Bio: Nielsen, Pastor Andreas Sixtus

Contact: History Buffs


Surnames: Hansen, Luhrsen, Nielsen, Tufts, Withee


----Source: Contributed by James Stenhouse



Written by Andreas Sixtus Nielsen (28 July 1909 Withee, Clark, WI-25 December 1983 in Bella Vista, Benton, Ak) Grandson of Pastor Andreas Sixtus






Dec. 8, 1892, Pastor Andreas Sixtus Nielsen alighted from a passenger coach of the old Wisconsin Central R.R. in Withee, Wis. With him were two of his parishioners of the Danish Trinity Church of Chicago, Peter Frost and Jens Jorgensen. Grandfather Nielsen had been the pastor of this church for 14 years and wished to go into retirement. He was 60 years of age and rigors of this large church plus that of the rapidly growing city of Chicago had taken its toll. He had come to this country many years earlier, settling in Cedar Falls, Iowa, to establish the Danish Church in the Midwest. This he had accomplished with great success even to the point where he was invited to return to Denmark and was knighted by the king. Numbered among his many friends were Jacob Riis and the Norwegian Violinist Ole Bull who had both come to this country after grandfather’s arrival.
Withee at that time was hardly impressive. The first settler had built a shack beside the township road in 1870. In the ensuing twenty two years many of the towering white pines in the immediate area had been cut and the vista that greeted grandfather and his friends was rather desolate. Acres and acres of burned black pine stumps covered the area. Withee, at that time, had three inhabitable residences the same number of stores, a ‘small school, a station house, hotel, two saloons, a blacksmith shop, and a number of small shacks. Surrounding the area, however, were groups of small farms, grubbed from the rich soil and supporting the owners of various nationalities. One particular group of Canadian-French had settled about a half mile to the west and this group of farms was called French Town. Other nationalities were also represented such as Polish. Finish, German and Irish and a few Danes. Many had started in the lumber camps and saw mills, but the majority were men of the soil and turned to their farms as soon as possible.
William S. Tufts had come to the area as woods superintendent for lumbering had been the original land holder as agent in the area and it was he that had encouraged grandfather to establish a Danish colony here. W. S. Tufts now had the largest general store in the county.  It was with him that grandfather and his friends had much conversation as well as with the Danes who were already there. A Dane was the owner of the local sawmill and lumber yard. So many of his parishioners had come directly from Denmark and sought a community that offered an immediate chance for livelihood as well as a companionship with other Danes and, of course, a familiar church. As time went on many of them longed for their well kept farms, and feel of good soil under their feet. Information had been received that this particular area of Wisconsin, following a tremendous logging operation, would be ideal for farming. The soil was deep and rich and the climate not unlike that which the Danes were accustomed to in their home land. Pastor Nielsen returned to Chicago convinced that this area held a great deal of promise for a Danish colony. He and his family, along with the same two parishioners and their families returned to Withee in April, l893 to start the trek of Danes to the area. "Neenah" Hansen with his family was one of the very early settlers who had sold his farm near Neenah, Wis. and come to Withee with farm machinery, cattle, hogs, and seed grain, and furniture. His grandson, Emil Hansen, was to become a close boyhood friend of mine. 

In the next ten years Withee had grown and prospered and the area boasted a population of 600 townsfolk and farmers. The majority of them were Danes who, in their gregarious nature had gathered around their church and minister. Grandfather died in 1909 a few months before I was born. I did receive his name. However, it was shortened somewhat as mother thought it was too much for a small baby to carry and the first name was shortened to Andre. As a baby, my father started calling me the affectionate name of "Bunny" and my uncle who lived nest door called me "Mugsie". This confusion was too much for Norman Andersen who was about four years older than I and he called me Bumpsie. I was Bumpsie until I was about five and then shortened to "Bumps" which stayed with me until I left Withee at 16.
The story to follow is the life of a boy growing up in this backwoods community of Withee.  My father was the local doctor who had come with the family. It was hardly the status as a country doctor that he should have enjoyed, as he probably deserved a much more rewarding position in his profession. All this will be explained later. But possibly fate was kind to him. My simple words could never evaluate his revered position in the hearts of the people of this community. I know that Dad was happy only in helping others. His mark was indelibly made on this community and his success was the fullest, but by no measure in dollars and cents. He gave that all to others!!
The story of Dr. Nielsen as a surgeon and also a horse and buggy doctor would be a fascinating story that might be related at another time. But is a story of his son, a son with many less accomplishments and without the intelligence of his father. A story of a son who inherited his father and mother’s love of nature. A son with a burning desire to record those happy years of a youth growing up in a world far removed from that of the present. These were years when nature was raw, cruel and biting, but again beautiful, fresh and lovely. Man, in some cases, had made it temporarily ugly, but had again worked by the sweat of his brow and with the bountiful help of nature and restored a beauty of another kind. That was the beauty of luxurious farm land, bright with new farm barns invariably red and snug homes, usually white; however brick homes were not uncommon. The very early settlers, prior to their pulling burning and dynamiting the stumps on their land, sowed clover and timothy among the stumps so that forage might be provided for their livestock. Cutting, drying and storing it for winter use had to be done with a hand scythe and wooden rake, as the use of horse drawn machinery would be impossible. Red clover flourished beyond anyone’s expectation. In later years this particular area of Wisconsin was known as the "Clover Belt".
Dr. Christen Seerup Nielsen, my father, built a large frame three story building on Withee’s main thoroughfare. The name thoroughfare hardly fits the present day connotation of the word as it was a dirt road, a sea of mud in the spring filled with wagon ruts, covered with dust in the summer, but very accommodating to the sleigh in winter. Dad’s building was to house the local drug store and his offices on street level, with the second and third floors as our home for fourteen years.
One of Dad’s older brothers had built his home immediately to the North on a large plot of ground. In the front end of this street side home he opened a watch repair shop and jewelry store. He was Edmond E Nielsen and, in a way, a second father to me. His plot of ground was bout three lots wide and half a block deep, resplendent with many Maple trees. There was a communal lawn for the two families and the rear 50 feet adjoining the alley, furnished the area for our separate vegetable gardens, Uncle Ed and Dad were the only two of a family of eight children to remain in Withee for the rest of their lives. Uncle Ed had no children and had attended medical school in Chicago, but never graduated He had returned to Chicago one fall to begin his third year and contracted typhoid fever. He always claimed it was drinking water from a small stream while on a fishing expedition. Most of the water in streams and rivers on their early arrival had been perfectly safe for all purposes, but the advent of the farm and many more people had already begun to cause local contamination. Uncle Ed never returned to medical school and following other business ventures, secured training in watch making and repairing. He married and then started his new venture. He was always interested in education and became a member of the school board almost at its inception and continued until the last years of his life.


