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Richmond, Utah, USA

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Extraction and comments by Larry D. Christiansen

INTRODUCTION: The following will be largely a struggle waged in the newspapers over the possible disappearance of a Richmond couple with inferences of nefarious activities and counter charges. The readers are reminded to bear in mind that it was easy to make severe charges but much more difficult to verify them and establish facts. More on this later, but to begin with a warning on the names in the ensuing articles may be essential to follow the accounts. The most prominent name in the story will be Jens Peter Nielsen spelled here in the correct manner, but this Danish name caused much confusion in spelling the name and was frequently spelled Neilsen, Neilson or even Nelson, perhaps due in part to the writer and partially in the composition room of the newspaper. Another name had a similar fate was the surname for Christian Petersen; the Danish spelling was commonly rendered Peterson, sometimes with both spellings used in the same article. The other name with some difficulty is the name Svensgaard which one of the Danish men accepted as his surname late while at Richmond after being known as Jens Peter Nielsen in all the immigration documents, newspaper listings and census rolls. Apparently this Svensgaard (or Svendsgaard) was not a town or city in Denmark, but possibly a locality or particular place in the man's former homeland. There will be some corrections of spelling errors but throughout the articles the word apostasy was incorrectly spelled as "apostacy." The articles that follow are intermixed with affidavits and short letters adding to the complexity, making it essential to know who is saying what.

The opening salvo came in late January and early February of 1884 when a resident of Richmond, Utah, using the nom de plume of "AN OBSERVER OF THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES" apparently either created the idea of a mysterious disappearance in Richmond or sought to call attention to a situation wherein a series of events spun in a particular manner over a two year period should have revealed that two citizens vanished sometime in 1882 from the small Mormon community in northern Utah. Whatever his purpose and ulterior motives (friend of the missing couple, ardent Mormon hater, a man seeking some notice or just wanting to stir public opinions in a cause célèbre), the "Observer" knew his local audience was small made up of possible friends and neighbors of the missing couple, a few dissatisfied Mormons, apostates, and a number of members from the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that had formed a congregation in this Mormon community. The author stated he was "certain" a Richmond man and wife disappeared without explanation, and he raised the question about it and gave his reasons for his suspicions. However, there was more than just a mystery involved with strong suggestions of foul play to the shedding of blood. The writer of the letter chose the extremely anti-Mormon newspaper in Salt Lake City to publish his personal beliefs and grievance with sharp words of supposition and condemnation on the dominant religious faith in his town and area. The author dated his letter at Richmond on January 25, 1884. The Salt Lake Daily Tribune printed the charges in their issue for February 3, 1884, under the title of "Where Are They?" and subtitle "Is It True the Priesthood Made Way with Peter N. Svensgaard and His Wife." The article in its entirety follows:

Where Are They?
Is It True That the Priesthood Made Way with Peter N. Svensgaard and His Wife.

EDS. TRIBUNE: I have another of Utah's mysteries to raise to you, showing what a peculiar people we are, and how we love the race. I am not sure that the patterns of excellence loved the subjects of my letter unto death, but I am certain that a man and his wife disappeared very mysteriously from this place about two years ago, and have never been heard from since.

A little more than 20 years ago this man left Halborg, Denmark, for Zion, where all the saints were gathering to learn the ways of the Lord, but on his arrival he found the gentleman was running Utah. He soon apostatized and talked very bitterly, and told a great many truths that did not suit the priesthood. He was all the time employed by a very good man, a polygamist with several wives, as miller at High Creek. This man, Peter Nelson Svensgaard. was a good workman, and earned large wages, and saved quite a sum of money, And finally sold it to his employer for $6,000, and concluded to go back to his native land.  It is said that he had about $3,000 beside. It is reported that he was soon to deposit, in a bank at Ogden, something over $5,000 and sent the draft to Denmark, which remained uncalled for more than a year, and was then returned.

About two years ago Christian Peterson, a neighbor, was engaged to take Peter Nelson Svensgaard and his wife to the depot, which was less than two miles from the town, and as far from the ranch. At that time the train passed through Richmond about 8 o'clock in the morning.  Mr. Svensgaard had a boy working for him whose parents lived at Logan depot, and he had promised to bring said boy to Logan on his way from Richmond. The boy, however, through the influence of Christian Peterson, was sent home a day or two before the family were to start upon their homeward journey. At the same time that they were to bring the boy they proposed to say good bye to their friends, the parents in Logan, which they never did. They had also arranged to stop in Omaha to see the editor of a Danish newspaper published there called the Pioneer. Mr. Mark Hanson, the editor referred to, in answer to inquiry, stated that he never came. The paper also came regularly to the Richmond address for many months. Letters of inquiry have also been sent Halborg, but no news of him has been received there. Christian Peterson has been asked why he sent the boy home before the time arranged, and he answered, "that he might have met the same fate as the Svensgaards if he had not."

There are a great many conflicting stories about what happened the night they disappeared. Whether they were put out of the way for their money, or sent over the Rim of the Basin to save their souls as a reward for apostacy I cannot say, but knowing that the garments of the priesthood are crimson, and the robes of the church stained with innocent blood, and understand that they forget and forgive, but always remember a covenant breaker, I believe they are just as ready to do deeds of darkness and death to day as they were a quarter of a century ago, if they can be concealed. But the power of the church is weakening. Its clutch at the throats of apostates is lessoning. A few more years and its strength will be exhausted, and it venom so far spent that an era of light, knowledge, equally and actual and moral liberty may be hoped for by the sinners of Utah, if dreaded by the Saints in Zion.

Yours Truly,

RICHMOND, Jan. 25, 1884. --The Salt Lake Daily Tribune, Feb. 3, 1884.

