My Memoirs

August 9, 2010 at 11:31 pm (Andersen Roots) (, , , , )

Complied by: Edith Jessica Bonneland Andersen Evans (my mom), 2009/2010

The Theodor Bonneland Andersen Family

The Morten Andersen Family
Ellen, Morten, Tante Johanne (Morten’s sister)
Richard, Julianna, and Theodor

Theodor Andersen has passed on a legacy for his family and I think it needs to be written down for the next generation.

My memories of India are seen and remembered through the eyes of a 12 year old. That is the last time I saw the land of my birth.

I do not want to get ahead of myself, as I need to recall the ancient past as to how the family was born in India.

Theodor’s father, Morten Datter Andersen, came to India as a missionary from Denmark, under the Danish Lutheran Mission. As his faith grew, Morten realized that there was something missing with the Lutheran beliefs. He left the Mission. He knew that God had something else for him. He got on a bullock cart and told the driver to go and God would lead. From what I know he must have been up in Northern India. He homesteaded a 3000 acre farm. The area was covered in cactus and all of it literally had to be burned out so he could start planting the rice fields.

Theodor’s mother, Ellen Barbara D’Abreu, had deeper roots in India. Some of her relatives were from Portugal and were commissioned by the king of Spain to set up trade with the Spice Islands. Bombay, now Mumbai, was one of the ports they stopped at and settled in the area.

Ellen Barbara has the distinction of being one of the first lady doctors in India.

Some of the relatives were railroad engineers and helped construct some of India’s railroad system.

Ellen Barbara was one of many sisters and also brothers and they were involved in public education. Delphine was also a doctor, and Phoebe and Edith worked in the postal service. Delphine, Phoebe, and Edith all went to Perth, Australia and died there.

Theodor graduated from Cornell University in Iticha, New York, with a degree in Agricultural Engineering.

I do not know how my grandparents got together, but I do know that Ellen Barbara was his second wife. His first wife died.

The Olive Margaret Nagel Family

The Volbrecht Nagel Family
Volbrecht and Harriet Nagel, with Josephine Mitchell (Harriet’s sister) in the background
Children are; Samuel, Theodor, Gottlob, Olive, and Karl

Olive father, Volbrecht Nagel, came to India as a missionary as well, but under the German Lutheran Mission. As his faith grew, he also became discontent with the Lutheran Mission and went to work with the Plymouth Brethren. They had a mission along the east coast of India, near Cochin. The Mission House he built is still there today, and the work continues. I have heard that there is a Bible College in the area and it is named after him. Volbrecht Nagel wrote many songs and they are being revived and sung in the college and mission.

Olive’s mother, Harriet Sabina Mitchell, was of Anglo-Indian descent. Harriet’s father was Joseph Samuel Mitchell. There was another daughter named Josephine Caroline. Ellen, my sister, and I have been talking and we possibly think that he served in the military. Ellen has recollections of him being a Viceroy. At this time India was a British Commonwealth Nation. Mother did tell is that records were destroyed in a fire and all went up in smoke. Mother was a very private person. I’m sure a lot of it had to do with her childhood.

Mother went on to college and graduated from the University of Madras with a BA to teach high school math.

The Volbrecht Bible Institute in India is doing very well. The many hymns he wrote are being revived and sung at the mission.

Over the past few months I have learned so much more about Volbrecht Nagel. I stand in awe and just thank the Lord for being part of this wonderful heritage that is still seeing souls brought into the Kingdom. I just wish I could have known my grandfather.

Early Recollections

I am assuming again, but I think my parents met in the town of Bangalore, which is in the Southern Central Plateau of India.

There was a high school there, with a boarding school. English children stayed at these boarding schools so they could get their education. My parents must have been at the Baldwin High School at the same time.

My parents were married in Bangalore on December 9, 1933, they were 31 at the time.

Theodor and Olive Andesen
Saturday, December 9, 1933

In the early years of their marriage, Dad was the overseer of a coffee plantation called Hullacarry Estate at Conoor. Conoor is a town up in the hills of the Western Ghats. I have some vague memories of this place. There was a factory there for making gunpowder. It is here that my Dad taught me all the names of the flowers in the garden, and I was only 2 years old. I get the love of flowers from my Dad. I have been told that one day my dad found me turning the eggs in the incubator like you are supposed to do. I do not know if I successfully completed the task, or whether some of the unborn chicks met their doom. I have vivid recollections of seeing a bandicoot. It is a huge rat. I know I ran out of the room very quickly!

Recently my brother was able to go back to India and visit the old places. His daughter took him while he was still able to travel. They brought back so many pictures and it was wonderful to see and now we have pictures to really jog many memories. The house we lived in is still there, with the same tiles on the floor.

Theodor and Olive’s children
Gottlob, Jessica, Ellen, and Konrad

From Conoor we really moved into the jungle. Dad became the manager of a Cincona Plantation. The drug Quinine comes from the cincona tree. We lived in the loft of the barn for a time while the house was being built. At nights you could hear the elephants trumpeting loudly and the snapping sounds of the bamboo. Dad would fire the rifle in the direction of the noise to make them move on. One night a black panther came up on the front porch and took our dog. While mother held the lantern, Dad tried firing, but was afraid of hitting the dog. He followed the tracks the next morning, but lost the trail at the river.

I have vivid memories of Tom Turkey. I would carry out a can of rice to feed the chickens, but Tom had other ideas. He would grab the can out of my hands and run off with it and enjoy the whole can for himself.

Mother was always uneasy living in the jungle. We moved to Fern Hill. It was a little town near Ootacamund. My older brother and sister had started school and they had a four mile walk. They rode the train home and had to make sure they got to the station on time as the train only went once a day. Our house was right by the railroad tracks. By this time Dad had gone back to Danishpet to run his share of the farm. Mother chose to stay with her children, rather than put us all in a boarding school. I am sure her memories of boarding school loomed high with her priorities. It was not long before we moved to Ootacamund and it was here that I started school and have lots of memories.

Ootacamund

Ootacamund, or Ooty for short, is a town nestled among the Nilgiri Hills. The elevation is 5000 feet so it has a very temperate climate. The average temperature is 72 degrees, but during certain seasons we could get some frost.

By this time I was ready for school and I am assuming that is why we moved to a town, so we could be closer to Breeks Memorial School.

Ooty is always very green and we were still surrounded by jungle. We were not allowed to roam very far from our compound to play.

Ritchie Cottage

In our compound were two houses. One was Ritchie Villa and we lived in Ritchie Cottage. As you entered the front door, you were in one long room which was divided into three sections; the dining room, the sitting room, and a bedroom for the boys. There were two bedrooms and off the big bedroom was a little room where we hung our clothes and the bathroom was off this closet room. There was also a bathroom off Ellen’s and my bedroom, but Gottlob had turned it into his dark room. He had become interested in photography and we had lots of pictures put up on our mirror to dry. Ellen and I had brass beds and we would wrap our hair ribbons around the rails so they would not be wrinkled for the next day. Our rubber bands were cut from old bicycle tubes. The only chore we had, was to make our own beds. Mother did not want to deal with the problem of lice. All the other housework was done by the servants. There was also a tiny room between the two bathrooms and this was where I played with my dolls.

We had a big fireplace in the sitting room and also in the big bedroom, which was connected to the one in the sitting room. During the Monsoon rainy season, the fireplace was put to good use. It was the only means of heat. I can remember huddling by the fire to deep warm from the damp cold. I remember shivering many an evening as I crawled into bed between the cold sheets. I know we had a fireplace in our bedroom, but it never got used. We wore heavy mackintosh canvas capes to keep us dry. On the really rainy days we would take off our shoes and walk home barefoot while we carried our shoes under the capes along with our books. When the cyclone wind blew and the rains came down in solid sheets it was so difficult to walk. We would hang up our capes in a room by the kitchen, but with no central heat we would have to put on those damp capes and trudge off to school the next day. We were always glad to see the rainy season end and the sun come out and dry things out. Mildew would be a huge problem.

Lush tropical growth surrounded us and it was always so green. I can remember the silver oak trees. Their leaves shimmered silver in the sunshine. The rhododendron trees were huge and the burgundy blossoms were breathtaking. Another tree was the flame of the forest and each petal was orange and yellow, and each blossom looked like a fire. Guava bushes grew everywhere on the hillsides. We loved to pick and eat the fruit.

The Botanical Gardens in Ooty, India

One of our favorite places to go was the Botanical Gardens. The flower gardens were always a mass of color and neatly trimmed. The lawns were lush and green, and you could go boating on the quiet, pristine lake.

In the center of the town was a placed called Charing Cross. A little white gazebo stood in the middle of the intersection, and a policeman (or bobby) would direct traffic. He always wore his uniform and had white gloves on his hands. I can still hear the sound of his whistle and see his hand signals as he directed traffic.

Ooty had many shops where you could get everything you needed, and Indian restaurants to please the palate. We even had a movie theater which we attended a few times. I can remember seeing Bambi there for the first time. I can remember munching on Plantain Chips. There was no popcorn. The chips were very delicious.

The market place was always a frenzy of people going from open stall to open stall to purchase meats and vegetables. Mother would take our servant, who was also our cook, along so she could carry home the purchases of the day.

Girls Sunday School Class

Montaban was a quiet, serene place where missionaries could come and rest and get away from the heat of the plains. It was run by the Brethren and we came in contact with many missionaries from Canada and England and a few from the United States. There was a Chapel on the property and this is where we went to church. Sunday School was in another church called Union Gospel Church. Mother would wait for us at Montaban while we went to Sunday School. We would go back to Montaban just in time for lunch. All of us would be seated at a long table. It was always a gracious time given to us by our hosts. After lunch we would have the long walk home.

View of Ooty, India from the top of Doddabetta Hill

We had our favorite place for our walks. The hill above our house was called Doddabetta. We enjoyed the view from the top. One day my brother, Gottlob, and some friends were walking up on the hill and they came upon a sleeping cheetah. The three of them sure ran down the hill to get away from the sleeping animal! It was a miracle that the animal did not wake up at all.

Eucalyptus trees grew everywhere on the hillsides. You could smell the oil as it was being extracted in the distillery. It is a very pungent odor.

One of the sights you saw all over the hills were the shrines that would be made to worship the Hindu gods. A little spot would be very carefully cleared and stones placed in a circle and sometimes they were painted white. There would always be flowers placed on the rocks. The Hindus worship everything in nature.

We did not have a lot of toys, but Konrad and I always found ways to entertain ourselves. We each had a rubber ball and we would see how long each of us could keep the balls bouncing. We also each had a wooden spinning top. We got to where they would spin for a long time. I can also remember making tractors with empty wooden spools of thread, a piece of candle, a lollipop stick, a rubber band, and a button. When wound up just right, the tractors would move quite a distance. As a family, we would play badminton and tenniquoit. Tenniquoit is played with a rubber ring tossed over the net like volleyball. The object of the game was to keep the ring from landing on the ground. Konrad and I also loved to catch pollywogs from the stream near the compound and keep them in a jar of water. I cannot remember what happened to them.

As a girl, I had a few dolls and can remember tea parties on the lawn with my girlfriends. We would use my little tea set and a low stool as our table. Helen was the girl that got my dolls when we left India. Mother explained to me how we could not take everything and I had to be grown up about it. I still wish I could have kept my Naomi. She was a little rag doll with a china head. She had been broken once and mended and I took very good care of her, as she was so beautiful. Mother was a wonderful seamstress and she fashioned the most beautiful wardrobe for Naomi. She was only about 8 inches tall and would not have taken up much room in the trunk. As a little girl playing with dolls, it always bothered me that no matter how many blankets I wrapped around my dolls, they never got warm. I would hold and cuddle them as close to me as possible.

The twins, Ellen and Gottlob, were five years older than me, so Konrad and I were buddies. Because of the way things were, Ellen and I never had the chance to bond as sisters and share that sisterly love. I will explain more later.

Konrad and I each had a sling shot and we would go on hunting expeditions, even though we just shot at targets. One day I did kill a bird and it made me so sad about what I had done. We did aim for the crows, but they are very clever and sneaky birds, and we never ever got a shot at them.

In our yard we had some huge, tall cypress trees. My older brother, Gottlob, and some of his friends climbed up one tree and out on a branch and tied a rope up there. We put a pillow between the ropes and that was our swing. Mother always watched in fear as we swung on the 50 foot rope. None of us ever got hurt on our swing. We had to hang on for dear life so we would not fall off.

