Hans Pedersen – Builder of Seattle Landmarks

Maria wrote in her blog about her father’s uncle Valdemar, who had immigrated to America and settled in Seattle. She got a response from Paula, who sought information about her father Hans Pedersen in Seattle, who died when she was one month old. Hans Pedersen had as a builder helped to found Seattle. Paula did not know much about her father’s Danish origin, only that he came from Stenstrup Svendborg. I had just got very interested in genealogy research. I thought, sure enough, I can “dig up” something about the Danish connection.

Paula at Herning Library

Paula’s book “Mysterious Builder of Seattle Landmarks” was released in February 2017 and the second edition November 2017 and can be purchased on Amazon.co.uk  The book is now at the library in Denmark, and I just borrowed a copy.

A review of the book can be read at Maria’s blog-post “Paula Finds her Roots“.  A short summary:

Reading her book, I understand that she found both her mother and her father. Hans Pederson died in 1933 when Paula was only one month old. Her Canadian mother, Doris Husklak of Ukrainian origin, married Hans who could have been her grandfather. Years after the death of her mother Paula felt a still stronger urge to find out about her real father. Through a lot of research, she found that he had been a famous constructor in his time and genuinely interested in the welfare of the citizens of Seattle as well of the many Danish immigrants who came to work for him. He died too early of exhaustion from the many burdens of the economic depression which made a sudden halt to the magnificent building adventure in Seattle and other places on the US west coast.  

The story here is about what I gradually “dug” up to about the remarkable young farm boy who went to America and became a famous person in Seattle.

It turned out that Olaf Linck has written about Hans Pedersen. In 1922 a chapter “Architect in Seattle” in the book “Danes under the Star banner” and in 1930 published the book “King Hans on the Pacific”. Funen history has a section on “builder Hans Pedersen”, and Washington State Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation (dahp) has a bibliography of Hans Pedersen.

Hans Pedersen was born in Stenstrup on September 2, 1864, as evidenced by Stenstrup parish book position 15.

Stenstrup Church book 1864

The parents’ name, position, handling and residence: mother, unmarried woman Gjertrud Sophie Hansen (24 years) in Lille Løjtved currently lives with Hans Olsen and wife, (assumed) father Christian Pedersen from Hundtofte. Last column: The mother served 10 months preceding birth as a housemaid by gårdejer (farmer) Jakob Clausen, Hundtofte. – If the child had to be taken care of, it was essential to know which parish should pay.

Hans was baptized in Stenstrup church on September 11, 1864. These photos are from Maria and my “Field trip” to follow where Hans Pedersen had spent his childhood. Stenstrup Church and the view from the church tower. The manor Løjtved can be glimpsed through the trees to the left of the picture and Small Løjtved hidden behind the trees on the right.

HansP 9

An old map of Stenstrup and environs from Hans Pedersen’s childhood – note the old spelling.

HansP 10

After half a year Hans’s mother, Gjertrud went to Vester Aaby to be a housemaid at farmer Jens Jensen. Hans is being raised by his grandparents (Grandmother and Grandfather) Hans Olsen and Gjertrud Eriksdatter. The naming of children was by tradition – it was customary to name after the Grandparents. The name Gjertrud occurs in the genus many generations back and forth (e.g. also his niece). The name may exceptionally be spelled without “j”.

Schooling in Stenstrup School

On Funen, Histories website can be read teacher Jørgen Nielsen’s memories. He took office in 1866 and has been a teacher since Hans began his schooling at age 7 (1871).



Teacher Jørgen Nielsen and Stenstrup old school.- (from Jørgen Nielsen memories and History of Fyn).

Olaf Linck’s book “Kong Hans on the Pacific” refers to his school and teacher:

“I was at home in Denmark in 1913 and went to greet my old teacher, but he could not remember me. Can you not remember Hans, whose father was a blacksmith and had 12 bushels of land lying in the village Hundtofte? I asked. I described our house in Stenstrup.

The teacher was now an old man, he thought carefully about it: Yes, the house he might remember, and he also felt that there was a boy in the house. “

From school I remember this – quote from Olaf Linck (1930):

“I was sitting at the top of the school and was number one, and I was also at the top of the aisle when I was confirmed. I got ug (highest grade) in most subjects, for example in mat after Chr. Hansen’s arithmetic book and in Denmark’s history and geography. I was also the strongest boy in the school. I could comfortably pass on the other when we took clinch. The only thing that was about to be as strong as I called Jens Poulsen, he has since become a painter in San Francisco. “

Christian Hansen mathematics book and a few mixed tasks. 

