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Anna Heegaard, mistress of Governor General Peter von Scholten

 from "History Corner" by Isidore Paiewonsky

Reprinted with permission from the family of Isidore Paiewonsky February 23, 1976

Anna Elizabeth Ulricka Heegaard, the future mistress and consort of Peter von Scholten, was born in St. Croix during the early days of January, 1790. Approximately one month later, February 14, 1790, she was christened in a Negro church in Christiansted.

The baptismal record lists her father as Jacob Heegaard, white, native of Denmark, birthplace: Copenhagen, 1761. Her mother is listed as a "free mulatto woman," Susanna Ulytendahl, born in St. Croix, in 1774. Jacob Heegaard, a member of a middle class mercantile family in Copenhagen, came to the islands in a minor capacity as Government Clerk. He worked his way up the Colonial bureaucracy until he attained the post as Treasurer of Customs, Christiansted. His relationship with Susanna Uytendahl must have been a casual sexual one leading to an undesired pregnancy on his part, for 2 weeks before Anna Elizabeth was christened, Heegaard blatantly ignored his relationship with the Uytendahl mulatto woman and his newly born child and married a white woman in Christiansted.

Left on her own, Susanna, raised Heegaard's child with the help of her mother. The records indicate that at the age of 14, on July 8, 1804, Anna was confirmed in the Lutheran Church, Christiansted. She was listed as a one-forth coloured person.

Susanna Uydentahl's financial and domestic difficulties were eased somewhat when she entered into a common law relationship with an amiable retired sea Captain, Hans Cappel. She bore him two daughters before he died in 1798.

Next, Susanna lived with a Danish shopkeeper and widower, Peter Abraham Wittrog, in a relationship that endured for 10 years. During this period, Susanna bore Wittrog a son. By all indications, Anna Heegaard got along well with her half-brother and her 2 half-sisters. Throughout her mother's relationships, Anna was reared and accepted as a member of the particular family in which she found herself. She grew into an attractive, confident and self reliant person.

At the age of 19, Anna Heegaard began a series of relationships of her own. She attracted the attention of a 26-year old unmarried Danish attorney, Christopher Hansen, and she became his mistress.

Hansen made it clear to her from the beginning that his stay in the islands was not permanent. In the event that Anna should conceive a child by him, financial provisions would be made for the proper support and upbringing of that child. However, no offspring resulted from the relationship, which lasted a little more than four years.

In 1814, Anna Heegaard became involved with an Irishman, Paul Twigg. He had come to the islands from Dublin in 1810, at the age of 28. He went into business in Christiansted and was quite successful. Dahlerup, the Danish sea captain and historian, who knew Twigg, described him "as a very sociable and jovial man, who loved to entertain."

Evidently unmarried, Twigg looked around for a good housekeeper and hostess to help him with his household duties and his numerous parties. Anna had been recommended to him as having the necessary qualifications. After meeting Miss Heegaard and being pleasantly impressed, Twigg invited her to join his household and to take over.

Whatever the relationship with Twigg was, it could not have been too binding, for it is recorded that from 1816-1820, Anna Heegaard lived with her mother, Susanna Uytendahl, in Susanna's house in Compagnigade, Christiansted.

During the period 1820-1821, Anna met and was attracted to the dashing, well-to-do planter Captain and Colonel Adjutant H. C. Knudsen. Knudsen, at the time, was Chief Inspector of La Grande Princess, the model plantation owned by Count Schimmelman. This plantation was considered an outstanding one in St. Croix, not only because it was well run but because of its humane and enlightened treatment of its workers, from slaves to management.

Evidently the attraction between Anna and Knudsen was a mutual one. It was not long before they were living together under one roof. Shortly thereafter, Knudsen purchased his own plantation, Belvedere, on the north side of the island. In 1824, Knudsen issued a public declaration to the effect that mahogany furniture purchased to furnish Belvedere belonged to Anna Heegaard. The furniture was listed: two mahogany beds with five mattresses, two big mahogany eating tables, consisting of three simple tables, six mahogany tables, two sofas, 24 chairs, two big mirrors in mahogany frames, one mahogany sideboard, two mahogany chests of drawers. Also included in the listing were silverware, crockery, crystal glasses, table linen and kitchen utensils.

At the time, Anna Heegaard owned fifteen slaves outright. Later she purchased a house, Compagnigade no. 5, in Christiansted, for the sum of 6250 Rixdollars. From her girlhood, Anna had been impressed by her mother on the urgent need for security. Romance was one thing, stressed Susanna Uytendahl, but human relationships tended to end unexpectedly and abruptly at times. Heartaches were bad enough, but there was nothing worse than being left destitute.

Anna was smart enough to take care of herself, but mere accumulation of wealth was not enough to satisfy her sensitive spirit. Her nature rebelled against the social order that, "trapped her and people like her, in a strange middle position between two worlds--black, slaver and white population" Laws and regulations issued as far back as 1755, had guaranteed to the "free-coloured" equality with whites, but these laws and regulations had been sidetracked. To quote from the historian, Lawaetz:

"Authorities issued special statements all the time, restricting the rights of the 'free-coloured' population. These restrictions applied not only to the living but were to be Golden Rules even for their children and grand children. Among the regulations was one that denied the 'free-coloured' citizenship, and through this kept them out of certain offices and possibilities for work.

