Generation X  -  Rutger Branch

Izak was born on 26 January 1853 as son of Izak van Gorkom and Louisa Roä (generation IX-i18). He was probably named after his grandfather. His life would turn into a tragedy, but he wasn't able to tell until disaster struck. On 14 February 1877 Izak married Ingetje Maria van den Hoek from Charlois. He was 24, she was 29, born on 16 January 1848, as daughter of Johannis van den Hoek and Willemijntje de Romph. Charlois, to be pronounced as "sjar-lows", was a village outside Rotterdam in those days, nowadays one of the older areas of Rotterdam itself. Her mother had died on 7 August 1853, when she was only five. The marriage record mentions her occupation, saying that Ingetje served as a maid. In Utrecht obviously. She will have travelled to Utrecht by train, as there was a railroad from Rotterdam to Utrecht since 1855.

Izak was small. According to the records he was "vrijgesteld van dienen in de Nationale Militie uit hoofde van te klein te zijn". It means that he was exempt from service in the national militia by reason of being too small. He did his best however. One of his elder sons, as will become clear later on, studied for elementary teacher. This was a profession with quite some esteem in those days. Izak will have worked hard therefore, most of his life as a cigar maker. He was already one before he married. On 19 October 1876, four months before his own wedding, he was witness at the wedding of his older sister Aletta in Amsterdam. Her marriage record states his profession. His own marriage records says so as well. From the newspaper article mentioned below it shows that he was still a cigar maker in 1898. And the daughter of his brother Evert Dirk (generation X-e62), Louisa Johanna, remembered that there was some (uncle) Izak who had a cigar shop.

Izak and Ingetje Maria
Izak and Ingetje Maria

In 1898 however he, his wife Ingetje and five sons lived in the Frederikshofje. Hof means court and the extension je is a diminutive, so the name means Frederik's little court. According to the Utrecht archives it was a former court next to house number 15 at the Adelaarstraat (Eagle street) in the Vogelenbuurt (Birds area). This Birds area was one of the new developments outside the former city walls, build to accomodate the rapidly growing working class. It is also an interesting example of a new way of naming streets, just picking a theme, birds in this case, and then naming the streets after different species.

In 1898 the Adelaarstraat actually didn't exist yet. On 11 April 1905 the name Frederikshof was replaced by Adelaarstraat after the houses had been demolished, as the Utrecht council started to lay the Adelaarstraat then. So the name Frederikshof might indicate that once there had been a farmstead with this name, giving its name to the court, which is supposed to have been build by a genuine real estate developer. It is therefore more accurate to say that the Frederikshofje lay at the Gruttersdijk (Grocers dyke), facing the Stroomkade (Stream Quay) at the other side of the Oosterstroom (East stream) that runs along the Gruttersdijk. It was less than fifteen minutes by foot to go to the old centre of town or Wijk C (C-quarter), the old area in the north of the city where the family lived for many generations. If you use the mapfinder on the homepage, you'll get a reasonable impression of the location.

One day everything went terribly wrong in the Frederikshof, when the little house at number 18 caught fire. An article in the Utrechtsch Provinciaal en Stedelijk Dagblad (Utrecht Provincial and Municipal Daily; not to be confused with the Utrechtsch Nieuwsblad) gives a vivid description. Click here for the Dutch original. The article is on page 3 of the edition of Monday 29 August 1898. Going by the official records and the news article the fire started on early Sunday 28 August 1898 just after midnight.



