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Historic Danevang - The Danish Capital of Texas

Danevang - The Danish Capital of Texas

Danevang, a small community ten miles south of El Campo, was founded by Danish settlers in the late nineteenth century. However, this area of southeast Texas was not the first place these Danish immigrants settled. Many of the founding families first lived in northern stats such as Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. These families hired a land company called the Danish Folkesamfund, or the Danish Folk Society of America, to find land that was suitable for farming. They had heard tales of the fertile land that was available in Texas. The company selected two areas of land on the Texas coast to survey. The first was the area along Lavaca Bay. This land looked very appealing to them since much of Denmark is surrounded by water. However, the land was not suitable for farming. The second area was along the present-day Wharton and Matagorda County line. They believed that this area would prove to be a prosperous farming area.

In 1894, the first settlers, consisting of eleven families began to buy land in what was soon to become Danevang. The land was $9.00 an acre. Even though this was more than most could afford, many people bought between forty and eighty acres. As the land was bought, it was surveyed and fenced off into sections, A section consists of 640 acres.

The Olson family was among the first settlers in this area. When they left their home in the north, they put all of their belongings, including, cattle and horses, into the same box-car.

The family also had to tolerate the long journey to Danevang in that car! When the Olsons arrived, like many other families, they had to fence off their own land in order to protect it from the longhorn steer that ran loose on the land.


Once the settlers arrived, they constructed small two-room houses. These houses had walls, a roof, and a floor - nothing fancy. Using the same farming techniques they had acquired in the north, the crops they planted failed. They soon adapted these techniques to suit the southern climate. The Danes didn't farm cotton; instead they tried farming grains. However, they ended up farming cotton because the environment of south Texas was not able to support the type of grain crops they had planted.

Before the land could be farmed, it had to be broken. Then it had to sit for several months so that it would be soft enough to plow. Only then could crops be planted. All of the farming had to be done with a one-furrow plow, which was pulled by two to four horses. The planting had to be done one plant at a time.

There was only a trail between Danevang and El Campo, no paved roads. Whenever it rained, communications between the two towns were cut. It was not until 1924 that paved a road ran through Danevang. 1895 was a busy year for the growing community of Danevang. The St. Ansgar congregation was organized with the services being held in Mads Andersen's home. They were conducted by Pastor F.L. Grundtvig. The community center was built to serve as a church and as a meeting house. The first death occured, therefore a cemetary had to be founded.

In 1908, the cornerstone was laid for the church, which was completed in early 1909. In the summer of 1909, the settlers got to see that the weather in Texas was not always wonderful. On July 21, a hurricane hit, but no major damage was done.

The Danevang Farmer's Co-Op was organized in 1920 and incorporated the next year. This company coordinated the marketing of local crops and bought supplies needed by the members at better prices. This organization led to the purchasing of feed in 1922, farm equipment in 1923, a cooperative gin in 1932, and a gasoline station in 1932.

In 1944, the people of Danevang celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of their town. The following year a hurricane swept over the area, demolishing the church and moving the community center twenty feet off its foundation. The Army Chapel from Camp Hulen in Palacios was used as the new church building.

The people of Danevang have survived through many ordeals that would have caused ordinary people to turn back towards home, but the perseverence of the Danes has produced a successful community. The prosperity of this small town is evident even as you drive through.

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Danevang - The Danish Capital of Texas
Danevang - The Danish Capital of Texas


Danevang, a small community ten miles south of El Campo, was founded by Danish settlers in the late nineteenth century. However, this area of southeast Texas was not the first place these Danish immigrants settled. Many of the founding families first lived in northern stats such as Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. These families hired a land company called the Danish Folkesamfund, or the Danish Folk Society of America, to find land that was suitable for farming. They had heard tales of the fertile land that was available in Texas. The company selected two areas of land on the Texas coast to survey. The first was the area along Lavaca Bay. This land looked very appealing to them since much of Denmark is surrounded by water. However, the land was not suitable for farming. The second area was along the present-day Wharton and Matagorda County line. They believed that this area would prove to be a prosperous farming area.

