The very earliest that I have been able to trace my lineage on my father's side is back to one Hermes Van Coppenolle who lived in Flanders in the early 1500's...

Table of ContentsSmall World, Isn't?

The DeBacker Family

It is important when researching one's family history to know something about the general history of where one's family came from. Without this knowledge as background, conducting research into family history would be much like driving around in a strange city without a map. With this knowledge at hand it not only aides in the research effort, but it helps in giving us a better picture of whom our ancestors were and the times in which they lived. In fact to understand where the DeBacker family came from it is necessary to dig a little deeper into the social and political history of Flanders and go back even further than the time of Mary of Burgundy and the Great Privilege. One needs to go back to the time when the feudal institutions that had been created by the Carolingian dynasty of Charlemagne and his descendants were becoming obsolete.

In the late Middle Ages, western European society was made up of four classes of people: the Nobility, the Clergy, the Peasants, and a relatively new and emerging class called the Bourgeois. The fourth class was made of merchants and artisans who had separated themselves from the land and made their living dealing in cash and commodities. They lived in larger cities that had grown from scattered villages that become connected overtime. The name Bourgeois comes from 'burg', which refers to a fortified place such as a walled town. The Bourgeois were city dwellers who paid for the right of citizenship in the towns they occupied by purchasing charters from the nearby lord. With this also came the right of tradesmen to form guilds.

The surname DeBacker is an occupational surname which means "the baker" and this would seem to indicate that at some earlier time (perhaps the 14th or 15th century) some progenitor of mine was a member an early "baker's guild". I do not know this to be fact, but what I do know is that by the 17th century my Flemish ancestors were occupied as "millers" and that they owned and operated a number of windmills in and around the city of Ronse in East Flanders.

My 6th great-grandfather, Jacobus De Backer was also known as Jacques DeBakker. He was born circa 1700 in Oost-Vlanderen, Belgium. He married Petronella De Mulder circa 1720 in St.-Marie-Lierde, Belgium. From Herman Van Isterdael, Stad en Baronie Ronse we learn the following: He was a miller in Melden, Oost-Vlanderen, Belgium, in 1727. He was an officer of the city of Renaix circa 1733. He was sued by Fidel Martin Colbrant, lieutenant-bailiff of the city of Renaix over a quarrel in 1733. He was suspended as an officer of the city by the Intendant of the Lord of Renaix, because he "outraged the magistrate" (city council) of Renaix in 1734. He married Maria Theresia Van Wielendaele after 1751. He sold half of a water-mill located in Nederbrakel to his second wife in 1756. He died after 1756 in Renaix (Ronse), Belgium.

In the "Ancien Regime" (before 1795), the inhabitants of a city, in order to obtain legal advantages, requested the "bourgeoisie" (citizenship) of a city so that the city would give them protection. The citizens had to pay each year a certain amount and this would explain the opulence of some cities in Flanders. They were "bourgeois forains". Forain means "outside" in that they did not live in the city giving them the protection. Yet there were no "bourgeois" of Renaix. The inhabitants of Renaix were mainly "bourgeois forains" of Alost (Aalst), or Grammont (Geraardsbergen), sometimes of Bruges (Brugge).

In the Liste des Bourgeois forains de la ville d'Alost, residents Renaix, 1645-1789 written by the late Georges Hooreman, we find : "Jooris De Backer, son of Willem (or Guillaume), in 1705". Also, in the list, before 1551, was found a "Gillis De Backere" in 1424, a "Martyne daughter of Willem De Backere" in 1510, and a "Hermes son of Jean De Backere" in 1521. In the list of 1551 to 1618, there is a Jeanne De Backer daughter of Coolaert and spouse of Adrien De Anvyn son of Gheleyn in 1588. There are also listed the christenings of De Backers in Nukerke: the three children of Judocus (or Joos) De Backer and Maria Geenens (married in 1675 February 26, one day before the christening of their second child). They were Judocus born in 1674 (March 4), Franciscus born in 1675 (February 27), Egidius (Gillis, Gilles) born 1676 (January 6).

What we know of the families of Jacobus Debakker down to his grandson Andreas DeBacker comes from the "Familiearchief De Backer" which contains information regarding the DeBaker family in Ronse, Belgium and dates from the early 18th century to mid-19th century. This archive was compiled by Father Victor DeBacker, a brother of my gg-grandfather Vital DeBacker. Father Victor was a parish priest outside of Ronse. With his access to parish and civil records, he collected information regarding the DeBacker family going back to at least the late 17th century. When he died in 1905, his records were deposited in the church in Ronse. Later in the 1960s, the church gave those records to the local historical society.

Listed below are excerpts from the "Familiearchief De Backer" sent to me in 2002 by a correspondent in Belgium. This is only a partial listing from the archive or inventory, which is written in the form of an itemized listing of events:

n° 49 : suspension of Jacobus De Backer, officer of the city, by the Intendant of the lord of Renaix, for the motive he outraged the "magistrat" (city council) of Renaix (date : 1734)

n° 2504 : case Pieter Massez versus Jacobus De Backer miller in Melden (date : 1727).

n° 2580 : Fidel Martin Colbrant, lieutenant-bailiff, versus Jacobus De Backer and Jean Baptist Deplecheins, both officers, quarrel (date : 1733)

n° 212 : prohibition, by the collector of the "seigneurie", to Judocus De Backer, miller of the windmills, to place new millstones (date : 1749).

