THE MILLENNIUM MEET

KALK BAY APRIL 2001

The Millennium Meeting - the First Flemmer Family Reunion - came about after Terry and Anthea Herbert visited the East London Flemmer cousins in 1999. The occasion coincided with a visit by Margie and Duncan McBean, down from Zimbabwe to see their new grandchild, Caitlin Teeton. 

As the evening wore on and the old stories were told and re-told, someone wondered aloud when last there was a critical mass of Flemmers together. After a good deal of discussion and rowdy argument, there was a consensus that it had been over the Christmas holidays in 1970 when about 35 family members had gathered in East London. The idea came together that it would be great to repeat the gathering and it was suggested that Christmas 2000 would be an ideal time, being 30 years since the last one and the end of the millennium.

When this idea was discussed with Steve Herbert, the family historian, he said that he and his fellow researcher, Fay Lea had already been talking about a Family Reunion - to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the family in South Africa. He and Fay then decided that it might not be a bad idea for a trial run and so the idea gathered momentum. 

The original concept of a Christmas gathering was too difficult to handle but there was good support for the reunion to take place over the Easter weekend in Kalk Bay in the first year of the new millennium.

Steve and Fay put in an enormous effort to make the weekend a huge success and it was thoroughly enjoyed by all who attended.

The Flemmer Family Reunion held on the 14th April 2001 in Kalk Bay was a wonderful success. Over 100 relatives attended. 

The descendants of Christian August were divided as follows: 

The descendants of Christian Ludwig had red stickers and Hans Christian's descendants had blue stickers. (Unfortunately these were the only two of CA Flemmer's children who showed any interest.)

All the blood relative's had gold stars and what competition between the crowd! We had a photographer take pictures of everyone together and then the blue's and then the red's and then the gold stars... Oh dear, it certainly got everyone going.

Unfortunately I tried to scan the picture of everyone, but the quality is so bad that I had to scrap it.

The little hall we were able to hire had a gallery upstairs where we had an exhibition of all the documents Steve and I have collected over the past ten years. Some as old as 1700's... (not originals unfortunately, but still very impressive). We divided it into the descendants and had quite a show! 

I gave a short chat about the women of the family, Steve gave a wonderful talk on the family with a slide show. We had tea and cake to start and a magnificent fish finger supper with wine afterwards. 

The Family Tree was printed out it took 11 hours to print, covered 144 A4 pages, (three deep and 48 across). It took hours to cut and paste and was 15 metres long when completed. The tree has the photographs of all the family members we were able to get....

It was a wonderful coming together of family, most who had never met, others who had been estranged and for the younger generation an eye opener to the bigger picture!

 

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Fay's report back

Paper presented by

Steve Herbert

As there is a lot of material here today so I thought I would start with some orientation. 

In the earlier history of the Flemmer family the same names keeping appearing. So lets look first at how the Flemmer, Abo and Naested families are intertwined, way back into the mists of time.


1740 - 1800

Toger Abo
Maria van der Spuy

 

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1780 - 1820

Christian Johannes Abo

Louise Dorothea Naested

 

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1825 - 1850

Christian August Flemmer 

Betty Camilla Abo 

 


Christian Johannes Abo
Maria van Buuren

 

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1850 - 1880

Fredrick Hurlingh Hopley

Wilhelmina Johanna von Abo

 


Hans Christian Flemmer

Aletta Alida Hopley

 


Camilla Henriette Flemmer
Hans Michael Naested

 

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THE ABO FAMILY

I will start with the Abos, or von Abos as they came to be known in South Africa. It's not clear why the 'von' was used here, but it is clear from documents I have that it was not used in Denmark. Abo is a very old Danish name.