"'Free-coloured' men could, if they were lucky, become fishermen, or learn certain small trades. The highest position a 'free-coloured' woman could reach was that of seamstress. Many of the men became vagabonds, and the women, prostitutes. This latter resort presented ample opportunities, because there were many soldiers and seamen in the islands.

"'Free-coloured' women with good looks and good manners often associated with white civil servants, planters, merchants or sea captains. Men in these white groups were often unmarried, or had left wives and children behind in Europe. They took these 'free-coloured' women into their homes as house keepers, but everybody knew that they would live together as husbands and wives.

"Some of these liaisons were short lived; some lasted longer. Often, one of the partners died, or the man might marry a white woman, or his legal wife might turn up. In many cases, however, these 'natural marriages' lasted for years. Paternity was established in each case. Children resulting from these 'natural unions,' were entered in Government Registers under the father's family name.

"On the whole, being a 'free-coloured' was neither fish nor fowl. Since most of these 'free-coloured' were of an 'in-between' color, neither black nor white, their existence became very difficult, especially for the most reflective of them, or the very fair skinned."

Anna Heegaard's genealogical background was an interesting one. She was an "outside" Descendant of one of the most prominent families of St. Croix. To quote from "Personal Historisk Tidsskrift," Danish Archives:

"Anna Heegaard's mother was the 'free mulatto woman,' Susanna Uytendahl, born in St. Croix about 1774. Susanna was the illegitimate daughter of Charlotte Amalie Bernard, a slave woman, and Johannes Balthazar, eldest son of Lucas Uytendahl, Baron de Bretton.

"Charlotte Amalie Bernard, (Anna's grandmother) was born in St. Croix, about 1753. She is supposed to be identical with the Negro woman, Amalie, or Charlotte Amalie, who appears in the Government Register several times. She was the property of Baron de Bretton.

Note: The Brettons were descendants of Hugenots, (French Protestants), who had come to the West Indies in the late 17th Century to escape religious persecution. Originally they had settled in St. Christopher, then in St. Thomas. Later, they moved to St. Croix.

According to archive material, the Brettons, on their mother's side, were descended from an old French noble family whose last representative was Admiral Jean Grace de Bretton. The Admiral, in turn was a direct descendant of another distinguished French Noval leader, Coligny. Admiral Jean Grave was related also to the families de Witt and Ruyter of Holland.

With this "fighting blood" in her veins, it is little wonder that Anna Heegaard was in the forefront of the battle to effect drastic reforms in the social system of the Danish West Indies.

In 1827, when Peter von Scholten came to St. Croix as Governor-General, he was entertained in great style. Gala events were held in his honor: sumptuous dinners, garden parties, balls. Planters attempted to outdo each other in trying to impress him and to gain his favor. Since Capt. Knudsen and his mistress, Anna Heegaard, attended many of these events for von Scholten, it was natural that their paths should cross. In fact, Anna made it her business to keep close to the Governor-General. In devious ways, she tried to attract his attention, to make him aware of her. She had long known of von Scholten's friendly and sympathetic attitude, of his many efforts to elevate the coloured people of the islands.

Once she had gotten close to him, Anna Heegaard let no opportunity go by to describe to von Scholten the plight of the "free-coloured," the urgent need for reforms and the kind of reforms that were needed. She spoke to him of the humiliation the elite of her group felt in having to carry the so-called "freedom-letter," a document that every "free-coloured" person had to carry to show that he or she was not a slave.

To quote, Lawaetz: "These documents were offensive as they were all similar, without considering birth, culture or upbringing, their form giving the impression that the person only recently was freed, while his or her freedom might have originated from a great grand mother. Some of the "Free-coloured" were respected in the society, while some of the very recently freed, even dishonored the society. It was necessary to make distinct separations."

Indignation showed in Anna Heegaard's voice when she spoke to von Scholten about the widespread and officially sanctioned discriminatory employment; how talented and able people in her group were denied the right to work in any but the most menial jobs. She, and people like her, were deeply resentful of an official statement to the effect that if the "free-coloured" wanted jobs, there were plenty of such jobs in the cane fields with pay. Never, never, said Anna Heegaard, would any "Free-coloured" person that she knew go back to the cane fields and join the toiling slaves for any kind of remuneration.

Von Scholten was impressed with the sincerity, dedication and intelligence of the young woman. Much of what she said to him touched deeply on problems in an area in which he had been trying to find workable solutions. Not only did this young woman know the problems intimately, but she had answers, and what she had to say made considerable sense.

It got to the point where von Scholten found himself seeking out Anna Heegaard to get her honest and intelligent opinions on just how he should cope with the many problems that daily arose between planters and their slaves; "free-coloured" and a society that did everything but out rightly reject them.

This was the beginning of a relationship between Anna Heegaard and Peter von Scholten that was to deepen. They met often in his office, or at the nearby home of Councellor of Justice Gjellerup, an intimate friend of von Scholten, where the Governor-General often had his meals, and where he actually resided on occasions when Judge Gjellerup was absent from the island.

