Nannie Colwell Dorset (1841-1934)


Nannie Hammer was born on May 23, 1841 in Holidaysburg, PA. In 1856, she and her family moved to La Crosse where she attended the La Crosse Academy.

Around 1857, Capt. Wilson Colwell was boarding with the Hammer family and began courting Nannie. The couple was married in a double wedding with Nannie's sister and her groom on May 19, 1858, just four days before Nannie's seventeenth birthday. They purchased their home, called Stevens Reserve, in 1859, when their daughter, also Nannie, was about three months old. 

When her husband and his brigade fought in the Civil War, Nannie and their daughter followed them. They traveled first to Madison, WI, and then on to Washington, D.C. Her first meeting with President Lincoln and his wife was in the Blue Room in the White House. Nannie continued to attend Mary Todd Lincoln’s White House receptions.  

When pregnant, she became very ill with "brain fever," probably malaria. Her daughter, Maggie, lived only a few months; after Maggie’s death, Nannie returned to La Crosse to aid wounded soldiers. 

After receiving the news of her husband's death on September 14, 1862, Nannie withdrew from the public.

In 1867, she married Rev. Charles Palmer Dorset and moved to Chicago, IL. They had three children, Marian, Helen, and Bernard. The family eventually returned to their home in La Crosse in 1879. 

Nannie Colwell Dorset passed away on February 16, 1934 in La Crosse.

Location: 612 Cass Street, La Crosse

1860s: The family home known as “Stevens Reserve” and later “Colwell Court”

2019: Goodyear Auto Service

Day dress, c 1867  Worn by Nannie Colwell Dorset and later modeled by her daughters, Nannie Colwell, Helen Dorset and Marian Dorset. 

Materials: silk faille, velvet, lace, glazed cotton lining

From the collection of the La Crosse County Historical Society