Friday, July 21, 2017

Murder on Christmas night! The shooting of Swan Nelson in Chicago 25 Dec 1893 Part 2

Swan Nelson was buried on December 28nd  at Oakwood Cemetery outside Chicago. The burial service was most likely performed by pastor Carl Granath of the swedish-speaking Zion Evangelical Lutheran church which Swan and his relatives attended. In its It is burial record he is listed as "shot December 25th 3 AM" 

note about  Swan Nelsons burial inthe burial records from
Zion Evangelical Lutheran church in Chicago microfilm SAKA 192
 Swedish Emigrant Institute, Växjö,Sweden.

 The news of his death spread fast  among the Swedish-Americans in Chicago and caused great anger . It increased the ethnic tensions between  Swedish-Americans and Irish-Americans.The Chicago Daily News described the shooting as unjustified and the Swedish-American newspapers raged. The Swedish-American organisations quickly organised The Swedish National League to raise money for an investigation and legal counsel to make sure the two policemen were tried and punished. The leaders of the  committee were  contractor August G Myhrman, lawyer Harry Olsson and William Wennerholm. Support also came from the Swedish-American newspapers , including Svenska Tribunen

(from :Swedish-American Historical Quaterly 2014 jan no. 1page .41)

Quick to join in wasthe 25-year-old entrepreneur Fred Lundin known for his "Juniper-Ade" he  was elected chairman of the committee. The first mass meeting was held on January 7th and gathered 400 participants.More than 20 mass meetings were held between january and October 1894 and around  8,000 were gathered (about $ 200,000 in today's money value) .Several Swedish-American churches and clubs became involved in the matter.  A private detective was hired to search for  witnesses and a well known lawyer  Luther Laflin Mills  was retained.  

The biggest event for collecting money was a big concert held on May 26 1894in the new Auditorium Theatre , featuring t 400 singers and musicians andan audience of  around 4500 listeners.
The trial against Healy and Moran opened  on January 7, 1895. The proceedingsoffered a lot of drama and was given extensive coverage  by the Chicago newspapers. A juror was removed for perjury and indicted,during the trial there were charges of jury tampering and witnessess being  influenced and allegations of a police cover-up. . The defense argued that there were no unlawful killing since Swan nelson had fled the policeand that anyone could have fired the bullet.
 In the end, Luther Laflin Mills adressed the jury and  held a long speech in which he depicted Swan Nelson as a innocent  young man brutally shot  by two corrupt police officers and he  concluded:

"Lying on the ground dying with his lefeblood flowing on that frost-coveredside-walk,Swan Nelson grasped" I treated them,they wanted more,I refused and the policemen shot me. I am dying,I have done no wrong.´Gentlemen of the jury,this was an awful crime;yours should be an awful verdict"

The jury sentenced the policemen to 14 years in prison for manslaughter . They were sent toThe  Illinois State Penitentiary in Joliet Illinois.. The sentence was however  not the end of the story.
The case was appealed and two more trials were  held in the following years.. In the 1897 trial, the sentence was reduced  to 4 years in prison. In 1899, the case was was again back in court, but  it was decided not to hold another trial and  Moran and Healy were returned  to prison . However, according to The 1900 Federal  Census they are not listed aong the prisoners at Illinois State Penitentiary.Perhaps they had been transferred to another prison or released .

                                    (Illinois state Penitentiary Joliet,Illinois ( )
The trial had consequences for all involved Josephine bjorkman died in 1901  Fred Lundin got contacts in politics served in the Illinois state senate and a  term in the House of Representatives congress before becomming the power behind  the corrupt Chicago mayor William Hale Thompson  l Luther Laflin Mills had a succesfull Career as lawyer before his death in 1909 Harry Olson later became first chief judge of the Juvenile Court of Chicago.

Even for Swans family life had to go on. His  brother  John Nelson married his fiancé Maria (Mary) Benson  in february1894 .they got two children Selma and Nels John Nelson became a Saloon keper the family settled in the Austin area of Chicago.John became a member of the of the Indipendent Order of Vikings and later of the Independent order of Svithiod.  .He died in 1938. His only grandchild died unmarried in2007. His sister Elna Neson  married Albert Stedman and died 1944 in San Fransisco,California..
Karna (Carrie) Nelson married John M Anderson  they first lived in Illinois but later moved to Washington near Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Swans youngest  sister Johanna (Hannah) Nelson 1874- married  Oscar Frederick Johnson. they moved from Illinois to  Flint River near   Burlington, Iowa, All sisters left descendants. During the following years the area were Swan Nelson was murdered became the home for many Sicilian immigrants .
The antagonism  between Swedish-Americans and Irish-Americans deacresed with time and they came to direct their prejudices towards newer immigrants and minority groups as East -Europeans and Afro-Americans.

More about the shooting of Swan Nelson can be read in  här i  i The Swedish American Historical Quaterly 2014 jan no. 1

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