Michael B. Fisk:
1. Captain Tobiassen and wife
Zakarias H.T. Tobiassen came from Lyngdal near Spind,
near Farsund. He had previously sailed with captain Ludvig Larsen on the
"Agnes" in 1872, to Madagascar.
Known as Torstein Tobiassen Egeland, he was born Lyngdal
on 11th Sep. 1842. He married Anna Elizabeth (born Larsen, Varden)
who was born in Spind 30th July 1860.
His son, Tobias Bernhard Ekeland (born Lyngdal 15 Aug.
1891) became well known in Norway as a minister. His descendants are said
to have a painting of the Debora.
Torstein Tobiassen bought the Debora in Feb. 1881. He
then sold it to a "Creol" around 1884 for £400 (circa 5000 N.kroner).
Shortly afterwards he returned to Lyngdal, Norway. Years
later he told his son Tobias that the Debora had sunk on the south African
coast shortly after he sold it.
The captain died in 1936. (It is believed he was a cousin
of captain Ludvig Larsen.)
2. Coxswain Berentsen (second in command) and wife
Always known as captain Berentsen in Southern Africa.
He had three sons (Emil, Karl & Leo) and one daughter. Mrs. Berentsen's
brother was a Mr. Thesen, who lived in Knysna, Cape Colony and became a
member of Parliament.
Captain Berentsen bought a large farm in Matabeleland
(later Rhodesia). K. Jensen (probably the Debora passenger) purchased 3.000
acres of this farm from the Berentsen brothers (circa 1893). Jensen was
a friend of Hans Norgaard, husband of Sofie (who later wrote the book "A
Norwegian Family in South Africa").
Jensen persuaded Hans and Sofie to accompany him on the
1.400 mile trek to the farm. As Jensen was a bachelor Sofie was to manage
the house-keeping and Hans was to work on the farm. Sofie writes in more
detail about this in her book.
In 1896, during the Matabele uprising Jensen gave up the
farm and he and the Norgaards fled to Bulawayo.
Captain Berentsen remained. Sadly all the Berentsens were
killed by the Matabele warriors.
3. Coxswain Oftedal
Returned to Norway and lived at Waisenhuset in Stavanger.
4. Anders Olsen and wife
Settled in Madagascar. When his wife died a few years
later Anders moved to Natal.
During the Debora voyage he tackled the work with materials
which would be used in the first settlement.
5. I. Iversen and wife
Probably the following: In the 1875 census for Bergen
he is listed as being born in Stryn.
Iver Iversen was born on the farm Mork on Jan 10, 1854.
This is at the East end of the lake "Strynevatnet". His father was Ivar
Ivarsen Berge (1823-1889) and his mother Mari Knutsdatter Mork (1827-1875).
A photograph of Mrs. Iversen plus five other "Survivors"
of the 1879 Debora voyage appeared in a Durban newspaper in 1929 (50th
During the voyage Iver was one of those who turns on watch,
night and day. Mrs. Iversen was sea-sick for most of the voyage.
Iver Iversen worked for bishop Schreuder for some time.
6. O. Fosdal
Olaf Olsen Fosdal disembarked at Madagascar. He had two
children from native Malagasy women. Jacob Fosdal died young. His other
son Olaf Fosdal settled in Tulear, Madagascar. Father Olaf, left Madagascar
for health reasons to live in Baltimore, U.S.A. where he died (in 1928).
His Gt-gt-grand-daughter Madam Pepin now lives in Paris, France.
7. H. Johnson, wife and three children (Sine, Josephine
Helge Johnson was one of the first listed Baptists of
Bergen (1872). Another Debora passenger Knut Bang was also listed.
Helge was born in 1847 and appears to have been a chief
In Erik Ellingsen's account of the voyage he states "It
was a narrow kitchen so H. Johnson who was small of stature, was given
the job of steward (cook)".
When the Debora arrived in Madagascar Helge wrote an account
of the voyage and sent this to the Baptist authorities in Bergen.
Whether the Johnson family remained in Madagascar is not
In 1869 Helge Johnsen Kumble (born 1847) married Helene
Christiansdatter Sandø (born 1845). They got two children while
living in Bergen:
Karl, born April 17, 1872, address 18-120 Josefine, born
Feb. 22, 1874, address 22-66
8. The widow Egelandsdal.
Severin Bang states in his memoirs that Madame Egelandsdal
was the nurse. She disembarked from the Debora at Madagascar. Little else
is known of her. (But she may have been related to captain Tobiassen.)
