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  Ane Kathrine Bjerregaard's story

She will lose her head, and will then be burnt...

Tragic 150th anniversary of the 19 year old girl who was executed for "burning down the town"

On March 14th one hundred and fifty years ago the result of one of the most tragic trials in Hobro's history drew to a close, as 19 year old Ane Katherine Bjerregaard was executed that day on the brown hill outside Hobro.

The young girl was a servant at Jens Mikkelsen's, the grocer and distiller at the big grocery store on the west side of Adelgade (now number 42).  She had taken a few yards of linen and various other small things from him.  The grocer discovered the theft and made the girl confess, and threatened to throw her out of her job.

The girl then presumably got the desperate idea that a fire would create so much confusion that the theft would be forgotten, and therefore she set fire to the store without considering that she might bring a frightful catastrophe on Hobro, which had recently been devastated by a huge fire which had reduced half the town to ashes.

The fire spread so quickly from the grocer's house to the neighboring houses, and the result was that the other half of Hobro lay in ashes, and in the middle of winter half the town's inhabitants were left without a roof over their heads.  Many of the people had to move away, reducing the number of people living in the town, the effect of which was apparent for many years.

An extra court was set up in Hobro for the trial, and the five judges, consisting of the town's bailiff and four of the town's most distinguished men, sentenced her to death on 13th of July 1813 and cited among other things as a reason for the harsh sentence "the immortality of the deadly arson that she had committed was increased because she had witnessed the misery caused by the earlier fire on the 19th of August 1812, and this should have created such an impression on her that she should not have been the cause of another calamity".

The county court in Vibørg upheld the verdict, and said "The sentence of the court is that Anne C. N. Bjerregaard be beheaded and that her body be burnt as she deserves, that she be fined 40 lod in silver payable to those whose property was harmed, that she forfeit to the crown any inheritance which she would have been due to receive, and that she pay the cost of the legal prosecution and resultant expenses".

On Decemember 16th 1813, the High Court ruled that the sentence would stand.

The reason that the punishment was so severe was due the fact that a fire in those days was usually an immeasurable catastrophe, and in Danish Law it says "If a man sets fire to another's house or wood on purpose it is deadly arson" and will incur the most severe punishment that the law can provide.

King Frederik VII had the power to alter the sentence, but the king confirmed the sentence and it was decided that the execution should take place on March 14th 1814.

In the evening of March 10th the young girl arrived from Randers where she had been imprisoned for most of the time.  At the same time the executioner arrived, and the bailiff Rommedahl had great difficulty in arranging the necessary helpers, the so-called "nightmen"

The "nightmen" in Mariager and Hørbyrefused to assist and it wasn't until the last moment that they managed to get hold of "nightman" Rasmus Hansen and his wife from Viborg, who assisted with the execution, which took place on the brown hill in Vester Bakker outside Hobro.

In order to burn the girl's body, it was decided at a meeting of the town council on March 3rd, that four of the the grocers in Hobro, including Jens Mikkelsen, should each arrange to provide a load of firewood, from near Mariager abbey to spare the town further expense.

Because it was expected that many people would want to witness the execution, the bailiff had intended to call in various men from Skjellerup, Nørre Onsild and Hobro to keep order, but the authorities in Randers decided it would be more sensible to send military assistance and the dragoons came to Hobro to keep peace and order during the execution.

On March 14th Ane Katherine was taken through the town from her place of detention on Store Torv, and by her side was pastor Spur, who administered the last rites, and stood by her side when the moment of execution came.

About the execution, the bailiff wrote to a friend in Aalborg "Yesterday we witnessed a dreadful scene.  The unhappy girl who set fire to Hobro on February 2nd 1813 was beheaded and burnt on a bonfire".

After the execution there was an embarrassing incident when the "nightman" wanted to undress the body and take her clothes, which he thought he was entitled to.  He was told that he could have her apron, headwear and shoes, but that any further undressing would be indecent.

A somber memory has naturally occupied people's thoughts, and in 1885 under the pseudonym "X" (editor Hans Jacob Hansen of Hobro published a story of "The girl who set fire to Hobro".  The story is not based on fact, and the product of a fertile imagination.

The event was recorded for posterity when teacher HJ. Schmidt published a little factual historical book on the circumstances surrounding the fire and the execution - the first of his works of local history, which led to a rich production.

After the war a choral work called "Maiden Anne of Hobro" was staged by organist Aage Dyrholm, who had also written the music.  It was a fine choral work which was beautifully staged, but it does not follow the historical facts.  It was characterized by sentimentality and was intended to restore the girl's reputation.

The coral work let to a road in Hobro being named after her: Anne Cathrinesvej, in the Højlunds area which is near the brown hill where the drama was played out.

throughout the years, teacher HJ. Schmidt has researched the story further, and in his archives of the town's history there is now so much material that the sad old case must now be considered to be fully illuminated, including the circumstances surrounding what today is considered to be a harsh punishment.

A set of iron shackles with tiny wrist loops still hangs in Hobro museum, and it is thought that these are the chains which Anne Catherine bore on her last journey to the brown hill.


To read the full story, please read a book called "selvejerbondens datter" written by Nicoline Kirkegaard in 1905. Ane Kathrine Bjerregaard was the daughter of Niels Nielsen Bjerregaard first marriage and had just bought the farm Bjerregaard.

The book is telling a slightly different Ane Kathrines story. Her father was a strong man and the family was poor in the beginning. The story changes a bit and it claims that she came to the town Hobro and Ane Kathrine Bjerregaard was said to have stolen some linen, which was not true. In anger she put the house where she was serving, on fire and unfortunately half of the town burned down too.

Her execution was one of the last in Denmark.

Thank you to Helle Nielsen and Sonja and Richard Cole for bringing this story to the family site.


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