Around the end of January 1927 Harvey Nelson, a shell-shocked veteran of WWI who had been in and out of the Mendota Mental Health hospital several times (who lived on his father’s farm in what is now the Arboretum, just east of the Nakoma Golf Club), went to the Allen Henderson farm (located in the part of the Arboretum that is south of the Beltline) and started an argument. On the morning of March 5, Nelson armed himself with numerous weapons and a considerable amount of ammunition. Around 7 a.m. he encountered Walter Henderson cutting through the woods at the southwest corner of Nakoma Golf Course on his way to catch a bus to his job at the Lawrence Restaurant. Nelson ambushed him. Walter put up a terrific fight before dying at Nelson’s hands; there were bullet holes through his hand and forehead, the ground around his body was torn up, and a shoe had been wrenched from his foot.
Nelson proceeded to the Henderson farm and cut the telephone lines to the house. He found Allen in the barn, milking his cows. Nelson executed him; deputies later found twelve empty shells in the barnyard. Nelson tried to gain entrance to the house to kill Henderson’s other son, Paul, but Allen’s wife Ida, who was getting dressed and unaware of what had happened, wouldn’t let him in. A little later a neighbor found her husband dead and called police.
Nelson fled to Dead Lake Woods, which was located just east of his father’s farm. Within hours thirty police were scouring the area. Nelson fired ten shots at them during the night. In the morning sixty officers, supplemented by Dane County deputies, raided the Nelson farm immediately east of the golf course. They found nothing; Charles, who said he’d never give his son up, told deputies the Hendersons had “slurred” him and his son.
On Sunday morning the manhunt was called off; the sheriff assumed Nelson had probably fled the county by that time. Three searchers did not know this and continued looking. They approached a deserted garage in the Lake Forest subdivision near Capital Avenue. While two of the men went around either side of the building Caspar Nash threw open the garage doors and found himself facing a man sitting in a car. It was Nelson. The other two men ran inside and covered him with their weapons.
“Don’t be afraid. I’m not going to hurt you fellows,” Nelson said. Then, as the deputies stood with guns drawn, he reached down, grabbed a pistol off the seat of the car, and shot himself in the head, shattering his skull. Police later found three guns and a loaded cartridge belt in the vehicle.
Mrs. Henderson sold the farm, which had been in the family for nearly fifty years, days after the murders; she moved with her son Paul to 641 East Dayton Street.