Hans Olsen – his grandfather – is in the census described as a stonemason, blacksmith, husfæster (renting house) and day laborer. The 12 bushels land Hans mentions is equivalent to 1½ acre, with today’s standard ¾ hectares, representing a tiny piece of land that cannot support a family. He probably supplemented his income with forging and been hired for the day. Husfæster means that it is the manor Løjtved who owned the house and that he was employed for the day up on the farm.


The estate Løjtved where his grandfather probably was hired for the day and where Hans has been many times. – A view from Løjtved toward Small Løjtved where his birthplace can be seen on the right in the picture.

HansP 17

Hans mentions the house in Olaf Linck’s book (1930) – Quote:

“Hans finds a yellowed photograph up of a small house on a side street. It is Hans Pedersen’s birthplace in Stenstrup. The house is roofed with tiles, and it does seem to be well maintained. Four windows facing the road, two on each side of the entrance door, it is well balanced as it may well be. On the windows is glimpsed many potted plants. And at the end of one side, we have the garden that is fenced by a round clip hawthorn hedge. My clogs have often clacked against the strip of stone, which extends some yards on either side of the door. “

What Hans remembers from his childhood, a quote from Olaf Linck (1930):

“One of the most interesting was, of course, when the first train Odense-Svendborg went through Stenstrup because I had never seen a train before.”


The railway was opened in 1876, here is a train arrived in Stenstrup Station. – Stenstrup Station 1998.

“I also remember when we changed the coinage in 1873, from mark and skilling to the krone and ører. The schoolteacher used to swot that into our heads, but at home, it was still mark and skilling. “

Skillings coin on top – it has been on the ground in Nyrup and found my sister Eva. – Kroner and ører issued by coin changed in 1873.

Old pictures and buildings from Stenstrup.

Stenstrup  2016.

“What also stands clearly in my memory is a school excursion down to Tåsinge, where we from Bregninge church tower was given the opportunity to look out over the land and sea. It was an excellent round spectacle. The teacher told us that from the tower we could see a seventh of all Danish churches – would it be right? “

When Maria and I were on our “Field trip” we also came to Bregninge church and climbed the tower. We were up in the tower both to enjoy the beautiful view, but also to take pictures and show to Paula – Hans Petersen daughter – what her father told Olaf Links and reported in his book (link to Paula’s blog post).

Up in Bregninge church tower – stunning views.

View from the Bregninge church tower.

Quote from Olaf Lincks book:

“I had not forgotten the time when, as the Indre Mission movement came to the area, the old folks were very interested, especially my grandmother, and I was curious and wanted to attend the meetings. “It’s not something for children,” said my grandmother. Why not? The speech piqued my curiosity the more, and I sneaked into the meeting. I stood and listened, hiding from my grandmother’s skirts, but I made sure to be home, so I was back in the living room before her. What did the missionary say? I asked as she entered. You may not be interested in that my boy came the reply.  I then jumped up on a chair and delivered the entire lesson that the missionary had told them. Grandma looked astonished at me and exclaimed: It is an astonishing memory, the kid has! “

After confirmation, the school ended, and it was normal to get out from home and “earn” as it was expressed. That meant to work on a more prominent farm.


FT1880 Krarup ops 18-1

At the census 1st February 1880, we find Hans 16 years as a laborer at the farmer widow Karen Madsdatter in Krarup town and parish. Krarup about 6 km from Stenstrup so he could easily visit his grandparents.


Hans joins the lægdsrullen (military conscript). He is like all other young men called to the session, and he is found suitable as a soldier. The height was listed at 63½ inch = 161.3 cm. He is endorsed by EK 5 which is conscripts who are not ideal for any of the classes such as Navy, Garden, Cavalry, Field artillery. He was assigned to the Seventh Battalion.

He meets as a soldier March 31, 1883, and dismissed on Oct. 3, 1883.

He was recalled Sept. 2, 1885, but fails to show up (noted “traveled to America”). He was not given moving approval and must, therefore, be addressed by §28 if he meets again.

Hans remembers his time as a soldier and mentions it in Olaf Linck’s book – Quote:

“An Excellency is that not a man who is particularly adept at shooting? Hans Pederson achieves along this detour to commemorate his good Remington rifle “Model of 1867”. He says that he was an infantryman in Nyborg and was a good shooter who achieved proficiency designed for shooting at long distances. The day he was dismissed from the army, he was also a member of Svendborg County Rifle. “

From Nyborg’s local history I have found some pictures “garrison in Nyborg“. – These two handsome soldiers could very well be Hans Pedersen.

Photos of soldiers garrisoned in Nyborg (Nyborg Local History Archive).

After his time in the army, Hans Pedersen immigrated to the United States – of America as it is listed in lægdsrullen.

That is another story about Hans’s Danish family, many of whom also emigrated.




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