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The people of the house - The well-off Catharina Borchgrevink

Leonard Christian Borchgrevink (1698 – 1772) arrived in Røros in about 1720 where he was employed as a young mining engineer earning promotion until he became General Manager.

Astrid Nyhus and Amund Spangen

Borchgrevink was employed by the Røros Copperworks for more than 50 years, from 1737 until 1772 as the General Manager. His successor as General Manager was Peder Hiort.

Leonard Christian Borchgrevink was married to Magdalene Brun, daughter of the church organist in Røros, Johannes Brun. They had 14 children together, but many died in infancy. Three of their sons studied theology and went into the church, one a priest in Toten, the second in Northern Norway and the third in Denmark and Ringerike.

The next eldest child in the General Manager and his wife’s large family was a daughter, Catharina. She was born in 1730 and christened and confirmed in the ‘old church’ in Røros. The new church, ‘Bergstadens Ziir’, was completed in 1784, and Catharina, who lived until 1804 lived to see the new church consecrated and taken into use.

Catharina Borchgrevink, became engaged to be married to, Theodorus Molmann (1725 – 1772) son of one of the Company’s largest shareholders, Bernt Molmann. When Theodorus died Catharina inherited his entire fortune. The Molmann family owned house No. 1 at the end of Bergmannsgata. In the very early years of the Company’s activities this house was known as the General Manager’s House.

General Manage Borchgrevink owned a house on the same property on which house No. 17 stands today. He purchased the neighbouring property in 1730. Miss Catharina Borchgrevink inherited both properties from her father and built a new and rather splendid residency in 1780.

It is recorded in Miss Catharina’s will and in the title deeds in connection with her death that we can gain insight into the most distinguished house in the mining town. From the list of possessions relating to the handover of the house 10 January 1805 it is apparent that the house was exceptionally well equipped. There is information concerning the silver ware inherited from the Molmann family, a library valued at 70 riksdaler and linen worth an incredible 517 riksdaler.

Catharina Borchgrevink left an amount of 92,535 riksdaler, which at that time was considered to be great fortune. Her last will and testament was dated 24 December 1795. As executors to the will she appointed Adviser to the Chancellor and Magistrate in Strinda, Claus Koefoed and te Manager of the General Store at Røros Copperworks, Jens Andreas Heide. Valuation of her property and belongings was a time consuming business, particularly calling in all the outstanding debts. In only 3 of many account ledgers there were entries of 163 people having borrowed money from her and many were considered to be bad debts. Miss Borchgrevink had lent out small amounts of money to the ordinary people of the mining town without securing mortgage rights in their properties. In her will she specifically mentioned that there should be no harsh measures employed when collecting in the debts and it was all to be done in a humane manner.

Among some of her bequests under her will Catharina Borchgrevink left money to the construction of two rather special buildings in Kjerkgata. One of them is the Finne Borchgrevink burial chapel, and the other is the old school building, Raukassen. In connection with the considerable amount of money bequeathed to the school building it states in the will: ‘To Roraas School improvement which has always been a my wish, that this town’s numerous and steadily growing youth will be able to obtain true and thorough knowledge of Religion and be taught in the way of virtue and good actions I have bequeathed 2,000, I write two tousand riksdaler…’ The building was to ‘…serve as a place for the education of the town’s poor and ordinary children in Christianity and Morality in accordance with their position and ability to become good citizens of the State…’ Money was also set-aside for a clever teacher. The school house, which Catharina Borchgrevink built in 1799, went on to be used as the public primary and secondary schools for more than 150 years right up to the time when the Røros Municipal Higher Public School moved into a new building in 1952.

On many occasions Miss Borchgrevink received visits from prominent gentlemen. In 1788 Crown Prince Frederik , who later became King Frederik VI stayed with her during his visit to Røros. The Crown Prince presented her with a mahogany chest containing a tea and coffee service of fine porcelain. Supervisor and organist Mathias Volqvartz Brun was her uncle, on her mother’s side, and Bishop Johan Nordahl Brun was one of her cousins.