DANISH HISTORY & MIGRATION
by Eugene H. Halverson
This story begins with a history of Denmark and it's ancient enemy, Germany, But more importantly it is also a history of our family. It seemed like there was always a war and our family hoped for a better life somewhere in the New World. The Halvorsen's, Bol's, Smidt's (Smith's), Pedersen's, Petersen's and Nielson's all wanted to leave this Old World behind.
The Dannevirke Line was the ancient racial boundary between Denmark and Germany, a system of fortifications stretching completely across Jutland north of the Eider River. It also divided the Grand Duchies of Holstein and Sleswig. It was erected a thousand years ago under the reign of Queen Thyra, mother of Erik Bluetooth, Denmark's first Christian King. The Grand Duchy's of Sleswig, Holstein and Laurenburg was the last remaining evidence of Denmark's once extensive foreign possessions. The Duchy's were populated mostly by Danes but ruled by mostly Prussian Landlords and Princes who wanted to control their lands with absolute power as they had for centuries.
On the 20th of January 1848, Christian VIII died and Frederik VII became Denmark's new King. The Grand Duchy of Sleswig was to become a part of Denmark. It was done to free his people and settle the question of who owned the land Denmark or Prussia. The Duchies elected a native prince and revolted. Almost all of Europe was revolting against the Autocracy including Sicily, France, Germany and Austria. The King wanted his people to be free and democratic but the Landlords in the Duchy's wished only for power. Not wanting to miss an opportunity, Prussia sent her armies north against the Danes. The Danes were pushed back to Fredericia where the Danish army burst out behind its fortifications and devastated the Germans. Again on July 5, 1850 they routed the Germans on Isted Heath. The Germans were soon pushed south of the Dannevirke. The Duchies remained Grand Duchies with allegiance to Denmark.
1848-1850 are the dates on the Medals of Honor given to our Great Grandfather Peder Halvorsen and my wives Great Grandfather Jorgen Smith (Smidt). On the other side of the medal is a picture of Frederik VII.
When the war ended in 1850, some of the powers of the king were restricted but the life of the peasant was still not a prosperous one and nothing was settled. In 1852 all the great powers of Europe signed the London Protocol, leaving the Duchies independent as they were before the war.
In Germany the seeds of power and conquest were growing, Otto Von Bismark, an aristocrat, had become Prime Minister of Prussia. He was the greatest manipulator of men and nations the world has ever seen. With a series of treaties and armed conflicts, soon all of Germany was united. Prussia, Austria, all of the South German States and even Alsace Loraine from France, had become part of this new empire. The people were impoverished to pay for a huge army and war machine. Bismark would soon be more powerful than Kaiser Wilhelm emperor of Austria.
All of the powers of Europe were nervously watching this new power develop. In 1863, King Frederik VII died, leaving no male heir. The personal bond between the Duchies and the King was gone, they wanted autonomy under the Duke of Augustenberg. England and France sided with Germany setting the stage for War. Christian IX, hoping to appease Germany, relinquished its rule of Holstein and Laurenburg, but again made Sleswig a part of Denmark. This caused the Duchies to revolt again.
The German Army was larger this time with canons and rifles that could shoot farther and straighter than the world had ever seen. The King and the Rigsraad tried to fight a political war in the belief that Sweden and England would help. Prussia was allowed to occupy Holstein without firing a shot, but Denmark was going to defend Sleswig at all costs. She had placed her very determined army on the Eider River behind the Dannevirke Fortification in South Sleswig. If they fought an offensive war, they would have made a better showing, but it took the whole world in World War I to defeat this new German Army.
After several clashes, the King ordered his troops to retreat from the Dannevirke for some reason that is still hard to understand. It was a retreat in midwinter in blowing and drifting snow while fighting an advancing German army. Cannons and war equipment were left for the Germans to use. Dybblol and Fredericia were also soon lost, soon Sleswig would fall and in time all of Jutland would be lost to their ancient enemy.
