An Elderly US Immigrant Mother’s Letters to her Son in Denmark, and 2 Letters from a Sister and a Brother
This is the story of how a poor old woman from a poorhouse in Denmark became a self-supporting immigrant in America during the late 1800's.
This poor old immigrant was my great-great-grandmother.
Several of her letters made the trip across the ocean from the USA to my great-grandfather, Niels Hansen, in the village of Raarup, 40 miles south Aarhus, Denmark’s second largest city, in Jutland. Most of the letters were from her, but two of them were from to my great-grandfather's siblings.
These letters are here published for the first time - more than 130 years later.
I am a Danish woman, Gudrun Rishede, and this is the partial history of my great-great-grandmother Zidsel Kirstine Nielsdatter (Kirstine Christensen in the US), who emigrated to the United States in the early 1880s. At that time she was about 65 years old and decided to emigrate rather than end up at a workhouse in Denmark.
My great-great-grandmother emigrated because she could not imagine a worse shame than ending up in the workhouse, even though she and her family had lived for many years in the poorhouse in the village Gammel Sole in Oster Snede parish between the bigger towns Vejle and Horsens. (I will define Poorhouse vs. Workhouse a bit lower down).
Six of Zidsel Kirstine’s children also emigrated to the United States during the 1880s. The first one in 1882 and the last one in 1888.
However, one son stayed on in Denmark - my great-grandfather Niels Hansen.
Her children who emigrated to the United States were scattered to the four winds: Soren Peter Hansen to Akron in Ohio, Peder Hansen (Peter Hanson) to Luck, West Denmark in Wisconsin, he died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Johanne Hansen to Perth Amboy in New Jersey, Johannes Moller Hansen (John Miller) to St. Croix Falls in Wisconsin and later to Minneapolis in Minnesota, David Peder Hansen (David Peter Hansen) and Maren Hansdatter (Maren Hansen) both disappeared - maybe into New York's slums?
Zidsel Kirstine tried to achieve a dignified life for herself and her loved ones despite her adversities. In the US she served despite her advanced age as domestic help for other immigrants. She travelled also to help her children, who had problems and needed her help. Sometimes she could save smaller amounts for later use, e.g. to help the youngest of her sons to buy a ticket to America. He emigrated from Denmark to the US several years later than herself. (Letter number 3)
Rarely does one hear the story of a former poor man told by himself, and even more rarely, such a story told by a poor woman. But in this story, we get to know Zidsel's thoughts and her family through the letters she and two of her children sent to my great-grandfather Niels Hansen in Glattrup in Rårup parish in Denmark.
Before continuing, I will define Poorhouse vs. Workhouse:
POORHOUSE: In Denmark, the "poorhouse" was for poor people who received some help from the parish, for example, rent or medicine (a part of the help came from charity - e.g. collections in the church, another part from local taxes).
WORKHOUSE: Here, all rights of self-determination were lost. Family members could be separated, and parents could loose supervision over their own children. Work was duty-bound at the workhouse, and one’s whole day was organized. In rural workhouses the men worked in agriculture and looked after livestock while the women cooked, cleaned and did craft activities like repairing clothes, carding and spinning. One couldn't leave the workhouse without the manager's permission, and often one received permission only to go to church on Sundays.
"Emigrants at Larsens Square" (Udvandrere på Larsens Plads) by Edvard Petersen, 1890, © ARoS, Aarhus Museum of Art. Thingvalla Line was the first to establish a direct route from Scandinavia to America for Danish and Scandinavian Passengers. Thingvalla Line and Larsens Square was in Copenhagen, but my family lived on the Jutland Peninsula and all of them travelled as far as I know from Hamburg in Germany to America.
Zidsel Kirstine also kept her faith firmly until her last breath, however, even as she adapted to the new conditions in America. In Denmark, she belonged to the Christian revival movement, The Strong Jutlanders (also called The Staunch Jutlanders).
The Strong Jutlanders (The Staunch Jutlanders) was a Christian revival movement that arose in the late 1700s in the region between the cities of Horsens and Vejle on the Jutland Peninsula. The movement was led by uneducated laymen and its followers opposed the rationalist hymn book and textbooks, and the rationalist sermons of the priests in the Danish churches, which all took place according to the will of the absolute monarchy.
The Strong Jutlanders faced the absolute monarchy and the church, but denied being suppressed in their beliefs despite fines, imprisonment, and lengthy lawsuits. The most famous among them was my ancestor, Hans Nielsen Smed (Smed = blacksmith). He kept his children home from school for several years, because he disagreed with the books used to prepare them for confirmation. In addition, in 1813 he had spit on his priest and shouted "what a priest, he is the priest of the devil”. For all this he was sentenced a year in prison. But by 1839, the King gave in to these “stubborn” Strong Jutlanders. He allowed them to start their own private schools and use textbooks and hymn book they considered appropriate, which were first of all Kingo’s hymn book and Erick Pontoppidan’s explanation of Martin Luther’s small catechism.
Zidsel Kirstine Nielsdatter did not regret that she made the big decision to emigrate. In one of her letters from the USA she wrote in 1888 to her son Niels Hansen in Rårup:
"My opinion on whether I would rather have stayed on in Denmark or not, then I say far from and again and again, No, what else could I do in Denmark other than go to the workhouse and it is my greatest fear because there (at the workhouse) is all the scum and scoundrel that exists for to be outraged at, so it is almost impossible to maintain a good conscience, and had it not been for the fear of the work house, I had not traveled to America although I suffered the hardship … to loose my husband, which was a grief that I never thought I had overcome, but which was consumed by the passing of time. So, by the way, I have ... ... I am a free human being and have maintained myself without any debt"
While Zidsel Kirstine Nielsdatter was unique, she was also representative of the general trend among the poorest in the rural areas in 19th century Denmark. During the century poverty increased dramatically in Denmark, and many workhouses were built by the end of the century in order to scare the many poor away from receiving poverty relief. The fear of ending up in the workhouse was huge, because more than ever before, it was considered a shame to receive help from the public - even if you were without blame for your poverty. Many tried their luck in the big cities or emigrated. Between 1880 and 1884, almost 40,000 Danes emigrated to America. The largest emigration to America was in 1882, when approximately 11,700 emigrated.
Zidsel Kirstine emigrated to the United States between 1882 and 1884. Around 1884, she worked as housekeeper for the widower Thomas Smidt in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. He had been alone with 2 small children after his first wife's death.
Zidsel Kirstine Nielsdatter, Sidsel Bødker or Kirstine Christensen
Zidsel Kirstine Nielsdatter1 had several names throughout her life, and for the reader not to be confused; here is a review of them:
In 1817 she was baptized Zidsel Kirstine Nielsdatter and kept - as usual in the 19th century in Denmark - her last name when she married in 1840.
Her first husband was my great-great-grandfather, Hans Sorensen2, and because he was a cooper (bødker, in Danish), she was never called anything but Sidsel Bødker in her hometown, Gammel Sole. Sidsel and Hans Sorensen Bødker were married for 33 years before Hans died in 1873. In the parish register this was written about him:” Pauper and occupant of “Gammel Sole Fattighuus” (poorhouse), born in Gadbjerg, son of smallholder Soren Davidsen. 1 time married. Age 69 years. Cause of death: Breast weakness (tuberculosis).”