9. Miss Serene Larsen
According to Severin Bang Cyrene Solbakken was the sister
of Mrs. Fredrik Larsen. Later she married a Norwegian captain Olsen, but
soon after he died of fever. As Mrs. Fredrik Larsen was originally Marie
Elizabeth Olsen it is difficult to identify Miss Serene Larsen with certainty.
10. Anton Andreassen, wife and 3 children (Anton, Konstance
Anton Andreassen was born (c. 1846) on the farm Veien,
Naustdal, Førde. He disembarked at Madagascar. His children were
Anton, Konstance and Johan.
A fourth child was born on Debora but died at birth. (Erik
Ellingsen wrote: "A little wanderer came to the World, or was it Debora,
but it went so quickly hardly anyone but the mid-wife nurse knew anything
About 2 years after arriving in Madagascar Mrs. Andreassen
and one child died. Anton got his sister Hele Sofia Christine from Bergen
to look after the children, but she too died.
The two surviving children were sent back to Norway. Konstance
went to Bergen and the son went to Waisenhuset in Stavanger to stay with
Mr. Oftedal. The son (Anthon), on a holiday trip to Bergen, went to Ulriken
to pick blue-berries, fell down and died.
Anton Ole Mikael Andreassen and Johanna Marthine, nee
Nielsen, had five children born in Bergen:
Constanse Sofie, born Feb. 2, 1871, address Sandviken
1-2, she died June 28, 1872.
Anthon, born Dec. 14, 1872, address: 22-88
Constance, born Dec. 14, 1872, address: 22-88
Fridtjof Andreas, born Jan. 25, 1876, address: 21-108
Johan Olav, born June 18, 1878, address 24-224
Anthon Andreassen, born 1872, returned to Norway, and
died in Bergen August 8, 1884. His address at that time Sækkegaden
It appears that Anton Andreassen joined the Norwegian
Missionary Society as a carpenter, but he died at the end of 1881.
His daughter Konstance later went to South Africa from
Norway. She married in Johannesburg and had a daughter Sigrid c. 1904.
Anton had been to Madagascar on the Agnes in 1872.
11. J. Finsen and wife
Finsen spent his time on board making window frames. It
has been said that he became prosperous in South Africa.
12. Ragnvald Andersen
R. Andersen became a wealthy builder in Durban and was
a member of St. Olav's Church in Durban for many years.
13. K. Jensen
One source states that Kristopher Jensen played a major
part in organising the Debora Expedition.
This may be the Jensen who in 1893 purchased a 3.000 acre
farm in Matabeleland. He was a friend of Hans Norgaard (see information
ref. Captain Berentsen).
Andreas Hesselberg is mentioned by Sofie Norgaard in her
book "A Norwegian Family in South Africa".
Firstly on page 88 "One of these who rented a room from
us (in Durban) was an engineer called Hesselberg. There was a lot of talk
about a new railway line between Pietermaritzberg and Ladysmith" unquote.
As Hesselberg was to be involved he (c. 1882) persuaded
Sofie and Hans to sell out and join him. In the pages that follow Sofie
describes this terrible experience and immense hardship. On page 93 she
writes: "Even Hesselberg, who once had been glad enough to live in our
home and mix with us on equal footing, even he became so proud he could
barely say Good Morning!"
Andreas Christian Hesselberg must have caught a fever,
as he boarded the steamer "Trajan" and died on the voyage from Durban to
Norway Dec. 6th, 1885. He was only 27 years old at that time
of his death.
Andreas was born about 1857, the son of Andreas Christian
Hesselberg (born July 22, 1819). The father was a ship's captain from 1850
after employment at the Royal Marine Establishment in Fredriksvern. He
died in Kristiania (Oslo) on 18the Oct. 1879. He had married c. 1842 to
Maren Regelsen and had six children.
Son Andreas was educated as an engineer and worked for
the British Railroad Company in Port Natal (1882- Nov. 1885).
Hans Jacob Elkjær Grung was the only Debora passenger
to og to the police in Bergen to register as a passenger of "Debora". He
registered on July 18, 1879 at the age of 21 1/2. He called himself a "Machine
In the 1875 census of Bergen we find him as a black-smith's
He was born on Jan. 2, 1858 and lived in a house un Bergen
in the 7th section, numbers 25 and 26. His father was Johan
Georg Grung, born 1828 - a former sea-captain - in 1875 trading in liquor.
His mother was Jusine Marie Thode, nee Magnusen, born
1828. The family consisted of four sisters and three brothers.
Apparently the liquor Business did not og too well for
Johan Gruung. He went bankrupt in 1877 and had to sell his home.
