A son of Jørgen la Cour (no. 09) and Charlotte la Cour (née Guldberg), Peter was born on 14 November 1798 in Odder. After his father’s death in 1809, he was enrolled in a lower secondary school in Aarhus. He was confirmed in the church in 1812 and working as atutor in Vendsyssel in 1813, but by 1814 he was a clerk with the Hads Herred district judge* and in 1815 a
clerk with the town and district judge in Kolding. In 1819, he was admitted to his stepfather’s teacher training college in Lyngby, a village southwest of Grenaa on the Djursland peninsula, and graduated from there with honours in 1820. He then became a private tutor for the household of Pastor Budtz in Torsager until 1822, when he became a teacher at the
Domsognets primary school in Aarhus. In 1824 he was hired as a teacher at the Kirketerp primary school in Randers, but he gave it up in 1827 to attend upper secondary school. He graduated from upper secondary school in 1829 and then took the university entrance exam, but repeated and persistent typhoid fever forced him to abandon his theology studies at university, his health also having deteriorated due to overexertion and his limited means. At that time, he lived in a small attic room with his cousin Carl Georg (no. 13), who later became a general. Later in life, they were both able to tell many stories about what they had to do to make ends meet. In 1832, Peter founded a school in the Christianshavn quarter of Copenhagen, which he sold in 1835, afterwards becoming a cantor* in Fakse.
Peter married Ane Dorothea Elisabeth la Cour (née Priergaard) on 28 October 1835 in Fakse. Ane was born on 25 October 1797 in Riddersborg, and her parents were Peter Trolle Priergaard, an estate owner* and bailiff, and Else Cathrine Dorothea Barfoed. For many years (most likely from 1814 to 1826), she had been housekeeper at the parsonage of Christopher Ole Bjerre, pastor for Hunseby, but in 1826 she served in the household of H.P. Barfoed, her maternal uncle and the rural dean* in Fakse, where she then spent most of her time until her wedding.
The 1840 census tells us Peter was a schoolteacher in Fakse, living with his wife at the school where he worked, along with a student and three servant girls. But his brooding disposition, combined with his humble background and his delicate health, must have weighed heavily on him, for he again felt the need for change and quit his job in 1843. The year before, his brother Laurits (no. 52) had helped him lease and conditionally purchase Margrethelund, a farm near Ebeltoft, where he had also established a boarding school that was both sought after and highly respected. Margrethelund was an ordinary little farm, and with that farm came a dependent family – a man, wife and ailing daughter – so it was always difficult for Peter to raise the money necessary to live. He had trouble walking, so most often he had to ride in the fields when he was supervising his workers. As a child he often had cramps that turned his left foot into something that looked like a clubfoot, and, especially because he had to have his left shoes made to accommodate this tendency, people thought he was born with a clubfoot, but he was not. Some years after their marriage, his wife cut her right hand with a rusty knife, and after a very long period of infection, the hand became stiff and useless. These physical disabilities inhibited them a great deal and often made things difficult for them. In 1859, Peter finally acquired full ownership of Margrethelund, and he died there on 25 May 1862.
In 1849, Andrea Lønborg Jensen, whose husband Harald Jensen was a lithographer, came as a twelve-year-old to Margrethelund to work as Ane’s right hand and ended up staying with the la Cours for 15 years. She wrote a description of Peter: “If I am to provide a character sketch of Uncle Peter, I have to say that he was the best and most noble person and that I loved him; he was also a handsome man with fine and noble ways. He looked more like a pastor than a farmer, and he could be quite amused when people sometimes addressed him as ‘Pastor’. But when I now mention the fact that he was very strict and inspired respect, you have to remember the time he lived in. The freedom that we have now did not exist at the time. If you erred, you were not happy until you received his forgiveness, but then he could be as soft and affectionate, even lovable, as few could. He was not a practical person, and many things could have been better and different had he been a bit more flexible. Our livelihood was always quite hard, and we had no dealings with strangers. Our entertainment was at Skærsø, and there we remained for the most part, when we went out. Sometimes we also went to Nimtofte or Ålsø to his brother Christian’s. However, eventually the dependent couple and their daughter died, and the farm had been improved to a point where it was more valuable: Uncle marled his land so the crops grew well, and he sowed caraway on entire fields, which also provided a good crop, so I believe things were not so hard for them in their later years. But his health was fragile, and he was sometimes very ill.”
The love his many pupils had for him was displayed on the memorial they dedicated to him at Dråby cemetery, on which Frederik Barfod wrote, at their request: “Although childless, his heart and mind was with the little ones: for children’s souls, his words were like the dew on the straw in the field.” After her husband’s death, Ane sold Margrethelund and moved to Ebeltoft. In the spring of 1871, she moved to Copenhagen to live with her widowed sisters, Christiane and Sophie Barfoed, whose respective late husbands were Hans Peter Barfoed, a rural dean*, and Magnus Kruse Barfoed, a pastor. Ane died in Copenhagen on 8 October 1878. (No children.)