of the Stefanshof
The Stefanshof hamlet
Built at the beginning of the 20th century
The Stefanshof hamlet , which features just five houses and the smallest graveyard in Belgium, is located between Schoppen, Faymonville, Ondenval and Iveldingen, near Rohrbusch. It is located within territory belonging to Schoppen village, making it part of the municipality of Amel.
The settlement was only established at the beginning of the 20th century, although old records make a number of references to an earlier settlement in the area.
A family home
The settlement was only established at the beginning of the 20th century, although old records make a number of references to an earlier settlement in the area. The first member of the Mathonet family and after whom the farm was named, Henri Etienne Mathonet (1849–1910), initially only used the land to herd sheep from time to time. It was probably his wife Marie Thérèse Dethier (1852–1940) who built the hamlet’s first residential house and lived there with her children around 1918.
Additional stables were constructed in 1921. Alongside the widow Mathonet, her unmarried sister Marie Anne Dethier and the widow’s adult children Joseph, Adèle and Léon also lived in the house in the 1920s.
Stefanshof’s period of change
Gradually, the family constructed further residential buildings on the Stefanshof grounds.
At the outbreak of World War 2 in 1939, five families were living on the farm, and the site proved to be of strategic importance for the German army. In 1944, for example, not only did the Peiper SS fighting force pass through the farm during its advance towards Ondenval and Ligneuville, but the farm also served as a garrison for troops. During the Christmas period, there were around 300 soldiers at the farm, which served as a battalion dressing station and housed a team of radio operators and a Nebelwerfer rocket launcher. German troops held the high ground until 17 January 1945, when it was captured by American soldiers.
A place of honour
The smallest graveyard in Belgium
While the Battle of the Bulge was still raging in Ardennes, 56-year-old Adèle Mathonet died in January 1945, but the ongoing fighting meant that she could not be buried in the Ondenval graveyard beside her forefathers. German soldiers prepared a grave for her in the immediate vicinity of the house, thereby laying the foundations for what is arguably the smallest graveyard in Belgium.
Shortly after the fighting ended, the unmarried Marie Anne Dethier also died at the age of almost 90 and was buried at the same site. Unlike other graveyards in the municipality, the resting place of the Mathonet family is privately owned and today contains seven graves. We also continue to pay our respects to the site to this day.
Rebuilt by the Heck family
Connecting to the modern world
While Stefanshof was completely isolated from the surrounding communities until the end of the war, it was eventually connected to the electricity grid in 1951. It was not until 1977 that the farm was connected to the public water supply. The number of inhabitants gradually decreased, however, as no new families moved in.
When the last resident of Stefanshof, Paul Mathonet, died in 2011 at the age of 84, numerous Belgian media outlets reported on it. Completely uninhabited, the walls of the hamlet fell into disrepair over the years and were only rebuilt once the Heck family acquired it.