n° 2469 : Petrus Van Maele, parish priest of Welle, versus Jan Baptist De Backer (date : 1720)

n° 2484 : Jan Baptist De Backer, former officer of the "public assistance" versus Daniel De Smet, for not paid rents (date : 1723)

n° 2955 : Jan Baptist De Backer, procurator, versus Niclaes Fostier, mayor : procedure mistaken (date : 1717)

n° 810 : Joannes De Backere, procurator, versus landlords, notables, inhabitants of Renaix, mayor and officers of the city : communication of the judgment in the case between both parties (date : 1717 - 1720)

n° 2455 : Joannes De Backere, procurator, versus Pieter De Waele, Joannes Cnudde, Nicolaes Fostier and Jan Baptist Cossijn (date : 1721)

n° 498 : Francois Bommaert, bailiff, versus Louis Mannens, Pieter and Jacobus Van Butsele, Jooris De Backere and Arent De Man : quarrel (date : 1707)

n° 2408 : Pierre De Backere, sheep merchant , from Elden (Gelderland) versus Nicolaes De Louvroij (without date).

Petronella De Mulder was born after 1700 in Belgium. She died in 1751 in Renaix (Ronse), Belgium. In the "Familiearchief De Backer" we find: n° 1: a deed of inheritance of Petronella De Mulder, spouse of Jacobus De Backer, at Sint-Maria-Lierde (1751).

Jacobus De Backer and Petronella De Mulder had nine children: Joannes, Pieter, Adriann, Livina, Gillis, Maria Catharina, Maria Magdalena, Livinus Francois, and Judocus (Joos) De Backer.

Judocus (Joos) De Backer, son of Jacobus and my 5th great-grandfather, was born in 1723 in Litsau, Sint-Marie-Lierde, Belgium. He was the owner of a windmill in 1749 in Renaix, Belgium. He married Joanna Catharina De Wadripont, daughter of Louis De Wadripont and Maria De Backer, after 1750 in Renaix (Ronse), Belgium. He was purchaser of a windmill in 1769 in Nukerke, Belgium. He was author of a letter to the Canon chapter of Renaix about repairs made to a mill located in the "Brul" in Renaix (the Brul is now a park not far from the center of Renaix) circa 1774. He was the purchaser of a home in 1782 in Renaix, Belgium. He died on December 8, 1797 in Renaix (Ronse), Belgium. It was during the period that Belgium was known as the Austrian Netherlands, that Joos Debakker, my fifth-great grandfather, was born and flourished.

Joanna Catharina De Wadripont, wife of Judocus, was also known as Jeanne Catherine Dewadripont. She was born after 1729 in Renaix (Ronse), Belgium. After the death of Judocus, she married Pieter Francois Joorez.

Judocus and Joanna had four children: Maria Joanna De Backer (b. abt. 1743, d. abt. 1793); Maria Catharina Bernardina De Backer (b. bt. 1743 - 1779); Andreas DeBacker (b. 1751, d. 8 Feb 1812); and Joannes Augustinus De Backer (b. 1754, d. 7 Mar 1799)

Andreas DeBacker, son of Judocus and Joanna, was my 4th great-grandfather. He was born in 1751 in Renaix (Ronse), Belgium. He married Maria Catharina Josepha Mollaert, daughter of Joannes Andries Mollaert and Francisa Braeckman, on January 21, 1788 in Ronse, Belgium. He married Anna Maria Van Den Daele, daughter of Daniel Van Den Daele and Anna Theresia De Dondere, on November 24, 1794 in Nukerke, Belgium. He died on February 8, 1812 in Renaix (Ronse), Belgium. It is assumed by his daughter's birthplace that Andre Debakker lived for a time in the town of Nukirke (Nukerke).

Not too long ago I was contacted by a Mr. Mollaert in Belgium. Mr. Mollaert had visited my web site, found one or two errors, and was kind enough to write to me and let me know about those errors. We are not related but the history our families are intertwined through business and marriage. His last name Mollaert means "miller" and of course, DeBacker means "the baker". Both the Mollaert's and DeBacker's owned and operated windmills in and around Ronse, Belgium in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is interesting to note that my gg-grandfather, Vital DeBacker, worked as a miller at his father's windmill prior to leaving Belgium for Kansas. Growing wheat in Kansas was a big draw for Belgians coming to America. One of Vital's sons, Herman, was a wheat farmer in Kansas, however Vital chose to raise horses and become a druggist instead of becoming a wheat farmer.

Much of the information that Mr. Mollaert found regarding his family came from the "Familearchief De Backer". Our connection between the DeBacker's and the Mollaert's focuses primarily on my gggg-grandfather Andreas DeBacker (1751-1812). I am descended from Andreas DeBacker and his second wife Anna Maria Van Den Daele, but Andreas was first married to Maria Catherina Mollaert.

Mr. Mollaert supplied me with the following images:

1) Familiearchief De Backer nr 118 (1) - this is one of three images from the Familearchief De Backer and apparently is a copy or transcription of an agreement written in archaic Flemish between Andreas DeBacker and his future brother-in-law Andreas Mollaert. This probably involves the sale of a windmill or a millstone.

2) Familiearchief De Backer nr 118 (2a) - this the first part of what appears to be a pre-nuptial agreement between Andreas DeBacker and the Mollaert family which says that in the event of Catherina Mollaert's death that Andreas DeBacker would not inherit her property. During this period (1780's) in Flanders, married women were allowed to keep their own property. Also young men usually tended to marry older women of means. Catherina was about 8 years older than Andreas DeBacker and apparently owned one or more windmills from which she gained income and her brother wanted to keep it in the family.

3) Familiearchief De Backer nr 118 (2b) - this is the second part of the pre-nuptial agreement and Andreas DeBacker's signature is seen towards the top of the page.

