Captain Jan Baron was born on 21 of October 1860 in Kampen, the Netherlands. Kampen is located in the Eastern half, about 60 kilometers North East of Amsterdam at the other side of the dutch inland sea then called the Zuiderzee), as a son of father “Rijk Baron” and mother “Geesje Hoeve”. (a)
His father is mentioned as being a skipper. I have not been able to trace his school days yet or with which company he had his cadet ship and then sailed.
Which he must have done as he joined Holland America on the 14 October 1890 as a Fourth Officer. Council records indicates that the married on 28 June 1888 with Berber Burghout (born on 14 April 1864 at Harlingen)
There were 3 children:
Rijk Baron; born 06 January 1889 at Harlingen. He also went to sea but as a purser. He passed away at sea when he missed a step when going into the lifeboats when his ship the ss Volendam was torpedoed on 30th. of August 1940. He was the only casualty. Everybody else, mainly children as this was a evacuation transport, were saved. His body drifted ashore and he was buried at Tiree on the Clyde. A tombstone is still in place to indicate his grave.
Jan Baron; born 31 August 1890 at Charlois (suburb of Rotterdam)
Johan Gijsbert Baron born 20 May 1893 at Charlois (suburb of Rotterdam)
(d) His wife was still alive when he passed away in 1924.
In February of 1890 year he had obtained his Captains ticket (Class A ticket as it was called then) so he must have been sailing for about 10 years before he joined Holland America. In what capacity we do not know but in 10 years of sailing he could have made captain/skipper of a sailing ship. So it must have been for a special reason, that at the age of 30 he joins as 4th. Officer with the company. Then his promotion goes very fast as in 2 years’ time he is chief officer and in 11 years’ time Captain. He had the age and he must have had the experience.
In 1895 he is given leave to go for training as Reserve Officer in the Dutch Royal Navy. A program that had been established in 1894 and was supported by Holland America.
There is very little information in the archives, about his subsequent career, so what I know at the moment comes mainly from newspapers.
An early entry was for 1903, when the papers advise that the Captain and his ship the Sloterdijk (I) are overdue and missing. But he safely arrives eventually. This was voyage 7 of the Sloterdijk (Jan Baron was the first captain of the ship when it was new) and it turned out he had to sail at a very slow speed as the crankshaft was broken and with the ship having only one propeller, he had to make sure that the crankshaft did not break completely. So instead of making a crossing of 14 days, it took almost a month to cross the ocean and then he called at New York for repairs instead of Newport News where the ship was supposed to go.
In 1909 he is back in the newspapers, or better said his ship the ss Soestdijk (I) is. This ships transports a replica of the “Haelve Maen” to New York. This was a full size replica of the ship that brought Henry Hudson to the Manhattans, where then the Fort of Nieuw Amsterdam (later New York) was founded. In 1909 the Hudson-Fulton celebrations took place and hence the Dutch Government donated a copy of the sailing ship.
Captain Baron was appointed Knight in the order of Orange Nassau. (Note a Dutch knight is not the same as an English Knight, it is a lower ranking as the Dutch higher ranking and comparable is Officer. The Dutch and British system work the other way around) The exact date is unknown.
By 1911 he is captain of the 2nd largest ship of Holland America, the ss Nieuw Amsterdam (1) and that lands him in front of the Maritime Board of Inquiry in 1913 when he is accused to be complicit in the suicide of an engine room rating. The man had been admitted to hospital for diarrhoea and vomiting but on his own request (!!!) the doctor discharged him a day later. He must then have jumped overboard as he was not found again. A colleague assisted by his father then puts in a complaint. The captain had not even known about this until he was informed about the missing person. As was expected the Captain Baron was cleared of all blame.
By 1914 the First World War broke out and the Netherlands, and thus its fleet, was neutral. Thus the ships could continue to sail and should not be torpedoed. The question was how good was the U boat Commander in adhering to the arrangement ? The ships sailed full with passengers trying to get home or out of Europe and the passengers on the voyage just after the outbreak of the war, were so grateful for a safe delivery to the USA, that the Captain and the ship received a special plaque as an acknowledgement.
The Nieuw Amsterdam (I) was one of the few ships which sailed throughout the war, even after the unlimited Submarine war was declared by Imperial Germany. It carried eastbound full cargo holds of grain which were a life line for the Dutch population, especially in the West of the Netherlands. The ships speed made it reasonably safe against torpedoes. Still there was the danger of mines and on 31 January 1917 after arrival in New York, Captain Baron advises the press that when approaching the English port of Falmouth on 21 December 1917 a British minesweeper who had been dispatched to clear mines from the approach route to the port, hit a mine itself. 11 Officers and 7 crew died in the explosion which totally wrecked the navy ship. The Nieuw Amsterdam was only 5 miles away when the tragedy occurred.
Captain Jan Baron stayed with the ship until 1918. Then there is the transfer to the Flagship the ss Rotterdam (IV) This was as far as a captain could rise in the fleet. Being in command of the largest ship of the fleet and the largest passenger ship of the fleet. He replaced Commodore Geert Stenger who retired. The company had started having commodores in the fleet in 1893, following international example. But if one retired, the next one was not always directly appointed straight away.
