Maria Rosalie Petrus/Robrecht

Rose was born in Roth-Rillaar, Belgium October 4th, 1870. She married John Augustin Robrecht (born October 10, 1862) on January 3rd, 1893.

I was told that your Dad and his brothers and my Dad came to La. to work. They told my Dad that they had a sister coming from Belgium and my Dad said that "when she comes she will be my wife." They laughed but that's the way it turned out. - Esther Robrecht.

John Augustin's father was Jan-Baptist Robrecht (son of Jan Francis Robrechts, day-laborer in Houtvenne, and Anna Maria Van Herck). His mother was Elisabeth T'Seyen (daughter of J. B. T'Seyen, day-laborer in Herselt, and Anna Barbara Van Deyck). John Augustin's siblings were Joannes Franciscus Robrechts - born August 9, 1858, Albert Francis Robrechts - born February 2, 1860, Joanna Catherina Robrechts - born June 28, 1864, and Joannes Franciscus Robrechts - born June 22, 1866.

Rose and John had at least 14 children (13 of which are listed below in no particular order). All were born in California. Thanks to Jennie Garcia, great granddaughter of Rose, we have found 13 of the 14 children.

Esther Robrecht (see letter below)
Marie Robrecht
Agust Robrecht
Albert Robrecht
Joanna Robrecht
Agnes Robrecht
Bernardine Alphonsina Robrecht/Riddell.
I am currently corresponding via email with Bernardine's granddaughter Jeanie Garcia. With her help, I hope to learn more about Rose and John's descendents.

According to my uncle at her eulogy (she passed away last year), she was the 5th of 14 children, but I can't verify that yet She grew up in Watsonville, but eventually found her way to San Bernardino, CA and married my grandfather. She had a hard life, but long. She was 99 when she died. Bernardine married Stanley William Riddell and had 7 children. And each of them had many children. - Jeannie Garcia via email, July 27, 2000.

Lizzie Robrecht
Jennie Robrecht
John J. Robrecht
Trixie Robrecht
Louise Robrecht
Dorothy Robrecht

Rose and John originallly made their home in Alexandria, Louisiana, where John worked as a schoolteacher and helped survey tracts of land. Around 1903-05 they moved to Watsonville, California "on account of the fever and poor health" in Louisiana. In Watsonville they purchased a 12 acre ranch and made their living by farming. Apples were apparently their primary cash crop.

In 1908, John Augustin wrote to his brother-in-law, Ferdinand Petrus, in Skidmore, Texas to inform him of the ideal climate in California.


Watsonville, Cal., July 17, 1908

Dear Brother & Sister in Law,

Where is the time that we all had a nice time together? That time was well allayed with sickness and a little trouble, but is surely remembered by me as very precious. Do you not find it very lonesome, all by yourselves without some good old and true friend to converse with? I do. Though we enjoy better health and even make a better living, the good old time when we all could come together and express our feelings freely to those whom we knew shared our joys and sorrows is sadly borne in mind. Why do we all get such different notions as to the country where happiness is found? It is odd. If it does not turn to your expectations in Texas, come over here where it is ever so much better than there. An experience of three years has taught us enough to know that.

Certainly here is sickness and trouble as well as anywhere in the wide world, but, on the whole, it is a good deal better than wherever I've been before in my life. If only those friends like you and such others could be here with us what a happy time that would be.

We do not make much money here, but considering that we think of saving all the money from our apple crop, which we think will be at least $300, it is not so bad in that respect, is it? You see, we make our living out of butter, eggs, potatoes, and vegetables and try to save the apple money to pay off our debt. This year will everything be paid, at least we hope so, then we must not carry hundreds of dollars to banks which charge you 10% int. You see, we are doing all right financially, but this is nothing compared with the fine climate we enjoy; there is no better anywhere; add to this the berries which last for three months on the bushes and then are jarred up for the rest of the year, the prunes, peaches, and especially apples all in abundance, it certainly ;is a little more than we expected to get here. We are eating apple pie every day. Rose having dried enough apples to last all the year round. But some people have a great deal more than all this that we have, and they are lucky, for they have their friends, whilst ours our far, very far. Do not think I write this to induce you all to come over here to live, this is not the case, as I'm just writing this without any such intention, simply telling how this country is, and how we are getting along.