Mother was never one to celebrate birthdays. One year she did. It was a little while before we left, and it was to celebrate all our birthdays. A big table was spread with all kinds of goodies and many friends were invited to the party.

We had electricity in the cottage, but no running water. One faucet behind the house was all we had and many a time we washed our hair out there. Baths were taken in the bathroom and we sat in a big galvanized tub. Our servants would heat the water in the kitchen and bring it into the bathroom. We took turns and had to be quick so each one could have a hot bath. Chamber pots were emptied every morning by one of the low-caste servants.

The Andersen Family in Danishpet
Ellen, Gottlob, Olive, Theodor, Jessica, and Konrad
with Looby Loo and Iris

Dogs were always a part of our family in those growing up days. Mother’s favorite was the pure white bull terrier. Looby Loo was with us at Ritchie Cottage. She was quite the dog. If mother scolded her, she would go sit on her bed facing the corner. It would take a lot of coaxing to get her to come out. Iris was the red setter and she was a loveable dog.

There was only one time I remember people living in Ritchie Villa. It was usually empty. One year some missionaries, the Gettys, came to Ritchie Villa. Mr. Getty was ill and needed a cooler climate to rest and get well. They had a son, Wayne, who was at Breeks. Later we visited the Gettys in Canada and renewed old friendships. Mrs. Getty gave me a card table sized tablecloth with embroidery and I still have it packed away.

Jessica, Wayne, and a friend in Canada

We missed Dad very much, but we knew he had the farm to run. He would come to visit as much as he could and the time spent with his was very precious.

As I reflect back on those days, I know we had a good life with friends and many adventures. Mother sacrificed a lot to give us that life.

Breeks Memorial School

Breeks Memorial School was the only English speaking school in the town of Ooty. We went to school with Missionary children. They were in the boarding school. There was one for the boys and one for the girls.

School day began with us having to walk 2 miles to school. Going was downhill, but coming home was uphill about half of the way. School always started with Chapel, and then we would go to our classrooms. Kindergarten and Standards 1 and 2 were in one building on the half of the school yard. The rest of the Standards were on the upper section of the school grounds. By the time I was in Standard 4, I was taking French, Latin, Chemistry, and Physics, along with Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. School was hard for me, and I struggled to get good grades. One of my teachers was really stern and mean. I remember her whacking the back of my hand with a ruler because I did not understand. I just stood there crying. I had been very sick. I was the last one to get the measles and as I began to get better, I begged Mother to let me go out and play. She gave in but then I ended up with a high fever for the next two weeks, and was miserable. I had just gone back to school when that happened. The other teachers were good and I do have fond memories of school. My Standard 4 teacher, Miss Morten, was my favorite. She was from Canada and we had the privilege of meeting her again while we were living in Canada.

We had a piano in the sitting room and in the evening Mother would play hymns and we sang along and also had our devotional time. I love the old hymns and they are engrained in my soul. I had piano lessons as a child, but practicing time was a chore and I just wanted to go out and play. So the lessons came to a screeching halt. Of course, I deeply regret it and wish I could play. I can still play the treble clef notes, but have to really think about the rest. I remember the little Piano House on the school grounds where Mrs. Atkinson would teach music.

Everyone wore uniforms to school. The girls wore navy blue denim tunics with a white blouse and red and white striped tie. We also had a beret and blazer to complete the uniform. The boys wore black pants, white shirt, and the same red and white striped tie. They also had blazers.

For the Andersen children, lunch time was an adventure. Our servant would bring us hot rice and curry in a tiffin carrier. We would sit out on the lawn and enjoy our hot lunch. The missionary children had sack lunches. I have to admit that we were spoiled and did a little gloating.

Some time during the school year we would have a sports competition. There were three teams, Pentland, Stanes, and Stevenson. Pentland had purple ribbon rosettes pinned to their uniforms, the others were blue and yellow. I wore the purple which was Pentland, but I do not remember which teams wore the other colors. The competition was held on the ground of the Lushington Hall, which was the boys boarding school. There was a big field on which the competition was held. I also remember watching some cricket matches on the same field.

Another of my school chums was a girl named Eunice Anderson. She was also from Canada and I had a chance to renew old acquaintances when we were in Canada. Time now has blurred things, but some of the memories are still there. Helen, the girl who took my dolls, was another good friend. She and her family were of Indian background. We had dinner with them on occasion. Her father, Mr. Joseph, played the violin and he would entertain after dinner. Niramala was another good friend and the three of us had great times together.

Bonnelan Farm

The house on Bonnelan Farm

Bonnelan Farm was a very special place for me. We were together as a family and, of course, there was no school.

We had our long school holiday during December and January, as this was the cooler time of the year. Despite that the days were still very hot.

Some of the time we would take the train and others Dad would come in the car, gather us up, and take us to the farm. It was only 160 miles away, but it was an all day journey. It was a long, winding road down to the plains with many hairpin turns to navigate. Once down from the hills, we had to contend with potholes and slow moving bullock carts.

The train ride always held a fascination for me and still does. We would board the small train pulled by a steam engine. The engine pushed the cars up the hill and pulled them down. In Conoor, the engine would hook on to a third line called the Cog Line. This would keep the train from becoming a runaway train because of the steep hills. The decent through lush tropical forests had many spectacular views. A big overhanging rock called Lamb’s Rock was one of them. I loved to stick my head out of the window to get a better view. Often I would end up with a cinder in my eye from the billowing smoke of the engine. That did not deter me for long, my head was soon out again, taking in the sights. The engine and rail line were designed by the Swiss.

View from Lamb’s Rock

Once down on the plains, the scenery changed dramatically. Now coconut palms and shrubbery dotted the scenery. There were also rice paddies. The temperature change was amazing. We had to change trains twice before reaching Danishpet. Dad would meet us at the station and we would walk to the farm, which was just a short distance. Servants would carry our luggage.

Dad had built a big rambling house with a thatched roof. There was a space between the walls and the roof so that the air could circulate and keep the house from becoming too hot and stuffy. There were 3 big bedrooms, with a bathroom off each bedroom. A narrow hallway connected two of the bedrooms and the bathrooms. There was also a small verandah between these bathrooms. Sometimes we would sleep out there because it was just too hot in the bedrooms. Another small hallway connected the sitting room and dining room with the rest of the house. A big verandah surrounded two sides of the house. The kitchen and pantry were at the end of the house to make it the shape of an L. We had no electricity or running water. Dad was very creative and he had his own septic system. The cement toilets were flushes with buckets of water and it all ran down into a septic tank. The master bathroom had a big cement tub and sink, the two other bathrooms just had galvanized tubs. Water was heated in big pots on fires in the back yard and carried in for us to use. One time Konrad and I got very itchy from playing with fuzzy caterpillars and we got to soak in the cement tub to get rid of the itch.

Behind the house was a deep well with a cistern that held the water for the house. The well was also used for irrigation. With ropes and pulleys and oxen, the water was brought up to be used in the rice paddies. The oxen would walk up and down a ramp and lower a big leather pouch into the well. It would come up full and the water was channeled into the irrigation ditch to be used where it was needed.

The original Andersen Homestead

The orignal Homestead was about 2 miles from our house. We loved to go there and spend time with Auntie Julie and Uncle Phil. Uncle Ben (Richard) and family would come for short visits. Konrad and I would play with Bernie, their youngest son. Gottlob and Ian would go off and do their own thing. Auntie Julie was Dad’s sister and Uncle Ben was his brother. Uncle Ben was pricipal at Baldwin High School in Bangalore. I do not remember meeting the oldest daughter, Joan. The main crop was rice. So at the Homestead rice and curry was served for lunch and dinner every day. Breakfast was hot cereal called ragi. It was a brown cereal and tasty, but I do not know what grain was ground into the cereal. Mother made sure we got something different for dinner, so we ate quite a variety of dishes.

Dad loved to experiment and he grew cotton, sugar cane, yams, papayas, bananas, and, of course, lots of rice. Close to the house was the vegetable garden and he loved growing tomatoes. I loved to go out and eat fresh tomatoes. We also had a big mango grove and to this day mangoes are one of my favorite fruits. There is nothing better than a freshly picked ripe mango. A refreshing drink was from the milk of the coconut. The husk keeps the liquid inside very cool. The top of the coconut was cut off and we drank right from the coconut. Then the coconut would ne cut in half and we would scrape out the soft white pulp, which was so delicious. This was often our soda pop on trips, instead of warm pop.

Konrad and I had many adventures, especially when Ian was visiting. He and Gottlob would take us on walks and pretty soon they would become quite alarmed and told us to stay where we were and they would go and get help. How gullible we were and we fell for the prank each time. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, we would cautiously head for home. I’m sure those two were hiding and watching and giggling when we arrived home. They always made sure we could see home from where they left us, but with the danger os snakes, we took them seriously… Ellen told me that she is afraid of spiders, thanks to the pranks of Gottlob and Ian. One day they threw a big spider on her, and to this day she does not like spiders. The spiders in India are not little, they are huge. Some of them are about 2 to 3 inches in diameter.

One thing that scared me was crossing the bridge that led to the Homestead. Two railroad lines were placed on their sides across the river, and you would have to straddle the tracks to cross the river. One time some heavy rains came and before we could get home, the river had risen above the tracks. One of our servants came and held our hands and walking backwards, guided us across the rushing river back to the safety of our home.

Snakes were a constant danger and to this day I still freeze when I hear a snake in the grass or see one. Our evenings were spent playing games by the light of kerosene lamps. One evening while we were playing Carom, I happened to look down and saw a snake stretched out along the parapet wall. Needless to say we scattered until the problem was resolved. Another time we were playing Pick-up-sticks and a scorpion fell out of the thatched roof right into the middle of our game. Believe me, we scattered very quickly until things were safe again. Peter Pan was the only game that Dad would play with us, and we would have hours of fun. The rest of the time he just sat in his armchair, snoozing.

Breakfast time was early on the farm. We could them go our and play, but had to be back in the house by 9 o’clock as it was getting too hot and the rest of the day we had to stay indoors. We did not go back out until the cool of the evening. Konrad and I found ways to amuse ourselves. One of our favorites was building houses with empty kerosene tins. There were enough to build big houses. One day a storm blew in and you know what happened to our house. It was scattered all over the verandah. We also had our color books and I had some paper dolls.

Jessica, Konrad, Gottlob, and Ellen

In the evenings we would take walks or go swimming in “The Tank”. It was a small lake and we would swim where the water flowed over the dam. You could stand up in this spot of the lake. Other times we would go swimming in one of Dad’s wells. It was big and deep. Here we used our inner tubes. This is where I learned how to swim. Dad tied a rope around my waist and promised he would not let me go. Before ling he let the rope go slack and I was swimming.

Rice has to be planted in water when what they call paddy fields. The fields are ploughed and leveled and the women are bent over all day, planting the rice, one plant at a time, into those soggy fields. The fields are not dried out until it is time for harvest. The rice has a very pungent odor when it is ready to harvest.

Getting fields ready for planting rice

Harvest time is always busy and we were allowed to ride on the back of the tractor or stand on the flat bed trailer used for hauling in the rice. The cut stalks are brought to the threshing floor where the rice is beaten off the stalks. The empty stalks soon become haystacks. The grain is scooped up into little flat baskets and gently shaken so the chaff will blow away in the wind. Then the rice is put away in gunny sacks and stored in the grainery. Some of the rice is ground into flour, which is used in Indian cooking. One the threshing floor there is a narrow trench in the shape of a circle and at one spot there is a round grinding stone. Oxen are used to pull the stone around the trench, slowly grinding the rice into flour. After all the excitement is over, Dad would always have some of the hay brought into our compound and we would have loads of fun playing in the hay. One summer a chameleon made its home in the bouginvilla bush by the grainery. Some days he was very hard to spot. He stayed there a long time.

I had a big fright one day as I was walking into the bathroom. I saw a huge snake coiled around the lower door hinge. I ran for help and this time the snake met its doom by being squished in the hinge and then removed and thrown out.

Because of the threat of malaria, we had to take our weekly dose of quinine. Those pills are so bitter that you learned to swallow quickly or else get that bitter taste in your mouth. Another precaution was a mosquito net on every bed. We had to make sure that the nets were really tucked in under the mattress so no mosquito could come and bite us. The mosquito nets also proved to be a great shelter when a big old bumble bee would come into the house and try to dive bomb you. Those bees are huge and about the size of a ping pong ball.

