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     January 8, 2018      #41-7 a2z
Nels Anderson, Ashkum's 'Aeronaut'
Nels Anderson, Ashkum's 'Aeronaut'

By Jack Klasey

Some occupations require formal education in a classroom. Others can be mastered by means of on-the-job training.

The latter was the route taken by Ashkum farmer Nels Anderson when he decided to become an aeronaut — an occupation that involved rising high into the sky beneath a hot-air balloon, then parachuting back to earth.

On Aug. 30, 1894, at the age of 26, Anderson made his first aerial trip during a Harvest Picnic event in the neighboring town of Danforth. A veteran balloonist, M.M. Forsman, of Peoria, had been hired by Danforth businessmen to provide an ascension. "At about five o'clock," wrote an eyewitness, Forsman "introduced N.J. Anderson and informed the astonished multitude ...

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Jack Klasey came to Kankakee County as a young Journal reporter in 1963, and quickly became hooked on local history. In 1968, he co-authored “Of the People: A Popular History of Kankakee County.” Now retired from a career in the publishing industry, he remains active in the history field as a volunteer and board member at the Kankakee County Museum. He can be contacted at jwklasey@comcast.net.