Not long ago, a friend passed me an article published in Texas Highways, a monthly publication of the Texas Department of Transportation, which featured an interview with West Texas columnist and raconteur Lonn Taylor. During the interview, Taylor mentions a little Mexican restaurant in Fort Davis, Texas, called Poco Mexico, which is owned by one of the oldest Hispanic families, the Dutchover family. And here is where it got interesting for me: the Dutchovers’ founder was a Belgian immigrant by the name of Anton Diedrick.1
He came to America right at the beginning of the Mexican War. He enlisted in the Army, and the recruiting sergeant said, “You can’t even speak English. You’re Dutch all over.” And his name was written down on the regimented rolls as Diedrick Dutchallover. He kept the name [later shortened to Dutchover] and came here as a stagecoach guard, married a Mexican woman, and they have 11 children. Half the people in Fort Davis are related to the Dutchovers.
A quick internet search confirms Taylor’s story. As a young lad, Anton Diedrick supposedly witnessed a cold-blooded murder in Antwerp, Belgium. The murderers subsequently shanghaied him, i.e. kidnapped him to serve as a sailor. So he became a prisoner on board a windjammer, a large sailing vessel carrying cargoes for long distances from one port to another, until he managed to escape in the port of Galveston, Texas. Once ashore, he was recruited to fight with the Americans in the war against Mexico during 1846-1848.2 During the 1850s he was a frontier scout who rode ‘shotgun’ on the San Antonio-El Paso mail runs, protecting the stage coach from Native American attacks.3On 15 January 1860, in Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico, he married the eighteen-year-old Refugia Salcido. Diedrick and Refugia, who was locally known as “Cora,” settled on a ranch south of Fort Davis, Texas, where they raised ten children.4
So, who was Anton Diedrick, a.k.a. Diedrich Dutchover? As it turns out, this question does not have an easy answer. In this post I present my research findings thus far as one interesting albeit frustrating test case, illustrating the process for finding a Belgian ancestor overseas.
The first step for any Belgian-American researcher is to mine the American records for as much information on the immigrant ancestor as possible. This is a crucial step, but one that is often overlooked. The records the immigrant created on American soil contain clues that help narrow down the search in European records and help establish solid proof (or not) that the correct person has been identified.
According to the memorial page on Findagrave.com, Diedrich Dutchover was born in Antwerp in July 1820, and died at the age of 83 in Fort Davis, Texas, on 12 March 1904.5 A junior researcher, perhaps a descendant, claimed that Diedrich was thirteen years old when he was kidnapped in Antwerp in 1842 — which would place his birth in 1830. But the same author later states that he was born about 1824. He also tells us that Diedrick celebrated his birthday on the Fourth of July.6The occasional newspaper articles over the last hundred years have repeated the same information.7
Diedrich Dutchover left plenty of official records in the United States. Unfortunately, they provide few new clues. As the table below shows, Diedrich and/or his family members added years to his age as he got older. No source lists his exact date of birth, nor the names of his parents. Most agree that he was born in Belgium but do not give a town or city. Family tradition, however, holds that he was born in Antwerp.8The one occurrence of Germany as place of birth can be ignored as it was common for Belgians in the United States to be confused with the Dutch, French, or Germans with whom they shared a language.
|1860 U.S. |
|1870 U.S. |
|1880 U.S. |
|1900 U.S. |
|Not listed||80||About |
Armed with this information, we can now approach the Belgian genealogical sources. The Antwerp civil registration records are available online at FamilySearch, but less than 25% have been indexed. Therefore, it is necessary to first browse the decennial tables. Only one “Anton Diedrick” was born in the city of Antwerp between 1815 and 1832, namely Antonius Diderich, born on 14 May 1830, the illegitimate son of Theresia Josepha Antonia Diderich, a 19-year-old lace worker [kantwerkster] from Ostend.17
Geboorte-Akte van Antonius Diderich, in het Burgerlijk Gasthuis, op veertien mei dezes jaar ten drie ure des morgens alhier geboren, onwettige zoon van Theresia Josepha Antonia Diderich, kantwerkster, oud negentien jaren, geboortig van Oostende, provincie West Vlaanderen, alhier gedomicilieerd.
