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Burchill discusses ‘Happy Danes’

Tim Burchill spoke at Sunday’s Front Porch Chat at the Stutsman County Memorial Museum about the Danes who were involved in the late 1800s mass exodus from the Scandinavian countries. The promise of happiness and prosperity brought many to the United States. Burchill said some of his Danish ancestors were among those who eventually ended up in North Dakota.

Burchill said the Danes didn’t congregate in one area but mingled with other nationalities and assimilated quickly into existing communities. The Danes formed the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church after they settled in the U.S. Those who leaned toward the belief that life should be lived to the fullest with a lifelong pursuit of education were called the “Happy Danes.” Their seminary was located in Des Moines, Iowa.

Some Danes split from that church and formed the United Evangelical Church. This group stressed inner spirituality and pietism. They were against dancing, card playing and drinking. Burchill said this group was known as the “Holy Danes” or the “Sad Danes.” Their seminary was located in Blair, Neb.

Burchill said some of his ancestors settled in Luverne, N.D., and there are still Danes in that area. A settlement of Holy Danes was established in the Kenmare area northwest of Minot, and many of them moved to Minot when they retired. A Minot phone book has listings for Danish names such as Hansen, Jensen, Sorensen, etc. The Daneville community was located two miles into North Dakota near the Montana border in northwestern, North Dakota. Burchill said Happy Danes settled in Dagmar, Mont., where there is still an active Danish church.

Burchill gave a short update on life in Denmark today, and said the Danes could be referred to as happy or, at least, content, because they have a good social welfare system, a 37 1/2-hour work week, six weeks vacation, free schooling with the government paying a stipend while students go to university and a high standard of living. Taxes are high (up to 60 percent), but they get many benefits, he said. 

The Stutsman County Memorial Museum thanked the featured speakers at this summer’s chats, The Jamestown Sun for continuing coverage of the Front Porch Chat series, Gate City Bank for providing cookies every week and those who have come to enjoy the presentations and participate in the discussions.