So Minnesota: Death on day Jesse James Gang tried to rob Northfield bank led to birth of Minnesota church

Joe Mazan
Updated: September 07, 2020 10:28 PM
Created: September 06, 2020 07:34 PM

In September 1876, Jesse James and his gang members tried robbing a bank in Northfield.

While many stories of the crime have been told, one from that day remains relatively unknown.


Northfield Cemetery is surrounded by peace, but one grave marks a passing by violence.

The stone of Nicolas Gustafson reads, "A Swedish immigrant shot by robbers."

In the summer of 1876, Gustafson moved to Millersburg, Minnesota from Sweden. On the day Jesse James and the Cole Younger gang tried robbing a bank in downtown Northfield, Gustafson came face to face with Cole Younger.

"Nicolas Gustafson was in one the stores when the shooting started like everyone walked out and wondering what was happening," Wayne Quist, of Christdala Swedish Church, said.

So Minnesota stories

Younger told him to get off the street; not understanding English, standing on the corner of Fifth and Division streets, Gustafson was shot in the head.

"He died four days later, " Quist said.

At that time, the Swedish community had no church or cemetery in Rice County.  A year after Gustafson's death, Swedish immigrants came together and established Christdala Swedish Church and cemetery in Millersburg.

Every year on a Sunday afternoon in September, the Christdala Church holds an open house to pay tribute to Gustafson, a sign out front of the church telling his story.

"We get full houses every year,"  Quist said.

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