Chapter 09.00: The Denmark Letters

Introduction to Bacon & the Art of Living

The story of bacon is set in the late 1800s and early 1900s when most of the important developments in bacon took place. The plotline takes place in the 2000s with each character referring to a real person and actual events. The theme is a kind of “steampunk” where modern mannerisms, speech, clothes and practices are superimposed on a historical setting.  Modern people interact with old historical figures with all the historical and cultural bias that goes with this.

The Denmark Letters

An iconic photo of Oscar, Eben, and Jeppe at the Cavern Club in Liverpool (Jeppe is Danish and worked as a big projects man for Tulip in the UK on bacon factories) taken on 2012/03/18.

I arrived in Denmark (1) in February 1891 after a tiring journey through Hull in England on the Steamship Salmo (2).  It was a homecoming of sorts.  My ancestors hail from the Danish city, Tønder (German: Tondern or Tuner).

Three brothers came to South Africa from this small border town. Adolph (Adolf), the oldest, born in 1674, Andres Cornelsen, born in 1676 and Johannes, born around 1706.  Their father, Albert Cornelsen, was a peasant from the Danish/German border town, Tønder.

Tønder is a farming community surrounded by unspoiled lowlands and marshland that became famous for its lace industry.  Andres Cornelsen was not the oldest but took the lead to go to Cape Town.  He was endowed with an unusual mix of courage, and an appreciation for adventure and leadership.

In Amsterdam, he joined the VOC probably solely motivated by economic hardship. He was employed on the VOC ship, “Huis te Bijweg,” bound for the Cape of Good Hope.  He was listed as “Andres Cornelsen from Tonder” and at the Cape, he adopted the surname “Van Tonder.” (3)

He sailed from Amsterdam on 9 May 1699 and arrived at the Cape of Good Hope on 21 Oct 1699.  Shortly after his arrival he was given freedom from his employment to the company and allowed to choose between the life of a farmer or doing an apprenticeship.  He wisely chose the latter. Being a free farmer was an extremely hard life.

Vrijburgers (free citizens) were given contracts to farm along the Liesbeeck River. Here they ‘put forth their hands to work’ under unimaginable harsh conditions. They were mostly illiterate with little or no knowledge of farming. They were to plant clops ‘without delay’ along with the odd vine cutting that Van Riebeeck, the Dutch Governor, forced on them. The crops they plant crops had to be different from what was already under cultivation by the company.

High on their agenda would have been to urgently build themselves some sort of shelter for protection against the elements and lions, leopards, and other predators. The Khoi were also taking up arms, rightfully angry at being pushed off their traditional grazing lands.

The VOC paid the vrijburghers barely enough for them to settle their ‘start-up loans’ let alone make any profit. Almost 190 men were given their Letters of Freedom over a five-year period by Jan van Riebeeck and of these, fewer than 3 was left by May 1662. Some passed away, some ran away and many opted to re-apply for employment with the VOC. These burgers all discovered that ‘freedom’ actually meant living in abject poverty. Cleverly,  Andres Cornelsen decided to become a miller instead (3), avoiding much of these hardships.

His brothers soon followed him to the Cape and together they became the clan heads to the Van Tonder’s of South Africa.  So it happened that my voyage to Denmark became a journey back to the land of my forefathers.

It was deeply meaningful that I returned to their land to gain knowledge which they developed and we are now in need of at our new home at the tip of Africa, to sustain ourselves and ensure our survival.  I did not yet know how they would help us to learn an English bacon curing technique but I decided to trust my new hosts on this point.

Arriving at the free harbour of Copenhagen was impressive.  There were enormous cranes and every conceivable equipment for the handling of goods.  Commodities were loaded and offloaded.  Cotton, petroleum, corn from New York and pork from Chicago. (4)

They tell me that 35 000 sailing vessels and steamers land at this harbour each year.  The day we arrived in Copenhagen there were steamers from around the world. Many from Russia, three from England, three from Germany, one from the West Indies, one from South America and one was leaving port for Greenland. (4)

The number of people milling around on the peer intimidated me.  It felt if there were more people than the total number living in Cape Town.  I stood a bit sheepishly aside, observing the commotion.  Soon, most of the just over 200 passengers and their welcoming parties left, leaving the crew and dock workers to get stuck into the task of offloading the steamer.