Withee, Wisconsin (1907)

It was in 1908 and Ed mentioned to his wife, "Wait until Christen sees the new school teacher we hired today. Her name is Glyde Luhrsen and will teach English and Mathematics in the High School. "Well what about her", his wife, Alva, questioned, "She is a beautiful girl of 21 with snapping black eyes and certainly will turn Christen's head" was Ed’s only reply.  Dad was a man of action and usually got exactly what he wanted regardless of cost or inconvenience to himself. He did meet Glyde Luhrsen and courted her dressed to the hilt in his English walking coat. Glyde Luhrsen had taught in other schools for two years prior to her present appointment. These had been rural schools and she was happy for the opportunity to teach in high school. Five weeks after starting this new position, on Sept 2nd she was confronted in the hallway one morning by the principal who greeted her with a good morning Miss Luhrsen, and By the way, will you meet me in my office after you remove your coat and hat"? Somewhat frightened she agreed. In a few minutes she was in the principal’s office with a great deal of apprehension running-through her mind, particularly when she was asked to sit down and the door to the office was closed.
Mr. James cleared his throat, leaned back in his chair and placing the fingertips of either hand together said, "I'm sorry to hear you are leaving us so soon" Glyde blushed and replied, "Well, I don't know what you mean, Mr. James. I know that I'm rather young, but has my work been so bad that you are asking me to leave"? "Not at al1, not at all" was Mr. James reply. "In fact we feel you are an excellent teacher, but have you not been seeing Dr. Nielsen recently?" "Well, I did see him two days ago on Sunday, I believe, but I don't understand was Glyde’s questioning reply. Mr. James produced a broad smile and said, "Dr. Nielsen was in to see me yesterday and announced that you were to be his wife and that you would be leaving the high school in two weeks. He had already been to the school board members and secured their approval. Let me add, knowing Dr. Nielsen as I do , I don't think it was a matter of securing their approval but of his telling them of his intentions and demanded their immediate approval. So be it with Dr. Nielsen. Has he not spoken to you of marriage?" Glyde’s face was aglow by this time and her very flustered reply, why yes, yes, we did talk of getting married but this is so soon. I've only been teaching for five weeks and he was going to talk to my father and, and,- Mr. James interrupted, If I don't miss my guess, I would say that the doctor has already talked with your father and most likely has secured his approval! I would say, Miss Luhrsen, that you and "Dr. Nielsen will probably be married within three weeks and I do hope you have agreed. "Oh yes, I have agreed, but there are so many things to do", Glyde replied, "and you won’t have a teacher and there are so many things". "Don’t worry about a teacher, Mr. James interrupted, "the doctor and I talked about this yesterday and Mrs. Barker, a retired teacher, has already agreed to help us out until we can get someone else". Glyde offered a dimpled smile for the first time and moved back on the chair she was barely sitting on through the discussion and said, "Well, I guess I've found a man of decision and as you say there is little that I can do about kit. I wish that he had at least told me of his immediate plans. I hardly know what to say to you, Mr. James, but I suppose you understand." "Yes, I do, Miss Luhrsen, and I must say that you are a most lucky young lady to have a man like Dr. Nielsen. Let me offer my congratulations as I know you will have a most happy life".
Glyde left the principal’s office, her head spinning and went to teach her first English class that was about to assemble. Her opening remark was, we discussed Hamlet yesterday and today we were to speak of his statement, ‘To be, or not to be, that is the question’. I think we will go back to Act I and discuss his statement, ‘Frailty, thy name is woman!’. With this, Glyde smiled at her class and sat down at her desk in complete confusion.
This was mother’s introduction to the Nielsen family Dad and Mother were married on Oct 28, 1908, and I was born in the following year. My very early memories are certainly distinct, but my age or the date of incidents are vague. I have heard of people who claim memory of crawling before they could walk, to their mother's long skirts and pulling themselves up by the pleats! This I doubt unless these people did not learn to walk until three or four, or that my early memory is far inferior to theirs! Be that as it may, my early vivid recollections did not start until the age of possibly four. In my later years of reading American history I have always wished that I had been born in the 1880s to experience the early development of our great country. But fate decided it should be about thirty years later and with that I am happy.
In Withee, Wisconsin they still speak of Dr. Nielsen although he left this world some fifty years ago. There are but few of his generation still around. The words that they and their progeny speak of him are always touched with a tone of reverence. He was a country doctor, not only of great ability as a physician and surgeon, but also with great compassion, human understanding, and love for his fellowman. This is probably not an extremely rare combination but certainly not found in all doctors 'of his time nor, might I add, at present. He probably deserved a much better station in life than that of a harassed country doctor. He was a brilliant man who was never content with the meager knowledge of medicine and surgery taught him in college. He constantly read of all the new developments in his, profession and applied what he knew and learned with artistry of an artist, which he was, and precision mechanic. . It may be unfortunate that fate brought him to this backwoods community at the turn of the century, as he probably would have risen to unknown heights in his profession, particularly surgery had he had the facilities of a large city hospital at hand. The latter is not said in idle speculation as it was confirmed in comments of many well known doctors of his time. I proudly posses a letter from each of the doctors Mayo, Charles and Will, congratulating him on surgery he had performed. A question arises in my mind that I am quite sure no one could answer - Was fate kind to him? My simple words could never evaluate his revered position in the hearts of the people of this community; nor could I begin to estimate the value that the Good Lord would mark on his success chart as one of his children, So many times success is measured in dollars, but I am sure that all of us can find fallacies in this criteria. I know that Dr. Nielsen was happy with his fate and with his many accomplishments, so I will leave it there. This is not the story of a country doctor. His many early experiences, trials and tribulations would make a fantastic story. He was a horse and buggy doctor that Dr. Hertzler so aptly described in his autobiography.