In 1874, a year after Hans' death, Zidsel Kirstine married again, this time to a 57-year-old day worker, Jens Christian Christensen, from Tamdrup a little northwest of Horsens.
Her eldest son, Soren Peter Hansen, lived also in Tamdrup with his family. Soren Peter has probably been the closest one to providing for his mother when his father died, and he probably knew Jens Christian Christensen, and knew also that he had recently become a widower. Several other of her children had also worked at times in Tamdrup. In Tamdrup she, too, as in Oster Snede Parish, could be among several of The Strong Jutlanders.
The last years before Zidsel Kirstine emigrated, she therefore lived with Jens Christian Christensen in Kjorup (Kjørup) in Tamdrup Parish and may already have used his last name at that time. In any case, she used it after emigrating, as in the letters back to Denmark, she called herself either Jens Christian Christensen's widow or used her middle name Kirstine, and therefore called herself Kirstine Christensen. Unfortunately, I do not know whether Jens Christian Christensen died before Kirstine left or whether he died shortly after her arrival in The United States, since I have so far been unable to find his death certificate.
As can be seen, Zidsel Kirstine Nielsdatter had several names, but I call her by her American name Kirstine Christensen in the rest of this article.
1 Zidsel Kirstine Nielsdatter born 1. Aug. 1817 Thyregod parish, probably died c 1893 in Luck or West Denmark, Polk County, Wisconsin, USA
2 Hans Sorensen born September 21, 1802 in Gadbjerg Parish, died April 11, 1873 Oster Snede Parish.
Kirstine Christensens journey across many states
As mentioned Kirstine Christensen´s family emigrated to the United States between 1882-1888. They did not come to live in the same state but were scattered across a number of states: New Jersey, Ohio, Wisconsin and Minnesota and probably even more.
In the letters to Niels in Denmark, there are mention of all Kirstine Christensen´s children, who survived childhood. Here is a brief listing of them and their spouses:
- Soren Peter Hansen born 1841 in Jelling - Died 1914 in Akron, Ohio ~ Maren Nielsine Olsen
- David Peder Hansen born 1845 in Oster Snede - Died in the US - but where? ~ Else Marie Rasmussen (she staid in Denmark)
- Maren Hansdatter born 1849 Oster Snede - Died probably in the US - but where?
- Niels Hansen born 1852 Oster Snede - Died 1925 Glattrup, Rårup, Denmark ~ Susanne Sorensdatter
- Peder Hansen (Peter Hanson) born 1853 Oster Snede - Died in 1918 Minneapolis, Minnesota ~ Johanne Marie Rasmussen
- Johannes Møller Hansen (John Miller) born 1855 Oster Snede - Died 1943 in Minneapolis, Minnesota ~ Ane Kirstine Jakobsen
In the US called: Ane Cathrine Jacobsen and John Miller Hansen
- Johanne Hansen born 1860 Oster Snede - Died 1887 Perth Amboy, New Jersey ~ Thomas Hansen Smith
On this link “Kirstine Christensen and Hans Bødker's descendants” you can find a list (in Danish) if you would like to know the family in more detail. There are also more thorough source references.
Kirstine Christensen's oldest son Soren Peter Hansen was probably the first one to travel to the United States. He did this in 1882, and he had the whole family with him: His wife Maren Nielsine Olesen and the children: Oline Elisabet Hansen, 12 years old; Hansine Hansen, 10 years old; Hans K. M. Hansen, 7 years old; Niels Hansen, 5 years old; Ole Hansen, 2 years old; and Jensine Christine Hansen born in Horsens, 5 months before arrival in the USA.
The emigration papers stated that Soren Peter was a farmer, and that the family came from Horsens in the county of Aarhus. The title “farmer” was probably just wishful thinking, because it had certainly not been easy to find the money for the growing family. Two years before departure, Soren Peter had to support his family partly on day work and partly on receiving relief for the poor.
How the whole family could afford to travel, I do not know. Perhaps the parish paid for the family's journey to the United States in order to get rid of a "problem"? It was expensive for the parishes to provide for large families, and it was known that both Horsens and several country parishes tried to get rid of both the poor and the criminals by giving them a one-way ticket to the United States. Since this was not entirely in accordance with the rules, it was often done discreetly through Hamburg in Germany, where they were seen entering the Hamburg America Line, so you were sure they sailed away1.
Soren Peter Hansen was 41 when he sailed with his family on the ship Vandalia from Hamburg to New York, where they arrived on June 27, 1882. The ship was a 330-foot-long sailing ship with iron construction. The ship was built in 1871 for the Hamburg America Line and sailed the American route until 1883. On board there was room for 150 passengers travelling 1st class; 70 travelling 2nd class, and 150 travelling 3rd. class.
Soren Peter and his family spent their American lives in Akron, Summit County, Ohio, which was far from the rest of the family in the US.
In Akron, Soren Peter worked as a potter at U.S. Stoneware Company. At this time, they produced ceramic jugs. Also Soren Peter's sons Harry (Hans Carl Marius Hansen) and Will (Ole Hansen) found work at U.S. Stoneware Company (Census 1910).
1 Ole Sønnichsen: Rejsen til Amerika 1. Journey to America 1. Ddrømmen om et nyt liv (The dream of a new life: The story of the Danish emigrants)
The letters from the United States
After Niels' mother and siblings emigrated to the United States, Niels never saw them again, but they wrote letters to each other, and some of these letters were stored in a chest of drawers in the house of my great-grandfather Niels Hansen and his wife Susanne Sorensdatter. Most of these preserved letters were from his mother, Kirstine Christensen, but a couple of the letters were from his two youngest siblings, Johanne Hansen and John Miller Hansen (Johannes Møller Hansen). The letters were sent from 1885 to 1892, so there probably were previous letters as well, but they may have been lost.
Very few in the family knew anything about these letters while Niels Hansen and Susanne Sorensdatter were alive. Even my own father did not know his grandfather's story, although he was very interested in family history.
The chest of drawers with the letters passed on to Niels' son, Hans Sorensen Hansen, at Haugegaard (name of his farm) in Gammel Sole. I have been handed over the letters by Hans' son, former teacher Mathias Hansen in Lisbjerg near Aarhus, shortly before his death. Mathias wanted me to make the letters and Kirstine Christensen's history known to the family - and to everyone who might be interested.
Please be aware that the language is very old-fashioned, with many strange expressions, and gaps in the text. I have preferred not to change the language to much and have kept as close to the original text as possible.
Hans Hansen (in the middle) and his family. Hans was son of my great-grandfather Niels Hansen, and he inherited these letters. The photo is from the living room in the farm Haugegaard in the 1930s. Haugeggard was where my great-grandfather, Niels Hansen, worked, when his mother and siblings emigrated to America. The old lady in the photo is the Susanne Sorensdatter, whom Niels was in love with, but her parents dindn't find him "good enough" for her. He married another Susanne Sorensdatter, who became my great-grandmother (Read: Explanations concerning letter 2)
Letter 1. To Niels Hansen from his sister Johanne Smidt, Perth Ambog, New Jersey January 30, 1885
Explanations concerning letter 1: The earliest dated letter was from Johanne Hansen (married name Smidt). She was Niels' youngest sister. Johanne was born in the poor house in Gammel Sole, Oster Snede parish in 1860.
