GREENVILLE — In the 1850s, Danish pioneer Christian Johnson wrote home from the settlement of Greenville, extolling the “good timber land, good wages, earnest people, good government and nice girls.”
In 1856, his schoolmate, August Rasmussen, and his wife, Ane, ventured to the new land and by 1857, 40 Danish immigrants joined the settlers, beginning the influx of Danish settlers to the Montcalm County area.
Danish researcher Lisabeth Pedersen will present “The Founders of Big Dane Settlement” at 7 p.m. Monday at the Greenville Area Community Center. She will present a historical and cultural perspective on Danish immigrants who arrived in Greenville more than 130 years ago. The free lecture will be followed with a meet and greet reception.
“Lisabeth has come to Michigan to do some research for a book she is writing, and also has new information to share with us,” said Greenville Area Community Center Director Kris Berry.
Pedersen, who is the senior researcher of the Danish National Institute of Social Research, will offer insight on reasons why Danish settlers may have left their homeland.
“I will lecture on the Danes who arrived in the period of 1856 to 1868 to this area from Kalundborg, Zealand, which is my hometown, and why they would leave their fellow countrymen to come to America,” said Pedersen, who is well-known for her extensive research. “We will look into the living conditions in Denmark at that time and why so many Danes within a 22 or 24 mile area would all emigrate.”
Through research of census records, compulsory conscripts and church records, Pedersen has gleaned insight on the exodus.
“They left their families and came to forestlands that required much hard work to clear,” she said. “It was not an easy thing.
“Another puzzling fact is that many of these Danes lived to be so old, into their 80s and 90s, which is even old by today’s standards,” she added. “They were strong and even under not-so-good living conditions they could make it so long,”
Pedersen will present research papers on Danish settlements in the area. Danish research specialists with data reports, along with cooperation from residents with ancestral information, were compiled to complete the paperwork which will become part of Flat River Historical Museum displays.
“I also hope to meet with many of the descendents of the emigrants to share stories,” she said.
Local Danish organizations, including the Danish Brotherhood, Danish Sisterhood, Danish Cultural Center, Hyggelig Huddle and South Sidney Cemetery Association, will have display tables available before and after the lecture.
Call the Greenville Area Community Center at (616) 754- 9163 for more information.