Fredericia Kolonien

The French reformed colony of Fredericia has no direct relationship with the emigration of 1685. It was founded only in 1719-20 by King Frederic IV. This founding is not an act of religious mercy, but it’s the effect of a national economic plan; indeed the king wanted to create a tobacco plantation which in future could suffice to the needs of Denmark. The realization of this plan would not meet the expectations. It is only exceptionally (1776-83: American war; 1813-14: Napoleonic war; 1917-18: World War) that the Danish production surpassed 100,000 kilos a year, whereas annual Danish consumption surpassed since the 18th century 1 million 500,000 kilos. Until 1783, members of the colony would go to other cities of the kingdom to teach the culture of tobacco; from 1783 to approximately 1874, Fredericia was the only Danish city producing tobacco; after 1864, the cultivation of this plant stopped at Fredericia, as the production of milk and meat became more advantageous; on the other hand farmers of western Fyen continued to produce this crop until a too heavy taxation ended it in 1920. The colony was formed by peasants who had come from French colonies between Berlin and Stettin (Bergholz, Gross- and Klein Ziethen etc. because they were dissatisfied of living there and because Frederic IV had invited them to come to Denmark. In 1719 a delegation of three peasants, Jacob Devantier, Daniel le Blond and Paul d’Arrest, arrived, for orientation, and after one day in Jutland, they decided to establish the colony of Fredericia provided certain economical and religious privileges, exemption from taxations, etc. Paul d’Arrest remained however in Brandenbourg. The first members of the colony arrived in spring 1720; in 1721, 36 families had taken out a license in Fredericia, but some went to other Danish cities; during this year, the establishment of the colony was considered completed, and, if later immigrant planters were accepted, it was only on an exceptional basis.

The colony was never large. In 1722, it did not count 150 residents, and even when it reached its maximum, around 1850, it did not encompass more than 500 members. However, the families were prolific; in 1748 the number of children per family was 50 % higher than for Danish families. In 1722-1919 the number of christenings topped burials by 909 individuals. The colony could not sustain the exceeding population which went to other cities in the country. The colonists reached a considerably higher age than customary in Denmark.

Already upon arrival, in 1720, the families were united by family ties, with the Devantier family in its center. The colony was hence not formed by an arbitrary choice, but was foremost a family enterprise. Devantier hailed from Hainaut, and most of the families came from the French-Belgo region (Hainaut, Calais), from where they had fled in 1662-86; the other families came from East and Southern France. They took refuge in Palatinate and from there to Brandenbourg in 1685 and 1686. Today the families from Belgium and from Northern France still dominate Fredericia, whereas most of the other families have either left town or are extinct. Adjustment difficulties considerably varied for the different families. One cannot say that those from Southern France were weaker than those from the North; on the other hand the number of children was larger for the latter ones [because of children mortality]. During the first 150 years families united for economic reasons, without certified, visible pathological effects, health was excellent. In our days, marriages within French families are very rare.

Colony affairs (matters related to land, taxes and plantation) were dealt with in common by the whole colony in 3 annual general assemblies; each head of family had an obligation to attend. The colony had been given a free piece of land (in 1720: 23 hectares, from 1743 on: 36 hectares) and had use, against an annual payment to the city coffers, of another little piece of land. Every family was given an equal parcel of land and paid an annual rent to the cashier of the colony; who was its only official, but he was not empowered to act on behalf of the colony; if necessary for the handling of a particular matter, the assemblies would nominate representatives, whose powers to act on behalf of the colony would cease as soon as the matter was settled. In this way the colony had no permanent representation. A royal resolution of 1863 established a consistory for this function; but this consistory represented the community not the colony. In 1889, the assemblies of the colony were replaced by parochial assemblies. In 1934, the community obtained final possession of the land given to the colony. As for the city, the issue of the colony was settled in 1905, when the city of Fredericia bought from the colony against indemnification its right of disposal for the land dating from 1720. The special position of the colony in the state of Denmark in social, religious and economical matters ended with the Constitution of 1849. Henceforth the colony did not exist any more from the state administration perspective. Thus the colony was gradually liquidated since 1849 and its existence ceased in 1934.

