Dannebrog was founded by Lars Hannibal, president of the Danish Land and Homestead Company, with headquarters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The company was to secure a tract of land consisting of eight or more townships for settlers of Danish origin. A committee of five was sent to Nebraska in early 1871 to find a suitable location. They chose land about a day's ride from the Platte. The families started arriving soon thereafter and on May 28, 1871, Pentecost Sunday, a primal celebration and feast was held in a beautiful grove on Oak Creek, a mile north of the Loup River, to commemorate the beginning of their new life in Howard County, Nebraska.
In 1872 permission had been given to have a post office. The name "Carthage" was suggested, but Hannibal, the first postmaster, said he would not live in a place with that name, and wanted instead, "Dannebrog," for the Danish flag. This banner, a red flag covered by the white cross, that means beauty, goodwill, love, peace, and God-given ideals, was first displayed in 1219 A.D., and is considered to be one of the oldest flags in the world.
School and church services were held in the homes until proper buildings were constructed. At present Lutheran and Baptist churches serve the people in the area. The children from this community are educated at the reorganized Centura District school, built in 1968. It is located five miles from the towns of Dannebrog, Boelus, and Cairo.
The community has had its share of hardships, but the sturdy stock of Danes pulled together to survive, and in so doing have flourished. Dannebrog claims the first oil drilling in Nebraska, as evident in early pictures of the community.
An annual "Grundlovs Fest" was held in Dannebrog for many years. Recently revived on June 5, 1988, the festival was again a great success. Celebrities included Governor Kay Orr, Representative Virginia Smith, and State Senator Carson Rogers. Gary Hannibal, a relative of the town founder, also honored us with his presence. Special events included a parade through main street, a genuine Danish smorgasbord served to 1,000 persons, and a combined church service held in the city park, in addition to many other activities.
One of the activities remembered from earlier festivals was that of throwing turkeys off the roof of the Columbia Hall to the crowd below. Since present-day turkeys don't really fly, a modified version of this was re-enacted during the centennial celebration by throwing geese and turkeys from a truck for the spectators to catch and keep.
In preparing for the event, shop owners painted signs over their business places to signify the love they have for the Danish heritage. These signs read: Harriett's Spisehus, (eating house); Kolonialhandel, (grocery store); Slagtehus, (slaughter house); Forsikring, (insurance); Banken, (bank); Dansk Hal, (community hall); Eric's Vaertshus, (wine house); Gavelbutik, (gift shop); Bibliotek, (library); By Hal, (city hall); Benzine Station, (gas station); Bonde Brugsen, (auto shop and service); and Fox's Antikvitet (antiques).
Like many smaller towns in Nebraska, Dannebrog's peak population was recorded in the 1920s. At that time the population was 436. In 1980 the population was listed at 356.
One of the town's most famous citizens is Roger Welsch, nationally known for stories of early Nebraska, folklore, and Liars Hall of Fame. Welsch, usually dressed in bib-overalls, currently broadcasts a brief "Post card from Nebraska" on the Charles Kuralt Sunday Morning program.
Dannebrog has survived the coming and going of the railroad, as well as the reorganization of schools. As a community, it continues to maintain a healthy attitude in its cycle of businesses and enterprises -- making it a prime example of small-town Nebraska.
By Lucile Grim Fox, Box 143, Dannebrog, NE 68831, with Harriet I. Nielsen.
ADDITIONAL MATERIAL: Uncle Sam's Cabin by P.M. Hannibal; Howard County, the First Hundred Years , by Ellen Kiechel Partsch; and a story of the depression days by Lucile Grim Fox.