Background: The Peter N. Svensgaard of the above article was better known in Denmark and Richmond as Jens Peter Nielsen (age 32) who emigrated from Denmark in 1862 with his wife Johana Marie (age 39) and a four-year-old son. Jens Peter's occupation was listed as a miller on the emigration documents and passenger list. After arriving in New York City, this family with Mormon migrants journeyed by railroad and river boat to Florence, Nebraska, and finished the travel with the John R. Murdock Company of about 700 members with only 65 wagons to carry baggage and provisions across the plains. They traveled two months and arrived in Salt Lake City on September 27, 1862. On the 1870 census he and his wife were at Richmond without the son, and listed as Neilsen, Jens with the "e" and "i" reversed on the surname. Jens at age 40 was listed as working at the grist mill with $200 value of personal real estate. A decade later on the 1880 census the fifty-year-old was shown as "Nielsen, Jens P. along with his wife Hannah at age fifty-eight. His occupation was cited as a "Farmer." Two years later he would sell his farm for several thousand dollars. The census listed two other Richmond men working at the grist mill.

[The first public rebuttal to the Tribune's letter and charges came from the Logan newspaper The Utah Journal on March 1, 1884 ] "


A short time since we clipped from the Salt Lake Tribune the following letter sent to that paper from Richmond. When we read it, we felt convinced that it was a base fabrication, and sent it to our correspondent in that town, with a request that he would endeavor to ascertain the particulars of the case. He did so, and we now publish the indictment made against our friends, and the reply, so that justice may be done, in the promises by the originators of the accusation:

EDS. TRIBUNE:--[The full text of the Tribune's article printed as shown above with the only change being in the subtitle where the original had it ". . .Priesthood Made Way . . ." to change the word "Way" to "away" as shown in the "Reply" below.]

EDITOR JOURNAL:--The Salt Lake Tribune, in the article you sent me, asks:
"Is it true that the Priesthood made away with Peter N. Svensgaard and his wife." I say, No! It is not true! It is as base a LIE as was ever fabricated!

Peter Neilsen Svensgaard, (or Jens Peter Svensgaard, as he signs his name) left this town peaceably about two years ago. The statements of the writer of the article, under the above query, concerning the man's coming here, of his subsequent apostacy, and of the place where he worked are correct; but the rest of the letter is a perfect issue of falsehoods. The man Svensgaard did have a considerable sum of money in his possession when he left Richmond. He did not, however, leave here on the midnight train; but left on a freight train that passed here at about 9:15 o'clock in the morning. He deposited some money in Messrs. Guthrie, Dooley & Co.'s Bank, in Ogden, as he was going through on his way east. He subsequently wrote a letter from New York City, to Christian Peterson, of Richmond. In that letter he told Mr. Peterson that he should sail for the city of Hamburg, in one of the steamers of the Hamburg line, requesting Peterson to address him at Aalborg, Denmark.  He also sent his respects to the folks in Richmond. As regards the influence of Christian Peterson, in sending the boy, who was at work for Mr. Svensgaard, home to Logan, the statement is incorrect.  Mr. Peterson did not use any such influence.  But by the urgent request of Mr. Svensgaard, he took him to the depot and sent him home on the train, for some time previous to his departure, Mr. Svensgaard did not like the boy.  Who it seems was rather notorious and a tale bearer, nor his parents. This is why the boy was sent home instead of taken home.  Mr. Svensgaard desired to avoid the boy's parents.

RICHMOND, Utah, Feb. 12th, 1884.
"Observer" in his letter shows a spirit of extreme malevolence against the Mormons. He seems to have become inspired with the deepest envy, and a bitter hatred and wrath; with a longing to blot out excellency and involved in misery as black and hopeless as his own, innocent people. His accusation had been bitterly felt by Christian Petersen, who was known to have been the last man seen with Svensgaard in this locality. He sent us a letter which he had received from his friend in New York, dated Jan. 25th, 1882, which bears the impress of truth. We would here state Mr. Petersen was the victim of a sad accident last year, a team attached to a mowing machine ran away and he was nearly cut to pieces and is maimed for life. As the letter was written in Danish we got a very reliable gentleman to translate it. It reads as follows:
NEW YORK, Jan. 25th, 1882.

DEAR FRIEND,--I will write you according to promise. We arrived in New York, the evening of the 23d at half past 11 o'clock in good health. It is more trouble to travel as regular passenger than as emigrant, as there is changes in so many places.

One passenger train and one freight train collided 10 miles from Pittsburg the 22d and 4 persons lost their lives. Many broken cars showed the place of collision, when we passed.

A young man on the same train as we were, lost 1,000 dollars in giving away a match.

Have no more news; only wish you would send me Norden Skandinavian and Illustrated Ugehlad only for November 1st. On Saturday we will go with the Hamburg Lines Steamship to Hamburg.

Kind regards to all in Richmond, but most of all to you, for I have you next to God in Heaven to thank for life and property.


P.S.--Send me the 3 newspapers as soon as possible.

County of Cache } ss

Be it remembered that on this twenty-second day of February, A.D. 1884, personally appeared before me, Charles C. Shaw notary public of said county, Adolph Anderson, of Logan City, who was by me sworn in due form of law and upon his oath saith that the foregoing is a full true and correct translation of the original letter of Jens Peter Svensgaard, dated New York, January 25th, 1882, and addressed to Christian Petersen,

Richmond, Cache County, Utah.
Subscribed and sworn to by the said { Seal} Adolph Anderson the day and year first above written.

Notary Public.

Having learned that Mr. William Beers, had been seen in company with the man at Ogden, we wrote that gentleman, and append his reply in the shape of an affidavit:

County of Weber} ss

William Beers being first duly sworn, deposes and says as follows:
Jens Peter Neilsen, formerly of Richmond, Utah, arrived in Ogden on the evening of January 16, 1882, and the next day, purchased of Guthrie, Dooly & Co., (now Utah National Bank), Ogden, Utah, a draft on the Private Bank, Copenhagen, Denmark, for eighteen thousand, one hundred and eighty kroners, this draft was made payable to his order. I went with him to purchase his tickets for New York, and which the railroad company's books record as follows: "Form 582, number of tickets, 390 and 391, dated January 18, 1882, to New York, via Union Pacific to Council Bluffs, Wabash to St. Louis, Vandalia to Indianapolis, Pittsburg, Cincinnati & St. Louis to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania to New York." these were emigrant tickets for which he paid $70 each.

