Knute Nelson. Print from "Ny Illustreret Tidende" (New Illustrated Times) No. 50, 1882. Knute Nelson was born in Voss, Norway, in 1843 and he came to America at the age of 6. He served for 3 years in the Union army during the Civil War. In 1867 he became a lawyer and entered political life, and in 1892 he became governor of Minnesota. From 1895 until his death he served as United States senator. Nelson was the first Norwegian-American politician to attain great prominence in American politics.