Thomas Angell

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Land ownership by farmers in Stadsbygd is relatively recent.  King Harald Hárfagre (Fairhair or Finehair) Halvdansson (ca. 835-933) took ownership of the land in Stadsbygd away from the farmers in 870, and farmer ownership was not restored at Håssåker and Myr until 1769.  In the intervening nine centuries, all farmers were tenants. 


The Angell Foundations (Angellske Stiftelser) provided a loan in 1769 which enabled my great-great-great grandfather, Jens Christensen Haarsager, to be the first bruker of Håssåker in 900 years to own the ground he farmed.  The loan had a very long term – the last payment was not made until 1920!


The following story about the Angell family by Olaf Kringhaug was posted to the Trøndelag genealogy e-mail list on July 24, 2001 and gives some interesting background on the origins of the Foundations:

Thomas Angell

For several centuries before 1650, Trondheim's economy had been in the doldrums.  But then a number of immigrant merchant families established themselves and brought new life to the city.  Of the merchant houses of Trondheim, the foremost was that of the Angell family.  The first of the family was Lorentz Mortensen Angell (1626-97) who arrived in Trondheim from Angeln in Slesvik in the 1650s.  As with most of these families, he came with capital and with contacts overseas and immediately set about establishing himself.  In addition to trading and shipping, by the end of the 1600s he owned almost a third of the Røros copper works, the Tjøtta estate with 400 farms in Nordland and Lofoten and the royal tithes of Vesterålen and Andenes.  Lorentz Mortensen was married to Margrethe Hansdatter Puls (1631-70) who had come from Hamburg with her parents.  They had 13 sons and four daughters. Inheritance law favored the sons with twice as much as daughters.  As a rule, the sons would buy out the daughters, so that the sons would retain the fixed assets.


The family increased their fortune through good business skills, fiscal responsibility and judicious marriages.  Two of the sons married daughters of the immigrant English merchant, Thomas Hammond, who had large holdings in Selbu and Tydal, among other things.


The torch passed to Albert Lorentzen (1660-1705) who married Sara Thomasdatter Hammond (1672-1717) [editor’s note: Sara’s younger brother Johan was the ancestor of many in Stadsbygd and Rissa through his daughter, also named Sara, who married Henrik Horneman and with him became a prominent family in Rissa].  They had several children but only two sons survived, Lorentz (1690-1751) and Thomas (1692-1767) Albert died in 1705 and Sara married Søren Bygbal, another Trondheim merchant.  Her sons graduated from Copenhagen University and travelled in preparation to take over the business.  When their mother died in 1717, they returned home and took over the business in partnership.  They ran a shipping operation, exported copper and lumber, inported all sorts of goods and had large banking interests.  In addition they were involved in many enterprises both in Trondheim and Copenhagen.  They were major shareholders in Røros Copper Works and for many years, Thomas held a leading position in its management.


Lorentz married but Thomas did not.  Thomas led an almost solitary life, devoted to business and shunning titles and public show.  Lorentz died in 1751 and Thomas continued the business, but still as a partnership.  But events now led to a split in the family enterprise.


Lorentz' only child Karen was now of marriageable age. She was no beauty but would inherit a fortune of 300,000 riksdaler - in the parlance of the time, about three barrels of gold.  There were many who cast their eyes on this fortune, among them Peter Fredrik Suhm from Copenhagen.  He was the son of an admiral and of noble ancestry.  He was well educated and interested in scientific matters, but lacked the money to pursue them.  He came to Trondheim in the summer of 1751 and after a week's courtship, they were engaged, then married the following spring.  He now had control of Karen's fortune and became  Thomas Angell's partner in the business.  But the marriage soon turned sour because of Suhm's erotic escapades, which also led to a break with Thomas Angell.  In 1765 the Suhms left for Copenhagen with a fortune of 200,000 riksdaler and half the Nordland estates.  But any hope of inheriting Thomas Angell's great fortune was soon confounded.


As early as 1753, Thomas Angell had obtained royal permission to dispose of his fortune as he saw fit.  And in 1762 he had made up his will leaving everything to Trondheim's needy.  The annual income was to be divided, 1/6 to the orphanage, 1/6 to the poor house's occupants, 2/6 to the city's homeless and needy citizens and the remaining 2/6 to be reinvested.  There were later codicils that made some changes but it remained essentially the same.  There was some dispute about the will initially, probably at Suhm's instigation but it was quickly quelled. The probate took nine years.


The twists and turns of the evolution of the Foundation are a little difficult to follow.  A man of his times, Thomas Angell forbade, in his will, the selling of the lands, tithes and Røros shares the Foundation owned.  This was certainly wise and far seeing when one thinks of the collapse of the Bank of Norway in 1814 and how that would have devastated any capital.  However with the shift from property-based to capital wealth, it seems government stepped in and made changes in the mid 19th century. The tithes were sold for 250,000 spesiedaler or a million kroner.  And most of the farms in Nordland, Selbu and Tydal were sold to their tenants at reasonable prices.


The history of the Thomas Angell's Foundations is long and complicated with interventions by the courts and government but despite inflation and bank crises, it has survived as a sign of Thomas Angell's Christian charity.

-- Olaf Kringhaug

Revised June 18, 2002

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