In June, 1883, I asked R. M. Dooly, cashier of Utah National Bank, if the draft the Mr. Nielsen purchased had ever been paid, at the same time telling him that Nielsen had not been heard from, he said he did not know, but would write and ascertain if the draft had been present or paid. In about two months he informed me that the draft had not been presented or paid, and the money is NOW HELD HERE AT OGDEN subject to the order of Neilsen or his administrator.

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 2? th [second digit illegible] day of February, A.D., 1884.
Notary Public.

Satan has been claimed by the world as the "father of lies," but the hearts of men, like "Observer," when under the evil influence, outvies [out vies] even the Prince himself in their utterances.

A poet once wrote regarding this class of men:

"They throng the air, they darken heaven, And crowd the lower world."  It commands all the energies and knowledge of good men to grapple with the crafty Intelligence of men of this character. It is these specious, yet utterly wicked falsehoods that causeth the world to run so crookedly in its daily affairs. No able man allows another to speak disrespectfully in his presence, "that is, if he is able to exercise the attributes of his manhood to afflict the swift and sure punishment to the offender. Nor can any honest exponent of this world's daily transactions permit the false-hearted scribe who penned such filth to go unlashed, or the receptacle of such articles to pass unnoticed. They should learn that hatred and vengeance are very different sentiments, the former is the vice of narrow minds, while the other is the effect of a law to which great souls are obedient.

If falsehood had, "like truth,  but one face only, we should be on better terms, for then we should always take the contrary to what the liar says, for certain truth; but the reverse of truth has an unlimited field from which to draw untruth, and made things appear deceitfully wicked.  How man can draw upon their imagination for such fabulous tales surpasseth our under- standing. We oftimes read articles which we attribute to ignorant penny-a-liners who exist by writing up a sensational intermixture of lies and truth; but this letter evidently was evolved from the superlative deceitful recesses of a wicked heart.

There are ghouls in human form in every community, whose amusement, whose business, whose very life consists in defaming others' characters, who go through the world sowing seeds of discord and dissensions among their fellow men; who pander to the lowest, most degraded mind corrupted tastes; while none are exempt from their dark and nefarious designs, and become targets for their poisoned darts. Trivial occurrances [sic] are magnified and so distorted that the original is lost sight of in the mass of falsehood which has been heaped upon it, and a stain inflicted which takes time to efface.

May we not cut of these vile nets deduce lessons beneficial to the community in which we exist. The Scriptures say: "That the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, whereupon know it." In another place: "Marvel not, that the world hateth you." The people of God have been surrounded with malevolent enemies, from the beginning. Human influences may restrain and modify; but God above can heal and renew the hearts of the vile.
--The Utah Journal, March 1, 1884.

The Logan newspaper waited three weeks for some type of response from the "Observer" and/or the Tribune to its counter-charges of March 1, 1884, but none came. Then came another instance that stoked the Logan newspaper into an editorial response. Bear in mind that there was a wave of anti-Mormon sentiment that had been sweeping over the county during the 1880-1884 period. In the literary aspects the books, magazines and newspapers took a more severe tone against the Mormons with further fabrications or canards being used in this crusade. The most recent and best known of these came in early March of 1884 in the "Red Hot Address" supposedly given by a Bishop West a short time earlier that was filled with treasonable diatribe against the United States and threatening the blood of gentile persecutors would be spilled on their own thresholds. The Logan newspaper used this Tribune fabrication of this hot address to scorch the big city paper and then turned to the Richmond affair in the following editorial in The Utah Journal of March 22, 1884:

In the Salt Lake Tribune of last Sunday was an address said to have been delivered by one Bishop West, to his congregation at Juab on the 9th instant as "forwarded by a friend." . . . . The Salt Lake Herald. . . ascertained that there was no Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the place named, that no services had been held on the day when the address was supposed to be spoken, (in consequence of the men being employed in fighting a washout,) and further, that no Bishop West was known in the Church.

In replying to these charges the Tribune of the 20 inst in an editorial says:
"On Sunday last we printed what purported to be a stenographic report of a 'red-hot address' that had been delivered by a Bishop West at Juab. It came with all the usual attestations of repute and good faith; yet we find on fuller investigation, the authenticity of it having been questioned, that it was a forgery; no such address was delivered, as far as this investigation is concerned, and no Bishop West is known at Juab. We regret to have been made the vehicle of this imposture, but it was so like what is going on all the time, and the ordinary talk and feelings of the majority here, only in more concentrated form, that it might have deceived even a saint. . . . "

The publication of the bogus address was made at a time evidently thought opportune by the Tribune editor. . . .

The editorial excuse for publishing the "bogus" address, bears the impress of being a "lie of necessity," and fully exposed the essentially depraved character of the author's processes to gain for his sheet notoriety. The excuse also contains the following words:  "The Tribune is the only paper in Utah which, being convinced of error and injustice, will freely and manfully face the music and acknowledge the corn."

The JOURNAL under the heading of "Another Lie Nailed," a short time ago, proved by affidavits and correspondence, the falsity of an article which appeared in the Tribune, relative to the disappearance of a man who formerly resided at Richmond, Cache County, but as we have not seen any retraction of the atrocious charge of murder against this people by that paper, we conclude that its pretension of "freely and manfully facing the music and acknowledging the corn," is like the address, bogus.
--The Utah Journal, March 22, 1884.

Perhaps the Logan newspaper's charges had some effect on the Tribune as shown below in the "Observer's" second letter shown below, as the paper prodded the Richmond writer to get more evidence or information. In the lengthy article from the Logan newspaper for clarity a segment has been highlighted in bold type with brackets at the beginning and end of the "Observer's" second published letter.

