A Visit to the Red Star Line Museum in Antwerp

logo_klengAre you curious about what your immigrant ancestors had to endure to come to America? Last May 24th I got a glimpse of what it was like. I participated in a day trip with my genealogy society Luxracines to Antwerp (Belgium) with a visit of the Red Star Line Museum. As always the trip was well planned with enjoyable transportation. Everyone had a good time visiting the sights in the city of Antwerp before going on the guided tour scheduled at the museum.

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The Luxracines group. © Romain Krier, used with permission.

We were divided up into three groups, two guides spoke French and the third English. Of course I chose to go with the English group. Our storyteller Lien Vloeberghs gave us a wonderfully informative tour of the museum. I mentioned to her that I wanted to write a blog post about the visit and she offered to send me the museum’s press kit and answer any questions I would have.

The Red Star Line Museum tells the story of millions of people and the quest for happiness. It is a story we can all relate to.
~
Red Star Line Museum press kit

The Red Star Line Museum on the Rijnkaai in Antwerp, Belgium, opened it’s doors to the public in September 2013. The museum is in the restored departure warehouses for third-class passengers. It is full of remarkable exhibits documenting the history of the shipping line and the more than two million passengers who left through this port between 1873 and 1934. Did one of your ancestors arrive in America on a ship whose name ended with land? Then the ship was most likely one of the Red Star Line fleet.

Between 1815 and 1940, about 60 million migrants left Europe in hope of a better life.

Visitors follow in the footsteps of emigrants and experience their enthusiasm and anxiety, their tension and uncertainty; they experience the farewells and obstacles as well as the adventure, the discoveries and the hope for a new life on the other side of the ocean.
~ Red Star Line Museum press kit

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Red Star Line Museum exhibit, photographed during visit 24 May 2014.

In the late 19th and early 20th century the Red Star Line provided direct passage across the Atlantic to New York, Philadelphia, and Boston to migrants. Their journey began in their country of origin, usually Germany and Eastern Europe. The emigrants frequently left their countries because of poverty.

Several of my relatives from Luxembourg immigrated to the United States on a Red Star Line ship. A cousin of my great-great-grandfather André FOURNELLE (1838-1908) took this big step with his family.

Nicolas FOURNELLE (1830-1913) made the trip across the Atlantic on the Friesland in 1890 at the age of 59 with his wife Margaret HUBERTY 49, their children J. Baptist 17, Anna Maria 10, and Pierre 5, as well as, their son-in-law Frederick BROEDER 32, his wife Marie FOURNELLE 28, and their children Joh. Herm. 4 and Josephine 2. The group of nine went to join up with Nicolas’ son Jean Pierre and daughter Marie Catherine who had made the same trip on the Belgenland in 1887.

Let us join the Fournelle family on their journey

The Departure

The FOURNELLE and BROEDER families of Rodange most likely bought their tickets from the Red Star Line travel agency Derulle-Wigreux und Sohn in Luxembourg City. The travel agency advertised in local newspapers for all classes of passengers.

Ad
Luxemburger Wort Nr. 245, 2 Sep 1885, page 4; digitized by Bibliothèque nationale de Luxembourg [online http://www.eluxemburgensia.lu : accessed 26 May 2014]
The Train Journey

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Gare Centrale in Antwerp. Red Star Line Museum collection. Photo taken during visit.

The ocean crossing itself was only part of the voyage. Migrants first had to leave their country and take a long train trip to Antwerp arriving at the Gare Centrale which can be compared to Grand Central Station in New York.

For the families coming from Luxembourg the train trip was short compared to those travelling from Eastern Europe. These people may have had to make stops along the way to work and replenishing their money pouches. For some the trip lasted up to several years as they moved from one location to the next. The gaps between leaving the homeland and arriving in America should be taken into consideration when researching your families.

Staying in Antwerp

The migrants arrived in the dynamic city of Antwerp. Imagine these impoverished people walking to their lodgings and seeing the bustling shopping streets and luxurious buildings of the city. They often stayed in filthy hotels with swindlers waiting to cheat them out of their money or ticket. For most the stay in Antwerp was short but for others, who did not pass the controls or needed to earn more money for passage, their time in the city was longer than planned.

Entering the Museum (today)

Crossing the threshold of the “Shed” we entered the world of the European migrants who left their native countries in search of a better life. We were able to touch the walls that our immigrants touched while they endured the required procedures to allow them to travel to America.

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The Red Star Museum in Antwerp.

