Re-Writing History

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To my surprise last night I found information that I have been hunting for. Although it didn’t break down a brick wall, it did clear up more misinformation concerning my grandfather and his parents. It also created another question, was the original destination Detroit, Michigan instead of Bradford, Pennsylvania?

Someone in the family had written down an oral history of my great grandfather Van Houtte’s coming to America. I have found mistakes in the history in the past and inserted corrections. I found more with last night’s find of the Border Crossings from Canada to the US 1895-1956. It was in the New Brunswick, March 1907 records.

The story of the family went like this; I have included corrections and detail information in parenthesis.

Clemence DeFruiter and Emil Van Houtte got married in Brest, France abt 1899.

(I haven’t been able to confirm this information. Emil lived in Belgium all of his life until going to Glasgow Scotland to board the boat for the U.S. Detail on "BREST, a fortified seaport of western France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Finistere, 155 m. W.N.W. of Rennes by rail. Population (1906) town, 71,163; commune, 85,294. It is situated to the north of a magnificent landlocked bay, and occupies the slopes of two hills divided by the river Penfeld, – the part of the town on the left bank being regarded as Brest proper, while the part on the right is known as Recouvrance. There are also extensive suburbs to the east of the town. The hill-sides are in some places so steep that the ascent from the lower to the upper town has to be effected by flights of steps and the second or third storey of one house is often on a level with the ground storey of the next. The chief street of Brest bears the name of rue de Siam, in honor of the Siamese embassy sent to Louis XIV., and terminates at the remarkable swing-bridge, constructed in 1861, which crosses the mouth of the Penfeld. Running along the shore to the south of the town is the Cours d’Ajot, one of the finest promenades of its kind in France, named after the engineer who constructed it. It is planted with trees and adorned with marble statues of Neptune and Abundance by Antoine Coysevox. The castle with its donjon and seven towers (12th to the 16th centuries), commanding the entrance to the river, is the only interesting building in the town. Brest is the capital of one of the five naval arrondissements of France. The naval port, which is in great part excavated in the rock, extends along both banks of the Penfeld; it comprises gun-foundries and workshops, magazines, shipbuilding yards and repairing docks, and employs about 7000 workmen. There are also large naval barracks, training ships and naval schools of various kinds, and an important naval hospital. Brest is the seat of a sub-prefect and has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a chamber of commerce, board of trade-arbitrators, two naval tribunals, and a tribunal of maritime commerce. There are also lycees for boys and girls and a school of commerce and industry." )

They waited for an English boat (They boarded the ship Athenia (I), this ship would be sunk in 1917 in the war, in Glasgow, Scotland) that was supposed to take them to Bradford, PA. Instead they went to St John, Canada. (The purchase was for St John, New Brunswick, Canada and the original destination that was crossed out and replaced with Bradford was for Detroit, Michigan, job as a brewer, not Bradford, Pennsylvania)

(Under a US-Canadian agreement signed in 1894, immigrants destined to the United States were inspected and recorded by US immigrant inspectors at Canadian ports of entry. Until 1917, records of all entries at all Canadian ports, Atlantic and Pacific, were filed in the Soundex index at Montreal, now known as the St. Albans Lists. After 1917, entries at land border ports WEST of the Montana/North Dakota state line were filed in Seattle. No centralized set of records was maintained after June 30, 1929, and after that date records will be found only among the records of the immigrant’s actual port of entry along the US-Canadian Border.

For its part, the U.S. Immigration Service stationed immigrant inspectors at Canadian seaports of entry to collect the manifests and inspect U.S.-bound immigrants. The largest Canadian Atlantic ports were Quebec and Montreal (summer) and St. John and Halifax (winter). Furthermore, between 1895 and 1906 the U.S. placed inspectors at northern land border ports of entry. Beginning in 1895, immigrants destined to the United States were subject to the following procedure upon arrival in Canada: U.S. immigrant inspectors at seaports inspected immigrants bound for the United States after they passed Canadian quarantine. If admitted, the inspector issued each passenger a "Certificate of Admission" showing he or she had been inspected and admitted. Railroads required all passengers who landed in Canada within the last thirty days to present their Certificates of Admission before boarding a U.S.-bound train. Then, when the train stopped at the border, another U.S. inspector boarded the train and collected the Certificates of Admission. In this way, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) tracked and connected an immigrant’s arrival at the seaport and his subsequent physical entrance into the United States.)

It cost $50 to come on the boat from France (March 9, 1907, Glasgow, Scotland) to St. John (March 21, 1907). It was an awful boat that carried cattle, horses, ran out of food and was 21 days on the water. A lot of people were sick due to the food. The people who ran the boat were mean. If complaints were about the food, the crew told them to sit down and be quiet. The tickets read Bradford, North America. They arrived in St John and had to look for an interpreter to help them get to Buffalo, NY. They took a train to Buffalo and came to Bradford at 2:00 AM.