In the US, in January 1885, she married the widower Thomas Hansen Smidt in the city of Perth Amboy in the state of New Jersey, south of New York. Thomas H. Smidt was alone with two young children, Chris and Thomas, after his first wife Johanna C. Martensen died.
Johanne's mother, Kirstine Christensen, had been housekeeper for Thomas H. Smidt after Johanna's death, but now he was married to Kirstine's daughter, Johanne.
Because the vast majority, who came to the US, were men, then there was a great deal of interest in the women who came - both as wives and housekeepers. Most single women who came to the US got married quickly - and so did Kirstine´s daughter Johanne.
The city of Peth Ambog (= Perth Amboy) is a few hours' journey south of New York in the state of New Jersey. In 1890 there were approx. 10,000 people in the city, of which approx. 3000 were Danes. The vast majority worked in the many terra cotta factories, of which some were Danish owned.
Here is Johanne's letter:
Perth Ambog, New Jersey the 30th of January 1885
I received your letter with joy and I thank you many times for writing me once in a while, as it is a great … (pleasure?) to hear a little from the old country. Today I can tell you a bit of news, and that is I have now been married to the widower, my mother was a housekeeper for, when I came over here. We married on the 24th of this month and I am happy and delighted and feeling fine. Yes, I would wish that I soon could hear the news that you have married too. Now you are the only one of us who is not, and you must now also soon be old.
Enough of that. I can tell you that my brother David has been very ill the last … I was. He was many times so ill, that we didn’t think he would survive the night. We had doctor for him every day, but now he is a little bit better again, we had a letter from him yesterday.
Now I don’t have more to write this time. Finally I shall ask you to write me again as soon as you can, because I am longing to hear how you are, and where you are. If you know anything about Johannes, please let me know, because I never hear from him. Now I shall end my letter for this time sending you many friendly and loving … for you dear brother both from me your sister and my dear husband.
Live well, that is desired of us, your sister and brother-in-law
My …..to Miss’ Johanne Smidt,
Perth Ambog New Jersey
Box 149 (maybe 189)
Further explanations to letter 1:
I interpret the letter in this way that Niels Hansen (in Denmark) is now the only one of Kirstin's and Hans's children who has not been married. Niels was married on May 1, 1886 - the year after Johanne had written this letter. Then he was 34 years old.
Johanne's and Niels' big brother and Kirstine Christensen's second oldest surviving child, David Peder Hansen, were often ill. I do not know where he lived at the time of this letter - presumably near Johanne in the United States. David Peder had run away from the workhouse in Kragelund, Oster Snede and had left his family there.
Johanne asks about her youngest brother in her letter, Johannes Møller Hansen (John Miller Hansen), who is still in Denmark at this time and did not emigrate until January 1887. I will come back to him later in this article, when he also writes to his brother Niels. (Notice: Johanne is the sister, Johannes is the brother)
Letter 2. To Niels Hansen from his mother, who now calls herself Kirstine Christensen. North Valley, March 12, 1886
North Valley is located in Wisconsin in the Midwest. Here Kirstine Christensen had now found a new place as housekeeper.
I thank you for your letter, I see that you were still in your old place of work, but tell me what you did there this winter since you were a young man. Yes, here I also see that there will soon be a change with your position, and I congratulate you. "God be with you". I can let you know I'm out to serve (as a housekeeper) again. I am fine, yes very fine. We are two people, but yet it is on a farm.
You ask about Johannes, he still has the same job, I received a letter from him the same day I got one from you. We have had letters from him twice this winter. He wish ... ... but can´t. I do not know if we can afford to help him, it is bad enough, we are here so many, and can help one, because I even keep on serving, so I could have done it.
Then you ask about Johanne, she is very pleased. She has a little son, I got two letters from her at the same time, I got 4 at once. Yes, I must stop doing that.
Now I include a letter in yours to Hans Villiams, because I could not address him, for he is not himself a farm owner, and I did not know if he is retired. Now you will probably put his letter in the envelope and bring it to him and also my address when you have written it down. Yes, dear son, don´t be displeased because you receive such a small letter, it is because I am afraid that the letter will be too heavy.
Now you must write to me when you get another address. Thus, I will now end with many kind greetings to you and your future wife. God be with you and let his blessing come on you. Live well and happily, it is wished by your mother.
Miss Christensen. Adr. Mr. Guldbrand Gudmundsen
This small note is included in the letter:
I think it was weak, I came to an end with my letter. I had much more that I wanted .... told you, as I wrote in the other letter, I hope you shall be saved, so do I with the help and grace of Jesus, but I am very afraid that you do not know the deceit of your heart, that you think it is enough that you are among God's children, it is good and a great grace, but far from sufficient. Every person has to stand up for himself, he has to know and be sure that he is in union with our Saviour. It has to be perceived and embraced by faith, "then I will now" in the name of the love of Jesus Christ and in communion with the Holy Spirit, amen.
I shall send you some feathers from our birds, so we have red, blue and variegated, but no songbirds. Now, goodbye, write soon and let me know how you are.
Explanations concerning letter 2:
According to the information I have, Niels still worked at the farm Haugegaard in Gammel Sole, Oster Snede parish at this time - which he also did in the census for Gammel Sole in Oster Snede parish in 1870 and 1880. But in the fall of 1885 Susanne Sorensdatter from Haugegaard (whom Niels was in love with) married someone else: Jørgen Mathiasen Christensen, and they took over Haugegaaard from her parents.
At the same time, it has been decided that Niels was to marry another Susanne Sorensdatter, who lived in Glattrup in Rarup parish, and this is what he has written for his mother, and with which she now congratulates him.
Obviously, Niels has asked his mother in his last letter how his youngest brother, Johannes, was doing. He did that even though Johannes at that time was still in Denmark, and therefore closer to Niels himself.
She replied that Johannes still had the same place of work. In July 1885 Johannes was a workman, and the family lived in a rented house in Elkærhus on Jerlev field in Højen-Jerlev Parish. That same year they had their son Hans Christian Hansen. Johannes wanted to go to the US, and the family in the United States was saving up for tickets.
Kirstine gives Niels a motherly admonition: Even though it was good that he was among the members of the Christian revival movement The Strong Jutlanders, he would not, for that reason, automatically be saved - receive the salvation from Jesus - for it was up to each person's faith and the help and grace of Jesus.
The fact that she has the energy to enjoy the birds and their beautiful feathers is a great pleasure for the author of this article.
Mr. Guldbrandt Gudmundsen was probably a Norwegian.
I don’t know who Hans Villiams was, or Hans Vilesen, which he is called in the next letter. There is an Anders Villadsen and Jens Villadsen mentioned in the protocol of the poor for Oster Snede parish in the 1870s.