Is it possible that this is Diedrick Dutchover’s birth record? The 1830 birth date corresponds closely to the year of birth provided in the oldest American records when Diedrick’s memory must have been most fresh. Chances are that he did not know his exact day, month, or even year of birth. He may have assumed July 4th as his birthday in honor of his adopted country.
However, finding one birth record that closely matches what we are looking for is not sufficient evidence. Since the U.S. records did not provide us with the names of Diedrich Dutchover’s parents, nor an exact place or date of birth, we need more evidence to connect this birth record with our Texas frontiersman. Are there any clues in Belgian records that can prove that this Antonius Diderich of Antwerp left the city of his birth in the early 1840s? A closer look at Theresia Diderich’s family is warranted.
Anton’s mother, Theresia, was born in Ostend (Oostende), a coastal city and port in the province of West Flanders, on 17 September 1805, daughter of Antoine Diederick and Thérèse Coucke. Her father, a sailor, was absent at the time of her birth, presumably at sea.18
L’an treize de la république le premier jour complementaire [i.e. 18 September 1805], à trois heures derelevée, par devant nous Jean Devette adjoint au maire et officier de l’Etat civil de la ville d’ostende département de la Lijs, est comparu pierre jean massart, agé de trente cinq ans accoucheur Juré domicilié à ostende, lequel nous a déclaré que le trente fructidor [i.e. 17 September 1805] à onze heures du soir il est né un Enfant femelle qu’il nous présente et auquel il donne les prénoms de Thérèse Isabelle Antoinette, le quel Enfant est né dantoine Diederick, marin présentement absent et de thérèse coucke son epouse, tous deux domiciliés à ostende.
When she was twenty-one years old, in 1826, Theresia moved with her parents to Antwerp, a much larger port city, where the family found lodgings in an apartment building in Paardenmarkt.19Over the next ten years, they moved several times, until in 1836 they relocated to Bruges in West Flanders. The family returned to Antwerp in 1841. Her father, Antonius Diderich, “born in Ettfelt, Germany,” and “son of the late Sebastianus Diederick, and the late Margareta Siengersvan,” died on 10 February 1842.20
Theresia and her mother remained in Antwerp after Antonius’ death but continued to move frequently. The mother, Theresia Coucke, died on 4 September 1847.21Theresia Diderich died on 28 February 1877.22
A table below illustrates the many addresses of Theresia Diderich and her parents between 1826 and 1877. Not once do the population registers include a child by the name of Anton. In contrast, Theresia’s second child Rosalia, who was born on 23 January 1832 and died on 26 December 1833, is included with the family at the Kraaiwijk en Lange Schipperskapelstraat addresses.23
13 August 1828
|13 August 1828 |
23 January 1829
|Ward 1, no. 2369 (7 Brouwersvliet)24|
|23 January 1829 |
20 March 1829
|Ward 1, no. 332 (19 Lange Beenhouwerstraat)25|
|20 March 1829 |
30 October 1829
|Ward 1, no. 1585 (11 Koolvlietstraat)26|
|30 October 1829 |
13 July 1830
|Ward 2, no. 375 (43 Paardenmarkt)27|
|13 July 1830 |
12 July 1831
|Ward 1, no. 1575 (7 Spieringstraat)28|
|12 July 1831 |
6 November 1833
|Ward 1, no. 1616 (3 Kraaiwijk)29|
|6 November 1833 |
29 August 1836
|Ward 1, no. 1703 (8 Lange Schipperskapelstraat)30|
|31 August 1836 |
10 November 1836
|Ward 2, no. 553 (15 Hoornstraat)31|
|7 December 1836 |
21 November 1839