In accordance with the “Discipline” the colonists organized themselves immediately as a reformed community with Consistory, school and religious service, directed by a colonist until the establishment of a pastor in 1722; the service was celebrated in a room of one of the settler until the construction of the temple in 1735. The amount required for the building of the temple came from a collection conducted in Denmark, Germany, Holland and Belgium (Walloon Synod). Later the King and rich French financiers (Huguetan, Desmerciers, Brettonville, etc.) established a fund for the salary of the pastor. While the colony remained a closed society, the community opened itself to all the reformed people of the Jutland; services and communions were attended by Germans, Dutch and French, businessmen, military and nobles; the colony of planters however formed the core of the community; and the member community with Consistory, school and religious service, directed by a colonist until the establishment of a pastor in 1722; the service was celebrated in a room of one of the settler until the construction of the temple in 1735. The amount required for the building of the temple came from a collection conducted in Denmark, Germany, Holland and Belgium (Walloon Synod).

While the colony remained a closed society, the community opened itself to all the reformed people of the Jutland; services and communions were attended by Germand, Dutch and French, businessmen, military and nobles; the colony of planters however formed the core of the community; and the members of the Consistory were always chosen from the colonists as well as community funds were mortgaged with the colonists. In 1934 the community obtained possession of the land of the colony; it levies its own taxes for the payment of the pastor and school expenses; through the social law of 1933, assistance to poor people went to the city of Fredericia. Since 1870 a considerable number of families have changed religion to become Lutherans or catholics.

Here is the list of pastors: 1722-28 Jean Martin, 1728-32 David Moutoux, 1733-39 Jacques Bovet, 1740-82 Moise Hollard, 1785-1811 Jeam Marc Dalgas, 1812-14 J. Zilz, 1816-17 Jean Etienne Coulin, 1818-21 Jules Charles Rieu, 1823-43 J. V. W. Stahlschmidt, 1843-70 G. C. W. Stahlschmidt, 1871-83 J. J. Schwarts, 1883-97 J. Ludwig, 1899-1938 W. Staehelin, 1938- H. A. Aillaud.

From these pastors one has to single out Martin, who had been pastor in Copenhagen since 1713; for a Frenchman, he had an extraordinary knowledge of law, language and customs of the country and he managed to settle in an excellent manner the difficulties of the first years so crucial for the colony. – The very energetic pastor Dalgas was the forefather of a family which during the 19th century had a particular importance for Danish culture; it was a Dalgas who after 1864 brought into cultivation the moors of Jutland and he is considered the national hero of modern-day Jutland; another Dalgas created the world renowned Royal Danish Porcelain Manufactory; a daughter of the pastor, married to the count Stampe de Nysce, assembled in her salon, the last in the French manner, the celebrities of the day, Grundtvig, the story-teller H. C. Andersen and, above all, the sculptor B. Thorvaldsen. Rieu, the friend of Monod, through his premature death (age 28) missed being named amongst the most outstanding pastors of his century. After his death, it was no longer possible to have French pastors come for this little flock lost in Northern Europe, and from 1823 on this Little France had no longer direct contacts with the homeland. Among the German or Swiss pastors, one has to mention J. Ludwig, author of a history of the community and of an excellent and complete collection of genealogical tables of the community.

Besides the land of the colony, the colonists tilled much larger lands that the various families bought as private property or rented from Danish residents against participation in the income in accordance with the French “a half” principle, unknown in Denmark, but which remained associated with the cultivation of tobacco in Western Fyen. Besides the cultivation of tobacco, the colonists practiced an intensive cultivation of lands which served as a model to the other farmers of the area, increased the value of the land and contributed to the liquidation, in 1770 and following years, of the traditional communal cultivation by Danish villages, inaugurating the era of large agricultural reforms. For the colonists of Fredericia, Sully and Colbert cooperated thus in founding modern agriculture in Denmark, based on the principle of intensive farming.