In 1894, the first settlers, consisting of eleven families began to buy land in what was soon to become Danevang. The land was $9.00 an acre. Even though this was more than most could afford, many people bought between forty and eighty acres. As the land was bought, it was surveyed and fenced off into sections, A section consists of 640 acres.

The Olson family was among the first settlers in this area. When they left their home in the north, they put all of their belongings, including, cattle and horses, into the same box-car.

The family also had to tolerate the long journey to Danevang in that car! When the Olsons arrived, like many other families, they had to fence off their own land in order to protect it from the longhorn steer that ran loose on the land.


Once the settlers arrived, they constructed small two-room houses. These houses had walls, a roof, and a floor - nothing fancy. Using the same farming techniques they had acquired in the north, the crops they planted failed. They soon adapted these techniques to suit the southern climate. The Danes didn't farm cotton; instead they tried farming grains. However, they ended up farming cotton because the environment of south Texas was not able to support the type of grain crops they had planted.

Before the land could be farmed, it had to be broken. Then it had to sit for several months so that it would be soft enough to plow. Only then could crops be planted. All of the farming had to be done with a one-furrow plow, which was pulled by two to four horses. The planting had to be done one plant at a time.

There was only a trail between Danevang and El Campo, no paved roads. Whenever it rained, communications between the two towns were cut. It was not until 1924 that paved a road ran through Danevang. 1895 was a busy year for the growing community of Danevang. The St. Ansgar congregation was organized with the services being held in Mads Andersen's home. They were conducted by Pastor F.L. Grundtvig. The community center was built to serve as a church and as a meeting house. The first death occured, therefore a cemetary had to be founded.

In 1908, the cornerstone was laid for the church, which was completed in early 1909. In the summer of 1909, the settlers got to see that the weather in Texas was not always wonderful. On July 21, a hurricane hit, but no major damage was done.

The Danevang Farmer's Co-Op was organized in 1920 and incorporated the next year. This company coordinated the marketing of local crops and bought supplies needed by the members at better prices. This organization led to the purchasing of feed in 1922, farm equipment in 1923, a cooperative gin in 1932, and a gasoline station in 1932.

In 1944, the people of Danevang celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of their town. The following year a hurricane swept over the area, demolishing the church and moving the community center twenty feet off its foundation. The Army Chapel from Camp Hulen in Palacios was used as the new church building.

The people of Danevang have survived through many ordeals that would have caused ordinary people to turn back towards home, but the perseverence of the Danes has produced a successful community. The prosperity of this small town is evident even as you drive through.

More Danevang History
Danevang History Page Two

In the late 1800’s, the Danish Folk Society was formed to assist the immigrants from Denmark in getting settled in mid-western states. Later the society decided to expand the influence of the Danish immigrants to other area of the United States, so they obtained an option on 25,000 acres of land in the coastal plains of Texas and offered this land for sale to the Danes who had settled primarily in the states of Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Michigan and the Dakotas.

Danevang Museum
Click pictures for larger images

Beginning in 1894, approximately 100 families bought various size parcels of land and moved to this area of Texas about 75 miles southwest of Houston and established the community of Danevang. The Folk Society also contributed some land to the community for a community center and church. When the immigrants arrived, they found flat land covered with waist high prairie grass as far as the eye could see.

They began to break up the land with their primitive farm equipment so that it could be farmed. At first they tried to raise the same crops, such as wheat, oats, and barley, which they had grown in Denmark and in the mid-western states, but soon found that the Texas climate was not suitable for these crops. Therefore, they had some very lean years and some of the settlers sold out and moved back to where they had come from or to other states. Those hardy souls who stayed in Danevang soon learned that cotton was a better crop to be raised in that area. After the farmers all converted to raising cotton, the community began to prosper and has continued to be successful.

In the early years, the Danish language was spoken throughout the community and the Danish traditions were maintained, such as observing the Danish holiday celebrations. Through the following years, English gradually became the primary language and the citizens of Danevang became Americanized. In 1993, a group of people with ties to Danevang, some still living there and some who had left the farms to make a living elsewhere, were discussing the history of the community and came to the realization that the Danish heritage of Danevang was being lost over time. Some of these people got together and formed the Danish Heritage Preservation Society for the purpose of restoring and preserving that heritage which was being lost.