A tall, slender man in his early 30’s was leaning against a lamp pole close to the ramp onto the ship, smoking a cigarette.  He was well dressed in a brown sports jacket, light pants, leather shoes, and a light cap.   He was looking very disinterested as workers hustled to and fro.  I approached him.  Tentatively I asked, “Andreas Østergaard?”

While taking another puff from his cigarette he answered, “Yea, and you must be Eben!  Welcome to Denmark.”  He stretched out his hand and greeted me.  Before I could let go of his hand he started walking down the pier towards the harbour gate. “Come, let’s go!”

Andreas was the young friend of the spice trader that Oscar and I met at the Mount Bay Hotel in Pritchard Street in Johannesburg.  Soon we were travelling on the city tram and then by train to his home in the outskirts of Copenhagen.

First impression of Copenhagen is that it is clean and very orderly.  Andreas tells me that almost 500 000 people live here.  I was mesmerised by the magnificently constructed buildings.  I learned later from people who travel a lot that not even in Amsterdam are there such beautiful buildings. (4)

They solved the problem of keeping the city clean by employing the poor quite brilliantly as teams of able-body paupers, wearing black clothes and wooden shoes who clean the many city squares.  Each man carrying a watering can and a huge broom.  Regiments of these men perform this function at regular intervals. (4)

The city is different than I am used to in many ways.  Size changes everything.  Businesses are bigger and oddly arranged. Shops are located on the second stories of buildings lining the streets of the city centre.  Huge factories all lay on the outskirts. (4)

We stopped at a pub.  Andreas wanted to learn about our plan.  He ordered a beer and I asked for wine.  Everybody in the pub looked up.  The bar lady was slightly thrown off.  “Wine!” she gasped,  “I am sure we have a bottle somewhere!”  She disappeared into the back and emerged with a bottle in hand with not a small air of satisfaction. (5)

Andreas was not surprised that there was no company in Cape Town curing large quantities of good quality bacon.  He asked me many questions that I could not answer.  I knew how to do dry-cured bacon and my dad’s molasses bacon, but knew nothing about the chemical process of bacon curing or the modern techniques of making it.

Bacon was a prized dish at the Cape of Good Hope from the earliest times.  Local bacon was generally over-salted and one could only eat it after soaking it in freshwater.  It was typically made with the old recipe we also used as a family.  The problem was that every butcher and farmer did it differently and many took shortcuts, trying to get to the final product without waiting the month it needed to cure.  Pork was in many ways staple meat for sailors in the days before refrigeration.

It was one of the easiest animals to take alive on the ship for slaughter during the voyage. This practice led to a brilliant idea for ships to set pigs free on uninhabited islands to provide food for shipwrecked sailors. (6)  When the Dutch East Indian Company set up their refreshment station at the Cape in 1652 they did it for a similar reason as pigs were left on islands namely to ensure the supply of fresh meat along with the obvious supply of fresh water for ships travelling to the East.  The Dutch brought domesticated European pigs on the three ships which arrived in Table Bay Harbour in 1652.  These died within months of landing and piglets did not live longer than a few days.  Later on, two varieties of pigs were found at the Cape.  A Dutch breed and a Chinese breed that had dainty meat and claws like dogs. (7)

The earliest bacon found at the Cape was so heavily salted that it could be left in the storeroom for over a year without spoiling and even seawater could be used to draw out the salt.  In the early days at the Cape, bacon was the meat that was most often dispatched to outposts such as Land van Waveren, Hottentots Holland, and Outpost 1 at Saldanha Bay, making it an essential commodity at the Cape.  (7)

Much has changed by the mid-1800s.  The imported bacon was far less salty but local bacon still had to be left for a few hours (up to 16 hours) in freshwater.  The butchery trade at the Cape was well established by early German and Swiss immigrants and stood on the shoulders of a very tentative pig breeding industry.  Techniques used by butchers were slow and all the butchers in Cape Town put together, found it hard to supply bacon to the booming Cape Colony.

When I left the Cape, the last thing my dad told me was “Become number one!  Learn how to be the best!”  I smiled when he said this, thinking, “Yes, Dad, that is the plan.”  Looking back I realise that I did not have a clue what those words meant.

