13 February 2010

Obituary--Peter Christianson

Yet another strange death. The headline of the article says it all. And notice that the word "alleged" never appears in the article. It takes place a little more than 2 years after the start of Prohibition, which was January 1920.

From the 6 April 1922 Fremont Times Indicator.



Moonshine whiskey is said to have been a contributing factor in the quarrel which resulted in the murder of Peter Christianson, store keeper at Bitely, last Sunday. Leo Robert Wolters, age 24 who stabbed Christianson several times while the latter, who is 55 years old was choking him was taken into custody by Sheriff McKinley and made a statement before Prosecuting Attorney Branstrom Monday.
Wolters was born in Hillaman Michigan and at the age of eight years was sent to the Industrial school for boys at Coldwater where he remain for a period of two years. At the end of this time he was taken to the home of Mrs Wilhemina Christianson of Bitely where he has since made is home. For some time past he has been employed as an extra fireman for the Pere Marquette railroad.
According to Wolters' story, he and Christianson started from Bitely about 9 o'clock sunday morning and drove to the Hood farm in Beaver township where they took in Fred Johnson who accompanied them to the Heiss farm about five miles away. Here, Wolters said, he, Christianson and Johnson, in company with Theodore Heiss had numerous drinks of moonshine whiskey. They then drove back to bitely, reaching there shortly after dark. Christianson, according to Wolters story, was ugly and surly on the return trip and after they left the car he attacked Wolters, forcing the latter to protect himself. Wolters then walked over to the store where remained for a few minutes. Upon leaving he again encountered Christianson who grabbed him by the throat and was choking him when the young man took from his pocket a hunting knife and stabbed his assailant in the abdomen several times.
Following the encounter Christianson went into the store and up-stairs where he was found dead a few minutes later. Wolters said that Christianson was always quarrelsome and ugly when he had been drinking and believed that the murder would not have occurred if it had not been for the moonshine whiskey. He said that he and the murdered man were always on friendly terms when he was sober but when drunk Christianson seemed to have it in for him.

Boy, does this one leave me with questions. Was anyone else interviewed? What about Johnson or Heiss? What does the Sheriff have to say? Or is he trying to locate Heiss and the source of the moonshine whiskey? Obviously there was Mirandizing done back then. Did Wolters get prosecuted? And what about the fact that the name of the woman with home he "made his home" was also Christianson? Was this some kind of family issue?
Reporting back then left much to be desired.

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