Sophia Lodewick-Severyns


August 18, 1856 - June 2, 1920

Written by:  Peter Von Brabant

Sophia Severijns was one of the four children of     Pierre Jean Hubert  Severijns and Catharina Haumont. She was born on August 18th, 1856. In 1882 she married Lambert Joseph Lodewick.

Lambert Lodewick was a merchant. He was born in 1856 in Maastricht. His parents were bargemen. They were transporting wood, coal and lime. As a young boy, Lambert had to help dragging the ship along the canal. This is how his ship also passed by Lanklaar and how he got acquainted wit Sophia Severijns. After their marriage Lambert and
Sophia lived first in Meeswijk and later they settled back in Lanklaar.

One of Sophia's brothers was Joseph Severijns. He was the first one of the Haumont and Severijns families to emigrate to America around 1872. In 1875, her other brother Thomas and her sister Mina also emigrated to the US. Thomas however returned in 1887 to Lanklaar and took there the position of town clerk. This appointment resulted in a lot of commotion in Lanklaar. Thomas Severijns lived in the pub 'The Old Bridge' right opposite of the bridge-man's house at the other side of the canal. Apart from the pub, he also had a business to trade in coal. Actually this trade was a subsidiary of Henri Brüll's business in Tongeren. Henri Brüll was the husband of his niece Julie Haumont.

Thomas Severijns kept the position of town-clerk of Lanklaar until May 1919 when he returned to Nebraska (US). He died there in 1920.

Lambert and Sophie had 3 children: Lucien, Trinette and Jeanne. In Lanklaar, people knew them as 'diej van Lodewix' or 'diej van Luchke'. Everybody in the village knew who was meant by Lodewix, because there was only one surname like that in Lanklaar. Later also Isabelle Lodewick lived in Lanklaar after she married to her cousin Lucien. Like her uncle she also grew up in Maastricht. After her marriage to Lucien she took up her abode in the house in the Village Street in Lanklaar. In Maastricht, the Lodewick's were a prominent family and they owned the tile factory 'Maison Lodewick'.

Lambert Lodewick was not an easy person. There is the story-that he was drunk, took the food of the children and threw it outside on a dunghill and then he would send the children without any food to bed. He was a real tippler and of course that resulted in a lot of tensions in the family.

Finally the situation deteriorated so badly that in the summer of 1886 Sophie Severijns fled away from Belgium to her family in the United States. She and her little children Lucien (3 years old) and her daughter (Trinette)  took the ship SS Noordland and arrived in New York in August.  (Click here to view original passenger list) sophie and two children are last 3 entries.
But soon after Sophie Severijns came to the US, her husband arrived there too. According to Mina Severijns' diary this happened in September 1886. In the US they reconciled and subsequently (most likely in April 1887), they returned to Belgium. In 1890, there was another visit to their family in the US. It was then that Sophie got pregnant with her 2nd daughter, Jeanne. On March 20th 1891, Sophie gave birth to her daughter in Meeswijk. Pretty soon however, Lambert Lodewick started again beating and stamping his wife Sophie. Later Sophie told about this: 'He killed more children in my belly than the number of children that were born alive'.
Finally there was a divorce between Sophie Severijns and Lambert Lodewick. At the
court Sophie Severijns declared: 'je ne veux que ma liberte et mes enfants nus' ('I want nothing more than my freedom and my naked children').

Afterwards Lambert Lodewick
gave the Sunday dresses of his children to his work- people.
When Sophie was finally free and away from her husband, she often said: " I left the largest house of Lanklaar,
and now I live in the smallest house, but I'm free! And every morning  I open my door and I think again I'm free!"                                                  

Soon after the birth of Jeanne, Sophie moves her 3 children 2 rooms in a white farm in the treet called 'Broekhofstraat' along a creek with the name Vrietselbeck.  Later she moves the 'Rue de Village or in Dutch Dorpsstraat, and there she spened a grocery shop close to the canal (the house with the name SEVERlJNS in the picture).
During the first year she only sold food products. The coffee was roasted at that place and the smell outside was delicious Later the shop also sold china and it gave the family Lodewick-Severijns a very wealthy living.  Bargemen that moored at the swing-bridge made their purchases there. In 1904, she founded the dairy  'Saint-Gerardus'.
Originally the dairy consisted of 2 cows. But later the business grew. Apart from milk they also produced and sold butter under the name 'La Beurre de Lanklaer'. Also the other farmers of the neighbourhood sold their milk to the family Lodewick to make butter. The name 'Saint Gerardus' was chosen because the holy Gerardus Majella was worshipped in the church of Lanklaar and every month a pilgrimage organized to the church.