For the following 12 month’s I lived with Andreas and his parents in Copenhagen while working at a local bacon curing company, owned by farmers in a cooperative scheme unique to Denmark and managed by a bacon legend, Hendrik Jeppesen.  In the day Uncle Jeppe, as we called him, trained me, which included lectures during lunch breaks on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  In the evenings, after supper,  Andreas’ dad read for us from a book called Foods, written by an Englishman and afterwards we would discuss it. This discussion after supper was a Danish tradition.

Denmark was an important city to visit for men from science and industry and in the following year, Uncle Jeppe and Andreas ensured that I met many of these men.  I always had a notebook with me to jot down new information.  I wrote letters back home to my kids, my parents, Oscar and Minette.  I did it because I wanted to have a record of what I learned as a backup in case I lost my notebook or if it would be destroyed by whatever means.  I wanted my kids to have it, even if they would appreciate it only in later years.  Importantly, it became a way to give investors a picture of what their money was being used for.  More than this, it was the story of a great adventure.

What follows is then my collection of Denmark Letters written in the year 1891 and 1892 from Copenhagen.  I present them in date sequence. Generally, my goal was to write one letter every month.

There was one other reason why I wrote.  It was because I missed my kids, family, and friends.  There were days when I rushed home after work and could not wait to share what I learned.  Sometimes I met people who gave me such a clear vision for the future that I could fly back to Cape Town on mythical wings and strategize with Oscar – I did the flying when I wrote these letters.

There were days, however, when I would sit at a street cafe or in my room and as I wrote, tears would be in my eyes. The fact is that I missed these people so much.  They are my entire world and everything I learn and experience, every person I meet, are all meaningless without them. Family and friends give life meaning and purpose for the greatest adventures!

I was overcome by the excitement of the moment and for a time there were so many new things to learn that life took on a new meaning. Gone were the doubts about the temporary nature of our sojourning on earth, the mental world of culture, language, religion and my newfound love of science. I was surrounded by men and woman, steeped in a deep understanding of the laws of our natural world and it would be the education in these laws that would ultimately bring me full circle back to the human dilemma of having minds with which we perceive the eternal and the fixed while trapped in the temporal and the fleeting! The temporal and fleeting world I found myself in was all brand new, glittering and exciting which dulled the nagging questions born in the plains of Africa. The story of my Danish adventures and discoveries are in my letters that follow.


(c) eben van tonder

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(1) Eben and Chris arrived in Copenhagen on Sunday, 9 October 2011.  It was the first destination on an extensive European and UK trip to investigate bacon production methods, ingredients, and equipment.  At the airport, they were welcomed by Andreas Østergaard.  Andreas spent almost two months with us when we opened our factory in Kraaifontein, helping us to start production.

(2)  Steamship Salmo.

  • Built. 1891 (IMO 5600223)
  • Yard. Lobnitz & Co
  • Class of Ship. Passenger steamship
  • Operator. DFDS 1891-1935
  • Route. Harwich – Esbjerg 1892-1904
  • Length. 209.5 ft.
  • Gross Tonnage. 1032
  • Passengers. 243
  • Speed. 11 Knots
  • Status. Scrapped 27/05/1935


(3)  First Considerations – the Van Tonder Family

Available in PDF:  first-considerations-the-van-tonder-family-30-october-2016


30 October 2016
by Eben van Tonder


Who were the first Van Tonder’s to come to South Africa, what was their standing in Denmark and why did they leave the land of their birth?  We examine these questions briefly.


Three Van Tonder brothers came to South Africa from Denmark. Adolph “Adolf” van Tonder was the oldest of the three brothers, born in 1674 in Tønder. Andres Cornelsen, the second oldest of the three was christened in Tønder, Schleswig, Denmark, on 3 September 1676.  Johannes van Tonder was born sometime between 1646 and 1706 (we assume the 1706 date without any good reason).  Their father was Albert Cornelsen, from Tønder.  Some genealogy sites list him as Cornelis Jansz which is not the case according to Andres Cornelsens’ christening record.

Of the three brothers who came to South Africa, we know the most about Andres Cornelsen and almost nothing further is known about his brothers.  The important fact for our journey is that they came from Denmark.


Several versions of his name exist.  In the christening records from Tønder on 3 September 1876, the spelling is Andres Cornelsen without the Tonderen or Tønder, indicating that neither he nor his father used the surname at this time.

The spelling of Andres Cornelsen from the entry on the day of his christening from 3 September 1676.