Yercaud, by way of Shevaroy Hills

Sometime, when the days seemed extra hot, Dad would take us up to the Shevaroy Hills to cool down. The hills are just behind the train station. We would go visit the Marshalls who lived in Yercaud. This was the little town where my Dad was born. The Marshalls had come from Denmark and settled in the hills.

Mother would always try to make Christmas time on the farm a special event. It was the only holiday we celebrated. There was no fir or pine trees, so any big tree would do. It would get decorated and we even put candles on the tree. Each candle had its own holder with a clip that could be attached to a branch. Each candle was carefully placed so the tree would not catch on fire. One Christmas Eve Dad disappeared from the sitting room. Of course, we wondered what he was doing. Some time later we heard this Ho, Ho, Ho, from the other end of the house. It got louder and louder and then in came Dad pushing a wheelbarrow load of presents into the sitting room. This is one Christmas I will never forget.

Making the Christmas cake was always a family project and the one time we were allowed to help prepare the food. I would sit cross legged on the floor with a big bowl between my legs. With a big wooden muth, which is half a wooden ball with a stick, we would have to cream the sugar and butter. Mother had to make sure it was right, before any other ingredients could be added. Our arms would get tired, so we all took turns in making the cake. The muth was an amazing utensil. I wish I could find one here.

Our servants just did not understand our Christmas tree. Dad had tried to explain, but they were sure it was our idol and we were worshipping it.

One Christmas we had hung an aluminum foil star above the tree and forgotten to take it down. I had a little calico kitten, called Panda, and she loved to sit and watch that star sway in the breeze. One morning I could not find her. She had died. The only thing that the servants could think had happened was her eating a dead scorpion that they had forgotten to dispose of properly. I missed Panda for a long time.

We always enjoyed walks in the evening, after being in the house all day. You could see the Hillock from the house and we liked to go there. Mongoose had also make the Hillock their home.

Cactus

Vegetation was so different from the Hills. This was desert and very arid country. Cactus was abundant and the blossoms to beautiful. The deadly night shade also had a very fragrant white blossom which looked like an upside-down lily. You had to be careful as you walked along the paths or you could end up with some nasty scratches. The big trees gave some welcome shade. The Rain Tree, when in bloom, was a mass of pale pink blossoms. The tamarind tree also grew very tall and spread out, giving us shade. The fruit, when ripe, looks much like the pods of the locust tree. I think they possibly may be of the same family. I think the blossoms were white. The pulp inside the pod is like a brown paste and can be used in curry. I have also seen pop made from the fruit of the Tamarind tree. I love the big Jacaranda trees. The blossoms are dark lavender and the leaves have a feathery look. I have seen them growing in California and it always brings back memories of the ones in India. Lantana bushes grew wild, many circled “The Tank” and there was also verbena and the touch-me-not plants. The touch-me-not plant had pink blossoms. When the leaves were touched they would fold up, which reminds me of the prayer plant. They had lots of little leaves down a stem and it was fascinating to watch them fold up.

The Rain Tree

On our walks I would love for ‘gundamuni seeds’. They were red and black and would make such beautiful jewelry. I don’t think I ever made jewelry, but I had quite the collection of the seeds.

One year Mother made two butterfly nets, one for me and the other for Konrad. We had a grand old time looking for butterflies and what we caught we put in a bowl and left it on the ground. Upon our return we saw that the ants had devoured the whole collection. We did catch other butterflies, but let them go so they would not meet the same fate.

The farm did have some really frightening times. One day Dad insisted we stay indoors and not go out at all. We soon learned that a wild boar was on the prowl near the compound. I think Dad did kill it, as I remember some very tasty curry. In India the cow is sacred, so we never ate beef. However, we did eat a lot of lamb. We had chickens and roosters and we dined on them from time to time. There was usually a bunch of little chicks following their mother. If ever a hawk hovered above, the mother hen would make frantic clucks and the little chicks would run and hide. It always amazed me at how well they could hide. Ginty, one of our dogs, got a love of hens and started killing them. Dad had to end up shooting her.

The monkeys proved to be such a nuisance. If you did not keep them at bay, they would soon overtake your compound, which included the house. Behind our house was a row of government houses with an avenue of trees. The monkeys would start at the end and slowly move closer and closer. The only was to get rid of them was to shoot one of them. They are very family oriented and if one is killed, the whole bunch would leave to find another territory. One day my brother fired both barrels of the shotgun and killed two monkeys. I remember the day a monkey got into the house and Dad cornered it in the bathroom and killed it. The rest moved away. They are such noisy creatures and the sound of their chattering can be deafening.

One of our dogs came home one day with his ear ripped open from tangling with a monkey. Dad’s medicine was putting tobacco in the wound and it healed up very nicely.

Each holiday at the farm ended much too quickly and we would have to head back to Ooty and school again for another year. I loved those carefree days and look back on them with such fond memories.

The servants and the Tiger Dance

At the end of our last vacation on the farm, all of our servants got together and performed the Tiger Dance for us. We were given brass and silver tokens of their love and affection for us. They had been very loyal and faithful.

The Andersen Family
Jessica, Gottlob, Theodor, Olive, Ellen, and Konrad
with the servants

Farewell to India

India was a British Colony until 1948, when she gained her independence. BEcause we were all born in India, we had to file for Indian Passports to leave the country.

Mother and Dad had purchased some land in California, sight unseen, trading Indian money for American money from the missionaries.

In 1952, Ellen and Gottlob had finished school and there was no real future in India for girls. Mother and Dad were anxious to get us out of the country. This began an incredible journey into the unknown.

The quota for Indians immigrating to the States was filled for years ahead. We were British subjects, so we were allowed to leave the country and go to England.

Dad had some special trunks made, about 30 of them, and we packed up and left. Dad had already sold his share of the farm. My parents were both 50 years old when they left family and friends behind. The day we left Ooty, friends and some family gathered to say goodbye. Most of them thought Mother and Dad were crazy and that the purchased land would be in the ocean.

As the engine whistle blew and the train slowly began to move away from the station, the group began singing, “God be with you till we meet again.” To this day, when I hear that song, it brings a tear to my eye. This was the last time for my sister, and me, and Mother and Dad to see our homeland. I know we will meet many of those friends and family again in our Eternal Home.

The train took us across India and we boarded a ferry that took us across to the Island of Ceylon, now Sri Lanka.

It was the first time for me to see the ocean, let along be sailing on it. The ferry docked at the northern end of the island and we boarded another train that took us to Colombo. There we would set sail for England.

We must have been quite a sight to see. Our luggage had to be unloaded and reloaded for the next leg of the journey.

The bond of Christians ties us together. That night a doctor welcomed us into his home and the family was so gracious to us, who were total strangers. The next morning we boarded the HMS Otranto and we were on the next step of our incredible journey.

HMS Otranto

As we arrived at the port of Colombo, there was this huge ocean liner docked at the pier. I had never seen anything so big before. I could not believe that we were going to be on board for the next three weeks. Once on board, we were too excited to stay in our cabin, as we wanted to take in all the excitement at the pier. There was hustle and bustle everywhere. We watched all our trunks being raised up in huge nets and lowered into the cargo hold of the ship.

Time of departure had arrived. The whistle blew and the engine motors started running. Tugboats slowly pulled the liner out into the channel. The liner was now under her own power and headed out of the harbor. The buoy lights became smaller and then dropped out of the horizon. All around was nothing but this huge expanse of nothing but water. The sea was calm and the ship glided smoothly across the water.

There was one last thing we had to do, to break our tied with India. We had to throw our sun hats into the ocean. We gathered on deck and all the hats went sailing at the same time. I still wonder where the ocean current took them.

There were lots of activities aboard ship to keep one busy. There were deck games and a swimming pool. A lot of passengers just sat on the deck chairs and sunned themselves. We had perfect weather for our journey.

The first port of call was Aden. It is a port at the tip of Arabia and is very dry and arid. This is the port where one of our Navy ships was rammed. We decided to stay on board, instead of going sight seeing. There was really not much to see at this port.

We left Aden and headed up through the Red Sea for the Port Said and the Mediterranean Ocean, and this meant we had to go through the Suez Canal. The ships had to take turns as it was too narrow for two ships to fit side by side in the canal. We started up at night, but still did get to see some of the land of Egypt. Pyramids could be seen in the distance and palm trees grew along the canal. It fascinated me as to how slowly the ship glided up the canal. There was hardly a ripple to be seen.

Every time a ship came into a harbor, plenty of vendors come in their small boats to try and sell their merchandise. There is a lot of bartering that goes on. At Port Said we stayed on board and did not go ashore.

We left Port Said and headed up into the Mediterranean Sea. Our next port of call was Naples, Italy. On certain days the sea was an ultramarine blue and so calm. The weather was absolutely perfect. Some days you would see dolphins swimming along with the ship. The captain took us on a little detour on the wat to Naples. We sailed past the Island of Crete. We saw Fairhavens, where Paul at one time had taken shelter from the storm.

The Island of Crete

One late evening you could look ahead and see bright red embers lighting up the sky. Mt. Etna, on the island of Sicily, was erupting. It was my first sight of a volcano and I watched until it was out of sight.

Mt. Etna

After docking at Naples, we disembarked and took a tour of the Bay of Naples. At Naples, vineyards were everywhere and grown right down to the ocean on terraced land down the rocky slopes to the ocean. We toured a factory where they make hand carved cameos. The work they do is absolutely amazing and so intricate. We also walked on the ruins of Pompeii. You could see Mt. Vesuvius in the background. It was one of those solemn moments when you realize so many died from this disaster.

The Ruins of Pompeii, with Mt. Vesuvius in the background

Marseilles, France was the next port of call. We took a guided tour of the city. It was a beautiful city with beautiful gardens and all were neatly trimmed. The area was flatter and more open, not like the rocky hillsides of Italy.

Marseilles, France

Gibraltar was the next stop on our journey. The big rocks stands guard at the entrance to the Atlantic Ocean. If you look across the inlet, you could see the coast of Africa. At the base of the rock is a cement revetment that catches all the rain water. Water is a very precious commodity in this part of the world.

Gibraltar

We got back aboard ship and soon we were on our way. Once out in the Atlantic Ocean, the ship started to head north. The temperatures began to cool the farther north we sailed. Konrad and I had to get our shoes back on. Up till now we had been barefoot aboard ship.

The ocean voyage was soon coming to an end. Now we were sailing up the English Channel and viewed the White Cliffs of Dover. Soon the liner turned down into the Thames River and we docked in London. Upon disembarking we boarded a train and headed for Newton Abbott. The Brethren Assemblies found us a place to stay. Newton Abbot is in Devonshire. This was to be our home for the next 6 months.

The White Cliffs of Dover

Newton Abbott

After living in the tropics, this was a drastic change for us. We lived in a house on the corner and the whole block had houses connected together like an apartment. The only source of heat was a fireplace in every room. We spent most of our time in the kitchen area and kept the fire going in this room only. We used coal for the fire. One day the area we kept the coal caught fire and I ran out and got help from friends and soon the fire was out. It really did not do much damage to the house. Mother used to say that by the time you got your front end warm and turned to warm the back, the front was cold again.

After growing up with servants, Mother was now washing clothes in the bathtub and hanging them out to dry. I remember helping a little, but I soon rubbed sores on my hands.

As I have said, I really did not like school. It was always a struggle for me. I did make friends with a couple of sisters and soon we were friends with the whole family. The dad played drums for a local band. My parents led the mother and dad to the Lord, and later they followed us to Canada. They eventually bought a house in Calgary. They also had twin boys while living in that house. Now we have lost complete track of the family and do not know how to try and locate them.

The three of us girls spent a lot of time together. We would ride the train down to Exeter, which is by Plymouth Harbor. This is the harbor where Mayflower the 2nd set sail for America. We also picked lots of primroses as we strolled through the woods of Devon.

We did take one trip back to London to see the sights. We took in Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London, and, of course, Buckingham Palace. We watched the changing of the guard in front of the palace. I know we must have done some shopping, but I cannot remember any stores.

The Tower of London

It was wintertime in England when we were there. So we really did feel the cold. One morning we woke up to some snow. That was a real novelty for us. Konrad, who usually loves to sleep in, was up and out and playing in the snow.

Dad had a difficult time finding work in England. The only job he got was growing tomatoes in a hothouse. Here was a landlord, stooping to do the labor himself. More money was going out than coming in and Dad knew we had to make some drastic changes.

The United States was still the goal, but immigration still would not allow entrance. So Canada was the next logical move. It is a British Commonwealth nation and passage was granted. Once again we had to pack and begin the next leg of the incredible journey.