|57/5 Bidderstraat, Bruges, West Flanders32|
|21 November 1839 |
5 March 1841
|20/16 Galgeberg, Bruges33|
|1841 or 1842 |
25 May 1845
|Antwerp, unknown address34|
|25 May 1845 |
28 August 1845
|Ward 4, no. 1627 (26 Steenbergstraat)35|
|28 August 1845 |
13 September 1847
|Ward 4, no. 1785 (24 Lange Ridderstraat)36|
|13 September 1847 |
13 January 1850
|Wijk 4, no. 1804 (8 Muntstraat)37|
|13 January 1850 |
20 December 1850
|Wijk 4, no. 1940 (6 Prekerstraat)38|
|20 December 1850 |
8 May 1856
|Ward 4, no. 1754 (78 Lange Ridderstraat)39.|
|8 May 1856 |
26 February 1862
|Ward 4, no. 1439 (4 Waaistraat)40|
|26 February 1862 |
23 February 1871
|31 Korte Ridderstraat (Ward 4)41|
|23 February 1871 |
28 February 1877
|80 Paardenmarkt (Ward 2)42|
We also cannot find Antonius Diderich at any other address in Antwerp or Bruges between 1830 and 1866.43
Why was Antonius Diderich never listed in the population registers? No death record could be found for him in Antwerp or Bruges.44He would have been only a few months old when the family moved from the Paardenmarkt to the Spieringstraat in July 1830. The 1829 to 1846 population register had already been created at the time of his birth. Did the clerk who created Antonius’ birth record in 1830 forget to update the Antwerp population register? Were the subsequent entries for the Diderich-Coecke family in the Antwerp register simply copied from one page to the next? Was Antonius Diderich, or another family member, never asked for an exact list of the members of the family when he or she reported a change of address? It is conceivable.
However, the child Anton was also not recorded in the Bruges population registers between 1836 and 1841. This indicates that the boy had disappeared from the family by 1836. Could it be that he was kidnapped before he was seven years old? Because we are not able to find a death record for the child, we cannot rule out this possibility.45
But perhaps it is more likely that Diedrick Dutchover was not born in the city of Antwerp, and was just visiting the port when he was whisked away aboard a ship in 1842. Perhaps, when the Belgian civil registration records and population registers have been completely indexed online, I can search beyond the city of Antwerp for a birth record and research this alternative. Right now, the process would be too time-consuming. Other avenues of research should also be considered. Are there any ship records that survive of the 1840 era? Did Diedrick Dutchover or his descendants ever travel back to Europe? Do the birth, marriage, and death records of his children provide any clues? Are there nineteenth century newspaper articles that describe Diedrick Dutchover’s journey? Who were his friends, associates, and neighbors? Did any of them have an Antwerp or Belgian connection?
At this stage in our research however, it appears unlikely that Diedrich Dutchover was Anton Diderich, the son of Theresia Isabella Antonetta Diderich, who was born in Antwerp on 14 May 1830.
Cite this post
Kristine Smets. “In Search of Anton Diedrick, Also Known As Diedrick Dutchover,” The Belgian American, posted 2 July 2019 (https://www.thebelgianamerican.com : accessed (date)).
- Wes Ferguson, “Big Bend Rambler,” Texas Highways, February 2019, p. 79-80.
- The Mexican-American War stemmed from the United States’ annexation of Texas in 1845 and subsequent border disputes. It was fought between April 1846 and February 1848. See “Mexican American War,” Encyclopædia Britannica (https://www.britannica.com/event/Mexican-American-War), published 29 November 2018.