Letter 3. To Niels Hansen and Susanne Sorensdatter from Kirstine Christensen (Sidsel Bødker). North Valley February 8, 1887
Dear son and daughter-in-law
Well now it is possible for me to let you know about Johannes, now he is in America. I and Peder have sent a ticket to him, and then he arranged it so – that he brought his wife but not the children, they stay with her parents, and they are going to pay them for having them until they can get them to America. The parish pays for them this winter. We paid 48 dollars for his ticket, and that was a lot. Peder had to pawn his cattle and I gave all I had.
Johannes went over to………..and collected... He was also in Snede parish, he wanted to say good-bye to you, but you were so far away that he didn’t have time for it. He had to return home again before evening, but he had to give up, as it was too hard for him, he had to stay in Vejle during the night. They left Denmark the 5th of January and arrived here to us on the 20th and today she (maybe his wife?) leaves again for going to Falls (St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin), where Johannes has work, a railroad is going to be constructed this summer and that means prospect of labor.
You ask if I have received a letter from Hans Vilesen, no I haven’t. You do have delivered him the letter, what did he say, I thought he would become busy when he received a letter from America.
Yes, dear friend, I would say you should not wait too long writing to me, you … how long I can respond to such long intervals. I guess you live just as well hearing from me or not hearing from me, I know that.
Now I have not heard from Soren Peder for 2½ years till now, today I also write to him. Oline and Stinne are given (= married), I got Stinnes photo the other day as a bride. I do not hear from David and now not any more from Hanne, so it goes when you no longer are able, so you are more (a bit incomprehensible)
Yes, dear son, this is not at all about you, I have never done you anything good, but even though you are just as dear to me, I would like to hear a little from you about what you are doing. Oh, do you know, what I really would like to ask you about, if you would give me your photograph that I should see you together. Yes, I don´t have so much more to say but this earnest desire and prayer: God be with you and all of us, and that we may gather in the kingdom of God by merely grace for the sake of Jesus.
Otherwise I’m fine, I am rather well now, last week I was very ill, but now I’m better. When you write will you please write to Peders address, he will pass it on to me some time, since our own post office is out of order and I don’t know when it will function again.
And now a loving live well, it is desired by your mother Miirs (= Mrs) Chrestensen.
My address is Miirs Chrestensen
Adr. Mr. Guldbrandt Gudmundsen
North Vallye Polk Lo Viis(consin)"
Explanations concerning letter 3
The son Peder Hansen (Peter Hanson) - the third last in the siblings - was a farmer in Luck, Polk County, Wisconsin. He will be mentioned later.
Peder and Kirstine Christensen had saved up for tickets to Johannes (John) and his wife, Anna Cathrine Hansen (baptized Ane Kirstine Jakobsen), so that they could travel to the United States. They left on January 4, 1887. The journey was made on the ship Werra from Bremen in Germany passing by Southampton in England to New York, and there were only 4 Danes on this ship. They continued to Wisconsin, where John got work in St. Croix Falls building railway. In 1887, approx. 6.5 km railway was constructed from Dresser Junction (now Dresser) to St. Croix Falls.
They had to leave their children, Johanne Katrine Hansen and Hans Christian Hansen, with her parents, Johanne Katrine Dinesen and Jens Jakobsen, in Denmark. They lived in Oksvighus at Højen Mark in Højen parish, and Jens Jakobsen probably took care of the cows at Oxviggaard. They had to receive help for the poor from the parish to raise the 2 foster children / grandchildren.
Oline and Stine are daughters of Soren Peter Hansen, the eldest brother. Soren Peter and his family lived in Akron, Ohio.
Concerning Kristine’s prayer and wish "that we may gather in the kingdom of God" is this ending the traditional way for the Strong Jutlanders to end a letter.
Letter 4. To Niels Hansen and Susanne Sorensdatter from Kirstine Christensen (Sidsel Bødker). North Valey 2nd of September 1887
Dear son and daughter-in-law
Now, a few days ago I have received your dear letter where I see that you are well and that you have multiplied, I wish you happiness with your little daughter, that was all well.
Then I tell you all I know about your siblings, I have now also written to David, he is in a big forest like ... ... I think he is a child of God, he has written to me and asks for forgiveness which I was willing to give him and he also wrote to Else Marie about the same.
Johnannes lives in St Crois Falls and is happy he has worked well all the time, he has paid the ticket and sent 60 kroner home for the children and for good furniture two new beds tiled stove with accessories everything all kinds of kitchenware and he has bought a building site and has to pay 75 dollars, and his wife also got a little daughter on the 11th last month.
Soren Peter, it is a long time I have heard from him.
Oline and Stine are married, and Johanne …… I do not have more to tell you, she has died, but I still have something to tell you she got a son in December 1885 who got the name Jens Christian, then she had a small stillborn son on March 6, 1887, then she had measles and childbed fewer and asthma that caused her death. In these diseases she lay thirteen days and died on March 19. Now that was about your siblings. Peder, I think is writing by himself.
Yes, to myself I must say regarding my position I have as good as I can wish I lack no thing I have both food and clothes as well as I need but with all this then I am a servant, though, and do not know what the end may be, but this must I leave everything in the hand of God and let every day have its own troubles but it is not always so easy I brood and slump.
Our Lord has taken good care of me so far, I have been well all the time I went out to serve but when I think about that I am 70 now and yet have to serve so I can not expect for it to last I can hardly carry myself now for tears while I am writing these words, I remember my position.
Yes, dear children think of me and pray for me that the end may be well that I must end up in the heavenly land.
Then the temporal life may go as it may now I will commit you in the hand of God. God be with us all and a loving goodbye if God will ... don't forget to pray for your old mother and now finally live well and kiss the little girl from Grandma.
Adr. Mr. Guldbrandt Gudmundsen
Explanations to letter 4:
David Peder was by now so well that he could have a job in a forest. He had finally pulled himself together in order to send an apology to his wife, Else Marie, in Denmark, but at this time it was also at least 5 years ago, he had "run away" from the family who was left in the infamous workhouse in Denmark.
Johannes had had a child and now earned so well that he among other things has been able to send money home to the two children who were left with the grandparents in Denmark. He had also bought a vacant lot and was to start building their own home. The houses at this time were built of beams - the so-called loghouses. We can't see if the lot alone has cost $ 75 or it's including the tile stove and the other things, but to get a little impression of land prices at this time and how they had risen in the area over the last few years, you can read further down under the letters from Luck. The prices were probably a little higher in St Croix Falls, as it was a small trading town where there was a slightly larger selection of goods than the settlers were offered in the smaller places in the area - e.g. in Luck. One of the goods could be flour.
St Croix Falls is located in Polk County at the St Croix River, which is also the border with Minnesota, in the most western part of Wisconsin.
Johanne’s happiness was short, because she died already 2 years after the wedding when she was 27 years old. She gave birth to a son in December of the same year she was married (1885). This son was named Jens Christian Smith after her stepfather, Jens Christian Christensen, Kirstine Christensen's second husband. However, Jens later became the more idiomatic John in American, so his name became John Christian Smith. On the backside of a picture of him was noted that he was born in a house on the corner of Broad and Mechanic Street, N.W. corner.