Canada

Arrangements were made and once again everything was packed up and we boarded the train for South Hampton. This was the port of departure for us.

Mother’s brother, Karl, was living there, so we went and stayed with the family before leaving. We had not seen Uncle Karl and Auntie Esther for quite some time. They have two children, Andrew and Pauline. I know they visited us on the farm, and I think Andrew was just a baby at the time.

The Georgic, which is the ship they sailed to Canada on (departing in Halifax in April 1953)

The voyage to Canada was so different. After the beautiful azure blue of the Mediterranean, we sailed on a choppy, windy, stormy, gray sea. We had our coats on all the time, trying to keep warm. This was a ship that was used to transport troops during the war, so it was not fancy like the Otranto. The last day at sea was especially stormy. The waves were splashing up on deck and it was much safer to stay in our cabin. The ship had stopped in Ireland to pick up passengers. The Irish are not sea worthy people. Most of them were really sea sick for the entire voyage. It took about 5 days to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

We docked in Halifax, Nova Scotia and boarded a train for the long trip across Canada. Our destination was Three Hills, Alberta. It was still wintry weather and snow was everywhere. The St. Lawrence River was frozen over. I had no idea a big river like that could become a sheet of ice. We had on our warm coats and gloves to keep warm.

We made one stop along the way. Mother and Dad had some friends in Ottowa that they knew from India. So we stayed with them for a couple of days. We had our first look at television and the broadcast was coming from America. We were really amused with the American accent. It was so foreign to us.

The time went by quickly and we boarded the train again and headed off across Canada. The destination was Edminton, Alberta. Some one from Three Hills met us at the station and drove us down to the Prairie Bible Institute. When you enter a country like we did, there has to be someone to sponsor you. The people at Prairie Bible Institute were our sponsors.

The Tabernacle at the Prairie Bible Institute

As we left Ottowa, we saw the scenery change, from rolling green hills and farmland to the open vastness of the prairies. It was an amazing change.

Three Hills is just a tiny little town in the middle of the Alberta prairies. You could see for miles because it was so flat. The town gets its name from three tiny hills, or bumps, near the town.

We stayed at the Institute and Dad got a job as a night watchman. Mother insisted that Konrad and I attend school. I was going to have to make new friends again. It was different here, as it was a Christian school on the campus.

Grace Murray soon became my friend and Mother would even let me spend the night at her house. This was something else that I had never done before.

Ellen enrolled in the Institute and had one year there. During that first year, we attended a wedding of one of our neighbor’s children from India. Truly it is a small world. During that year, Ellen felt the Lord calling her to go to Quebec to become a missionary to the French people there. So she went to a French Bible School near Montreal and soon became fluent in French. She met and married Melvin Schmidt, one of the students at the school. Both of them have been in Quebec ever since.

Melvin and Ellen Schmidt

Our stay at Prairie Bible Institute was short lived. Dad needed a good paying job, so he went down to Calgary. At first all he could get was digging ditches, but soon ended up getting a job as a surveyor.

The house in Calgary

While we were in Calgary, we learned how to ice skate and as children, we adapted to the cold. The north winds can really drop the temperatures below freezing. It was just too much for Mother. Every once in a while you would see a bright spot on the horizon and a warm wind, called the Chinook, would blow in and raise the temperatures to above freezing.

Jessica on ice skates

From Calgary you could see the Rocky Mountains, and we took a couple of trips to Banff and Jasper National Parks. What a beautiful scenic place to spend a day. We were also able to witness the Northern Lights. There is just no way to describe them. It just makes you stand in awe at their beauty.

Mt. Rundle and Echo River, in Banff, Alberta

During the long, cold winter, we made our front lawn into our own private skating rink. We did have a creek behind the house and down a hill, but we preferred the front yard. The boys loved to toboggan down the hill and end up in a heap down at the bottom. I loved to skate at the rinks and especially when it snowed. The music would play and it was just so relaxing to glide around the rink.

Konrad and I had about 15 blocks to walk to school. The only days it was hard was during the blizzard winds, which make walking very difficult. I learned how to play ice hockey on the rink at school. This world is truly a small world. My daughter-in-law’s Dad attended the same King George School in Calgary. It was not at the same time, as he was there a few years later.

King George Junior High

While in Calgary, I also experienced my first wiener roast and roasted marshmallows. The church we attended had things like this for the young people.

We lived in Calgary for about 2 years and then immigration regulations changed. Dad was now able to enter the United States under racial origin. He was Danish and things moved very quickly. I learned later that the United States would not accept my sister as a citizen, because she suffered from epilepsy. So God was working things out and knew the time was right for us to get to our destination. Mother and Dad just waited patiently for God to take care of them. Ellen was settled in Canada and they could leave knowing that God was taking care of her. God always knows what is best, and His timing is perfect.

The Theodor Andersen Family
Ellen, Gottlob, Theodor, Konrad, Olive, and Jessica

My older brother had a job working for the Swift Meat Packing Company, and he followed later. His dream was to become a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force, but those dreams never materialized.

So, once again, it was packing time and we were finally ready for the last leg of our journey. Dad had gone ahead and gotten a good job as a surveyor and map maker. Now it was time for us to go and this time the trip was by Greyhound Bus.

San Luis Obispo, California

When all the formalities had been dealt with, Dad came on down to San Luis Obispo to look for work and find us a place to live. The first thing he had to do was see the land they had purchased while still living in India.

The lots were in a little seaside community called Baywood Park. They were prime lots and about a mile from the ocean. God had really taken care of them and rewarded them for their faithfulness. Dad never did build a house on those lots, but sold them a few years later for quite a profit.

Dad did find a job as a draftsman and he was working for a Christian man from the church we attended. Elmer was such a good piano player. He played for the church and everyone enjoyed his solos. He got carried away with his songs and forgot how long he was playing.

Dad did find a house that he bought. It was an old house and needed lots of repair before we could live in it.

Then came the time to pack and we boarded the Greyhound bus and headed for California. We had to stay in a motel for about 3 weeks until the house was livable.

Mother, of course, made Konrad and me go to school. There was only three weeks of the school year left, and we did some complaining. Mothers always have a way of winning.

I can remember how lonely I felt. I was sitting on the cement slab of the flag pole, looking sad and dejected. I looked up and there was a girl looking at me and she said hello. From that instant we became fast friends and she still is my best friend today, after all these years. That bond that formed has lasted for 57 years.

Jessica and best friend, Pat Tupac, in 1981

I am glad that Gottlob came down to California to stay with us. He got a job working at the Bank of America. We finally began to bond as brother and sister. Konrad had found his circle of friends and we drifted apart. After high school, Konrad left home and got a good paying job in the field of radio and eventually settled in San Diego. Gottlob and I got involved in church activities, events, and retreats, and it was good for us. We joined a group called the Navigators and this is where I really began to mature spiritually. We had so many good times together with our circle of Christian friends.

Konrad Andersen

Mother was a math teacher, but all our younger years she stayed with us and did not work. After getting to San Luis Obispo, the urge to teach became strong. She got a job as a substitute teacher at Cal Poly, the college in town. That one day lasted for 16 years. She was teaching trig and calculus. She had to always study hard and keep a few days ahead of her students. Mother, along with teaching, ended up getting her Masters Degree in math.

When I was in high school, someone got wind of our family story. We ended up on the front page of our local newspaper with our Thanksgiving story of coming to America to seek a new life.

After I graduated, I spent a year at a Bible College in San Francisco, and it was a wonderful learning experience for me. I only did this one year, and them came home for the summer. I ended up getting a job at the Child Evangelism office as the secretary. That was the best job for me. Those two spinster ladies must have seen my potential and very patiently guided me into teaching Bible stories to the children. I ended up doing this all the years my children were little.

Jessica at the Child Evengelism Office

Soon after Gottlob came to California, Uncle Sam decided that he needed to be drafted. They promised that he would automatically become a citizen when he enlisted. However, he did not get his citizenship until after he was out. We became citizens on June 16, 1960. This adopted land is now our home.

Gottlob Andersen

One summer I went to a Christian camp near San Luis Obispo. It was called Camp Talaki. The missionary speaker was Mr. Olsen. Mr. Olsen had been a missionary in India and we knew him from Montaban. He remembered me and it was good talking and catching up. He had a saying that I have never forgotten, “Why stand when you can sit, and why sit when you can lay down.” Truly this is a small world when you meet someone you know from India in a little remote campground in California.

Jessica with friends at Camp Talaki, 1957

San Luis Obispo will always have a warm place in my heart. I learned so much and grew so much spiritually. God knew I needed to be there. It was my training ground.

Mother and Dad eventually ended up going down to El Cajon, California. They liked the warmer climate which reminded them of their home in India. Both of them died in 1979 and are buried in the El Cajon Cemetery. Their final resting place reminds us much of India. God honored them and took care of them, and I know some day we will be together again in Heaven.

Theodor and Olive Andersen

Reflections

As I look back over the years and that incredible journey we embarked on, I have to thank the Lord for my parents. They protected and guided us and taught us well. As I was growing up, I never wanted to stray from those principles. Friends tried to encourage me to drink and smoke, but I refused. I knew it was wrong and I wanted no part of that world. I have tried to instill these principles in my children.

We were able to see and do so much on that voyage. Now, with air travel, people are just in a hurry and miss so much of the beauty around us. We saw things that most people will never see.

One of my favorite verses in Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.” I watched God lead, direct, and work out every detail as my parents waited. God has done some miraculous things in our lives.

Theodor and Olive Andersen

My parents moved to El Cajon, California, but did not live there for too many years. My Dad got liver cancer and died on September 1, 1979. My mother had a heart attack and she died on May 27, 1979, just three months before Dad died. Her last letter to me spoke of being so tired. She had been taking care of Dad and the strain took its toll. After Mother died, Dad just gave up his struggle with cancer.

My only regrets now are that as a family, we are scattered across the North American continent. We never had a chance to always live together as a family. The only time we did that was while we were living in England, and that was only for 6 months. Ellen and Melvin got married and came to San Luis Obispo for their honeymoon, and that was June 1958 and the last time we were all together as a family. We grew up and moved our separate ways. Ellen is in Qubec, Canada, Konrad is in San Diego, Gottlob is in Arizona, and I am living here in Oregon. Health reasons keep us separated and I know we will all never be together again here on this earth.

The Andersen Children in 1991, after the funeral for Jessica’s husband, Alvy
Jessica, Konrad, Ellen, and Gottlob

God blessed me with 4 children. I now have 8 grandchildren and my family is getting scattered. My oldest son, Rudy, has moved to British Columbia, Canada and is a children’s pastor in Fort St. John. Julie is near Portland, Oregon and I am here living with my older daughter, Sabina, in a little rural community in Eastern Oregon. Phillip is here with us in Imbler.

Jessica with her 4 children, two of her children-in-law, and her 8 grandchildren in 2005

There are times when I wished I could have gone back to the land of my birth for a visit, but that dream has ended. The “Old Homestead” has been sold and is now the Andersen Memorial Trade School. There is no family left in India, as all have passed on. The siblings are scattered all around the world. Now, with the internet, we are getting acquainted with them after all these long years of separation. I have my memories, and that is all I need.

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Blast from the Past

August 5, 2010 at 6:22 pm (Andersen Roots) (, )

This morning I was contacted by Alex Walker from Aberdeen, Scotland. He is a stamp collector who specializes in Denmark. He acquired this envelope for part of his collection. While researching Danishpet (or Danish Pett), he stumbled across my blog. He sent me this scan of the envelope, which is addressed to my great grandma, Ellen Andersen. It is postmarked March of 1906.

He writes,

“Interesting that the spellings of place names vary slightly. My envelope has “Danish Pett ” and “Kattiampadi” whereas your biography has the modern spelling “Danishpet” and “Kadiampatti”. I don’t have any clues as to the sender or the contents, but it is a small envelope, what we call a ” Ladies Letter”, and may have contained a greetings card, an invitation, or a thank you note. It was mailed from “SanThome” which has obvious Portuguese origins.”

My great grandma Ellen Andersen’s maiden name is D’Abreu, and she is of Portuguese decent, so the letter may be from a relative… Who can say.

I find it amazing that this envelope is still around after 104 years.