The entry on his enlistment into the VOC on 9 May 1699 gives his name as Andries Cornelis uit Tonderen.  (

Two important observations.  It seems as of the “uit Tonderen” was added to simply indicate where he came from.  His second name is given as Cornelis and not Cornelsen.  The “sen” meant “son of,” in other words, “Cornels’ son“.  His fathers’ name is given as Albert Cornelsen which meant that his second name was also Cornel, as was his fathers’.

At the Cape of Good Hope, an entry is made when he marries Cornelis de Vrij where his name is spelled Andries Cornelissen Van Tondern where he retained the “sen” version of Cornel or Cornelis and added “Van Tondern” as a surname.



The fact that he used Van Tonder as a surname was not an uncommon practice.  In Denmark, surnames were sometimes taken that referred to occupations (e.g., Møller – miller, Schmidt – smith, Fisker – fisher) and sometimes to places, for example, that of a village or farmstead inhabited by ancestors.  Such is the case with Van Tonder.  (The University of Copenhagen, Unit for Name Research)

The first naming act, issued in 1526 in Denmark, made heritable names compulsory but was only applicable to nobility. In successive centuries, other higher class people took surnames passed on through heritage.  Clergy often Latinized their surnames (e.g. Pontoppidan made from Broby) and artisans often Germanized their surnames.  (The University of Copenhagen, Unit for Name Research)

In the Duchy of Schleswig, naming acts applying to all citizens were only issued in 1771 and in 1828.  The fact that when he was christened in 1676, he did not have a surname, shows that he was was not from nobility or one of the “higher classes” of people like clergy or middle-class landowners.  He was in all likelihood a peasant or ordinary citizen, looking for a better life at the Cape of Good Hope.  (The University of Copenhagen, Unit for Name Research)


The fact that Andres Cornelsen used “Van Tonder” as a surname at the Cape of Good Hope was in keeping with an already established tradition that was surely known to him.

There is evidence that the surname Tonder was in general use by the early to mid-1600’s, especially among landowners from Norway.  Peder Christophersen Tønder is one example of such a family.  He was born on 8 September 1641  in Kristiansund and died on 1 June 1694 in Dønna.  He was a Norwegian district governor and landowner.  (Weidling, T. ed.; 2000: 310-311).  His grandfather was a citizen of Tønder, Niels Mortensen (1550-1602), who became the patriarch of many  with the surname Tønder. (ønder (slægt))

Peder Christophersen Tønder’s father was Christopher Nielsen Tønder (1587-1656) who came to Norway.  His brothers became the archdeacon in Trondheim , magister Ole Christophersen Tonder (1633-1684), the president and mayor of Trondheim, Anders Christophersen Tonder (circa 1615 – 1696).  From him descended a long line of military men who were middle-class landowners in Norway.

It seems as if the practice of using Van Tonder or Tonder or some slight variation as a surname was common in Holland in the 1700’s amongst men working on board VOC ships. All these, presumably from Tønder in the 1600’s and the early 1700’s.

  • Jurg Tonder from Hamburg started working for the VOC between 1751 – 1753.
  • Johan Nicolaas van Tondert from Lubeek worked for the VOC between 1790 – 1791.
    Jacob Tonder from Langedaalbeen worked for the VOC for a few months in 1749.
  • Paulus Tondere from Bergen worked for the VOC between 1729 – 1733.
  • Jan Pieterse van Tonderen from Rotterdam worked for the VOC a few months in 1734.
  • Pieter Tondert from Dronthem worked for the VOC between 1741 and 1742.
  • Jan Andriesz van Tonder from Holsteijn worked for the VOC for a few months in 1723 before he passed away.
  • Jacob Tonder from Amsterdam worked for the VOC between 1745 and 1748.
  • Pieter Ottho van d r Tonder worked for the VOC for a few months in 1717 when he passed away.
  • Emanuel Tonder from Bengalen worked for the VOC in 1775 for a few months and deserted.
  • Mattijs van Tonderen from Amsterdam worked for the company between 1709 and 1712.
  • Hermanus van Tonderen from Groningen worked for the VOC between 1787 to 1799.
  • Jurgen Tonder from Dromtom worked for the VOC between 1686 and 1687.

The surname was in some use in the 1600’s among Norwegian landowners and peasants who moved to Holland.  It became more common in the 1700’s but it seems as if the use in relation to Andres Cornelsen was initially to simply indicate where he came from and not part of a surname as we know it today.  Neither him nor his father used it as a surname before he moved to the Cape of Good Hope.

