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Arthur W. Christensen of Dannebrog, in A Story of the Danish Settlement in Dannevirke, describes the early settlement of this unique Danish hamlet in Howard County. Christensen was the son of Danish pioneers, and his history was dedicated to "the memory of those sturdy pioneers who worked and built their homes on Nebraska's boundless prairies." Most of the Dannevirke described by Christensen still stands today.

In February of 1874 Niels Hansen and Soren Johnson homesteaded in northwestern Howard County because of timber and water along the North Loup River and because of the promising soil. Hansen helped with construction of nearby Fort Hartsuff to acquire cash, and in the spring of 1874 broke the first sod in the Dannevirke area.

More Danes settled during succeeding years and decided upon the name "Dannevirke." The name, symbolizing security and protection, had patriotic significance to the Danes, because it referred to a great earthen fortification which had protected Denmark in the Middle Ages.

By 1900 the thrifty Danish farmers felt they could afford a meeting place. They organized the Dannevirke Hall Association and erected the center, dedicated in May 1901. Another boost for the community was the opening of a general store in 1901. Five years later a church was built and later a blacksmith shop was opened. However, the settlement remained a hamlet. The post office was discontinued in 1904.

The founders of the community were successful in establishing Danish customs and maintaining the language. Each June 5 they celebrated Constitution Day, and a harvest festival was held every September. Eventually, however, the isolated Danish hamlet succumbed to the pressures of assimilation. Dannebrog and Nysted, to the south, had larger populations with which to preserve Danish customs.

(August 1996)



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