Showers and Disinfection

Passengers handed over their luggage to Red Star Line employees. Men and women where separated and took off their clothes to shower. Their clothes were put in a bag and with the luggage were placed in the large chambers which were hermetically sealed to be disinfected under high pressure steam.

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Red Star Line Museum exhibit, photographed during visit 24 May 2014.

While their clothes and belongings were chemically treated the passengers were cleaned of lice by taking an hour long shower with hot vinegar and benzene.

Passengers recall that their clothes were damp when returned to them. It is unknown what chemicals may have been used to disinfect the clothes and baggage as no records have been found about the procedure. The chambers used to disinfect the belonging are long gone however a photo of the room with the disinfection kettles survives.

The Doctor’s Visit

Following the shower the migrants climbed the stairs that led to the doctors’ area
and the final judgment.

The Red Star Line enforced the rules of the American authorities as anyone who was refused entry in the United States would be sent back at the expense of the shipping line. The hygienic procedures were insisted upon by the American authorities to avoid bringing infectious diseases such as cholera, typhoid fever and trachoma into the county. Migrants were put in quarantine if they came from an area known to have had an epidemic.

Doctors checked the passengers for lice running their hands through hair, lifting or pulling down eyelids to inspect for eye disease (trachoma), using instruments to press down the tongue to check for disease in the mouth. All examinations were done without the precautions that we are used to today.

Travelling Steerage

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Red Star Line Museum exhibit, photographed during visit 24 May 2014.

After the extensive checks in the building the migrants could finally embark and begin the ocean journey.

For the Fournelle family this meant that they would live together with other migrants in large dormitories for the circa ten day (to three week) trip.

Later, in the 20th century, crossing on ocean steamers was much more comfortable for passengers as companies began paying more attention to the comfort of third-class traveller.

In the museum’s exhibits the stark difference between the luxury of first class and the scarcity of third class can be seen.

Stories collected from former passengers tell of upper class passengers throwing food down to third class or of the migrants sneaking up to second class for scraps of food as there was no access to first class.

Frieslandsm
Passenger Ships and Images [Ancestry.com : accessed 26 May 2014]
What happened to the migrants during their journey? Who did they meet, what did they see and feel, why did they leave? The collection of stories allow visitors of the meusum to learn more about the people who crossed the Atlantic.

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New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [Ancestry.com : accessed 26 May 2014]

Steerages
New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [Ancestry.com : accessed 26 May 2014]

Broder-Fournell
New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [Ancestry.com : accessed 26 May 2014]

Arriving in America

The Fournelle party arrived in New York on 12 March 1890. Tension was high as the crucial, last examination awaited third-class passengers. Crowd control barricades
lead them through the examination station.

Nicolas and his family finally passed through all controls and were able to continue their journey to Pawnee County, Nebraska, where they were reunited with 24 year old son John Peter FOURNELL (as he was now called) and 20 year old daughter Catherine. Not only were they reunited with these children but also with Nicolas’ sister Margaret (1833-1910) who immigrated about 1881 with her second husband Nicolas le jeune BOUCHÉ (aka Nicholas BOUCHE).

The Guided Tour Comes to an End

Our visit to the museum came to an end after climbing the observation tower which offers a 360° view of Antwerp. This showpiece, shaped like the bow of a steamer, was built on the new building between the corner building and the main building to replace a high chimney that was dismantled in 1936.

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Panorama view from the observation tower of the Red Star Line Museum.

A heartfelt thank you to Lien Vloeberghs and the rest of the staff at the Red Star Line Museum for making this a memorial journey.

★★★★★★★

From the Red Star Line Museum press kit, two famous passengers:

Albert Einstein made two historic journeys with the Red Star Line: the first time the Belgenland brought him from the United States to Antwerp, where he announced that he would not return to Nazi Germany.
His second journey, on the Westernland, brought Einstein and his wife to America for good.

★ Israel Isidore Baline, later known as Irving Berlin, the composer of ‘White Christmas’, travelled on the SS Rhynland as a 5-year-old boy.

The Red Star Line Trailer – English Subtitles  

★★★★★★★

© 2014 Cathy Meder-Dempsey

The Mystery of James C. Crouse Sr.’s Grave Marker

On 27 April 2014 Ellen Claytor contacted me by private message on my Facebook page to find out where James C. CROUSE 1920-1944 is buried. It was a very short message and I had no idea why she wanted to know this.

