The Beijen/Beyen Family Site
by Laurens Beijen
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The Jan Thomas branch of the IJsselstein family

The tombstone of Gerrit Beijen

One of those graves that are situated behind the Dutch Reformed church in Bodegraven has a tombstone with a striking text. The translation is:
FEBRUARY 27, 1826
FEBRUARY 11, 1884
The great question for him was always this
How will it be for me after death
What has been thought, said, written
It always remained a mystery for him

Gerrit Beijen (11.21), who has been buried here, was a son of Gerrit Beijen (10.9) and a grandson of Jan Thomas Beijen (9.2), the central character of the Jan Thomas branch. Gerrit was a rich farmer, who remained a bachelor during his whole life. His philosophical streak is shown by the many poems that he has left. Some of the poems can still be found on the walls in the farm in Stein near Gouda where he has lived. Other poems are kept by family members.

In 1881 Gerrit made his will in which he laid down in great detail what should be done after his death. One of his desires was to be buried in Bodegraven, the town where he was born. He described exactly the text that had to be put on his tombstone.
He also left a bequest of 1500 guilders (in that time a considerable sum) to the civil welfare work of Bodegraven, that was represented by the local authorities. On the other hand the tombstone had to be maintained by the municipality "to all eternity, clearly legible, under supervision of my brethren or their offspring always called Beijen, until the furthest future". The part of the interest that was not necessary for the maintenance had to be distributed every year on February 27, Gerrit's birthday, among the "General Poor" of Bodegraven.

After Gerrit's death in 1884 the local council of Bodegraven accepted the bequest and the accompanying conditions. The distribution of foods to poor families continued till about 1967. After that year the money was added to the budget for the yearly day out of the elderly inhabitants of Bodegraven.
The liability for the maintenance of the tombstone was however fallen into oblivion. For decades nothing was done to the stone. As a consequence the text was hardly legible.
In August 1999 I found Gerrit's will in the regional archives in Woerden. According to the will I am, as a great-great-grandson of one of Gerrit's brothers, one of the people who have the supervision on the maintenance. Therefore I asked the municipality of Bodegraven to restore this unique historical monument.
The municipality responded in a good way to the request. In November 1999 the tombstone was cleaned and the text was made good legible. The photo at the top of this page, that was made in 2002, shows that the stone was by then in a good condition.

However, in later years the condition of the tombstone has declined again. The photo on the left, that was made in November 2011, shows that the tombstone was very dirty by then. Once again the text was hardly legible. After a new request to the municipality the stone was cleaned and the letters were painted black. The photo on the right, that was made on a rainy day in June 2012, shows that the text was then well legible again.

However, maintenance is still necessary. The photo above on the left, taken in October 2019, shows that the tombstone was largely overgrown at that time. After that, maintenance was performed a few times. The photo on the right was taken in April 2023 after a major renovation of the old cemetery that was carried out at the insistence of the 'Stichting Historische Kring Bodegraven' (thanks to Leendert Spijker from Bodegraven for the signals).

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