Nels A. Tornquist papers

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Level of description



Nels A. Tornquist papers


  • 1888-1950 (Creation)


1.00 Linear Feet

Name of creator


Biographical history

1873       Born in Torscker, Sweden
1881       Entered the United States
1884       Father, Nels F. Tornquist, naturalized
1888       Homestead filed in Salina, Kansas
1889       Graduated from 8th grade in Marquette, Kansas
1895       Father married Carrie Olsen from Lindsborg, Kansas
1896-1899  Served with Troop 6, 4th Cavalry
1899-1902  Served with 22nd Battery, Field Artillery. Saw action in the Spanish-American War in Philippines with rank of corporal
1902-1908  Served with Troop H, 13th Cav. Promoted from Corporal to sergeant
1908-1916  Served with Troop F, 15th Cav. as a Corporal
1916-1917  Saw action in Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villa as a Sgt. in 1st Squadron 13th Cavalry Nels Tornquist, Camp Johnston, FL, ca 1917-1918
1917       Troop 8, 20th Cav. at Camp Funston, Ft. Riley, Kansas
1917-1918  Sgt. in Quartermaster Corps Camp J.E. Johnston, Florida
July 1918  Promoted to 1st Lt. QMC, Camp Greene, North Carolina
1918-1919  Promoted Cpt. QMC to command black 344th Labor Bn. Co. B in France during WWI
1920       Retired from active service with rank of sergeant
1921       Ordered to active duty with rank of Sgt. for ROTC assignment at University of Washington, Seattle
1922       Once again placed on retired list
1925       Married Erna Rehfeld at age of 52, in Vancouver, Washington
1934       By an act of Congress dated May 1932 advanced to the retired rank of captain
1950       Died of coronary thrombosis at age 77 in Pasadena, California

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

This manuscript collection, consisting of approximately 450 items housed in one box. The material spans the years 1888-1950. Series 1, Military Papers (1898-1950), is the largest series and it is divided into the following sub-series: Spanish-American War, 1898; Cavalry Units, 1906-1915; Punitive Expedition Diary, ca. 1916; Letters of Recommendation, 1914-1919; Stateside Mobilization Camps, 1917-1918; Embarkation to France, 1918; Company Command in France, 1918-1919; 344th Labor Battalion Company Funds and Payroll; General A.E.F. Orders and Memoranda, 1919; Demobilization in France, 1919; Demobilization Camp in U.S., 1919; and, Retirement, ROTC and IRS, 1919-1950. Enroute to Namiquipa - U.S. Soldiers bathing, ca 1916 A Spanish-American War Roster and a roster of the 344th Labor Battalion (WWI) are interesting for their notations of names and addresses of the men who participated in these wars. The papers reveal the rapid promotion Nels A. Tornquist received after he was selected to command a black service company The certificates show that he was promoted from sergeant to first lieutenant in July of 1918 and then to captain the following month, just in time to take his new command to France during WWI. Among the activities documented in the papers during the time Capt. Tornquist commanded the black service company is a serious incident concerning large quantities of unexpended ammunition that the men in his company were expected to work around at their own risk. There are two folders in the collection that deal with the 344th Labor Battalion. One rare find in the collection is a war diary of the Punitive Expedition into Mexico after Pancho Villa, ca. 1916-1917. The comments on forage problems, climate and travel are noteworthy. Series 2, Personal Correspondence, is divided between that of Nels A. and Nels F. Tornquist. The father, Nels F., received all of his letters from his native Sweden so they are written in that language. The son's letters, fortunately for the Army censors during WWI, are written in English and are addressed to his step-mother Carrie. There are also many envelopes without the enclosures but they are useful for showing Tornquist's change of address as he moved from one unit to another throughout his career. Tornquist astride an Indian, U.S. Mobilization Camp, 1918 Series 3, Legal Papers, contains an original Kansas homestead deed for Salina, Kansas in 1888 and deeds for property in Washington state. Series 4, Certificates, indicate the official notification of each rank that Nels A. Tornquist achieved. A so included are notifications of retirement after 24 years of honorable service with the pre-WWI rank of sergeant; the notification in 1934 that he advanced to the retired rank of captain; and an undated memorial on behalf of the United States, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Series 5, Printed Material, includes many souvenirs, train passes and army pamphlets from WWI. Of particular interest are War Information series pamphlets entitled, The War Message and the Facts Behind It, printed in June, 1917 and Treaty of Peace with Germany, printed in June, 1919. The remainder of the printed material is a mixture of wedding announcements, veterans organization membership cards, and incidental items. Series 6, is comprised of maps showing the progress of WWI and WWII. There is an excellent period map of Verdun, France which Capt. Tornquist personally annotated to show where he spent time prior to and after the armistice of November 11, 1918. 344th Labor Battalion, World War I, ca 1918 344th Labor Battalion, World War I, ca 1918 Approximately 61 photographs from the Spanish-American War, the Mexican border during 1916-1917 and WWI were filed in the KSU photograph collection, and several three-dimensional items were stored with the artifacts collection. A number of WWI and WWII maps were transferred to the Documents Department in the library. Of related interest is an oral history interview between Carl Rehfeld, the uncle of Nels Tornquist, and Evan Williams of Farrell Library. The tape and transcript are in the University Archives Oral History Collection.

System of arrangement

The collection is arranged in six series: 1) Military Papers, 1898-1950; 2) Personal Correspondence, 1891-1938; 3) Legal Papers, 1888-1924; 4) Certificates, 1901-ca. 1964; 5) Printed Material, 1914-1950; and 6) Maps, WWI and WWII.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

No access restriction:  All materials are open for research.

Physical access

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Conditions governing reproduction

The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Languages of the material

  • English

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Finding aids

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

The Tornquist papers, consisting of approximately 450 pieces, are contained in one box. The papers are organized in the following series: Military Papers, Personal Correspondence, Legal Papers, Certificates, Printed Material and Maps. Other items received with the collection included photographs, maps, books and artifacts. They were transferred to appropriate locations within the University Archives and Farrell Library. The collection was processed by Cynthia L. Hayden, a graduate student in the history department, who served as an intern in the University Archives during the fall of 1984. The collection's accession number is PC 26, and later revised to number, PC 1984.18 (P1984.18).

Immediate source of acquisition

Acqusition Source: Carl Rehfeld, nephew of Nels Tornquist.
Acqusition Method: Donation
Acqusition Date: 19820101

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information

The manuscript collection of Nels A. Tornquist begins with Tornquist's service in the Spanish-American War of 1898 where he served with a field artillery unit in the Philippines. The papers denote the progression of this soldier's career from a private in various cavalry units, to a captain in the Quartermaster Corps in World War I. of approximately 450 pieces, are contained in one box. The papers are organized in the following series: Military Papers, Personal Correspondence, Legal Papers, Certificates, Printed Material and Maps.


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Notes element

General note

Preferred Citation: [Item title], [item date], Nels A. Tornquist Papers, Box [number], Folder [Number or title], Morse Department of Speical Collections, Kansas State University Libraries.

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Archon Collection ID


Description control element

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Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Sources used

Archivist's note

Finding Aid Author: Cynthia L. Hayden Graduate Student Intern
Processing Info: The collection was processed by Cynthia L. Hayden, a graduate student in the history department, who served as an intern in the University Archives during the fall of 19884.
Archon processing by Edward Nagurny, graduate research assistant, June 2015.
Publication Date: 2015-06-25

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Physical storage

  • Box: Boxes 1-2