A Great Danish American Birthday: Lars Hannibal

  • July 03, 2022
  • July 03, 2025
  • 4 sessions
  • July 03, 2022 (CDT)
  • July 03, 2023 (CDT)
  • July 03, 2024 (CDT)
  • July 03, 2025 (CDT)
  • Dannebrog, Nebraska


Lars Hannibal (Born Lars Hannibalsen, July 3, 1822 in Fuglse, Lolland, Denmark- Died December 28, 1882 Davenport, Iowa, USA) is widely considered the founder of the Danish community of Dannebrog, Nebraska.  As a young man he participated in the first Dano-Prussian war (1848-50).  Tired of his hand-to-mouth existence and poor prospects as a smallholder, he left Denmark for the United States.  He and his family sailed on the "Elbe", arriving in New York Harbor on May 21, 1856.  They settled (his father Hannibal Larsen, his wife Marie, and four children) in Pine Lake, Waukesha County, Wisconsin.

Photo: Sgt Lars Hannibal, Civil War c.1860

When the Civil War broke out, he enlisted as a sergeant in Company B of the 15th Wisconsin Regiment, but was mustered out after only a year due to a recurring illness.  After the war he returned to Denmark and brought back a group of new settlers.  Following the death of his first wife, Lars married the widow of one of his former comrades-in-arms.  Hannibal was the founder of the Danish Land Company, and led the formation of the Danish Pioneer settlement in Dannebrog in Howard County, Nebraska.

Hannibal named the settlement "Dannebrog", the name of the red and white national flag of Denmark.  The book "Dannebrog on the American Prairie" by Torben Grøngaard Jeppesen describes the naming of Dannebrog... "There is no doubt that Lars Hannibal had envisioned from the start his homestead land as the place where the colony's formal center should be built.  Well placed in a pretty spot close to the Middle Loup River with Oak Creek running through it as a future tractive force for a water mill, the ground here should be taken for a town.  But in order for that to occur, there needed to be more Danes enticed to the area, who could occupy the land in a race with other land hungry settlers, who surely would follow in this summer and in the years to come.  There was, however, no time to waste.  The more land that he and his few countrymen could settle on the better.
     Soon there should be a name for the new colony.  The new settlers suggested "Hannibal" or "Chartago" in honor of the founder.  But Lars Hannibal would have none of that, because he stressed that the colony was not a single man's work, but the work of Danish peasants, and he suggested the name "Dannebrog".  And that was the name chosen".

- Thanks to Tim Hannibal of Dannebrog (direct descendant of Lars Hannibal)

Historical Marker Text: In the spring of 1871 several members of the Danish Land and Homestead Company from Wisconsin claimed land along Oak Creek. The migrants, led by Lars Hannibal, were drawn by fertile soil and the idea that Danes from across the U.S. and the Old Country could form a colony in Howard County. Hannibal called the settlement Dannebrog, the name of the red and white national flag of Denmark. Construction of a water-powered grist mill on Oak Creek sparked the village’s early growth, and Dannebrog unsuccessfully sought the county seat in 1874. The town almost disappeared in the early 1880s, when businesses relocated to Nysted, but the coming of a railroad in 1885 brought new life. Dannebrog was incorporated in 1886. By 1920 the population peaked at 436. Germans, Czechs, Poles, and Swedes also settled at Dannebrog. Although the founders’ dream of an exclusive colony of Danes was never realized, Dannebrog and the nearby towns of Nysted and Dannevirke preserve the Danish heritage. In 1989 the Nebraska Legislature proclaimed Dannebrog as Nebraska’s Danish Capital.

Lars Hannibal Obituary

Dannebrog Nebraska

Tim Hannibal discusses his ancestor Lars Hannibal

National Foundation for Danish America
PO Box 1003
Wilmette, Illinois 60091

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