A Great Danish American Birthday - Carl Christian Christensen

  • July 05, 2021
  • July 05, 2023
  • 3 sessions
  • July 05, 2021 (CDT)
  • July 05, 2022 (CDT)
  • July 05, 2023 (CDT)

A GREAT DANISH AMERICAN BIRTHDAY - CARL CHRISTIAN CHRISTIANSEN

NFDA recently received this fascinating story from James Milton Nielsen of Racine, WI, who told us about his uncle, Carl C. Christensen born July 5, 1902...

"Mange hilsen from the Historically Danish City of Racine, Wisconsin.

     I am a 66 year old individual of 100% Danish decent who has been a life long resident of Racine. My mother originating from the Hirtshals/Uggerby area of Northern Jutland and my father originating  from the Borglum/Lokken area of Jutland. My story has to do with my Grandmother Johanne Christiansen Nielsen's 1st marriage to a Mathias Christiansen and her 1st born son of 3 children, Carl Christian Christiansen.  Following Mathias's untimely death at a very young age my Grandmother then married my father's father, my Grandfather, N. Christian Nielsen whom she had met and married in the City of Racine. My Grandfather Christian was a carpenter teaching Carl everything he knew so when the depression hit, and Carl in 1930 having no work and no money placed an add in a Chicago newspaper stating, "Carpenter for Hire, Will work for Room and Board"  and shortly thereafter a wealthy railroad executive named Joe Ilg contacted and hired Carl for the purpose of building Joe a resort in the Manitowish Water's area of Northern Wisconsin.. Carl took the job and moved from Racine up to the North Woods in 1930 at first working for his food and clothing, soon to move on to building then running Joe's resort, and finally opening his own tavern called "The Blind Pig."  Please know there was no Las Vegas back in 1930's, the place for all the wealthy Chicago Businessmen and gangsters alike all went to Northern Wisconsin to find some kind of rest and relaxation, good food and alcohol. The winter of 1934 hit hard and Carl told me it was the winter of unbearable proportion. Subzero Cold, never ending wind, lots of snowstorms and virtually no tourism within the area, so for financial reasons in April of 1934 Carl was voted and accepted the job of  becoming the Manitowish Waters Town Constable.

Photo above: Carl Christiansen holding the lamb skin coat he wore April 22, 1934, the night of the shooting 

    Little did Carl know literally 1 short week following his election, on April 22, 1934 the United States Department of Justice, (FBI) would be contacting Carl telling him, NOT asking him, to accompany  2 FBI Agents, a J.C. Newman and a W. Carter Baum along with their Ford Coupe, for the purpose of scouring the Manitowish Water's Little Spider Lake area looking for any unusual suspect signs, people, or car's that for some reason might be considered to be in the wrong area and possibly any recommendations of where to put up road blocks due to the fact that the United States Department of Justice, criminal's on the FBI's "Most Wanted List" John Dillinger and his Gang were thought to be held up at the Little Bohemia Lodge, less than 1 mile down the road. They never had told Carl that the shootout had already occurred and that the entire Dillinger gang had already escaped into the darkness of the woods.

    So with Agent J.C. Newman behind the wheel in the driver's seat, Agent Carter Baum sitting center, along with his Thompson Sub Machine gun on his lap and my father Mickey Nielsen's oldest half brother Uncle Carl C. Christiansen sitting on the passenger side window seat carrying no firearm what-so-ever, they all together took off into the dead of night around 9:00 pm or a little after driving down a series of country roads within the area in search of anything involving the notorious John Dillinger and his gang of thugs.

    Upon driving past Koerner's Resort, now about 10:30 pm, located on Little Spider Lake, Carl asked Newman to slow down a bit as something at Koerner's just didn't look right. Upon pulling into the driveway Carl looked at a parked automobile that seemed to be running, but it was not Alvin Koerner's automobile, it was another elderly neighbors car.... and why in the world would it be running that late at night?

Photo:  The lamb skin coat riddled with bullet holes on display at Kohler Memorial Library, Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin 

    As J.C. Newman slowly drove up close to the running automobile looking at it's passenger door on his left, a man jumped out of the drivers door quickly running over to Newman's open window pointing what Newman described as a .45 caliber rapid fire handgun within 6 inches of his forehead, with the man yelling "I know who you son's a bitches are and I know yer all wearin' flack jackets so I'm gonna' shoot ya all in the head, and he opened fire hitting Newman several times grazing his head as he was attempting and successfully get out of the car. He then shot Agent Carter Baum only 1 time directly in the throat above the flack jacket, while my Uncle Carl had opened the passenger door while making every attempt to run up to the protection of Alvin Koerner's home, only making it up to the white picket fence, never making it to the locked doors of Koerner's Resort. Carl's body was hit 8 times, all but 1 passing through his body, as they found 12 bullet holes piercing his lamb skin coat. Carl told me as he lay somewhat supported up against Koerner's white picket fence,  he could hear Agent Carter Baum who laid within a few feet from Carl, gasping for his last few breaths of air. They had all seen pictures of the shooter before and they knew there was no question, he was Lester Gillis, alias Baby Face Nelson. Nelson then jumped into the FBI's warm and running Ford Coupe heading back out into the darkness of the cold winter's night. Carl laid there in the snow for up to 3 hours as all the people behind the locked doors of Koerner's resort were scared to come out, and it wasn't until Emil Wanetka, owner operator of Little Bohemia Lodge accompanied by Melvin Purvis, Chicago Director of the FBI, came looking for their agents of which had yet to return from their search and seizure assignment. It was said the coldness of the snow may have been a determining factor in slowing the blood flow out of Carl's bullet riddled body and saving Carl's life. He was then transported at least another 1/2 hour away to the Grandview Hospital, Ironwood, Michigan in the back of an open pickup truck. It was said upon entering the hospital Carl was laid upon a sheet of plywood instead of blankets as to not destroy the blankets with his loss of blood. Eventually Carl was awarded a couple thousand dollars by the United States Federal Government for his services rendered and after regaining his stamina he was able to turn his Tavern Business somewhat into a business involving postcards and reprinted newspaper clippings involving the events of that April 22nd evening. The picture of Carl holding his bullet ridden Lamb Skin coat was that of a post card he had created and sold for profit from his entrance door table at his tavern. Also I was just notified several weeks ago by  J. Kohl of the Manitowish Waters Kohler Memorial Library that there is a Plaque of  Honorable Mention soon to be constructed by the United Stated Federal Bureau of Investigation naming and in honor of W. Carter Baum, J.C. Newman, and it was requested by the J.Kohl, administrator of the Kohler Memorial Library and accepted that my Uncle Carl Christian Christensen's name be included on this Historic Plaque of Honorable Mention due to all of their over and above the call of duty provided on that night of April 22, 1934. In closing I would like to express my Thanks to J.Kohl and all those involved in the Kohler Memorial Library and the entire Manitowish Waters Historical Society for their never ending efforts of bringing the history of their wonderful community of Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin open to the public and to all those brave individuals that are no longer with us, and a most Loving Thanks to my beloved Uncle Carl C. Christensen".

With the Most Honoring and Loving Respect,
James Milton Nielsen


National Foundation for Danish America
PO Box 1003
Wilmette, Illinois 60091

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