Dr. Nielsen’s story might be related at another time, but this is the story of his son; a son with many less accomplishments and without his intelligence, but a son who inherited his father's and mother's love of nature and blessed with burning nostalgia and desire to record those happy, happy years of youth in a world far removed from that of the present. Those were years when nature was raw, cruel and biting, but again, beautiful, fresh and lovely except in the cases where man made it ugly. The latter was, however, temporary and in many cases nature and man would work together to restore other beauty. Nature had provided through hundreds of years a tremendous growth of beautiful white pines. They were valuable to a growing population to be sure. After man removed them, the stumps and rocks and then, by the sweat of his brow, tilled and plowed the soil, nature again responded with luxuriant farm land that proved to be a bountiful provider. In retrospect, the memories of those days must be recorded, if only for my own personal pleasure and satisfaction.
Those years were not too early as, in my reading of American history; I have always thought how wonderful it would have been to be born in the 1880s. But fate decided differently and brought me to the light of day in 1909. Living in this small Wisconsin community predated my early memories about ten years as compared to one who lived in the more affluent and, should I say, culturally and economically developed cities of that era. Oil lamps, lanterns, wooden sidewalks, and the back yard facility, a three holer, were all part of my early life. The first automobile was an experience never to be forgotten. Little did I realize that the hitching posts, watering troughs and sleigh bells would someday be a thing of the past. That the search in the morning for the button hook for our shoes would also come to an end!!
Although I have rambled for a few pages, I must come down to a most important part of this book. That is the introduction of a fourth member of the Nielsen’s immediate family. His name was Duke, a black and white dog. No, not an ordinary dog, but one who was constantly referred to as "Duke, the Wonder Dog". My wife, whom I met many years later is always amazed by the comments of my boyhood friends, whom we meet on rare occasions, but who always make reference to that wonderful dog of mine. So at this early stage I must introduce you to Duke as he will accompany me through so many of those early years. He was not conceived until I was eleven years old and I unfortunately missed his companionship in the earlier years. I say Duke was conceived for two reasons. First, he was naturally conceived by the mating of a male and female. But secondly, that conception was somewhat prearranged.
The local postmaster, Art Miller, was a veteran of the first World War who had a chronic and rather serious problem with his inner ear. As a result of being literally blown into the water of the cold North Atlantic when on a troop ship bound for the European theater. His problems persisted and he was treated from time to time in army hospitals in Europe. He became part of the army of occupation in Germany, and befriended a young female German shepherd dog that he called Mitzie. Art received an early medical release from the army of occupation and when he returned home he was allowed to bring Mitzie with him. Mitzie grew to be a beautiful specimen of her breed and much admired by dog lovers of Withee including myself, As years passed Mitzie grew somewhat short of temper and to my surprise found her one day chained in Art's backyard. This shortness of temper, I doubted very much, and grieved at the thought of Mitzie being chained. She certainly was a loving pal and friend-of mine, On my next visit to box 144 at the post office, I talked to Art about it and found him equally unhappy. At ten years of age I probably did not understand why anything like this had to be done, but Art explained that there had been a complaint to the Withee constable that Mitzie was mean and had to be chained. A local family had complained. I remember I felt that this was not due justice, with but one complaint, as Mitzie to me was a beautiful and gentle dog. I talked to my parents about the incident and to my Uncle, who was Justice of the Peace. At that early age I learned that the law is the law, and not filled with sympathy for dogs that are mean. My tears were of no avail.
I saw Herman Bartholomy making his way to the pump house the following day to fill the local water tower to over flowing. I say overflowing as that was about the only way to tell it was full. Only on still summer days could you follow the line of condensation up the outside of the large metal tank, exactly 100 feet above ground. Herman was another village constable. He was a big man to us, the children of the community, and admired for his position as the chief and only law officer of Withee. That big bright star on his shirt or mackinaw was awe inspiring and fearful in a way, but admirable in that it represented to me the criteria of law and order- even above my Uncle who was Justice of the Peace who never wore a star!! (I believe this story was never finished and that Duke was born from the mating of the female Mitzie and as I always understood, a male English Bull, probably belonging to Herman Bartholomew).
The phone rang at five this winter morning and, awakening from a sound sleep, I heard dad's end of the conversation. "Yes, Jens, I can hear you. How often is she having pains? About every 25 minutes? Yes, I’ll be there in about 45 minutes. Have a good sized bucket of water on the stove and get it boiling, and don't forget a pot of coffee."
I heard dad shake the kitchen range and put in a few sticks of wood. I then heard him far back in the bedroom and mother asked, "Who was that?" Dad said that Jens Beck's wife is going, to have another baby. The next I heard was mother in the kitchen and the familiar rattle of the percolator and the coffee grinder in operation. This was a new kind of grinder that held about two quarts of whole beans in a hopper, and was fastened to the wall over the flour bin.

