Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Jens Brunsgaard finds a wife

or how a young Danish seaman "tied the knot" in New Bern

Page from Shriner Family photo album, New Bern, NC, ca. 1920.

by John B. Green III

There is in our collection at the Kellenberger Room a photograph album dating from the 1920s and assembled by the Shriner Family of New Bern.  Among the photos of family and friends and local scenes is a page dedicated to a handsome young seaman photographed standing on the deck of a ship. The hand-decorated page bears a United States shield and flag and two inscriptions - "U.S.S. Pamlico" above the photograph and "E. Brunsguard" beneath. The album contains no further information concerning E. Brunsguard or his relationship to the Shriner family. A search of resources available in the Kellenberger Room and online, however, allows us to sketch out the basic story of Jens Brunsgaard's life.

Jens Einar Jensen Brunsgaard "E. Brunsguard" from the Shriner Family photo album.

Jens Einar Jensen Brunsgaard was born in Skive, Denmark on September 1, 1899, the son of Mr. and Mrs. A. Brunsgaard.  He immigrated to the United States in August 1920 arriving in the port of New York on August 11th. Brunsgaard enlisted in the United States Coast Guard seven days later on August 18th and the next day declared in court his intention to become a United States citizen

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Pamlico, New Bern, c. 1920.

Brunsgaard eventually found himself assigned to the United States Coast Guard Cutter Pamlico in New Bern and listed his rank as Seaman First Class when he formally petitioned to become a naturalized citizen on November 8, 1922.  He gave his marital status as single although three months later that situation would change.

Marriage notice,  Morning New Bernian, Wednesday, 21 February 1923.

On February 19, 1923 Jens Einar Jensen Brunsgaard and Miss Ruby Harris, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. F.G. Harris of New Bern were joined in marriage by the Rev. J.C. Griffin, pastor of the Free Will Baptist Church.  Jens and Ruby began their new life together in New Bern. Jens would eventually leave the Coast Guard and change his first name to James. The 1940 U.S. Census records the Brunsgaards living in Pennsylvania with their five children with James working for the railroad.  Two years later, with the advent of World War Two, James Einar Brunsgaard  joined the U.S. Navy eventually serving aboard the U.S.S. Starr in the Pacific.

Grave of Ruby Harris Brunsgaard, Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, DC.

Ruby Harris Brunsgaard died in Pennsylvania in 1949 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. James Einar Brunsgaard lived on another forty-four years dying in 1993 at the age of ninety-three.. He was buried with Ruby in Arlington. 

Grave of James Einar Brunsgaard, Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, DC

And that, as far as we have been able to trace, is the story of the young Danish immigrant and the local girl he married.  It began in New Bern and ended in the largest and most hallowed military cemetery in the United States.