The name Abo is recorded in Denmark as far back as 1342. It means either " dweller by a river" or " a man from Aabosyssel " which is the present day city of Aarhus

Aarhus ties in with what we know about the earliest Abo we know of. He was Jonas Abo, a merchant from Aarhus in about 1600. I haven't fully researched this far back but the line of descent looks like this-

 

Jonas - merchant about 1600

Christian Nicolai - judge born 1647

Niels Christian - customs officer

Christian Nicolai - navy captain born 1718

Toger - general adjutant born 1747

Christian Johannes - navy lieutenant born 1787

 

We are particularly interested in Toger Abo and his only son. There seems to have been a special fascination with Toger and I have several old family accounts about him, which have been handed down from generation to generation. Among other things it was said of him-

 

…… he was banished from Denmark for 2 years, not for any wrongdoing…

….. he distinguished himself by his bravery and…. became an Admiral.

….. he was on his way home a wealthy man when he died near the Cape of Good Hope. His supercargo, a dishonest man, took everything….

…. He must have been a personal friend of the King as the Princess held his son Johannes at his christening, and later became a Page at the court.

… Admiral von Abo was in command of a Danish warship at the Battle of Copenhagen….he broke his sword across his knee to protest against Nelson's unwarranted attack….

….. The von Abo family were Danish aristocrats.

 

All of this is wonderful romantic stuff, but unfortunately as far as I can tell, very little of it is true. Toger must have had a good PR company, maybe a spin doctor! Its possible that sitting round the fire at night with no TV for distraction, story telling became an art form - the story quite literally grew in the telling.

No matter - Toger Abo led such an extraordinary life that it really needs no embroidery at all. When you have heard this brief extract you will realise how tame life has become!

He was born in Norway, then part of Denmark and entered the Navy Academy in Copenhagen. Denmark was going through tremendous turmoil - I don't want to give you a history lesson, but the bare facts are central to the story of Toger Abo.

In 1772 Toger Abo had been appointed to a senior position by Struensee and his salary doubled - he was 23 at the time. While Stuensee 'controlled' what the King signed, he was helped in his jockeying for position by Count Enevold Brandt, another intimate of the Court of king Christian. It seems that Toger Abo had become friendly with Count Brandt while learning fencing and that Brandt had put in a good word for him. By then Struensee was in almost total control of the Danish parliament- effectively PM. Then followed the fall - arrest of Struensee, Brandt and his followers-subsequent execution of Struensee and Brandt.

Inquiry Royal pardon and banishment of Toger. Enters the service of the Dutch East India Company and makes the first of several voyages to the East- Batavia, China, India. A page from the log book of the first ship he sailed on (De Tempel) is on the wall. De Tempel would have anchored at Simonstown 225 years ago. 

Life was tough on board. Of course the officers were far better off then the general crew, but still a very tough life - pirates, storms, malaria. Toger sent back regular letters to his superiors in Denmark to show that he was giving good service. He describes in one early voyage how he took command in the violent storm in the Bay of Biscay and saved the ship. From these letters we can see his progress through the ranks- from a junior officer to eventually becoming Commanding Officer of a frigate and Captain of the India Seas. 

The Captains of the VOC ships were allowed to take their own cargo space for trade purposes and would have the opportunity to become quite well off.

It was while Captain of a ship called Het Hof ter Linde, that he wrote requesting permission to marry Maria van der Spuy in CT in 1781. He also confirmed the pension arrangements. It was only 6 years later after his ship caught fire in the Straits of Malacca that they returned to Denmark and the only son Christian Johannes was born. He was baptised at the Holmens 'navy' church in 1787

Although it seems no princess was his godmother, there were many important people at the christening- admirals, privy councillors. Clearly Toger Abo had made his fortune in the East and all had been forgiven by both society and the hierarchy.

The researcher said he had no doubt Toger Abo was a highly talented man, who would have gone to the very top if it had not been for the Struensee affair. He held various positions in the navy in Denmark before being retired with consumption at age 50.

He then became a merchant trader, with his own ships, but times were difficult the economy in a shambles and it seems he lost a lot of money investing in government bonds. He was declared insolvent and applied to rejoin the navy but was not accepted. To try and recoup he set off at age 59 for the East but died on the return journey, near CT. All seems to have been lost and his wife and child reduced to penury- living with her son and eventually her nephew.

