Santa Rosa Democrat

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    Believed to have set fire to his own home to conceal his suicide, the body of John Niskanen, 60, was found yesterday morning in the embers of his cabin eight miles north of Cazadero. Across the trunk, all that remained of the body, lay a rifle, the magazine rent by shells exploded by the heat of the fire and the chamber burned solid, so that it was impossible to determine if the cartridge in the firing chamber had been discharged by the firing pin.
    Officers, however, are satisfied that Niskanen had killed himself after setting fire to the cabin, for neighbors who arrived shortly after the fire had been discovered, although unable to enter the blazing building, saw no sign of the aged rancher and tie-maker.
    Flames starting from the burning house swept over 20 acres toward the nearby timbers and adjoiining ranches, but was checked by the efforts of 25 men after burning over 20 acres of range land.
    Niskanen, though he lived alone, was not a recluse, officers learned, for until a few weeks ago he had associated regularly with his neighbors and had frequently, while engaged in the splitting, boarded at the houses of other ranchers in the vicinity.
    Recently, however, he had been acting queerly. Believing he had discovered gold on his ranch, after years of prospecting, he carefully guarded his secrets from neighbors and passersby. "Gold" piled in the house and in sheds on the place was ordinary rock, officers found.
    Niskanen was said by residents of the vicinity to have been twice within the last five years held at the county jail here, once for an alleged gun threat against a woman, the other time for setting a fire. Jail records for 10 years back, however, do not reveal his name or any name like it.
    The fire at Niskanen's home, a two-room cabin, was discovered at 5 o'clock yesterday morning. Neighbors and passersby rushed to the place, but found the flames too far advanced to permit entering the place.
    Sheriff Douglas Bills, Deputy Phil Varner and County Detective John W. Pemberton responded to the call from Cazadero and investigatged the blaze. Deputy Coroner R. N. Tunstall of Guerneville, took charge of the body.
    Niskanen had lived at the Cazadero place about eight years. His closest neighbor was a half-mile distant.
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Juho Niskanen


Encyclopedia Titanica (2003) RECLUSE FIRES CABIN, THEN KILLS SELF, OFFICERS FIND (Santa Rosa Democrat, Sunday 14th August 1927, ref: #378, published 28 August 2003, generated 4th August 2021 06:33:15 AM); URL :