[The Utah Journal of May 10, 1884:]
It has been our intention to ventilate still further the damnable plot concocted by a correspondent of the Salt Lake Tribune with the intention of casting the imputation of murder upon certain parties in Richmond and, upon on Christian Peterson in particular. We have been waiting, however, for the purpose of procuring certain materials before saying more on the subject, and this is the reason for our delay in noticing certain correspondence and editorial comments which appeared in the Tribune of April 11th. In its issue of that date that paper published the following communication signed Observer and dated April 6, 1884:

"EDS Tribune: In answer to your letter of the [?] inst. I will say that my delay in writing has been caused by my waiting for an answer to a letter of inquiry sent to Omaha, concerning Mr. Svensgaard, which has not yet arrived. I have been very anxious that you should hear from me, as my letter of January 26th caused so much talk in Richmond, and gave the teachers so much trouble and the editor of the JOURNAL so great concern in the issue of March 1st, followed by that of March 22, when he again alludes to the article as "Another Tale Nailed," and claims that he proved by correspondence and affidavit its falsity; which I consider he did not, for the following reasons:

In the letter, purporting to come from Jens Peter Svensgaard, dated New York, January 25, 1882, I find the following "On Saturday we go with the Hamburg Line's Steamship to Hamburg."  I wrote the general passenger agent of that line the subjoined letter:

Mr. C. H. Richardson:
DEAR SIR: Would you be kind enough to send me word if a man by the name of Jens Peter Svensgaard and his wife took passage on one of your steamers to Hamburg on January 28, 1882, and whether the vessel arrived safe or was lost. If you do not find the task too hard a tax upon your time, and would answer as soon as possible, you would confer a favor and contribute to the ends of justice.
Yours truly.

The following is the reply:
NEW YORK, March 13, 1884.
DEAR SIR: In reply to your inquiry of the 4th inst, be beg to say that we had no steamers for January 28, 1882. Our steamers left on January 26, and February 27th of said year; but neither carried a passenger by the name of Jens Peter Svensgaard.

Your truly, / C.W. RICHARDS.

I have no doubt but that the translation of the letter by Mr. Adolph Anderson, is correct, but I doubt very much if Mr. Svensgaard ever said or wrote it. We have only Mr. Peterson's word for it.  The inference must be drawn from the letter that they went on a regular passenger train, and the time occupied in travel shows that to be true. But Mr. Beers swears they were emigrant tickets for which they paid seventy dollars each. He also tells Mr. Dooley, in June 1883, that Mr. Nielsen had not been heard from seventeen months after the letter was written in New York. Another weak point in the letter is, that Mr. S. [Svensgaard] sent for papers at least ten weeks old before he left Richmond, which could have come from any part of the world, and could have been bought in New York for ten cents.

Again, he thanks Mr. Peterson, next to God, for life and property. There is certainly a hint of danger to both.

In the reply to my former letter by Revern, he acknowledges the first part of my letter to be correct, to where I say Mr. S. worked, but the next he says is a _?_ of lies. He goes on to say Mr. S. did have considerable money; thus my statement about the money is true. I then stated that Mr. S. was seen to deposit $5,000 in a bank in Ogden. Mr. Beers says the same thing in his affidavit. Again my statement is true. The next sentence the editor of the journal confirms, for he says, "Mr. Peterson was the last man seen with Mr. Svensgaard in this locality."

I did convey the idea, however, that he left Richmond on the regular passenger train, which was due there about 2 o'clock in the morning. Mr. Revern says he left at 9:15 a.m. The railroad records shows that the only train from there that morning left at 8:15 a.m.

My next statement in regard to the boy being sent home, Revern acknowledges to be true. So the lies are growing less. The following sentences he admits, for he says, the reason that they did not call on the boy's parents was because they, the Svensgaards, did not like them. The rest of my letter about the arrangements to stop in Omaha, the letters of inquiry to Mark Hanson and in Aalborg are all correct. If my statement concerning the answer of Mr. Peterson, when asked why the boy was sent home, if incorrect, it was given to my informant by a person as truthful as ever was Revern. So the issue of lies interwoven with truth, is so thin that it is invisible.

And thus I say, when the whole matter is summed up; that the disappearance of Peter Svensgaard and his wife is mysterious. For two people so well known to leave a town like Richmond, with a population of two thousand, and to be seen by but one person is remarkable.

One man in Ogden said a man by the name of Neilson purchased a ticket to New York. The very man upon whom suspicion rests, say he received a letter from the Svensgaards, stating that they were going to sail on a day when no steamer left the port. And the fact of his money still lying uncalled for leads many thinking people to believe that they are landed in some obscure way, in a port we are all bound.


Take note of his view of the situation his first letter created at Richmond, "caused so much talk in Richmond and gave the teachers so much trouble" plus the actions of the editor of the JOURNAL. The troubled "teachers" were not in the school but in a quorum. In his step by step comments on facts, right, lies, he was extremely charitable with himself to the point of saying, "So the issue of lies interwoven with truth, is so thin that it is invisible."

[ About the same time that the above article appeared in the Tribune its Ogden correspondent wrote as follows:]

"We made some inquiry yesterday in regard to the Svensgaard case, but could learn no new, facts. Mr. Beers simply returned the statements which he made in his affidavit, as published in the Logan JOURNAL. There seems to be some difference in regard to the name, Mr. Beers informs us that the name of the missing man was Jens Peter Nielsen, and not Jens Peter Svensgaard, as given. He says Svensgaard is the name of the town in Denmark where Neilsen formerly lived, and to which it was his intention to return when he left Utah. He also stated another fact, which has not been mentioned before, and that was that was that Neilsen was in poor health, and was very poorly on the eve of his departure. From Mr. Dooley, cashier of the Utah National Bank, we learned that a man by the name of Jens Peter Neilsen did get a foreign draft for about $5,000 some time in January, 1882. The draft was never presented, and the money is still here in the bank, subject to the order of Neilson or his heirs, when payment is demanded through the proper authorities. There seems to be no question about the name of the missing man is Neilson; but what has become of him still remains a mystery. If the ship on which he sailed was lost, it ought to be an easy matter of establish that fact. The theory that he has been spirited away, while it has not been proved, has not been disproved by any means, and the letter from Mr. Richards, the passenger agent on the steamship line on which Svensgaard was supposed to have sailed for Europe, does not help the matter, although it may be that the name has something to do with this; for if the party in question traveled under the name of Neilsen, it is hardly probable that the name of Svensgaard would appear on the records. It would probably be a good idea to first settle the matter in regard to the name before inquiring into the matter further."