At present we have two sick ones, Albert and Joanna have measles, but they are getting better and would like to come out of the bed, yet we try to keep them there in a little longer. Certainly, sickness of all kinds are here - where in the world are they not? - but malaria and the kind of fevers like we had in Louisiana there are not.

We have had somewhat of a drought this year, so that the Irish potato crop is only half what is should be, but we expect a record-breaker apple crop

Now Ferdinand, do not wait long in letting us, your friends and relations, know how all your people are and how all your people are and how the country over there suits you. We love you more since we had to leave, therefore write a long letter to please us very much, and if you know how Alphonse and his family is and August Thiels's let us know, we long to hear from our dear old friends. Do you see them often? Describe the country where you and they live a little so I may know whether it beats this much, or not. I have not anything to do at present. We thought to go to Mr. Steward's who lives in the neighborhood to pit apricots, but now Albert and Joanna have measles, we do not know whether we may go or not. He will let us know soon. You see, the other people who work there may be scared of catching the disease. Pitting cots, as they call it, getting the stones out of the apricots is an easy job, and many children work at it, so, you see, they may not allow us to come. We thought to go five of us, myself with the four oldest of our children. Mr. Steward thinks he has 70 tons of apricots of his own.

This is not a plum or apricot region, however, but an apple country; the plum, apricot, peach, pear, cherry, and grape region is next to this county over on the other side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, in the adjoining valley of Santa Clara,* San Jose is the county seat. That is the greatest fruit region in the world. Our Valley is small, only about eight miles from the Bay of Monterey to the S.C. Mts. and about the same length, but it will produce, so they think, 3000 cars of apples this year. 2000 cars to be shipped to all parts of the world in boxes and a thousand cars canned and evaporated.

It is a great pity that the Belgian people want to live in Louisiana and do not know that it is ever so much better in other parts of the U.S., especially on the coast of California, certain it is that if I had my old companions here with me I'd think it to be the very best what God or nature could give in this world, not anything perfect, but coming near, pretty near to it.

Do not think I want to brag to make anyone move here. I know too well that there is no chance of that. I really wish to tell how it is.

Now, you had better come once and see all of it. It will cause us an immense amount of joy, a good deal more than the pleasure of seeing Mr. Lemmens* the other day. He came to visit us, but from what we could understand out of his talk he is always the same old spendthrift who finds his greatest delight in drinking. He stayed but one day and that was long enough. But when you come it will be different, different, different; Ferdinand, when you come it will be different.

With much love to all of your people and Alphonse's and August's family, I am yours very truly, your brother in law

J. A. Robrecht

Note. Do not put off writing us, please.

In 1924, at the age of 53, Rose wrote to Ferdinand Petrus in Skidmore, Texas. Times were apparently a bit harder in California and the family was attempting to sell their ranch and move into town.

Watsonville, Ca. January 1, 1924 -- Translated from Dutch by University of Texas language student Fred Schwink.

Very beloved brother and L. and children,

What a long time it has been since we heard from each other. We are all healthy and happy. I hope this letter may find you all in good condition.

At the moment, all is quiet here. Our place has been for sale for too long but everything is too cheap. It seems that we shall not profit from it. We are asking 2000 dollars for our place. We want to go live in town. I still have 9 children at home.

Our Li...? is married and lives in Westwood. She has a good, Catholic husband who earns 10 dollars the day. Marie is now living in San Francisco.

The apples were very cheap this year. Many people are losing their place. We are doing among the best.

Our Agust is always clearing wood. He already has a big pile. He in better health now than he was earlier. He weighs 142 pounds. I weigh 200 and five pounds Our Agust shouldn't work harder than he wants to. He still plays the "Oregen" (organ) often. I have six children who go to school. I have a good cow, some chickens, and a fat hog which we are soon going to kill dead. God be thanked, we are not short of anything. Our "otembiel" goes every Sunday twice to church with a big but good load.

Brother, we wish all of you a happy and fortunate New Year and that the Lord bless you all with worldly good and later gives you all the pure heaven. Such are the wishes of all your dear ones in Watsonville.

Our Gust says that you must visit us sometime. How good it would be if we had the good fortune to hug each other again. Let us at least write to each other and say that we love all our brothers and sisters.

