Rosalie Van Landschoot in 1888 to Minas Gerais in Brasil

An article from "Apples from the Meetjesland", page 25-28 yearbook of 1977.
Minas Gerais is the region of the Brazilian Highlands, with Rio de Janeiro as its capital. The trip lasted about one month. Imagine the living conditions with all those children on board. It must have been hell.

"Poverty, Brazil and Death" For a long time we knew that Petrus Lauwagie died in April 1889 in Rio de Janeiro, the then capital of Brazil. Petrus was born in Watervliet, Belgium in 1852 and was married in 1875 to Rosalie Van Landschoot from Oostwinkel. The couple had seven children, of which three died as toddlers in the Meetjesland: "What did Petrus Lauwagie there In That Far Rio De Janeiro"? Investigations at the municipalities of Maldegem and Eeklo, one that referred our question to the "Vrienden Van Het Archief Van Eeklo", brought the solution. Thus we learned that the eldest daughter, Mathilde, thirteen years old, had also died in 1889 in Rio de Janeiro. So Peter had embarked on an adventure with his family! We already knew that the Belgian government and King Leopold 2, concerned about the poverty in the country, had taken the initiative to encourage defection. Whether this was done in the desired way will be clear from our story. Today, when we think about the defection of Belgians, we usually only think of the United States and Canada. We were therefore surprised to read that, in 1888, 10,435 Belgians defected to France, 1376 to North America and 4001 to South America. What was behind that? The "Friends of the archives of Eeklo" had advised us to consult the writings of E. De Smet in the journal "Appeltjes van het Meetjesland" (Apples of the Meetjesland) and his contribution on "The Gillebeerts Belly in Eeklo". Wonderful and correct work! Thanks to the writer!

Petrus Lauwagie had indeed gone to Brazil with his family, with the exception of a daughter, Marie Louise, who was booked but not boarded the ship. So they embarked: Petrus Lauwagie, his wife Rosalie Van Landschoot, their children Mathilde, Stephanie and Charles Louis. The fact that the family lived in the Gillebeertsbeluik of Eeklo proves to us that they live in poverty, like a large part of the population in that poor Flanders at that time. The hatch was built around 1865 and consisted of 32 workman's houses around an inner courtyard. The architectural style was rudimentary, with impossibly small living spaces. The sectional walls were planned, but they were not built. From 1866 onwards, the hatch began to degenerate. Out of the unpaved course rose and ruined atmosphere. The whole was a gathering place for the lowest social class and marginalized. Infectious diseases were rampant. In 1881, that shit was sold. The first inhabitants had been textile workers, their wives were spinners, here and there a workman, a clogmaker and a lacemaker. In short, all people who didn't have broads, poor people.

Petrus Lauwagie, country workman by profession, Rosalie Van Landschoot and their children did leave their native soil and friends to find a better life. The first king of the Belgians, Leopold 1, reigned from 1831 to 1865. He was succeeded by Leopold 2 (1865-1909). Our first king did not have an easy life with the economy of the country. The situation was far from satisfactory, poverty was an asset and social difficulties piled up. To escape the beggary, thousands of Belgians emigrated to France. Immigration was, according to the king and the government, the only solution for the country's poverty. Leopold two was of the same opinion. He even went further by turning his attention to Africa, including the Congo, which also did him no favours personally. At the same time, he remained in favour of immigration from Belgians to other countries and continents. Like to our own colony! As boys, my friends and I still sang out loud at the prize-giving ceremonies: "time is rushing by and already beaconing the road, where the new times beckon us! The government had already been won under Leopold 1 for settlements in Guatemala. It was a resounding flop! Attempts in Pennsylvania and Kansas were also disappointing. Brokers in exile, employed by South American bosses, then knowingly and willingly exploited the gullibility of destitute and naive citizens. In 1887 the advertising campaign for South America in the Flemish country only started well. The beautiful talkers succeeded in enthusing our people. They could not sail quickly enough to the promised land! The promised wages were much higher than here: a farm labourer would earn 60 to 80 francs of gold a month, along with costs and accommodation, bakers 100 to 250 francs. One of the beautiful talkers, a certain my lord Bernier, managed to lure 65 Eeklonians to Minas Gerais. Now you should know that Minas Gerais, the mining region, is located in the hot and humid interior of Brazil. Gold, silver, tin, copper and diamonds were exploited there. The climate was tropical and unhealthy. There was also agriculture: rice, cotton, coffee, tobacco, sugar cane, and forestry; + limestone and granite quarries. Compared to Minas Gerais, Flanders was a health paradise!