Toger's son, Christian Johannes Abo trained in the navy as a surveyor [ born in a castle died in a pigsty] and at 23 married Louise Dorothea Naested of the wealthy Copenhagen Naested family. They had 3 children, Toger, Marie and Betty. When Betty was about 6 months old her father left to make his fortune as a surveyor at the Cape. He left his wife behind with very little money and 3 young children. The family story is that she did not hear from him at all for a long time and died of a broken heart - she certainly was very young - only 30 when she died.

The story goes on that on the day of her funeral a ship arrived from the Cape with a packet of 12 letters for her-too late! The children were brought up in Denmark by their aunts and uncles and Betty of course eventually married our own Christian August Flemmer. The next time she saw her father was when she arrived at Port Elizabeth in 1853 - aged 37 the mother of the 7 Flemmer children!

Christian Johannes Abo or von Abo - I haven't really had a chance to research him - met up with the Hopleys in Swellendam at some stage. They were renowned surveyors, and spent the rest of his life doing survey work in the Eastern Cape. He married Magdalena van Buuren and they had 10 children. He died in Burghersdorp aged 82 in 1869 - whether in a pig sty or not I cannot say!

 

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THE FLEMMER FAMILY

Danish people I have spoken to always tell me that Flemmer is not a Danish name - this may be so. There are some interpretations of the name, mainly to do with flames and fire, but according to the Univ. of Copenhagen Name Research Faculty the name means a Flemish person, a person from Flanders. There is a family story that the first Flemmer we have, Frederich, who was born about 1703, was a refugee from France who fled the Huguenot persecution. We simply don't know at this stage - no record of his birth has been found. He is first recorded in Odense in 1729. There is a record of Flemmers living in the Odense area over 500 years ago.

 

 

Flemmer Ancestry

Frederich Flemmer c. 1703 Wigmaker in Odense [8 children]

Johannes 1740 Wigmaker in Odense [8 children]

Hans Christian 1771 Lutheran Minister
Knight of the Danish Flag [4 children]

Christian August 1813 Medical Doctor [9 children]

 

I will talk only briefly on each of the 9 children of CAF - I mean we only have limited time! Seven of them had been born by the time the family left Korsor in 1852 for the voyage to South Africa. The voyage must have been tough in the extreme etc etc. More details will appear in the next volume of the Flemmer History. But to look at each of the 9 children-

 

Christian Ludwig and Anna Distin
[9 children]

Christian Ludwig (Loyvie) was about 14 when he arrived at the Cape. When he moved with his mother and father to nearby Bedford, he was agent for the Cape Argus (age 20). His main love seems to have been farming and he was also an accomplished poet. He farmed at one time in British Kaffraria at the mouth of the Gonubie. While working for a prominent farmer John Sweet Distin, he met and courted the daughter Anna, and married her in 1869 when he was 30 and she 20. Much of his poetry is dedicated to Anna. One of their children was Anna Louie Flemmer - author of The Little Dane, and we are fortunate to have this book with so much detail of the early life of the family in Cradock. [thanks to Joan Geyser]

CL and Anna had no sooner settled down to married life on a farm given to him by his father-in-law, when his own father died (CAF aged 56) and he and his new bride had to go back to the Naested farm Ruigtersvlei to care for his mother Betty.

After a few years they all moved to Cradock, C.L. Flemmer & Co. trading in ostrich feathers and farm supplies. 1879 Basotho War - Captain in Cradock Volunteers under Gilfillan [see Little Dane] broke leg in buggy accident on way back. 

In 1885 the family moved to the farm Plaatrivier near Tafelberg and there are many stories of their life there in the Little Dane. It was here that CLF was a prime mover in the building of the St Lawrence church (see exhibit) and there is a wonderful description of the consecration in 1894. See also the memoriam from the church and congregation. Returned to Cradock in 1900 and died there 1903. To get some measure of the man he was we can do no better than look at an extract from his obituary which appeared in the Cradock and Tarkastad Register

 

"Simple in his habits of life, of unassuming manner, and of an extremely kind and genial disposition, Mr. Flemmer made no enemies. He was a man moreover, of more than ordinary natural ability and intelligence, of most pleasing address and exceptionally liberal in his views. Such a man could not but win the hearts of others and he did indeed do so; many of his numerous friends will have sad hearts today when they realise that they will never set eyes on his kindly face again."