[It is easy to see why the Logan newspaper reprinted the account of the Tribune's correspondent at Ogden while perhaps the "Observer" was not very pleased.]

Immediately on the appearance of the above the JOURNAL set to work to obtain material for a complete refutation of the devilish insinuation reiterated by Observer. We did not get all we hoped for, but the following affidavits are simply sufficient to show to the world that Observer is an execrable wretch, who, with a heart, utterly abandoned to damnable mallee, has deliberately set to work to make the world believe that a disaffected "Mormon" was murdered in his attempt to leave Utah, and to fasten the crime upon the innocent:

County of Cache }
Richmond precinct.} ss.
On the nineteenth day of April A.D., 1884 personally appeared before me S. H. Hobson, a Justice of the Peace of Richmond Precinct, County of Cache and Territory of Utah, William D. Hendricks of Richmond City, County and Territory aforesaid, who after being first duly sworn deposes and says.

On or about the 10th day of January, 1882, I gave to Jens Peter Nielsen my check on Messrs. Guthrie, Dooley & Co.'s bank, Ogden, for five thousand dollars. This check was for the price of a farm that I purchased from Mr. Nielsen and was duly presented to and paid by the bank. Mr. Nielsen was intending to go to Denmark and I asked him how much money he had. He replied that he had only about enough, besides the five thousand dollars to pay his expenses to Denmark.

I advised him to take a foreign draft and not carry the money with him.

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 19th day of April, A.D., 1884.
Justice of the Peace.

County of Cache } |
Richmond precinct.} ss.

On this nineteenth day of April A.D., 1884, personally appeared before me, S. H. Hobson, a Justice of the peace for Richmond Precinct in Cache County and Utah Territory, John Anderson, who after first being duly sworn, deposes and says:
I am well acquainted with the handwriting of Jens Peter Svendsgaard and have examined a letter written by the said Svendsgaard from New York City, under the date of January 25, 1882; to Christian Peterson of Richmond city, and know it to be in Svendsgaard's handwriting and further, Mr. Peterson was near my house when he opened the said letter, and I saw the envelope which contained it; the envelope bore the post mark of New York City. At that time I read the letter and know it to be the same letter that was published in the UTAH JOURNAL of March 1st, 1884.

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 19th day of April, A. D. 1884.
Justice of the Peace.

County of Cache } ss.
Richmond precinct. }

On this 21st day of April A. D. 1884 personally appeared before me S. H. Hobson, a Justice of the Peace for Richmond Precinct in Cache County, Utah, James Johnson and C. H. Monson both of Richmond City who upon being duly sworn each for himself and not for the other depose and say:

We went with Jens Peter Nielsen and wife, to the station in Richmond City on or about January 16th, 1882, assisted them with their baggage and saw the train depart with them on board. The train, a freight, was behind time and did not get here until ten o'clock a.m.

Subscribed and sworn to before me this 21st day of April, A.D., 1884.
Justice of the Peace.

The reader who has attentively perused the foregoing will not need to be told by us that the attempt to make it appear that Jens Peter Svensgaard, or Jens Peter Nielsen as his true name appears to be, was murdered in Utah or by "Mormons" has utterly and signally failed, and that by its failure its author is branded as a person capable of the horrible crime of making an innocent man appear to be a murderer.
--The Utah Journal, May 10, 1884.

With the above the Logan newspaper had seriously challenged the "Observer's" account and with the wind taken away the Tribune chose not to continue the affair in its publication.

However, the Richmond story around Jens Peter Nielsen still had another chapter that unfolded twenty-one years later, and by the grape vine and oral tales the central person had evolved another nickname of "Peter the Miller." The old affair (mystery) from the 1880s, for whatever reasons, came back in a few bones found in a Richmond gravel pit but the tales, gossip and bones didn't resolve any mystery.

[From The Logan Republican of Aug. 30, 1905] -
And Gossip Gets it "Two Skeletons," the Bones of "Peter the Miller" and Wife who Mysteriously Disappeared Twenty-three Years Ago.
Investigation Reveals Little Similarity between Facts and the Many Rumors.
"The Find" is Now at the Republican Office. An Early Chapter Recalled.
During the last week reports came to Logan of a grewsome [sic- gruesome] find of bones in the vicinity of the old mill near Richmond once the property of "Peter the Miller," who with his wife very suddenly disappeared some twenty-three years ago. As it was told here the skeletons of these two old people had been unearthed in a gravel pit and that the Richmond people were trying in every way to keep the matter a secret. There seemed to be little doubt of the identity of the skeletons and it was said that the Richmond people were seeking to cover the matter from the world for the reason that the evident facts bore out the assertions of Gentiles twenty years ago to the effect that "Peter" and his wife had been murdered by the Danites, or that others there had murdered him for his money.

Little In It.
The story promised much to THE REPUBLICAN man, and on Sunday morning the writer made a trip to Richmond to get the facts. Those facts are so materially different from the stories rife in Richmond and elaborated on here that the sensational part, at least, is missing.  However the Richmond people have uncovered some bones, not two skeletons, nor the whole of one, but bones of a human and presumably a white man. The only accurate part of any of the stories is the location of the find.

What Was Really Found.
The representative of THE REPUBLICAN on this chase upon arriving in Richmond hunted up the young men who first found the bones and after getting their story and that of other people knowing more or less about the matter, in company with Dr. Adamson and Marshal Bair went to the scene of "the find." Not only that, but "the find' was gathered up and with the exception of the skull minus the lower jaw as brought to this city by THE REPUBLICAN man. That which was brought down consisted of a large, heavy jaw bone containing five teeth, each in an excellent state of preservation with the excepting of being worn down smooth.

