Friday, July 28, 2017

Finding Peder

A recent news story reminded me of a similar story in my husband’s family. The story was about finding skeletal remains of a man who had been missing for ten years. A skull, next to a pair of hunting boots, was found; and using DNA, it was determined that it was “7.9 billion times more likely to have originated from a biological sibling” than not. [1] After ten years, this man had been found. There was, and is, speculation about his mental health at the time of his disappearance.

In 1918, DNA was not available to identify skeletal remains. However, a pair of boots and a jack knife were used to identify the remains of Peder Marten “John” Pederson, my husband’s great-uncle.

Peder was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1886 to John V. and Randi Iverson Pederson. He had 
a brother, Iver, who died in 1887, less than a year after being born, and a
Peder & Sophie about 1892
sister, Sophie, born in 1888.

Peder’s parents were both born in Norway. His father, John, worked as a mailman in Minneapolis; and sometime after 1900, John purchased land in Greenbush Township, Mille Lacs County, Minnesota, which became the “family farm.”

Peder and Sophie were close growing up, and Peder served as the best man at her wedding to Henry Foster on October 20, 1908, in Mille Lacs County. Sometime after that date, Peder disappeared, not to be found until May 1918.

On May 16, 1918, the Mille Lacs County Times published the story of finding Peder with this headline:  Remains of John Pederson, Who Disappeared 9 Years Ago, Found in Swamp in Greenbush Township - Skeleton of Young Man Identified by Boots and Jack Knife Found on the Ground by the Remains. 

It seems that a farmer, who was rebuilding a fence along his property line, found the remains in a marshy swamp that was part of his property. The marsh happened to be dry due to a dry season; thus, the ability to find the skeleton. However, the skull was missing. The nature of his death was never determined. 

The newspaper describes the initial search as follows: Searching parties were organized and the whole country side was carefully searched in an effort to find some trace of him but without avail.  It was finally decided that he must have left the country, probably under a spell of mental weakness, as he had been troubled with severe headaches, and it was thought his mind might have been affected.  At times rumors of his having been seen in various localities reached his parents, but they were unable to locate him.[2]

Peder’s father died without knowing what happened to his son. 

Peder was buried in the West Branch Cemetery, in Greenbush Township, just outside the cemetery boundary line, and without a headstone. Unless you know where to look (there’s a depression in the ground), there is no evidence that Peder ever existed.

L to R: Henry Forster, Peder Pederson, Sophie Pederson, Randi Pederson
October 20, 1908

[1] Powers, Pamela. "Missing Dunn County man's remains ID'd." N.p., 26 July 2017. Web. 26 July 2017.
[2] “Remains of John Pederson, Who Disappeared 9 years Ago, Found in Swamp in Greenbush Township.” Mille Lacs County (MN) Times, May 16, 1918 

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