HomePage Hauge BoatBuilding Norway DeboraFamilies DeboraStory Archives


A Norwegian Colonisation Undertaking


The Debora Expedition sailed from Bergen in 1879 to establish a Norwegian colony on an Indian Ocean atoll called Aldabra. The organisers endeavoured to find practical and Christian people to create a settlement based on the teachings of the Norwegian preacher Hans Nielsen Hauge (1771 -1824). The expedition was aborted in Madagascar - a few of the participants remained in Madagascar and the rest settled in the British colony of Port Natal (Durban). They were the first group of Norwegian emigrants to settle in Port Natal.

The forty-seven persons who took part in the Debora Expedition were:- Captain Tobiassen and wife, mate Berentsen and wife, mate Oftedal, A Olsen and wife, I Iversen and wife, O Heidalsvig and wife (Høidalsvig - Heidalewig), J Finsen and wife, K Bang and wife with three children (Amanda, Severin and Knut), F Larsen and wife with six children (Angel, Emil, Sigvart, the three sons of the late Sivert Andersen Hordnes, and Petra, Ludvig and Karl), H Johnsen and wife with three children (Sina, Josefine and Karl), A Andreassen and wife with three children (I don't remember their names), R Andersen, R Rasmussen, K Jensen, Hesselberg, Grang, O Fosdal, E Eriksen, P Bang, E Ellingsen, widow Egelandsdal and Miss Serene Larsen. Two children were born on the voyage: a son to Mr and Mrs F Larsen and a son to Mr and Mrs Andreassen.

Further information is now loading and follows this text - Please wait



ANDERS GJ0RVEN  (1857 or '58 to 19O5)

The farm called Gjörven lies in the Stryn valley of Nordfjord, Norway.  Just exactly where Anders was born we don't know but we do know that he came from Stryn, and it is most likely that he, like his sister, was born on that part of Gjörven called Ekrebruket.  We know that he sailed from Bergen in 188O in the company of Messrs. Kjöde, Reim, Lange and Beichmann who formed a group under the wing of the Rev. Nils Braatvedt who was coming to serve in the Norwegian Mission Society in Natal/Zululand. Durban was the destination of the five men.

It is on record that Pastor Johan Moe, who was helping the Scandinavian Lutherans in Durban spiritually, called a meeting on 26th December 188O, and a congregation of Norwegian Lutherans was formed.  Both Kjöde and Gjörven were elected to the council, which held its first meeting that same evening.  It was decided to launch a building fund for a Scandinavian Church.  Another person elected that same evening was a certain Norgaard, and we wonder if that was, in fact, the Hans Norgaard  who had married Daniel Nielsen's eldest daughter, Sofie, after the Zulu War, in which he had served as a lieutenant on the side of the British.  We don't know for sure.

The above historic meeting was recognized as the first general meeting of the Norwegian Lutheran congregation, and the congregation of St. Olav in St. Thomas Road held its Centenary in 1980 on this basis.

On 1886-O3-14 the constitution of the congregation of the Scandinavian Lutherans was amended, and all references to the Augsburg Confession and to the Evangelical Lutheran Church were deleted.  The name was changed to The Scandinavian Christian Congregation, and Anders continued to worship as one of the members.  (The first recorded christening was that of Daniel Cornelius, his firstborn, 1885.  Listed in the centenary book of St. Olav's congregation.)

In 1890 those who were definitely Lutherans left the Scandinavian Chapel to worship in the Oddfellows' Hall in Point Road.  In due course they built a lovely church in the Norwegian Gothic style of architecture in Winder Street, and inaugurated it on Whit Sunday in 1892-06-05. (Christian Fredrik Rödseth, paternal grandfather of Ing Gorven, was its first treasurer.)

Anders Gjörven boarded with Sofie and Hans Norgaard, and there met Sofie's younger sister, Keta (christened Katrine Martine) Nielsen, five years her junior.  They became engaged in March 1882, when she was 19,5 years old.  They were married in March 1884.  Keta was the fourth daughter of Daniel and Caroline Nielsen who had ten daughters in all, and nary a son, but she was the second eldest of the seven who reached adulthood.  (Sofie and Hans emigrated to USA in about 1906, after having tried pioneer life in Southern Rhodesia.)

DANIEL AND CAROLINE NIELSEN  (1828-01-28 to 1911- 02-09) &  (1835-03-06 to 1908?-04-04) respectively.

They were from Remö, Herö in Sogn, Norway, and arrived in Durban in August 1860 with two little girls, Sofie 2,5 years old and Malle  about 15  months old.  Sofie was born 1857-12-01. They continued their journey to Entumeni Mission Station,  some 20 km from Eshowe, to build for the Norwegian Mission Society under the direction of Bishop Hans Palludan Schreuder who had begun mission work in 1844.  (This was before Schreuder had left the NMS and sought support from the American Lutheran Mission).  Schreuder had worked at Mapumulo, as close to the Tugela River as possible in Natal, while waiting to be allowed to enter Zululand.  Having proved his medical skill in helping Zulus, he was sent for by King Mpande, and as a result of his helping the latter, he gained access to Zululand.