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The Danish Connection

August 4, 2010 at 11:24 am (Andersen Roots) (, , )

My Days in Danishpet

By Joan Louisa Andersen White
Wellington, New Zealand
July 2003

There are times in all our lives when we look back to the days of our childhood and wish we could have them all over again! I say this because I was one of those very fortunate children who had such an interesting and diverse life as a child, and as I grew up.

Escape to Danishpet

“The Andersen Family”
Back: Theodor, Ian, Olive, Gottlob, and Richard Phillips
Front: Ellen, Jessica (my mom), Winnifred, Richard (Ben), Bernie, Julianna (known as Julie or Julia), and Konrad

Although I lived most of my life in a boys’ school, at holiday time my parents were always able to ‘escape’ from the confines… if I can call them that! … of the school atmosphere and pressues, and take a road that led them to a place where we were all able to relax and really enjoy the peace and quiet of the South Indian countryside. And that place, to all of us that were able to go to and ‘escape’ was called Danishpet, and still is to this day. I, as one of the Andersen family, am very proud of this fact!

It was so named because my paternal grandfather was a Danish missionary by the name of Rev. Morten Andersen who, with his second wife, Ellen (formely D’Abreu), who was one of the first three lady doctors in India, settled there in about 1893.

They were the founders of what we could call a Mission Station. The former South Indian name of the railway station was Kadiumpati, but that was changed to honour my grandfather and has remained so.

From what my father, Richard (called Ben) and his sister, Julia, told me about their early lives on the farm, my grandparents had a very hard life, living in small thatched huts. My grandfather cut down the forest trees, cactus, lantana, and other wild shrubs that covered the thousand acres of land that the Indian Government had sold him cheaply on condition that he clear it. While he was doing this, my grandmother, being a doctor, by very slow degrees worked patiently and with a great deal of caring to make the nearby village people realise that she was there to heal them and make their way of life a better one.

The Homestead

As soon as he was able to, my grandfather built a large home for his growing family and for his sister, Johanne Andersen, who had come out from Denmark with him and never left. We called her ‘Tante’ (Aunty) and she was a very special person in all our lives.

With Besta Fa’er (grandfather) and Besta Mo’er (grandmother) and Tante in my life when we went to Danishpet for our holidays… with Aunty Julie working with the London Missionaries in Salem, 25 miles away, and coming ‘home’ from time to time… this is where my time for remembering my childhood starts… at about the age of five.

I remember that we had to make the journey to Danishpet by train as that was the most sensible at the time, as the school car was a Model “T” Ford! It really was a picnic on the train. The lovely sujee halva that Mummy used to make, plus the egg sandwiches, were sufficient as it was not too long a run to Jalarpet, where we waited not too long before the train from Madras came along to take us to Danishpet and the continue on to Salem and the south.

Joan Andersen in a Bullock Cart

At the station we would be met by Aunty Julie, mostly, and some of the senior people from the village and – most necessarily – a bullock cart to transport us ‘ladies’ through the Big River with our luggage. Daddy used to walk, having removed his collar and tie as soon as he put foot on the railway station platform. The only did he feel fully relaxed and on holiday! Ready for the two mile walk!

I have a recollection of Besta Fa’er sitting at the smaller table in the dining room, smoking his cigar. Daddy told me that he and Uncle Tedo (Theodor Andersen) were caught trying to smoke one of Besta Fa’er’s cigars, so he gave them one each and made them smoke them through to the bitter end. As you can imagine, they didn’t try to smoke again… ever! I also remember that Besta Fa’er had a big horse called Bessie, and I remember having a ride on her in front of Besta Fa’er. I also had quite a few tastes of the freshly cooked horse-gram from the horse’s bag! It tasted wonderful! Daddy had a horse, too, called Horsie-cutie, the foal of the horse I used to drag around, feed, and harass.

Joan Andersen on Bessie

As for Besta Mo’er, I really don’t remember her very much, but I have a faint recollection of her calling me Joanie. Whenever I got hurt or cut my finger or something, I would go to her and she would paint the hurt with a feather dipped in iodine.

What I do remember very clearly is Besta Mo’er sitting in Tante’s room late at night and dressing, by lantern light, the bad ulcer that she had on one of her shins. It never healed. Uncle Tedo or Aunty Julie did it for her after Besta Mo’er died in 1932, the year after Besta Fa’er. Strangely enough, they both died in Aunty Connie and Uncle Newton;s bedroom, in the Boys’ School. Daddy had brought each of them in turn to Bangalore for medical aid. As I was six or seven years of age, I remember being around when it all happened and, in turn, Daddy had to take their bodies back to Danishpet for burial.

Tante

As I mentioned earlier, Tante was a very special person in all our lives. No matter who was living in the Homestead, she was always the same – a tall, quiet person that we all loved. She had always spoken Danish to the family, and that was what Daddy, Aunty Julie, and Uncle Tedo spoke to her, but we all knew that she understood English, because of the little smile that would appear at times when one of us said something that amused her.

I was about four or five when Daddy and Mummy first took me to Danishpet and it would probably have been at Christmas time. My grandparents were still alive – that was 1930. This is what I remember, but maybe they had taken me there when I was younger, because there is a photograph of me on my grandfather’s lap at an earlier age. Anyway, that was the first time I remember seeing them all, and then the following year Besta Fa’er died, followed by Besta Mo’er in 1932, so I didn’t really have much time to get to know them. But Tante was there and I got to share a great deal of my time with her on those earlier years.

Tante Johanne with the flock, in her garden.

That was a very special time for me, because Tante looked after feeding the dogs (at least two or three), the cats and their kittens, and all the cocks, hens, and chickens which used to roam everywhere until Uncle Tedo, I think, fenced them into a very large yard. This is where I “helped” Tante. I used to go to her rooms in the middle area of the Homestead, where she kept everything – and I mean everything! Grain – various types in various sacks – and everything that was collectable: string, pieces of wool, wood… you name it, she had it! She collected banana skins, papaya skins, whatever was left over from our meals that could be fed to the fowls, etc, and she would painstakingly cut everything up. And that’s where I came into the picture: she would measure out the grain, etc, and I would be allowed to feed the chickens and hens and any other birds that happened to want a share as well. When I was a bit older, I was allowed to collect the eggs.

She also looked after what we called the dairy side of things. We had our own cows, and it was she who received the milk, boiled it, collected the cream, and made the butter. Daddy enjoyed the buttermilk when he came back from his long morning walks. She made a big bowl of yoghurt for us to have at lunchtime; and I remember once when Bennie Weston was there on holiday, he loved Tante’s yoghurt so much that he was almost emptying the bowl himself. She called out in English, “Halt!” and had us all in histerics. He didn’t do that again!

She was also our coffee maker. The coffee was grown on the hillside around the Danish Mission Church on the lower slopes of the Sheveroy Hills, below Visranthi, and Rev. Hansen, Besta Fa’er’s friend, had a coffee estate. That’s where our coffee beans probably came from. Anyway, the last thing at night, when Mummy, Daddy, and I were on our way to bed on our rooms at the entrance end of the Homestead, we would pass the small window in Tante’s smaller back room and hear her grinding the coffee beans to have the beautiful fresh coffee on the breakfast table the next morning. She did that for as long as she was able to; and only after that task was done did she go to her bedroom on the other side of the big verandah, and get to bed, only to wake early the next day to do all the many, many tasks that she did with such patience, love, and devotion to the family for the forty years that she spent on the farm.

At this moment, I am thinking of her special love – her garden –  which we always called “Tante’s Garden” and in which she spent many an hour. Each plant she had planted, she tended with loving care, and there was many a time when I helped in the watering of it. It was a magic place and we will always remember it as a very special garden that we shared with her. A story has come down that one night, near midnight, she was out there in her garden with a lantern and her watering can, watering a particular plant that she had forgotten to water earlier in the evening! Such was her devotion…

Visranthi

Before I go any further up my childhood ladder, I would like to share with you the “adventure” – if I could call it that – when we all used to go up to Visranthi, the house that Besta Fa’er had built as a summer cottage for Besta Mo’er and the family as it used to get very hot as the Homestead in the summer.

It was not very far from Tabor, the house he had built for the Danish Mission and in which he had lived with the family before he left the Mission.

At about four o’clock in the morning the villagers would arrive to help us get up to Visranthi before it became too hot. “Us” meant, most times, Mummy, Aunty Julie, myself, Daddy, and sometimes Maymie. We got the food-stuffs, etc, ready the night before and then, by petromax light, we would be carried up through the eleven mile valley in canvas hammocks with two poles through the two sides carried by four of the villagers.

Winnifred Andersen (Joan’s Mom) in her hammock

It didn’t take us very long to get to the railway station, three miles away, where we would have a rest stop before going to the foothills and then up the beautiful, but very steep valley. Daddy always walked up while we were carried; but in his younger days he used to ride a horse up and down between Danishpet and Visranthi.

This route was a very steep one and so a road for cars, busses, and carts could not be built. These vehicles had to use what we called the Yercaud Road, which was also called the “Circular Road” because it ran right around the base on the Sheveroy Hills, at one point met the short-cut route at a T-junction and then carried on to Yercaud, three miles away from this T-junction. At that time (about 1931-2 or so) the road was very bad and the roads up to Visranthi, Tabor, and the coffee estates were just narrow cart tracks. In later years these were widened and much improved so that cars could go right up to Tabor and along the road to Visranthi – which Jean, Bernard, Ginny, Jillian, and myself were able to do in 1976.

The summers up at Visranthi were beautiful. As I grew older, I went for walks with Daddy through the coffee estates, up and over the summits of the hills that surrounded the main one, the Sheveroin peak, at the base of which Visranthi stood.

Tante would remain at Danishpet to look after the animals. Each day she would send us up, by one of the villagers, fresh milk, eggs, and bread (the bread supplied by Spencer & Co, Madras, and sent daily on the train and collected for the family at the railway station). In later years, these were purchased at the weekly “shandy” or market at Yercaud.

Aunty Julie

Through all these childhood years, I must say that Aunty Julie played a very important part in my life, although I didn’t see her very often, except the times when we shared so many holidays at Danishpet and up at Visranthi, when Maymie came too.

I remember one summer holiday when both of them were staying at Tabor (now occupied by Rev. and Mrs. Hansen from Denmark – old friends of my grandfather and grandmother) and I was being very naughty, not letting them have their afternoon rest. Maymie said, “I’ll smack you!” and I answered, “Smack me! Smack me!” in a very cheeky tone of voice. So, for the first time and I think the only time in my life, I got three good smacks from Maymie with the underside of her hairbrush. I have never forgotten that! Nor did I worry them again! I loved Maymie and Aunty Julie so very much – they were the two “almost” Mums in my life.

Before she married, and when she was not working at the London Mission in Salem, and before Uncle Tedo married, Aunty Julie would look after the household. That is, she was in charge of all the wonderful meals we had, was a wonderful cook, looked after the dogs and cats with the help of a village boy who was trained to do the “inside” work and do the washing up, cleaning, etc. She also trained the various cooks that we had. There was also the dhobi that came from miles away, once a week, and did all the ironing on the Big Verandah. There was no electricity there until 1961 and so he used the huge charcoal iron.

Yes! This was life on the farm, and there was never a dull moment. I can picture Aunty Julie sitting on the steps of the Big Verandah and feeding a blind hen. Only Aunty Julie would do that! And only Aunty Julie read me all those stories from Grimm’s Fairy Tales, told me stories about Chicken-Licken, and all the others. She was the one that dressed me up in saris so that I could walk along the verandah like a little village girl with a brass pot on my head. What happy days those were, and I shall never forget them.

Christmas at Danishpet

But what I must tell you about, before I go any further, are the very special Christmas celebrations at the Homestead. We would spend one Christmas with the Weston family and the next with the Andersen family at Danishpet.

I remember especially Christmas Eve when we had out little service in the Big Verandah, according to Danish custom, joined by the house servants and their families. daddy would read us the Christmas Story and say a special prayer and then he and Aunty Julie and Uncle Tedo, if he was there, would sing a couple hymns in Danish; and then all the gifts would be handed out. Tante was there with us at these special times and I shall always remember them. We always brought in Christmas on Christmas Eve, too, when I grew up and had my own family.

What was also very special, to all the Danishpet village people and their families, was what happened after our family service…

Because there was not very many people in the village in those early days, most of them Christian converts and their children, we were able to buy big tins of sweets and lots of pieces of useful clothing, enough for each and every member of those families. Shirts or dhotis for the men and bigger boys, saris and cholis for the women; and suitable little-sized frocks, shirts, etc, for the very little ones. We would leave the Homestead after dinner and, with out house servants (who had already received their gifts), go in a procession with lantern and petromax light, to the village; and there we would distribute all the gifts that we had bought.

