Mesdag (Mesdach, Mesdagh, Mestach, Van Mesdag) family

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Mesdag (Mesdach, Mesdagh, Mestach, Van Mesdag), an old name of frequent occurrence in Flanders, which was also borne by many Mennonites. A Mennonite martyr of this name was Jacob (Jaques) Mesdag, a miller and weaver of Poelkapelle, who was arrested for his faith at Kortrijk (Courtrai) in Belgium on 1 March 1566, put into heavy chains, and after 20 months of bitterest imprisonment, was burned at the stake together with three Mennonites in front of the courthouse on 8 November 1567. In prison he wrote a long, deeply moving letter of farewell, full of sincere, immovable faith, to his "dear and greatly beloved chosen sister Susanneken," on 9 September 1567. This Susanna Mesdag, later living in Haarlem, Holland, was a member of the Flemish Mennonite congregation and died there about 1603.

In the course of the 16th and 17th centuries a number of Reformed and Mennonite emigrants from Flanders bearing a variant of this name are encountered in the Dutch and Frisian cities, as in Middelburg, Leiden, Haarlem, Alkmaar, Bolsward, and Harlingen; in the 17th century a portrait painter Salomon Mesdach (Reformed; died 1644) lived in Middelburg, whose self-portrait is in the national museum in Amsterdam.

Concerning the early Mennonites of this family: About 1580 Vincent Mesdag, a miller near Kortrijk in Flanders, fled to Haarlem; his son Gillis Mesdag, a weaver, later a cloth merchant, moved to Leiden, where he played some part as a member of the Vincent de Hondt congregation. About 1600 another Pieter Mesdag (1537-1604) and another Gillis Mesdag, both flax merchants, moved from Flanders to Harlingen. Jaques Mesdag, a nephew of the martyr Jaques Mesdag, a thread twister, left Dixmuide, Flanders, and settled at Alkmaar. One of the descendants of this thriving Mesdag family in Holland, which has produced many respected merchants, industrialists, bankers, physicians, and pharmacists, was the attorney Taco Gillisz Mesdag, who lived in Bolsward 1752-1814; one of his daughters was the grandmother of the famous painter Sir Laurens Alma Tadema (1836-1912), who lived in London after 1870. The descendants of Taco Mesdag settled mostly in the province and city of Groningen. Of this Groningen family mention should be made of the following:

Hendrik Willem Mesdag, born 23 February 1831, at Groningen, baptized 20 October 1850, died 10 July 1915 at The Hague, a gifted painter of marine scenes, belonging to the Hague School, founder of an important collection of modern painting, in which especially the impressionistic art of Holland and France (the schools of Barbizon and The Hague) are represented in well-selected pictures; in 1903 the collection was given as a gift to the nation. He was not only very wealthy, but also a strong, leading, and farsighted personality, who promoted the essential interests of art and artists with a generous hand and clear judgment. Also as the energetic president cf the artist club "Pulchri Studio" in The Hague he performed meritorious service for many years. For a long time before he devoted himself to art (1866) he had been in his father's bank; then for two years he studied under the Dutch landscape painter Willem Roelofs in Brussels (on the advice of his cousin, L. Alma Tadema, who lived there until 1870, and who also belonged to a Mennonite family) and settled in The Hague in 1868. In addition to marine pictures he painted a large panorama of Scheveningen. In Groningen a street and a public square were named for him, and in The Hague a street.

Taco Mesdag, a brother of the above, born 21 September 1829, at Groningen, baptized 20 October 1850, died 4 August 1902, at first a banker and grain dealer at Groningen, then moving to Scheveningen, near The Hague; he was a landscape painter of mediocre talent. One of his pictures adorns the church council room of the Mennonite church in Groningen.

Sientje Mesdag, nee van Houten, born 23 December 1834, baptized 28 March 1852, died 20 March 1909, wife of H. W. Mesdag and sister of the statesman, minister, and philosopher Samuel van Houten, painted landscapes and still life, the latter showing more talent.

Geesje (Gesina) Mesdag, née van Calcar, born at Hoogezand on 21 July, 1850, died at Scheveningen 12 April 1936, the wife of Taco Mesdag and painter of landscapes and interiors. To this family also belonged Willem Mesdag, born Rotterdam 1896, Mennonite pastor at West-Zaan-Zuid 1924-1929, Zijldijk 1929-1934, Sneek 1934-1946, and Zeist 1946- .


Braght, Thieleman J. van. Het Bloedigh Tooneel of Martelaers Spiegel der Doops-gesinde of Weereloose Christenen, Die om 't getuygenis van Jesus haren Salighmaker geleden hebben ende gedood zijn van Christi tijd of tot desen tijd toe. Den Tweeden Druk. Amsterdam: Hieronymus Sweerts, 1685: Part II, 358-366.

Braght, Thieleman J. van. The Bloody Theatre or Martyrs' Mirror of the Defenseless Christians Who Baptized Only upon Confession of Faith and Who Suffered and Died for the Testimony of Jesus Their Saviour . . . to the Year A.D. 1660. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1951: 715-721. Available online at:

Doopsgezinde Bijdragen (1901): 211.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. III, 116 f.

Jierboekje fan it Genealogysh Wurkforban. Ljouwert, 1955: 67 f.

Mesdag, G. Jr. Het Geslacht Mesdag. Groningen, 1896.

van Mesdag, G. Het Geslacht Mesdag. n.p., 1943-46.

Author(s) H. F. W. Jeltes
Nanne van der Zijpp
Date Published 1957

Cite This Article

MLA style

Jeltes, H. F. W. and Nanne van der Zijpp. "Mesdag (Mesdach, Mesdagh, Mestach, Van Mesdag) family." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 23 Sep 2020.,_Mesdagh,_Mestach,_Van_Mesdag)_family&oldid=143892.

APA style

Jeltes, H. F. W. and Nanne van der Zijpp. (1957). Mesdag (Mesdach, Mesdagh, Mestach, Van Mesdag) family. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 September 2020, from,_Mesdagh,_Mestach,_Van_Mesdag)_family&oldid=143892.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 656-657. All rights reserved.

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