All you needed to do was turn the crank and an iron cup filled with ground coffee. The roar of the newly kindled fire going up the chimney and shortly the slow beginning perk of the coffee pot got me out of bed. I went to the kitchen and mother was at the big black nickel plated range. "Well, said mother, "What are you doing up at this hour?" I noted that the kitchen table was set with the inevitable Danish ' sweet rolls and a few Napoleons (sic)? I explained that I was wide awake and wanted a Napoleon. I loved them with all that creamy custard, particularly with a glass of milk. I believe I was also stalling for time to see if I could get dad to take me with him, as I knew the Becks and their three Ted, Jens and Peter. Peter was just my age. I knew dad would hitch up Romeo and take the cutter and "Dinty" would not be along to drive so there would be plenty of room for me.
"Dinty" Ryan had cared for dad’s horses for many years, fed them and kept the barn clean. Although dad had many horses through the years, never more than three at a time, there was presently only one. Dad came out of the bedroom at that moment to go to the kitchen sink to shave. He’d be using that new kind of razor and could shave real fast. It was called a safety razor and saved all the time of stropping the straight edge. Dad was always immaculately dressed and clean shaven. It was very seldom that I saw him otherwise. There was always the stiff collar, carefully tied cravat, as he called it, resplendent with a favorite stickpin, coat, vest and most certainly matching trousers. I don't believe that dad owned what might be called lounging clothes except possibly for a well fitting "smoking jacket" that he would wear around the house on Sunday afternoons. He inquired as to my being up at this early hour and I thought I had better broach the question immediately so that I would have time to get ready. I said, "Dad can go with you, can go with you?" Mother immediately said "old tin can"! I knew that was her way of training me to say "may" rather than "can"! I corrected myself! Mother said, "It’s really quite cold, but it's clear and there seems to be no wind", with a slight question in her voice.
Dad went to the window where the bracket lamp was hanging, scraped some inevitable frost from the pane and announced "five below". Mother clinched it for me saying that it was only about three miles to the Beck's farm and thought it would be all right if I was dressed warmly. Dad added his agreement and by that time I was half way to the bedroom for my clothes. There was a hurried breakfast and I was completely decked out in rubbers, leggings, the heavy red cardigan, my new mackinaw, tassel cap, heavy knit mittens and scarf. Dad had his high top buckled overshoes with pants tucked in the top, the buffalo robe coat, sealskin cap and heavy leather finger gloves with gauntlet top that came well over the bottom of his coat sleeves. The back of the gauntlets were covered with some kind of closely clipped cured brown fur. I remember dad holding the fur up to his face to keep it warm when there was wind blowing.
Dad lit the lantern and we made our way to the barn. Romeo stirred and snorted as we cane in. Dad picked up a pan of oats from the oat bag as we went to Romeo's stall. The pan of oats were put in the feed box and the horse nuzzled and chewed them enthusiastically, snorting and occasionally offering a whinny of approval. By the time dad had the harness thrown over him, cinched and buckled, the oats were about gone. The bridle and bit were next and this made Romeo a little nervous as he still had a bowl full of oats left in the pan. Dad talked to him, slapping his neck a few times and then led him to the cutter in the center of the barn, hitched him and after throwing in three robes, we were ready to go. Romeo was off to a running start after the robes were well tucked around us, I inhaled the smell of the robes as I snuggled into them. It was a nice smell largely that of horse mingled with the clean smell of hay. It seemed all robes and blankets used in those days had exactly the same smell. It wouldn’t be right if they didn't.
It was cold all right, and you could still see the stars sparkling in the sky to the North and West, but would not see the sun before we got to the Beck's. In the darkness you could see an occasional light in the distance from a farm house lantern or barn windows, but generally the landscape was rather ominous in the dark, particularly as we went through wooded areas with many towering pines beside the road, Romeo kept up a steady pace pulling the light cutter. You could see the steam spouting from each nostril as he moved along. The runners of the cutter made a delightful swishing noise as they slid along the snow covered road. If the horse would reduce to a walk, which was rare, the runners would squeak on the cold frozen snow. Romeo had reduced to a walk in one particular wooded area and I could barely see him put his ears forward and toss his head at one point. Dad, I could see, was alarmed and pulled off his right gauntlet and his hand went to his pocket and pulled out a bright and shiny Iver Johnson revolver which he laid on his lap.
My eyes were as big as saucers as I had never seen a revolver before. "Why do you have the gun, dad" was my next excited inquiry. Dad's answer was rather slow and deliberate. I really don't think he wished to alarm me or answer the question about the gun but knew some explanation was in order. "Romeo has smelled something he does not like. Frank Belknap told me some weeks ago that he had seen a pack of timber wolves running not too far from here" he said calmly. "Iwant to be prepared should that be the case. Don't worry about it, as dad always has the situation well in hand." By this time I was standing in the cutter peering into the semi darkness. Romeo, at that moment, picked up his running pace and we continued to glide through the night. This was excitement that I had not anticipated and wished I could see the wolves. A great deal was running through my mind including a picture of the wolves attacking and dad firing his revolver into the pack to drive them off. My next question was logically, "Would the wolves attack us, dad, if they were out there?", still standing and peering into the darkness. Dad replied immediately, No, I don’t think so. If they are out, there they were possibly attracted by the smell of Romeo. There has been a lot of snow this winter and the wolves are probably hungry. Ordinarily they would not be around here as there are too many people and wolves do not like the smell of people and would be frightened. If they could find a horse or cow in an open field they might kill it to get food, but with us around they would be afraid to come close to Romeo. Some people say that if they are desperate for food they might attack, but I doubt it. Should there be a pack of wolves near us I’m sure Romeo would be quite frightened so I have the gun to protect Romeo rather than us.

