Scandalous Gossip or Brutal Fact?

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It was no secret in the family that my great grandfather Van Houtte was a miserable man. There is a story that is told about a door that needed to be put on the family home. Although he would bring a bag of candy home for the children on pay day he never bought things that were needed for the house. The door was ordered and it came in, just as they do now without hinges or a lock. My Great grandmother, Clemence Mary, got a neighbor to hang the door with old hinges and purchased a lock set at the lock hardware store. They had been keeping the door shut with a nail. My great grandfather, Emil Victor, asked how much the lock set cost and decided it was too much and took it off the door and took it back.


A month later Emil went into town and bought another lock set that he claimed was the same price as the one that he had taken off of the door. All of this happened before 1920. Much to my surprise I found 2 articles on that helped support the story of Emil’s temper and started gossip about Clemence.

McKean County Miner, June 19, 1919


Beefsteak and the Boarder


Sheriff E. W. Jones and Deputy Sheriff, C. C. Choate served as members of a Belgian relief committee Sunday, when they were called to Mt. Alton to straighten out the marital as well as martial troubles of one Victor Van Houtte, a Belgian.


Their findings were as follows: Victor works in a chemical plant at Newton. His wife keeps the family home at Mt. Alton and also a border. Victor usually spends the weekend in the bosom of his family and upon arriving on one such occasion recently found the boarder in his wife’s bedroom. With commendable fortitude he passed up this irregularity, but the following morning when the “missus” fed him bread and black coffee and produced delicious beefsteak for the boarder he decided he had a real grievance and chided his wife rather sternly.


However, open hostilities did not result until last Sunday when his wife criticized his methods of gardening while he was hoeing in the truck patch with the sweat of honest toil dripping from his brow. This was too much and the long suffering husband pursued his wife and threatened her with the hoe. She escaped and sought the protection of the strong arm of the law. The relief commission responded and after hearing both sides of the case impressed upon the belligerents the beauties of peace and strongly advised them to avoid strife in the future and from outward indications succeeded in patching up the difficulties.

A week after the publication of their fight another article appeared in the Mckean County Miner:

McKean County Miner, June 26, 1919


Van Houtte Was Arrested


Upon a surety of the peace warrant Victor Van Houtte, who is employed in the chemical plant at Newton, was brought before Justice Gleason by Constable Dickinson, Saturday and after a hearing held under $300 bail for his appearance at court. His wife was the complainant in the case and claims that her husband threatened her with a garden rake and double-bitted axe and that his general conduct has become unbearable.  Mrs. Van Houtte is described as an entirely respectable hard-working woman, the mother of four intelligent children, three of whom appeared at the hearing and testified in their mother’s behalf. The husband appears to be insanely jealous without apparent reason. Van Houtte secured bail some hours after the hearing and was released from custody but must face the charge at the next term of court.

By the time the Census was taken in 1920 Clemence was living in Bradford with her children and Emil was still living in Lafayette.


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