The fairytale of Herman Lawaetz and Ingeborg

(article for Sct Croix Landmarks, 2012 by Niels Lawaetz)

This is the story of how my great grandparents, Ingeborg and Herman Lawaetz came to be the first members of the Lawaetz family to set foot on St. Croix.

Ingeborg and Herman were from their very childhood related in various ways. Hermans stepmother was prior to the marriage to Herman’s father the house teacher of Ingeborg, and also in other ways were they and their families related.

Ingeborg had lost her mother as an only 2½ year old girl and was taken care of by her grandparents Rønnenkamp, her grandfather being the tenant of Juellinge Manor. This is where Herman and Ingeborg meet for the first time in the summer of 1875. They were only eleven year old children, Herman impressed by what he saw and quite shy, Ingeborg calm and very sure of herself.

juellinge  refsnæsgaard   hermann ingeborg

Juellinge                           Refsnæsgaard                   Herman and Ingeborg

One year later, in June 1876, Ingeborg lost her grandfather. As an attempt to comfort and amuse her, Hermans parents took Ingeborg to their home. For the first time she saw the farm Refsnæsgaard with its beaches, beautiful nature and views and with Herman doing his best to impress her. Herman even managed to capture and hide a picture of Ingeborg, beautiful as she was with her flowing hair, and a velvet band with a small medallion.

In 1877 Ingeborg moves with her grandmother from the countryside to Sølvgade (Silver Street) in the center of Copenhagen but all the summer holidays during the coming years are spent at Alslevgaard, where her father lives, or elsewhere in the countryside with other relatives.

In 1878 as a result of Herman reading all the books he would come across, his father offered him the ability to go to a Latin school in Copenhagen, and he came to live with his greater sister Ida. Again various relations meant that it became quite natural frequently to visit the house in Sølvgade.

When Ingeborg returned from her long 1879 summer stay at Alslevgaard she had grown to become a tall and beautiful teenager. This became very apparent to Herman on a summer day one year later at Refsnæsgaard. To make things worse she was wearing a straw hat making her seem even taller.

During the following years follow a nice and calm time with Herman often visiting Sølvgade but then in 1882 comes the disaster. Herman realises that Ingeborg has never really shown any interest in him and he writes a love letter, a lyrical tribute to the adored. A short answer comes back from Ingeborg, expressing her surprise and lacking the understanding of what could have caused him to write as he had done.

Herman realised the defeat and withdrew to concentrate on passing his exam to become a student but by no means had he forgotten his dream of Ingeborg.

Ingeborg on her side didn’t show any interest in Herman’s attempts to win her heart, neither during the summer holidays at Refsnæsgaard in 1884 nor at later opportunities.

Herman however concentrates on his studies and he finalises his exams as theological candidate on June 30th, 1888, 24 years old.

Ingeborg is again this year spending a summer week back at Refsnæsgaard and of course Herman is at home with his parents. They play croquet, take walks together though mostly accompanied by several children or by Herman’s brother-in-law. On Saturday night, August 11th they played with some of the children in the garden. It became late – and a bit dark under the large trees. They walked arm in arm not saying very much to each other, when Herman decided that now was the time to propose!

A bit frightened Ingeborg pulled back her arm and told him how sad she was about it but she was not able to give him her acceptance. The next day he invited her for a long walk to really talk things over and he told her that his offer that day was definitively the last he would bring and her eventual refusal would imply that although splitting as friends it would be a split for life.

Ingeborg was strongly affected and it was not until this moment, that Herman realised the magnitude of sincerity that Ingeborg looked upon the promise she was asked to give and the conviction she had to possess that she really loved him that much and in the right way. As she said ”I am sorry being so stupid because I do care so much for you”.

Having come so much closer to each other, Ingeborg later wrote that never in her life had she been in such a sad mood as that day. Herman still enjoyed her company also during the following three day until she was to leave. He joined her to the train at Kalundborg station and it wasn’t until the train had left that he felt the emptiness and the painful realisation that it was all over.

Herman now works hard to drive the memories on the fly. In October 1888 he is informed that two positions as pastor in St. Croix are idle and decides to apply. In fact the arrival of a photo that Ingeborg had promised to send him really made him take the decision and do anything he could to get the position.

But while Herman had done all he could to blow out the flame, it now burned vividly in Ingeborg. Hoping that his plans of going to Virgin Islands would come to nothing she went to hear him preach at the pastoral seminar.

On January 25th, 1889, six days after Ingeborg’s 25th birthday, her grandmother passed away, a serious stroke to Ingeborg as this meant the loss of her safe nest in Sølvgade. Herman of course heard about it and brought some flowers to Ingeborg but found only a sewing girl in the house. In a letter Ingeborg thanked him for flowers silently hoping that he would come by for a condolence visit and he did, but he didn’t stay for tea although invited to.

On March 20th Herman is prescribed as a pastor and as the one having achieved the highest office he is to preach on that day in Frue Kirke, the dome of Copenhagen. Ingeborg is present together with Herman’s family and they have invited Ingeborg to join them for lunch afterwards. She was in a terrible shape, pale and silent. During lunch they didn’t get the chance to speak to each other but upon leaving they came to stand face to face both with wet eyes. At the same moment Herman’s sister Marie came running – Herman had to hurry up – they had an agreement with a photographer – so, a quick farewell.

The plan was that on March 29th, Herman was to leave with the boat for Newcastle to visit a good friend there before going on to St. Croix, but he caught a cold and had to postpone his departure. Marie, Herman’s sister came to help him pack and as she was there the picture of the sweet but sad face that he had so abruptly left came to his mind. He had to see Ingeborg once more.

So he sent her a letter suggesting to take walk together to say each other a decent farewell.

Ingeborg on her side believed that Herman had already left and is extremely surprised. Immediately she writes a letter back and persuades the porter of the house to bring it to Herman right away telling him when and where to meet her.

The meet in Sølvgade and go into the parc of Østre Anlæg, sit down at bench by the lake and then what happened. Initially none of them said a word – they looked at the ducks by the lake, the children and their nannies but eventually Ingeborg laughted and said “ Oh what a surprise for Emma when I tell her that we have become engaged”

And so the real fairy tale took its beginning as Ingeborg and Herman went to buy their engagement rings and enjoyed the next eleven days in each others company travelling to their families to bring the news.

Herman left for St. Croix on April 14th, 1889 and arrived in Christiansted on May 3rd. He came back to Denmark on January 23rd , on February 28th, 1890 they were married in the church of Karise and on Sunday night March 2nd they started their journey into the wide world together and into 14 years in Christiansted which appear to have been as happy and joyful as one can imagine.


Written by Niels Lawaetz (A6.2.1.1)

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