It is unlikely that there is one central ancestor to all the Van Tonder’s or Tonder’s in the world based on the early widespread use of the town’s name in surnames.  In South Africa, at least early in the existence of the Dutch at the Cape, all Van Tonder’s presumably come from one of the three brothers who came from Denmark based on the fact that there is no record that I could find of another Van Tonder coming to South Africa on a VOC ship in the 1600’s and 1700’s.  It is of course entirely possible that later on, Van Tonder’s came to the country who are not direct descendants from on of the three brothers or from their father on another ship besides one belonging to the VOC.

In light of the number of “Van Tonder’s” or “Tonder’s” who worked aboard ships for the VOC who all docked in Cape Town, it is a remarkable fact that only three brothers made it to Cape Town by 1699 and stayed, directly from Tønder in Schleswig, Denmark and not one of the “surname-sake’s” from Holland or Germany.


Andres Cornelsen came to the Cape of Good Hope on the VOC ship “Huis te Bijweg.”  He sailed from Amsterdam on 09 May 1699 and arrived at the Cape on 21 October 1699, employed as a ship’s hand (experienced sailor), tasked to man and fire one cannon. We have a further clue to his financial standing from the fact that he made a small loan from the company which was recorded against his name (as a schuldbrief)   (

He worked for the Dutch East Indian Company (VOC) as a farm hand (boerkneg), becoming a free citizen (vryburger) on 31 August 1700 when he left the employment of the VOC. He continued his apprenticeship as a miller in the Stellenbosche district. (


People initially came to the Cape, working for the Company (VOC) and some remained at the Cape and became free citizens when their employment with the company ended. At first, a small number of people were allowed to cancel their employment and remain on at the Cape.  Between 1662 and 1666, very few people were granted this privilege, but following 1666 it became more common place. Upon becoming a free citizen, papers of freedom were issued and, in a program to bolster the permanent farming population at the Cape, in many cases, land was allocated to the newly freed burger with strict conditions that you had to remain in the Colony (as opposed to returning to Holland) and rules of inheritance were stipulated and the free citizen (vryburger) had to agree to it. (Geldenhuys, P.; 2015: 23 – 25)

Early on, these farmers were exempt from tax for 12 years and were allowed to trade with the local tribes on condition that they could not offer higher prices than the Company (VOC) was offering. Farm implements were supplied at cost and the Company (VOC) held a mortgage over the property. They could grow crops not already being grown in the Company gardens and the cultivation of cereals was encouraged. They were also allowed to purchase slaves and could not enslave any of the local indigenous people. (Geldenhuys, P.; 2015: 23 – 25)


Andres Cornelsen was the father of Catharina van Tonder (born in 1707). Almost every Afrikaner today have a forefather that was a slave and the Van Tonder genealogy shows that it was no different for them. Nine years after Andreas Cornelius became a free citizen (vryburger), Jan van Tonder was born as his oldest son on 12 July 1709, born out of wedlock with a slave, born in bondage. A birth certificate exists for him.

An interesting entry is found in the records of the VOC where a certain Jan van Tonder was listed as entering the employment of the VOC, not from Holland or Germany as was custom, but from the Cape of Good Hope.  He boarded the VOC ship, Ketel, in Cape Town on 10 March  1737 en route for Ceylon, working for the VOC. (

The tantalizing possibility exists that this was none other than the, by then, 28-year-old, first born son of Andres Cornelsen, born out of wedlock between AC and a slave.  His second son was Christiaan van Tonder, born on 30 November 1710, a child born out of wedlock with a slave; born in bondage. (personal correspondence with Elizabeth Jacobsz)

There are records of other children born to him. Cornelis van Tonder, born 11 September 1712 and died in 1715 and Johannes van Tonder, born 3 September 1713. (personal correspondence with Elizabeth Jacobsz) Then there was also Cornelus van Tonder born on 24 June 1715, Abigail van Tonder born on 25 April 1717, and 5 others.

What motivated the Van Tonder brothers to come to the Cape of Good Hope?  Were they adventurers, trying to make a name for themselves or secure a fortune or did they try and escape some unfavorable situation in Denmark such as poverty or religious persecution?   What was the religious conviction in this region and what was the likely faith of the Van Tonder brothers and their cultural leniency?