It is interesting to note that "Debora" was built in 1878
and owned by "A. Grung". Was he related to Debora passenger Hans Grung?
16. Rasmus Rasmussen
A description of the Debora voyage and events that took
place in Madagascar and later in Durban was written by "Seaman James".
Having read Erik Ellingsen's story, it is quite clear
that "Seaman James" is Rasmus Rasmussen. It is not known why he sought
Rasmus Elias Rasmussen was born in Bergen on Feb. 25,
1854. His parents were Rasmus Rasmusen Næs and Marthe Marie Olsen.
He first signed on as a sailor at the age of 15. This was on Oct. 13, 1869,
on the vessel "Hanna" on a trip from Bergen to Østensjøen.
They returned on Nov. 1, 1869.
In 1872 he sailed on the Agnes under captain Ludvig Larsen.
(Six of those who made the trip were later to sail on "Debora" 1879:
Knut Bang and son Kristian
Zakarias H. T. Tobiassen and
On Sep. 1, 1873 (having returned to Norway) he registered
as a sailor on the steamer "Kong Sverre" for a trip to New York.
On Aug. 15, 1874 he registered on "J. W. Troop" from Bergen
to Shields (England) and stayed on much longer. In the 1875 census returns
for Bergen, according to his mother, he was still in England, but on Jan.
27th, 1876 he returns to Bergen from Philadelphia.
On April 26, 1876, he sails on "West York" for a trip
to London and returns May 5, 1877 from Belfast.
He was the further voyages until, on July 12th,
1879 he registers as a sailor on a trip to Madagascar on "Debora". By this
time, of course, Rasmus was an extremely able seaman. (To understand his
attitude to sailing, and to religion his story must be read.)
In 1884 Rasmus returned to Norway his final experience
as a working sailor took place on April 27, 1893 when he registered on
"Viking" (A replica Viking longboat) for a trip to the Chicago World Exhibition)
returning to Bergen July 22, 1893.
The Bergen census Jan 1st 1891, shows address:
Claus Frimannsgade 1, Bergen.
Rasmus Elias Rasmussen born 25 Feb. 1854
Ingeborg Andrea Rasmussen born 8 Oct. 1859
Rasmus Johan Rasmussen born 17th Jan. 1883
Durban, Natal, S. Africa
Elias Rasmussen born 15 Nov. 1888
Ingeborg Erika Rasmussen born 12 Nov. 1890
Rasmus Elias and his wife Ingeborg Andrea (nee Andersen)
had more children born in Bergen:
Ruth born Jan. 19, 1893
Johannes Martin born Oct. 28, 1895
Halfdan born Nov. 25, 1897
Magdalena Marie born Dec. 22, 1900
Rasmus Elias Rasmussen emigrated to America in 1905 "to
be a Missionary" and in early 1906 he returned to Bergen from Lisbon, Illinois,
to collect his family.
On Aug. 23, 1906 the entire family emigrated to Lisbon,
Sadly, the eldest son, Rasmus Johan Rasmussen, born in
Durban 1883, died in Bergen on June 8, 1902.
It would be interesting to discover what denomination
Rasmus adopted during his "Harbour mission" work. In his Debora story there
is no doubt that he held strong religious views at one stage.
He wrote the book "Viking" in 1894. He belonged to the
mission "Bergens havnemission".
18. O. Heidalsvik and wife
Ole Ingebrigtsen Høidalsvik was born on Oct. 25th,
1852 in Volda, the son of Ingebrigt Nilsen and Berthe Olsdatter. As the
English in South Africa had difficulty in pronouncing and spelling his
name he changed it to Heidalsvik.
Ole married Anna Andersdatter Øen in Bergen June
23, 1879. Anna was born in 1853 in Sunnfjord, the daughter of Anders Giertsen
Øen (1824-1910) and Trine Monsdatter. They were married at the Magistrates
Office in Bergen as they were registered Baptists, and did not belong to
the Lutheran State Church.
The family of Anders Gjertsen Øen (later changes
Anna's brother Mons (born 1856) was the first one of the
family to become a Baptist (c. 1875). He became very import in the Baptist
Church in Norway.
Sister Jørgine (1849-1906) was the mother of Norwegian
architect Peter Arnet Amundsen (1872-1958).
There were other brothers and sisters but perhaps Jacob
(1863-1950) was the most gifted preacher. He was the one who really built
up the organisation of the Baptist church in Norway.
Ole Ingebrigtsen Høidalsvik's father died at the
age of 38 from leprosy. Also his two brothers and his mother sisters were
lepers 50 it is most fortunate that Ole survived.