She found James in my GEDCOM file which is online at RootsWeb WorldConnect Project and linked to my Facebook page. A few messages were passed back and forth before I found out why she wanted to know.

Her son had recently bought a house and in the garage, he found a flat marble marker:

James C. Crouse Sr.
P.F.C. 424th Inf. – 106th Div.
World War II
Jan. 2, 1920 – Dec. 18, 1944

I already had the following information and went on to find several newspaper articles about his burial to answer her question.

A Short Biography of James C. CROUSE

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James Carlton CROUSE Sr. was born 2 January 1920 in Lochgelly, Fayette County, West Virginia, to Samuel Joseph CROUSE and Cora Lee BABER. He was my 5th cousin once removed (5C1R) through two sets of 5xgreat-grandparents:
1. William JOHNSON and Amy NELSON and
2. James SIMS and his first wife Phebe [–?–].

James had been an only child for seven years when his sister Margaret Ann was born in 1927. He attended Fayetteville High School and was a Methodist.

On 26 July 1941 in Fayetteville, Fayette County, West Virginia, James C. CROUSE, age 21, married Eugenia Lee WISE, age 18, daughter of William and Lucy Lee WISE. [line 24]

James and Eugenia became the parents of a son, James Carlton CROUSE Jr., on 17 August 1942.

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World War II Young American Patriots, 1941-1945 (Ancestry.com : accessed 29 Apr 2014)

On 2 December 1943 James enlisted in the U.S. Army “for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law.”

He began his service at Camp Blanding in Florida and then went to Europe where he served in England, France, Belgium, and Germany. He died serving his country.

His death was recorded in the Register of Death for Fayette County. [line 40] On the West Virginia Veterans Database of West Virginia Memory Project, maintained by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, we find his record with more details. His cause of death is listed as DOW (died of wounds) in Belgium while his death record in the register has killed in action (KIA) in Germany. He was awarded the Purple Heart.

A little over four years later the body of Private First Class James C. CROUSE of Fayetteville was re-interred in Huse Memorial Park in Fayetteville on Sunday, April 24, 1949.

1949 James C. Crouse burial
Beckley Post Herald > Thursday, April 21, 1949 > Page 2

Publication: Beckley Post Herald (West Virginia)
Published: Thursday, April 21, 1949, Page 2
Headline: VETERAN TO BE BURIED SUNDAY
FAYETTEVILLE, April 20 – Pfc. James C. Crouse of Fayetteville, who was killed in action in Germany, December 18, 1944, will be buried in the Huse Memorial Park here on Sunday, April 24.
There will be a brief ceremony at the home Sunday afternoon at two o’clock with Rev. R. T. Mallory of Mt. Hope in charge. Graveside services will be in charge of the American Legion, LaFayette Post, 149, Fayetteville. The body will be removed from the Dodd Mortuary here to the home of his parents, Saturday at 5:00 p.m. where it will remain until time for the services.
He was aged 24 years, 11 months and 11 days, and is survived by one son, James Culton (sic, Carlton) Crouse, Jr., his wife; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. S. J. Crouse of Fayetteville; one sister, Mrs. Margaret James of Oak Hill.

1949 James C. Crouse obit
Charleston Gazette > Saturday, April 23, 1949 > Page 2

Publication: Charleston Gazette (West Virginia)
Published: Saturday, April 23, 1949, Page 2
Headline: Rites for Pfc. Crouse Slated in Fayetteville
Service for Pfc. James C. Crouse of Fayetteville, who was killed Dec. 18, 1944, in Germany, will be held at 2 p.m. tomorrow at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. S. J. Crouse of Fayetteville.
Rev. R. T. Mallory of Mt. Hope will officiate and burial will be in Huse Memorial Park at Fayetteville with LaFayette Post No. 149. American Legion, in charge of graveside rites.
Pfc. Crouse, 24, was born at Lochgelly, Fayette county.
Surviving besides his parents is a sister, Mrs. Margaret James of Oak Hill.
The body is at Dodd mortuary in Fayetteville and will be taken to the house of his parents at 5 p.m. today.

James C. Crouse’s location at the time of his death

The 424th Combat Infantry Regiment of the 106th Infantry Division landed in France on 5 December 1944. They crossed into Belgium on 10 December 1944 and were stationed at Winterspelt (Germany). On 16 December 1944, the German Army unleashed its Ardennes Counteroffensive (The Battle of the Bulge). After Action Reports show that the 424th was in Belgium on 18 December 1944. KIA or DOW, whichever is correct, one could place him in Belgium and the other in Germany. His military records may shed light on this question.

