In the second half of the eighteenth century, in Merzen northwest of Osnabrück in the kingdom of Hannover, there lived a man called Johann Hermann Röwer. The name Röwer is allied to the name Roger: these names come from Hroti-ger, which means in the old Germanic language "bearer of fame".
This Johann was an ancestor in the direct line of fathers of myself, my brother Theodorus Christianus Josephus Reuvers, and my other brothers and sisters.
About 1777, there in Merzen he married Maria Denning. They had a son which they called Bernardus (Berend), and a daughter (Maria Catharina). They probably had a sober but healthy existence, for Berend grew up to be a strong man who wanted to seek his fortune in the Dutch fencolonies. Thus this Berend became the patriarch of the Merzen branch of Dutch people called Reuvers. However, in the Netherlands there are three other branches of Reuvers.
So let us begin with the fencolonial song written by clergyman Anthonie Winkler Prins, which can be applied to Berend Reuvers:
Wild and waste and empty
was the bogland ground.
Only heather twisted
garland all around,
bending on the puddles,
brown in times of yore.
Thus the depths were hidden
of the pitch-black moor.
See those men approaching
with an iron will.
By the pools of moorland
they are standing still.
"Brethren, let us loosen
in a steady fight
all the black belts hiding
treasures from the light!"
Yes, they did accomplish
all these noble deeds,
and they found the treasures
just for our needs.
And their names are shining
nevermore to fade,
so we twist a garland,
shouting round the spade.
Like many fellow countrymen, Berend Reuvers came to the Dutch province Overijssel as a peat-cutter. They built for themselves a cabin out of planks and sods, and reclaimed the rough fen. After the work they would drink a couple of drops, and more often than not they would fight against each other, and sometimes against the peat-moor proprietors.
On the 25-th of January 1804, Berend Reuvers married Louise (Lodewina) Dons from Hasselt near Zwolle. It probably was not before then that Berend became a catholic. The Hasselt archives are suggesting that the Dons family had a bad reputation. They are speaking about the house of correction and breaking promises of marriage. But what do you want: Berend was a guest-worker, so he could not be too particular while choosing a wife. But I think that Berend and Louise were honest people, like all the living members of my family. This Louise stayed true to him until her death in 1863. They had four sons (Berend, Harm, Frederik and Derk) and three daughters (Maria, Margaretha and Zwaantje). Zwaantje died as a baby, the others founded a family of their own.
Berend must have come to the new canal (which was later on called the Dedemsvaart) between 1809 and 1814, to help digging. His son Harm, our ancestor, was born on the 17-th of September 1809 in Zwolle. In 1835, Berend had a house on long lease in Avereest (Dedemsvaart). On the 25-th of August 1853, he died in the water in front of his house, in the canal which he himself had been digging.
So, the children of Berend Reuvers grew up along the canal which was the initiative of the baron van Dedem. The son Harm ( Bernardus Hermanus Reuvers ) grew up in health, and enlisted with the Mobiele Overijsselse Schutterij (Mobile Overijssel Guard). He fell in love with a daughter of one of the humble farmers next to the colony for beggars (the colony Ommerschans), Jeanne van Osta . They were allowed to marry on the condition that the wife could not follow the husband, if he was to be employed outside his usual residence. They married on the 15-th of September 1836.
About the van Osta family we can say the following: they came from the Brabant city of Bergen op Zoom, where Jeanne was born in 1811, and her little brother Jean in 1816. Their father (Anthonie van Osta or Horsta) and their mother (Regine Coppens, also called Lucia) were poor day-labourers, like many others in the Netherlands that had been squeezed by Napoleon. In 1818, Johannes van den Bosch initiated the founding of the Maatschappij van Weldadigheid (Society of Benificence), with colonies in Drente (Frederiksoord, Veenhuizen) and Overijssel (the colony for beggars and punishment in the old fortress Ommerschans). In 1821, the municipality of Bergen op Zoom sent six orphans and two needy families to Frederiksoord. One of these two families was the van Osta family. This family apparently behaved very bravely, because Anthonie managed to have a rather independent existence as a humble farmer next the Ommerschans. After his death in 1863, Regine was released from the colony, and allowed to live with her children. In Frederiksoord there is a beautiful museum about the colonies of Benificence. You can learn there that the motto was: 'who does not work shall not eat', and how the weaker were to suffer for it. And you learn how the colony-coins could be changed for real money only far beneath the nominal value.
