Christian Brandstrup's Memoirs


The Author and the Article

Christian Brandstrup (1859-1937) was a leading architect at the Copenhagen City Architect's office for many years. He built a number of schools and had already in 1887-88 built the Business School of Maribo. In addition he built a number of private villas and official residences, including a few rectories. His style was influenced by the Novel Baroque with red bricks and plastered ornaments.

As the son of teacher in Tranekær Frederik Brandstrup he is in the centre of an interesting branch of the family, which includes quite a number of famous Danish artists.

His memoirs were originally published in Danish as a manuscript in 1931. They have now been made up as a web document by his granddaughter Kirsten Brandstrup and by Jan Tuxen. The present extracts, mainly concentrating on the ancient history of the family and its emigrants to U.S.A., have probably originally been translated by a Danish family member and sent to the family in the U.S.

  My father's father was surgeon at the cavalry in Odense. He married, as far as I know, beneath his own standing, a maid. His name was Laurits Brandstrup and he was an educated and cultured man. His wife was nee Danieline Berteline Schmidt. The home was poor, and the relation between the two was, as far as I know, sad and unhappy, perhaps because of the mentioned difference of standing. My grandfather became periodically insane in a rather young age. The illness was incurable, and he died in an asylum in Odense. My father was born in Odense on April 6, 1812, christened at home, and finally christened in St. Hans' Church on April 13, 1813. He had a brother who died young, and two sisters, aunt Mine and aunt Marie, who both married .................  

  Father was by nature of a childlike, soft and enthusiastic spirit, easily influenced, very musical he was too, and music came to mean very much for him during his life............

  Probably about this time he fell in love with a young, attractive, beautiful girl, Marie Krömmelbein, who was a teacher at Bøgeskovgaard near Svendborg. He proposed, but got the answer that he was too young ..........

  when he returned (from a journey to England) he applied for a position as teacher, which he didn't get, as he did not know how to play the organ. This he learned, and then applied for the vacant position at Tranekjær, which to his great surprise and happiness he got. Then he repeated his proposal to his beloved Marie Krömmelbein, and this time he succeeded. Now he had a living, and they were married. She was, as mentioned, very beautiful, and thereto good and mild, loved by everyone she got in contact with. The home was very simply furnished, and their living in the first years has certainly not been luxurious, but an extreme happiness and harmony reigned. Father loved and adored his young, pretty wife, and she learned to return his fealings.   It was the true model for a home. Father showed his inborn abilities and became a very clever and respected teacher. Once, during this period, when Bishop Monrad visited the school officially, he expressed his satsfaction with the results of father!s work and proposed to the King that father be decorated as a knight - a decoration he got and kept with honor during the rest of his long life.

  Father had in his first marriage 4 children, Laura, Hanne, Carl and Frederik. There were two years between them, and they were all pretty, clever children. Frederik, the fourth in the flock of my older brothers and sisters, was out sailing as s sailor and as a rule missed the joys of vacations at home, which he could only enjoy occasionally. As a child, he was the worst jester of the flock, always alert, hardly too obedient or industrious, but a nice little square-built guy, nicelooking and intelligent. Once father saw him up in the church spire, where he had gone outside the bannister and now balanced on the small edge the whole four-sided spire around vithout holding to anything. Father had to turn away and did not dare cry for fear of terrifying the boy who could eaaily loose his balance and fall dovn. But ny good "Namse" which was his petname didn't hear the last of it yet when he came down, but was severely punished.

  But the four oldest lost their mother as children. She died from cancer in the chest when Frederik was only three years old. She suffered terribly but bore her sufferings with great patience and pious submission. ......

  It was an awful blow to father and a heavy loss for the four children and the whole home, when their mother died. In this period father's hair turned grey. I have only known him with the heavy-curled grey hair which, not until his old age, became white, and which he kept until his death. He grieved deeply, so much more as he had seen how much she suffered, whom he had loved so much..........

  The children's mother who had been a friend of Miss Hanne Fenger......had begged father that she be the chlldren's

  stepmother........, and so she became an extremely loyal, beloved and sacrificing mother who fully compensated the children for what they had lost. She herself has told how the small 3 year old Frederik, the day she arrived, from sheer shyness hid behind a door, and from here mother had to drag him, take him on her lap and tell him stories. From a capital mother brought with her Carl and Frederik were sent to school in Odense. They were not brilliant, but they passed their high school examination before they left school.......