A left femur, or long bone of the leg. This is 15 1/2 inches in length, slightly shorter than that of the average man. This is a strong, heavy bone, with such a surface as would indicate that the owner was well muscled when in life. This, with all the bones in fact, is in an excellent state of preservation. The ball which fits into the socket at the hip joint is still intact.

The tibia or shin bone of the leg was found, with a small portion of the pelvis, and the lower end of two hemeri, the bones of both right and left arm. These comprise the two skeletons, etc., and are now at THE REPUBLICAN office.

The Skull Found.
The skull now in the possession of Mr. E. J. Merrill is that of a white man, in his opinion. It is rather narrow at the temples with a high and prominent frontal bone. A small portion of the top on the right side is missing, indicating that the owner was the victim of foul play, or if an Indian, a victim of war possibly. This is further borne out by the statement that the skull of an elderly person would not separate as the one had done unless from a bruise or injury. Of Course a great deal of this is speculation.

Some of the Rumors.
The rumors rife in Richmond were found to be nothing short of wonderful and ludicrous.  One story going the rounds was that the skeleton of two people had been found, each in such a state of preservation that it was easily discernable that one was a male the other a female. The story goes on until it is easily pictured that the skeletons were unquestionably those of "Peter the Miller" and his spouse.

Following the finding of a jawbone, the report became rife that a set of false teeth, such as Peter's wife wore, had been found at the same time. This story also contained the additional point that one of the upper teeth was filed in just such way as a tooth belonging to one of these old people had been filed.

Then again, when a certain young man found a portion of these bones, he said the idea popped into his head that these were "old Peter's." Gossippy [sic] tongues soon had it that the young man heard great tones coming from the gravel saying "Peter the Miller, Peter the Miller."

Another story going the rounds and vouched for to the writer by a gentleman who went to the pit was to the effect that even portions of the clothing had been found. This gentleman said the outer clothing seemed to be of some heavy wool texture, possible a blanket, but gossip said "Peter the Miller" wore just that kind of clothing. This narrator went further and expressed his belief that the bones were those of an Indian, but then again expressed a doubt, as there was an undergarment of factory, such as Indians never wore. He said this apparel was in a terribly rotted condition of course.

It was also told that red hair or whiskers had been found just like "Peter" wore. This came from some duffer who saw stringy accumelations [sic] yet on the bones, really unlike hair if observed closely.

And so on went the stories in Richmond. A Franklin woman, with a deep love for mystery came down, looked at a portion of the bones and could not then be convinced that "Peter the Miller" had not been found.

Facts of the Find.
Alvin Anderson and Frank Thompson, two young men, appear to have been most concerned in the discovery of these bones. According to their story, one or the other discovered the upper and front portion of the skull some two months ago and laid it up in a tree, giving little heed to the matter. Later when the two were together at the place getting gravel the rear portion of the skull was found. A happy idea struck one of them--the pieces were stuck together, and lo, they had a complete skull with the exception of the lower jaw. This was brought to Richmond and finally turned over to Dr. Adamson, who in turn delivered it over to Dr. E. J. Merrill, osteopath now in Logan. This find gave rise to wonderfully lurid stories as the rumors above.

Several weeks ago the bones now in the possession of THE REPUBLICAN were found scattered around in the gravel but no particular attention was paid to them, except that the find was again reported in the town and tales of brighter hue and larger scope began to grow. On Sunday they were gathered up as stated above and further than this there are few facts.

The Place.
The exact location of the gravel bank at which these bones were found is about 100 yards south east of the mill which "Peter the Miller," owned, some two miles or more north of Richmond. At this point the stream flows on a curve and has undermined the great gravel bank above it so that the various slides have caused a cave in of a hundred feet or more. The bank is used as a gravel pit intermittently and possibly for weeks at a time the place is not visited. The last find of bones was made on top of a slide which landed at the edge of the stream, indicating, of course, that the bones came from high above. They were scattered around promiscously, [sic] and those who occasionally found one paid little heed, but pitched it aside, or if it was small possibly shoveled it up into a wagon or underneath the gravel. So for as the location of the hill is concerned it would seem to be the most desirable place in the vicinity to hide a body if one were so disposed, but in this there is not the slightest indication that the bones found are the remains of any person murdered and hidden there.


Dr. Adamson, who viewed all the bones and for a time was in possession of the skull, is inclined to believe that the bones are those of a white man of barely medium height, strongly built, and there are those who immediately say "that was Peter exactly." Dr. Adamson examined the cheek bones which are somewhat prominent, and noticed that one was abnormally developed, the result, he says, of a severe abscess on a tooth. There are those who immediately jumped up to prove that "Peter" had always been troubled with toothache--all of which means nothing, as a matter of course.

Dr. Adamson has this theory--that the remains are those of one of the path finders through this wilderness. Before the Oregon trail was well defined, men sometimes strayed, and it is well known, of course, that a bunch of these sturdy fellows did once come through Cache valley. It is told how their cattle starved and froze to death in this valley, and the name "Cache" itself is said to be derived from the fact that those people "cached" or hid a portion of their provisions [,] utensils, etc. in this valley. Dr. Adamson's theory is that this is one of the unfortunate members of that party, though of course, there is little to give more credence to this theory than any other which many advanced.


Marshal Bair has been in Richmond forty six years and knows its history like a book. He says the bones are not those of "Peter the Miller," nor of any other white man, but are those of an Indian. This particular gravel pit runs up into a rather high knoll with a flat on the western side. There years ago the Indians in great numbers pitched their wickiups [sic], and Mr. Bair insists that they buried their dead on this knoll. While there Sunday morning Mr. Bair scaled the bank of the cave-in and walked around over the top of hill. When he returned he claimed to have found the unmistakable evidence of two Indian graves--the pile of sunken rocks. The older people are familiar with Indian burial, of course, but to the young it may be interest to know that the Indians dig a hole straight down, a large post hole in fact, and then drop the brave on his feet. A pile of rocks is then built up on his head. As the body decays and bones crumble the rocks sink of course. This is what Mr. Bair claims to have found

The gentleman expressed the belief that "Peter the Miller" was gotten away with some place, but not in Richmond. He said that he was at the train when Miller and his wife left the country.


