Measure K UPDATE
FALL 2011

Who was Jessie Elwin Nelson?

Jessie Elwin Nelson with her husbandJessie Elwin Nelson, co-founder of the City of Signal Hill, was its first mayor and one of the first women mayors in Southern California. Born Jessie Le Master in 1903 in Clarksville, Tennessee, she came to Long Beach with her husband, Z.T. Nelson.

The couple invested in several tracts of land, including 17 acres in Signal Hill, which they later subdivided and sold.

Jessie Nelson immediately took an active interest in the affairs of Signal Hill, then in unincorporated Los Angeles County. She was active in establishing city and county libraries in Long Beach and Signal Hill. As a local columnist for the Long Beach Telegram and Long Beach Press, she wrote the first story about the discovery of oil in the area in 1921.

After helping to defeat a movement to annex Signal Hill to Long Beach, Nelson started her own movement to incorporate Signal Hill as a city itself. After successfully winning incorporation on April 14, 1924, Nelson was elected a member of the board of city trustees and, having received the highest number of votes, was named mayor.

Although she was unable to fulfill her term due to health issues, Nelson continued to support local organizations, such as the Civic League and the Ebell Club of Signal Hill.

During World War I, she volunteered with the Red Cross and Liberty Loan drives. For all her contributions, she is known as “the Mother of Signal Hill.”

Visit the Jessie Elwin Nelson Middle School project page.

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