Letter 5. To her daughter Maren Hansdatter from Kirstine Christensen (Sidsel Bødker). Ilford (?) 22/1 1888
Today I want to write to you truth, because I am home alone, that is, David is lying in bed, he is very ill, he had Doctor yesterday, and must have it again today, and it looks bad enough, and now the factory has been closed down for 3 weeks, now it had just started and he had worked for 4 days, and now he is lying ill again,
That was that,
so what I wanted to tell you is that now I know what it means to be a burden, now I have no more to pay with, I sit like a nothing, I get my food, I must be grateful for that, but I also must not open my mouth, I sit about whole days and evenings and not saying a word without crying and go to the table many times with tears or with heavy heart, I have now given them 120 dollars in money and just about all your father's clothes, that is, the best of it, his new boots, hat, 3 pair of trousers, and two brand new knitted wool sweaters, a vest and many other small things, but, it doesn't help at all, I only keep a few bits and pieces; … a bed they will probably keep as well, I want to say, it can't do it, but I have no more. It hurts me that I did not give you any more, because now by these circumstances it had not done any difference, but it was meant that we had no more than we needed, but now our Lord would not have it so, it was a (?) but for the sake of God do not say the slightest word, because if I am to stay here in the rest of my lifetime, but I have spoken [with] the priest, if he could not get me a little house keeper job, he promised he should see, or else I can see, my home will be at the workhouse in America. I also talked to him about you, and he promised he would take care of you, and he gave me his address to forward to you, which I am now going to send you and also the Emigrant House, if he should not be present, but when he heard that you intended to travel with Søren Ødsted, then he thought that it was not necessary, you must take care that you stick with them, because it is very much about getting good traveling companions, and I would think that they would be.
Now I want to send you his address because you should talk to him, which probably is necessary. Now you must not decide to travel because we cannot receive you. I have no money, nor does David have any, and even though I had money, it did not help at all, because I am as unfamiliar to Nyörk as you and I cannot save myself.
I long to talk to you my dear sweet girl, but it will probably not happen, firstly because it costs 13 kroner from Nyörk to here and back, and so much money do you probably not have left over when you come ashore, I will survive even that if you just are well.
Yeah I had much more to write, yeah I had enough for two days, but now I have to interrupt for this time and leave both you and me in the hand of God. God be with you dear unforgettable child, and finally, I wish you a loving farewell from your old grieving mother. God knows if we are seen more here in this world, but it does not matter if we just gather in the Kingdom of God. Here is now both the priest's address and the Emigrant House, Søren Ødsted told me to tell you to use them.
Now live well, it is desired by your grieving mother, J Chr Chrestens widow.
You must take care to get the postal address written clearly, otherwise we can hardly get them.
Explanations to letter 5: There is a lack of clarity in this letter. Where is it sent from? it looks almost like the town/city is called Ilford, but I / we haven't been able to find one by that name. Wendy Hudson: "Our best guess is that this may be "Fords" which is the town next to Perth Amboy. It does not look like "Fords", but that would be a logical guess for the cost of the trip. A lot of Danes moved out of Perth Amboy to Fords".
Which factory is it about? Where are they staying? Is it a kind of workhouse? And who is paying whom the money mentioned? How far from New York can Kirstine and David Peder be, that a return ticket in 1888 (for one or both?) costs 13 kroner. If you have answers to some of these questions, please contact me.
The daughter addressed must be Maren, as at this time she is the only living daughter, but why does her brother Niels have this letter? It doesn't seem like this daughter has a family to bring, but is she or has she been married? According to Johanne in letter 1, it seemed that only Niels was not yet married.
Reverend Rasmus Andersen. Kirstine must again look for a new job, even though she is now 70 years old.
The vicar, who is spoken of, is probably the Danish Reverend Rasmus Andersen, who had been a vicar in both Waupaca, Wisconsin, and Perth Amboy in New Jersey, before coming to the Danish church in Brooklyn, where he was a vicar for 40 years. In Brooklyn, in 1883, he founded Our Savior's Evangelical Lutheran Church and in the 1880s and 1890s he often stood on the quay when ships from Scandinavia arrived at the landing site in New York. Here he guided the Danish immigrants, who most often did not understand the language and were grateful for the help and guidance he offered them.
Søren Ødsted. In Oxford Township, Warren County, New Jersey, lived a Soren J. Odsted, just two houses from the Gregersen family. Nelsina Gregersen, whom Jens Christian later married, was the daughter of this family. (Jens Christian was Johanne from the first letter’s son)
Soren J. Odsted was born in 1852 in Denmark and came to the United States in 1872. He was married in the USA with Nellie from Massachusetts. Between 1880 and 1890 he settled down as a grocery store owner with a mixed selection of goods.
This letter is the first one where Kirstine calls herself a widow, but since Jens Christian Christensen is not mentioned as being in the US in any of the letters, I assume that she has already been a widow for a long time. It seems odd, however, that the clothes were not sold earlier.
I/we have not found where or when he died.
Letter 6. To Niels Hansen and Susanne Sørensdatter from Kirstine Christensen (Sidsel Bødker). West Denmark, Luck April 5, 1888
Not far from the North Valley was Luck and St Croix Falls, where Kirstine had worked at Guldbrandt Gudmundsen. Kirstine lived the next few years in this part of Polk County in the Midwest, where the St. Croix River marks the border with Minnesota. Here she stayed partly with her son Johannes in St. Croix Falls and partly with her son Peder in Luck near West Denmark. There was almost 30 km between St Croix Falls and Luck, and often the trip had to be traveled by foot, because the railway did not come to Luck before 1901.
St. Croix Falls was the trading town in the area, and the inhabitants of Luck and West Denmark had to take the trip to town now and then.
The area, which was very rich in forests and lakes, attracted many Scandinavians in the latter part of the 19th century because it reminded them a lot about Scandinavia even though the climate was more extreme (colder in winter and hotter in summer) than in any part of Scandinavia, due to the moderating effects of the Gulf Stream)
Dear Son and daughter-in-law
It's been a long time since I received your dear and long-awaited letter, so I didn't want to start to write, but for that reason I was waiting to know we were going to move, so I'd wait for ... sake.
Well, dear children what I have to tell you this time is not joyful. I have been to St. Crois Falls since mid-December Month at Johannes’ for the reason that his wife became insane and there was a small child of 4 months and she was sent on an insane… and there I have been until Easter then we moved up to Peder ... ... and Johannes goes out to work as soon as the snow melts. Well, dear children it was a heavy cross the Lord laid on his shoulders, but our dear Father does nothing without love and ... to serve our benefit. He sees how he can best save a soul and it is precious to him and I also believe in the grace of Jesus and the merit of his precious blood that his purpose has been accomplished, Johannes has surrendered in the arms of Jesus the Savior. God strengthens him in his faith for his soul’s salvation.