Because Sophia lived separated from her husband Lambert (and that was very unusual in those years), the local priest very often interfered with the situation. And on a certain moment they simply turned him out into the street. From that moment onwards the family did not want to have anything to do anymore with the priests and their church. They also showed their opinion very clear in the village and because of that people looked at them as a little bit odd.

On December 23, 1901 five French religious sisters arrived in Lanklaar. They converted the manor-house of an old brewery into a convent Starting on December 30th of that same year 1901, they were responsible for the education of the girls in Lanklaar.
The convent was too large for just 5 sisters so they decided to hire out some rooms on the first floor. One of these rooms was rented by Lambert Lodewick when he came back to Lanklaar in 1910. He did not really have a shelter since he was divorced from his wife. Originally the sisters did not allow a man to enter the convent (apart from the priest of course). But because they felt pity for Mr.Lodewick, they did let him a room. "A room in a convent close to his family would bring repentance".  "His wife and children lived in the same street and if he would see them regularly, then the marriage could perhaps still be saved". That's what the sisters believed. On the other hand, they could use some help in the convent.  The sister-farmer was ill and could not handle her day's work. Mr.Lodewick was a merchant but he also knew how to milk a cow. One sister did not agree to let the room, but because Mother Superior and the three other sisters approved the plan, she accepted the decision of the majority. Yet she did not trust the thing. She already heard that Mr. Lodewick drank a lot and that he was a protestant. The man never went to church and in the month of May he never prayed the rosary. On the last day of the month of May, Lodewick did not show up at breakfast Because the door of his room was locked, the sisters could not enter. So after breakfast they went again to his room on the first floor and knocked on the door. From time to time they heard a noise. And then Lodewick clearly said: 'Leave me alone'.
Because the sisters had the suspicion that Mr. Lodewick was ill, they also wrote a letter to Sophie Severijns to beg her to visit her husband a last time. She did not come to the convent herself, but she did send the children. Jeanne remembered that visit:  she had a chocolate bar to eat and her father took it away from her. That was the remembrance that she had of perhaps the only visit that she once paid to her father.

The sisters then called for the priest and when he knocked on the door. Lodewick refused to open the door. The priest said: 'Mister Lodewick, I want to hear your confession and I want to administer you the last sacraments'. 'Never!' he mumbled.
Then it was quiet in the room for the rest of the day. When the sisters still did not hear anything the next morning after their morning prayers, they all decided to go and look in his room. First they just knocked on the door and they called his name, but nobody answered. Then they looked through the keyhole. They saw some clothes on a chair but the curtains were also closed. Then they thought something serious could have happened and therefore they decided break open the door. To their surprise they found Mr. Lodewick dead in his bed. He died on June 10th 1910.

One of the sisters, the one that never agreed to bring Mr. Lodewick in the convent, couldn't cope with it any longer. The night before Mr. Lodewick died, she dreamt the devil came to get him. And during the night, she woke up because she heard the noise of chains. Also the sister-farmer who was ill in bed and did not hear about the incident yet, heard the sound of the chains that night.
During the following nights two sisters clearly heard the noise of tinkling chains. They heard the noise on the attic-floor, but sometimes also on the aisle of the first floor. They could hear the chains passing the doors of the bedrooms of the sisters. The three other sisters did not believe the story of their fellow sisters, but yet they were afraid. No one was allowed to talk with anybody in the village about the incident. Because after all, every day some fifty children visited the school, and if the story of the chains was known in the village, then it might well be possible that parents would no longer send their children to the school. "Every night is boisterous", said one sister and she prayed day and night that she would no longer hear that noise. But whatever she prayed, every night again she heard the noise of inkling chains in her ears. When she then told the story to the sister-farmer, the sister was shaking with fear in her bed She also heard the noise. The sister had the idea that the ghost of the godless Lodewick was haunting in the convent and hiding somewhere. In July of that year also the sister-farmer deceased suddenly. She died in a night where another sister again heard the tinkling chains. During that night, she looked outside of the window and saw a black shape wandering on the playground. She recognized Lambert Lodewick in the black shape. From that moment she was sure that
his ghost was wandering around in the convent. "We should never have taken that man in our house", she stated at lunch at the table. 'He is following us and he will never give us peace again'.