- Jackie Arriola, “Diedrick Dutchover: A Unique Individual,” Texas Historian: Publication of the Junior Historians of Texas, vol. 50, no. 2 (November 1989): 11-14. Also, Krysta, “All the Locals go to Poco Mexico Café in Fort Davis,” Because Food is What I Do, posted 19 September 2016 (https://becausefoodiswhatido.com/2016/09/19/all-the-locals-go-to-poco-mexico-cafe-in-fort-davis/). Also, BelgieRoyalist, “Belgians in Texas,” The Exiled Belgian Royalist, posted 31 August 2010 (http://belgieroyalist.blogspot.com/2010/08/belgians-in-texas.html). Also, “Dutchover,” Belgians in America: Biographies of Belgian Settlers (https://sites.rootsweb.com/~belgintheamcivwar/Biographies/Dutchover.htm). Also, Find a Grave, database and images, Findagrave.com (https://www.findagrave.com), Memorial# 8079330 for Diedrich Dutchover, created by GuyB, 12 November 2003; maintained by Karl and Sherry Kuetman; photographs added by Lisa Neal and Daniel Magellanes. Also, Allan O. Kownslar, The European Texans (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004), p. 56-57. Also Carlysle Graham Raht, The Romance of Davis Mountains and Big Bend Country (El Paso: The Rahtbooks Company, 1919), p. 129-130. Also, Find a Grave, database and images, Findagrave.com, Memorial# 8079331 for Refugia Cora Salcido Dutchover, created by GuyB, 11 November 2003; photograph of grqavemarker added by Annette B.; citing Pioneer Cemetery, Fort Davis, Jeff Davis County, Texas. Also, Barry Scobee, “Last Son of Pioneer Family Dies Today,” Marfa Big Bend Sentinel (Marfa, Texas), 25 March 1954, p. 1. Also, “Centennial Marfa Plays Tribute to its Pioneers,” Marfa Big Bend Sentinel, 18 Augustu 1983, p. 4.
- Iglesia catholica Jesus Nazareno (Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico), Matrimonios 1860, Teodoro Dutchover-Refugia Salcido; digital image, FamiySearch.
- Find a Grave, database and images, Findagrave.com, Memorial# 8079330 for Diedrich Dutchover.
- Jackie Arriola, “Diedrick Dutchover: A Unique Individual,” Texas Historian: Publication of the Junior Historians of Texas, vol. 50, no. 2 (November 1989): 11-14.
- See for example, “Belgian Became ‘Dutch All Over’ During War With Mexico,” Austin American-Statesman, 24 February 1980, p. D12, col. 1-3. Also, “Centennial Marfa Pays Tribute to its Pioneers.” Also, Alfonso Morales, “Dutchallover — An American Story,” Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin), 5 July 2017, p. 42, col. 1-2.
- Jackie Arriola, “Diedrick Dutchover: A Unique Individual.”
- Compiled service record, Deidrich T. Dutchover, Pvt., Hill’s Co. Texas Mtd. Vols., Mexican War; Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During the Mexican War in Organizations from the State of Texas; Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1762-1984, Record Group RG 94; citing NARA microfilm publication M278, roll 17.
- Iglesia catholica Jesus Nazareno (Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico), Matrimonios 1860, Dutchover-Salcido; digital image, FamiySearch.
- 1860 U.S. census, Presidio County, Texas, population schedule, Las Lympias, Post Office Fort Davis, page 67 (penned), fol. 112r (stamped), dwelling 612, family 576, Dedrich Dutchover; citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 1293.
- 1870 U.S. census, Presidio County, Texas, population schedule, Fort Davis, page 4 (penned), dwelling 31, family 31, Deane Dutcharlor; citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1601.
- 1880 U.S. census, Presidio County, Texas, population schedule, Fort Davis, ED 123, page 3 (penned), folio 84C (stamped), family 30, Dedrick Dutchover; citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 1323.
- Diederich Dutchover (Pvt., Crumps Co., Tex. Mtd. Vols.), pension no. 19436, Case Files of Mexican War Pension Applications, ca. 1887 – ca. 1926; Mexican War Files; Department of Veteran Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
- 1900 U.S. census, Jeff Davis County, Texas, population schedule, Justice Precinct 1, ED 36, sheet 2A (penned), folio 266r (stamped), dwelling 24, family 26, Dietrich Dutchover, head; citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll not given.
- Jeff Davis County, Texas, Record of Deaths, vol. 1, page 24, D. Dutchover (1904); County and District Clerk’s Office, Fort Davis, Texas.
