Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ancestral Homes–11 A Company St

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11 A Company Street, Christiansted St Croix
One of the main projects I had planned for my visit to St Croix was to walk around Christiansted and locate my ancestors homes.  I figured that the structures themselves were probably gone, but at least I could find where they were located, to get a sense of the place. 

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-House Tax-Claudius Beverhoudt (Medium)
1878 Tax List for 11 A Company Street
This house is located at 11 A Company St.  This was the residence of my 2nd Great Grandfather, Claudius van Beverhoudt in 1878.  Claudius moved frequently, in 1870 they lived on East St. and by the 1880 census, they were living at 16 Church St. To my knowledge, Claudius never owned property, always rented.  According a tax record, in 1878 the house was owned by Edith and Alma Ratcliffe.
 
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.
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Plaque on 11 A Company Street showing M. von Beverhoudt as owner
I have not found a record that tells how old the current structure is, but In 2008, the St Croix Historic Preservation Committee placed a plaque on the building citing its history.  One of the formers owners is listed as “M. von Beverhoudt”, who owned it from 1883-1906. This plaque suggests that the current structure dates at least to Mary Johanna’s ownership in 1883.  I was curious if I could figure out if this was, in fact, the same house occupied by Claudius and his family, and also how old the house really was.

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 and Ownership in the St. Croix Matricals
Year
Size (sq. alen)
Owner
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?]
 


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Detail from 1888 Matrical, Company St, showing corrected sizes
Looking at this chart, we see two places where the area of the house changed: once in 1852 and again in 1888. The 1888 change was probably not a real change, but rather a change to the accounting procedure. In that year, all of the measurements of the houses were struck out and replaced by corrected measurements.  The property at 11 A was initially determined to be 656 square alen, but then changed to 689 square alen.  Since all properties had similar adjustments, it is unlikely that this change reflects an actual change to the building, rather a change to the accounting procedure.
 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.

3 comments:

  1. What a fascinating piece of history! According to the author Lucie Horlyk, King Street was the finest street in Christiansted, but Company Street was the place to go if you wanted color and activity. The street was lined with small shops, dingy rooms lit only by their opening to the street, and in the shady part (as seen in the photo above) the market women would sit with their fruits and vegetables in neat piles and sell them. (Lucie Horlyk "In Danish Times" short story "She was white.")

    -Rachel

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  2. Great research! Sounds like the trip was a success.

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  3. Arnold van Beverhoudt Jr.November 26, 2012 at 5:13 PM

    Dave, it was great being able to meet you and your wife during your day on St. Thomas, and great detective work for this piece. I look forward to reading more details from your research on St. Croix.

    Arnold

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