Sen. Nelson owned a farm south of town where he let his wife’s nephew, Oscar Jacobson, live for free, with the understanding that Jacobson would supply the Senator’s home with milk, cream and firewood. This agreement was to end in March 1920, and Jacobson was in the process of moving to another farm; the victim Middleton, a man Nelson had never met before, was helping Jacobson move.
During an argument between Nelson and Jacobson about the latter’s horses being in the Senator’s rye field, Middleton asked Nelson what business it was of his. Nelson is said to have pointed a shotgun at him. Middleton grabbed the barrel of the gun to push it away, and during a struggle, the gun discharged; the bullet hitting Middleton in his right arm and shoulder. The victim was taken to Jacobson’s house, where he died from blood loss six hours later.
Nelson was arrested and charged with murder in the second degree.
While the senator’s family had resided in Alexandria for many years, Nelson had only been married to Sen. Nelson’s daughter Ida for slightly more than six months. Nelson had started working on the senator’s farm in June 1919; in Sept. that same year, he and Ida married. He was 52; she was 51 and had never been married. The senator was too busy with his Washington duties to attend the wedding.
The Pierz Journal Nelson marriage announcement
Alexandria Citizen; “Middleton Dies After Shooting; Shotgun in Hands of Gustaf Nelson is Discharged with Fatal Results to Joe Middleton”; March 11, 1920; P. 1
State vs. Anders Gustaf Nelson, March 4, 1921; Minnesota Reports, Vol. 148; Minnesota Supreme Court; pp. 285 – 300.
The Pierz Journal; “State Brevities”; Pierz, Morrison County, Minn.; Oct. 2, 1919.
Sen. Knute Nelson’s home in Alexandria, Minn. is now the Douglas County Historical Society.