- Antwerp, Province of Antwerp, Belgium, Geboorteregister 1830, no. 1003, Antonius Diderich; digital image, “Belgique, Anvers, registres d’état civil, 1588-1913,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GR8X-QCZ?cc=2138481&wc=Q82R-GTH%3A1007785401%2C1007965801), Antwerpen > Geboorten 1830 > image 126 of 376; België Staatsarchief (Belgium State Archives), Brussels. The author browsed the ten-year indexes for births in Antwerp for 1813-1832 at FamilySearch.
- Oostende, Province of West-Flanders, Belgium, Actes de naissances, [l’an XIII (1804/1805], Thérèse Isabelle Antoinette Diederich; digital image, “Belgique, Flandre-Occidentale, registres d’état civil, 1582-1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9GKT-QRB?cc=2139860&wc=QZ9J-PHZ%3A1009485301%2C1009542101), Oostende > Geboorten, huwelijken, overlijden 1804-1807 > image 388 of 1021; België Nationaal Archief, Brussels (Belgium National Archives, Brussels). Theresia’s first middle name is most often given as Isabelle or Isabella. Her second middle name, when mentioned, is always a variation of Antonia. The first middle name Josepha on Antoine Diderich’s birth record is most likely a mistake. We found many spelling variations of the last names: Diderich, Diederich, and Diederick; and Coucke, Courke, and Koecke. Because no form dominates we decided to use Diderich and Coucke in our narrative.
- Antwerp, Bevolkingsregister 1829-1846, Ward 2, Paardenmarkt 375, Anto. Diederich; digital image, FelixArchief (https://felixarchief.antwerpen.be/archievenoverzichtblok), Archieven van de Stad Antwerpen > Publieke taken > Burgerlijke stand en bevolking > Bevolking > District Antwerpen > Bevolkingsregisters. After 1856 this house was known as 43 Paardenmarkt.
- Antwerp, Province of Antwerp, Belgium, Overlijdensregister 1842, no. 279, Antonius Diederick; digital image, “Belgique, Anvers, registres d’état civil, 1588-1913,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-67K3-C63?cc=2138481&wc=Q82R-TKY%3A1007785401%2C1007894001), Antwerpen > Overlijden 1841-1843 > image 268 of 444. Ettfelt probably refers to Eltville Am Rhein, a town just outside of Mainz, Germany. The population registers consistently list his place of birth as Mainz.
- Antwerp, Province of Antwerp, Belgium, Overlijdensregister 1847, no. 1749, Theresia Coucke; digital image, “Belgique, Anvers, registres d’état civil, 1588-1913,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-XXF9-JZH?cc=2138481&wc=Q82R-TG5%3A1007785401%2C1007897901), Antwerpen > Overlijden 1846-1847 > image 400 of 491. She was likely born in Bruges, the daughter of Franciscus Coucke and Maria Heckerman.
- Antwerp, Overlijdensakten 1877, no. 635, Theresia Isabela Antonia Diederick; digital image, “Belgique, Anvers, registres d’état civil, 1588-1913,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3G3-DFTQ-3T?cc=2138481&wc=Q82R-Y3Q%3A1007785401%2C1007923401), Antwerpen > Overlijden 1876-1878 > image 247 of 819.
- Antwerp, Bevolkingsregister 1829-1846, Ward 1, Kraaiwijk, no. 1616, Antonius Diederich. Also, Antwerp, Bevolkingsregister 1829-1846, Ward 1, Lange Schippers Kappel Straat, no. 1703, Antonius Diederich. Rosalia Diderich. For her birth, see Antwerp, Geboorteregister 1832, no. 179, Rosalia Diderich; digital image, “Belgique, Anvers, registres d’état civil, 1588-1913,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GR8K-HFN?cc=2138481&wc=Q82R-GT9%3A1007785401%2C1007966201), Antwerpen > Geboorten 1831-1832 > image 275 of 480. For her death, see Antwerp, Overlijdensregister 1833, no. 2000, Rosalia Diderich; digital image, “Belgique, Anvers, registres d’état civil, 1588-1913,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3G9-DFTS-V6?cc=2138481&wc=Q82R-Y3S%3A1007785401%2C1007886001), Antwerpen > Overlijden 1833-1834 > image 190 of 416.