Tønder was a protestant community, situated in the Dutchy of Schleswig, in the border region between Germany and Denmark.  Schleswig is an ancient Danish region but over the years various parts changes hands between Denmark and Germany.  The Reformation was universally adopted by the northern European states and in particular by German-speaking lands.  This was no different in the Dutchy of Schleswig and the town Tønder.  German replaced Latin in the church services in Schleswig, as opposed to Danish in the nearby diocese of Ribe.  Germanization spread to the region mainly through the church.   By 1699 when Andres Cornelsen was 23, the inhabitants of Tønder would have been Danish citizens with German culture and affinities.   (Rasmussen, C. P..  2010: 172 – 190)

He grew up in a time after the civil war between the Protestants and the Catholics, in a Protestant region.  We know from the fact that his children were baptized (christened) in a Dutch Reformed Church at the Cape of Good Hope, that he was Protestant. Religious persecution could therefore not have been a motivation for his move to the new world.

It is fair to say that the three Van Tonder brothers were in all likelihood conservative Calvinist, possibly Lutheran, Protestant, with a strong affinity for the German culture. They must have been at home in the churches in Schleswig and at the Cape the Good Hope.


If his motivation for coming to South Africa was not religious, could it have been economic?

Schleswig was often grouped with the German duchies of the Danish monarchs, especially Holstein. There were times when the dukes of Holstein owned the entire region such as the first half of the 14th century.   The region became part of Prussia in 1864 and only as recent as 1920 did the northern half of Slesvig, where Tønder is located,  vote itself back to Denmark.  (Jacobsen, N. K..  1960:  148)

The region’s economy was devastated by wars between Denmark and Sweden which Sweden won.  The population, both the nobility and the free peasants, developed a version of manorialism, an economic system of the middle ages, which restored economic prosperity.  (Rasmussen, C. P., 2010; 172-190, pp 172-190)

How manorialism worked, broadly speaking, was that large estates and lands,  belonging to the king were awarded to people who performed special service.  Nobels swore and oath of loyalty to the king and in return received the right to control an estate.  The estate strove for economic self-sufficiency.   Peasants worked the fields on an estate and were in many cases bound to the estate.  They had the right to work their own fields by doing a set amount of days work (normally three to four days of work per week) for the Lord of the manor or the estate.  The Lord, in turn, had to provide for those bound to his land in a time of difficulty.  (Patterson, G. M.. 2001:  48, 57)  The Lord of the manor was the land-owner and the peasant was the tenant.

Some of the manors incorporated villages.  Around the manor house or village, there were strips of land.  Some of the land or woodlands were common property and some were assigned to specific peasants.  Peasants not only worked the land of the Lord but also paid taxes. (Patterson, G. M.. 2001:  48, 57)

The genius of the people from the Duchy of Schleswig, both from peasants and nobility, was that manors were established that were not necessarily under the control of nobility, but under that of rich peasants, thus increasing the number of such estates across the region which in turn stimulating the region’s economy and greatly improved the number of tax collectors on behalf of the king.

From the 16th century, the nobles in charge of the manors increased in power, but so did the rights of the peasants.  The rent for the land was fixed as early as the 15th century.    In the first half of the following century, it became law that tenure of peasants was for life.  They could be evicted if they failed to pay their rent, but as long as they did that, their right to their piece of land was for life.

The land of rich peasants in some cases exceeded those of lesser nobles in size during the 1500’s.  They still did not have the same authority or privileges of the nobles and clergy, nor were they referred to as manors.  From the 1660’s common people could possess manors.  In 1661 to 1664 the king handed over almost a quarter of all the land of the kingdom to his creditors, most of whom were middle class, as opposed to nobility.  The common person was given the right to acquire “noble land.”  This was a genius invention and transformed the economy of the region.  The were given the task of collecting taxes and if they were unable to do so, they had to pay the taxes over themselves.  (Sundberg, K., et al.;  2004)

Another industry became central to the economy of this town and was responsible for great wealth namely lace which peaked in the 1600s and 1700s.  Testament to the wealth it brought was the fact that townhouses from this time dominate the town centre. (“Nach der Volksabstimmung” (in German). Deutsches Historisches Museum.)

By the late 1600s when ANDRES CORNELSEN was in his teens, the mood in Schleswig would have been very optimistic. The major wars were fought and prosperity restored to the region.  The common person had more rights and privileges and everybody from the king, to the peasant, were better off.

