Danevang - The Danish Capital of Texas - February 8, 2012
by Jeanne Brandt

Danevang Lutheran Church.

Danish Pioneer House.
A great day started early, as 19 members and 5 guests began an hour-long bus trip to Danevang, the "Danish Capitol of Texas," as proclaimed by the Texas Legislature in 1995. Our first stop was at the Danevang Lutheran Church, where our colorful tour guide, Mike Brodsgaard, gave us some of the early history of the Danish migration. The initial Danish immigrants who came through Ellis Island, migrated first to the mid-west US, and then after farming failures ended up near El Campo. The Ellis Island immigration cataloguer would write down the first name and surname based on perceived phonics, e.g., Jacob could be written correctly or like Yaakov; Petersen could be written Pederson, etc. He outlined the history of how the first church was destroyed by a storm, and the relocation/rebuilding in 1945 of a church from the former Camp Hulen Army base in Palacios, to Danevang. The church was and remains a center point of the Danish community in the area, although today's membership is more multi-cultural. The above group picture was taken on the steps of the church.

Danish Heritage Museum.

Mike reminisced about Al Jensen, born and raised in Danevang. He became a construction engineer and graduated from Rice University. He was deeply involved in the building of the Astrodome while living in Houston. He served the Danevang community in many ways through the years. In his honor, close friends returned to Denmark and brought back 3 large stones which can be viewed near his gravesite at the back of the local cemetery.

The Danish luncheon was delicious.

We went to the nearby Heritage Museum where guide Sandy Petersen showed us a 20 minute video of the history and heritage of the Danevang community which began in 1894. The present population is around 500, and not many true Danes remain, as most young people choose not to continue farming in the area. She covered what there was to see in each of the main museum rooms on display: farming and trade tools; home utensils; Lutheran church, old and new; schools, building and class pictures; Viking heritage; cotton as a crop, and the progression of mechanization. A gift shop with cookbooks and other mementos of the trip was at the entry.

After Sandy, assisted by Susan Berndt, museum director, took a group picture of the TIRET for their scrapbook, we sat down for a delicious Danish lunch of meatballs, red cabbage, pickled beets, red potatoes, baby cooked carrots, and finished off with an apple dessert, all served by our hosts. Before lunch, a short grace was said in Danish by Helena Lauritsen, who is the only person in the community still proficient in Danish, and as a group we repeated each phrase in English, printed on cards in our plates. A very nice touch. Plenty of pre-and-after dinner coffee was available.

After the meal, the hostesses gave most of us a scavenger hunt sheet to find "fill-in-the-blank" answers among the many captioned pictures on the wall and labeled artifacts around the room. The scavenger winner of a "Danevang" blazoned coffee cup was Susan Leigh, and the second prize of a collapsible koozie (insulated bottle wrap) was the team of Kay Cook and Annette Hawkins.

Further investigation of the museum by half the group continued while the other half went to the small Pioneer Cabin next door. That cabin was filled with donated antiques of the times before rural electrification. A fascinating first hand picture of rural life at the end of the 19th century when farming was the one and only lifeblood of existence. We can truly appreciate how far we have come in 120 years.

All the many volunteers there were most gracious.

The entire Danish story can be viewed in pictures and word on their website and Facebook at Danish Heritage Museum,
Danevang Heritage Museum.

Attendees were: Jeanne Brandt, Lawson and Kay Cook, Mary Lee Cameron, Mary Gomez, Estella and Ralph Garcia, Annette and Pat Hawkins(G) Susan and Tony Leigh, Nora and Israel Morales, Daryl and Brenda Moss, Ida Lou Nicholas (G), Gigi Roep, Helen Schmolke (G) , Joyce Slanina (G), DeAnn Thomas, Dorothy and James Wade, George Wolf and Sally Yanez.

Our group in the Danish Heritage Museum.

Join us soon on another exciting Day Trip.

Copyright TI Retiree Club of Houston 2012, All Rights Reserved.