One can assume that it was the colonists who introduced the cultivation of potatoes to Denmark; till 1846 they sent considerable quantities to Copenhagen when its cultivation was halted by the potato plague, the war of 1848-50 (revolution of Schleswig-Holstein) and by the new conjunctures favoring the production of milk and meat. The colonists introduced the cultivation of wheat in this part of Jutland; they were the first in Denmark to cultivate rapes, used only in the household, as well as potatoes; initially, they planted many French vegetables such as artichokes, asparagus and parsnips, etc., but later they learned to do without them. The colonists loved to plant trees and thus embellished the town, already so admirably located; one should remember that the large plantations in Jutland’s moors are due to the Society of moors cultivation (Det Danske Hedeselskab), founded by three men of French origin: Mourier-Petersen, Morville and Dalgas.

Until approximately 1900, the colony continued to contrast with the rest of the city, where one still mentions the “reformed quarter”, or less formally “Persilleegnen”, “Parsley area”; one teased the Calvinists by calling them “Kalmouks”; this did not hinder that one found these brown eyed, black wavy haired people beautiful: “the reformed type” (certain families however, as the Duvantier are blond); their quarter was ravished in 1821 by a typhoid epidemic, to which succumbed pastor Rieu, and which originated without doubt from the infection of one of the wells, located near to a cemetery; it was called “the reformed disease”. One mentioned “the reformed laughter” which was more intense than that of the Danish people.

The colony conducted never ending suits with the city because of the lands, the colonists were jealous of what they considered their lawful right. They oversaw mutually their dispositions and achieved during the 19th century, thanks to a strict frugality, a general affluence despite the serious crisis around 1740, 1783 and 1816. French vitality, which, during certain too well off periods, threatened to lower morals, was disciplined partly by a reciprocal supervision, partly by a religious severity, and on this point, the action of pastor Rieu was particularly fortunate. The colony’s festivities were not many but they were cheerful, trips in summer, Christmas celebrations, etc. Certain traditional games still flourished after 1900, for instance, the breaking of the eggs at Easter (young folks would gather at a ball, young ladies brought eggs and served omelets); for carnival, boys had the privilege to chase girls out of bed beating them with a stick; in private reunions, one would draw caricatures and add verses, often quite naughty ones (this game is maybe indicative of a Belgo-Flamish origin). In the household, vegetables dominated and above all soups as a remainder of French cuisine.

Family names are still living reminders of the homeland. Of all the colonies of refugees, the colony of Fredericia is the only one to preserve family names in French; in Germany, Holland, England, they were translated into the language of the country. This can be explained by the fact that Denmark having not taken part in the wars against France, no national hatred motivated there such translations.

As for first names, those of women contrasted with those of men. As the names of French women were already found in the Danish language before 1720 and had preserved their (French) pronunciation, the integration into the Danish language did not influence the names of the women of the colony; on the other hand French male names were foreign to the Danish language; it was only after more than a century that Danish names began to penetrate the colony, where the old stock of French names was already very limited due to the dominance of certain first names in certain families which became larger and larger; during the whole of the 19th century, many children were bearing the same name, so that one had to distinguish them by nicknames which were the scourge of the colony.

The spelling of the names has remained French, thanks to zealous pastors. The pronunciation however has followed the evolution of the language of the colony; the names are pronounced in the Danish fashion, which makes them incomprehensible to a Frenchman. This pronunciation is reflected in the orthography of city papers of the 18th century; due to this ignorance of the French language the city clerk has left us a precious source for the study of the language of the colony.

