29 May 2010

John Quincy Adams and the Isaachsen family

In my recent blog article about John Quincy Adams' short stop in Kristiansand in 1809, I wondered if it would be possible to find any other information about the visit other than what one can by reading his journals.

The (short) answer to this question was not far away, as I had forgotten to consult my copy of Norsk Slektskalender, third volume, which has one chapter about the Isaachsen Willoch family.

On page 209 in the said volume one can read about Peder Isaachsen, b. 13 May 1778, d. 26 September 1831, who worked and lived in Kristiansand as a shipowner, timber merchant and landed gentleman. Then we learn that "Efter et besøk 19. sept. 1809 av senere president i U.S.A., John Quincy Adams, ble han amerikansk konsul" ("After a visit on 19 September 1809 by the later President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, he became [an] American consul").

In other words, the ship reached Norway on 18 September 1809, and John Quincy Adams, who served as President from 1825 to 1829, went into Kristiansand the day after and dined with the Isaachsens.

Peder Isaachsen, who belonged to the second branch of the Isaachsen Willoch family, was the second son and third child of Daniel Isaachsen (Willoch) (1744-1813) and Christiane Hedvig Christensen (1751-1798). Peder married in 1805 Margrethe Susanne Applebye (1783-1871), a daughter of P. Applebye and Marie Christine Holsten, Copenhagen. The second branch died out in the agnatic line with Pastor Thorvald Egidius Isaachsen in 1933. There is therefore no further information about the genealogy of this branch in the book.

I have earlier mentioned that the Mandal artist Olaf Wilhelm Isaachsen (1835-1893) belonged to the first branch, line 2, while former Norwegian Prime Minister Kåre Willoch belongs to the first branch, line 4.

It is quite possible that one can find more information about Adams' visit to Norway in history books about Kristiansand. That is something I will have to explore further later on. I gather that it should also be possible to find the details about Peder Isaachsen becoming American consul in the archives of the US Department of State. Members of the Isaachsen Willoch family might know a thing or two as well.



  1. It seems almost certain that other members of Adams' party would have written about the visit ashore & the Isaachsen family. JQA had two young men with him studying international law. Alexander Everett perhaps wrote to his brother, Edward Everett. Such letters are to be found at the Massachusetts Historical Society. It may be Louisa Catherine wrote of the visit, too. Good luck!

  2. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for your good suggestions!

  3. There is a new book out in the USA called *Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon*. I have not yet read it, but it purports to cover in great detail Louisa Adams' trek from St. Petersburg to Paris c. 1810. As I said, I have not read it, so I don't know if it covers the Isaachsen visit, but you may want to check it out.

  4. To follow-up on my own comment, I happened to be in a bookstore a little while ago and checked the index of the book I mentioned. Kristiansand had an entry, but it just mentioned that they landed there. There was no reference to the Isaachsens in the index.

  5. Thanks for checking it out, Gary! Very much appreciated!

    Dag T. Hoelseth