Sunday, July 22, 2012

Back to the Future in 's-Graveland

In an earlier post, we took a trip back in time to Grandma VandenBergh's home village of Loosdrecht. This week, thanks to words and pictures preserved by Mom's cousin Jasper in the Netherlands, we go back in time to the hometown of my grandfather Barend VandenBergh, 's-Graveland. Jasper found some old postcards in an old shop in that village, postcards which date from 1900-1910. He pasted them in the album he put together for Mom, with his own commentary (quoted here), probably about 40 years ago. So the pictures and words are like a double time-warp. Hang on to your hats as we step into the time machine:

Jasper writes: 

I happened to find some old postcards in an old shop in 's-Graveland, which I thought would be of interest to you, as they date back to 1900-1910. On the postcard above I indicated with an X the house where your paternal grandfather [i.e., my great-grandfather] lived for many years. He worked first as "tuinmansknecht," [gardener's apprentice] later as "tuinbaas" or "head gardener" (The American word "boss" comes from Dutch "baas.") on the property of Jonkvrouwe de Backer, a descendant of the 17th century "regenten" from Amsterdam. They had at least 12 people working at their mansion and garden, and I assure you it was hard working under those feudal gentry.

With his large family he had to live on 7 guilders a week. His house belonged to the de Backers and the rent was f.1.25 a week (1 1/4 guilders). Tante Ger ["Aunt Gertie"] told me that the weekly bakers bill amounted to f. 5  --  Potatoes and vegetables he had to grow in his garden. For clothing and fuel hardly a penny remained.

In summer he worked from 6 in the morning to 9, sometimes 11:00 in the evening for his boss. From 4 to 6 in the morning he worked in his own garden. To earn a few pennies extra, he often took over nightwatch duties from other people.

Your grandmother [my great-grandmother] tried to earn extra money by sewing for other people. As the family had a good reputation, the baker and grocer gave credits for years.

It is unbelievable when you read about working and living conditions in those days. Seven families reigned in the village, which was their private property. Even the church was their property. Mrs. de Backer disapproved strongly of your grandfather's large family; she also made many objections when your grandmother [my great-grandmother] used window curtains, which use belonged to the higher classes.  

The church is about 325 years old [perhaps now about 375 years old]. In this church, Jacob Van den Bergh played the church organ for more than forty years.

One last photo shows "Boekesteyn," where Mom's cousin Jasper worked. It is now surrounded by a nature park:


  1. Great to read this story my father wrote over 50 years ago!

    Michiel Daams

    1. Hoi Michiel, hoe gaat it met jou? What a pleasant surprise to hear from you! Have you seen this post as well, with some more words from your father: . My mother always greatly enjoyed corresponding with your dad, she was so pleased to visit the Netherlands with two of her sisters in 1970.

      Your cousin in Albany, NY (Ellen)