Beefsteak, Brides and Boarders

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Yesterday I found out more interesting information on my paternal great grandmother. My cousin in France sent me a few more tidbits that he had uncovered. Clémence Marie Defruytier, born February 9, 1871 to Bruno Defruytier and Adèla Sophia Decock was married prior to marrying my great grandfather.


That wasn’t the only new piece of information that he provided. It seems at sixteen years old Clémence had a child. He didn’t specify if the child was a boy or a girl, just that baby had lived only a few months. Three years following, in 1890, she would marry Joseph Vercruysse. I still don’t know what happened with this marriage. But, when I saw the Vercruysse name I knew that it all sounded very familiar, so I went looking to see what I could find in my tree.


Theresia Vercruysse, daughter of Joanne Vercruysse and Isabella Vandermandere, had married my great-great grandfather Ivo Joannes Van Houtte, Victor Emiel’s father. Although I haven’t as of yet found the connection between Joseph and Theresia, I wonder if this possible family relationship is how Clémence met and married my great grandfather Victor Emiel.


This makes me start to wonder more about the story I had found before in the newspaper on “Beefsteak and the Boarder.” Did her past history play into Emiel’s reaction? Their children, my grandfather included, would probably never be privy to the details of her past and only saw their father’s reaction to the present. From all accounts he was a rather miserable human being regardless, although there is no excuse for his reaction maybe some of it can be rationalized knowing the past.


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 wifes 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.


One week later –


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 mothers 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.


I found myself feeling very sorry for her. Life and her personal decisions had led her far away from her family, living alone in a foreign country, raising 4 small children. She never divorced Victor Emiel, she bought a house in town and lived and died there with her children.


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