16 July 2010

The End of Peter Nelson

One last bit about Peter Nelson. Or as this article calls him, Peter Nielsen. This article was taken from a locally printed history book entitled "Grant Area, Yesterday & Today" written by a local history buff, Art Nelson, who we suspect was a relative. (Lest you think there was incest going on, there was a fairly large Danish settlement and many names were repeated, thus Sena's father and Peter's father had the same name.) This article on the Hans Nielsen family gives yet another perspective. You can see how the details given here may have been embellished over the years, but the story is still essentially the same.

January 1, 1913, was to be a happy day in the life of the Nielsen family. Niels Peter, the eldest son, was to be married to Sena Nielsen, daughter of Hans Neilsen from south of Bailey. Pete was working as farm foreman for J.E. Roberts across the road from his parents home. Anne. his sister, was keeping house for him and teaching school at Ashland Station. She recalled later having heard her brother leave the house for the barn in the pre-dawn hours. Almost as soon as he reached the barn the whole thing was engulfed in flames, lightening up the sky. Along with Pete, six horses and over thirty head of cattle were consumed in the flames. When the embers cooled, the investigators found an almost unrecognizable human form at the base of the silo with what appeared to be an unburned piece of rope beneath the chin. Foul play was suspected but William Branstrom, the prosecuting attorney, said not enough evidence was present to have an investigation. Two thirds of a century after the fire, Pete's brother Marinus still insists it was murder.

The story is so sad. There was a picture of him in the second article that I reproduced yesterday. He appears to be a handsome guy, with his high stiff collar and even in the article I had copied from newsprint, piercing eyes. Justice may or may not have been done. I can see though how he could have been hung, by someone else or his own hand, by a rope tied on a high rung of the silo ladder, with the rest of the rope disappearing in the fire. Who knows how it happened.

On a side note, I found an article in the same book of another Nelson family. In the article it tells of a daughter named Sena Freeman. Hopefully the prostrate bride was able to find love again.

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