- Antwerp, Bevolkingsregister 1815-1829, Ward 1, no. 2369, Ants. Diderich; digital image, FelixArchief (https://felixarchief.antwerpen.be/archievenoverzichtblok). The equivalent post-1856 address is noted in parenthesses. Prior to 1856 the houses in each Antwerp were numbered consecutively. In 1856 the current practice of numbering by street was adopted.
- Antwerp, Bevolkingsregister 1815-1829, Ward 1, no. 332, Antonius Diderich; digital image, FelixArchief.
- Antwerp, Bevolkingsregister 1815-1829, Ward 1, no. 1585, Antonius Diderich; digital image, FelixArchief.
- Antwerp, Bevolkingsregister 1829-1846, Ward 2, no. 375, Anto. Diederich; digital image, FelixArchief.
- Antwerp, Bevolkingsregister 1829-1846, Ward 1, no. 1575, Anto. Diederich; digital image, FelixArchief .
- Antwerp, Bevolkingsregister 1829-1846, Ward 1, no. 1616, Antonius Diederich; digital image, FelixArchief.
- Antwerp, Bevolkingsregister 1829-1846, Ward 1, no. 1703, Antonius Diederich; digital image, FelixArchief.
- Antwerp, Bevolkingsregister 1829-1846, Ward 2, no. 553, Antonius Diderich; digital image, FelixArchief.
- Ibid. Also, Brugge, Belgium, Bevolkingsregister 1829-1846, 57/5 Bidderstraat, Antoine Diderich; digital image, Archiefbank Brugge.
- Brugge, Bevolkingsregister 1829-1846, 20/16 Galgeberg, Antoine Diderich; digital image, Archiefbank Brugge.
- Ibid. Also, Antwerp, Bevolkingsregister 1829-1846, Ward 4, no. 1627, Theresia Coecke; digital image, FelixArchief.
- Antwerp, Bevolkingsregister 1829-1846, Ward 4, no. 1627, Theresia Coecke; digital image, FelixArchief.
- Antwerp, Bevolkingsregister 1829-1846, Ward 4, no. 1785, Theresia Coecke; digital image, FelixArchief. Also, Antwerp, Bevolkingsregister 1846-1856, Ward 4, no. 1785, Thera. Coucke; digital image, Felixarchief.
- Antwerp, Bevolkingsregister 1846-1856, Ward 4, no. 1804, Theresia Coucke; digital image, FelixArchief.
- Antwerp, Bevolkingsregister 1846-1856, Ward 4, no. 1904, Thera. Diederick; digital image, FelixArchief.
- Ibid. Also, Antwerp, Bevolkingsregister 1846-1856, Ward 4, no. 1439, Theresia Diederick; digital image, Felixarchief.
- Antwerp, Bevolkingsregister 1856-1866, Waaistraat 4, Theresia Diederick; digital image, FelixArchief.
- Antwerp, Bevolkingsregister 1856-1866, Korte Ridderstraat 31/3, Theresia Isaba. Antonia Diederich; digital image, FelixArchief . Also, Antwerp, Bevolkingsregister 1866-1880, Korte Ridderstraat 23/7, Theresia Isab. Antonia Diederick; digital image, Felixarchief.
- Antwerp, Bevolkingsregister 1866-1880, Paardenmarkt 80, Isabella Tha. Anta. Diederick; digital image, Felixarchief.
- I browsed the indexes for Antwerp population registers for each ward from 1815 until 1866, and searched the index for the Bruges population registers by several variations of the name.
- I browsed the decennial tables for death records in Antwerp from 1823 until 1910, and in Bruges from 1833 until 1843, at FamilySearch and Het Rijksarchief van België.
- As mentioned earlier, no death record was found for Antonius Diderich in the Antwerp or Bruges civil registration records.