Through Johan Benad Ugland, the JBU companies continue a more than thousand year tradition tied to three areas: farming, trade and maritime activities. There are few families in Norway that can tie these elements together with actual concurrent documentation the way that the Ugland family of Grimstad can. From Storegra Farm, the family can trace each generation back to Jon Hoglive Tjore. In the 1260s, he was a Sveite chief in the king’s fleet. The ownership of the farm can be traced back to the sixth century, and in the 800s we find the first ship, Thjore, which carried several colonists from the Agder area to Iceland. Thus, both the family and the farm have very long traditions.
In documents from 1278, we learn about the Tjore farmer Jon Hoglive Tjore, who was given a long boat by the king in order to assist him on expeditions to the «southern islands» (The Hebrides). Jon Hoglive Tjore is the first «captain» in the family whose name is known. Jon’s grandsons Gudbrand and Gunnar took up the tradition and were involved in seafaring and the timber trade. In 1326, their chartered ship «St. Holberg» was in England with timber cargo valued at 30 pounds. Later letters also show that the family were ship owners.
Throughout the Middle Ages, the family farmed at Tjore. There, evidence can also be found of their involvement in seafaring up to the early 1400s. At that time, Gudbrand’s grandson, on behalf of his father and grandfather, demanded the remaining payment for a large Knarr ship that the farmers at Eiker by Tønsberg purchased from Gudbrand.
In the mid-1500s, Aanon at Tjore is mentioned as a descendant of Jon Hoglive Tjore. Aanon lived at Tjore, and on the farm’s beach there was an old shipyard where farmers had built ships since the Viking age. Around 1559, the Danish-Norwegian king established the first large shipyard here. The yard built several warships for the Crown, among them the warship «St. Oluf» which at the time was the world’s largest maritime vessel. Thus far, we know of another four warships that were built here between 1559-1587.
After the 1600s, there is a gap before we hear of further ties to seafaring. Only at the end of the 1700s do we hear of shipbuilding and seafaring on Johan Benad’s mother’s and father’s side. On Andreas L. Ugland’s side of the family, shipbuilding can be traced to 1774, when Halvor Olsen Ugland is mentioned as a master shipbuilder. His descendants continued the shipbuilding tradition, and his grandson Halvor Salvesen Ugland was captain as well as shipowner, as was his son Jørgen Halvorsen Ugland.
From Jon Hoglive Tjore, the Sveite chief in the 1260s, the lineages at Storegra run continuously up to its current owners and their ties to shipping. Yet the earliest ship that can be tied to the family tree is the Thjore ship that sailed to Iceland in the 870s when large sections of the Agder nobility fled the rule of Harald Fairhair.
On Aud Oda’s side of the family, the 1700s sees Jens Olsen Støle (1761-1830) having a long maritime career as captain. When he stopped going to sea in about 1802, he established the Støle shipyard in Strandfjorden. He and his sons built more than 30 vessels, such as schooners, cogs, sloops and boats.
Jens Olsen was among the first in Norway to build schooners, and was a pioneer in the development of this type of ship. As early as in 1807, he built the «Christian Borg» schooner and thus contributed to the dominance of this ship type in many shipping companies for the next 50 years.
His son Johannes Jensen Støle (1791-1859) continued in the same tradition. He was a sailor, shipowner, shipbuilder and farmer. When young, he was on board the Najaden ship when it was sunk at Lyngør, and later he became a skipper and shipbuilder. He was a prominent figure in his own time, and was elected the first Mayor of Landvik when municipal governance was introduced in 1837.
In the next generation, Nils Johan Johannesen (1831-1905) continued the family tradition of farming, trade and seafaring. He was also a shipbuilder, and like his father and grandfather sailed as captain on a number of ships. The ships he owned included Barken Elizer, Chassene, Concordia, Carl Imænes and Fremgang. The schooner «Fremgang» was captained by his son, Johannes Jensen Nilsen (1860-1938), who was also the heir to Storegra. When Johannes died in 1938, there were no sons to continue the tradition. However, the family tradition resumed after 14 years, when Aud Oda married Andreas L. Ugland; the Ugland family still maintained its shipping and maritime traditions.
Johan Milmar Ugland
Johan Milmar Ugland was born in 1881 and grew up as the son of the above-mentioned skipper Jørgen Halvorsen Ugland. Johan Milmar was the first to bring modern forms of ship ownership into the family.
Johan M. Ugland settled in South America, where he married Sara Lund, a Norwegian who was later renamed Sarita. They had two daughters, Evy and Lisen, before Johan Jørgen was born in 1921 and the family returned to Grimstad. In 1925, their son Andreas K. L. was born.
Johan Milmar understood that the era of sail was over, and chose to focus on the modern steel vessels. In 1930, following extensive negotiations, he took over the former Anglo Saxon ship «Melania», which was renamed «Sarita». J. M. Ugland & Co was formed on 30 June 1930. Thus, all was set for Johan Milmar to also continue the family’s old shipping traditions, though now with modern ships.
1930 was therefore the watershed year that separated a 700-year shipping tradition of wood and sails from the new motorised vessels in steel. The transition enabled the Ugland/Storegra family to continue its old traditions of shipping, farming and trade up to the present day.
After 10 years in operation, J. M. Ugland & Co had overcome the first crises and were about to consolidate their position. However, World War II led to new difficulties. On 14 July 1940, Sarita was torpedoed without warning. It had a crew of 29, of whom 14 were Norwegian. All were saved.
J. M. Ugland & Co had a total tonnage of 18 000 dwt in April 1940. Though one of the two tankers was sunk during the war and J.M. Ugland & Co thus lost nearly half its tonnage, the company quickly got on its feet after the war. The new ship «Lisita» was laid up in Skåne in Sweden during the five war years. When the ship was delivered in 1945, the company’s total tonnage exceeded the 1940 level by 28%. During the 1950s, the Ugland fleet grew annually by about one ship.
The generational changeover in J. M. Ugland & Co was effected gradually. Both Johan Jørgen and Andreas K. L. started to work in the company, and in 1955 the Board consisted of the following:
In early 1992, Andreas K. L. started the inheritance settlement with his three sons, and in 2000 Andreas Ugland & Sons AS was divided among the next generation: Johan Benad, Andreas Ove and Knut Axel Ugland.
J. B. Ugland Holding AS was established with Johan Benad as the sole shareholder.