Dear children, let us stand together in prayer with each other and for each other even though we are far away from each other. Prayer is a ladder up to the throne of God. There we have a common friend who is the lamb who was slaughtered for all our sins, and the lamb is our spokesman for the Father, yes, dear children it is important in both great joy and great sorrow, indeed, an infinitely great grief why we too ... what earthly we must pray our dear Father, to spare our sanity, also to give us the grace to be able to use our minds, yes it is a heavy ... for Johannes he has two children in Denmark to pay for and one here and..... mother of them, and God knows if he's ever getting his little wife back anymore, but it is in God's hand, that was that.
My opinion on whether I would rather have stayed on in Denmark or not, then I say far from and again and again, No, what else could I do in Denmark other than go to the workhouse and it is my greatest fear because there (at the workhouse) is all the scum and scoundrel that exists for to be outraged at, so it is almost impossible to maintain a good conscience, and had it not been for the fear of the work house, I had not traveled to America although I suffered the hardship … to loose my husband, which was a grief that I never thought I had overcome, but which was consumed by the passing of time. So, by the way, I have ... ... I am a free human being and have maintained myself without any debt ... into much more by helping others, this summer I will be 71 years.
You say you can hardly remember how your mother looks. I would like to believe that, if I could I would also send you a portrait it would not be glamorous but just a memory.
I better soon end with many kind regards from your mother and wish of God's grace Jesus Christ’s Love and the Holy Spirit's companionship be with you and all of us from now on ... everlasting thus being in God commanded … Live well.
Miss or Mrs. Kirstine Kristensen
Johanne's child weighed 23½ (?) when she was 5 M.
Explanations to letter 6:
Anna Cathrine and Johannes Hansen had left two children behind in Denmark when they traveled to the US, but in August of that year Anna Cathrine gave birth to a third child, that was the daughter Mary C. Hansen.
When Anna Cathrine "became insane", Kirstine had to step in and help. Many immigrant women were often depressed because they were very lonely in everyday life, missed their family in Denmark and also lived far from those they knew in the United States. The men were often living away to work for months at a time, which was probably the case with Johannes. However, it could very well be a birth depression, Anna Cathrine suffered from.
Anna Cathrine recovered and her descendants did not realize she had this hospitalization.
When the winter was over and Johannes probably had work on a railway again, Kirstine moved in with her son Peder Hansen (Peter Hanson) and daughter-in-law Johanne Marie Hansen in Luck, West Denmark, Polk County, Wisconsin.
Peder was a farmer. Peder and Johanne immigrated to the United States on June 23, 1883 with their sons, Hans Christian and the newborn Jens Christian. They came directly from the poorhouse in Kragelund in Øster Snede Parish, so they were probably paid for leaving the country, so the parish then avoided paying further expenses. Later, a third son, Niels C., was born, and when Kirstine moved to Luck, Johanne was already pregnant with their daughter Cecil C., who was born in August 1888 and was named after her grandmother Kirstine (in Denmark Sidsel Bødker).
Perhaps Kirstine has taken little Mary to Luck while her mother was hospitalized?
Letter 7 is a letter from Johannes Møller Hansen (John Miller Hansen) in the US to the brother Niels in Denmark
Unfortunately, the letter is incomplete and undated, but it must be from some time after Johannes’s wife had been admitted to the mental hospital and before moving to Minneapolis, Hennepin County, Minnesota, at the end of 1889.
- - Pardon, for we have deserved His anger and eternal punishment, death and condemnation, thousands more times, but by his ever-merciful grace and love for the poor human race, He offers us today the grace and bidding of us to his Heavenly Wedding Party. Oh, so let us no longer waste our time. Today it is still time he stands with his outstretched arms to embrace anyone who will turn to him. Let's just come and buy the rare treasures.
Dear brother, have you ever tried to be in great pain in your soul, which could drive you to bend your knees and pray for the loving savior, the best friend of our soul, for our precious soul cannot always be content with reading a prayer as another Christian has prayed in his soulful need. We also often need to pray to Him of all our heart that He will forgive us all our sins. We have much pain in our souls, which is why we need to ask for His help. We can also often have physical pains, and then we can also go to Him. He would very much like to help us - also in our physical distress, and He knows how to fulfill every need in the right way and at the right time, and every day we have major or minor sins that we need to ask Him for forgiveness.
I will now conclude my writing for this time with a prayer to the Almighty God, our dear Savior, that He will preserve us by His Holy Spirit and even help us to never forget in prayer to turn to Him in our old age, he the God of goodness be with you and us all from now and forever by the Savior of Christ Jesus. Amen.
I don't have much news to tell you. We are fresh and healthy and live tolerable well and are also happy and glad to live in America. If you want to write to me again, then my address is J. M. Hansen
St. Croix Falls, Polk Co. Vis., Box 48, North America.
Now, many times, loving greetings from me your humble brother.
Explanation to letter 7:
It is interesting that Johannes calls for "free prayer", since "the Strong Jutlanders" usually did not use their own words in their prayers but read aloud from prayer books and devotional books. So, apparently, Johannes has found value in using his own words in his prayers in America.
Letter 8. To Niels Hansen and Susanne Sørensdatter from Kirstine Christensen (Sidsel Bødker). West Denmark 12.3 1891
(NB! 3 years have passed since Kirstine's last letter to Niels Hansen and Susanne Sørensdatter)
Dear son and daughter-in-law.
Grace and peace be upon you and abundant in the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, dear son it lasts long before I come, but I’m getting there, so better late than never. But therefore, no excuse, though.
I thank you many times for your writing, I also thank mine and yours Heavenly Father through Jesus and the Holy Spirit for His incredible (literally: inexpressible) Grace and Loving God with whom He has kept my poor straying children and retrieved them from the path of perdition. I can now, God be blessed have the joy of seeing a glimpse of the effect of grace, let us now also in the name of Jesus pray that he will graciously reside us until the day of Jesus Christ.
Dear son you ask for my portrait I would love to do so, but it is not in my power for money. I only earn a little and have to support myself and besides, here is so far to the town that I cannot get there anymore, even if I could it will cost me 12 kroner, and I cannot. But if it were so important to you, you yourself could give a little bit of it, then it was only a small sacrifice for the sake of the last one of your parents.
I would also like to see you, I have sent you some magazines now I want to send you some more so we'll see what I can do more.
Of news, I can tell you that here in our neighborhood a woman died last Sunday as she walked and stood. She was to church in the morning … and was carried into the church and was well again (?) and came home in the afternoon she went out and then she fell over and was dead.
We had no winter till late in February but now we have a lovely winter.
Then I can also tell you that Peder´s they have got them a son more this winter on the 28th of January. Now they have five sons and one daughter. He has three cows and one heifer …… and now gives milk….the times are not just favorable ……………… the state of health is fairly well. I am now old and also very sickly I am ill every week more or less last week I was ill except for Saturday but I cannot expect otherwise. This summer I am 74 if I live so long.
God in his grace have mercy on me and soon bring me home … me longing daily for you Oh sweet Lord, Your word … we can sing, they are my words of comfort when I shall leave this vale of tears, my soul you will keep in your heavenly hall.
Now, finally, many kind regards from you mother Mrs. Kjarstine Christensen and from Peder and family.
The grace of God the Father, the love of Jesus Christ and the companionship of the Holy Spirit be with you from now on forever, Amen.
