|11 A Company Street, Christiansted St Croix|
Since the records of St Croix are sufficiently voluminous and detailed, I have collected over 170 house numbers of relatives in town. To keep the project small, I reduced this to just the addresses of my direct line and still was left with 28, scattered all over town. During my trip, we walked until our feet gave out, but were able to document many of them. I still have some left for a future trip. It is interesting to look at the history of the house, and see how much we can glean from our genealogical records.
|1878 Tax List for 11 A Company Street|
The Ratcliffe’s were the daughters of English-born H. C. Ratcliffe, Administrator at Estate Pearl, and possibly the son of the estate’s owner, Judith C. Ratcliffe. The 1857 census for Estate Pearl shows Edith and Alma, age 4 1/2 and 2 1/3 living with their father. Planters typically moved their children to town from the plantations around school age, and it appears that Ratcliffe was no exception. He purchased the house from John Farrell in 1858 and transferred ownership to his daughters, Edith and Alma (age 5 and 6) in 1859. Edith and Alma lived there and attended school until they briefly moved to Frederiksted by 1870 before returning to the house by 1880. Prior to Farrell’s acquiring the land in 1851, it appears to have been the location of Wittrog’s butcher shop, a small stand of about 13 feet by 13 feet.
In 1883 the Ratcliffe sisters sold the house to Claudius’ sister, Mary Johanna van Beverhoudt. Although she owned the house, she likely never lived there. In both the 1880 and 1890 censuses, she was living with her brother Claudius’ family at 16 Church St. The 1890 census shows three families occupying 11A Company St with Mary Johanna listed as the owner.
|Plaque on 11 A Company Street showing M. von Beverhoudt as owner|
Determining the Age
One of the treasures at NARA is the Matricals. The Matricals were annual property tax records. The information contained changed over time, but the lists usually identified owners, size (in Danish square alens, roughly 4 sq. ft.), and sometimes occupancy. When structures were torn down and replaced, the size recorded in the tax list typically changed significantly. Small changes are typically the result of some renovation or addition. Also, when buildings are burnt down or collapse, the property is usually listed as vacant until it is rebuilt and reoccupied. By comparing the size and occupancy recorded in the tax listings, one can get an idea of the changes to a house over time.
Size (sq. alen)
|1850||42||J. L. Wittrog Butcher Shop|
|1851||42||John Farrell’s House|
|1853||656||John Farrell’s House|
|1858||656||E. & A. Ratcliffe’s House|
|1878||656||E. & A. Ratcliffe’s House|
|1883||656||M.J. van Beverhoudt’s House|
|1888||689||M.J. van Beverhoudt’s House|
|1924||689||Inger Bryan’s House [sp?] |
|Detail from 1888 Matrical, Company St, showing corrected sizes|
The new size, 689 sq. alen, persisted throughout the matrical period, even to 1923. It’s interesting to note that by 1923, Denmark had converted to the metric system (1907) and that St Croix had transferred to the U.S. by then (1917). Yet they still measured area using old Danish alens for tax purposes.
The change in 1852 is different. The structure was listed in 1850 (and earlier) as being 42 sq. alen (168 sq. ft.) in area. It was listed as J. L. Wittrog’s Slagterboutik, which appears to translate as “butcher shop”.
J.L. Wittrog purchased the land in 1845 from Betsy Naeser. He is listed in the 1846 census as living in his property at 32 Strand St, as a manager or forstander [head or principal]. It doesn’t say what he is the manager of, but presumably it is of the Slagterboutik.
John Farrell bought the land in 1851. Between 1852 and 1853, the matricals show that the size dramatically increased from 42 sq. alen to 656 sq. alen. It seems unlikely that the increase in size was a result of a renumbering or merging of properties since the neighboring properties do not change hands nor size in this time. From this, it appears that John Farrell built the house that stands there today in 1853.
Since my family occupied the residence in 1878, it seems very likely that the house they lived in was this very same house I saw on my visit, and that it dates from 1853.