This find, with attendant rumors [,] conjectures, etc., naturally brings up the remarkable disappearance of "Peter the Miller" and his wife some twenty-three years ago. At this time the stories of older citizens remembering that disappearance conflict considerably. THE REPUBLICAN has interviewed a number of these both in Logan and Richmond and finds no little variance in the particulars, but copies of the Utah State Journal (now the Logan Journal) under date of March 1, and May 10, 1884, give probably the view then fairly accurate detail.

In Brief Detail.

As near as the facts can be obtained, Peter Nielsen Svensgaard and wife, a Danish couple, lived on a farm about two miles north of Richmond, a mile southwest of the present mill at High Creek. This mill was then conducted by Peter and he finally became known as "Peter the Miller" to everybody. Peter was generally known as a good fellow, with a big heart, and Marshal Bair, of Richmond, who claims to have known him as well as any other man, says he was always liberal and especially to the poorer class. Peter and his wife were frugal, and at that time high prices for wheat and flour were obtainable. He amassed considerable money, but in some way the old man and his wife became estranged from the Mormon religion, became apostates so-to-speak and decided to go back to their Denmark home.

The Disappearance.

The year 1882, the couple then being about 60 years of ago, was decided on at the time of departure, and they did depart but for where and how they departed is still a profound mystery. It appears that they promised certain friends here in Logan and also in Richmond that before they left they would visit them on certain dates and do other things, but these visits never came nor were the things promised carried out. The report came from Richmond that the couple had gone away on a certain date bound for Denmark. Gentile and Mormon friends waited for letters but none came that they knew of, and matter dragged on for a couple of years, until it was discovered that $5,000 in kroners, Danish gold, deposited with the Dooley bank had never been called for.

Inquiry After two Years.

This started some inquiry and a writer from Richmond evidently convinced that the old couple had either been murdered by Danites or by some one else after about $3,000 the couple was still supposed to possess after banking the $5,000, began to write to the Tribune. The whole case was opened up by the Tribune, and denials and affidavits were published in the Utah State Journal (The Logan Journal). THE REPUBLICAN can not go into all the details, but it is sufficient to say that no trace of the couple was ever found. They were not seen after the date it is said they left Richmond, and years after the money in the Ogden bank was divided among relatives. However Christian Peterson a close friend of the Svensgaards, and the man who took them to the train at the time of their departure, says he received a letter from them after their arrival in New York. This letter was written in Danish, and the translation sworn to appeared in the Journal of May 10, 1884.

Some Gentiles now alive claim that the purported interpreter of that letter, says that his signature was a forgery.


THE REPUBLICAN can not, has no desire to thresh this all out again, and relates these incidents only as a matter of history. Christian Peterson is still living near Richmond, but years ago had the misfortune of losing both his hands. There are a thousand and one gossipy tales in which Mr. Peterson figures, one of which is that when near death, as he thought, from his injuries, he told a lady in Logan that he had something on his mind he wanted to relate, and mentioned a boy whom the Svensgaards were to have delivered at a certain place ere their departure, but who was sent instead of being delivered.

The whole affair has been wrapped in a mystery and many Gentiles believe that Peter and his wife were murdered because of his apostacy [sic- apostasy] and the fear of his going back to Denmark with little kindly feelings for the Mormons. Others believe they were murdered for their money, and many Mormons believe they were murdered or lost somewhere but that they left Richmond alright.

No Connection.

There is absolutely no reasonable connection between the find of these bones and the disappearance of Peter and his wife, and only gossip and rumor have brought the two happenings together. If, perchance, the couple was murdered, and murdered at the house, their bodies were hardly carried a mile to this inaccessible place for burial. If they were murdered at the mill, this spot is the thoroughly suitable one, but most certainly two graves would not have been dug. The bones of two would have been found, and as it is only a portion of one skeleton, now at THE REPUBLICAN office, that was uncovered.
--The Logan Republican, Aug. 30, 1905.

* * * *

Mind Set, Facts, Fabricated Lie, Canard (extravagant story to delude the public) and Finis "

The Logan newspaper, after checking on those aspects such as interviewing the man named in the charges and local aspects of the story, declared the story as a base fabricated lie with the author a ghoul in human form full of deceit and desperately wicked. Possibly this was a severe reaction to the author of the letter in which the charges were published wherein he suggested terrible deeds were done by the Mormons and one man in particular without much in the form of evidence and no named witnesses to what little was given.

However, the author's high-toned name for himself as AN OBSERVER OF THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES along with his style and general charges against the Mormon Church and individual charge on one man certainly opened the propriety of such a conclusion and response. By the time of his second letter to the Tribune, the "Observer" thought he had accomplished some disturbance in the Mormon community as he wrote: ". . . my letter of January 26th caused so much talk in Richmond, and gave the teachers so much trouble and the editor of the JOURNAL so great concern in the issue of March 1st," as that newspaper reacted to his charges. Of the three specific things he mentioned only the newspaper's reaction can be confirmed from other sources, and for much of his story we only have the word of the "Observer" as he framed and spun his viewpoint, points of evidence and the community's reaction. Furthermore, he pointedly declared that Christian Petersen was the last man to see the missing couple at Richmond and he was the only one to see the claimed letter from New York written by them. While the Logan newspaper found other witnesses both at the Richmond train depot and in the receiving the letter, and brought forth these witnesses" names and affidavits, tearing the insides out of the "Observer's structured account. Thus, ironically the "Observer" (author) wound up in the position of leaving only his word for his account and charges in regarding the two crucial points wherein he repeated "we only have his [Mr. Petersen's] word for it."

