My Nebraska posts usually focus on cemeteries established by communities. Today I’m going to share about my visit to St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church Cemetery in Kronborg, Neb. The cemetery may be located beside a church, but it’s been at the heart of the community since it began.
Kronborg is a tiny settlement in Hamilton County, about three miles from the nearest town of Marquette. St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church Cemetery is also referred to as Kronborg Cemetery because the church and the community are so intertwined.
More than 300,000 Danes came to America in the late 1800s and early 1900s, a small fraction of the total European emigration. At the same time, that number was about 10 percent of the population of Denmark in 1900. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
When you wander through Kronborg Cemetery, you can see Danish words on several of the monuments. The Danish name for the church is actually St. Johannes Danske Lutherske Kirke. Until the 1960s, St. John’s pastors were all native to Denmark.
Thanks to information in the church’s National Register of Historic Places application, I learned more about Kronborg’s history. These documents are great for finding out not only architectural facts but the events that took place there.
The first Danes to arrive in the early 1870s established homesteads along Lincoln Creek, north of the present town of Hampton. Soon, Danish immigrants began settling in the Marquette and Kronborg area.
Kronborg didn’t actually get its name until 1909 when it was named after Kronborg Castle in Helsingør, Sjaeland, Denmark. Shakespeare enthusiasts know that Kronborg Castle served as Elsinore in the British playwright’s famous Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Elsinore is the anglicized name of the surrounding town of Helsingør.
Kronborg’s residents had a great admiration for famous Danish religious leader, poet and historian Nikolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig. Born in 1783, Grundtvig was the son of a Lutheran pastor. He developed an educational philosophy that served as the foundation for Denmark’s folk schools and he favored more inclusive religious themes (called Grundtvigianism).
While the community wanted to embrace all the aspects of their new home, it was clear they would never forget their Danish roots and wanted to keep them alive.
Kronborg’s first church was completely destroyed on May 27, 1899 when a tornado swept through the area. You might remember my previous post on Plainfield Cemetery in Bradshaw, Neb., a town destroyed by a tornado in June 1890.
St. John’s congregation quickly rebuilt. The present church, designed in the High Victorian Gothic style, and some of its outbuildings were completed in August 1900. Details include pointed arched windows and door openings, with decorative border trim along the eaves. Colored and stained glass windows are featured inside.
Unfortunately, workmen were making repairs to the roof of the church during our visit and we couldn’t go inside. My pictures of the outside were taken at more of a distance than I would have liked but I didn’t want to get hit by a stray shingle by getting too close.
One key group that formed at the church was the Ladies Aid Society, formed in 1883. It was headed by Jensine Bodholdt, wife of St. John’s first pastor, Knud Clausen Bodholdt, who served from 1882 to 1887. Her grave is surrounded by an iron railing with a stone noting her leadership.
As I mentioned earlier, many of the markers in St. John’s Cemetery have Danish inscriptions. You can see this in the Jensen family marker.
Lauritz Jensen became an American citizen in 1872, having come from Denmark to Wisconsin. He married Maren “Minnie” the same year. She also came from Denmark and became a citizen in 1867. They had their first two children, Lauritz Jr. and Tekla, in Wisconsin before moving to Nebraska.
Also, on either side of it, are the Danish equivalents of “mother” and “father” (“moder” and “fader”).
You can also see the names of the Danish towns where many of Kronborg’s residents were originally born on their markers. An example of this is the Eriksen family.
Morten Eriksen was born in 1839 in Bjorup, Denmark. He married Maren Kirstine Born in the 1860s. She was from Falster, Denmark, a town only 10 miles away. They didn’t emigrate to America until 1882. By that time, they already had three children.
Morten died in 1917 and Maren went to live with her daughter, Emma, who lived with her husband in Omaha and had four children. Maren died in Omaha in 1921 but is buried at St. John’s with Morten. Son Carl is also buried there.
Upon first glance, the Larsen monument has some of the motifs you’d see in an older marker. The cross within the crown above the gates of Heaven is a common one, as is the log on top (a life cut short). But if you look closer, the condition would indicate it is fairly recent. My thought is that the original may have been damaged and they had a replacement made.
Born in 1827 in Guldager, Denmark, Anders Christian Larsen and his wife, Dorothe Kirstine Larsen, didn’t emigrate to America until 1879. Their four children had already been born.
The inscription on the front of the monument is in Danish so I couldn’t make out what it said. I tried Google translate but some of the words didn’t translate well. I welcome anyone who knows Danish to to share their thoughts with me about it.
Amid the older Danish inscripted monuments were also many modern ones, sharing the affiliations and pursuits of those they represent.
Raymond Steven Kelso was a lifelong Navy man. According to his obituary, he entered the U.S. Navy in December 1941. He served in the Pacific Theater during World War II and also served in Korea and Vietnam. He retired from the military in 1968.
It’s on the back of his marker that you can see his Navy ties. I don’t know the name of this ship. But by going on Ancestry.com, I found out he did serve on the U.S.S. Chandeleur during World War II, a seaplane tender.
The marker for Patty Jo “Pat” Williamsen caught my eye as we were leaving because of the unique picture on her marker. I did not get a very good picture of it, but you can see she is sitting with two turkeys she bagged while hunting. Her obituary shared that fishing, hunting and kayaking were her hobbies.
Kronborg was not on my original itinerary so we had to make some extra time to get there and return to our original route. But the effort to visit was well worth it. This small Danish enclave has a rich history that is far from over, as its church and cemetery clearly show.