The Society purchased three acres of land from the church for a museum site. One family donated a house that had been built in the years before 1900. This house was moved to the museum site and was restored to its original configuration and was furnished with articles from the period before 1920. Another family donated a building that had been a private on-the-farm museum and all of the private collection of artifacts that it contained. This building was also moved to the site. In the year 2000, construction was begun on a modern museum building, which was designed to resemble a Danish barn. This building was dedicated on June 1, 2001.

Danevang School Days
Danevang School Days

As the community of Danevang prospered, the need for a school became increasingly apparent. The first classes were held in the community center. There was only one teacher. Soon, a curtain was put up to divide it into two rooms, and another teacher was hired. However, this school was too far for many many of the children to walk to, so more schools were built to accomodate this need. Schools were built in the west, east, and in the center of town. The central school was built across the street from the Petersen's homeplace. This system lasted several years until the main school was built close to the site of the Dane's Country Store.

The students studied the typical courses of reading, writing, and arithmetic. However, some families chose to send their children to El Campo for their schooling. Ms. Lillian Hansen-Roberts remembers living in El Campo during the week and going to school. On the weekends, her father would come to El Campo and pick her up and take her back to Danevang.

Lack of space was a problem. Sometimes two grades were taught in the same room. Classes were even taught in the school library because there wasn't enough room for everyone. The schoolhouses had four large rooms and a large hallway. Outside of the schools is where the horse stalls were located. These were for the children who rode their horses to school. Ms. Robert's father hauled in hay to the school so the children could feed their horses.

Extra-curricular activities included choral singing, basketball, gymnastics, and baseball. The school colors were red and white, and the Teams were called the Danevang Vikings

Classes have not been held in Danevang since 1951, when the schools in Danevang consolidated with those in El Campo.

Danevang Entertainment
Danevang Entertainment

Throughout the year the Danes celebrated many special occasions. In preparation of birthdays, cooking began several weeks before. Everyone was invited to to a birthday party. However, Golden and Silver wedding anniversaries were an even bigger occasion. Committees were formed to raise money to buy a gift for the couple.

Danevang was declared the "Danish Capital of Texas"
by the Texas Congress in 1990.

Danish Independence Day, better known as the Fifth of June, was celebrated, as was the Fourth of July. These days were honored with large parties involving the whole community. Parties such as these were the sole form of entertainment during the early years.
The residents of Danevang first acquired cars in the early 1930's. They took overnight camping trips to East Bay at Palacios. On these trips they would camp and fish. Whatever was caught was fried over an open camp fire and eaten.

Music was a big part of Helena Berndt-Lauritsen's home when she was growing up. Her father played the harmonica and the piano. He made sure taht each of his children received musical instruction. When her family attended parties, her father brought along a stack of song books. Everyone had a piano or some kind of musical instrument in their home. With the dozen song books that Mr. Berndt brought, along with a piano, every party was filled with the sounds of music.

Ms. Roberts remembers when everyone got their first telephones. Late at night, the operator would connect Ms. Roberts with all of her friends. They would have fun relaying the hot stories of that day.

Holidays were a big part of the Danes lives. They provided welcome breaks from work. Christmas was the most important part in the settlers' life. During this time the families would gather for huge feasts full of tasty Danish foods. Aebleskiver was the traditional food that was eaten at these feasts. This holiday was always celebrated on Christmas Eve, instead of Christmas Day. Christmas was celebrated in this manner in Denmark, and the tradition was brought to America by the immigrating Danes. The first Christmas the settlers were here, no one had much money to buy gifts, but this didn't spoil the occasion. They always celebrated with what they had, and small presents sometimes brought the most joy. The Community Christmas Tree in the Hall became the center of festivities during the holidays. This tradition has lasted through the years, and is still celebrated today.

Danevang Lutheran Church Cemetery 1895 - 2000
Danish Club of Austin