Der Nederlanden: Part 11

Venlo – Arrival and Day 6

We arrived in Venlo after a wandering drive from Dingden, near sunset, to the Hotel Wilhelmina, across from the station.  It had served as the US headquarters after the Liberation. Arend had arrived, and had eaten in Utrecht, where he changed trains. We had had a big lunch, so we had a beer on the patio, and went to bed.

In the morning, it was cool and a bit drizzly. We set out for Sint Martinuskerk, where dozens of my ancestors and hundreds of their families were christened back to at least 1660 (before that, the names are almost all patronymics and it is hard to identify them in the records) — Bihet, Bocks, Cramers, Damen, De Wilde, Faessen, Frere, van der Hoeven, Horsteins, Janssen, van Leeuwen, Martels, Michelse, Schelbergh, Schoncken, Somers, Venhorst, Verheijen, and, of course, de Gruijter. (Here’s the tree again; search the tree for Venlo in Birth Place.)

We got disoriented in the curving streets, but Arend set us straight — but the church, like many museums and restaurants, was closed on Monday. I had a list of other places to look for, though. This building, marked 1588, in Grotekerkstraat, was not one of them, but my ancestors would have gone by it frequently.

1588 building in Grotekerkstraat

1588 in Grotekerkstraat

This rooster in the market square outside the Stadhuis is the symbol of Jocus, the society for Venlo’s pre-Lenten carnival. It was organized in 1842, and one of the organizers was a de Gruyter. I’ve not been able to find out who, but Otto’s parents had moved to Moers by then. It was probably Frans, son of Martin’s much younger half-brother Cornelis, who was in banking and real estate, and an alderman. It is a nice sculpture, anyway. Martin deGruyter, Otto’s grandfather, was mayor of Venlo in 1794, and would have had an office in this Stadthuis (but the exterior has been remodeled since then.)

We were in search of this. There has been an inn here since the late Middle Ages, and from the 1700s until the 20th century it was called Het Swinjhoofd (The Pig’s Head).

Het Swijnhoofd 11-13 Houtsraat, Venlo

Het Swijnhoofd 11-13 Houtsraat, Venlo

Jan Venhorst, Otto deGruyter’s great-grandfather, who had come from Dingden in the 1760s, was the innkeeper. He was apparently quite the high-liver and a popular caterer. The daybook of the priest at the time, J. C. van Postel, has many mentions of him.

On October 13, 1788, Jan Venhorst was summoned from “Het Zwijnshoofd” to the town hall and there he was convicted by five witnesses of having smashed the magistrate at Hoeckse, calling him a rascal and deceiver. He was retired and sentenced to sit in the fool’s cupboard for eight days on water and bread. He went like a lamb with the police commissioner to No. 2 on that record. He has got a bed and his son brings him food. Jan was released on the 20th.


March 8, 1789 The birthday of the Prince was a great meal in the summer refectory with the Crosiers. The council and magistrate paid the expenses. We had a great drink there. At 5 o’clock the company was done. They started shooting cannons from the garden in such a way that about 80 glasses were broken in the windows. Toasting glasses and bottles were in abundance without words falling. At Venhorst in “het Zwijnshoofd” was a supper for citizens. All officers were at Timmermans (in the Golden Lion). While there was trouble among them, there was someone from the garrison with the Crosiers as the commander and the place major.

And they seem to have taken up the new art of ballooning.

Reported from Postel on August 3, 1797, the balloon master continued on Kaldenkirchen. Jan Venhorst and Sieur Huberts put to him that Venhorst must have 36 French Crowns and Huberts, for ribbon and paper supplied, 172 Guilders. The creditors thought that the balloon would go up on the 6th itself, but a counter-order from the magistrate. The beater called on the 6th at half past two that anyone who wants to buy the balloon will come out this afternoon. At “St. Anna ” (Inn at soc. Prins van Oranje) it will be sold. In the evening at 7 o’clock the carpenter Berculaer released the balloon to admire the crowd of spectators. Has fallen to Tegelen on the the “Glazenap” estate


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.