HomeNew BrunswickNew Denmark, New Brunswick, the Oldest Danish Community in Canada

New Denmark, New Brunswick, the Oldest Danish Community in Canada

Canada is a country with a rich history of waves of immigrants from European countries.

Scandinavia was seen by the Government of Canada as a good source of immigrants. Scandinavians were thought to be a hardy people who could successfully clear the land and farm in the wilderness. An agent was sent by the government to Scandinavia in 1872 to encourage farmers to cross the Atlantic. He assisted a Danish businessman Sorensen S. Heller to recruit individuals and families for settlement in New Brunswick.

Heller called himself Captain. It is not known whether this was because he was a ship captain or a captain in the military. After visiting North America in 1869, Captain Heller made an agreement with the Province of New Brunswick to deliver 500 Danish settlers. He was to be paid a bounty of $10 for every person he brought to the province. He managed to sign up about 30 people for his venture.

In 1872 Heller and the settlers boarded a steamship in Copenhagen and sailed to Halifax where they transferred to another ship that took them to Saint John, New Brunswick. There they boarded a paddlewheel steamer and traveled up the Saint John River to a tributary called the Salmon River. They disembarked and walked more than two miles into what was to be their home in northern New Brunswick. According to their agreement with the government of the province everyone over 18 years of age was given 100 acres of land.

The Danish settlers agreed to clear part of the land and to build a house of not less than 16 by 20 feet. The first immigrants were also promised jobs working on the railway. The pay was to be not less than one dollar a day. After three years the immigrants were to have at least 10 acres of their land under cultivation.

At first their settlement was called Hellerup after the Danish businessman who had brought them there. He went back to Copenhagen to encourage another group of Danes to move to his settlement in the New World. In 1873 he arrived back in Hellerup with 80 more Danish immigrants.

It was not long before the Danes concluded that the rosy picture Heller had painted of life in New Brunswick was not true. The work of clearing the land was difficult and there were no jobs to be had on the railway. To make up for this lack of paying work the government of New Brunswick made a payment to each family. Perhaps because the settlers felt betrayed by Heller they renamed their community New Denmark.

In 1873 New Denmark had 111 people. Many of the single men in the original settlement quickly left. There were few single Danish women for them to marry and the work of carving a farm out of dense forest was difficult. They moved on to larger communities in the United States.

The Townspeople of New Denmark Celebrate their Heritage in the 1960s.

The Townspeople of New Denmark Celebrate their Heritage in the 1960s.

The population of New Denmark did not grow very quickly. By 1881 there were 351 people in the community and by 1901 there were only 563. The descendants of the original Danish settlers celebrate their heritage.


By Alan McNairn

Written by

Mysteries of Canada Contributor

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25 Responses to “New Denmark, New Brunswick, the Oldest Danish Community in Canada”

By Michael Hayes - 9 March 2019 Reply

My great grandfather was Henry Jensen, he passed away in his 95th year in 1995. He lived his entire life in New Denmark. I was only there twice, for his 90th birthday and his funeral.

By anna - 15 January 2019 Reply

Busy looking up/trying to look up family for my husband, from the area. He was adopted in Calgary in 1962, and only recently received a copy of his adoption papers, with NOT MUCH DETAIL to go on. Hisgrandfather was Alvin Douglas Christensen and grandmother was Vera Florence May Carlson, from Foley Brook area. We have recently been able to trace a bit more on the Christensen side, to Johanna ChristineJensen as mother of Alvin, and Christian M Christensen as his father. My husbands mother was Darlene Joan. Any further details would be greatly appreciated.

By Carolyn Howlett - 23 January 2019 Reply

I am a first cousin of Darlene Joan Christensen, born on April 13, 1940. The year seems wrong but everything else fits. I may be able to answer some questions about Darlene. I knew her in 1945 when she visited New Denmark with her family. Thereafter, I did not see or communicate with her until 2006 when I found her through a distant cousin in Edmonton. She came to visit me that year and spent two weeks here. It was a wonderful time. She told me so much of all the intervening years in her life. but a child in 1962 was never mentioned. Please contact me if you want to hear about what I know,
which may not be a lot.

