Ann Elizabeth Heegaard


Ann Elizabeth Heegaard Famous memorial

Death 1 Jan 1859 (aged 68)
Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Cenotaph Frederiksted, Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands
Memorial ID 124285354 View Source

Social Reformer. Anna Elizabeth Ulricka Heegard received recognition, as a free woman of color in the 19th century in the Danish West Indies, for her part in the emancipation of the enslaved on the islands. Her heritage plays an important role in who she became. According to her Baptismal records, her parents were Jacob Heegaard, white, native of Denmark and Susanna Ulytendahl, a "free mulatto woman" from St. Croix. Susanna's mother was half European. Her father was of an upper-middle class, owning a mercantile business and holding a civil office. Two weeks before her birth, her father married a white woman in Christiansted. Although by calculations, she was seven-eighths white, yet her race was determined by the race of her mother. Alone and destitute, her mother and her grandmother cared for her, until her mother met a sea captain, who became a part of her family's life and gave her two half-sisters. She was confirmed in the Lutheran Church in Christiansted when she was fourteen. It is not clear how she obtained her education but she was very intelligent and became a very beautiful young lady. By the time she had reached the age of 30, she had been in at least three relationships with professional white men. In 1820, she met the wealthy man, H. C Knudsen, and began to reside in his home as his servant. Knudsen purchased the plantation, Belvedere, and in 1824 issued a public declaration that she owned the mahogany furniture in the home, which included two beds and drawers with mirrors, a complete parlor with two sofas and several tables, and a dining table with 24 chairs and sideboards. She also became the owner of silverware, crockery, crystal glasses, table linen, kitchen utensils, and fifteen slaves. She had the money to purchase a small home in town for her mother. In 1827, Peter von Scholten became the Governor-General of Danish Virgin Islands and at social events, her path crossed with his. Besides the handsome salary paid to him by the King, von Scholten had become wealthy with the island's imports and exports to European ports. His wife and three daughters had left the colonial life of the islands and returned to Denmark for more comfort many years ago. She learned that von Scholten had a relationship with a "free woman of color," Marie Marthe Peterette, who borne him another daughter, with the infant being baptized on September 2, 1820, naming him as the father on the certificate. In conversation, she would state her case for reforms needed for the free colored and the enslaved, and von Scholten listened sincerely. By early in the year of 1828, she and von Scholten had become close as she had nursed him through a serious illness. Knudsen was concern with this relationship. Of course, the slave owners did not want any rulings for reforms, which would impact their profits, and criticized von Scholten for his relationship with a "colored woman." In 1829 for the first time, her suggested reforms were taken by von Scholten to the king in Denmark. It is documented that on January 9, 1830, Peter von Scholten spoke again with the Danish King about his concerns with the many problems of the "free-colored" in the islands. Returning to the islands in the summer of 1832 after yet another trip to Denmark, von Scholten published the King's orders for social reform. The local Europeans complained that the "free-colored" were receiving the same civil rights as them. She had promised von Scholten that she would live with him if these reforms were made, and she kept her promise, leaving Knudsen. For nearly three years, they lived at William Newton's plantation, the "Castle." In 1834, they moved to their own estate, "Bulowsminde," outside Christiansted, where she became the estate's hostess and his mistress. At the time, von Scholten was 50 years of age and she was age 44. Besides benefits for the free coloreds, von Scholten provided the enslaved schools for the children, better housing, an infirmary for the sick, no more beatings, and gave Saturday off work as well as Sunday. Von Scholten opposed the delay of emancipation in Christian VII of Denmark's ruling, stating every child born of an unfree woman should be free from birth and all slavery would end in 12 years. These rulings were not approved by the slave owners, thus much conflict. She was left alone as von Scholten often had to travel to Denmark to defend himself against complaints from the plantation owners, and the newly crowned King Fredrik VII had refused to give von Scholten the authority to free the slaves. England had freed their enslaved on the near-by islands in 1833. On St. Croix on July 3, 1848, Governor General Peter Von Scholten, acting under a great pressure of a pending planned rebellion, declared the emancipation of slaves in the Danish West Indies. Nearly 8,000 slaves roamed the streets in torchlight processions, armed with various types of knives. Even though the slaves had gained their freedom, they rioted out of control for several days, burning most of the schools recently built for them. The military was not called, the white planters were furious, and a state of emergency was declared, but several did die. Some sources state von Scholten suffered from a stroke during this time. After this crisis, von Scholten was sent back to Denmark on July 14, 1848 and was court-martial, losing his pension, social status, title, as well as his acquired wealth, and had a mental breakdown. She would never see him again as von Scholten would not be returning to the island. Peter von Scholten was the islands' last governor-general. A few years later, the Supreme Court ruled in the case, and on April 29, 1852, von Scholten was acquitted and given his full redress; he died in 1854. She was childless but helped care for her half-siblings' children. After her death in 1859, she was buried in an unmarked grave in an area, which is in the 21st century called Orange Grove. She has two cenotaphs: Whim Plantation Burial Site, with a marker stating "Peace be with your ashes," and Danish Cemetery of Saint Croix. On the writing desk in a double frame at Whim Plantation Museum in St. Croix are the portraits of her and her beloved von Scholten.

Bio by: Linda Davis


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: ancestryspn
  • Added: 28 Jan 2014
  • Find a Grave Memorial 124285354
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Ann Elizabeth Heegaard (25 Jan 1790–1 Jan 1859), Find a Grave Memorial ID 124285354, citing Whim Plantation Burial Site, Frederiksted, Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands ; Maintained by Find a Grave .