Daniel was on a ten-year contract to build for the NMS.  He built a church at Entumeni, he built at KwaMondi (Eshowe), and at Empangeni. Their third daughter was born shortly after their arrival.  By 25 August 1862 when Katrine Martine (Keta) was born, they had already been at Empangeni a short while.  Three little daughter died there, and were buried there.  They had ten daughters in all.  Seven grew up and married Norgaard, Gorven, Hagemann, Theunissen, Bang, Johanson and Wilson.

At the end of the ten-year contract, Nielsen was entitled to a free return passage to Norway.  On his way to Durban to arrange the trip he was persuaded by a certain farmer to buy his farm near Darnall, which he did, and settled there.  They called it Entembeni, the Place of Hope.
According to Auntie Ada, their eighth daughter, Bina (Jakobine), was born there, as were Inga (Ingeborg) and Kima (Joakime), all of whom married missionaries, to the great joy of the parents, who had wished for sons.
Caroline died in 1908 and Daniel in 1911.

ANTHON BERTINUS GORVEN (TONY)   Born 1886-07-14, died 1983-06-05.
He was the second child of Anders and Keta Gorven, and there is no record of his christening in the Norwegian Lutheran Church centenary brochure, as there is of his older brother Daniel's. Perhaps it was in the Scandinavian Chapel.  There were eight more siblings, including only two girls.  Tony was born and educated in Durban.  He was a good accountant, although not a chartered one. While still in his 'teens he became hard of hearing as a result of complications following on a children's disease. He was not quite 19 years old when his father died.  The latter had changed the surname from Gjörven to Gorven, legally, but we don't know exactly when.

Tony married Lavinia Grace Inglethorpe on 9 December 1913.  She was an orphan with an older sister.  Grace as she was called was born on 22 April 1890 and died on 19 January 1969.  Her sister Connie married Willy Tonkin and had two children, both of whom died childless. Grace had worked at the Ethelbert Children's Home at Malvern for three years, and known as Sister Grace.

Grace was of 1820 Settler stock and was born and grew up in the Seymour area of the Cape.  Her mother was born Emma Lina Whittle, and married William Cadwalle Inglethorpe, who died while his two little girls were still small.  They were looked after by their Granny Whittle and her spinster daughter, Hettie, at Seymour, while their mother went to work in East London.  In due course Emma re-married and she and Mr. Hall made a home for Constance and Grace for some years, until Emma died.  When Mr. Hall re-married, his wife didn't want the girls in the home.  Connie married, and Grace, at the suggestion of a Methodist minister, went to work at the Ethelbert Home.  This was presumably in 1910, when she was 20.  We don't know if Connie and Grace came to Durban with their mother and stepfather, or with their stepfather and his second wife. Nor when that was.
We believe that they worshipped at the Russell Street Methodist Church, and that Grace and Tony met as Methodist young people.
Tony used to visit Grace at Ethelbert Home, and on one occasion he missed the last train back to Durban.  No trouble!  He walked the 15 or so kilometres home!
Tony and Grace had 5 children in all - Eileen Emma, Lilian Grace, Raymond Anthony, Hugh Inglethorpe and Audrey May.  Hugh, who was born in 1920 and died on 23 November 1923, nearly 3 years old. A great sorrow.  Eileen married James Johnston in 1940.  He died in Salisbury (Harare) in 1958.  They had no children.  Eileen married Bill Riley, a widower with a married daughter, Pat Springorum, in 1971.  Bill died in 1991 and Eileen on 8 June 1992.  Pat's husband, Garnet, died a couple of months later.

Raymond married Ingeborg Rödseth (the name was never legally changed to Rodseth).  He was born on 2 September 1917, and she on 1 December 1920.


Christian was born on 11 November 1840 and died on 11 May 1932.  His wife was born Lund on 12 September 1839 and died on 21 August 1921.  They were married in Aalesund, Norway on 28 May 1868.  They left Volda, Sunnmöre, on board the Tasso on 14 July 1882, taking their four children with them to settle at Marburg, Port Shepstone, in Natal, under a scheme sponsored by the British Government.  Their eldest, Peder Aage, always called Aage, turned 13 on 18 July, and that day the Norwegian emigrants were in England, travelling by train from Hull to London, according to the book called  The Norwegian Settlers. He   was born on 18 July 1869. They arrived in Natal on 29 August 1882.  His sisters were Anna, Elisabeth and Marie Magdalena.  There had been two little brothers but they had died young.

They were given a 100 acre smallholding in the Marburg area and tried to make a living, but it was difficult as Christian was a silver- and goldsmith by trade.  After the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand, he and  the eldest daughter Anna made a trip to the tent town that was the mining camp of Johannesburg, but he decided against moving there.   He moved to Durban before June 1892. One of his reasons for leaving Norway was that there was a depression, and as he was in what would be considered a luxury trade,  he was affected more than many others.  Ing's eldest brother, Fred, said that Christian's father was opposed to his emigrating to Natal.