Harm Reuvers and Jeanne van Osta had nine children: six boys (Bernardus, Antonius, Fredericus, Theodorus, Andreas and Johannes) and three girls (Lucia, Lodewina and Grietje). Fredericus and Lucia died as children, Grietje as a baby. The others founded a family of their own.
In 1862, Harm had a house on long lease at Dedemsvaart, he was then a bricklayer. His brothers and he himself moved to Enschede, which was then becoming a city of industry (textile and machines). In Enschede, Harm was a bricklayer too. He died there on the first day of Christmas 1899, in the blessed age of ninety years.
The fourth son of the Reuvers-van Osta family was Theodorus Reuvers, our great
great grandfather. He was born on the 25-th of February 1843 at Dedemsvaart, and he grew up in
the same village.
In July 1865, he married there the eighteen year old colonist's daughter Helena Maria Brouwer.
The parents of the bride, who had been born in the colony of punishment Ommerschans, were Bartholomeüs Brouwer, son of a poor weaver from Leiden, with Huguenots among the ancestors, and Maria Theresia Tong, an Amsterdam foundling whose father could have been some French soldier. In the fencolonies, Brouwer had managed to become a tapster, host and village policeman. He probably spent part of his childhood in the Ommerschans, where he ate tick-beans almost every day, and worked on the field. Men and women were strictly separated there. Maybe he was arrested in Leiden as a beggar, without the knowledge of his parents. Such practices were then occurring more often than not. His wife had been found at Amsterdam in November 1814 'in the Spiegelstraat between the Heeregragt and Keizersgragt, a girl without a message, about three months old, wearing a little shirt with a little vest, two bonnets, two little petticoats, a red and a white napkin'. That same day in Amsterdam, two other girls had been found. That day they apparently gave names of fishes: the foundlings were called Tong (sole), Garnaal (shrimp) and Haring (herring). Maria Theresia Tong was baptized 'by turns' as a catholic (in the wellknown Maagdenhuis). The orphanage Aalmoezeniersweeshuis put her out to a wet-nurse in the popular city district 'de Jordaan'. Later on she came in the Kinderhuis (children's home). In 1822, by order of the King, all Amsterdam orphans who weren't toddlers any more, were transported by boat to Veenhuizen in Drente. This decision caused a stir among the people of Amsterdam. In Veenhuizen, the orphans got a hammock and a little chest, and they were allowed to play 'under severe supervision'. There, Tong learned to spin etcetera, and to write. Brouwer died in 1881 at Avereest. His widow went to family in Zwolle. She died there in 1887 (probably in a home for poor people, which was situated in the street called Bleekerswegje).
Theodorus Reuvers and Helena Maria Brouwer had at least eleven children. Ten of them were born in Avereest and the last one in 1883 at Apeldoorn. After that, more children may have come. A Canadian (mister Larry Brinker from Woodstock between Detroit and Toronto) informs me that his grandmother Antonette Wilhelmine Elisabeth Reuvers was born the 1-st of April 1891 at Apeldoorn as a daughter of the married couple. She emigrated later on with her husband to Ontario in Canada.
Six of the eldest eleven were boys (Bartholomeüs, Hermanus Theodorus, Theodorus Bernardus, Bernardus, Antonius Andreas and Andreas Johannes), and five were girls (Johanna, Johanna Maria, Maria Theresia Margaretha, Lodewina Helena and Helena Susanna). Johanna and Andreas Johannes died as children, the others founded a family of their own, mostly in Apeldoorn or Enschede.
Theodorus was a bricklayer. In 1882, he moved with his family to Apeldoorn, which was then becoming a military center and a city of industry with many gardens of rich people. Later on, he must have moved to Enschede as well. There he died in a house in the street called Molenstraat, on the 1-st of July 1922.
The third son of the married couple Reuvers-Brouwer was called Theodorus Bernardus Reuvers. He was our great grandfather. He was born on the 1-st of October 1870 at Dedemsvaart-Avereest. As a twelve years old boy he moved together with his parents to Apeldoorn.
In september 1897, he married in Zutphen Wilhelmina Koster. Her invalid father (Harmen Koster) was descended from a lineage of boatman's mates and peat-cutters, her mother (Gardiena Berendina Nengerman) from a lineage of gardeners, tapsters and seamen. The mother of her mother, Engelina Snelman, was a seaman's daughter, whose father died on the sea. This grandmother was born in 1816 at nearly the same spot where Maria Theresia Tong had been found two years earlier.