This was somewhat reassuring but a great number of pictures were building up in mind, and in a way, I felt it would be exciting to see a pack of timber wolves. I could tell Peter all about it when we arrived. My imagination starting building a scene with about eight large timber wolves attacking through the swirling snow, their backs bristling and with teeth bared. They would go for Romeo’s throat and dad standing up in the cutter, revolver in hand, with Romeo rearing on his hind legs and dad firing at the wolves would kill some just as they were about to pull Romeo down. I had been quiet for some time, and dad asked me what I was thinking about. I replied "wolves" and reminded him of the picture in the big book called, "world life" of wolves attacking a wedding part in Russia. Dad laughed and said that was just someone’s imagination, and we should forget about wolves and such as we were about at the Beck’s.

A slight pull of the reins turned Romeo up the Beck’s driveway and he then walked us into the yard by the back door. We saw the door open and Ted came out followed by his father who was explaining in Danish that the Dr’s horse should be put in the barn. Dad, with his satchel in hand, went into the house with Mr. Beck just as Peter was coming out with another lantern. Peter and I stood beside Romeo as Ted unhitched him and started him on the way to the barn. In the dim lantern light you could see clouds of steam rising off Romeo as we walked along behind him. Peter said,, "You must have run him most of the way out here as he sure is sweating". I replied that dad had let Romeo run his own pace and that he had walked very little. We were then entering the barn and you could see frost around the horse’s nostrils and along his flanks. "Sure would have to blanket him if he had to stand outside", Peter continued as Ted led him to a stall. "I’m glad you could come along with your dad and that it’s Saturday and no school. My father said we should stay out in the barn for awhile and then we can go in the house. I’m supposed to see what eggs I can find and want to show you a mink that I trapped on Wednesday".

Peter started for the section of the barn where the chickens were kept and caused quite a commotion among the hens coming in with a lantern that early in the morning. He went through a series of nest and retrieved about a dozen eggs and put them in the bottom of a milk pail he had me carry. I followed him to an attached tool shed and there Peter showed me a beautiful black mink he had trapped down by the creek. It was dead and probably should have been skinned immediately after it was caught, but Peter wanted to take it over to Fireman Hansen’s so that his son could show him how to "case" the hide. Certain animal skins have to be "cased" while others are dried flat. Casing requires that you only cut the skin from the roots (sic) of the tail and partly down each leg far enough so that you can pull the bone and flesh from the skin. A cut must also be made so that the trail bone can be pulled from inside the tail. You then pull the skin inside out over the head and front paws. This whole process has to be carefully done to produce no tears. The skin is then placed over a shaped board to dry.

"What do you think I could get for it?" Peter said. "It’s sure prime fur and a good sized mink", he added, stroking the fur gently hoping to enhance its value with his comments, I'm sure you could get ten dollars at least" was my opinion, and Peter added, Maybe fourteen as Taylor Fur Company offers that much for a large black mink. I'll ask Raymond when I have him show me how to skin it this afternoon or tomorrow. He catches lots of them." "Boy, Raymond sure has a wonderful job as a clown and then does nothing all winter but trap. That's the kind of life to live", I said with a touch of envy in my voice.
Fireman Hansen was a fireman on a Soo line engine. That in itself was exciting enough for a young boy. I might add here that his real name was Hans Hansen, but was called fireman" to differentiate him from five or six other Hans Hansens that lived in this immediate area. A few others were "Superior" Hansen as he had come from Superior, Wis., "Frenchtown" Hansen because that was where he lived, "Restaurant" Hansen because that was his business and so on. Although this was a small community of about 320 people, including those in nearby farms, the presence of five or six Hans Hansens could be confusing in conversations unless the exact identity could be immediately recognized by a definite defining name. Fireman Hansen’s youngest son Raymond was the point of our admiration.
Unusual as it may be, coming from a community as small as this, Raymond was a circus clown. He was no ordinary clown but a clown with Ringling Brothers Circus!! We all knew that this was the greatest circus in the world. It had five rings and none of us ever dreamed of seeing it as it only went to very big cities. But Raymond was in it and a very accomplished man, in our estimation. How he became a Ringling clown was unknown to me, and I think most of the people in the area. It bothered me that dad or mother and others whom I knew so well did not have the answer. In later years I met Raymond on a number of occasions, but never had the gumption to ask him as such a question I felt, would be embarrassing to him. At any rate, Raymond was a sort of an ideal and besides, he was a trapper of reputation. This to a small boy was in itself an accomplishment of merit. Although I do not know the facts, Raymond probably trapped bears and, without question, wolves. As Peter and I were admiring the mink, I told him of my experience with the "probable" wolf pack on the way to his house. Peter being a country boy, who saw an opportunity to impress a boy from town said, "Aw, that's nothing. We see their tracks around every day". My excited reply was, "Did you ever see one?" "Non Peter replied. "They always come out at night and it's too dark to see them with a lantern, but I've heard them howl many times. "You didn't hear them last night, did you? was my immediate question, hoping to add fire to the flame kindled a few hours earlier. "Naw, I sure didn't; besides if a pack of wolves were stalking they're not supposed to howl, only when they're alone and looking for other wolves. Letts go in the house as it's getting cold out here and besides I'm hungry.
We squeaked along the path to the house, with the pail of eggs and Peter with the lantern which was unnecessary now as the light from the eastern sky lighted the entire farmyard. You couldn’t see the sun as it had come up in a low lying cloud bank. "It seems to be getting colder since we went to the barn", I said and Peter replied, "It’s always colder just at dawn when the sun comes over the horizon." This little fact of nature I already knew and offered no reply as we walked up the back steps and opened the door to the kitchen.
The Beck’s kitchen was large, as in all farm houses and equipped for complete family living, except sleeping. Farm kitchens are always the center of activity, particularly in winter, as the kitchen wood range is the main source of heat for the entire house. The dining room adjoining the kitchen had its pot bellied stove or airtight heater, but is not kept going unless necessary. I must add that there are corners that escape circulation and, particularly on a windy winter’s day, are no place for house plants or water in any kinds of containers. The bedrooms, if on a second floor above, usually had to profit alone from the ceiling registers in the kitchen and dining room. As we went into the kitchen, I could hear a baby cry and Peter said, "I guess I have a baby brother". I did not question his statement. Peter poured out two glasses of milk and sliced two thick slices of bread that was standing on the kitchen table. There was also a large crock of butter and quart jar of jam of some kind. We both buttered our slice of bread and Peter offered the jam and said "wild strawberry we picked last summer. The fresh home baked bread was good as was the jam. Peter offered to cut all we wanted. You could hear footsteps above and voices through the ceiling register as we sat at a big round oilcloth covered table. A very short time later we heard footsteps on the stairs and Mr. Beck entered the kitchen. Mr. Beck was carrying a bundle of blankets and dad a coffee cup. Mr. Beck smilingly announced, "Well, Peter, you have a baby sister. Won’t that be nice for your mother? She can help her with the house work. I have three boys to help me with the farm." Peter and I got up and went over to look at the baby and Peter asked what her name was. Mr. Beck replied, "Anna. Don’t you think Anna Beck sounds nice?" Peter agreed and we went back to the table to finish our bread and jam. Dad, in the meantime, had been washing his hands in the tin basin in the kitchen sink. He dried them on a roller towel and went to the range and poured himself a cup of coffee and brought it to the table.