And this is where the mystery comes into the story

Ellen wanted to know why the marker was in her son’s garage and what they could do to get it back where it should be.

I posted the “problem” to the Fayette County West Virginia Genealogy group on Facebook. They are a wonderful group of genealogist and always ready to help.

Anita McClung was able to confirm both James C. Crouse Sr. and Jr. are buried at Huse Memorial Cemetery. Her source is the Fayette County Cemetery Records, Vol. VI, published by the Fayette & Raleigh Counties Genealogy Societies in October 2006. She was one of the persons who participated in reading the cemeteries.

Sandra Humphries Raedel was able to furnish a missing piece of the puzzle. On Find A Grave she found James’ listing with the application for the marker. “It ‘does’ appear that a flat memorial marker was ordered for James C. Crouse Sr., but…it was to be shipped to High Lawn Memorial Park.”

I hadn’t thought to check Find A Grave as I’d already located the newspaper articles. If I’d looked there first I might not have gone on to search for the burial notices which would have caused further problems. The contributor Jeff Hall had entered the name of the cemetery seen on the application. I notified Jeff of the discrepancy and he corrected the cemetery name. 

The story of James C. Crouse’s marker continues:

After the body was returned to West Virginia and buried in Huse Memorial Cemetery, his father S. J. Crouse applied for a flat marble marker with a Christian emblem for the unmarked grave.

James C. Crouse marker application (Ancestry.com : accessed 29 Apr 2014)

James was buried on the 24th of April and his father made the application three days later on the 27th of April. Several different handwritings are seen on the card. The name of the cemetery was penciled in. On the card, we see Highlawn Memorial Park in Oak Hill as the place of burial. As seen in the cemetery book and the newspaper articles this is incorrect.

Reverse side of application (Ancestry.com : accessed 29 Apr 2014)

On May 10th C. S. Wilson, superintendent or caretaker of the cemetery, certified that the marker would be permitted on the grave. The information was verified in Green Mountain, VT, on May 17th.

The question is, was C. S. Wilson from the Huse or High Lawn cemetery?

Shock, surprise, and goosebumps

I quickly found James’ granddaughter Marian Crouse Walraven on Facebook and sent her a message. I don’t like to do this as the message will go to the person’s Other folder if you are not “friends.” I hardly ever have success getting in touch with people this way. I sent a friend request, just in case, and was surprised to get a quick response. In a private message, I explained what was going on. She was shocked to hear about this marker and confirmed that both her grandfather and father are buried in Huse Memorial Park in Fayetteville.

By the time replies came in from Anita and Sandra from the Facebook group, I was chatting with Marian, and sending messages to Ellen — three conversations at one time.

Marian was shocked that I was getting in touch with her about her grandfather’s marker and that it had been found in someone’s garage. It was news to her as she has seen his marker on his grave but does not have a photo to compare with.

She was excited to learn not only are we related through her father and grandfather but also through her mother’s paternal line. We are 6C1R on JOHNSON and SIMS lines mentioned earlier (both her father and mother descend from these lines)  and we share John KINCAID Sr. and Elizabeth Hannah GILLESPIE at the same level.

Then it dawned on me that Ellen had contacted me exactly 65 years to the day that Samuel Joseph CROUSE had filled out the marker application for his son’s grave. I shared this <goosebumps> with both Ellen and Marian. Ellen wrote, “I believe that things like this happen for a reason. My son says to use the photo. He wants to do whatever he can to find the proper place for the marker.”

The mystery hasn’t been solved. Was the marker delivered to the wrong cemetery? Was the family contacted? Did they request a new marker when the one they applied for did not show up at the cemetery of burial? Was the home that the marker was found in previously owned by a member of the Crouse family?

Photo of the marker courtesy of J. Claytor

One last <goosebumps> note:

My part in this story began on the 65th anniversary of the application for the marker. James’ story spans two continents, my part in the story also spans two continents. What are the chances that a mother in Ohio would contact a genealogist in Luxembourg — one of the countries that the Battle of the Bulge took place in?

There will be a follow-up on this mystery. I have a couple of people checking things out. Mostly, I can’t wait to hear from my new cousin Marian about how this story ends.

Update (21 February 2018):
See link at the bottom of The Mystery of James C. Crouse Sr.’s Grave Marker – Part 2

© 2014, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.