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HAVEN, JENS, founder of the Moravian mission in Labrador; b. 23 June 1724 in Wust, Jutland, Denmark; m. 12 April 1771 Mary Butterworth of the Moravian settlement of Fulneck (near Pudsey, West Yorkshire), England, and they had two sons; d. 16 April 1796 at Herrnhut, Saxony (German Democratic Republic).

Born into a Lutheran farming family, Jens Haven was in his youth apprenticed to a joiner in Copenhagen who belonged to the Moravian Church. In June 1748, his apprenticeship completed, Haven was admitted to the Moravian settlement at Herrnhut. He remained there for ten years until, having volunteered for foreign mission work, he was sent to the Greenland Inuit mission in 1758. He spent four years at the new station at Lichtenfels (near Fiskenæsset) before returning to Herrnhut on leave early in 1763.

Even before going to Greenland, Haven had become convinced that it was his destiny to establish a mission for the Labrador Inuit; the Moravians’ first attempt to do so had failed in 1752 [see John Christian Erhardt*]. Early in 1764 Haven asked and obtained permission from the Moravian authorities to go to Labrador, which had been placed under the jurisdiction of the governor of Newfoundland in 1763. In February, knowing no English, he set out on foot for London, and through the good offices of the Moravian congregation there obtained an interview with the newly appointed governor, Hugh Palliser, who arranged passage for him to St John’s. Palliser hoped that Haven could help end the endemic Inuit-white conflicts which plagued the Strait of Belle Isle and southern Labrador, seriously impeding the development of a fishery there.

Haven spent the summer of 1764 at the strait. As a result of long conversations with the Inuit, he was able to provide Palliser with a detailed report on the situation there and an accurate analysis of the factors underlying the outbreaks of violence. Both the governor and the Moravians welcomed the results of Haven’s expedition: Palliser reported that “good use may be made of this Man next Year”; the Moravians decided that a Labrador mission could, and should, be established. In 1765, under Palliser’s auspices, Haven returned to the strait on a ship commanded by Francis Lucas*. He was accompanied by three other Moravians, one of whom, Christian Larsen Drachart, could also speak the Inuit language. The Moravians wanted primarily to find a site for a mission house, but because Palliser had decided to use them as interpreters to assist in making a form of treaty with the Inuit, their freedom of movement was restricted. Angered by Palliser’s attitude, the Moravian authorities decided that there would be no further expeditions to Labrador until they were given the land grants there for which they had applied in February 1765. Both Palliser and the Board of Trade were unwilling to make the grants, and it seemed that an impasse had been reached. Haven spent 1766 and 1767 in Moravian settlements at Fulneck and Zeist (Netherlands).

Early in 1768 Haven received permission to renew pressure on the Board of Trade for a land grant, and he returned to London. After protracted negotiations, an order in council of May 1769 granted the Moravian Church 100,000 acres in Labrador [see Mikak]. In 1770 Haven, accompanied by Drachart and Stephen Jensen, sailed once again to Labrador. In August they chose land in the Nuneingoak region, and purchased it from the local Inuit. Haven was greeted enthusiastically by the natives, to whom he was known as Jens Ingoak, the Inuit friend.

Haven returned to London in 1770 and spent the winter and early spring preparing the frame of a mission house and joining in the final arrangements for the establishment of the mission in 1771 – arrangements that included his marriage. Fourteen persons composed the missionary party which was led, not by Haven, but by Christoph Brasen, a Danish surgeon. Haven was passed over, probably because of “the natural impetuosity and roughness of [his] disposition,” and his tendency to be “warm and overbearing.” On 12 Aug. 1771 the missionaries began to erect a house on their land in Labrador, and they called it Nain. Haven spent the next 13 years in Labrador with the exception of a furlough in 1777–78. He took a leading part in the spiritual activities of the mission and made important exploratory voyages along the northern coast of Labrador. In 1776 he built a station at Okak and remained in charge there until 1781, when he was recalled to Nain to oversee preparations for the establishment of Hoffenthal (Hopedale), which he built in 1782 and where he stayed two years. In 1784, old and weak, and with failing sight, he retired to Herrnhut and lived there until his death in 1796. He was blind for the last six years of his life.

It was due to Haven’s persistence that a Moravian mission was established in Labrador. As a contemporary remarked, he was “a Mauerbrecher . . . a bold adventurer in different emergencies.” But at the same time he had a hot temper and a blunt single-mindedness which made him a difficult colleague. He was aware of these defects and fought against them, but without them the mission would never have become a reality.

J. K. Hiller

[Manuscripts relating to the Moravian missions in Labrador are held by the Moravian Church Archives in Bethlehem, Pa., and London, England, and include diaries, letters, minutes, plans, maps, church books, etcetera. This material is on microfilm either at Memorial University of Newfoundland (St John’s) or the PAC (MG 17, D 1). The following memoir is largely by Haven himself: “Memoir of the life of Br. Jens Haven, the first missionary of the Brethren’s Church to the Esquimaux, on the coast of Labrador,” Periodical accounts relating to the missions of the Church of the United Brethren, established among the heathen (London), II (1798), 99–110.  j.k.h.] PRO, CO 194/16. Daniel Benham, Memoirs of James Hutton; comprising the annals of his life, and connection with the United Brethren (London, 1856). Hiller, “Foundation of Moravian mission.” W. H. Whiteley, “The establishment of the Moravian mission in Labrador and British policy, 1763–83,” CHR, XLV (1964), 29–50.

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Cite This Article

J. K. Hiller, “HAVEN, JENS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 28, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/haven_jens_4E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/haven_jens_4E.html
Author of Article:   J. K. Hiller
Title of Article:   HAVEN, JENS
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1979
Year of revision:   1979
Access Date:   September 28, 2023