After years of research I have finally found the “smoking gun” that will definitively put to rest the notion that the Baron de Bastrop abandoned his wife and children in the Netherlands. “The Baron de who” you might ask?
His name was Felipe Enrique Neri, the Baron de Bastrop and without this gentleman’s ingenuous skills America’s Texas may have never existed. Alongside Moses and Stephen F. Austin, the Baron formed the first American colonies that would later become the Republic and State of Texas. He was Texas’ first Land Commissioner and first state representative, a dedicated statesman who worked tirelessly until his death to assure the colonies he helped to create, prospered.
Yet, for all his efforts in kick-starting the Lone Star State his contributions have been mostly overshadowed by an unjust “scoundrel” reputation which persists to this day. In 1955 it was revealed for the first time that the Baron’s name wasn’t Felipe Enrique Neri and as far as anyone could tell he wasn’t a Baron. His real name was Philip Hendrick Nering Bögel, (a double last name without the usual hyphen) a former tax collector from Holland accused of embezzlement who fled the country leaving behind a wife and four daughters, ages 3 through 10, to fend for themselves while he was in America living the good life as a powerful royal Baron.
What a dirty rotten scoundrel! Few could be proud of a man who would do such a thing to his own family. The Baron soon became an embarrassment and he was reduced from a Texas hero to a Texas zero.
Well fellow Texans, be ashamed no more. I have recently uncovered several documents that totally absolves the Baron of this terrible accusation of family abandonment. Philip Hendrick Nering Bögel, aka the Baron de Bastrop, DID NOT leave his family in the Netherlands as has been reported for over half a century, he brought his family with him to the United States where they lived on a plantation in Maryland for many years.
What? This is like finding out that Davy Crockett survived the Battle of the Alamo and lived to a ripe old age as a “coon-skin” cap repairman!
Here’s a quick review for those still scratching their heads wondering, “what the heck is he talking about?”
On May 3rd, 1793, Philip the tax collector didn’t show up for work at his office in Leeuwarden, a city in the province (much like a U.S. state) of Friesland, in what was once the Republic of Holland. Today it’s simply known as the Netherlands. Within days it was discovered that an amount equal to around a quarter of a million 1793 dollars was missing. It appeared obvious, Philip took the money and ran.
On June 1st an advertisement was placed in a local newspaper by a group of men calling themselves the “High Honorable Gentlemen of Deputy States of Friesland” which accused Philip of the crime and offered a reward for his return. The “Honorable Gentlemen” also asked any authorities to arrest this criminal if found promising reimbursement for expenses of the arrest and extradition in addition to the reward. No arrest was ever made. No one ever claimed the reward. Philip the tax collector had simply vanished.
History records that Philip abandoned his family and remained hidden somewhere in Europe for about two years. During this time he shed his old identity and transformed into the Baron de Bastrop before arriving in Spanish Louisiana in 1795. All the while his home had been confiscated, his broke wife and daughters forced to move in with her family. Except that’s not entirely true and here’s the proof.
In the Pennsylvania state archives resides a document titled Names Of Foreigners Who Took The Oath Of Allegiance To The Province And State Of Pennsylvania, 1727-1775, With The Foreign Arrivals 1786-1808. Once you get past the laborious title this record contains a remarkable entry, one that totally contradicts history.
The entry is a manifest of the sailing ship “Brothers” which departed Hamburg Germany and arrived in Philadelphia Pennsylvania on September 25th, 1793. The manifest lists among its passengers Philip, his wife Georgina, their daughters Augustina, Martha, Christina and Susanna. But they weren’t traveling under the last name of Nering Bögel, Phillip had given his entire family the surname “Bastrop” and they all became citizens of the United States of America.
At first one might think this is just some crazy coincidence until you examine the family’s full names. For hundreds of years a book known as the Netherlands Patricaat has kept a record of family genealogy and other going’s-on in the Netherlands. The 1948 publication lists the names of Philip, his wife and their four daughters.
