Danish settlement, Fresno County, California, acculturation, foreign environment


Danish settlers were first attracted to Fresno County, California, in the late 1870's. By 1920, at the close of the era of Danish immigration, 1,839 Danes, 1 % of the entire Danish population of the United States, lived in Fresno County. The idea of Mediterranean crops thriving on twenty acres of fertile soil was tempting to aspiring farmers. The possibility of confining farm work to such a small land area seemed more preferable than one-hundred and sixty acres of spreading wheat fields in the midwestern prairie. A prospering fruit farm or a vineyard in sunny California was a dream of luxury for a young farm worker from Denmark, but the agriculture and climate, as well as the ethnic diversity of Fresno County, were very different from that which immigrants had known in Denmark. Although they initially accomodated themselves to these differences, their new surroundings actually prompted them to settle in close-knit Danish neighborhoods, to establish Danish church congregations, and to maintain a traditional way of life. A close study of the immigrants' new lives in Fresno County and the development of their community will illustrate one way in which Danes reacted to the experience of immigration.