It seems as if there were neither religious nor a compelling economic reason to have left the land of his birth for the new world.


I am unsure if he started his apprenticeship as a miller in Stellenbosch or if he continued an apprenticeship which he possibly started in Schleswig already.


The small loan that Andres Cornelsen took from the VOC when he started his employment with the company en route to the Cape of Good Hope, along with the fact that when he was christened, he did not use a surname that was transferred through heritage points to a peasant ancestry.

He was protestant and from a rural, farming community where he would have been part of the successful economic system of the Schleswig region.  It is interesting that so many people showed up for employment with the VOC from one region during the 1700’s.  I have no clue as to a possible reason for this yet.  Andres Cornelsen, further was, as far as I could determine, one of the first young men directly from Tønder to join the VOC and the fact that he chose to move to the new world is of particular interest.  Much work however still remains and this fact will have to be verified with the VOC records in Holland.

One clear conclusion that flows from this is that he was, contrary to his standing in the economic system of the middle ages, no ordinary person.  Everything we know about him shows unusual courage and strong leadership.  This may account for the reason why we know so much about him and relatively little about his brothers.  If it was indeed his son, Jan van Tonder, born from a slave, who boarded the VOC ship, Ketel, in Cape Town on 10 March  1737 en route for Ceylon, it would show that the same spirit of leadership, adventure and courage was transferred to his son.  It could show something of an intimate relationship he possibly had with probably all his children, including those born from slave woman.  Another fact that showed his leadership was that he took the surname Van Tonder at the Cape of Good Hope.

It is a fascinating quest that I hope to return to often.

(4)  The description of the free harbour and the city of Copenhagen is from an article in the Evening Star (Washington, District of Columbia), 10 October 1903, page 28, America in Denmark.

(5)  This is an exact account of what happened moments after we met Andreas.  During the ride in his car from the airport, I explained some of our plans to him.  After the bar lady got me the wine, he sat for a second and then asked me, “You guys want to do WHAT?”

(6)  There are many accounts that this in reality happened.  It was officially suggested in 1876 by the Saturday Review (London) to stock uninhabited islands with pigs and rabbits to provide for shipwrecked sailors.  (The New York Times, 1876)  In some cases, the suggestion was met with derision, but it was by all accounts a serious suggestion and many lauded the plan. (Chicago Tribune, 1876)

(7)  See Heinrich, 2010, page 31 – 33


Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois), 30 Aprils 1876, page 4.

Evening Star (Washington, District of Columbia), 10 October 1903, page 28, America in Denmark

Geldenhuys, P..  2015. Geldenhuys Genealogy,   Descendants of Albert Barends Gildenhuizen.  Peysoft Publishing.

Heinrich, Adam R.  2010.  A zooarcheaelogical investigation into the meat industry established at the Cape of Good Hope by the Dutch East Indian Company in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, The State University of New Jersey.

Linder, Adolphe. 1997.  The Swiss at the Cape of Good Hope. Creda Press (Pty) Ltd

“Nach der Volksabstimmung” (in German). Deutsches Historisches Museum.

The New York Times (New York, New York), 9 May 1876, page 6, A Benevolent Scheme.

Simons, Phillida Brooke. 2000. Ice Cold In Africa. Fernwood Press Wilson Line.

Jacobsen, N. K..  1960.  Agricultural Geography and Regional Planning in a Marine Foreland.  Geografisk Tidsskrift, Bind 59 (1960)

Patterson, G. M.. 2001.  Medieval History: 500 to 1450 CE Essentials.  REA.

Rasmussen, C. P..  2010.  “Innovative Feudalism. The development of dairy farming and Koppelwirtschaft on manors in Schleswig-Holstein in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries,” Agricultural History Review (2010) 58#2 pp 172-190

Sundberg, K., Germundsson. T., Hansen, K..  2004.  Modernisation and Tradition: European Local and Manorial Societies 1500-1900.  Nordic Academic Press.

The University of Copenhagen, Unit for Name Research.

Weidling, T. ed.. 2000. Autocratic men in Norway: civilian central organs and officials from 1660 to 1814 . Director General , Oslo: In cooperation with Messel precursor.

Photo Credit:

Free Harbour, Copenhagen, 1903:  Evening Star (Washington, District of Colombia), 10 October 1903, page 28, America in Denmark

Steamship Salmo: Wilson Line.

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