By anna - 12 September 2019

hello Carolyn Howlett…yes, we are talking the same person, we have since found her side of the famliy, and heard about the trip about 1945, and her trip in 2006. She had 2 children, Christine and Robert, last name Bonn. We have been in touch with both, and other close relatives in Kelowna and northern Alberta. We have also found out that the birth of my husband was hush hush, never mentioned much, and she would NOT tell the family who the father was…we are still hunting for accuracy on that part of the family – we know WHO he was. Would love to email you personally!

By Carol O'Blenis - 31 August 2018 Reply

what are the sites and tourist attractions in your community

By Peggy Jensen - 21 December 2017 Reply

I think you might be related to Senika Thomsen. I remember him well!

By Christen Petersen - 18 October 2017 Reply

Many of my cousins still live in New Denmark, I was born there in 1951. My grandparents were Anton Petersen and wife Ane Christensen and Paul Pedersen and wife Johanna (Jensen) I believe.Ane had five children including my father William, Johanna had 9 children including my mother Ina. I would be happy to hear from any relative near or far.
I now live in Ottawa, Ontario. chrispetersenadr@yahoo.ca

By john hansen` - 24 August 2017 Reply

my name iis john hansen., my grandfather, august b hansen was born in new demark in 1873. I am trying to trace my heritage.. he came to Canada on a ship..
My address is:
13000 Linden Ave N #549
Seattle WA 98133

email: jack_hansen@ureach.com

By Carl Thomsen - 11 July 2017 Reply

Lars Bertelsen and is wife Christine Madsen left their home in Holstebro, Denmark and emigrated to New Denmark, New Brunswick in 1879. Their 10 children were born in the Blue Bell section of New Denmark between 1879 and 1897.
Their 3rd child, Amalia Christine Bertelsen, was born on April 8, 1883, By 1906 she had moved to Portland,Maine. There she met Thomas Christian Thomsen who came to Portland in 1899 from his home in Kolkjar, Rind Sogn, Denmark.
They were married in 1906, and then became the parents of my farther, Elwyn A. Thomsen in 1913. If you have other info about my New Denmark ancestors, please send it my way..

By Kathleen Bertelsen Cartwright - 11 September 2018 Reply

I believe Carl Bertelsen, my grandfather, was one of Lars and Chritina’s children, born in 1898. He moved to Portland, Maine, USA. He married Jeanie Morrison and had one son, Bruce Bertelsen, my father. Bruce married my mother, Francesta Farr. Her mother, Alice Farr came from Belldoon, New Brunswick. Bruce and Fran had three children, Kathleen (myself) born in 1952, Cynthia born in 1955, and Brian born in 1957. I live in Waldoboro, Maine USA and love to meet relatives. I am going to Nova Scotia this week for a 45th anniversary of Fred and Felicity Jeppesen. Fred, his brother Ron, and sister Ruth
also have roots in New Denmark. Ron and I hope to visit New Denmark for one of the heritage celebrations in the near future.

By Laurie Christensen - 1 June 2017 Reply

I grew up in New Denmark from 1954 – 1971. It will always be HOME to me. It is a beautiful part of the world and I treasure the memories from childhood on the farm on Foley Brook Road.

By anna smith - 14 January 2019 Reply

Laurie, you must be a relative, my husbands family were all from Foley Brook, is there a way I can contact you and ask some family questions?

By Bonnie Bertelsen - 23 March 2017 Reply

My ancestors – Bertelsen’s, Andersen’s, Rasmussen’s and Hansen’s were all part of these early Danish settlers. New Denmark is a beautiful little corner of New Brunswick.I miss hearing the Danish language. I have done a lot of research on the Danish families and would be happy to hear from other researchers. I am on facebook and Ancestry.

By Kathleen Bertelsen Cartwright - 11 September 2018 Reply

I am a Bertelsen, my father Bruce Bertelsen was son of Carl Bertelsen who came from New Denmark to Portland Maine and apprenticed as a cabinet maker. He was a fiddler and played for dances with his brother in New Brunswick. I am going to Nova Scotia this week for a 45th anniversary of Fred and Felicity Jeppesen. Fred’s relatives also came from New Denmark.