Petrus Lauwagie and his family were destined for Minas Gerais. From Minas Gerais, the Eeklonian Petrus de Vuistere once wrote home that he and his companions indeed earned 70,-fr per month plus board and lodging. Together with his workmates he then went on the maddle, looking for better conditions. After six weeks they went back to Minas Gerais and from there to Sao Paulo. Eventually he went to work in a harbour for 1,-fr per day. De Vuyssere wrote further: "Dear parents deliver me from Brazil and send me 250 to 300,-fr on that I could return to Eeklo. A poignant story by Pieter Roegist (N°108) from the Boterhoek. "Dear parents, I have come to ask you kindly if you have not received the letter we wrote to you and in which we told you that our four children had died. If you have not received it, write back to me as soon as you can, but do not grieve in our children, they are buried clean. Dearly beloved parents, we hope to see each other again, for in Brazil it is not good; we cannot stand it here, and there is nothing to eat but rice and beans. Nothing in Brazil grows from vegetables and we would live better in Belgium with dry bread.

We are already here with three families and we have heard that once again we could not be brought back to Belgium for nothing. Ask Mister Berte if he knows more about this. We would thank him a thousand times." The three families are:

+ Pieter Roegiest with 2 children of which 4 have already died and Peter and Charles are still alive.
+ August Driessens with 1 child and 3 deceased.
+ Petrus Lauwagie with Rosalie Van Landschoot with 3 children and now one sick. (It will appear later that this child had died there).

Dear parents, here in this letter is the commemoration of your Pieter Joannes Roegist. Two of my 4 children are buried in a grave. Our children were buried with stockings and shoes as well as silk clothes and with one crown on their heads. But... that we only had money to turn back from the Eeclonaer of March 24th, 1889.

There have also been other bells, as in a letter from Florent Regelbrugge from Adegem, who disputed the bad situation in Minas Gerais and wrote:.... “ If there are those who do not want to cooperate and who... If they win 5,-fr for six are thirsty... This leads to poverty, but also in Belgium, and furthermore”. "The Flemish people are particularly concerned here because they are generally good workers" . Regelbrugge, who apparently had his own ideas, he was able to write down easily, dedicate the failure of immigration above all to the fact "that the emigrants were the greatest deele socialists of Brussels, Charleroi and Liège, who did not want to work here as well as in Belgium and were looking to stir up the working people against their masters" The fact was that, less than two years after their departure, 55% of the Eeklonians were back in their homeland. And yet the emigration continued, although European governments opposed the dirty recruiting practices in which the Brazilian government, the shipping companies and the intermediaries had a hand. After 25 000 Belgians had fled to Argentina, the recruitment office had to close in 1889 due to a lack of candidates. Petrus Lauwagie and his eldest daughter Mathilde both died in Rio de Janeiro, we had read. So the family appears to have left Minas Gerais. Would Petrus, like his colleague De Vuyssere, also go to work in a harbour. In the Rio de Janeiro? Did they die of a disease? From the same disease? We didn't know.

What we do know is that Rosalie van Landschoot returned with her remaining children to the Meetjesland. So we had to search further. We had enough information to address the current descendants of Peter and Rosalie in full knowledge of the facts. Once again we found that talking with descendants to the family researchers can learn a lot.

We addressed descendants of Charles Louis Lauwagie, the youngest descendant of the land movers family. He was born in Adegem in 1887 and died in Zomergem in 1960. He had told a lot about the Brazilian drama because it really was a drama. His eldest sister Mathilde, born in Kaprijke in 1875, was caught in what he called "the brousse", kidnapped by native bandits. Because she was white, clean and only fourteen years old. Never heard of her again. Charles Louis had no doubt that she was abused and then killed. The official death in Rio de Janeiro in 1889 must have been an administrative trick. The family fled "out of sheer terror" from Brazil and returned to Belgium, together with father, Peter. But, Petrus Lauwagie went back to Brazil on his own shortly afterwards! It is said that he simply abandoned his family here. We dare to suppose that, now better acquainted with Brazil, he went back to make money and send them there. The family has never heard from Peter again. This is not surprising, since an official death was reported in Rio de Janeiro as early as April 1889. Would some civil servant have copied the death of the daughter in Rio de Janeiro in 1889? How Petrus Lauwagie came to his end, we will never know. Rosalie Van Landschoot gives a second marriage to Jacobus de Martelare.

With thanks to E. De Smet, city archivist of Eeklo, with whom we have borrowed, both in "Appeltjes van het Meetjesland" and in his sketch of the Gillebeert belly in the friends book of Luk Stockman. Thanks to Hans van Landschoot and Danny Everaert for their help with the search and to the friendly and family members. Signed, Georges Lauwagie TOP