Mr. Beck had put the baby in a crib in the corner of the kitchen and brought a cup of coffee to the table himself. "Well, doctor, I cannot pay you now, but when I get the next milk check I’ll bring the money in". He then added, looking at the clock, "Peter, you better get out to the barn and help Ted and Jens with the milking as I will not be out this morning. Tell Ted to hitch up the doctor’s horse as he will be leaving in about ten minutes. Peter rather reluctantly got up and went to the sink to wash the extra jam from his face and offered his goodbye to me and said he would let me know how much he would get for the mink. "I’ll see you in school Monday" he added as he went out the door. Dad and Jens talked Danish for some time, only part of which I could understand. Dad finally got up and shaking Jen’s hand said, "Don’t worry about the "penge", you can bring it in when you can". Dad and I were into our coats and I could see through the window that Ted had brought Romeo and hitched him to the cutter and was standing there holding the bridle.




Danish Religious Life in Chicago - (A. S. Nielsen's first USA Church)


----Source: Contributed by Ellen Johnson


Trinity Church When the Danes came to America, the Church of Denmark did not follow on their heels. The Danish Church believed that most Danish emigrants were dissenters, not supporters of the established Lutheran church. The Church viewed Danish immigration as too small to support churches, even in a city as large as Chicago. The few Danes in America might join Norwegian congregations, thereby maintaining ties with a similar form of Lutheranism. The problem of not having churches to attend was somewhat unusual among immigrants. Catholic groups were welcomed by the international Catholic Church, wherever they settled. Such Protestants as the Swedes, Norwegians and Germans founded churches, congregations inspired by the homeland's church. The Danes who wished to do likewise would need unusual motivation, in the absence of any support from home.


No Danish churches appeared in America until 1869. Most Danes in America at that time had arrived in the previous decade, and their beliefs reflected the current trends in Danish theology. Especially important was the split between the followers of Nikolai Grundtvig and the supporters of the traditional church. Each group was sufficiently strong for the dispute and disunity to grip Denmark for a number of years. Danes in general were less closely tied to their church in the 1860s than were other nations at the time they produced immigrants.  The sources of that development are beyond the scope of this study, but they related to changes in Danish society and in the church's social base. Any effort to found Danish churches was thus handicapped by the hesitation of the Danish Church and the Danish Religious Life in Chicago


Any effort to found Danish churches was thus handicapped by the hesitation of the Danish Church and the disinterest among immigrants. Yet some immigrants looked to Denmark and attempted to bring the Danish Church to America. Eventually they received aid from a private, Grundtvigian organization in Denmark called "The Commission for the Propagation of the Gospel Among the Danish People in America." The group helped the first few Danish-American congregations to organize and call ministers ordained in Denmark.  These new American churches formed the Grundtvigian "Church Mission Society," with power to administer the churches. The expectation was that the Danish Church would retain full theological authority.  However, the Danish-American church never developed in the manner the founders expected. First, few Danes joined the American congregations. By 1890, only ten percent of the Danish-Americans were so affiliated, as compared with more than half of the Norwegians who joined their church.  Second, the Danes quickly split into a Grundtvigian faction and a traditional faction called the "Inner Mission" group.  These two developments insured that the church would have a smaller influence on the Danish American than it did on other ethnic groups. It was inevitable that Danish churches in America would differ from those in the old country, since the established Danish Church could never become established in America. Furthermore, the Church Elders in Copenhagen could not lead the foreign missions with the firmness that they exercised in Denmark. 8 While ministers ordained in Denmark continued to serve in America, the Danish authorities quickly lost their direct control of the American missions. By 1879, the American congregations had become autonomous and the Church Mission Society was commissioning preachers.  However, no Episcopal authority replaced the Danish hierarchy. According to the Church Historian Paul Nyholm, Danish-American churches came to emulate the structure of American churches: their church governments were open to lay influence and were organized congregationally. Although religious heritage continued to affect the immigrants, their churches developed a generally American style. This result was unintentional, but common among Protestant immigrant churches.  The early history of the Chicago Danish community reflected the substantial obstacles to the formation of a Danish church. Although Dania appeared in 1862, no one attempted to found a Danish congregation until 1872. Finally a group of Chicago Danes gathered in March, 1872, out of religious, national, cultural and linguistic motivations. 