Any information you have on these families I would appreciate,
Kathy Bertelsen Cartwright

By Karl Johnsen - 22 March 2017 Reply

My great great Grandfather Anders Carlsen was among that fist group of Danes that walked up Lucy’s Gulch from the Salmon River. June 19th 1872.

By Colleen Hansen - 22 March 2017 Reply

So proud and this June 16 17and 18 2017 Marks New Denmarks , 145 th anniversary, come and enjoy , ??Weekend of danish festivities,

By Paul Gunnar Pedersen - 22 March 2017 Reply

Great Stuff, Love articles of my homeland and heritage, My name is Paul Pedersen, a 4th generation descendant of the later moves to New Denmark from Denmark, my great grand father Victor Pedersen moved to New Brunswick from Denmark with my very young at the time Grand Father named Gunnar Pedersen still alive and well and still pickin fiddle like he was born yesterday, he will be 95 this year and myself 45 and we are the Pedersen s from the great farms of Foley Brook road, my father and I were the last danes to farm Foley Brook, since 94 we lease the farms to another business but proud to say my Dad Peter still owns the home farms,,again,,,great read and Happy Happy 145 year BDay this year New Denmark,, we will see you for your BDay in June,,Cheerzzz

By Gayle Pedersen Maxwell - 22 March 2017 Reply

My sisters Donna crawford , Vicki Lagace, Lisa DeGooyer & Paula Pedersen are the daughters of Herluf & Reta Pedersen & all so proud of our Danish heritage. We all had a wonderful loving upbringing on our parents potato farm in New Denmark. My Dad was never blessed with a son, but his 5 daughters worked along side him through their growing years & he was so proud of us of all. Dad unfortunately has long passed away & Mom carried on the farm for a year after his departure. She has Continued to be the loving mother, Bestomor & Great Bestomor to us all.
New Denmark is a wonderful place to call HOME!!????????

By Keith Elwell - 8 January 2017 Reply

My Great Grandfather, Soren (Anderson) Klokkedal came to New Denmark from Denmark with his wife and three children in 1872. I am looking for any info available about this family.

By Karl Johnsen - 22 March 2017 Reply

I don’t know much apart from the fact that there is a very steep hill that bears his name. But next time I call him I will ask my Dad if he knows anything about the Klokkedal family.

By Clifford Hendricksen - 15 May 2019 Reply

See a video on the web. Google: “CBC Still Standing New Denmark” It is a video about New Denmark. I was born and raised on the Klokkedahl hill. There is a Web site in Denmark called the “Danish Data Archives” is information when they left Denmark.

By Nila Christensen - 23 December 2016 Reply

I am from New Denmark and love reading the stories of our ancestors and how they struggled in those early years of immigration. I wished I knew more of the language now that I’m older. It is a beautiful part of New Brunswick and I am proud of my hertiage.

By A Smith - 19 December 2018 Reply

I am trying to help my husband find his relatives, Christensen family…his mother was Darlene Joan Christensen, born around 1939 in new denmark we believe. Her parents were still alive there in 1962, when my husband was born in Calgary, AB. His mother was not married, had lived in Kelowna BC for a time, until she moved to Calgary to have her baby. My husband was given up for adoption very early, and was adopted to a family named Smith at 2 weeks of age.His adoptive mother only gave him any information about his adoption in the last couple years, although he always knew he was adopted. We have children, and knowing some family history would be very nice to have for them and my husband.

By Thomas Goodine - 22 December 2016 Reply

I am a descendant of the original Danes who immigrated to New Denmark; I can verify the keeping of heritage part. My mother’s siblings, which are sixth generation, are completely Danish – I am half. My grandparent’s generation learned to speak Danish before English, speaking mostly Danish at home. The community also puts together Danish summer school to teach kids how to speak Danish, and there are a number of heritage holidays/traditions. For example, we celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve, rather than Day.

By Leslie Petersen - 21 December 2016 Reply

Thank you,that was great.I wish the names had been published as I’m a descendant of these immigrants.