Before her marriage, Wilhelmina Koster had many jobs in many cities of Gelderland. She first met her husband in Enschede. It was love at first sight: very soon the eldest child was born, a daughter (Gardiena Berendina) who was to become a nun. The second child was our grandfather Theodorus Reuvers, he was born at Apeldoorn on the 17-th of April 1901. Thereafter came two more children, both girls (Helena Wilhelmina and Maria Geertruida Johanna), who both married later on.
Our great grandfather Theodorus Bernardus could do any job: my aunts say that he had a fish-shop , and he has been a paster as well. In 1924 and 1925, he had a tavern in the street called Thorbeckegracht (nr 41) at Zwolle (the tavern was called 'Het veerschip op Utrecht', that is 'the ferry-boat to Utrecht'). But alas, they divorced in the end of 1925: she left for den Helder, he went to Enschede. He died on the 25-th of February 1945, few months before the end of the German occupation, at Olst near Deventer.
My grandfather Theodorus Reuvers grew up in Apeldoorn, and was impressed by the stout military men, who always kept their words. He was still a boy when the first world war was raging, though not in the Netherlands, and he became a professional soldier. He married in 1921 at Aalten.
His bride was Francisca Kramer (Heurne near Aalten 1901 - Treebeek near Heerlen 1966). Her father was a brush-maker in Aalten, just like all Kramers within living memory. Her mother was descended from a lineage of farmers from Lichtenvoorde.
They had five boys and eight girls. Two little boys died as babies, and Wilhelmina was to become a nun; the others founded a family of their own. The surviving children were in order of birth Theodorus Bernardus (my father), Wilhelmina Bernardina, Gerarda Johanna, Louisa, Elisabeth, Helena, Italia, Hendrikus, Maria, Antonetta, Bernardus.
The five eldest were born in Gelderland, but in 1929 the family moved to Treebeek-Hoensbroek in the eastern region of mines in southern Limburg. My grandfather was appointed there as a functionary, miner's controller and social worker with the State Mine Emma. He died in 1990.
Thus, my father was the eldest of the family. He was followed by eight sisters and two little brothers. "Those others are girls, Theo, but you are a man and must know better", my grandfather occasionally said.
My father Theodorus Bernardus Reuvers,
called after our great grandfather, was born on the 16-th of April 1922 in Aalten.
As a little child, he moved to Oldebroek, Apeldoorn and Zutphen, where his father was camping as
a military man. In 1929, the family settled in Treebeek, where my grandfather was to be employed as a
functionary with the State Mine Emma.
My father wished to become a baker, but he had not enough aptitude for that. During the second world war, he was ordered to go to Germany for the Arbeits-Einsatz, but he hid himself with a farmer in Lichtenvoorde. After the war, he had become as lean as a rake by all hardships. But he recovered, met my mother in the Brunssum stationer's shop of her parents, and got a job with the Post, Telegraph and Telephone.
They married in May 1948. The name of the bride was Mathea Anna Catharina Gerards. The family in which she grew up, was living in the full atmosphere of Roman Catholic life. Her father was an architect at Brunssum, and he was descended from a lineage of carpenters from Venlo and surroundings. Her mother was descended from a lineage of gardeners from Venlo and Nederweert.
They had seven children: five boys and two girls. The eldest, my brother Theo, was born in Brunssum. Thereafter we moved to Maastricht, where my father became the chief functionary of the wages administration with the Telephone District. There were born, successively: me (Henricus FH), Fransje, Joep, Elly, Jacques, Marianne. Fransje was ill and he died at the age of seven. The others grew up in health, and they had fifteen grandchildren altogether.
My mother died in 1992. My father died in 2002.
My brother Theodorus Christianus Josephus Reuvers is the last one in a row of five generations of Theo Reuvers. He was born on the 29-th of May 1950 in Brunssum. We grew up in Maastricht. There we played football in the street. Theo studied at the Academy of Arts, and met Coby Beers in a Maastricht club. They married in Buurse near Enschede (!), where Coby was finishing her studies (1973). After that, they went back to Maastricht. Their eldest daughter Emrys was born in Belgium (Kanne near Maastricht).
They had saved a little amount of money, and emigrated to southern France. There, Fleur was born. However, many years went by before Theo, working hard, had built up a reasonable existence. In those years, Coby, Em and Fleur were living in the Netherlands in Emmeloord, and Theo got two more children with two mothers in France: a son called Ben and a daughter called Elsa. His four children grew up in health. Now they are keeping up a cordial relationship both with their father and with their mothers. Theo is now a designer and builder of scenery with theatre and events. In 2013, he had already five grandchildren.
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