4) R1 - this is one of two hand-drawn 18th century maps of Ronse. Towards the bottom center of the map, there is a windmill. This I understand was a windmill owned by the DeBacker's and the land where the windmill stood is now a park (the Brul) in central Ronse.

5) R2 - this is another 18th century map of Ronse that shows who owned what property, but unfortunately we cannot make out any of the details on this image.

Anna Maria Van Den Daele was born in 1762 in Nukerke, Belgium and died on February 14, 1827 in Renaix (Ronse), Belgium. The children of Andreas DeBacker and Anna Maria Van Den Daele were:

  • 1. Judoca Debakkerb. 25 Dec 1794, d. 27 Dec 1794
  • 2. Theresia Augustina Debakkerb. 15 Oct 1795, d. 15 Oct 1795
  • 3. Marie Therese Fudoca DeBackerb. 1798, d. 23 Apr 1870
  • 4. Catherine Seraphine DeBackerb. 1800
  • 5. Xavier DeBacker+ b. 1807
  • 6. Arnauld Francois DeBacker+ b. 1 Aug 1810, d. 1870

Because the records in Flanders are so well preserved, we have had great success in tracing not only the DeBacker line back through a number of generations, but also the lines of my female ancestors who married DeBacker's.

Anna Maria Van Den Daele, gggg-grandmother and second wife of Andreas DeBacker, was the daughter of Daniel Van Den Daele (1710-1779) and Anna Theresia De Dondere (b. ca. 1720). Daniel's parents were Jacobus Van Den Daele (1667-1742) and Maria Anna Van Maelsaeck (1657-?) - They would be my 6th great-grandparents. Including Daniel, we also know of their other children: Judocus (married to Maria Anna Van der Straeten), Maria Joanna, Anna Theresia, and Pieter Van Den Daele all born between 1687 and 1707.

Anna Theresia De Dondere's line has been traced back two generations. Her parents were Phillip De Dondere (1700-1752) and Arijne Bauwens (1690-?). Phillip was the son of Simon De Dondere (b. aft. 1680) and Arijne was the daughter of Frans Bauwen (b. aft. 1670).

Arnauld Francois DeBacker, my ggg-grandfather, son of Andreas DeBacker and Anna Maria Van Den Daele, was born on August 1, 1810 in Renaix (Ronse), Belgium. He married Sophie Marie Francoise Callewaert, daughter of Jean Baptiste Callewaert and Marie Josephe Haustraete, on November 18, 1829 in Renaix (Ronse), Belgium. He died in 1870 in Renaix (Ronse), Belgium.

The lineage of my ggg-grandmother Sophie Marie Francoise Callewaert is quite extensive. The very earliest that I have been able to trace my lineage on my father's side is back to one Hermes Van Coppenolle who lived in Flanders in the early 1500's. I discovered this line one afternoon while doing research on the Geneanet web site. This European web site presents genealogical data provided by individual researchers in much the same was as Ancestry.com's One World Tree. With this in mind, it is important to stress that the information found on sites such as these is not guaranteed to be accurate, as most entries do not provide any source information. The connection that I found between my father's line and that of the Van Coppenolle line was the marriage of Anna Maria Van Coppenolle (1723-1793), a 4th great-granddaughter of Hermes Van Coppenolle, to Pieter Callewaert (1715-1779). Pieter and Anna Maria were grandparents of Sophie Marie Francoise Callewaert.

Of Sophie's parents, the Callewaert & Haustraete lines also go back a number of generations:

The very earliest that I have been able to trace my lineage on my father's side is back to one Hermes Van Coppenolle who lived in Flanders in the early 1500's. I discovered this line one afternoon while doing research on the Geneanet web site. This European web site presents genealogical data pro-vided by individual researchers in much the same was as Ancestry.com's One World Tree. With this in mind, it is important to stress that the information found on sites such as these is not guaranteed to be accurate, as most entries do not provide any source information. The first connection that I found between my father's line and that of the Van Coppenolle line was the marriage of Anna Maria Van Coppenolle (1723-1793), a 4th great-granddaughter of Hermes Van Coppenolle, to Pieter Callewaert (1715-1779). Pieter and Anna Maria were grandparents of Sophie Marie Francoise Callewaert. Later I discovered that both of my ggg-grandparents, Arnauld DeBacker and Sophie Callewaert were desecendents of Hermes Van Coppenolle and that they were 7th cousins (see The Van Coppenolle Connection).

Jean Baptiste Callewaert (4th great-grandfather) was born in 1765 in Renaix (Ronse), Belgium. He married Marie Josephe Haustraete, daughter of Pieter Francois Haustraete and Marie Josephe Deleuse, circa 1780 in Renaix (Ronse), Belgium. He died in 1815. He was also known as Jan Baptiste Callewaert. He was a textile merchant in Renaix (Ronse), Belgium, circa 1780. He is listed as godfather at the baptism of Marie Anne Van Coppenolle (a first cousin once removed) in 1784 in Renaix, Belgium. There are a number of undated entries regarding Jan Baptist Callewaert appearing in the Familie en persoonarchiven: n° 185: last testament of Jan Baptist Callewaert; n° 195: a purchase by Jan Baptist Callewaert of a piece of land located in Saint-Sauveur; and n° 210: an official piece about Jan Baptist Callewaert as a dealer of textiles. Jean Baptiste's father, Pieter Francis Callewaert was born on 12 Apr 1715 and baptized at St Pierre Church in Renaix.  He died on 2 Nov 1779 in Renaix at age 64.  Jean Baptiste's grandparents were Petrus Callewaert, who was born on 18 Jan 1690 in Renaix, and Anne Louise Trannoy, who was born 19 Nov 1688 in St Martin, Renaix, Belgium. They were married in 1713 at Saint Martin's Church, Renaix, Belgium.  Petrus Callewaert died in 1772 and was buried at St Hermes Church in Renaix. Anne Louise Trannoy was also known as Marie Louise Dutranoit and as Louise Trannoy. She died in 1772. Jean Baptiste's great-grandparents were Adrien Callewaert, who was born on 25 May 1648 and baptized at St Pierre, Renaix, and married Marguerite Camphlin who was born sometime before 1673. She was also known as Marguerite Camphyn. Jean Baptiste's gg-grandparents were Joannes Callewaert, who was born say 1630, and Suzanne Daets - and they would be my 8th great-grandparents.