In the 18th century, the spoken language was partly French and partly German; from 1800 to 1850 French was replaced by Danish; the war of 1848-50, and more though, the war of 1864 raised an aversion till then unknown for the German language and Danish became the sole language. In 1823 a German pastor was nominated, but it is only in 1922 that the first ordinary sermon was given in Danish. In the city (Fredericia was a refuge city) German played a major role in the 18th century, and it this for this reason that the evolution of the language of the colonists went through 2 stages: French-German and German-Danish. In all the other colonies one would go directly from French to the language of the country.

In the 19th century, the colony did not have a language of its own, what was spoken was an arbitrary mixture of Danish, German and French elements. Today one speaks Danish there as in the rest of the city, but individually with a French character accent. One recalls however several older people, who once used certain words or certain phrases that one does not understand any more, and which turn out to be German or French, with, of course, a deformed pronunciation.

From these almost forgotten words one can mention: the place name “Tullebjerre” a swampy field, called in the 18th century “les tourbieres”, the place name “ae kamp”, a little field (un petit champ), compared to “ae gross”, the big colonist field (from the German: gross); in 1800 these were “la campe”, “les campes”, which seem to be the Belgian form of “field” and can be found with the “Hannuyers” (“those from Hainaut”) in Brandenbourg. Another denomination of Belgian origin is “patatter”, potatoes, a word that one finds presently in Western Fyen instead of the normal Danish word “Kartofler”. The basket (French: cabas) in which one carried the young tobacco seedlings to be planted in the fields, was called “ae kabo”. The churchwarden (French: marguiller) became “ae Madlje). In the year 1900 one could still use the word “assemble”. During the same time, old folks still knew Our Lord’s Prayer in French (Sunday school was taught in French until 1840). When one of the old men was drunk, he could say “un ramoneur” (English: a chimney-sweeper) but he would correct himself immediately and say: “en Skorstensfejer”. They used expressions and small words such as “a la bonne heure, parfaitement” (ale boner, pafelemang!) (English: Well done, perfectly), “foutu” in the strange composite French-Danish-German became “ferfonfojtet” and “oh sacre”, very “in” in 1900 amongst schoolchildren, French as as well Danish, as “ow sjagger”.

A particularity specific to the Eastern Jutland is “derfor ikke”, a polite response to “Tak” (French: merci!) (English: Thank you!) whereas in the rest of Denmark one says “Aa jeg be’r” (je vous en prie) (English: you are welcome!) or “Ingen Aarsag” (French: pas de raison) (English: For nothing). The expression seems a translation, that originated from Fredericia, of the French “pas de quoi”.

The pronunciation of family names has lost all its French character because of the fact that the accent is on the first syllable and that the nasal (expression) is lost. Amongst the minor changes one must list a few examples of incorrect use of consonants and the more liberal use, than in modern French, of the consonant.

Finally, spoken Danish can be modified through certain reminiscences of the French way of speaking. Still in the 19th century the meaning of French words acted on Danish words; colonists would use the word “forfore” in all cases where a Frenchman would say “tromper” (English: to deceive, to betray, to beguile) whereas Danish people would know only its meaning as “seduire” (English: to beguile); that’s why one made fun of the strange “Danish” spoken by the colonists; small mistakes like these endured the longest when they were almost unperceived prepositions; one would hear colonists say “ve ae Himmel” instead of “paa…”, “ve ae Glas” instead of “i et Glas”, “ve Norge” for “i N.”: that’s because they used the French “a” (translated into Danish “ved”, or to Jutlandish “ve”) in many instances when Danish people would not use “ved” but other prepositions. – In the 20th century one does not find anymore semantics differences, but pronunciation habits: there is a tendancy to join (words), the incapability to perceive and to reproduce the typical Danish particularity which is the “glottal stop” replaced by the colonists quite often by an extension of the consonant or the vowel; often the ending of the sentence is rising as in French, in cases when it does not rise usually in Danish; the pitch of the voice can be much higher than the pitch of Danish people, etc.

Behind the great walls of Fredericia one can still hear a French note, quite faint and dying, but still perceivable.”