 

Camilla Henriette Flemmer and Hans Michael Naested
[7 children]

Camilla Henriette was 19 years old when she married 33 year old HMN in the DRC in Cradock. She spent her entire life in Cradock. As with other women of her time their role was more or less pre destined, it was to have children and run the household. The result of this is that in many cases there is no official record aside from the bare bones of birth, marriage, death. In the case of the Flemmer women mentioned in The Little Dane and Reminisences of Cradock we are more fortunate:

Her husband HMN came from a wealthy and well educated Danish family, he himself was a pharmacist [a rarity at the time] who had been at the Cape on a previous trip. He travelled out from Denmark with the Flemmer family (love blossomed?) and was a prominent member of the local Cradock community, both as a businessman and in Town Council affairs. His obituary gives more details of an interesting life.

As an aside - you will see from HMN's obituary that he travelled to Denmark and was presented to the King. There is a family story that in return for his gift to the Copenhagen universities, he was given a set of Danish crockery depicting butterflies and/or moths. Does anyone know anything?

But to get on with theFlemmers! Despite the lack of information about women in general we are told that Camilla was an artist and writer - unfortunately no evidence of this has yet been found. Life would have been very tough by today's standards - no electricity, 'smeared floors' arsenic in the wall paint, servant problems, wars, drought, pestilence. Her husband and two sons pre-deceased her and she lost at least 2 children in infancy-fairly normal for the times. She died in Cradock aged 81.
We have been in contact with Naested descendants 

 

Toger Abo August Flemmer and Rosa Caroline Philps
[9 children]

TAAF was born in Korsor Denmark and was 10 years old when the family arrived at Port Elizabeth. He would have settled into the Cradock school, fairly primitive by all accounts and enjoyed the life of a boy in the town at that time-swimming, hunting, fishing.

His obituary says he farmed with his brother CLF in British Kaffararia in 1858 but as he was only 16 then it may have been a later date. I believe the land was granted to them after service in one of the Kaffir Wars. The venture didn't last long. At age 31 he married 21 year old Rosa Caroline Philps one of 9 daughters of Cradock chemist Fredrick Stephen Philps. They were a wealthy family with a lovely house on the river bank-great description there-visited it last year-ghost in the attic!!

Life does not seem to have been easy for this branch of the family. Storekeeper in Maraisburg and probably Cradock- tried his hand at farming, Roads Inspector (poorly paid) right through the Boer War. Of the 9 children only 4 survived to adulthood. Of the 4 who survived 2 daughters died very young and soon after the birth of their children. One girl, Rosa Flemmer, survived into old age. The Flemmer line died out in this branch as the only son, Victor Wilks Flemmer had no children. 

 

Charlotte Marie Louise Flemmer and Edward Stockenstrom Lodewicus Gilfillan [6 children]

As I have already said, information on the womenfolk is extremely limited. Again we are fortunate in this case to find some accounts by both her and her husband in the Eliza Butler essays, but they tell us little about the person. Even the newspaper report of her wedding when 19 says a lot about women's place in society. The article is on the wall here, and is unusual in that it appeared at all. Note that it doesn't even mention the bride's name!

The Gilfillans were one of the founding families of Cradock-Edward's father was the man! Incredibly brave he had fought in one Border War after another as well as administering the district. I have never met any of the Gilfillans but I know some of you have. They are a huge family.

Edward himself was a very stern and distant father. His children had to line up in the morning and say " Good Morning Sir" when he came down to breakfast. He was very prominent in town affairs- committed to his community- a prominent lawyer and leading light in bringing education to the town.
Charlotte died aged 90 on the farm Wilsonia near EL.

Kirstine Cathinca b Korsor 1846 she arrived as a 6 year old-we know this from family accounts. We assume she died young as there is no information about her.
 

Hans Christian Flemmer and Aletta Alida Hopley
[8 children]

It is a great regret of mine that he is the only member of the family who survived to adulthood of whom we don't have a photograph-hope springs eternal!