The valiant Danish army was never allowed to fight, the people felt that the King and his generals failed them miserably and now most of Jutland was occupied by a German Army, who were stealing all their food and possessions.
The Danes in Sleswig abandoned homes and fled to an already crowded Jutland. They had lost their country to the hated Germans, who now sought to extinguish the Danish language and national aspirations.
Up until this century Denmark was a major world power. In a sneak attack much like the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lord Nelson of England destroyed and captured most of Denmark's anchored warships. This was when the King was forced to cede Norway to Sweden and when Sweden ceded Finland to Russia. In the 1863 War Queen Victoria took Germany's side again, England again messed the world up for power and gain. The treaty signed in London cost Denmark two- fifths of her Territory. The Duchy's of Sleswig, Holstein and Laurenberg were given to Germany. France was soon attacked and lost land in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, all of Europe was dominated by Germany no wonder our ancestors decided that there was no future here anymore. the stage was now set for World War I. Part of the Jutland territory was returned to Denmark after World War I after an election. Holstein and Laurenberg had no such choice, it wasn't until 1945 under Soviet land reforms that the people gained their freedom. It was the law , "The servant can not actively resist his master".
The common people and the farmers were subject to domination by the large land owners and the wealthy classes. There was no land anywhere for a poor farmer to buy and care for. The country was experiencing a period of intellectual spiritual and material poverty and the ample spaces of the new world beckoned. Denmark would soon lose over one-third of its people to this mass migration.
During these dark times, the Mormons missionaries sent their messages and spread the Gospel of their new Church. These people wanted a fresh start in a new land away from troubles and war. They were promised land and new freedoms they never had before. Most of our family came to Utah but two of our family went to New Zealand when land and passage was promised to them, this was also during a severe world wide depression.
The Spirit of the Gathering was upon them they came to build the City of Zion for their God here in America. The Mormons chartered the safest ships available for passage, not one ship was ever lost. If these immigrants were to poor the Church would pay their passage with the aid of the Perpetual Emigration Fund. The poor and faithful were preferred over the rich and others who could pay their way. These converts were a very determined and never wavered in their belief. They left families and friends, who were never seen again.
The many promises that were made by the missionaries came at a terrible cost. The wars and persecutions would follow them to America. Prussia was no longer an enemy but they found a new enemy, the mobs and militias of Missouri and Illinois. The Mormons brought thousands of immigrants to an area. Working as brothers and sisters for a common goal they built well planned cities and buinesses. In just a few years they would build beautiful cities of stone or brick. Very unlike the ugly cities arround them. Mormon Cities were different from all other American cities. The rise and fall of American cities depended on where roads and shipping lanes would support trade and commerce. Mormon cities were built around their Temples, Tabernacles and Churches for their God, where Prophets and Bishops commanded religious and moral authority. Politicians in Illinois and Missouri felt threatened by the voting power of these Mormons. Polygamy and just being different caused their persecution.
Mormons believed they were "God's Chosen People" this caused them to feel superior to these Gentiles. Mormons just did not mix well with other settlers. This and jealousy caused their neighbors to feel threatened and in time fear and hatred caused these neighbors to arm themselves and began roaming the countryside looting, assaulting and burning. In time the State Militia of Missouri stepped in when Governor Boggs gave his infamous "Extermination Order" to jail or kill all Mormon leaders and drive the rest from the state.
Persecuted and desperate to find a new place they left all they owned in Missouri to settle on the bank of the Missouri River. Where they settled and built the beautiful city of Nauvoo, largest city in Illinois, on the banks of the Mississippi River. But as always persecution in time followed them here, when the mobs again began to assault, kill and loot. Governor Ford in time sent his militia in with orders to kill and drive the Mormons from Illinois. Hundreds of men women and children were killed and their Prophet, Joseph Smith and his brother were murdered in the Carthage Jail. Their Temple and cities were burned. Over 15,000 men, women and children lost their homes and possessions, hundreds were killed and the rest were driven at bayonet point to a place called Winter Quarters (Territory of Mexico now Florence, Nebraska). They were actually driven from United States to Mexico. Nauvoo was looted and burned in mid-winter, several hundred poor Saints died from exposure and physical hardship.