Their sponsor lived in Painters Mills and worked in the chemical factory. Before Emil and Clemence left France (Glasgow, Scotland ) the sponsor (Peter Dupender, according to the 1900 and 1910 Census, Dyprater, and Deprater born in Belgium.) wrote and said he was working in a brewery but there was none here (Peter worked in a chemical factory).

(Emil’s paperwork had brewer crossed out and painter written in.  At the time the Bradford Brewing company was in existence at the end of Fourth Street near the Brie Railroad tracks, (approximately under the Rte. 219 expressway nowadays), it operated for over 20 years. In 1905 it had just purchased the bottling plants of the David Campbell & Company of Davis Street, and the Goodwin Brothers of Chestnut Streets. Campbell and Goodwin were manufacturers and bottlers of pop, ginger ale, cider, and all kinds of soft drinks. This economically wise move gave the Bradford Brewery the ability to expand into the soft drink market on a large scale. The purchase of the bottling plants nearly doubled the brewery’s size. By 1905, the storage capacity had increased to 10,000 barrels, and about 30,000 barrels were being brewed yearly. Hugo Artleib became brew master, and was "zealously careful in the management of his department". If Emil ever applied for or got a job in the brewery is not known at this time.)

Emil had worked in a brewery in France (He had been living in Belgium) and thought he could get a good job here.

The men from Mt Alton came to pick them up the next morning at the Holley Hotel. This was in 1906 or 1907(stated on census 1905/1906, correct date is March 21, 1907). They went by horse and buggy and got a company house from the chemical factory. They moved to Mt Alton and worked in the chemical factory there. Emil also worked in West Line, Backus (near Smethport), Painters Mills and Mt Alton. He was 72 or 74 when he died. Clemence was about 3 years younger than her husband.

Emil, born in Antwerp, Belgium was an orphan when a baby. He went to France (I cannot confirm that Emil ever lived in France) so he could earn more money. Clemence had a brother who was crippled and a sister. Her mother died at an early age of some disease and her father raised her. She helped at home by doing housework in others homes.

Emil was tight with his money. If he made $3 a day he put $2.50 in the bank. He started at $1 a day – $30 a month. Always paid for groceries on payday and the grocer gave a bag of candy to the kids. He got up at 4:00 AM and went to work until 2:00 PM. Came home and worked in the garden and was in bed at 8:00 PM.

Emil wouldn’t buy anything for the house and was so stingy they broke up. The house had to have a new front door. "When we go to Bradford we should get a new door at Tuna" The door came on the freight train to the station in Mt Alton. Amos went by horse and buggy to get the door. No hinges were with it. They had to be purchased separately. Dick Barnes lived next door and Clemence got him to hang the door with some old hinges that were lying around. The door had no lock and they kept it shut with a nail. Clemence went to the General Store in Mt Alton and bought a lock and Dick Barnes put it on. When Emil came home and saw it, he wanted to know how much it cost. Too Much! He took the lock off the door and took it back. A month later he went to Bradford and bought another at Barney Rosenfields and put it on. He paid the same amount but never admitted it. By 1930 Clemence had left Emil (She was living in Bradford with her son George and Charles Curtis, age 25, a lodger.)

Amos was 3 and Leah was 1 years old. Both were born in France (Belgium). Amos was born in Tourning (Tournai, Belgium) and Leah in Waterloo (Waterloo, Belgium). Marcal came to Bradford one year and stayed the summer. He went back to France. He worked at the Star Garage and brought all of his tools in a wicker basket.

Amos was 16 when he went to work at the B & S. The plant burned down and he went to work for Jim Griffin as a laborer-plastering contractor. He worked for Jim Griffin for 7 years. For 3 years he was an apprentice. Amos didn’t like the job too well – messy, dirty, and wet! Worked on Melvin Ave – some corporation from Pittsburgh did the stucco work. Amos spoke French at home until he went to school. He only went through the 8th grade at Mt Alton.

Amos wanted to go to the church bazaar, so Emil gave him 25 cents to go. He spent it on the wheel at 5 cents a chance and didn’t win anything. Father Carpenter was the priest then; he confirmed Amos and gave him his first communion. Amos was sick for a long time after he was born and almost died, but survived. (Amos, born Aime.)



  1. I wish more of my family’s oral history had been written down. What little has trickled down to me has usually had a grain of truth to it (which often points in the right direction) but has changed with the telling or family lines have gotten jumbled up. You’ve done a great job straightening it out and adding to it.

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