Clara Olson met Erdman Olson (no relation) at a church picnic. Clara was the daughter of farmer Christ Olson in Little Norway, the farmland that rests between LaCrosse and Prairie du Chien. She was a beautiful 22-year-old young woman living the modest life of a Luthern farm girl in the 1920s.
Erdman was the son of a thriving tobacco farmer and given cars and clothes. At 16, he started attending Gale College in Galesville. He was flashy and aloof. But two years later, Clara saw something in him, and they began to date.
Christ had wanted to meet the young man, but Erdman insisted on a meeting with Clara away from the family.
In summer 1926, the couple had been together for 18 months, and Clara had become pregnant. She sent a letter to Erdman’s dad stating she was with child. He demanded an exam, but she refused. Erdman told her they would be married and planned an elopement.
On September 9th, 1926, a car came into Christ Olson’s driveway around midnight. Clara went out to meet the vehicle, stating she would be back in a few minutes.
She never came back.
Clara’s dad confronts Erdman’s dad. He is told she went away to have the baby and would be back after the new year. Erdman says he put her on a train to the twin cities. On September 27th, Erdman skips town, leaving a letter to his dad that he will never be seen again.
In November, Christ Olson has a dream about finding his daughter’s body face down in a shallow grave. On December 1st, a search party spots vegetation that looks disturbed and moves it aside. They see women’s new rubber boots like Clara had on when she left.
It was determined Clara had died from a compound fracture to the skull and bleeding. The weapon was a heavy object such as a hammer or blunt end of an ax. Clara was six months pregnant. She had two letters on her from Erdman. They talked about getting married and the plan for elopement. The letters stated to meet him on the 9th with only the clothes on her back and money.
District AG JS Earl believes that Erdman picked Clara up, took her to a remote location, murdered her, and placed her body in a pre-dug grave.
Erdman Olson was never caught. A young man was found dead in Chicago on November 5th and thought to be Erdman. The body was sent to Prairie du Chien, but no more information was available.
Do you think Erdman Olson got away with murder and started a new life, or did he kill himself in a Chicago hotel? We may never know.