Not one Danish minister lived in Chicago, so the Danes invited Pastor Adam Dan of Racine, Wisconsin, to assist them in organizing Trinity Evangelical Danish Lutheran Church. He agreed and commuted to Chicago for weekly services. After a few months, however, he had to end his participation. Since no other pastor could be found, weekly services were suspended. The members of the church wrote to the Danish Church, hoping to find a permanent pastor. In October they received word of a candidate from the Danish Church, who would come to Chicago. Trinity immediately called this candidate to become pastor. But at year's end, word came that he had refused to emigrate, and no other candidate was immediately available.  Clearly there were significant obstacles to Danish religious worship in Chicago. For many years, no group could even be gathered to consider forming a church. When Trinity was founded, no local pastor could be located. The Danish Church was so indifferent, it only belatedly assisted an American congregation asking for guidance from the homeland. In the succeeding years, Trinity evolved in the familiar manner, beginning as a branch of the Danish Church but gradually becoming autonomous. From its first days, the church explicitly existed as a mission of the Church of Denmark. But the Church was not anxious to aid in the formation of American congregations. Finally it did send to Trinity a minister named J. A. Heiberg. He was empowered to serve in America, provided he report annually to the Bishop Primate of Denmark.  But when Heiberg arrived in July, 1872, a competing body already had associated itself with Trinity; the Church Mission Society, that organization formed for administrative purposes, had appointed a lay preacher named Jens Jensen to work with Trinity. Thus the church was led by a minister from the Danish Church and a preacher from a competing American organization.  By 1879, the Danish Church's role had declined to the point that the American churches were autonomous.  Trinity called a new pastor in that year, and the Church Mission Society sent A. S. (Andreas Sixtus) Nielsen.  The church and minister were then responsible to an American organization with power to approve pastors.


Trinity Church, Chicago, Illinois


However, Trinity retained its autonomy. Danish influence remained in two forms: services were conducted by Danish-trained ministers in the Danish language. 


Chicago's only Danish church grew rapidly, becoming the second largest Danish organization. By the close of 1874, it had one hundred seventy-two members.  All Danish Lutheran activities centered around Trinity, which began to broaden its interests as Dania had done. Many of Trinity's motives corresponded to Dania's. But as Philip Taylor noted, churches had additional reasons for creating subsidiary organizations. In so doing, the church could compete with specialized secular groups, defending religion's primary position in Danish life.  Trinity broadened its appeal in the 1870s by establishing a Bible Hour, a confirmation class and a children's class.


In the early 1880s it added a day school and a children's home. Furthermore, Trinity aided in the founding of Danish churches in such nearby communities as Lake Forest, where Danes had settled and needed spiritual guidance.  Trinity responded quickly to the needs it saw in the Danish community, throughout the Chicago area.


By the late 1870s, however, the changing patterns of settlement began to influence Trinity, as they had Dania. A South Side Danish community appeared and two new Danish churches were formed.  Although it was no longer the city-wide center for Danish Lutheranism, Trinity still dominated the Northwest Side colony. Its home at Superior and Bickerdicke Streets was within the Milwaukee Avenue colony, but far enough northwest to avoid sudden desertion, as the Danes migrated. By the 1880s, however, the movement northwest began to leave Trinity behind. In the early 1880s, Trinity's growing Humboldt Park constituency demanded church services in their neighborhood.  This request touched off a struggle which would generate enormous tensions within Trinity. The pastor responded to the request by conducting twice-monthly services in the new area, beginning in 1884. Soon the mission in Humboldt Park added a branch Sunday school. But Humboldt Park residents were dissatisfied with the church's modest commitment.  The matter was discussed at a church meeting in 1885, which revealed substantial divisions within Trinity. Several Humboldt Park members spoke of Trinity's spiritual and moral obligation to the new area, even suggesting that the church move to Humboldt Park.  Most congregants opposed such a drastic step, but compromise was still possible. With church approval and aid, the Humboldt Park members raised money to rent and maintain quarters for a financially independent Humboldt Park branch. The majority of Trinity's members viewed the new building only as a mission and not as Trinity's future home.  The supporters of the branch, however, became increasingly dissatisfied with the lack of a full-fledged church in their community.  The pastor reinforced their attitude by stating that weekly services were necessary. But he proved unable to devote sufficient time for that task.


With the lease on the branch due to expire in 1890, matters were forced to a decision. In January, 1890, Trinity learned that its Humboldt Park members were considering the establishment of an autonomous congregation. A straw ballot showed the congregation closely divided over whether or not the two groups should separate. But they delayed action until the February meeting. By then a new congregation had formed; only one person spoke against the split. Two brief meetings formalized the separation and St. Ansgar's church was officially established. In all of the meetings, no one suggested doctrinal grounds for the split. Rather the geographical mobility of ethnic groups hampered the formation and maintenance of stable congregations.  A single church could not possibly contain the growing and dispersing Danish colony. Just as Dania gave way to various specialized groups, Trinity had to tolerate other churches. 