John Taylor, editor of the Nauvoo Neighbor said, "We are making all the preparation in our power to leave the United States next spring...We will suffer wrong rather than do wrong". It was a long hard 1100 miles from Winter Quarters to the Utah Territory in Mexico. 80,000 eventually made the trip by the best way that they could afford, by walking, handcarts and covered wagon. Thousands dying along the way.
The famous Charles Dickens visited the ship, Amazon which was to carry 800 Mormon immigrants to the United States and up and down these gangways, perpetually crowding to and fro and in and out like ants, are the Emigrants who are going to sail on my Emigrant Ship. Some with cabbages, some with loaves of bread, some with cheese and butter, some with milk and beer, some with boxes, beds and bundles, some with babies---nearly all with children---nearly all with brand new tin cans for their daily allowance of water. But nobody is in an ill-temper, nobody is worse for drink, nobody swears an oath or uses a course word, nobody appears depressed, nobody is weeping, and down upon the deck in every corner where it is possible to sit or crouch are writing letters.
Some of our family members died along the way, buried at sea, or died walking the 1100 miles across the prairie, mountains and rivers or of disease and hunger here in the Utah Territory after their arrival.
Diaries of children gives us the best ideas what it was like out on the prairie. A nine year old boy said, "My dear Mother had a baby to nurse, and only having half enough to eat and to pull on the handcart all day long, day after day, she soon got so weak and worn out that she could not help father anymore. Nor was she able to keep up with the Company. Sometimes when we camped, she was so far behind we could not see anything of her, so that I was afraid that she might not be able to get to camp." "I would be so tired that I would wish I could sit down for just a few minutes. How much good it would do me. But instead of that, My dear, nearly worn-out father would ask me if I could not push a little more on the handcart."
Ten years later, in 1857 a large well equipped United States Army was sent to the Utah Territory to kill the Mormons. But the US Army was defeated on the plains of Wyoming by the Mormons. Aunt Christiana was pulling her handcart along the trail during this war. Years later the United States army would control and punish the Mormons. Many were jailed, not allowed to vote or hold office, church property confiscated, and governed by Eastern politicians. I remember the distrust and hate my Grandmother had for all non-Mormons.
The dates of immigration of our Great Grandparents ranged from 1850 to 1887, during very hard and miserable times. Some came during the times of sail ships, times before transcontinental railroads. times when land was taken by force from hostile Indians. These hardy people all had tremendous tasks to do. There were no comforts or luxuries to be had. Food and basic necessities such as shelter, sanitation and protection were hard to come by. Jorgen Smith and Frederick Twede came by covered wagon. Christiana Petersen Bol, age 21 pulled a handcart, Karen Maria Halvorsen, age 21, Maren Catrina Nielsen, age 20 were also our lady pioneers. They were the ones who bought our Danish Families here, only the Smith's were brought here by a man. These girls came pulling their handcarts, or walking by a covered wagon across the Plains and over the Rocky Mountains. They immigrated alone, with no family to meet them, without any money or means of support, only the Mormon Church to help them. A time when the grasshoppers had devoured all their crops, they lived off thistles and weeds. Then there were the Indian depredations and wars. Plus the hardships of making a home with no tools or supplies, they either made their tools or brought them in from a thousand miles away. They came and they survived. The brothers and parents came from two to twenty-two years later to a ready built home prepared for them by these girls. Yet, most of the stories we are told are about our Grandfathers and only a small praise for the Ladies?
Every country has its stories of simple folk, yokels, hayseeds, and hicks, Denmark is no exception. It seems the people of Moll's were singled out for this dubious honor. We have names like Bol, or even Pol but not Moll. If you feel a little more gullible than most or feel like your friends laugh at you instead of with you, maybe its where you came from. Lets check your genealogy.