Tombstone Tuesday: Nellie Ross Cullens-Norwood (1859-1937) – Circle, Alaska

nellie ross_cullens-norwood markerSince the weather has turned colder (and snowy in some places) I decided to cast out to the far north where snow has been on the ground for weeks – Circle, Alaska. A small marker was placed over Nellie Ross Cullens-Norwood’s grave in this remote area of Alaska.  Only fifteen of the graves have any kind of marking on them according to Find-A-Grave, but perhaps as many as thirty-four people are buried in Circle Hot Springs hot springs_AK cemeteryI was intrigued by this one because I couldn’t locate any other Norwood’s buried in the area and Nellie was close to 80 years old when she died (noted on the marker).  So, what is an elderly lady doing way up in remote Alaska living alone – there has to be a story here!

Find-A-Grave lists her birth date as September 1859 in Maine and her death in Circle, Alaska in 1937 (no specific date) – not a whole lot of information (her children’s and spouses’ names were also listed) so the search was on!   Angealla “Nellie” Ross was born in 1859 to William and Mary Lorinda Ross.  In the 1860 Census, the Ross family was living in Shapleigh, York, Maine; Nellie’s brother, William was 4 years old.  Father William was listed as a “shoemaker” and had been born in Maine as well.  Mother Mary Lorinda was listed as a “Lady” – yes, I’m sure she was!


NOTE: This article has been SNIPPED.  Why?  Digging History is now a monthly digital (PDF) magazine.  This article will be included in the August 2018 issue of Digging History Magazine. The story includes new research and a different story than the original article.  The original article, amazing enough, has been significantly enhanced with footnotes.

Check out the latest issue here (where you can also search for the August 2018 issue): or try a subscription here.  Want to TRY OUT the magazine?  Click the magazine link in the previous sentence, then scroll to the bottom of any page and provide your email and Subscribe.  A free issue will be coming your way soon!




  1. Nellie Norwood was my great grandmother. My mother, Nellie Pauline Dover, was the youngest daughter of Warda Cullens Dover. Mom was born in 1919 and had little memory of her grandmother but does remember reading the letters sent to them. From her memory, Nellie Norwood went to Alaska with her son Warren Ross when he decided to go to Alaska to teach ‘manual arts’. She was a widow again and thought it would be an adventure. Her son eventually returned to the midwest, but Nellie Norwood loved Alaska and stayed there. She did not have any Asian heritage but she was quite small with a very wrinkled face that made her eyes appear to be similar to those of an individual from the Asian region. From what we were told the pilot in the picture with the plane is Wiley Post who delivered mail to the region. He often took people up for quick flights and Nellie Norwood was one of them.

    • Thank you so much for stopping by and providing more information about Nellie. I was so fascinated with this little elderly lady way up in Alaska I had to write a story. I had no idea who the pilot was but that is history isn’t it?

    • Nellie is also my great great grandmother. This is amazing. From what I know She was born in Maine. Her family went west in a covered wagon to Oklahoma and then she went to Alaska.

      • Steven — thanks for stopping by and now you’ve found some more kinfolks! Nellie’s story was pretty amazing wasn’t it?


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