Besides generating regions of growth of supporting organizations in · Humboldt Park, residential mobility threatened the existence of such institutions as Trinity, which remained behind. Trinity, however, was affected less strongly than Dania, probably because of Trinity's better location. Situated seven blocks west of Dania's last home in the old area, Trinity was partially insulated from the migration. But by the mid-1890s, discussion resumed on the possibility of moving northwest with the people.  During the following decade, however, no action was taken. Trinity's membership stagnated after twenty-five years of growth.  In 1906, Trinity finally bowed to population succession, selling its building to a Ruthenian Catholic congregation.  Trinity erected a new church on Cortez Street in Humboldt Park, the third Danish church in that area. 


In considering the facts discussed in this chapter and in Chapter IV, one might wonder if Trinity and Dania declined in later years because they were somehow unresponsive to Chicago's Danish community. But two facts merit consideration. First, Dania and Trinity could neither expect nor control the geographical changes in the Danish colony, which resulted in a community that no group could encompass. Second, these and other organizations were limited by their membership. If by 1885, most of Trinity's congregants had lived in Humboldt Park, then the congregation would have moved at that time, as it did in 1905. Then it would have benefited, not suffered, from the migration to Humboldt Park. Since Trinity's n1embership was concentrated in the old Milwaukee Avenue area in 1885, it actually could not move, regardless of the realities of settlement patterns. Trinity, Dania and the other Danish societies seemed to be victimized by the forces of population succession. When the Danish colony and their members moved, the groups could follow. But when the settlements dispersed, these organizations literally had no place to go. They therefore remained at their Humboldt Park locations. It appears that the decline of the Danish organizations could have been forestalled only by the maintenance of a geographical and cultural community of Danes. Danish groups could focus ethnic culture, but they could not preserve the community and its spirit. It is this sense of community and not the particular organizations which ultimately failed.


(1985) "Chapter V: Danish Religious Life in Chicago -- Trinity Church," The Bridge: Vol. 8 : No. 1 , Article 10.


Danes in America

by J. R. Christianson

Danes began to emigrate in significant numbers after Denmark suffered defeat by Bismarck's Prussia in 1864. Some fled from the conquered duchy of Schleswig to escape Prussian rule. Many Danish immigrants had urban backgrounds, with one out of five coming from the capital city of Copenhagen. In America they gravitated toward cities. During the 1870s, cheap grain from Russia and the American heartland flooded European markets, depressing local agriculture. This led Danes from rural areas to join the emigrants heading for America. Over 300,000 Danes emigrated in the years 1840–1914, with peak years 1881–1883 and 1903–1905.

Danish immigrants tended to be young, skilled, and well educated. Many single men came, and some families, but young women often stayed home, creating a gender imbalance among the immigrants. The flow of Danish migration was toward the Midwest.

The written Danish language was the same as Norwegian, and Swedes could understand it as well, so Danes often lived in mixed Scandinavian communities and intermarried with Norwegians and Swedes. The earliest Danish community in Chicago was around Randolph and LaSalle Streets in the 1860s. Around 1870, some Danes established a South Side enclave around 37th and State Streets that persisted until the 1920s, but the main axis of Danish and Norwegian settlement crossed the Chicago River and moved northwest along Milwaukee Avenue during the 1870s. By 1880, two-thirds of the city's 6,000 Danes lived in Milwaukee Avenue neighborhoods. A new, heavily Norwegian and Danish neighborhood also began to take shape east of Humboldt Park. By 1910, there were 18,500 first- and second-generation Danes in the city. Scandinavians had abandoned Milwaukee Avenue to Italian and East European immigrants, and North Avenue was the new Danish-Norwegian commercial center. Humboldt Park remained a major Scandinavian community for a couple of decades, but Danes began to disperse around 1920 to western and northern suburbs.

Most commonly, Danish men joined other Scandinavians to work in the building trades as carpenters, masons, painters, furniture makers, and contractors. Many also became small-scale entrepreneurs of grocery, tobacco, and clothing stores, ethnic hotels, taverns, and cafes. Some Danish families specialized in market gardening and dairying on the fringes of the city. Danish women generally found work in domestic work or shop clerks.

Early immigrant luminaries met at the “Round Table” in Wilken's Cellar at Randolph and LaSalle, where the Danish consul, Emil Dreier (1832–1892), generally presided. In 1862, Danish immigrants established Dania as a social club to hold masquerade balls, and the organization grew to sponsor a library, English night school, mutual aid fund, and missing-persons bureau. Trinity Lutheran Church was founded in 1872, followed by several other Lutheran and Baptist churches. A Danish veterans' society was founded in 1876, the Danish Brotherhood in 1883, and various choral groups from 1886. Many Danish ethnic organizations emerged toward the turn of the century, including societies for gymnastics, cycling, football, hunting, fishing, sharpshooting, and theater. Chicago had a daily Danish-Norwegian newspaper, Skandinaven, for over 50 years and from five to seven weeklies for several decades.

Danish Chicago included an active elite of artists, journalists, clergymen, and professionals. The sculptors Carl Rohl-Smith and Johannes Gelert contributed monuments to the city. Jens Jensen, the leading landscape designer of the Prairie School, designed Chicago's west parks and boulevards, besides promoting forest preserves and state parks. Christian Fenger, an internationally renowned surgeon, taught at Northwestern University and Rush Medical College. Max Henius, a chemist, founded the American Academy of Brewing and made Chicago an international center of the brewing industry.




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