Marshfield, September 1901: Putting the pieces together
Authorities identify a murder victim
By Kris Leonhardt
While walking along the banks of a small creek northeast of Marshfield in 1901, two hunters made a gruesome discovery. A few feet from the edge of the creek lay the body of an adult male. Reduced to just a skeleton, the body held few clues for investigators.
Dressed in only a coat — with no shirt or underclothes — and carrying no identification, the coroner and district attorney had little evidence. However, upon closer examination of the skull, authorities discovered that they were looking at more than just a dead body. Possessing five penetration marks on the right side along with a crushed temple, authorities could tell from the remaining skeleton that they were looking at a murder victim.
As the weeks passed by, people came forward speculating the death of those that had gone missing. One such case involved a Neillsville family whose loved one had gone to work for the Connor Lumber Company in Stratford that previous May. Hearing no word since, the family sought positive identification.
Months later authorities would obtain their first solid lead when presented with clothing, underclothing, a book, and some photos that were found a quarter of a mile from the location of the skeleton. The pockets on the clothing had been turned outward, signaling a robbery.
When it was discovered that the photos had been taken in Denmark, they were sent to the Danish Council in Chicago, who in turn sent them to a Danish photographer for identification. After the photos were linked to the parents of one Hans C. Hansen, who had left for America a year earlier, authorities traveled to Taopi, Minn., to track down his whereabouts.
Learning that he had relocated to the Marshfield area, possibly to assist with a section of railroad, authorities were drawn back home. Inquiring within the city, investigators learned that Hansen had been in the city and was known to hang with a man by the last name of Peterson. It was also noted that Hansen had been carrying a small sum of money. Upon further investigation, they discovered that Peterson had also gone missing.
After the clothing from the dead man was sent to the wife of the Neillsville man for identification, it was learned that he was alive and well, working in the north lumber lands of Wisconsin. He had recently written to his wife and sent her money he had earned.
Positive identification of Hans C. Hansen was then left to the comparison of Hansen’s belongings left in his Taopi home to the clothing found near the scene. The murder appears to have been left unsolved.