The Dane Peter Lassen, Denmark, California, frontiersman


"The Dane Peter Lassen," or " Peter Lassen, a Danish Blacksmith," appears in almost every memoir dealing with early northern California. His Danishness was obvious, though no one bothers to explain why. Was his speech the telltale feature? The man was almost thirty years of age when he left Denmark, and he had had no opportunity to learn English while his tongue was ductile. He came to California in the spring of 1840, at the beginning of a decade of decision. At that moment Indians inhabited the land, Russians were still established on the California coast, Mexicans held title to the region, and British subjects and North Americans entertained acquisitive ideas. The concept of " manifest destiny," which held that California was meant inevitably to be American , was not yet clear. Men like Peter Lassen, John A. Sutter, John C. Fremont, and many less well-known, were to make that idea a reality. Lassen's physical and psychic strength, his dreams and his persistence, his perpetual new beginnings against odds, all stamp him as the prototype of the western frontiersman.