Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Pioneers, Ploughs, and Politics: New Brunswick Planned Settlements

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Agricultural Developments


Captain Heller contracted with the New Brunswick government to bring no fewer than 500 Scandinavians to settle in the province; however, he failed to fulfill his obligations. By the end of 1873, when Heller's contract had terminated and he had fallen out of favour with government officials, about 299 Danes had entered New Brunswick's ports and only about half of them could be attributed to his efforts. For many of these newcomers, government road work and employment on the railway kept them financially afloat while they built their homes and cleared their land for planting.
The Danes who did make their way to the mouth of the Salmon River faced many difficulties, as they struggled to start over in the wilderness of northwestern New Brunswick. Although these newcomers were poor and isolated by distance and language, many of them succeeded in reestablishing their homes. Through perseverance and hard work, they managed to obtain a land grant. Along with their families, work ethic, and determination, the settlers brought their culture - their language, customs, and Lutheran faith - which are evident today.
New Denmark's population has fluctuated over time, notably in the early years when a number of settlers, discouraged by the hardships of pioneer life, left the settlement for the United States and other parts of the province. Yet enough of them remained, and, over several decades, they were joined by other Danes, some of them kin. The result was a viable agricultural community that has continued many of the early Danish traditions and has contributed to the province's social and economic development.
The 19th of June, the day the settlers first arrived at Hellerup, is still observed as Founders' Day. Each year during "The Nineteenth" celebrations, descendants of these Danish pioneers, their friends, and neighbours attend church services, don traditional costumes, enjoy folk dancing, and dine on such time-honoured dishes as frikadeller (fried meat patties), medister pélse (seasoned pork sausage) and aeblekage (apple cake).
In June 2005 the Danish immigrant lot, the site of the original 1872 land grant, was designated a provincial historic site. A replica of the immigrant house that first sheltered the newcomers more than 130 years ago, sits on the land. Nearby rests the cairn that was erected in 1940 by the New Denmark Women's Institute. It bears an inscription that pays a fitting tribute to those who first called New Denmark home, a sentiment that is echoed today by the descendants and admirers of those 19th century adventurers: "To the Honour of those Hardy Danish Pioneers who with Vision, Courage, and Tireless Toil subdued Virgin Forests and Established here their Homes."