Carl Brinck Christensen Carl Marinus Brinck Christensen

by Ruth Botel, 2005

Carl Christensen was born in Budolfi parish in Aalborg, Denmark on October 10th 1860. He was christened Carl Marinus Brinck Christensen. His father, Niels Christensen, was a Master Tailor and Carl’s mother’s name was Nielsine Christine Brinck.

The census of 1880 shows the family, mother—a widow—living at Store Vestergade 30 in Aalborg. Carl, who was 19, and his brother, Rudolph at 15, were both office workers/clerks.

Carl likely obtained his education in Denmark before he in 1883 emigrated to the U.S.A. His destination was New York on the Ship Indirekte.

In the U.S. Carl taught at various schools including Elkhorn Højskole in Iowa. He became president of a college and taught American History and Literature here. During this time he published two books, one on the influential Danish critic and scholar Georg Brandes and the other on the American writer Nathaniel Hawthorne.

In 1898, Carl Christensen headed out to be teacher in the remote area of the new Danish colony of Cape Scott at the northern tip of Vancouver Island on the Pacific coast of Canada. He travelled with a man named Jacobsen, a friend of Rasmus Hansen, the leader of the young colony.

School supplies were ordered during the summer and school commenced in the fall being held in a building which doubled as the settlement’s church. Professor Christensen, as he was called by the pioneers, adopted a young boy, William (born 1891), to bring the enrollment up to the necessary number for opening the new school.

WILLIAM
ADOPTED SON OF
C.B. CHRISTENSEN
DIED OCT 17 1906
AGED 12 YEARS 5 MOS

The sun went down
While it was yet day

This young boy decided to make his father a present for his birthday in 1906. Keeping it a surprise he did the work in the shed outside. During the time he stepped on a rusty nail which was ignored in the young lad’s busyness. The wound became infected and on October 17th, the week after his father’s birthday, he died of lockjaw. The death of this young, very likeable fellow was keenly felt by the settlement. Carl buried the lad in his yard and erected a very large gravestone, which still stands (2005) over the grave.

Three more boys, Freddie, Ivor, and Henry were later adopted by Carl Christensen. The Professor was popular with the children and I’ve been told by a student at lunchtime, weather permitting, he used to take us all out to where there was a rippling stream and we would all gather around him as he perched on a stump and he would either tell us a story or read us one and another quote by a student we as kids, always used to like to go visit him at his home as he had so many wonderful things and could tell us so many interesting things.

Carl Christensen was the creator of the Sandfly, the community newspaper. I’ve been told that it was just written on the school blackboard where they had their community meetings and have also been told that it was a printed sheet of paper and that a copy of this Sandfly was still in existence in Seattle where one of the original settlers at Cape Scott moved to. Julius, my husband’s uncle said it was a small paper but sometimes carried a sting—thus the name Sandfly.

Professor Christensen was well-liked by both students and the settlers. When Rasmus Hansen left he became the leader. He had a strong influence in the lives of the families of the area.

Several years later a lake in the area was named Lake William after Christensen’s young son. Brink Lake, also in the area, was named after Professor Christensen, and I believe that Carl Christensen had something to do with the naming of Mount Brandes whom Carl had much admired in his early years. It might have been Carl’s suggestion that Lake Eric be named after N.P. Jensen’s adopted crippled son Eric Miller who died in 1910 along with Lars Jensen when their boat, the Cape Scott sank on a trip to the town of Quatsino with mail and freight. It is also possible that the town Holberg, which was named after the much beloved and respected Danish writer Ludvig Holberg, was named by Christensen.

Carl left Cape Scott in 1909. The settlers had gradually moved away, some to Quatsino and others to Holberg. He taught briefly in Campbell River and then moved to Quatsino, where he taught two years. During his time at Quatsino he became a Justice of Peace and a Notary Public. He was a leader in the community here. He gained the position of Secretary under The Vancouver Island Development League. In this position he visited Victoria several times meeting with the provincial government on several topics, always working to better the situation for settlers.

During the time he spent on northern Vancouver Island he took many photographs of the settlers and their accomplishments. He also wrote down Native Legends but, unfortunately, while living in Quatsino, his house caught fire and burned to the ground in 1912 and this historical information was lost. It is not clear whether Carl later managed to reconstruct parts of his collection.

Carl went on the teach at other coastal places—Sointula 1916, Campbell River 1918. He returned to Cape Scott in the mid twenties and taught for two years.

Breaking the Ground
Breaking the ground for the first Danish church in Vancouver, December 31st, 1936. In the front: Pastor Clemens Sørensen (left) and Professor C.B. Christensen (right).

In his later years Carl Brinck Christensen lived with his son Henry in Vancouver. Here he spent all his energies working with the Danish congregation towards building a Danish church. Thus he was on the Board (at least) from 1928, and on December 31st, 1936, he was first among those breaking the ground for the Danish church at the corner of 19th Avenue and Prince Albert Street (then Burns Street).

With joy we approach our Father’s land,
where day is forever dwelling,
where ready for us His mansions stand,
where heaven with praise is swelling;
and there we shall walk in endless light,
with blest ones His praise forth telling.
The last stanza of O day full of grace (GGG196), Den signede dag, by N.F.S. Grundtvig.

However, Carl Brinck Christensen did not live to see the finished church: he died on May 7th, 1937, and was buried from the unfinished church two days later. As he had requested, the congregation sang the hymn Den signede dag as his coffin was carried out of the church. Three months later, the Danish Lutheran Church of Vancouver, B.C., was consecrated. C.B. Christensen was a much liked man during his life and constantly gave so much of himself to the people he worked and lived with.

Based in part on research kindly provided by Carol Ellefson.


The Plaque

On Sunday, October 23rd, 2011, we, together with Lodge 328 of the Danish Brotherhood installed a plaque in memory of C.B. Christensen on our Memorial Walk. Members of his family were present, we had put a small exhibition together, and we sang The Cape Scott Song by C.B. Christensen.

Pastor Bodil Toftdahl speaking at the unveiling of the plaque Members of C.B. Christensen's family A small leaflet on C.B. Christensen made for the occasion Speeches at the exhibition Speeches at the exhibition Perusing the exhibition

The plaque
Professor C.B. Christensen. October 10th, 1860, Aalborg. May 5th, 1937, Vancouver. Founder and First President of Lodge 328 the Danish Brotherhood and Founding Member of The Danish Lutheran Church. “Vor grundvold er lagt” [1st Corinthians 3:11]