Jean Baptiste's mother, Marie Josephe Haustraete was born in 1764 in Renaix (Ronse) and died on 11 Oct 1815 in Renaix (Ronse). Marie's parents were Pieter Francois Haustraete (1742 - 6 Sep 1809) and Marie Josephe Deleuse (b. aft 1742) - both in Renaix (Ronse). Marie's grandfather was Judocus (Joos) Haustraete. He was born after 1714.  He married Maria Joanna Van de Velde (1718-1756), daughter of Pieter Van de Velde (b. abt 1698) and Martine Van der Eecken (1688-1720), sometime after 1741.  He married Catherine Van Herpen after 1756.  He died circa 1771 and left a will dated 16 Dec 1771. Marie's grandmother, Maria Joanna Van de Velde left a will dated 23 Aug 1756. Marie's great-grandparents were Arnoult Haustraete who was born say 1680 and Lyvine Lettens who was born say 1700.  Arnoult Haustraete left a will dated 7 Apr 1727.

Arnauld Francois DeBacker and Sophie Marie Francoise Callewaert had at least seven children: Marie Melanie Clemence (b. 3 Dec 1830), Felix Anne Come Francois (b. 30 Jul 1832), Marie Flore Apoline (b. 26 Feb 1834, d. 29 Dec 1870), Vital Eugene Louis (b. 28 Nov 1835, d. 2 Jan 1918), Marie Josephine Philomine (b. 30 Dec 1837, d. 27 Dec 1839), Desne Aime Victor (b. 28 Sep 1839), and Josephine Marie Philomine (b. 31 Oct 1842).

Their son, Vital Eugene Louis DeBacker, was my gg-grandfather and he immigrated to America in 1883.

From Belgium to Kansas

In the mid-to-late 17th century, the French from their bases in Canada were using the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes to explore and claim western North America. In 1641, French missionaries first encountered a tribe of Native Americans known as the Potawatomi. Missions were established for this tribe in the 1670's along the shores of Lake Michigan from Green Bay down to present-day South Bend, Indiana. As time passed the missions had lapsed, but the Potawatomi who were peaceful farmers remained Roman Catholic, and with the insistence of the Potawatomi, the mission was restored in the 1830's in northern Indiana. This was during the time when the US government's Indian removal program was in full force. Through treaties and force, the Indians were dispossessed of their lands and forced to move west of the Mississippi river.

Over time the Potawatomi of Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois were re-located to a reservation in eastern Kansas. In the late 1830's Belgian missionaries from Missouri established a mission for the Potawatomi dedicated to St. Mary is southeastern Kansas. The mission thrived and grew during the 1840's as more Indians arrived from the east. The growth of the mission prompted its relocation to the banks of the Kaw River in north eastern Kansas in what is now Pottawatomie County. In the 1850's newly recruited missionaries arrived from Belgium and support for the mission was provided by parishioner's at home in Belgium.

By the end of the Civil War, the railroad had reached St. Marys bringing more white settlers to the little town that grew up beside the mission. The town of St. Marys was incorporated in 1870. As the Indians became more and more assimilated into the surrounding community the mission of the Mission of St Mary changed to that of a men's college. St. Mary's College was chartered by the state of Kansas in 1870.

By 1883, the student population of the college was over 200. It was in this year that the family of Vital Eugene Louis DeBacker arrived in Kansas from Belgium and settled in around the town of St. Marys. Arriving at about the same time as Vital and his wife Hortence was the family of Hortence's brother Vital DeDonder. The DeDonder's first settled in Sandy Hook, also in Pottawatomie County and later moved to nearby Rossville in Shawnee County.

Vital Eugene Louis DeBacker was born on November 28, 1835 in Renaix (Ronse), Belgium. He married Hortence DeDonder on April 17, 1861 in Renaix (Ronse), Belgium. She was born on 31 Mar 1840 in Renaix (Ronse), Belgium and died on 25 Jan 1923 in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas, at age 82. Hortence is buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery, St. Marys, Kansas.

The lineage of Hortence DeDonder has been traced back three generations. Her father was Philippe Antoine Dedonder who was born on 17 Jul 1800 in Renaix (Ronse).  He married Rosalie Derodere on 30 Apr 1828 in Renaix (Ronse). He died on 16 Apr 1869 in Renaix (Ronse), at age 68. Hortence's mother, Rosalie Derodere was born in 1805 in Renaix (Ronse). She died on 20 Sep 1879 in Renaix (Ronse). Hortence's grandparents on her father's side were Jean Baptiste DeDonder who was born in 1771.  He married Marie Therese Vandercaille, daughter of Pierre Antoine Vandercaille and Phillipine Declerq, after 1798. He died on 31 Mar 1847 in Renaix (Ronse), Belgium. Marie Therese Vandercaille was born in 1762.  She died on 16 Apr 1810 in Renaix (Ronse), Belgium. Hortence's great-grandparents on her father's side were Jean Baptiste DeDonder (b. aft. 1745) and Jeanne Catherine Delplace (b. abt. 1749). Regarding the family of Jeanne Catherine Delplace, a researcher in Belgium wrote me the following:

"By the way, I found something about a couple, De Donder/Delplace, in the book of the "Staeten Van Goed". Following the deed of March 3, 1773, a Marie Francoise Delplace was the daughter of "d'Heer Anthone Leopold Delplace" (d'Heer indicates a person of "quality", but not nobleman - sir) and "Jouffrouwe" (madame) Francoise Haustraete.  [Their] children were...Marie Francoise Delplace, deceased yet, was married with Jan (Joannes, Jean) De Donder, and had six children: Jan Baptist, Anthone, Floris, Joannes, Ludovicus, and Marie Francoise... Due to the rare occurrence of the name "Delplace" in the "Staeten Van Goed", I think Marie Francoise Delplace, married with Jan De Donder, is your Jeanne Catherine Delplace and her child Jan Baptist is your Jean Baptiste De Donder. Only investigations in the parish records can give you a certainty (with the godparents...or other indications)."

Vital, Hortence, and their seven children arrived aboard the SS Nederland from Antwerp, Belgium on October 29, 1883 in at New York City, New York. Their place of origin is shown as France - a mistake made by the Dutch captain probably because the parents and the children all spoke French. From New York, the DeBacker's next destination was the remote corner of northeast Kansas some 1400 miles away. There is little doubt that in 1883 that they would have traveled by any other means than by way of the railroads

He and Hortence DeBacker appeared on the Kansas State Census of 1895 in Rossville, Shawnee Co., Kansas and they appeared on the census of 1900 in St Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. In 1910, their residence is listed as 94 Bertrand St., St. Marys. Vital died on January 2, 1918 in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas, at age 82 and was buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery, St. Marys, Kansas.

It is not certain why the family left Belgium; however, between 1879 and 1884 there was a great deal of political unrest in Belgium between the Dutch-speaking Catholic Party and the French-speaking Liberal Party. It was essentially a Church-State conflict over public education, but at times, the debate became violent. In 1884, the Catholic Party took power and Belgium's School War ended.

Going back through the information that my father's cousin sent me a few years ago, I came across two newspaper articles. These articles were published in the St. Marys Star - a newspaper that at one time was published and edited by W. E. Miller, a brother-in-law of my g-grandfather, Dr. August DeBacker. Both articles deal with my gg-grandfather, Vital DeBacker. The first article was written in 1911 and describes the 50th wedding anniversary of Vital DeBacker and Hortence DeDonder that was celebrated at Immaculate Conception Church in St Marys, Kansas on April 3, 1911. The second article was written in 1918 and it is the obituary of Vital DeBacker. Both articles provide some clues as to the Renaix, Belgium connection.

From the article entitled Rejoice In Golden Jubilee (1911):

The golden jubilee of Mr. and Mrs. Vital DeBacker in our city last Monday offered occasion for the generous expression of good wishes by their many friends and relatives. Messages of regard were received from friends in three states and their old home in Belgium. The ceremony of renewing the marriage vows was conducted by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Meerschaert, a life long friend, and in youth a companion of the Mr. DeBacker.

This tells us that they maintained contact with relatives in Belgium. Reverand Meerschaert was the bishop of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma at that time. Could Bishop Meerschaert have been the priest that brought the family over from Belgium?

The article then goes on to mention that two brothers of Vital DeBacker and two brothers of Hortence DeDonder were Catholic priests: Fr. Felix DeBacker, Fr. Victor DeBacker, Fr. J. B. Dedonder, and Fr. Gustave DeDonder. In my records, I have as brothers of Vital DeBacker: Desne Aime Victor DeBacker (b. 28 Sep 1839) and Felix Anne Come Francois DeBacker (b. 30 Jul 1832). For Hortence DeDonder I have recorded a brother Gustave Marie DeDonder (b. 23 Sep 1853), but I have no record of a J. B. DeDonder.

The obituary of Vital DeBacker also provides some very interesting information:

...Born in Renaix, Belgium, Oct 28, 1835 of Francis and Marie DeBacker, his earlier years were at the College of St Anthony Of Padua in Renaix and the College of Leuze after which he assisted his father as a flour miller in Renaix. On April 3, 1861 he was united in marriage to Hortense DeDonder at the church of St Hermes in Renaix by Dean Fr. Motiers. He operated a general store and conducted the mill until 1882 when they moved to America purchasing the farm which they still own southwest of town In 1899 they purchased a home in town and retired from the farm. A college companion of the Rt. Rev. Bishop Meerschaert, their early friendship was frequently renewed during their lifetime. A lover of horses, his early life was spent in horsemanship and sports. A man who enjoyed good humor and pleasantry: his hearty, genial ways caused the friends of the passing years to breathe a prayer of sadness as they felt the loss in death of this fine old gentleman.