God's Peace and Goodbye Write Soon Now as I write, we hear that our neighbor's son has been killed in the forest near the house, 16 years old.
Now have a good look at the magazine.
Explanations to letter 8:
Peder now had 3 cows and a heifer, but this proved insufficient at that time. It is said that those who came to the area in the 1880s had to work even harder than those who came during the decade earlier, due to lower prices for milk and butter. Also, Peder probably had land that had cost a lot to acquire, as land prices had increased at least 3½ times from 1871 to 1882.
Peder arrived in the United States in 1883, as mentioned in the explanation to letter 7. According to Peter Sørensen Vig in "Danes in America ", the Danish blacksmith Søren Pedersen paid $100 for 40 acres (16.19 ha) in 1871. Three years later, in 1874, he had to pay twice that $200 - for 40 acres (16.19 ha); and in 1882, 11 years after arriving in Luck, the price had risen to $350 for 40 acres (16.19 ha).
Accordingly, perhaps Peder needed to work beyond the farm in order to make ends meet.. Many immigrants did so in order to afford to buy their own land. But even if they had bought land, it might still be necessary to work part of the year, e.g., as agricultural workers, forest workers, at sawmills, or on the St Croix River.
The area was wooded and with several lakes. In the beginning, the area was quite impassable, as roads had not yet been constructed. It could take years to fell the trees on one's plot, remove the stumps and clear the soil for planting their crops.
Until the stumps were completely gone, settlers often chose to plant potatoes between them to make the most of the land. The potato took little attention to grow.
Still, during the first few years, they obtained a large portion of their food by hunting.
The village of Luck was established no earlier than 1869, when the first Dane settled here and built a sawmill. By 1905, 372 people lived in Luck. Almost all were of Danish origin and 81 of them were born in Denmark. One could live long in Luck without learning to speak English, and in the census of 1900, one could see that neither Peder, Johanne, nor Hans Christian could speak, read or write English after 17 years in America. Hans Christian had not been to school at all, while the younger brother Jens Christian had been to school for 3 years and could read and write English, but apparently did not speak very good English. The children, who were born later, had longer schooling. Both Hans Christian and Jens Christian worked as agricultural workers. Jens Christian had been at the same place for 9 years, even though he was only 17 at this time. By 1900, the younger children did not work yet.
"… naar jeg skal heden fare, af denne jammerdal, min sjæl vil du bevare udi din himmelsal" (”… when I shall leave this vale of tears, my soul you will keep in your heavenly hall") is a quote from the hymn "O Jesus, livsens Herre" ("O Jesus, Lord of Life"). It is found in the Danish Hymnbook 2003 as no. 499, verse 5.
Letter 9. To Niels Hansen and Susanne Sørensdatter from Kirstine Christensen (Sidsel Bødker). West Denmark 22/12 m 1891 (December 22, 1891)
(There are some "gaps" in this letter)
Dear Son and daughter-in-law
Grace and peace be with you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ and the companionship of the Holy Spirit now and forever. Amen.
Dear children, I have now waited all summer to hear from you, but in vain. I wrote to you last winter in February and sent you some magazines. Tell me did you not receive it …………………………
We must remind each other about the short time we are allowed to walk in the country of outlandishness. I myself am waiting for my departure, ……… now is coming ………………………. You really have to believe it I feel miserable, though, because I'm very weak.
Then I will ask you my children again for the last time, and I will visit you immediately, if you want my visit. I will now send you my portrait, I was photographed in the fall. It is small, but then anyone who wants may take it off in larger format. I've got Maren and Johanne taken off and put in big frames.
Then I will now tell you a little about Peder's situation. He has firstly had 6 children who are healthy, but the last one is a poor little thing, it is now almost a year and is no bigger than a newborn child ……………………… Then he has three houses and is just now building the fourth, but then he also has enough of debt ……………… but he works very well forward as anyone.
That was that.
As for me, there is not much to say, I am now an old human being and am somewhat weak ... but yet thanks and praise the Good ... God help me with His grace for the sake of Jesus Christ that I soon must return to Heaven for the sake of the same Jesus Christ. For my own sake, it can never happen.
Then I would like to make a prayer (a request?) to you, dear son, and ask you to fulfill my last wish, that you would obtain and send two Pontoppidan explanations (of Martin Luther’s small catechism). I think that they are possible to find among you, I know you are taking prints (collecting them?), when some may take more than they just need …… I would have liked to have had your portrait, but much better I want the book, and that is much cheaper, and I cannot talk to the portraits, but in the book I can talk to my Heavenly Father about His loving will to repent and save the poor sinners, and in their numbers I am.
And finally, many kind regards to you all, my children and grandchildren, whom I have never seen. God help us to meet each other and assemble for the throne of God to sing and praise the slaughtered lamb and who has bought us to God with his blood forever. Amen.
Now live well, and God be with you, desired by your mother...
Explanations to letter 9:
Photos of daughters Maren and Johanne were placed in large frames. We know Johanne died in 1887. Is Maren´s photo also framed because she is dead? We do not know what happened to Maren after Kirstine wrote to her in January 1888 (letter 5). In Denmark it was said that all Niels Hansen's siblings emigrated. Did she ever emigrate and if so on which ship? Did she find work? Did she marry? Maybe she died on the voyage or in New York's slums. The slum which Jacob A. Riis, originally from my town Ribe in Denmark, documented with words and photos as police reporter on Mulberry Street and later in the book “How the Other Half Lives”? Since the name Maren Hansen was very common, it has not been possible to trace her.
Letter 10. To Niels Hansen and Susanne Sørensdatter from Kirstine Christensen (Sidsel Bødker). West Denmark May 5, 1892
Dear son and daughter-in-law
Grace and peace be with you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Dear son, I thank you warmly for your last letter and for the dear book, you sent me.
Can you guess where it went? You can't, but I'll tell you now. I gave it to our vicar. It was last summer I was at a place where there was a sick wife, there he often came to visit and talk to her, and I also talked a lot to him. And there I had my Kingo's hymnbook lying on the table, and we talked about it and about the old wisdom, and he took it and read it and was delighted with it, and we talked about Pontoppidan's explanation, and he wanted to familiarize himself with it. It made me feel so good, but I said nothing. Then I wrote to you for two, one for him and one for Peder's children, because I knew there was no one to get anywhere other than among those who were saved. I got your letter on Saturday night, and I was so happy that I went on Sunday with it to the vicar, and he was also happy about it.
In our explanation, it is stated that the one who is taught in the Word must share all sorts of good with the one who teaches. And it is a vicar who is worth something, he is a true and blessed child of God and speaks the word of God purely and out of the fullness of his heart, warm and powerful, you have not seen such a vicar in all of Denmark.
Yes, then you, dear son, should also have thank you writing that you would send us one or two for Peder's children ...
So, when I have told you all this, then as a thank and inheritance I will now send you a book that I myself have been given at my birthday two years ago, and whether I live long or short, I will now send this one for you, hoping that you will apply it to your soul's guidance, it is Pilgrimsvandringen ("The Pilgrim's Progress "), I would think it would be a dear guest in your house if you otherwise have hunger for God's word. You write that the devil will prevent you from reading and looking at the word of God, I will believe so, but I must tell you, dear son, he has no more power over us than the one we ourselves give him, he is an overcome enemy. Stand firmly against him in faith, and he shall flee from you….