As the years went by, the population grew and things became more and more expensive. So, very gradually, as far as I remember, we had to stop what we had been doing for so many years. But I shall never forget the happy faces and so may grateful smiles that we received from those very simple and hardworking villagers. Some of the older ones had known me since I was a baby and one of the older women used to call me her “cuna cuti” which meant, I think, “baby calf”.

The Village Workers

When I was a little girl, I remember these same village women coming to the bungalow to boil all the rice that would be used by the family for the year. They would then spread it along side verandahs and, when it was all dry, they would have to pound it and so there was many a time when I “helped” them. This pounding separated the husk from the grain and then it had to be sieved; and in this activity I became quite the expert!

Joan with her father, Richard (Ben), walking in the paddy fields.

In the spirit of doing what the villagers sis, as I grew older and went for all those wonderful walks with Daddy though the paddy fields, I was able to “help” at harvest time – cut the paddy with the little curved knife the women used, bundle it up like they did, and then carry on behind the men to the threshing grounds where I would stack my bundle along with all the hundreds of others. I’d also help in the hand-threshing that was done by the men and put through the huge sieves. But jumping about on the high stacks of rice bundles – though fun while I did it – left me itching all over. Didn’t do much of that!

In those early days on the farm where was a lot of land and their daily needs were met. The cows provided milk, butter, cheese, and yoghurt; the hens provided eggs; and the fields provided rive and vegetables. But there was not much money. As the years went by, things improved. Daddy, teaching by then, sent small amounts of money to the tenants on his land and, as the water level was pretty high because of the rivers, they were able to dig wells and grow rice and other irrigated crops.

I must mention that at this time, when I went on those walks with Daddy, I spent many an hour standing, listening, and watching all that was going on at each well. Finally, every one of his tenants had a well and so was able to support his family and didn’t have to just “exist” in the lean years when there was no rain.

Yes, looking back on those very happy hours that I spent with my father, sharing those walks through the fields at Danishpet and through the coffee plantations around Visranthi, and walking to the top of the Sheveroin Hill, looking over the valleys down to the Danishpet area – those were very special times in my life and I am so glad that I was able to be there with him.

Progress at Danishpet

Things were progressing… but there was no electricity there at Danishpet! We managed with our kerosene lanterns and a couple of petromax lights. The roofs were still thatched, except for the big verandah, and so there were all kinds of things in the roof, on the floors, and around the house – like centipedes, scorpions, and the occasional cobra… Aunty Julie had one behind her sewing maching in her bedroom… and I remember how the screech owls would scare me half to death as they settled in an opening in the high eaves of the room I slept in, next to Mummy and Daddy’s room. When I was young, there was still no indoor toilets and so a visit to the small “House of Parliment”, as we called it, was quite scary when it was dark and you had to take a lantern to light your way. But we managed!

Theodor Bonneland Andersen
(My grandfather)

Soon after the deaths of my grandparents, Uncle Tedo (Daddy’s younger brother, Theodor) came back from Cornell University (USA) where he had spent time studying agriculture. I have this faint recollection of the day that Uncle Tedo came back from America… it has suddenly come to me! Aunty Julie was in the room as well, while Uncle Tedo was unpacking his cabin trunk by the light of the lantern, and things were scattered all over the room. It was in what had been my grandparents’ bedroom and there were lots of bits of rubber, somehow, lying around. He had come back by cargo ship, as far as I remember.

He decided he was going to cultivate his portion of the land, across the road from the railway station and extending over a large area below the tank – mainly patty fields, but also other crops in other areas. And so another era at Danishpet began. Things changed a lot on his return.

He settled down to living there in Danishpet again, and the next thing that I remember about him was that he was in Bangalore and, in a week, had met and got engaged to a Miss Olive Nagel, who was a teacher in the Baldwin Girls High School (where Maymie was Headmistress, I think, at the time), and before long they were married in the Methodist Episcopal Church in Richmond Town by Rev. MacCaughlin – “Mac” as he was called. I know this because I was flower girl at their wedding, and I was nearly 8 years of age.

Theodor and Olive Andersen
Saturday, December 9, 1933

So Olive Nagel became “Aunty Olive” to me when Uncle Tedo took her back to Danishpet to the Homestead, where we thought they would settle down and live their lives. But it didn’t turn out like that. The twins, Ellen and Gottlob, were born in 1934 and Aunty Olive had quite a hard time bringing them up, though Uncle Tedo made many alterations to their rooms to accomidate his family.

The Andersen Family
Theodor and Olive, with twins, Gottlob and Ellen

There was still Tante who had her two rooms next to theirs; and Aunty Julie, though working for the London Mission in Salem, came home most weekends and she had a room in the little cottage just apart from the main building, which we later called Mrs. Clayton’s Cottage (she was the mother of one of the men Uncle Tedo employed to help him on the farm – A Mr. Gaston from Bangalore). And then Uncle Tedo employed, as a clerk, Richard Phillips, who had been at Stanes School in Coimbatore and more or less had been brought up by Mr. Berry, the principal.

No one really knew anything about Richard Phillips, but before too long, Aunty Julie had fallen in love with him, and they wanted to get married. There was much opposition to the marriage from her two brothers and “The Aunties” as we called them (they were grandmother’s half-sisters, and very fond of Aunty Julie, and wanted the best for her). However, Aunty Julie, at 37 years of age, wanted a life of her own and her own share of happiness. So, early in January 1936, in the Big Verandah, Aunty Julie married Richard Phillips and he became Uncle Phil to me.

Richard and Julianna Phillips
with niece, Joan Andersen

In the meantime, Uncle Tedo had built a large home for his family on the other side of the Big River, which also ran through his land, having its source in the hills below the Sheveroys, and which let water into the Tank on his land. It was also the source of the irrigation for his and other fields lower down its course. This home he called Summerville, and for a short time, Aunty Olive and the twins lived with him in it. Then Jessica was born, but things were not going so well with the twins, who came down with malaria very badly. Aunty Olive told Uncle Tedo that she wanted to go live in Coonoor, in the Nilgiris, where it was cooler and there were no mosquitoes. So Uncle Tedo moved them up to Coonoor, and as far as I remember, it was for five years that Uncle Tedo stayed on his own in Danishpet, with visits to Coonoor to see his family, till he finally moved there too.

 

Ellen, Gottlob, and Jessica Andersen

In his own way, Uncle Tedo played a part in my childhood, too. I remember one Christmas, when we arrived, we found he had built a little boat and named it “Joan”, which name he changed to “Olive” when he married Aunty Olive. This boat was used a lot during our holidays. We used to walk all the way to the Tank, me pushing a little cart with our swimming costumes, towels, etc. He’d put together a wodden frame, taped it like the beds were done, and then produced two large wheels from an old family pram, which he attached to the frame. And so I did quite a few miles as the “coolie” for Mummy, Daddy, Aunty Olive, Aunty Julie, and Uncle Tedo.

Anyway, we had a boat, so we were able to have swims in the secluded part of the Tank. Daddy was taught how to swim in that tank by the waterman called Chinnappa and then, in turn, Daddy taught me how to swim. As the water that came into the Tank was fresh river water, it was fairy clean and there was a very nice overflow when we had heavy rains and the Tank filled up.

I remember that Uncle Tedo dived in from the sluice gate one evening with his glasses on, and they fell off. So, being Uncle Tedo, he went back the next morning, early, dived in at the same place, and found them. That’s the kind of person he was. Very mechanically minded – he really should have been an engineer. I say this because I remember that a huge pump for one of his huge wells fell into the well and let there for quite a while. He really needed it, so he fixed pulleys with strong ropes and, with some strong men to help him, the pump was raised to the top of the well and, in due course, he had cleaned and oiled it and got it back in perfect working condition.

Once, when I was quite young, there was flooding over parts of Daddy’s land, and so we had to cross that part of the river by climbing over a big tree that had fallen across the river. I think Daddy was with me, and I was quite scared, because the water was quite a bit higher than the land, but we made it. About this time, there was no other way across the river near Summerville, except by Uncle Tedo making me sit on the crossbar of his bicycle and cycling across a very narrow bridge. Yes, we made it, but I was scared. I had to trust him to take me safely across and I did, because he was the kind of person you could trust.

From what Daddy told me, he and Uncle Tedo were great mates and had a lot of fun when growing up on the farm. Uncle Tedo got a little chimpanzee from somewhere and made a pet out of it, but as time went by it became very destructive and started taking things. They found it walking down one side of the verandahs with Daddy’s best fountain pen that he thought he had lost. So the decision had to be made that the chimp was to be given to a zoo and, as at the time the Lal Bagh in Bangalore had one, that was where the chimp was accepted and looked after.

When Uncle Tedo had to go to Baldwin Boys’ School as a boarder, there wasn’t very much money, so Daddy, who was teaching at the time, helped with the fees. Daddy himself had only one suit which he would wash and wear, and put between the mattresses to “iron”. Also, he didn’t have a full shirt, so Besta Mo’er made him two false sleeves and cuffs and a false shirt front – and with these he managed for as long as was possible.

When Uncle Tedo felt he could not live in Danishpet on his own, he left his land – about 600 acres (Daddy had about 150 acres and Aunty Julie about 50 acres, as far as I remember) – to good tenants. He went up to Coonoor and got a job as manager of Hallacarry Estate, about seven miles out of Coonoor. And so, for a while they were all settled, with the children attending a nearby school as day scholars. Then Konrad was born – in the back seat of the car when Uncle Tedo was taking Aunty Olive to the maternity hospital in Coonoor! Quite an adventure for them all.

Konrad Jonathan Bonneland Andersen

While we were there for one of our holidays, I met all my cousins and that was the last time, because soon after they had grown a bit, Uncle Tedo decided to sell his land, which he did. He wanted just over a lakh of rupees for his 100 acres of excellent paddy fields, but in the end, he couldn’t wait and had to seel them for 95,000 rupees.

They went to England first, and had great difficulty getting into Canada, but in the end got in on their Danish passports. After a winter there, they loved to California, leaving Ellen in Canada for medical reasons. She married there and lived in Quebec with her family. The others settled on the west coast of the states, and my brother, Ian – now in Dallas – is in touch with them all and sees them from time to time. They visit him, Judith, and all the family members in the Texas area. And I must tell you that last month I spoke to Ellen (who was visiting Ian and Judith and the family in Dallas) for the first time since 18th January 1947. That was so good!

And now we all hope to get in touch with the American side of the Andersens. That’s something long overdue. We are quite a family, aren’t we?

Andersen Family @ Danishpet

Back row :
1. Winnifred Andersen
2. Richard (Ben) Andersen
3. Richard Phillips (Uncle Phil)
4. Not known (possibly Miss May Weston – Aunty Maymie)
5. Julie (nee Andersen) Phillips
6. Not known
 
Front row :
1. Not known
2. Joan Andersen aged about 14
3. Ian Indersen aged about 4
4. other little boy not known.

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From Cactus to Clover

July 16, 2010 at 10:27 pm (Andersen Roots) (, )

The Story of Danishpet

by:  Richard Andreas Bonneland Andersen (written circa 1965)

The story of Danishpet begins in the village of Horne on the island of Fyn (Denmark), where lived Anders Jeppensen and his wife, Anna, weavers by trade.

With Anders and Anna were their three children, two sons and a daughter. One son died in adolescence. The other, Morten, grew up normally, studying, Playing, and, in later years, farming and fishing. His sister,  Johanne, helped her parents at home, learning in a practical way all the arts of good housekeeping.

All the members of the family belonged to the Lutheran Church. In 1888, Morten Andersen volunteered for service in India through the Danish Missionary Society and was sent to England for six months to study English, of which he already had some knowledge. Following an old custom, he had changed his name to Andersen, being the son of Anders Jeppensen. On his return, he was engaged to Jensine Rasmussen, who was to join him in India, after he had learnt the Tamil language and been posted to his first station.

 

Anders Jeppensen and his wife, Anna Mortensdatter (seated)
Jensine Rassmussen, Morten Andersen, and Johanne Andersen

Morten sailed for India, arrived in Madras, and was sent to Tiruvanamalai to study Tamil under a Munshi (teacher). While he was doing that, the Mission Board asked him to investigate a report sent to them that “the gospel was spreading from village to village in South India”. He found this to be untrue and informed the Mission Board at home that is was not the gospel, but Mission rupees that were being carried from village to village. This unusual report was not considered seriously at the time and no action was taken on it. Two or three years later, however, changed became inevitable.