The sisters are praying now every evening that the ghost would disappear. In December of 1910, a room in the convent is converted into a new chapel. In the summer of 1912, a sister again hears the sound of chains during the night. Almost every evening she looks through the window to the playground an regularly she sees the black shape. During months the sister is tormented by the story of the ghost and she often has nightmares about it. Also the other sisters live in tension. They pray a lot that the shape would disappear, but they continue to see it on the playground, a shape that is so similar to figure of Mr. Lodewick.
The sisters finally decide to cast out the ghost. Three nights in a row a priest is coming to cast out the devil from the convent, but there is no result. The higher religious authorities are informed and now the whole village knows that there is a haunting in the convent. Members of the shooting association decide to stand guard during some days. But when the sisters find them drunk on a bench in the morning, then it was not necessary any more. So on December 17th 1912, Mother Superior decides that the only means of casting out the ghost is to demolish and pull down the whole convent. The religious Order will provide for the money to build a new convent. The official message will be that the existing convent no longer satisfies the need of the community and that the building is dilapidated.
The two other tenants that are renting a room in the convent are asked to look for another place to live. Initially they are refusing, so that the sisters even have to start a court procedure to get them out of the building. Only when the justice of the peace decided on the case, the tenants left the convent.

On April 1st, 1913, after Mass, they started to pull down the convent. The sisters stayed for another week in a separate back part of the building. But because of danger of collapsing, the contractor built a little temporary wooden barrack next to the classrooms as a dayroom. Because the life in this barrack was not very comfortable, the opposite neighbour Mr. Martin proposed to the sister to use his house during the nights. On May 29th, 1913, they laid the foundation stone of the new convent. On December 1st of the same year, the sisters moved in the new building. From then onward, the ghost of Mr. Lodewick was never again seen on the playground.

Jeanne Lodewick, the daughter of Sophia Severijns and Lambert Lodewick once said: "My father drunk himself to death and because of that we always had to work very hard. There was no time to even look at boys." Despite that fact the her parents were divorced, she never allowed people to spread negative rumours about her family."

The family Lodewick-Severijns was already made their fortune before World War I, Martin Opdenakker (1813-1953) was a labourer of' Luchke' (the nickname of Lucien Lodewick) before World War I. When 'Luchke' did not need him, then Thomas Severijns asked him to assist somewhere. He was asked to unload ships and load coal.
       Lucien Lodewick
Of course the family Severijns expected him to buy from time to time something in the store of Sophia. But that was not really a problem for Martin because he was also a small farmer at home. So he bought his fertilizers, spices and linen in their shop.

The shop was quite large in those years. If Sophie was not present in the shop then her daughter, Trinette, could be found there.       

Another servant of Luchke was Bert  Coenen. For the hard work of loading and unloading the ships, Bert received a salary of one 
Belgian Franc per day, but that was in 1920. After 1920, Guillaume Rutten (1895 1896) was a labourer of Luchke. He was even living in as as member of the household. Much later this Guillaume Rutten was senator in the BelgIan Parliament and in the village of Stokkem a street was named after him. He told that on the occasion of his marriage he received a vase as a gift from Sophia.
Then there is also this story of the cow of Sophia Severijns.
click to view larger image
It was written down in a little notebook of 'Ties de Qard' (nickname of rural constable Mathijs Hoeven):
Severijns Sophia a cow pro justitia.
That this cow, belonging to Severijns Sophia, old 63 year, shopkeeper and farmer by profession. That this above-mentioned cow was at pasture in a meadow belonging to Swartenbroeckx Joseph, post master in Lanklaer.
As this grass will be used as hay, I made a report of the offence on the day, month and year that justice will be made. Aforesaid report at charge of the.. May 31st, 1920 at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Made up on June 2nd, 1920.

Sophie Severijns died on May 27th, 1936 and is buried on the old cemetary of Lanklaar. Souvenir Pieux

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