In 1920 he is promoted to Commodore of the company and remains in command of its flagship the ss Rotterdam (IV) here he stays until he falls ill in late 1923. In the same year he is again in the newspapers as know having been awarded on 23 March received the “De Ruyter” medal in Silver. This is the highest civilian order the Dutch Maritime Industry has available. (Apart from the Gold version). The announcement does not say why he received it, but my educated guess was that he honoured for his state of service and being commodore of the Holland America Line.
In November 1923 he is listed as “temporary” ashore due to illness. Temporary in HAL language indicates that it was expected that he would return in due course to his ship. Otherwise the entry would have read: dismissed to due ill health. Cause of the illness is unknown but sadly he passes away on 04 February 1924 in Voorburg The Netherlands. The newspaper announcement reads: “After a short period with intense suffering”. He left behind his wife, 3 childeren and two grand children. (e)
a. Mr. Bert Kruidhof
b. Stamboek Personnel information Holland America Line archives as held by the Municipal ARchvies o the city of Rotterdam
c. Newspaper articles : NRC Handelsblad, De Nieuwe Tilburgse Courant via Delpher
d. Mr. Pieter Hartog (Family of the captain)
e. Mr. Rijk Baron, grand, grandson of the captain.
last Updated: 07 September 2023
Sailing List (b)
Came from other company.
14 Oct. 1890 4th. Officer P. Caland 40,–
First mate (captains ticket A class) 13 Feb. 1890
22 May. 1890 3rd Officer P. Caland 50,–
19 Oct. 1890 2nd Officer P. Caland 70,–
05 Feb. 1891 2nd Officer Veendam 70,–
05 Jun. 1891 2nd Officer Obdam 70,–
Transferred in New York.
11 Jul. 1891 2nd Officer Veendam 70,–
Transferred in New York
11 Sep. 1891 Chief Officer Veendam 100,-
21 Jan. 1895 Chief Officer Werkendam 100,-
15 Jun. 1895 Chief officer P. Caland 100,-
30 jun. 1895 Temporary dismissed for Royal Navy duty six months leave
01 Oct. 1895 Chief Officer Amsterdam 100,-
19 Aug. 1896 Temporary dismissed for Royal Navy duty,
21 Mar. 1897 Roundtrip on the ss Pennsylvania until 26 April 1897
13 May 1897 Chief Officer For ss Rotterdam to Belfast 100,-
17 Jan. 1898 Chief Officer Rotterdam 110,-
15 Feb. 1900 Temporary dismissed for Royal Navy duty. 3 months duty.
26 May 1900 Chief Officer Rotterdam 110,-
30 May 1901 Temporary dismissed
12 Jun. 1901 Chief Officer Statendam 110,-
24 July 1901 Chief Officer Soestdijk 110,-
01 Oct. 1901 Captain Soestdijk 200,-
22 Feb. 1902 Temporary dismissed and to Hartlepool for ss Sloterdijk
10 Mar. 1902 Captain Sloterdijk 200,-
13 Sept. 1902 Temporary dismissed due to Illness.
23 Oct. 1902 Captain Sloterdijk 200,-
01 Jan. 1903 Promoted to Lieutenant First Class Royal Navy.
28 Jul. 1903 Captain Soestdijk 200,-
14 Sep. 1903 Captain Sloterdijk 200,-
29 Nov. 1904 Captain Soestdijk 200,-
17 Feb. 1905 Captain Amsteldijk 200,-
31 Jul. 1906 Captain Soestdijk 200,-
10 Jan. 1908 Captain Noordam 200,-
19 Feb. 1908 Captain Potsdam 200,-
07 Aug. 1908 Dismissed and put on standby
03 Sep. 1908 Captain Soestdijk 200,-
31 Oct. 1909 Temporary dismissed due to illness
22 Mar. 1910 Captain Noordam 200,-
01 Jan. 1911 Due to changes in wages, new pay 300,-
15 Jul. 1911 Temporary ashore and on standby
30 Jul. 1911 Captain Nieuw Amsterdam 300,-
24 Nov. 1915 Captain Rotterdam 300,-
01 Jan. 1916 wages increased to 350,–
01 Sep. 1916 Captain Noordam 350,-
13 Oct. 1916 Captain Rotterdam 350,-
30 Oct. 1916 Captain Nieuw Amsterdam 350,-
30 Jan. 1917 Captain Rotterdam 350,-
21 jun. 1917 Captain Nieuw Amsterdam 350,–
05 Jan. 1918 Captain Rotterdam 350,–
01 Aug. 1918 wage increase to 400,-
01 Jul. 1919 wage increase to 800,-
01 Jan. 1920 wage increase to 825,-
15 Oct. 1920 wage increase to 850,-
01 Jan. 1921 wage increase to 900,-
15 Nov. 1923 Temporary ashore due to illness
04 Feb. 1924 Passed Away.