Philip Hendrick Nering Bögel
Georgina Wolfeline Francoise Lycklama à Nijeholt Nering Bögel
Susanna Hendrik Nering Bögel
Christina Martha Nering Bögel
* Coenraad Lourens Nering Bögel
Martha Hendrik Nering Bögel
Augustina Nering Bögel
*(died as an infant)
The following is the exact wording of the passenger list from the ship “Brothers.”
Philip Hendrick Bastrop
Georgina Wolfeline Francoise Lycklama Bastrop
Susana Maria Bastrop
Christina Maria Bastrop
Martha Kinnima Bastrop
Aside from the obvious change in surname the two lists are nearly identical, too close to be happenstance. There’s no doubt that Philip, along with his entire family, left the Netherlands and arrived in Philadelphia Pennsylvania under the last name of “Bastrop.”
Like the infomercial says…“but wait, there’s more!”
In 1795 under the name “P.H.N.B. Tot Bastrop” Phillip and the rest of the family, immigrated to Frederick County Maryland according to a 1795 immigration record. His use of his term “Tot” indicates a meaning of “including,” referring to himself and the family “Bastrop.” Why he would use a signature that hints at his real name is unclear.
At some point the Bastrop’s purchased a plantation in Frederick County according to the before-mentioned Netherland’s Patricaat and lived in Maryland until the year 1800, so says an 1800 Federal Census. I haven’t found any additional records of the same Bastrop family past the census.
By 1803 Georgina was back in the Netherlands living close to Amsterdam and in 1805, Philip moved to modern-day San Antonio Texas under his Spanish name of Felipe Enrique Neri, fully embracing his “baron” persona. Their youngest daughter, Augustine, was married in the Netherlands in 1810 followed by the rest of her sisters through the year 1817. It’s apparent that the “Bastrop’s” did eventually split up, but certainly not under the circumstances that has been accepted for years.
A review of this new evidence also offers new conclusions:
- History asserts that Georgina was nothing more than an innocent victim of Philip’s heinous crime, but now it appears she was a willing participant. She had to at least suspect, have knowledge of, or even participated in her husband’s crime, if he did indeed commit it. Regardless of the cultural differences it’s difficult to believe Georgina would agree to move her family across the ocean under an assumed name with no questions asked.
- Contrary to what has been written Philip wasn’t addressing himself as the Baron de Bastrop when he first arrived in America, he had simply replaced his entire family’s surname. It wasn’t until 1795, a full two years later, that he began using the “baron” moniker when he appeared in New Orleans with a petition for a land grant.
- There has been much conjecture that the Baron made up the name “Bastrop.” Although possible, the name is not rare in Germany and was probably taken from whomever helped the family “escape” in Hamburg. It’s possible Georgina’s family knew these “Bastrops” and had the political clout to make such arrangements.
- Many have speculated that Philip simply wanted out his marriage and into a new life. But now it’s clear this theory is without substance and should be discarded.
What actually triggered the crime and the family’s exodus from Holland may never be discovered, but it must have been important enough for Philip to give up everything about his life. He must have realized that once he had been accused of embezzlement and fled the country, with or without his family he could never again go home.
Regardless of the reason one fact is now absolutely certain, the Baron de Bastrop didn’t abandon his family. In fact, it appears he was a man desperately trying to keep his family together and willing to make any sacrifice to do so, even at the disgrace of the Nering Bögel name. The Baron was never seen in the company of a woman. He lived alone, in squallier and often lamented to his close friends how terribly he missed his family. Not quite the picture of the scoundrel history has painted him to be.
It’s often asked why Philip Hendrick Nering Bögel become the Baron de Bastrop. Perhaps after losing the family he obviously loved, the Baron was all Philip had left.
This story along with many others about the Baron’s fascinating life will be featured in the video documentary “Mark of the Baron,” which is ready for production. I hope you’ll join me in making this important correction to history by visiting the Baron’s website at www.barondebastrop.com and spreading the word that he was not a dirty rotten scoundrel.
Special thanks to Jan Farber of the Leeuwarden Historical Center in Leeuwarden, Friesland, the Netherlands. Your help is invaluable!