In 1890, Morten Andersen was posted to the Danish Mission at Yercaud, where the Church and Pastor’s quarters stood in the Assambur Valley. Besides being responsible for the Church services, Morten made regular trips to the surrounding villages. Accompanied by two or three catechists, he visited these in the early morning to preach to the people before they went out to work. This was mainly among the Malayalis, the hill-men, among whom he was to work for many years.

 

Morten with Indian Catechists

Early in 1891 he heard from his fiancée that she would be arriving in Madras, so he proceeded there, was married to her, and together they returned to the Mission station at Assambur, where they worked until late in 1893. In January 1893 their daughter, Anna, was born. Little did she know that she would have her mother with her for only a few months, for in November, Morten’s wife contracted typhoid fever and was hurriedly taken to Madras for proper treatment. In spite of this, she was called to her Eternal Home.

Morten returned to Assambur, convinced that spot was unhealthy. He found another one higher up the hillside, purchased and rebuilt it, calling it “Tabor”. With the residue of the money on hand, a rough cart-road was built, linking the new Mission quarters with the main road to Yercaud. Later, “Tabor” became the headquarters of the Danish Mission in the area.

Tabor

At this time, Morten was in touch with the young lady doctor in the Danish Mission at Madras, Miss Elena D’Abrue. Late in 1894 they were married. The church congregation arranged a reception for them in ‘Tabor’, but this has to be cancelled as the bridal couple missed their train!

Dr. Ellen D’Abrue and colleagues in Madras, India

Morten and Ellen (Elena) on their wedding day
November 5, 1894

From December 1894 to early 1903 the regular work went on. From the end of their first year, a few months were spent on furlough in Denmark. There, the new Mrs. Andersen was no stranger for, having accompanied the sick wife of one of the other Danish missionaries, she learnt the language and took an extensive course in medical studies with a well-known doctor in Copenhagen.

On his return to India in 1895, Morten brought with him a Danish plough and an iron cooking-range. The former he used on land near ‘Tabor’, harnessing two of his own horses to it; the latter served us all for many years.

Morten in Danishpet

While working up in ‘Tabor’, Morten purchased some land and started a new coffee estate. Another, smaller one was paid for a little later. On these estates, Christian converts were employed and attended church services. Sick workers and others were attended to by Doctor Elena.

In 1900, a group of Malayalis induced Morten to take them down to the low-country, twelve miles from Yercaud. He did so and pitched his tent in a clear place near the present Shandy (market place). Later, on pressure of requests from his workers, who promised to come down from the hills, he purchased land about a mile from the railway station, Kadiampatti. The place had a notorious reputation for malaria, and station masters dreaded being posted there.

Some years later, Morten wrote to the manager of the South Indian Railway as follows:

“Your station masters are afraid of Kadiampatti because they connect it with malaria. I am a foreigner and live only a mile from it. If you change its name to Danishpet, you will find the station masters’ fears removed.”

With that, the matter was forgotten until one day our post master reported to my father, “Sir, the station’s name is now Danishpet”; and so it stands today.

The Danishpet Train Station (2007)

There were now two mission stations: ‘Tabor’ up in Yercaud and Danishpet in the low country, twelve miles apart. Using his horse, my father supervised both. With indigenous materials, a new bungalow was built and, nearby, a village sprang up and soon a post office, Danishpet.

This early period was not without difficulties: cholera broke out in the village and two or three lives were lost before it was checked; a fire destroyed a worker’s house; malaria cases had to be treated and its spread controlled. My mother came down for short periods, treating patients and dosing malaria cases with quinine. Her two children, Julianna (born in 1896) and myself, Richard (born in 1897), together with Anna, accompanied her at times.

By 1902 it became clear that the mission board and my father had differing ideas about the work and a break between them seemed inevitable. My father started building a house in a more healthy spot. The foundation for this was hardly laid when two of his children, Anna and Richard, contracted typhoid. He hurried home to help care for them and was informed by the doctor, “Your daughter may pull through, but there is no hope of your son’s recovery.” Just the opposite happened. My sister passed away. Her body was carried downhill and buried in a jungle clearing a quarter of a mile from the new house foundation.

At this time, my father and mother decided to break with the Mission. As a parting gift, they were given a bullock-tonga and they drove down to Salem in it with their daughter Julia (Julianna) and a baby son, Theodor, born on 11 January 1902.

Being convalescent, I was carried downhill in a hammock by the bridle-path, a shorter route. I remember only the branches of coffee trees brushing against the hammock.

In Salem, a house was hired for us and there we lived for some months. My father went to Danishpet to build a few “plague-huts” as he called them, for us. These huts were covered on top and on the sides by dried coconut palm leaves, supported by an inner framework of strong bamboos which grew plentiful on the banks of the River Sarabanga, a tributary of the Kauveri. While these huts were being completed, we moved from Salem to the bungalow at Danishpet. Then, on 23rd October 1903, we crossed the Sarabanga River over a wooden bridge built by our carpenter.

That very night there was a heavy shower and the carpenter’s bridge over the Sarabanga was carried away by the flood. To my mother this was the sign of no return. All through the years of trouble and difficulty, she never even considered a plan to quit ‘The Homestead’ as it came to be called in later years.

 

Morten (in the center, wearing a hat) with the villagers.

These early years were given to hard work and frequent adjustments called for by storm and stress. Our “plague-huts” looked all right, but summer days brought high winds. With no big trees to act as a wind-brake, one summer the high winds caused a distinct tilt in the line of huts. My father had to call in the village workers to tie rope to the bamboo uprights and pull till the house was again upright! Then local stone workers were called in to build a low wall to support the bamboos. After more than seventy years, a part of this kutcha (unrefined) wall still stands, recognised by its unskilled construction.

We had brought with us a large number of fowls which, we thought, were safely lodged in a house. One morning, we woke up to find quite a number had been killed. A wild cat had got in somehow and done damage, so further security measures had to be taken. At one time, the fowls were left in a big enclosure of split bamboos and at night secured in small rooms. A few special fowls were kept in overturned baskets, weighed down by big stones. Some of these were thrown down and the fowls missing. One night, we set a big iron trap secured to a peg in the ground. Next morning the caretaker came to find a unusally large wild cat with one of its forelegs caught in the trap. This prevented its escape, and my father came with his gun and shot it.

The weapon was indispensable, for it was used not only to provide fresh meat – hares, partridges, and jungle fowl were present in abundance – but against snakes, panthers, and wild pig. Pea-fowl were also common. As a boy, convalescing after typhoid, I was very nervous. Early one morning I was terrified on hearing most unusual sounds. I was quieted when told the sounds were made by pea-fowl enjoying a dance on a nearby hillock!

 

The Andersen Family
Ellen, Morten, Tante Johanne Andersen
Richard, Julianna, and Theodor

My father and mother were kept busy. He preached to his workers and others every Sunday; and every forenoon she attended to such people who came to her in increasing numbers. One woman came with a big stone in her head. She explained that, while cutting grass, a snake had bitten her and the stone would keep the poison down! The snaked proved to be a Russell’s viper, very poisonous. After my mother treated her for three days and nights, the woman recovered.

Another time, a group of Muslims came in a cart and took my mother to see a woman who was seriously ill in a village five miles away. As she had not returned by evening, my father took me on his horse by a short cut to meet my mother on the main road. Fortunately, we met her and decided to go home by the same short cut. My father left me on his horse in front, while my mother and he walked behind. Soon, about four hundred yards from the house, darkness overtook us. I took a wrong turn and we could not see where we were. Calling loudly, we got no reply, so my father called to me, “Son, take your hands off the bridle and let the horse go.” On my doing this, the animal took an about-turn and in a few minutes we were on the right path again! When not required for work, the horse grazed freely in these parts and was on familiar ground.

In their new venture, my father and mother had no income except what was produced on small portions of cleared land. By agreement with the Indian Government, jungle land covered with cactus had to be cleared in a specified time. They had no capital to do this, so a loan was arranged through one of my mother’s good friends. With this in hand, some new fields of cleared land were bought and cactus-covered portions were cleared. This was a slow process, for the cactus was heaped up in places, or in large pits, with alternate layers of vegetation. When dried, these heaps were set on fire, but this burning had to be employed about seven times before the field could be cultivated. However, the work went on. As time passed, the produce of the land increased, for it was virgin soil and produced abundantly.

The opportunity had come for renovating old buildings and constructing new ones. Carpenters, masons, and potters were engaged and materials like clay, lime, and timber were available on the farm itself and labourers not hard to employ. Tiles, bricks, and chunam (lime for mortar) were soon ready and work started. The old huts were pulled down and walled rooms, built with sun-dried bricks, soon came up and were roofed with timber and bamboos covered with thatch. The ceiling consisted of a big verandah, attached to the thatched portion, and continued northwards to give living rooms for my father and mother and their three children during the school holidays. (The Baldwin Schools in Bangalore had by then admitted us as boarders – my sister in 1905 and her two brothers in 1906 and 1908.) These new rooms were pukka, built with burnt bricks and roofed with tiles laid over a split-bamboo ceiling. Some of this still serves, even after more than 60 years. The big, open verandah served many purposes: for religious services, as a reception hall, and even for meals when visitors were in residence. A few years later, a small thatched house was added at the northern end of the new building. My Aunt and my sister occupied our rooms and we, the boys, occupied the new rooms during our school holidays.

The Andersen House in Danishpet

~*~*~*~

Tante Johanne Andersen

I add a few words about my only Danish Aunt, Miss Johanne Andersen, whom we called Tante (Danish for Aunt). Having lost her parents, and having no close relatives in her country, she sold her home in Denmark and came out to ‘Tabor’, Yercaud, early in 1902, to live with my parents. When they left at the end of the year, the new missionary at ‘Tabor’ allowed her to remain there until her room at Danishpet was ready at the end of 1903.

She made our butter, looked after the sugar and jaggery (raw brown sugar) and other things that had to be carefully watched. As a lover of animals, she cared for our dogs, cats, horses, and fowls, seeing that they were not starved even when supplies were short.

She was a lover of beauty and kept a fine garden of her own, watered only by herself. Plants were cared for like living creatures and forgotten ones watered even after midnight!

She moved about at night carrying only her lantern and was only once stung by a small scorpion – never bitten by a snake. One night, Tante noticed a light moving under a big tree near the house. Taking it to be a burning stick carried by a man going to do his night-duty, she ignored it. Next morning, one of our dogs was missing: the light under the tree had been the eyes of a leopard!

Tante only spoke her mother-tongue, but understood English and Tamil. Any Danish we still know was because we had to speak to her. She put away all our “lost” toys, and always had sugar or jaggery for us to eat.

She bore for years, with great patience and fortitude, strong bouts of rheumatic fever or, in its absence, sores on her leg which my mother attended to. She lived to see her first marriage ceremony – my sister’s – performed in the big verandah for her benefit. She passed away in her sleep in May 1936 and was buried at the Danishpet Church near my parents’ grave.

~*~*~*~

With all these constructions complete, work on a church was started. On completion, this was a large tiled construction supported by dried palmyra trusses fixed on brick pillars. These were built by our local carpenters. The western end of the church was left open to permit all-comers, caste or no caste, to come in and sit down. It’s completion gave great satisfaction. Their joy was not long-lived, for heavy rains fell one night, the soaked tiles made the trusses open outwards, the supporting pillars fell, and the roof settled down flat. Amid much sorrow and disappointment, it was dismantled and rebuilt on a smaller scale. This church stood and served the congregation for many years until it could no longer be used. Years later, the Andersen Memorial Church came up and was handed over to the Church of South India.

The Andersen Memorial Church (2007)

The regular work went on. As the years passed, some hard times had to be faced. As neighboring villagers grazed their flocks and herds on our land, they allowed their cows and goats to be milked by our men. With this milk, my mother made fresh cream-cheeses and sold these to the clubs at Salem, Coimbatore, and Madras. The sales helped them to tide over two lean years.

Later, a succession of monsoon failures made it necessary for my father to undertake construction work for the Forests Department. The last of these was a road from the foothills to the forest bungalow on the Javadi Hills near Tirupattur.

The work went on during a period of serious drought. At Danishpet, my father’s large herd of cattle were suffering under food and water shortage, so he ordered them to be driven up to the Javadi Hills. The move proved disastrous because the local people, not welcoming the strange herd, poisoned many of them. Only about sixty of the cattle returned home after the drought.