    Just as Utrecht had entered its first slumber last Saturday night, it was partly waken up again by the shrill clear sound with changing pitch of fire bells in the brisk night air, here and there and everywhere in the surroundings of where the fire took place.
    And people threw their clothes on and trotted onwards through dusk and puddly streets in the direction of the red glow of fire that was widely lighting the dark background of a heavily clouded sky.
    But when they arrived the fire had nearly died away already and they saw nothing but a few flaring flames, smoke and some sparks flying around, not being worth the trouble, the little home had burnt out already.
    And disappointed they went away, many for who a fire at night is fun, a treat, disappointed that they had to walk all the way just for this.
    Nevertheless in this short space of time, a short hour maybe, a whole family of decent folks was already destroyed, stricken by heavy blows of sad fate.
    At the beginning of the Weerdsingel Opposite Side a small dyke extends to the left, the Gruttersdijk, a neighbourhood which is rather snappy, but later on, a bit farther away, a collection of absolutely miserable huts and dumps, gloomy, stinking little houses, often even occupied by several families together. Even a little further than that there is the Frederikshofje, which is a more comfortable area again, neat little houses with little gardens in the front. On one of the parcels of this Frederikshofje, occupied by the cigar maker Van Gorkum, the fire had raged, approximately at half past twelve.
People gave us the following report about that:
    Inmediately after the discovery of the fire, the flames were bursting out of window and door and neighbours could not enter the property anymore. The fire was started by filling up a burning lamp with paraffin, by woman Van Gorkum, causing the contents of the lamp to explode. The man was not at home when the fire began. At first people standing near the property had assured that the occupants had left the house, while the mother who found herself with the neighbours, was not able to give any information, just as Van Gorkum, when he, returning home, approached his house. Later on though it turned out that two children were missing, namely a boy of 6 and one of 12 years old, while one of the three saved children had received burns in his face and on both hands.
    Unfortunately but not surprisingly the fire brigade found the two corpses downstairs after extinguishing the flames.
    Both children are supposed to have suffocated already at the start of the fire. From the beginning on the light construction of the property and the wooden staircase were easy prey to the flames, causing the whole house to be blazing and flames bursting out of the roof, when the senior fire officer arrived at the spot very soon, as his home happened to be in the proximity.
    Attempts by him and a few persons present to force their way into the property were not to succeed.
    The fire was extinguished in short time with two jets connected to the waterworks and the jet of a booster.
    The first premium for extinguishing equipment was obtained by fire hose no. 10, the second premium for extinguishing equipment by the manual fire hose no. 4.
    O, thou disappointed being, who went away in a sulk because thou saw too little that you liked, can thou imagine the grieve of the parents, can thou put yourself in the horrible position of this family?
    Deprived of everything, home and furniture. Two children burned, the charred corpses amongst the rubble!
    And the eldest one, who was going to become a schoolteacher next year, had sung along just a few hours earlier, in Tivoli at the rehearsal of the festival cantata.
    Yesterday during daytime many people went over to see the burned little house to shake their heads pittyingly. And three tins had been hanged for the deprived family. In the evening a fair amount of money had already been collected this way, as could be expected, for who else but the underprivileged apply with more love the high principle: "Help one another".

From: Utrechtsch Provinciaal en Stedelijk Dagblad, Monday 29 August 1898.

What to say after this rather sensational, but also moving account? First of all the reporter didn't get all the facts right. In the first place there are the two victims. A 6 and 12 year old boy are reported to have died in the fire, but this is partly wrong. Arie, the 6 year old was one of them indeed, but the other one was Johannes, who was 17. The twelve year old was Izak (generation XI-i86), grandfather of the writer of this page. Maybe he was the one with the burns, the reporter mistaking a dead for a wounded child. In the second place the account gives the impression that one of the victims was the eldest son, therefore being Johannes who was 17. This is not the case though. The eldest son was Louis, born on 1 November 1878, so being 19 years old at the time of the fire. Furthermore the family name is spelled with a "u" in the article, which is a bit comical as this error is still made nowadays. Interesting detail is the description of the route to Frederikshofje. Coming from the Weerdsingel, the reporter took the Gruttersdijk. As mentioned earlier on this page, the Adelaarstraat didn't exist yet.

Flourmill Rijn en Zon For the rest we are left with numerous questions. Where was the father when the fire broke out. It was on a Saturday after midnight. He was 45 then, sitting in a pub? Singing in a choir? Or what? Was the mother, 50 at the time, waiting for him? Would there have been a need to refill the paraffin lamp if he had come home in time? Was it simply stupid to refill the lamp this way or did she have little choice, because she couldn't refill it in the dark? We will never hear the real answer, but you don't need to be a psychologist to see that the reporter must have been very right remarking that "a family was destroyed". The parents will have grieved for years, the mother will have felt guilty forever and the father as well probably. The parents must have been ruined in a financial sense too. In those days state pensions and social benefits didn't exist. Having to build up a live again when 45 years old, will not have been easy.

To the left you see the flourmill Rijn en Zon (Rhine and Sun) which is the landmark of the Adelaarstraat. It is very close to the former Frederikshofje, which once lied just behind the photographer. The houses to the left of the mill were build in the 1920's as you can judge by the architecture. Till then it will have been a meadow. The windmill was already there before the street was laid. Therefore you might say that this mill saw it all happen in 1898.

According to the bevolkingsregister (citizens register) at the Utrecht archives Izak and his wife moved to the address Mariaplaats 54 on 6 April 1911 and to Visscherssteeg 10 on 29 July 1915. On 16 February 1926 father Izak and his wife went to Driebergen, a village east of Utrecht, to move in with their middle son. Izak was 73 years old then, and Ingetje Maria 78. Their middle son Evert Dirk lived in Driebergen since 1909. Izak died in Driebergen on 16 January 1933, ten days before his 80th birthday. 16 January 1933 was the 85th birthday of his wife. She died in Driebergen on 11 January 1936, five days before her 88th birthday.

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