Vital and Hortence DeBacker had seven children. Their eldest, August, was my great-grandfather. The other children's names were Marie, Herman, Vitalia, Virginia, Achille, and Pauline. Marie DeBacker married a fellow Belgian immigrant, Camille Pessemier, and they later settled in Seattle, Washington. Herman became a farmer and married Elizabeth Fisher. They settled first in Rossville and then later in Wabaunsee county, Kansas. Vitalia entered a convent and became a Nun. Her sister, Virginia, died of cancer at the age of 27 in 1899. Achille became a druggist in St Marys and married Mary E. Grassman. It is not known if the couple had any children. He registered for the draft in 1918 during WWI at the age of 43, but it is not know if he actually served in military. He died in 1929. Pauline married Willis Miller, a local newspaper editor. They had 5 children: Loraies F. (1903), Francis Aloysius (22 Jul 1904, d. 16 Feb 1989), Lucille M. (1906), Edgar J. (1908), and Willis J., Jr. (1909, d. 1970)

August Vital Francois Joseph DeBacker was born on August 12, 1863 in Renaix (Ronse), Belgium. He was a Physician, having studied medicine in Belgium and later receiving his medical degree at Creighton University in Nebraska.  He was also a Biology Professor at St. Marys College. This was back in the "horse-and-buggy" days when tuberculosis was known as consumption, diphtheria was called "Putrid Sore Throat", and the Grippe was what folks called the flu. In those days, doctors charged $10 to deliver a baby and $1 for a house call. Patients could get a prescription for Laudanum (tincture of opium) or morphine as easily as they could for Hostetter's Celebrated Stomach Bitters or Colden's Liquid Beef Tonic.

August married Della Gaume, daughter of Francis Gaume and Della Pickering, on January 6, 1887 in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He and Della DeBacker appeared on the census of 1900 in St. Marys, Pottawatomie, Kansas. He and Della DeBacker appeared on the census of 1910 in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He registered for the military draft in September 1918 at age 55 in Westmorland, Kansas. He died on June 23, 1921 in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas, at age 57. August Vital Francois Joseph DeBacker lived at 93 Bertrand St / 179 Alma St, St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas.

August and Della had 12 sons and 1 daughter. In addition, there were two sets of twins in the family. Their children's names were Victor, Frank, Vital, Felix, Leo (my grandfather), Theophile, Andrew, John, Gustav, Joseph, Camille, Marie, and Albert. The twins were Vital & Felix and Andrew & John.

Victor C. DeBacker was also known as Victor August Thomas Vital DeBacker. He was born on November 1, 1887 in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He was baptized in Immaculate Conception Church in St. Marys. He appeared on the census of 1900 in the household of August Vital Francois Joseph DeBacker and Della DeBacker in St. Marys, Pottawatomie, Kansas. He appeared on the census of 1910 in Topeka, Shawnee Co., Kansas. Victor C. DeBacker lived at Fred J. Baker, 1221 Clay St., Topeka, Kansas. He was a clothing salesman for Wolf Bros in Topeka, Kansas, in 1910. He lived in Colorado circa 1917. He married Violet B. ___. He lived in Los Angeles, California, circa 1920. He and Violet B. DeBacker appeared on the census of 1920 in Los Angeles, California. He was a laborer at a citrus ranch in Los Angeles, California, in 1920. He and Violet B. DeBacker were divorced circa 1925. He was a clothing store manager in Kansas City, Kansas, in 1930. He appeared on the census of 1930 in Kansas City, Wyandotte Co., Kansas. He died in 1961 in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He was buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery, St. Marys, Kansas.

Francis (Frank) DeBacker was born on October 15, 1890 in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He was baptized on October 15, 1890 in Immaculate Conception Church in St. Marys. He appeared on the census of 1900 in the household of August Vital Francois Joseph DeBacker and Della DeBacker in St. Marys, Pottawatomie, Kansas. He appeared on the census of 1910 in the household of August Vital Francois Joseph DeBacker and Della DeBacker in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He married Marie Fischer on December 28, 1914 in St. Benedicts Church, Atchison, Kansas. He registered for the military draft in June, 1917 at age 26 in St. Marys, Kansas. Frank studied for, but did not obtain the priesthood. He was a Florist in Omaha, Nebraska, circa 1930. He died circa 1960 in Omaha, Nebraska.

Frank DeBacker's name appears on the Official List of Names Registered for Draft June 5, 1917 in St. Mary's Township, North Precinct Draft # 1160 as Frank James DeBacker. In a List of Soldiers from Pottawatomie Killed, Wounded, Or Missing In Action during WWI there is listed as wounded in action Debacher, Frank J., St. Marys and Debacher, Leopold, St. Marys. I knew that Frank DeBacker was in the Army and served in Europe. I know that my grandfather was in the Navy and I know that he was stationed in Providence, Rhode Island. Great Uncle Frank may have been wounded in Europe. I heard that he that was injured in a gas attack. However, I do not believe that my grandfather was wounded during WWI. This would not be the only time that my grandfather's name appeared on this type of list by mistake. During WWII, my grandfather was practicing medicine in Hasting, Nebraska and a local newspaper listed my grandfather as having been kill-in-action overseas. This prompted my grandfather to write a Mark Twain-esque letter to the editor informing the public that news of his recent death was "greatly exaggerated".

Something similar appears to have happened to one of my grandfather's first cousins. Shortly after WWI, The Onega Herald, a Pottawatomie county newspaper listed Francis Miller of St. Marys as having died of disease while in the service of his country during the late war. I doubt that there was more than one Francis Miller in St. Marys and the Francis Miller that we know of was owner and publisher of the St Marys Star from 1921 to 1951. He died on 16 February 1989 in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas, at age 84, and is buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery, St. Marys, Kansas. The only relative of my grandfather that I have found to die in either of the two World Wars was a second cousin of his named James Vital DeDonder. James served as private in U. S. Army 19th Infantry 24th Division and received a Purple Heart medal in Philippines. He died on 1 June 1945 in Philippines, at age 18, and is buried at Fort William McKinley, Manila, Philippines.

