Michael B. Fisk:

Debora passengers

1. Captain Tobiassen and wife

Zakarias H.T. Tobiassen came from Lyngdal near Spind"> Debora passengers_FISK  

Michael B. Fisk:

Debora passengers

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 anniversary).

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 and Kari).

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 Bergen.

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 known.

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 and Johan)

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 it".)

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 2.

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).

14. Hesselberg

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). 

15. Grung

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 worker".

In the 1875 census of Bergen we find him as a black-smith's apprentice.

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 anonymity.

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
Anton Andreassen
Zakarias H. T. Tobiassen and
R. Rasmussen

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, Illinois, U.S.A.

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 to Øhrn).

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. 1855.

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 and Knud)

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 Olsdatter.

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, 1868.

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 pen-picture.

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. 1931.)

Severin Bang left money to the Bergen Baptist Church when he died.

20. Elling Eriksen and son Erik Ellingsen

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 Hjørundfjord to-day.

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 in Europe.

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 South Africa".

There are many tales to tell about the Eriksen family but this article represents only a "summing-up" of the passengers and crew of Debora.

21. F. Larsen, wife and children (Petra, Angel, Emil Sigvart, Ludvig and Kari)

A sixth child Finn Atlanter was born during the Debora voyage 1879.

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 in 1882.

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.