Quote: “My great grandmother, Ferrell Provstgaard, was born and raised in Denmark. I enjoy the Danish history
With the continued indulgence of the moderators, then:
“Provstgaard” means “parsonage”, as you may already know. A “provst” is, in the state church of Denmark, a country parson who is rather more equal than his fellows. He is charged with the oversight in matters spiritual, i.e with assuring adherence to the party line, and in matters of administration with the prevention of malfeasance. “Gaard” in this context means “farm”, and your name indicates therefore that one of you ancestors (perhaps by marriage) was not only a Lutheran priest, but that his “living” - his appointment – entitled him to occupy and work a farm owned by the church.
The name was most common around a town called Ringkøbing in the west of Jutland, and this is where the story begins to become interesting for Americans. This part of Denmark has always been a very poor part of a rather poor country. It consisted in former times of uncultivated moorland, a heath of ling, heather and gorse with a tough layer of hardpan lying three of four inches under the sandy soil.
When the collapse of Napoleonic France
resulted in the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and the German Confederation was formed from the numerous German speaking principalities in northwestern Europe
(including Prussia which theretofore had been insignificant), the duchies of Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg were left under Danish control. Turmoil erupted in Europe
as a result of the sentiment toward nationalism that was a result of the French Revolution, and many of the “nations” born at the Congress of Vienna conceived “basic laws” (“constitutions”) implementing democracy to replace autocratic systems of governance that existed as a residuum of feudalism. Denmark enacted and promulgated such a “basic law” in 1849.
On the commemorative statue to Frederik VII, who was the ruling monarch who saw the train coming at him and therefore accepted this basic law which rendered the Danish monarchy powerless, the plinth is inscribed on one side ”A Nation of Laws”. That, of course, is merely a politically correct echo of the beliefs of America's Founding Fathers – wherever THEY may have gotten such ideas from :-). But consider the time now: These were the very years in which Karl Marx was slaving over a hot manuscript in the British Library and Friedrich Engels was arguing for democracy – nay, for communism – in every issue of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung
. In consequence we find on the other side of the plinth the words, alluding to the purpose of basic laws and governance, “That few may have too much, and fewer too little!” Always CYA :-)!
By 1848 there was an insurgency by Lauenburger troops who wanted to join the German Confederation. The insurgency was put down, but by 1864 we enter the second act, now with Prussia as a keenly interested participant. Prussia had the new-fangled rifled artillery pieces produced by Krupp. Denmark did not. From Prussia's point of view, this war against a small, backward nation was a heaven-sent opportunity for a dress rehearsal for the Franco-Prussian war that was planned for the imminent future. Schesvig, Holstein and Lauenburg were lost
in the war of '64. The Franco-Prussian war came in '72.
Schleswig, Holstein and Lauenburg had been Denmark's “bread basket”, so the loss was serious. It amounted to about one third of Denmark's total area. A descendant of French huguenots, an officer in the Danish Army, a Civil Engineer
, Enrico Dalgas, said “What we've lost
outwardly, we must regain inwardly” and set about breaking and cultivating the moorlands in the west of Jutland in much the same manner as the prairies of the American West were broken and cultivated. The areas inland from Ringkøbing were among them.
Settlers came from other parts
of Denmark and were given title to “homesteads” much as homesteads could be taken up in some parts
of the American West and in Canada
for a minimal cash payment preceding occupation and improvement. Again, consider the time: Joseph Smith was half a century into his missionary work, and like desperately poor people everywhere, the desperately poor homesteaders on the Danish Heath were much given to superstition and religiosity. By the 1880s the “free land” on the Heath had all been taken up, and swains born in the mid '60s, when the Heath was first settled, were now of an age to look for land and for brides. Given their poverty, they were not much of a catch for the daughters of “good” families, and in consequence they were ripe for the picking by LDS missionaries who flocked to the land. “Free land and polygyny” was a bait as irresistible to them as is the promise of two and seventy virgins to many young men
And that is the reason that in some States, notably Utah, you find so many Danish names. My own “rellies” came from the other side, the “prosperous” side, of the peninsula of Jutland. So you will find them not in Salt
Lake City but in Racine :-)