Perhaps even more basic and weaker is the "Observer's" lack of factual information on the miller and mill which played crucial roles in the story. The "Observer" had this Danish immigrant with the occupation as a miller arriving in Utah over twenty years earlier with his wife and coming to live in Richmond where he apostatized from his Mormon faith. This miller, according to this source: "He was all the time employed by a very good man, polygamist with several wives, as miller at High Creek." He called the man "Peter Nelson Svensgaard" who earned wages and "finally sold it [the grist mill] to his employer for $6,000," in 1882 concluding to return to Denmark. Besides this amount the man had an additional $3,000. He soon deposited in a bank at Ogden "something over $5,000 and sent the draft to Denmark, which remained uncalled for for [sic] more than a year and was then retuned." Meaning the money in this man's name was still in the Ogden bank two years later when the "Observer" made his charge of a mysterious disappearance of the miller and his wife.

This should be compared with information from other primary sources to see how they fit. On the ship passenger list for the ocean going vessel that brought this man to America, he was listed as Jens Peter Nielsen with the occupation as a miller. By that name he traveled to Utah in a LDS Church ox train sent from Utah to assist the immigrants to their destination. The 1870 census for Richmond listed him by the Jens Peter Nielsen and had him working at a grist mill. In March of 1877, Jens P. Nielsen made an official land entry for 160 acres of land two miles north of town in section 15 of Township 14 North Range 1 East of the Salt Lake Meridian and Base survey. His leaving the trade of miller was confirmed in the 1880 census that lists him with the occupation of a farmer. An affidavit from the man who purchased Jens Peter Nielsen's farm states that on or about January 10, 1882, this man gave Jens Peter Nielsen a check for $5,000 on an Ogden bank in payment for Nielsen's farm. Because Nielsen was soon to leave for Denmark, the buyer inquired how much money to had and was told that besides the $5,000 check now in hand "that he had only enough . . . to pay his expense to Denmark." The purchaser of the farm "advised him to take a foreign draft and not carry the money with him." Either the "Observer" did not know the miller personally, or he miss fired on the information others given him, for the two depictions don't match" no mill was sold,  working at the mill all the time, and all that extra money, $3,000, was way over the amount needed to travel to Denmark. It does help explain his unfathomable scrambled account whereby the wage earner at the grist mill sold the mill to his employer for $5,000, and some of the rest of his story.

Thus, it appears the "Observer" was more a repeater of what he heard along with his contact with the Ogden bank to learn the money left there in January of 1882 was still there, and a letter to a Danish newspaper in Omaha learning they had not heard from the couple bound for Denmark. Then from his mind set of anti-Mormonism whereby they would and could do almost anything to accomplish their ends, the "Observer" took his mixed set of a few facts, more fancy and assumptions, and began fitting them into a puzzle pieced together as the sewer desired to accomplish his purpose. He wanted to keep the patchwork in a narrow geographical sense to the Richmond and Ogden area, and in his stitch work he placed a single thread, however thin, tying Richmond to his ultimate assumption and charges. That tie string was in connecting Christian Petersen with the supposed mysterious disappearance of a Danish couple. According to the thread of the story, the couple was to deliver a boy who worked for this couple at his parent's place in Logan, but Petersen influenced the boy to go home by himself earlier. Furthermore, this Petersen was to take the departing couple to meet the train to leave, being framed as the last person to see the couple in Richmond, and now with no need to stop in Logan. The puzzle had a bit of fancy double-stitching with someone (never named) asking Petersen why he sent the boy home and with an alleged direct quote from Petersen along the line to save the boy from the same fate as the missing couple. At that point in his patchwork the "Observer" wrote: "There are a great many conflicting stories about what happened the night they disappeared." Some thought they were done away with for their money and others thought the Church eliminated them for leaving the faith ("save their souls as a reward for apostacy"). Although saying, "I cannot say," the writer of the letter had so framed his accusatory stitch-work that no one could doubt his stand. Perhaps the bigger mystery was the "Observer's" thinking process that somehow the named man from Richmond was the key factor even after he devoted so much effort explaining the missing couple's few days in Ogden. Apparently he thought the Richmond string tied the story together; otherwise, there were only a series of unexplained events that by themselves that didn't add up to a great mystery.

The "Observer" in singling out by name only Christian Petersen (mentioned three times in the initial letter) while the only other names given were the supposed victims and a Danish newspaper editor in Omaha. The source of the crucial response of Mr. Petersen to the question of why he persuaded the boy to go home early was given the grace of full anonymity cloaked at first as if the quotation was heard by the "Observer" (repeater) until he was forced to admit he received it from a source who received it from another source. With these sources and innuendos the coverage of Mr. Petersen was unscrupulous and unconscionable, even for AN OBSERVER OF THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES.

The rejuvenation of the whole 1884 story of the Danish couple by the 1905 discovery of a few human bones at a gravel pit in Richmond possibly needs a psychologist for analysis. Outside of saying people seem to love mysteries and the unknown, little will be stated. From the Logan newspaper it appears to a certain extent Richmond was caught up in this for a short time and the air was "rife" with the rumors, stories and tales even after more than two decades. Apparently after the public discussion of the situation in 1884 ended in the summer of 1884, there may have been a significant semi-private rehearsal of the story that continued. While the pro-Mormon side had little incentive to keep the whole tale going, others possibly saw an advantage to do so. These would include locals who were very active anti-Mormon in orientation and probably a significant percentage of these had initially been members of that faith and for whatever reasons broke with that church. Some of these found a new church in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that formed a congregation at Richmond in the 1870s and continued until as least the first decade of the new century. A report that cited information from the 1890 census (that was later destroyed) showed it had 33 members. More interesting than their numbers were their attitude and ways; they were extremely hostile to the larger group of Mormons in Utah, and especially were very confrontational in their approach. An attempt to possibly connect this conjecture proved unsuccessful when The Community Church of Christ (formerly the RLDS Church) could not or would not seek the information as to whether Jens Peter Nielsen joined that faith in Richmond. So a mystery remains as to how and why the story of "Peter the miller" and his wife was kept alive in the form and detail it possessed from at least 1884 until 1905?

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