Danish DaysAbout Viborg

A Tale of Two Cities

Viborg, Denmark

It is not known when the city of Viborg, Denmark, actually originated. It is believed, however, that this Danish town did exist when King Harald Bluetooth formed the first Danish Kingdom in the middle of the tenth century. Viborg portrayed a vital part of Denmark’s history. The elections of all the Danish monarchs occurred in Viborg. This practice began with Canute the Great in 1027, and it concluded with Christian V in 1665. Viborg was the capital city of Jutland, and it served as one of Denmark’s cultural centers during the Reformation. Today, Viborg remains as one of the most important and influential cities in Jutland.

Although it is believed that Viborg existed in the tenth century, there is no documentation to prove the existence of this Danish city until 1035. At this time Viborg was known as Viber. Later, the name changed to Viberga, and in the fourteenth century the spelling altered to its present day form-Viborg.

The name Viborg is comprised of two Danish words: vi and borg. Vi is an old Danish term denoting a place of sanctuary; such as a church. The word borg indicates a castle. However, the naming of this Danish city did not allude to any type of fortress. As previously mentioned the spelling of Viborg endured many alternations. Over a period of time the term borg eventually derived from the Danish word bjerg, which refers to a mountain or a hill. Therefore, the name Viborg literally means a sanctuary that exists either upon a hill or amongst a group of rolling hills.

In 1130 the completion of the magnificent twin tower Viborg Cathedral occurred. The builders of this divine structure erected it upon the highest elevation within this Danish city. Prior to the construction of the cathedral, an old wooden church, which dated back to the beginning of Denmark’s recorded history, had existed on this site. Over eight hundred years later, a group of Danish people decided to erect another church upon the highest elevation in the city of Viborg. This Viborg, however, was not located in Denmark, but in South Dakota. It is quite phenomenal that both these cities share this same characteristic. This Danish congregation built their new place of worship in 1911, and they named it “Our Savior’s Lutheran Church.”

Viborg, South Dakota

Peter Larsen Christiansen has the indubious honor of being the first Dane to settle in the area around Viborg, South Dakota. He came here in 1864 and homesteaded near Swan Lake. At this time Dakota Territory was still in its infancy, being created in 1861, and its population was extremely sparse; especially in what is now Turner County. As a matter of fact, it can be said that Danish people were living in this region even before the organization of Turner County. The Dakota Territorial Government, located at Yankton, established Turner County on January 13, 1871. By this time several Danish families had already settled in the area south of Swan Lake.

In 1872 Mads Rasmussen began operating a store on his homestead claim, which was located one half mile south of the present-day site of Viborg. After the establishment of a post office in conjunction with the store, this small business became known as Daneville. Soon other businesses, such as a creamery and a blacksmith shop, began to arise around Mads Rasmussen’s store. Daneville quickly became a thriving little village. The success of this Danish hamlet, however, would not be long-lived.

A desire for many of these early settlers was the establishment of a railroad line to exist within their community. In 1893 the Sioux Falls, Yankton, and Southwestern Railroad, which later became the Great Northern Railroad, completed a rail line between the cities of Sioux Falls and Yankton. Thus, this new railroad went right through the Danish settlement in Turner County. Unfortunately, the railway missed the village of Daneville by one half mile. A group of individuals then decided to build a new town along the railroad tracks north of Daneville. On a recommendation of Ole Sorensen, who was one of the land owners on which the new village was founded, the town was named Viborg after an ancient city in Denmark.

Following the establishment of Viborg, Daneville gradually ceased to exist. Andrew Jensen, who purchased Mads Rasmussen’s store, quickly moved his place of business to Viborg. Eventually the blacksmith shop also moved to Viborg, and the creamery discontinued to operate. The once thriving hamlet of Daneville had become a distant memory.

The information above is from the book Viborg, South Dakota 1893-1993. Copyright ©1992 by The Viborg History Book Committee pg. 9.