He was born in Korsor and arrived with the family aged 5. Presumably schooled with the other boys, like his brothers he fought in all wars going, including the 9th Kaffir War of 1877 and the Basotho war of 1879. After the Gaicka Galecka war he and his brother Ludwig (CLF) were granted a farm at the mouth of the Gonubie. After the house was burnt down by 'raiding kaffirs' as my grandfather put it, HCF took up farming buying the farm Leeufontein near Middelburg.

It was here that he married Lettie Hopley ( of whose family more) before they moved to and settled in Steynsburg. He was a prominent member of the community, owned the trading store and was a General Agent, JP and issuer of summonses, in the absence of a magistrate. He was eventually joined by his younger brother Marius. There is a Flemmer Street to this day in Steynsburg and at one time a von Abo St. 

He died very young, at 48 leaving his wife Lettie to bring up the 7 surviving children ( the eighth appears to have died in infancy) Min, MT, Waldemar Kjeldberg, Constance, Harold, Wilfred, Oswald.

Andreas Salvator Flemmer

Would have been a toddler on the trip out from Denmark, he grew up in Cradock. There is not a lot of information about him, although several photos! He went to the Witwatersrand after the discovery of gold and traded in mining properties. He also travelled extensively [ remember no planes then!] and there are records of him having gone to Europe, North and South America. 

He was forced to flee the Transvaal, joining the thousands of refugees in the chaos of the Boer war. He subsequently went to BEA where he settled in the Nakuru dist. There is an interesting story of a party of trek boers who took their wagons overland to BEA to get away from the Milner govt. On reaching German East Africa they were told they would be liable for military service. They sent an emissary to BEA and Salvator was asked to translate by the British governor. He was instrumental in arranging the settlement of these 100 people and was rewarded with a 100 000 acre farm " Mereroni" near Nakuru.

We are told he never married and is buried at the Anglican churchyard Nakuru.

Marius Flemmer and Aletta Alida Hopley

Marius was the first Flemmer born in SA and was born 2 months after the family arrived in Cradock. He was educated in Cradock and was the only one of the Flemmers to receive a formal education- and the first of the "legal Flemmers" having done his articles at Fairbridge and Arderne in Cape Town. He settled in Steynsburg and was a JP, attorney and auctioneer in the town for many years. 

No sporting genes, an early newspaper report in Cradock notes him being out for a duck in both innings, and at age 49 he is still playing in Steynsburg without much more success- scored I run- bowled and runout!

Marius was also Deputy mayor of Steynsburg and 3 years after his brother died, married the widow Lettie Hopley. For some time he ran the business with her, before it went insolvent after the Boer War. No mention on her death notice, or in my grandfather's notes. He went to live in Kenya with his brother Salvator and died there. Lettie died in Jbg in 1934 aged 77.

 

Sophie Wilhelmina Flemmer was born in 1856 in Cradock and died aged 6.

 

 

THE CREST

 

Finally ( with sighs of relief!) we come to the crest. It has caught the imagination of so many of us. I have never seen one except the copy of a die. I am told on good authority that they were originally on signet rings for sealing wax. Waldemar Flemmer (now 75) told me he owned one which he lost while gardening! This is a photograph I have of the die.

 

One family member - Eric Flemmer has also sent me a sketch of the design of the crest, which has some features which are similar to the die.

 

Finally, there is this version which has been produced by a computer scan of the die.


There is no record in Denmark of the crest or the seal, although there is a reference I have found to the Abo crest including a skull and crossed bones. But we have no real information about these rings - who had them, why they were made, what they represent? 

 

If there is anyone who has any information it would be great to have it - even better to get hold of a ring!!

And here's the final question - do we adopt this as the Flemmer crest in SA?

 

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The Flemmer Family Reunion Banner
The Flemmer Family Reunion Banner

Made by Nick Herbert. Won in the draw by Duncan Mac Rae

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The printed Flemmer Family Tree
The printed Flemmer Family Tree

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Steve Herbert and Fay Lea
Steve Herbert and Fay Lea

Whew it's over!

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The Flemmer Family Reunion Banner
The Flemmer Family Reunion Banner

Made by Nick Herbert. Won in the draw by Duncan Mac Rae

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