Vital Gervaise DeBacker was also known as Vital Thaddeaus DeBacker. He was born on August 9, 1892 in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He was baptized on August 14, 1892 in Immaculate Conception Church in St. Marys. He appeared on the census of 1900 in the household of August Vital Francois Joseph DeBacker and Della DeBacker in St. Marys, Pottawatomie, Kansas. He appeared on the census of 1910 in the household of August Vital Francois Joseph DeBacker and Della DeBacker in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He was a store clerk in Topeka, Kansas, circa 1920. He married Mary Catharine Glasner on September 27, 1924 in St. Joseph's, Kansas City, Missouri. He and Mary Catherine DeBacker appeared on the census of 1930 in Kansas City, Jackson, Missouri.

Felix DeBacker was also known as Felix Richard DeBacker. He was born on August 9, 1892 in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He was baptized on August 14, 1892 at Immaculate Conception Church in St Marys. He appeared on the census of 1900 in the household of August Vital Francois Joseph DeBacker and Della DeBacker in St. Marys, Pottawatomie, Kansas. He appeared on the census of 1910 in the household of August Vital Francois Joseph DeBacker and Della DeBacker in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He married Marie Heiser circa 1914 in St. Bernard Church, Atchison, Kansas. He registered for the military draft in June 1917 at age 24 in Rossville, Kansas. He was the owner and operator of a creamery in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas, circa 1930. He and Marie DeBacker appeared on the census of 1930 in St Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He was a farmer in Shelton, Nebraska, circa 1940. He died in 1940 in Hastings, Nebraska.

Theophile DeBacker was born in November 1896 in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He appeared on the census of 1900 in the household of August Vital Francois Joseph DeBacker and Della DeBacker in St. Marys, Pottawatomie, Kansas. He died in January, 1906 in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas, at age 9. The cause of death was reported in the St. Mary Star as apoplexy, but the story is that he was hit in the head by a rock in a snowball while playing with other children.

Andrew Philip DeBacker was born on August 16, 1898 in Earling, Iowa. He was christened on August 17, 1898 in Immaculate Conception Church in St. Marys. He appeared on the census of 1900 in the household of August Vital Francois Joseph DeBacker and Della DeBacker in St. Marys, Pottawatomie, Kansas. He appeared on the census of 1910 in the household of August Vital Francois Joseph DeBacker and Della DeBacker in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He registered for the military draft in September 1918 at age 20 in Westmorland, Pottowatomie Co., Kansas. He married Irene Gertrude Blades after 1924 in Earling, Iowa. He was a workman for the Santa Fe Railroad in Topeka, Kansas, circa 1930. He died on March 1, 1972 in Topeka, Kansas, at age 73. He was buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery, St. Marys, Kansas. Information regarding the children of Andrew DeBacker is from his obituary in St Marys Star (1972).

John Baptiste DeBacker was born on September 10, 1900 in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He was baptized on September 16, 1900 in Immaculate Conception Church in St. Marys. He appeared on the census of 1910 in the household of August Vital Francois Joseph DeBacker and Della DeBacker in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He registered for the military draft in September 1918 in Westmorland, Kansas. He married Magdalen Ammon on April 9, 1928 in St Bernard's Church, Three River Falls, Minnesota. He was a farmer in Brown Co., Kansas, circa 1930. He and Madge DeBacker appeared on the census of 1930 in Horton, Brown Co., Kansas. He was a traveling salesman in California circa 1940. He died on September 17, 1954 in Los Angeles, California, at age 54.

Gustav Clement DeBacker was born on September 10, 1900 in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He appeared on the census of 1910 in the household of August Vital Francois Joseph DeBacker and Della DeBacker in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He registered for the draft on September 12, 1918 in Westmorland, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He married Dorothy Margaret Crennan in January 1926 in Spalding, Nebraska. He was a manager for J.C. Penney's in Oneill, Nebraska, circa 1930. He died on July 23, 1974 in Englewood, Colorado, at age 73.

Joseph DeBacker was born on October 7, 1902 in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He was baptized on October 12, 1902 in Immaculate Conception Church in St. Marys. He appeared on the census of 1910 in the household of August Vital Francois Joseph DeBacker and Della DeBacker in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He married Pearl Adelgunda Pfeiffer. He was a florist in Sedalia, Missouri, circa 1930. He and Pearl appeared on the census of 1930 in Sedalia, Pettis Co., Missouri. He was a Florist in Warrensburg, Missouri. He died in June 1967 at age 64.

Camille DeBacker was also known as August Caesar Camille DeBacker. He was born on September 25, 1905 in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He was baptized on September 26, 1905 in Immaculate Conception Church, St Marys, Kansas. He died in July, 1906 in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. Camille died when he was 10 mos. old. The family story is that he choked on an eggshell while under the care of a housekeeper. Apparently, the poor woman was so hysterical and she did not know what to do to save the child's life. The St Marys Star (7/26/1906) lists the cause of death as spasmodic laryngitis.

Marie DeBacker was also known as Marie Clara Della Genevieve DeBacker. She was born on October 13, 1908 in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. She appeared on the census of 1910 in the household of August Vital Francois Joseph DeBacker and Della DeBacker in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. She lived in Omaha, Nebraska, circa 1925. She married Harry Schutz circa 1930 in Topeka, Kansas. She married William Pettigrew. She lived in Silver Springs, Maryland, circa 1940. She was also known as Marie A. Pettigrew. She died in March, 1990 in Silver Springs, Maryland, at age 81.

Albert August DeBacker was born on June 4, 1909 in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He was baptized on June 11, 1911 in Immaculate Conception Church, St Marys, Kansas. He was an aircraft mechanic for Beechcraft in Wichita, Sedgwick Co., Kansas, circa 1940. He married Penelope J. Ranney on August 29, 1941 in Wichita, Kansas. He died in 1964 in Wichita, Sedgwick Co., Kansas.

My grandfather, Leopold Joseph DeBacker was born on October 21, 1894 in Omaha, Nebraska. He appeared on the census of 1900 in the household of August Vital Francois Joseph DeBacker and Della DeBacker in St. Marys, Pottawatomie, Kansas. He appeared on the census of 1910 in the household of August Vital Francois Joseph DeBacker and Della DeBacker in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas. He graduated from St. Marys College (BA) in St. Marys, Pottawatomie Co., Kansas, in 1914. He registered for the military draft in May, 1917 at age 22 in Omaha, Nebraska.

Leo graduated from Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1918. He served in the US Navy Medical Reserve Corps from June 1918 to August 1919 with the rank of Lieutenant, Sr. grade and was stationed at Providence, Rhode Island. During this period, a devastating influenza pandemic was causing deaths worldwide. The epidemic known as the Spanish Flu spread to 46 states and ultimately killed between 400,000 and 500,000 people, far more than the number of Americans killed in the war. Fifty million to 100 million people worldwide are estimated to have died of the flu during about a year in 1918 and 1919. Soldiers returning from Europe who were found to be sick with flu were being quarantined and treated at the naval hospital in Providence where my grandfather was stationed as a surgeon. 

Leo married Geraldine Gertrude O'Malley, daughter of Patrick A. O'Malley and Mary A. Hooks, on June 21, 1918 in St. Marys, Kansas. He lived in Spalding, Nebraska, circa 1920. He was an instructor in physiology & biological chemistry in Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska, between 1921 and 1925. He lived in Omaha, Nebraska, circa 1925. He was a physician and staff member at Mary Lanning Memorial Hosp in Hastings, Nebraska, between 1925 and 1966. He lived at 1000 N Kansas Ave, Hastings, Nebraska between 1926 and 1966. He was member of the Adams County Medical Society, the Nebraska State Medical Association, American Medical Association, Knights of Columbus, and the Elks (BPOE). He died on October 19, 1966 in Hastings at age 71, and was buried on October 22, 1966 in Hastings.

Leo and Geraldine had eight children: Geraldine, Leo Jr., Richard, Martha, David (my father), Robert, Shiela, and Judith. With the exception of Shiela who died the same day as she was born, all children grew-up, married, and had children of their own.

Geraldine Joan DeBacker (Aunt Gerrie) was born on April 7, 1919 in Hastings, Nebraska. She died on December 10, 1996 in Billings, Montana, at age 77.  Leopold Joseph DeBacker (Uncle Leo) was born on April 28, 1921. He died on January 16, 1996 in Champaign, Illinois, at age 74. Richard Lionel DeBacker (Uncle Dick) was born on September 9, 1924 in Hastings, Nebraska. He died on June 23, 2000 in Grand Island, Nebraska, at age 75. Martha Jean DeBacker (Aunt Martha) was born on December 18, 1926 in Hastings, Nebraska.  She died in 1983 in Springhouse, Pennsylvania. Robert Edward DeBacker (Uncle Bob) was born on April 26, 1930. He died on April 17, 1999 in Shreveport, Louisiana, at age 68. Shiela DeBacker was born on February 28, 1932 in Hastings, Nebraska. She died on February 28, 1932 in Hastings, Nebraska. Judith DeBacker (Aunt Judy) was born on July 2, 1938 in Hastings, Nebraska. She married Kenneth Lyle Young after 1969 in Hastings, Nebraska. She died on November 24, 1998 in Hastings, Nebraska, at age 60.

My father, David DeBacker was born on October 28, 1928 in Hastings, Nebraska. My father grew up in Hastings, Nebraska and attended school there up to his teens. He attended high school at St. Regis, a private boy's school in Denver, Colorado. After he graduated from high school in 1948, he returned home, but shortly thereafter left for Chicago were he enrolled in art school. This was my father's beatnik years where he acquired a taste for alcohol and jazz. His time in Chicago only lasted about two years and he return home to Hastings around 1950 and briefly attended a local college. It was shortly after this that the Korean War began and my father was drafted. He served in the US Army during the Korean War and was stationed at Taegu airfield for a brief period. It was while he was there as a supply sergeant that he injured his back. The story goes that he was supervising a gang of North Korean prisoners of war (POW) as they unloaded crates of tools from a truck. While he and one of the POWs were together carry one of the crates of the truck, the POW and all of the other POWs suddenly stopped what they were doing and stood at attention as if by some pre-arranged sign or code. The POW, who was carrying the crate with my father, dropped his end of the crate and as a result, my father hurt his back. It was an injury that he carried for the rest of his life. The upside of this was that he was allowed to leave Korea and was sent to Japan to convalesce. It was while he was in Japan that he became interested in Japan culture and history. Later after he left the Army, he went to Georgetown University on the GI Bill and majored in history with his primary focus being the history of Japan. He attended in Georgetown University, Washington, D.C, from 1952 to 1955. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in history.

He and my mother were married on June 5, 1954 in Washington, D.C. He attended in St. Louis University, St. Louis, Missouri, in 1955 and received a Master's degree in hospital administration. In 1956, my parents and I moved to Fort Worth, Texas. My brother Patrick Joseph was born there. In 1960, we moved to Wharton, Texas where my sister, Amy and my youngest brother, Gregory James were born. In 1980, my parents moved to California. My father died on March 16, 1983 in Sherman Oaks, California, at age 54.

 

More Information

Pedigree of Leopold Joseph DeBacker
Pedigree of my paternal grand-father, Leopold Joseph DeBacker
Descendants of Hermes Van Coppenholle
The DeBacker Line
The Callewaert Line
The DeDonder Line
Progenitors of my DeBacker Line