Sunday, March 18, 2018

Danebod: A Danish Community in Southwest Minnesota.

Immigration to the United States has always been a difficult experience that led many newcomers to question their own identities as they tried to build a new life in their new home.  Immigrant groups reacted differently as some quickly learned English and adopted American culture.  Others clung to their language and customs as they feared losing their native identities in the crush of American culture.  Many fell somewhere in between. One group of Danish immigrants took a very radical approach and created their own community, the Danebod, in Tyler, MN. It was an effort to remove themselves from American popular culture and preserve their native language, religion and heritage.

Danish pastors Adam Dan and Rasmus Andersen created a religious organization in Wisconsin known as the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in the 1870s.  During a church convention in 1884, an Iowa farmer Rasmus Hansen of suggested the church establish a rural community where the widely scattered Danish immigrants could settle and create an ideal Danish community.  A committee was formed and purchased 35,000 acres near Tyler, MN and, by 1885, around 70 settlers had homesteaded on the land.

These Danish settlers were Grundtvigians, which was a faction within the Danish National Church in America. They were nationalists and religious liberals who celebrated worldly life and were devoted to preserving their Danish heritage.   To do so, the Grundtvigian colony in Tyler sought to preserve a common land and preserve their Danish heritage through the study of Danish history, language and culture and teach folk songs, food, and dances to their children.

Today four buildings survive in Tyler from this Danish community: An 1895 church; the 1889 Stone Hall; the 1917 Folk School and the 1904 Gym Hall.  All are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The 1895 Danebod church with Eastlake ornament.

The 1898 Stone Hall was built from local filed stone and was used as a church, gymnasium and assembly hall.

The 1917 Danebod Folk School. The brick building is an eclectic mix of Gothic and Romanesque with Danish-style gables with parapets.  The school served as a high school which emphasized community and citizenship by teaching the Danish language and folk culture. 

The wood-frame, 1904 gym has medieval-style towers which resemble the tower on the 1917 folk school. This building was used for gymnastics, folk dancing, music, theatrical performances, and religious and social social gatherings.

No comments: