons, bullets, and more items from WWII are arranged and catalogued along with a variety of other collections including stamps, arrowheads, postcards, National Geographic magazines, baseball cards, and books.
“Many of the items relate to military history. Most are things people have given me over the years, but I also attend collector shows. I have even talked to the American Legion. It was fun speaking with this organization, and they enjoyed my collection.
“I can’t really say I have a favorite item, because I love all of them. Every time I get something, I study it. I remember where every piece came from, which is kind of hard, but I can walk around and name each one.”
Jesse’s father, Tyler Nelson, commented, “I think it’s cool that he tries to honor the veterans with his collections. He appreciates what someone gives him, and he’ll take very good care of it and display it. He really enjoys the stories behind where the item came from.”
Some collectibles convey very personal stories for Jesse such as military pins his great-grandfather wore and a photograph of him among fellow soldiers.
Tamara Nelson, Jesse’s mother, stated, “He has such a desire and passion to collect things, preserve history, and learn about it.”
“I’d love to get a military museum around here,” Jesse explained. “I’d have my collection on display and also see if anyone locally would share their military-related items for a temporary exhibit. I’ve just always wanted to share this with more people. I went to a military museum in Tennessee. It was crazy to see all the stuff people put in the exhibit. It was amazing. I want to bring a museum like that into our town to teach the younger generation.”
With plans to be an archaeologist in the future, the homeschooled teen studies history at a 12th grade level. He elaborated, “I love studying history; it’s my favorite subject.”
In his spare time, Jesse works at an auction house and volunteers at a library. At least he does that when he is not out using his metal detector, magnet-fishing, or searching under and around old houses with permission of the property owners.
Jesse recalled, “I was metal-detecting in a creek when I found a World War II button. It was falling apart. I wasn’t expecting to find that here. I found a civil war bullet while I was walking down the road. There are coins that I’ve found without a metal detector. Once, I was under a house, reached behind a brick, and pulled out two coins. One was a 1903 Indian Head, and the other was a 1970 penny. I’m always looking. Another time,” he said with a grin, “I looked up and realized that the trees had been blooming for a while, but I hadn’t noticed because I was always looking at the ground.”
Continuing his search for military memorabilia and a means to share his burgeoning collection with a broader audience, Jesse Nelson enthusiastically pursues his passion.