In 1919 my brother, Theodor, having finished high school, came home to help his parents who, now older in years, were beginning to feel the strain. The year proved to be a difficult one, for the rains failed again; but, before it ended, brighter days appeared.

Some years earlier, the friend who gave them a loan had visited Danishpet and, seeing the work they were doing, offered to count the amount as dead. My father, however, said he would wait and repay the loan. Now the friend passed away and the executors of his will sent in their claim. As it could not be met, the mortgaged portion of my father’s land was put up for auction. This failed, for the would-be purchasers offered very little.

The executors then approached the court to permit sale of all my father’s property. To prevent this, a good lawyer friend advised him to sell his property to friends and relatives to whom he owed any money. This he did. In the meantime, the director of a big planting company offered to settle with the executors. This he did and also paid a considerable amount to my father. Now the mortgaged part of his land belonged to the company and they asked him to manage it for them. After trying it for some time, he had to give it over to someone else to do.

Digging a well…

With money in hand, my father decided to dig three wells, connecting them with waterproof drains. In all this, my brother was able to help. He even undertook the sharpening of the workers’ tools – these were formally sent to a blacksmith, which caused work delays.

Theodor Andersen

At this stage, my father decided to send my brother, Theodor, to the Agricultural College at Coimbatore for training. He completed the two-year course there and returned to Danishpet where he worked until the end of 1927. At that time, with help from his aunts, he was sent to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, to do his B. Sc. in agriculture.

Up to about 1920, my father had been working most of his land on the ‘varum’ system, the produce being shared between owner and tenant on a 50-50 basis. Because of his age, supervision became more difficult, so he induced his tenants to work on a contract basis paying him a fixed amount annually for the land they cultivated. This worked well in good years, but led to difficulties in a bad year, for no payments were made.

Ellen, Morten, and Johanne Andersen in later years.

Until he left for the USA, my brother did all he could to help my parents. After this, my sister, who was employed by the London Mission in Salem, used to come to Danishpet as often as possible. To the end of 1929, I was employed in North India. Then, to be of help to our parents, I resigned my post in Philander Smith College, Naini Tal, and joined Baldwin Boys’ High School as Vice-Principal. My wife and I were convinced that we had decided aright, for her father passed away in 1930 and my mother and father in 1931 and 1932, respectively. My aunt – my father’s sister, Johanne – was old and ill and had to be cared for after my mother’s death.

Theodor returned from America just after my father’s death in August 1931. From then until 1935 he was in Danishpet. I was glad of this because, in 1932, I was acting principal of the school, besides being a teacher. My brother was free to see to all business connected with the transfer of my father’s land to his children. Fortunately there was no dispute, for the will said, “This land is to be divided according to my wishes as known to my children.” … In December 1933, Theodor married Miss Olive Nagel and brought her to Danishpet to share his life on the farm.

Theodor and Olive Andersen
December 9, 1933

With our consent, my brother sold small portions of land and paid all my father’s debts. Then he interviewed the government officers concerned and had the necessary survey numbers apportioned and registered separately in the name of each of us. He saw that all the land was cultivated by the right people. He arranged for the renovation of the bungalow, doing much of the work himself.

After his education in America, Theodor planned schemes in a big way. With no reserve capital, these were impractical and were brought to an end by a serious explosion in a well caused by a careless worker. One man was killed and another seriously injured.

This incident led Theodor to accept a post in Conoor, as manager of a coffee estate. Later, he joined his wife and twin children. His land now included the old part mortgaged to the company and purchased by him on very easy terms. All this he left to be managed by our brother-in-law, Mr. Richard Phillips, whom my sister, Julianna, had married in 1935.

 

Richard and Julie Phillips, with niece, Joan Andersen

When Theodor’s children – now four in number – were ready for school, the family moved to Ooty (Ootacamund). After a short spell in the Anamalais, opening out a Chinchona plantation, Theodor returned to develop his land in Danishpet. This he did wisely and with great foresight. Selling parts of his land at good prices, he dug two big wells, built cement drains, installed oil engines, and brought his wetlands under irrigation, making them even independent of the tank water in bad years. Then he rebuilt my father’s first bungalow, renovated the granary, built a good cattle-shed, and new quarters for his assistant. He made trips to Ooty at intervals to visit his family and take up necessary supplies of rice, ghee, etc.

One night, he was alone in Salem Junction waiting for his train, when he was approached by a broker engaged by Mr. Sathianathan, a big bus proprietor of Salem, who was very keen on purchasing my brother’s farm. Being very impetuous by nature, my brother accepted the broker’s offer – less than a lakh of rupees – for a property which was later taken over by the government for five lakhs. They still hold it.

The Theodor Andersen Family
Farewell to Danishpet

My brother and family are now settled in the USA and are all American citizens.

Sometimes there were disasters like floods, fires, and accidents. In the early years there were floods. One I have mentioned previously, but that did little damage. Two or three others were bad, for they caused the bund (bank) of my father’s tank (water reservoir) to burst. In those days it was insecure. A flood brought down more water than could escape over the surplus well in a short time. This excess water found a weak spot in the bund and water ran through it, ultimately bursting it and releasing large quantities of water to overflow the cultivated fields below and cause great damage.

The Tank Overflowing

Before the jungle was cleared, during one very dry period, some careless person started a fire north of our place. Trees and plants served as dry firewood and the fire spread rapidly southwards. My father collected all the workers we had on hand to keep the fire off the buildings only about a hundred yards from the fire. Fortunately, after destroying the jungle, it faded out. No lives were lost.

During the days my brother was helping at Danishpet, he lived in the last, thatched room next to my father’s bedroom. He used to go out for shoots alone at night and return after our parents had gone to bed. One night he came into his room with his rifle loaded (strictly against orders). Somehow, the rifle went off and the bullet went through his mattress, setting it on fire. My father and mother rushed into his room and called out repeatedly – no answer. Then, suddenly, he recovered from his fright and put out the fire. Had something happened to him, he could have caused the burning of the whole line of houses!

In the summer of 1932, my parents were alone in Danishpet. My mother wrote that my father was not well and that the doctor advised his removal to the hills. On the weekend I went to Danishpet and took my father and mother up to our summer-house in Yercaud. Leaving them there with a good servant, and promising to return for the ensuing holidays, I returned to my work in Bangalore.

In a few days I received a distressing letter from my mother, asking me to come. Other staff members at my school kindly took over my duties and I did so. I found my father, not seriously ill, but suffering from a partial stroke.

Good friends advised us to take him to Bangalore and we came here by car and train. As soon as possible we consulted the civil surgeon who diagnosed the case as thrombosis and advised us to see to his affairs as quickly as possible. We did so. My brother was cabled to return on completion of his B.Sc. My mother came to be here with my father. Together we attended to him. On the 7th of August 1931, he seemed to have had another stroke and passed away.

Morten Andersen

When I informed my mother that my father’s body would be taken to Danishpet, her face brightened. After a short service in the school, conducted by his old friend, Dr. L.P. Larsen, we took my father by lorry to Danishpet. After his people had paid him their last respects, he was laid to rest near the church, a place chosen by himself in December 1930. (That Christmas – 1930 – he had given us all valuable gifts, saying they would be his last to us.)

In April 1932, my mother, who was with my brother at Danishpet, then informed me that she was not well and would like to see a doctor. I asked her to come to us in Bangalore, and a day or two after her arrival, we admitted her into the Lady Curzon Hospital. After a short spell there, she was allowed to come home to us and advised to be careful because of her heart trouble.

That very day, after lunch, she retired to rest and never got out of bed again. We found her there, obviously able to understand us, but unable to speak or move. On being called in, the doctor said she had a stroke and would live only a few more days. My sister and brother were wired for and came the next day. Theodor stayed with my mother that night and returned to Danishpet to prepare for her funeral.

She passed away on the 29th of May 1932. The text for the day from her Bible reading was Acts 9:36, “This woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.” … All her medical work in Danishpet and surrounding areas were free and financially unaided. During World War I, she cured her patients with iodine and soda bicarbonate!

Ellen Andersen

As we did for our father, we did for her. After a short service at our home, conducted by the Methodist pastor, we took her body to Danishpet, where crowds of people paid their last respects. Rev. V. Hansen, our old friend from ‘Tabor’, came down and conducted the funeral service. She was laid to rest beside her husband with whom she had lived and served for thirty-eight years.

From 1935 to 1960, my sister, Julianna, and her husband, Richard Phillips, were in charge at Danishpet. I permitted them to manage my land also. During this period the fields were given over to tenants on a “varum” basis and small wells were dug for each of them so that crops could be raised even if the monsoon failed.

In later years, they started the Andersen Memorial Elementary School which was successfully conducted, with Mr. Richard Phillips as manager. At one time, over a hundred children attended regularly.

In 1961, a small boarding hostel was started for poor and orphaned boys and girls. In 1963, Mr. and Mrs. Phillips began to look around for someone to take over the property from them and yet continue the work.

A Sri P. Samuel was first conducted, who said he would do that with the help of some others, and also look after Mr. and Mrs. Phillips to the end of their days.

The church site, near the bungalow, was handed over to the Church of South India. The bungalow, all other buildings near it, together with nineteen acres of land, stood in my name, so my sister consulted me. As I knew nothing about P. Samuel, I advised her slow cautious action. Later, when I found that Dr. Sam Kamaleson, the noted evangelist, and others were ready to form the Bethel Agricultural Fellowship under Dr. Kamaleson’s presidentship, to take over Danishpet and run it as a Christian Evangelical Center, I agreed to the proposition.

So, in 1963, our old home was made over to them by deed of gift. The introduction of electricity, applied for by my father at least thirty years earlier, has been a great help, for wells with plenty of water and electric pumps have removed what was our greatest difficulty – water shortage. The Fellowship is going ahead now. The church has been rebuilt, hostels have been erected for boys and girls, and other buildings are coming up. God is blessing the work.

Richard and Winnifred Andersen
1952

The Andersen Mission Compound

Satellite view of Danishpet

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Andersen Line

July 16, 2010 at 9:33 am (Andersen Roots) (, , )

First Generation

Jeppe Hansen
     b. Horne, Denmark

Married to Johanne Andersdatter

Son is Anders Jeppesen

Second Generation

Anders Jeppesen
     b. August 22, 1815 in Horne, Denmark

Married on November 7, 1851 to

Anna Mortendatter
     b. May 4, 1816 is Horne, Denmark

Children:

1) Morten Bonneland Andersen (3rd generation)
     b. August 19, 1861 in Horne, Denmark
     d. August 7, 1931 in Danishpet, India

2) Johanne Anderdatter
     b. Horne, Denmark
     d. May 1936 in Danishpet, India

Third Generation

Morten Bonneland Andersen
     b. August 19, 1861 in Horne, Denmark
     d. August 6, 1931 in Danishpet, India

Married 1st on January 22, 1891 to

Jensine Henrietta Cathinka Rasmussen
     d.  November 1893 in Madras, India

Child:

1) Anna Andersen
     b. January 1893 in Assambur, India
     d. abt 1903

Married 2nd on November 5, 1894 in Madras, India to

Elena Barbara D’Abreu
     b. April 22, 1863 in Dacca, India
     d. May 29, 1932 in Bangalore, India

Children:

2) Julianna Johanne Andersen
     b. April 14, 1896 in Tabor, Yercaud, India
     d. about 1991 in India

3) Richard Andreas Bonneland Andersen
     b.  August 23, 1897 in Tabor, Yercaud, India
     d. January 10, 1981 in Bangalore, India

4) Theodor Bonneland Andersen (4th generation)
     b. January 11, 1902 in Tabor, Yercaud, India
     d. September 1, 1979 in El Cajon, California

Forth Generation

Theodor Bonneland Andersen
     b. January 11, 1902 in Tabor, Yercaud, India
     d. September 1, 1979 in El Cajon, California

Married on December 9, 1933 in Bangalore, India to

Olive Margaret Nagel
     b. December 31, 1901 in Parur, India
     d. May 27, 1979 in El Cajon, California

Children:

1) Gottlob Bonneland Andersen
     b. April 24, 1935 in Bangalore, India

2) Ellen Harriet Bonneland Andersen
     b. April 24, 1935 in Bangalore, India

3) Edith Jessica Bonneland Andersen (my mom!)
     b. January 3, 1940 Conoor, India

4) Konrad Jonathan Bonneland Andersen
     b. January 28, 1942 in Ootacamund, India

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