Close up of the inscription on murdered Nurse Mildred Neilson’s monument that has been standing in a Burnaby cemetery for 95 years. She was shot to death in Trail on Feb. 6, 1925. Trail citizens were so upset they raised over $1,200 (around $18,000 in today’s world) to send to her parents for burial and this granite monument. Photo: Trail Historical Society

Close up of the inscription on murdered Nurse Mildred Neilson’s monument that has been standing in a Burnaby cemetery for 95 years. She was shot to death in Trail on Feb. 6, 1925. Trail citizens were so upset they raised over $1,200 (around $18,000 in today’s world) to send to her parents for burial and this granite monument. Photo: Trail Historical Society

The story of unrequited love and murder in the Kootenays, 95 years later

Check out the Trail Times every Thursday for another historical story featured in Trail Blazers

This week’s Trail Blazers is a little more intriguing than usual.

It began with an email from a person living in Vancouver. He’d been walking through a cemetery and snapped a few photos that he thought would interest our readers.

“I was visiting a cemetery in Burnaby and noticed there was a monument erected by the ‘Citizens of Trail, BC’ for a nurse named Mildred Neilson (1898-1925),” Evan explained, requesting the Trail Times to only use his first name.

“It was an interesting discovery given that Trail is considerably far from Burnaby and I thought it would make an interesting story for you. I have no idea who she is, but it seems she died relatively young and would have lived through the First World War and Spanish Flu period,” Evan said.

“It would be a great shame for her to be forgotten if she meant a lot to Trail, even if it was nearly 100 years ago.”

Mildred Neilson’s monument today. Photo: Submitted by Evan

Mildred Neilson’s monument today. Photo: Submitted by Evan

The Ocean View Burial Park in Burnaby holds the remains of many people who lived and died in the 19th century.

“And I often wonder who they were and what their lives were like,” Evan shared. “Maybe there is a part of me that wonders whether any of us will be remembered or thought worthy enough for someone to build a monument to honour us.”

So the Times did an internet search and began to unveil what at the heart of it, is a story as old as time – one of unrequited love and murder.

As with any story of such magnitude there is much to tell. For this feature, however, the narrative will focus on the how and why a large granite monument from the city, dedicated to Mildred Neilson, stands in the Ocean View cemetery.

Mildred Neilson was a young nurse, a 27-year-old graduate of Vancouver General Hospital, who was working in the Trail Tadanac Hospital.

She was shot through her heart and killed on Feb. 6, 1925 by Patrick Hanley.

The Nelson businessman had come to see her in the nurses’ residence on Aldridge Street while she was off-duty.

Hanley had a crush on Mildred, but she didn’t reciprocate, having turned him down more than once, according to a Trail Daily Times article written right after the murder.

As the story goes, the killer was known to Neilson’s family, who resided in Vancouver. On that fateful day, Hanley claimed he had been asked to deliver a tin of cookies to the young nurse by her mother in Vancouver.

Mildred Neilson’s parents at her burial site, 1925. Photos: Trail Historical Society

Mildred Neilson’s parents at her burial site, 1925. Photos: Trail Historical Society

There were no eye witnesses, so no one will ever really know what transpired between the two of them that Friday morning before Hanley shot the nurse, then himself.

It didn’t end up being a murder-suicide, however.

Hanley later presented himself at the hospital with a bullet wound. He recovered, was subsequently tried, found guilty and sentenced to death.

The town was shocked by this cold-hearted act and such a sudden and brutal demise of a caring young nurse.

So the community rallied alongside smelter employees, and collectively raised over $1,200 (around $18,000 today) that they sent to her parents for burial and a dedicated memorial in Ocean View cemetery.

The inscription reads:

Erected by the citizens of Trail, BC to the memory of Nurse Mildred Neilson 1890-1925

So greatly loved.

– With files from BCNursingHistory.ca and the Trail Museum and Archives

Find more Trail Blazers here: Fires raged in the summer of 1927 Remembering the Silver City Serenaders of Song Setting the Record Straight

(Trail Times stories from 1925 reveal that Hanley, district manager of the Monarch Life Insurance Co., was gassed while serving in the First World War and he is said to have suffered from mental illness. Trail Blazers will re-visit his trial and the outcome in a later edition.)

Mildred Neilson’s monument several years ago.	Photo: Trail Historical Society

Mildred Neilson’s monument several years ago. Photo: Trail Historical Society



newsroom@trailtimes.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

City of TrailLocal History

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Trail Times archives

Trail Times archives

Trail Times archives

Trail Times archives

Just Posted

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

It costs as little as $7 to charge an EV at home. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Electric Vehicles a rare sight (in the Kootenays), but change on the way

Electric pickups will increase the appeal of zero-emission vehicles in years to come according to Blair Qualey of the New Car Dealers Association

Linda Krawczyk and her dad Doug Finney enjoyed a ride around beautiful Fernie on Friday thanks to Melanie Wrigglesworth and the local chapter of Cycling Without Age. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Cycling Without Age goes for its first spin

Doug Finney (86) got to enjoy a ride around Fernie

The Cranbrook Community Forest is good to go for mountain biking. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Snow’s done, time to hit the trails

South Country trails are good to go

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
69 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The total number of cases in the region is now at 9,840 since the pandemic began

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

Local carpenter Tyler Bohn embarked on a quest to create the East Sooke Treehouse, after seeing people build similar structures on a Discovery Channel show. (East Sooke Treehouse Facebook photo)
PHOTOS: B.C. carpenter builds fort inspired by TV’s ‘Treehouse Masters’

The whimsical structure features a wooden walking path, a loft, kitchen – and is now listed on Airbnb

Most Read