  Frederik went to sea after his confirmation and was a brave, courageous sailor. I remember that twice he was shipwrecked and once lost his ships-chest and all his clothes. The second time he managed to get his ships-chest with him home, but it was filled with thoroughly wet, half rotten clothes. Then he got a new gear and left for long voyages. Once he came home and brought with him, as we then thought, one very beautiful, exquisite work-box, which he gave to sister Mea who was very proud and excited. The box was totally covered with shells of rare kinds, in the middle of the lid there was one so big that in its hole there was a needlepad of deep red velvet. Inside the lid there was a mirror. Yes, it was marvelloua, and Frederik had bought it in Lisbon which, of course, also enhanced its interest. As Frederik grew up, the ambition woke up, and he wanted to be a naval officer, for which job he would be very fit, as he had a good brain and was an extremely bold sailor. He went to the Naval Academy, and was a very well liked and practical cadet between his comrades. We, his younger brothers, admired his fine, guilted dagger, when he was home during his vacations. Once, on a Christmas holiday, I had been naughty; in secret I had filled his long boots with snow so that he had his feet soaked when he put his legs in the boots.   So he seized me, and I was going to have a good flogging, but at the last moment I was saved by the good humoured Carl who, of course,  could not bear that I should suffer this most deserved punishment.

  When Frederik was in for his final examination at the Academy, he had not been enough diligent, and he failed in the important subject of navigation, and thereby his dream of becoming a naval officer was over. This again was a big disappointment to the old couple. Then Frederik had to obtain an exam for mates, and he sailed for several years as a mate in The United Ste&mship Company, but he was and remained for the rest of his life deeply melancholy - the disappointment had been too much for him - to him it was a big degradation to be in a milieu which was far below that to

  which he had been accustomed. Later on he sailed for many years in the big transatlantic Belgian Company "Red Star Line", where he advanced to be l. mate in one of the biggest boats.

  When I returned from my long journey abroad, I had made an appointment with him to meet with him in Antwerp —at that time he sailed on the s.s. "Rhynland" between that town and New York. When I arrived in Antwerp, he had not yet arrived, but there was as address to a couple of nice inn-keepers where I could stay and who on my arrlval gave me a much needed gold 20-francs piece together with an address where I could start working tne next morning. Then one day the big, beautiful steamer "Rhynland" sailed up the river Schelde, and there was Frederik standing on the bridge. It was indeed nice to see him again after several years, but rather sad, in his cabin, to see the pictures of the old school at Tranekjær, the old folks, and much more. When we were off duty in the evenings we were together, for 8 days we enjoyed ourselves until "Rhynland" left. The first night we dined in a nice restaurant, and afterwards when we had coffee and cigars we told eachother what we had seen and done, and talked about the home in Tranekjær. Frederik, who like me for a very long time had heard no Danish spoken, marvelled when I spoke in the home dialect. While I was in Antwerp, Frederik came there; then I returned to Denmark.

  Frederik was an excellent, courageous and cool-headed seaman. Once en route for New York under a hurricanelike storm one day in the twilight he observed from the "Rhynland" that a small vessel had hoisted the S.O.S.-flag and was heavily damaged.  "Rhynland" stood by during the night, and the next day when the vessel could still be seen, Frederik asked for a voluntary crew to go with him in a boat and try to save the crew on the vessel. They succeeded in getting the boat into the sea in spite of the terrible waves, and with Frederik now at the helmet they now rowed to the vessel, got contact with it, and saved the whole crew as they jumped into the waters one by one, and were hauled into the boat. Everyone came safely on board the "Rhynland", but when the boat was to be lifted on board, it was smashed against the ship's side by the waves. For this seaman's deed Frederik received from the Canadian Government a beautiful goldwatch with the following inscription: "Presented by the Govsmnent of Canada to Mr. Frederik Brandstrup, second officer of the Belgian s.s. "Rhynland" in recognition of his human and gallant exertions in the rescue of the shipwrecked crew of the barque Canadian Cornwallis of Winsor N.5, 23rd March 1885." I have borne the watch since Frederic's death.

  His widow sent it to me, I think because she felt that I was the only one amongst his sisters and brothers who steadily corresponded with him and sometimes sent him a little money when he was in need thereof. Frederik married namely in New York miss Susan Simmons who, like him, was not quite young. She was as excellent, and loyal wife to him until his death. When he eventually married, "he went ashore" as one says when seamen leave the sea. He lived poorly for several years going from one job to another, but, finally, he got quite a good position with a railway company in St. Paul. Here he had been living for several years when he suddenly got meningitis and died in 8 days after severe sufferings. He had two wonderful children Mary and Freddie, whom he loved very much, adored by children as he was. After her husband's death, Susan moved to New York where she lived under poor circumstances by sewing and from the interest of a life insurance which had been paid to her on the death of Frederik. Here in New York Laura has visited her twice on her way to Boston, where two of her children, Christine and Ellen, were married, both of them with American citizens. Little Freddie died in his teens from tuberculosis, but Mary is married in New York with Mr. Nathan, a real estate agent, and has two nice good children, Freddie and Marjorie, who are now half grown up. Mary is a pretty, happy wife with whom we correspond. She looks like aunt Laura, and everything here at home in her father's country, which she has never seen, seems to her to be surrounded with a pathetic nimbus. She is attached to her fathers kin with great. loyalty. Jørgen has on his journeys to and from Haiti vlsited her twice.