Nothing to do with leprosy but an interesting medical
note is that Anna was vaccinated against small pox on 4th Oct.
Ole and Anna sailed on the Debora and arrived in Durban
on Nov. 11, 1879. They must have been in contact with Daniel Nielsen of
Entembene farm as they almost immediately proceeded to the farm.
In the following years Ole did a lot of building work
for the Norwegian Missionary Society. They had many children, eight of
whom grew up together.
In 1889 he bought a farm near Stanger, called "Ekwezane".
Ole died on May 13th 1899. His daughter Petra
Johanson (nee Heidalewig) later wrote a lovely family history booklet entitled
"The Heidalewig Story". It was also Petra who originally translated Sofie
Norgaard's book from Norwegian to English.
19. Knud Bang, wife and three children (Amanda, Severin
There is probably more information documented about the
Bang family than any other Debora family or passenger.
Knud Olai Bang was born at Fritzberg farm in Borgund parish,
near Ålesund on Sep. 16, 1831. He was the son of Knud Bang and Andrine
His first marriage was to Christine Johanne Hansen and
they had six children:
Karolina Larsine born 1856 Borgund
Petra born 1858 Borgund
Christian born 1860 (5 June) Borgund
Hermanda Bergitte born 24 Feb. 1863
Severin Andreas born 13 Dec. 1865 Bergen
Knud Olai born 7 Dec. 1866 Bergen
(It is interesting to note that another "Debora" passenger
Elling Eriksen had his children christened at Borgund church, near Ålesund
between 1860 and 1870. It is thus almost certain he knew the Bang family
and was influenced at Knud's religious views.)
Knud Olai Bang bought a house in "Nagelgaarden" in Bergen
Dec. 19, 1863 and sold it March 31st, 1879 for 3000 Norwegian
Kroners, part of which must have been used for buying "Debora".
Knud joined the Baptist Church on 5th Nov,
1870. A list with the names of 37 members of the Baptist Church in Bergen
in 1872 records at No 17: "Tømmermand" Knud Bang. Also listed was
Amund Gunstensen. Both of them were on the ship "Agnes" at that time, sailing
to Madagascar. Also on this list of Baptists was Helge Johnsen who later
saled on "Debora".
As a widower Knud Bang, on his return from Madagascar
married Hansine Martine Ingebrigtsen (nee Monsen), a widow, in Bergen on
Oct. 16, 1875. She was born in 1837 in Bergen, the daughter of Hans H.
Monsen and Caroline Rosenburg.
During his life Knud influenced many people but he himself
was greatly influenced by captain Ludvig Larsen. In fact the entire future
of the Bang family indirectly lay in the hands of Captain Larsen. (Ludvig
Larsen was born in Spind (in Farsund, Southern Norway) in 1840.
In 1867, after spending some time as an officer of the
Elieser, the Norwegian Missionary Society ship, he was appointed it's captain.
It was in that year that he saw Madagascar for the first time.
It is virtually certain that Knud Bang was on that voyage,
as his son stated: (Severin Bang's "memoirs" were recorded by his daughter
Inga many years later)
"Father again sailed on the Elieser. On the way home from
Cape Town Knud Bang told Captain Larsen - "Now my wife is dead as last
night I dreamt that I saw people trying to get her coffin out of the window
as the door was too small …""
It is confirmed that Knud's wife died on Sep. 30th,
It was Larsen's idea to set up business in Madagascar
and the London Company Porter, Muir and Lang financed the scheme. The schooner
"Agnes" was purchased and 14 men recruited. Knud Bang played a major part
in recruiting clean living Christian men.
It was thus that in 1872 Knud Bang and his 12 year old
son Christian sailed to Madagascar on the Agnes. After the 3 year contract,
Knud and his son returned to Bergen (1875). Preparations now started for
the Debora voyage.
We have a wealth of information reference the Bang family
both pre and post 1879, but time and space is limited in this particular
Suffice to say, Christian Bang remained in Madagascar
all his life. He became a very important businessman, for many years was
consul for Norway and Sweden and was British consul for 20 years. He died
in 1931, aged 71.
Severin Bang was a pioneer in the Salvation Army in Natal
and Zululand, being one of the first to carry the flag in Durban (1885).
He is mentioned in the South African Salvation Army Centenary book (1985).
Severin Bang married one of Daniel Nielsen's daughters.
It was thus his sister-in-law Sofie Norgaard (nee Nielsen), who wrote the
book "A Norwegian Family in South Africa".
(N.B. Christian Bang who had been born in Bergen 5th
June 1861, died in Madagascar in August 1931. He was 15 when he arrived
on Debora. A fine obituary appeared in the Newspaper "L'union" on 25 Aug.