With a hug I remain your loving

S. Rosa

In 1925 Rose and family sold the ranch and moved into the town of Watsonville. According to daughter Esther, John Augustin "retired and every day went to the park to chat with the old men."

John Augustin died of a stroke12 years later in 1937 at the age of 74. Rose would survive him by almost 30 years; passing away on January 5th, 1966 at the age of 95.


Rose's final residence in Watsonville, California (photo courtesy of Jeannie Garcia).


John A. Robrecht, Oct 10 1862 - Feb 5 1937
Mary R. Robrecht, 1870 - 1966
Dorothy Robrecht, 1915 - 1950

Photo of Robrecht family plot courtesy of Jeannie Garcia.


James and Edith Petrus of Alexandria, Louisiana wrote to Rose's daughter Esther and received this letter in reply in 1984.


Jan 12, 1984

Dear Cousins Edith & James,

I'll start by answering your nice letter. I was certainly pleased to receive it and I thank you for all the information. I also thank you for the nice calendar which is hanging in my kitchen. It gives so much information.

Many years ago in the 1930's uncle Gustave and Aunt Josephine came to visit us. A few years later my sister Jennie and I went to N.Y. where... on our way back we stopped in La. and stayed with uncle Gustave and Josephine for 3 days. We met uncle Constant and his son Louis.

I was too young to remember but I do know that Uncle Louis brought your grandmother Christina Petrus to Calif. Nov 16, 1919. Louis stayed a few days and then returned to La. Grandma lived with us just one month and passed away Dec 16, 1919. She is buried in the Catholic cemetery here.

I heard that uncle Ferdinand was returning from the cemetery where he had made arrangements for his daughter's funeral and when he stepped out of the truck another car or truck hit him and killed him.

I know very little of your Dad (Alphonse). Eight were born in La. and they probably know more than I do. I was told that your Dad and his brothers and my Dad came to La. to work. They told my Dad that they had a sister coming from Belgium and my Dad said that "when she comes she will be my wife." They laughed but that's the way it turned out.

My Dad was born Herrselt Province, Antwerp Belgium, Oct. 10, 1862 and passed away Feb 1937. My Mother was born Rillare province, Brabant, Belgium Oct 10 1870 (same birthdate? - apparently a misprint - according to Lucien Meynaerts, birthdate was Oct 4, 1870) and passed away Jan 5, 1966. They were married Jan 3, 1893. He taught school in La. but on account of the fever and poor health, they came to Calif. in 1905 (1903?). Six of us were born here. We had a 12 acre ranch and he did mostly ranch work. They lived on the ranch until 1925 and moved into town. Then my Dad retired and every day went to the park to chat with the old men...

My Dad's name was John Augustin Robrecht. He never was killed in an earthquake. Finally a stroke took him. I know nothing of the land where you were raised. I do know my Dad used to help survey the tracts of land. As far as I know my Mother only went to La. once after about 25 years and had a nice visit with her brothers. One time 3 cousins came out here - Joe, Jerome and Florentine. Whose children were they and are they still living? Now I'll tell you about your cousins in Belgium.

Two daughters were left in Belgium - Justine and Pauline. No one seems to know about Pauline's family. Two of Justine's daughters who are your 1st cousins are there. Alice Vinck is 80 years old, lives by herself. Her husband was a very famous painter and received several recognitions from the king. He passed away a few years ago. Alice is a lovely lady and I'm sure she would welcome you with open arms. She has 2 daughters and 3 sons. Alphonsine De Bot-Couson is several years younger and live with her husband right down town in an apt. above the stores. She has a daughter. I would say Alphonsine is about 60. Alice's daughter Vera and her husband Staf (?) visited us in 1981. He is a school teacher and Vera has an employment agency. They have a son who is studying to be a doctor and a daughter who works as a stenographer. We stayed 2 weeks with them. Most of them can speak English. We enjoyed our visit and I hope someday to go back again. My husband isn't a world traveler. He says there is too much to see in this country.

If I can answer any more questions, please ask and I'll try. You seem to enjoy traveling and if you would care to come to Calif. you are most welcome to stay with us for as long as you like. We have a spare bedroom and plenty to eat. We would enjoy your company. It would be nice to meet our cousins. Just let us know so we can be home. Take care and have a good New Year.

Love - Your cousin Esther


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