Peter “One Eye Pete” Nelson, 1841-1904: Greenville, Michigan
Here’s one of Michigan’s curious characters: One Eye Pete.
What did he do that he would remain semi-known since his death in 1904? Was he a politician? Inventor? Criminal? Entertainer? No on all counts. So let’s stitch together the few pieces of his life (that we know about) and see what the finished product is.
His real name was Peter Nelson.
Born on January 14,1841.
His mom and dad were both from Sweden.
Pete came to the United States so he wouldn’t be “volunteered” into the Danish army. He enlisted in Grand Rapids as a soldier in the Civil War in February 1865 when he was 23, beginning as a private and promoted to full corporal that October. His full military service lasted until 1880. After the service, Pete moved to Cato in Montcalm County, married Christine Nelson and became a farmer.
Sounds like almost the majority of other guys from back in the 1880s, right? And by the way, why was he called “One Eye Pete”? When he was a kid an undisclosed animal took a swipe at him and ripped his face, damaging his eye in the process. Could’ve been anything from a bear to a raccoon, cougar to a housecat…..that little piece of detail is gone.
In later life he moved to Greenville where he passed away on February 23, 1904 at age 63. Pete is buried in Greenville’s Monroe Cemetery.
Over the years visitors to the cemetery couldn’t help but notice Pete’s grave marker with his name on one side and “One Eye Pete” on the other. People got a little curious as to the man and his nickname and word got around..…but that’s all there is to it. Pete was just an ordinary man with an ordinary life, with a somewhat more-than-ordinary nickname.
And that’s all that was needed to make him one of Michigan History’s quiet characters.
Michigan Character: One Eye Pete
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