Severin Bang left money to the Bergen Baptist Church when
20. Elling Eriksen and son Erik
Elling Eriksen was born on Nov. 14, 1823 on the farm Svingeset,
Stryn, Norway. His parents were Erik Olsen Svingeset (1789-1844) and Johanne
Andersdatter Ytre-Eide (1789-1861).
His family descended from Tore Aslaksen (born circa 1575)
who is recorded as being a farmer at Svingeset, From 1709-1642. This farm
is owned to this day by a descendent.
Erik Ellingsen was born on Sep. 12, 1853. His father Elling
Eriksen and his mother Marte Sjursdatter (Øvreberg). Øvreberg
is a neighbouring farm. Marte born 1832.
Elling and Marte did not marry. The reason is not known.
The birth took place at Øvreberg and Erik was brought up by Marte's
aunt; Mildred Ellingsdatter Øvreberg. Erik seems to have lived at
Øvreberg until he joined his father in Bergen in 1879 to sail to
South Africa on the "Debora".
Meanwhile in June 1860, Elling Eriksen left Stryn for
Ulstein parish to the farm Erdal. On this farm where Elling worked was
one Albrikt Olsen (born 1845). It is recorded that he later travelled to
South Africa and worked for the Governor in Johannesburg.
On 15 July 1860 at Hareid church he married Bridta Thoresdatter
(born 12th June 1834 - Parents Thore Olsen Eidet and Randi Petrine
Arnesdatter Eide. - Thore born 1803, died 1865; Randi (1808-1843)) Bridta
was born on the farm Bondal-Eidet in Jøssingfjord - this is called
In early 1861 Elling and his wife moved to Borgund parish
near Ålesund. They lived at Skaret, Ålesund, a small fishing
and shipping town. Knud Bang's family came from Skaret as did Jens Jørgen
(Bull) Anderssen. His father was consul Joakim Anderssen, a pioneer in
fishing, business and shipping trade in Ålesund and Norway. In 1876,
in America, Joakim purchased a pair of telephone apparatus from Alexander
Graham Bell which he gave to his son Jens. These were the first telephones
Elling moved to Bergen in 1873/74 and is found in the
1875 census for Bergen. Here we find he had become a Baptist.
Elling Eriksen and his son Erik Ellingsen sailed to Madagascar
on the Debora in 1879. Later Erik Ellingsen wrote perhaps the best account
of this voyage. He also wrote a letter to the Bergen Baptists when he arrived
in Port Natal, Durban.
In 1881, Elling's wife plus three daughters joined him
in Durban. Two sons remained in Norway - Johan Eriksen and Oluf Bernard
Eriksen. They travelled in a steam-ship!
Elling's wife, who descended from the family of Brekke
farm, Ørsta parish and historians have traced her ancestors back
to the Viking age and the old Noble families and Kings of Norway, spent
her spare time on horseback and often completed journeys of many miles
at a time.
Erik Ellingsen must have started work for Daniel Nielsen
at Entemben farm near Zululand as his first child was born on this farm
in 1882. Daniel's daughter Sofie wrote the book, "A Norwegian family in
There are many tales to tell about the Eriksen family
but this article represents only a "summing-up" of the passengers and crew
21. F. Larsen, wife and children (Petra, Angel, Emil
Sigvart, Ludvig and Kari)
A sixth child Finn Atlanter was born during the Debora
The 3 children Angel, Sigvart & Emil were the sons
of Sivert Andersen Hordnes and his wife Marie Elizabeth Olsen.
Sadly, Sivert was lost at sea on 27 Feb. 1869.
Marie later married Fredrik Johan Larsen Lervig. He was
born March 24, 1845 and baptised at Askøy church.
So the Larsen family sailed on the Debora in 1879. F.
Larsen and A. Olsen tackled the work with materials that would be used
in the first woodwork.
Some years after arriving in South Africa Fredrik Larsen
purchased a 1030 acre farm in Oribi Flats near Port Shepstone. This was
near the Norwegian Marburg settlement. These settlers had arrived there
The photograph of the Debora survivors (six of them) includes
Mrs. Petra Thorvaldsen (nee Larsen). The others are: Erik Ellingsen, Severin
Bang, Mrs. Iversen, Mrs. Anna Heidalevig and Mrs. Wettergren. (I have not
discovered the true identity of the latter - her maiden name.)
A descendent of Fredrik Johan Larsen - David Larsen -
lives in South Africa and carried out a good deal of research over many
years. He has a good deal more information about the Larsen family.