niels & mellie esperson
A simple story of a Dane and a girl from the great plains of America.   Time would show, however, that there was nothing simple about Mellie and Niels, or the love they shared.

By: Thomas M. Ciesla
Originally published in April , 2001. Article has been reformatted for online publishing

The Year was 1872, the place Rhone, Denmark. A young, but stoutly built, 15-year old Niels Esperson was boarding a ship for a new exciting land: America.

On arrival, with a train ticket in-hand and $5 in his pocket, Niels set out for California where he would spend the next five years working on a sheep ranch. When not laboring in the fields, he taught himself English by studying Webster’s Dictionary, asking those around him how to pronounce the words. He also practiced his handwriting by tracing script over-and-over again, until he eventually developed exquisite penmanship. This skill would serve him well in later years.

While in California, Niels also developed a keen interest in geology, studying with Professor Ireland, the state geologist. In 1889, he headed eastward to Indian Territory in Oklahoma, claiming his homestead tract in El Reno. That same year, young Mellie Keenan moved with her pioneer family from Kansas to the clapboard town of Yukon, between El Reno and Oklahoma City. When Niels met Mellie 4 years later, it was love at first sight. After a whirlwind courtship, the couple married on December 20, 1893. He was 36, she was 18!

Niels handwriting skills and knowledge of geology quickly made him a successful real estate pioneer, and the unofficial records keeper for all land transactions in the area. In 1895, word spread like wild fire about gold in Colorado. Niels suprised Mellie at breakfast one day by announcing, “as soon as we eat, start packing”. In Colorado, Niels toiled in the mines while Mellie washed his overalls and provided constant encouragement. The magic of gold would evade the Espersons, however, draining their savings and Niels health. He discovered that during his long hours in the mines, he had contracted tuberculosis.

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The large difference in their ages is probably the reason that Mellie always called Niels, "Mr Esperson," even in private.
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