Von Scholten fell deeply in love with Anna Heegaard. She saw it coming and did nothing to stop it. It is recorded in "Personal Historisk Tidsskrift" that Anna Heegaard co-habited with von Scholten, early in the year 1828, in Gjellrup's house in Kongensgade in Christiansted.

For all his years of power and glory and accumulated honor, von Scholten was a human being, emotionally starved. The long separations from his wife had left him with pent up feelings and desires that no amount of long hours and hard work could obliterate.

Note: local librarian and archivist Enid Baa, in her intensive research, has come across an historic gem in von Scholten's personal life, which she has willingly shared with us:

In the baptismal records of the Catholic Church here, there is a record of a birth of a child, May 14, 1820. This child, a girl, Marie Marthe Peterette, was baptized on the 2nd of September, 1820. The father's name is listed as Peter Carl Frederick von Scholten; the mother's name, Marie Louise Josephine Deisgrotte. C.N.E. Stakemann is listed as Godfather; Francoise Touissine Arringner as Godmother.

When von Scholten became ill in the latter part of 1828, Anna visited him daily and did everything possible to nurse him back to good health. Capt. Knudsen, who was no fool, seemed to have been aware of the relationship that had developed between Anna and the Governor-General, but he did nothing to interfere with it. He knew that Anna was a headstrong, independent woman, and in the light of von Scholten's serious illness and his pending departure from the island, Knudsen figured that the matter would "blow over" and that Anna would come back to where she "belonged."

When von Scholten left the islands on his trip northward, April 17, 1829, he carried with him a list of social conditions and desired reforms, prepared in conjunction with Anna Heegaard to be shown to the Danish King. He carried with him, also, Anna's promise that when he returned, she would come to live with him and share his life.

When von Scholten arrived in Copenhagen he did not act like a man who had just recovered from a serious illness. He "Bubbled" with the joy of living. His friends commented that he seemed "Exhilarated," anxious to get his work done in the Danish capital and eager to return to the islands.

His family found him more jovial and generous than ever. Not only did he bring them valuable gifts from the islands, but during 1831, he insisted that the family move into better living quarters, a spacious and elegant house on Bredgade No. 186. (Nowadays No. 45).

There is a description of some of von Scholten's activities in Denmark during this period written by C. H. von Holten, a former Governor of St. Thomas, retired in Copenhagen. On the 27th January, 1832, shortly before von Scholten left for the islands, von Holten wrote new home.

"All the Princes, the Prime Ministers and the foreign Ambassadors were there, a couple of hundred persons. At midnight, two coloured trumpeters blew a fanfare, and von Scholten proposed a toast to his Majesty's birthday."

In an earlier entry in his diary, von Holten mentioned another incident, this time at a party, Dec. 26, 1831, at the luxurious quarters of the Danish Prince, Christian. After a sumptuous banquet, the men retired to another room and began to gamble. Von Scholten lost 300 Dalers to Prince Ferdinand who was more used to losing than winning. The prince was overjoyed and treated von Scholten like a long lost brother. Von Holten was of the opinion that von Scholten had lost to Prince Ferdinand deliberately as part of his shrewd way of handling members of the Royal family.

As early as Jan. 9, 1830, Peter von Scholten made personal contact with the Danish King and told him that he, von Scholten, was deeply concerned with the problems of the "free-coloured" in the islands. He, von Scholten, knew the problems intimately and was convinced that he could offer solutions. What was most urgently needed were distinct regulations and clarification covering the basic rights of the "free-coloured." These regulations, to be truly effective, should come from the absolute King himself.

Beginning with a request that the so-called "freedom letter" be abolished, von Scholten listed in detail the von Scholten-Heegaard plan for social reform in the islands. The plan was approved, in its entirety, by the Danish King, on April 10, 1830. Returning to the islands in the summer of 1832, von Scholten published the King's orders for social reform with these added comments:

"His Royal Majesty is convinced that the time has come to remove the erroneous opinions, the prejudice and the obstacles that have separated the two classes of citizens, and to promote the advance towards the "free-coloured." Those who have ears, listen! The King himself has spoken."

A Commission was appointed to study the new rules and regulations covering social justice and to begin to carry them out.

Anna Heegaard kept her promise. She moved in with von Scholten. For two to three years, they lived at William Newton's plantation, the "Castle." In 1834, they moved to their own estate, "Bulowsminde," outside Christiansted. At the time, von Scholten was 50 years of age, Anna Heegaard, 44.

H. C. Knudsen, the man who Anna Heegaard left for von Scholten, took the incident in his stride. Far from being emotionally wounded, he seemed friendly and philosophical about the whole affair. At a later date, he wrote to a friend in Denmark:

"I am very fond of von Scholten, and I am convinced that in his heart of hearts, he also likes me. But he never forgets and cannot forget that I am the one Anna Heegaard ever cared for and still cares for, strange as it may seem. Yet it is true.

"I firmly believe that von Scholten has never been so attached to, or cared so much for a woman, as he has for her. The bargain he made to secure her as his property was based upon very great promises."

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