Anna married Alfred Höyer in Durban in 1893, and had a son Anton;  she divorced Alfred for adultery.  In 1907 she married Sigfried Friis-Nielsen, also in Durban. They had three children  - Rene (christened Randi but later legally changed), Fred and Leif.  Elisabeth married a Dane, Jörgen Philipsen, in Durban in 1896.  After their third child was born they went to Denmark in about 1906 so his parents could meet his wife and see his children, but they didn't ever return to South Africa. Jörgen ran a business  (factory?) in Copenhagen.  They had three more children.  In 1975 when Ing was in Copenhagen she stayed with two of the children who never married and were sharing a home  - Thelma (born in 1901) and Victor (born in 1905). Both have since died.  Maria Magdalena born on 1 January 1874 became a schoolteacher and taught mostly Class i, at Doonside, and never married.  She was our beloved and only spinster aunt, and was called Tante Maia.  She died in Eshowe on 10 October 1961.

Some time before 1886 Peder Aage rode on horse-back from Marburg to Zululand and saw something of the work of the NMS, and decided to apply to the NMS Misjonsskole (Mission School) in Stavanger to be trained as a misjonsprest (missionary priest).  He studied there for over 5 years and was ordained in 1892 during the celebration of the Fiftieth Jubilee of the NMS, which had been established in 1842.  When Aage returned to Natal in 1893 he had become engaged to be married to Ragnhild Hærem , daughter of Rasmus Olai Hærem, a leading shipbuilder in Stavanger. She was born on 26 February 1872.  She followed him to Natal and they were married in the Norwegian Lutheran Church in Winder Street, Durban, in September 1894. They went to live and evangelise at Patane in the lower Umfolosi district of Zululand, where the Mission had placed Aage about a year earlier.  In 1898 or 1899 they were moved to KwaMondi, Eshowe.  Their children Esther and Fredrik were born at Patane, and possibly Helga, too.  Peter, Ragnar and Aage Junior were presumably born at KwaMondi.  Margrethe Christiane (always affectionately called Gigi, pronounced Giggie) in Stavanger on 21 March 1907 while the family were in Norway on furlough and deputation work.  Claus and Haakon were presumably born back at KwaMondi.

In a heartbreakingly tragic drowning accident on Easter Day 8 April 1917, Ragnhild, Esther, Helga and a Mrs. Howell were drowned simultaneously in quicksand in the lagoon at the mouth of the Amatikulu River on the North coast of Natal.  Fred rescued a Mrs. Cheeseman who was in the group of drowning women, and was given recognition for his bravery by the Royal Humane Society.

Aage was left a widower with seven children ranging in age from 20 down to Haakon who was three months short of 5 years old.


Lars was born on 2 May 1844 and died on 17 September 1934.  Ingeborg was born on 16 May 1853 and died on 10 October 1926.  They were married in 1874 and lived on the farm Lian in Hemne in Southern Tröndelag, Norway.  Lars was the local schoolteacher, but farmed as well.  They had eleven children of whom nine reached adulthood.  The eldest, Ellef, became a schoolteacher but died of TB after teaching for only four years, and before he could marry his fiancee.  The remaining 8 children all reached a good old age.

Their nearest village was Kyrksæteröra, and that was where all were christened and confirmed, and many of them married.  To this day the village is full of descendants of Lars and Ingeborg.

Their sixth child was Marit born on 28 September 1885, who died on 25 February 1985.  After some nursing training and an NMS course for women candidates in Oslo, she was sent by the NMS to Madagascar (Malagasy) in 1914 to nurse in Tulear.  There she took ill in August 1915 (after barely 15 months in the work) and was sent to Durban for treatment.  The doctors advised against a return to the west coast of Madagascar which was very unhealthy, and so the NMS transferred her to their Zululand mission field, and she was placed at KwaMondi where Aage and Ragnhild were also stationed.  The mission conference had decided that Marit was to help Dorthea Tvedt, the matron of the hostel for Zulu school girls, and to study Zulu under Aage.  This was in 1916.


(1869-07-18 to 1945-08-30)  and (1885-09-28 to 1985-02-25)
Aage married Marit on 3 July 1918 at KwaMondi and they remained there until the middle of 1920 when they were sent to the Oscarsberg Mission Station of the Swedish Lutheran Mission (of the State Church of Sweden).
Marit's first and Aage's tenth child was Eilif born at Eshowe on 23 June 1919.  At Oscarsberg three girls were born:  Ingeborg on 1 December 1920,  Liv  Gertrud on 22 May 1922 and Kirsten Petra on 29 January 1924.
From the middle of 1924 until the middle of 1926 the family were in Norway on furlough and deputation work.  Gigi, Claus and Haakon went with the family.  Fred and Peter were already married, and Ragnar and Aage were working.
At Oscarsberg Aage Senior was the principal of the Theological Seminary of the Co-operating Lutheran Missions of Natal, with the Rev. Knut Hallendorff assisting with lectures, while still continuing the work of the Swedish  mission which he served.  There were 9 Zulu men students who did the four-year course, and were then ordained as ministers.

In Trondheim, Norway on 31 March 1926 Nils was born.  Back at Eshowe Lars Södahl was born on 24 July 1928.  Aage fathered 15 children in all.


HomePage Hauge BoatBuilding Norway DeboraFamilies DeboraStory Archives