(Here follows a couple of verses from the hymn “Up, Awake, and Pray". In the Danish hymnbook called: Op, vaag og beed)
Yes, dear son, I give you these words of exhortation. I hope you will be saved, but there is danger on earth ... I know so now ... Pray for me ... I have never before been lying on my knees and prayed for myself to my dear Heavenly Father, and for all my loved ones and for the believing congregation of God on earth and then for all people who are his redeemed property. I have never felt the blessing of praying. God help me by His grace with His Holy Spirit for the sake of Jesus Christ to my last saved end.
Yours sincerely to all of you from your mother.
Explanations to letter 10:
The vicar, who Kirstine Christensen gave Pontoppidan’s Explanation, must be Peter Sørensen Vig. Vig was vicar in North Luck from 1888-93 and again from 1905-09. During his first tenure there, Vig also taught at the theological seminary for the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church (Den danske Kirkes Præsteskole), which was then functioning in West Denmark, Polk Conty; the Grundtvigian theologian Thorvald Helveg was in charge. Helveg and Vig split in their thinking, however, and the seminary was closed in 1892. From 1892 to 1893, while Vig was still a vicar in Luck, he also managed a folk high school in the buildings of the closed seminary.
Back in 1880 there had been a split in the Danish church in the area because of doctrinal differences, but personal differences and divergent opinions about the way forward had also played a part. In any case, North Luck had formed their own congregation, which was more pietistically oriented than the Grundtvigian (enlightenment oriented) congregation in West Denmark. Vig was not a pietist, but rather a man with a conservative theological conviction, who fought very hard for "pure Lutheranism".
The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan was written in the 1600s and was translated into Danish in 1850, it was widely read in revival circles right up to World War II. It was said to be the most widely read book after the Bible in the English-speaking world. It is an easy-to-read allegory about Christian and his journey through life to salvation, where he meets temptations and dangers, but also helpfulness and kindness. All those he meets carry names such as Evangelist, Hopeful, Interpreter, Cheater, Shortcut, etc. - and in this way the book makes the reader ask himself the question: whose side are you on, which allegory name best fits you?
The quoted hymn is from Brorson's hymnbook (first edition 1739), which contains mostly hymns written or translated by him. The hymnbook was widely used in the homes of The Strong Jutlanders along with Kingo's hymnbook.
The following people (and probably even more) have helped with information, pictures, translations, interpretations, etc. for this article:
Mathias Hansen, Lisbjerg, Aarhus (grandson of Niels Hansen)
Anna and J.P. Christensen, Øster Snede (granddaughter of Niels Hansen)
Erna and Gustav Christensen, Løsning (granddaughter of Niels Hansen)
Betty Haugaard Mikkelsen, Horsens (granddaughter of Niels Hansen)
Johannes Enggaard Stidsen, Odense The Memorial School for The Strong Jutlanders, Gl. Sole
Therkel Hansen, Øster Snede, The Memorial School for The Strong Jutlanders, Gl. Sole
Edwin Pedersen, Luck, Wisconsin. Great knowledge of Luck and West Denmark
Jody and Agust Scau, USA. August is the grandson of Johanne Smith
Rikke Kok Rüsz, Ejstrup, Kolding. Related to Johannes Hansen
John Hansen, USA, great-grandson of Johannes Hansen
Britt Lindstroem and Bent Hansen, Copenhagen. Bent is the great-grandson of Johannes Hansen
Egon Vestergaard, Fjerritslev
Wendy Hansen Hudson and Agnes Hagmueller, DANE - Danish Archive North East, Edison, New Jersey
Peter Petersen, editor of the Bridge
Lisa Petersen, Columnist for The Danish Pioneer
Jonathan Bryan, Templeton, Massachusetts, USA
Egon Hedegaard, Klampenborg
Glenn Sweitzer, Muncie, IN, USA
Sources of literature:
Bille: A History of the Danes in America
Frederick Hale: Danes in North America
Frederick Hale: Danes in Wisconsin
Erik Helmer Pedersen: Drømmen om Amerika. (The Dream of America) Politikkens Danmarkshistorie.1985.
Henning Bender: Udvandringen fra Vejle 1868-1908. (Emigration from Vejle 1868-1908) Vejlebogen 2003. Årbog for Byhistorisk Selskab for Vejle
Ole Sønnichsen; Rejsen til Amerika 1. Drømmen om et nyt liv (Journey to America 1. The dream of a new life)
Ole Sønnichsen: Rejsen til Amerika 2 Jagten på lykken: Fortællingen om de danske udvandrere. (Journey to America 2 The pursuit of happiness: The story of the Danish emigrants)
Tom Buk-Swienty: Den ideelle amerikaner. En biografi om journalisten, reformisten og fotografen Jacob A. Riis (The ideal American. A biography of journalist, reformist and photographer Jacob A. Riis)
P.S.Vig: Danske i Amerika. (Danes in America) 1900. Statsbiblioteket.
Henrik Bredmose Simonsen: Kampen om danskheden: tro og nationalitet i de danske kirkesamfund i Amerika. (The struggle for Danishness: faith and nationality in the Danish churches in America) Aarhus Universitetsforlag.1990
Enok Mortensen: The Danish Lutheran Church in America.
Theo P. Beck: The Professor P.S. Vig. A Jubilee Book. Lutheran Publishing House. Blair, Nebraska.
Henrik Cavling: Fra Amerika. (From America)1897
Thorvald Hansen: School in the woods: the story of an immigrant seminary.1977.
Amerika - Utopia? : udvandringen til USA og amerikaopfattelsen i Danmark 1870-1920. (America - Utopia? : the emigration to the USA and the American perception in Denmark 1870-1920) 1. udgave. 1982
Anne Lisbeth Olsen: Brev derovrefra, en analyse af udvalgte immigrantbreve fra Amerika ca. 1870-1900 (Letter from over there, an analysis of selected immigrant letters from America approx. 1870-1900)
Danske i Amerika. 1908 og 1916. (Danish in America. 1908 and 1916) B. 1 og 2. Bl.a P.S. Vig.
E.F. Madsen: Fra de stille skove. (Roman fra West Denmarks tidligste tid) (From the quiet forests. (Novel from West Denmark's earliest time))
Nationalmuseet: Drømmen om Amerika. (The dream of America) Fra udstillingen på Moesgaard i 1985
John Bunyan: En Pilgrims Vandring (The Pilgrim's Progress)
Various censuses, church books, ship lists etc.
Maybe you know these families? If you do, please let me know. You can find my address here: Home
So far you can see more family photos and the names of many of their descendants on this page Sidsel og Hans Boedkers efterkommere (in Danish)
© Gudrun Rishede, Denmark. Please don't copy text and photos to other websites. In stead share the link with everyone it might interest in your mail, social media, etc. - or contact me if you want to use it in other ways. You can find my contact details at this link: www.rishede.net/en