By Henry Hospers
Plans for a move were made as a result of the rapidly increasing population and the ever-rising cost of farmlands in the Dutch colony of Pella so the less fortunate had a hard time to get hold of their own pieces of land. Those who had settled with a family of small children in Pella , saw these children grow up and come to a marriageable age. More and more the need was felt and the desire became more urgent to find a suitable place for a Dutch settlement somewhere in the West.
In 1860 the writer of this piece had to spend a few weeks in St. Joseph , Missouri . He saw there how a great number of wagons with families, cattle, and farm tools crossed the Missouri River daily to look for “homes” in Nebraska ; he heard that all who had the courage to settle on the prairies, found what they had desired so much.
Having come back to Pella he talked with a few about the impressions which he had gained about the migration to the West. Many conferences were held about the possibilities of moving to these parts with a few Dutch families; involved were the Messrs. A.C. Kuyper (former elder of the 1 st Reformed congregation of Pella ); W. Van Asch, W. Sleyster and G.P.H. Zahn, all since deceased. Plans were even made to obtain funds to buy farms, yet these attempts were doomed to failure and the loosely made plans fell through.
Nevertheless, the need for emigration was felt more urgently and the craving for a move became stronger.
Especially in 1867 and 1868 it was Mr. J. Pelmulder (treating the colonization plan with zeal and seriousness) who drew the attention to Western or Northwestern Iowa . He corresponded with land offices, gained much information, and (with Fries determination) kicked the emigration-ball with fresh energy. He indeed may be called the first draftsman of the plan to settle a Dutch colony in Northwestern Iowa .
In Pella meetings were held to discuss the colonization plans from time to time in 1868. These meetings were well attended, and it appeared that a general interest in the matter had been created. A regular organization was formed, and a committee was formed, consisting of four trusted and practical farmers: J. Pelmulder, H. Muilenburg, S.A. Sipma, and J. J. Van der Waa who were delegated to visit the Northwestern part of Iowa , and to investigate whether or not it would be a suitable place for a Dutch colony.
This committee departed in a covered wagon drawn by two mules for the then still-unknown Northwest. They returned after three or four weeks. A meeting was called immediately and the report of the committee was heard with rapt attention and great interest. The committee reported to have found rich and very suitable farm land and they were especially impressed with an area near Cherokee in Iowa .
At this meeting many decisive steps were taken: a list of names were made of persons who wished to move and take land and it was apparent that the wish for the settlement of a new colony was greater than initially expected. If I remember well, 60 heads of family took part. It was decided to send a second committee, authorized to make particular choice and to occupy lands under the present pre0-emption and homestead laws. This committee consisted of Messrs. L. van der Meer, D. van den Bos, H. J. van der Waa and Henry Hospers. The last mentioned would go to the Land Office in Sioux City by train to take cards there and to gain the necessary information, while the first three mentioned would travel to Sioux City with the same faithful mule-team, meet Henry Hospers there, and then explore Northwestern Iowa with a surveyor.
When these four persons met each other in Sioux City , they found that in the area around Cherokee too much land had already been taken. Since they wished to occupy a place for Dutchmen only (an area large enough to settle a large Dutch colony) it was decided not to visit Cherokee, but instead to go view Sioux and Lyon counties, where an abundance of government and railroad lands were still obtainable.
In Sioux City supplies were bought to last them for a stay of about three weeks on the prairies, and the committee departed for Junction City (now LeMars), and further north along the babbling Floyd River to the southern border of Sioux County.
They did not come across roads, houses or trees; there was nothing else but gently-rolling, beautiful, rich, and fat prairie-soil. Without a doubt the unanimous choice of the committee was: THIS IS THE PLACE!
With the map in the hand, and the surveyor's compass as a guide, a few townships were crossed. They looked for and found the government section-corners, and they reserved about thirty sections for those fellow country-men who had signed up for this colonization.
Even the place for future town was chosen. The committee returned to Pella after agreeable, yet tiring, activities, while Henry Hospers stayed at the land office to file the legal papers and sworn statements and to secure the lands in the name of several homesteaders.
Publicity of the choice of this new colony was given by means of Dutch newspapers, and very soon Dutchmen (especially from Wisconsin , but also from other states) were taking part.
In the fall of 1869 about 60 men left for the new colony, to take possession of their 160 acres in order to satisfy the demands of the law.
Henry Hospers (appointed by the legislature as Commissioner of Emigration) visited Holland in the winter of 1869-1870 to represent the state of Iowa , and the new colony in particular, and his mission was crowned with good success.
In 1870 the following families arrived in the new colony: Jelle Pelmulder, H. J. v.d. Waa, L. v.d.Meer, D. v.d.Bosch, W. deHaan, D. v.d.Meer, A. Noteboom, C. Nieuwendorp, L. v.Pelt, D. v.Pelt, D. v.Zanten, W. v.d.Zalm, G. deZeeuw, C. Lakeman, Joh. Klein, A. v.Marel, A. v.d.Meide, widow Beukelman, H. Luymers, M. Verheul, B. v.Zijl, W. v.Rooyen, I. v.Iperen, J. Windhorst, A. Schippers, A. Jansma, J. Muilenburg, P. de Jong, C. Jongewaard, H. Boersma, L. Boersma, K. Wierenga, J. Sipma, J. Logterman, J. Groen, A. Lenderink, Hymen D.Hartog, J. Sinnema, S. Pool, Ulbe Wynia, J. v.Wijk, P. Dieleman, J. Brinks, Arie deRaad, T. Heemstra, J. Fenneman, D. de Ruysch, Adr. V.d.Berge, J. v.d.Meer, W. Rijsdam, G. Rijsdam, A. Werkhoven, O. de Jong, G. v.d. Steeg, H. Pas, T. Brouwer, Rijn Talsma, G. Beyer, J. Gorter, K. de Jong, Iepe v.d. Ploeg, P. v.Horsen, A. Versteeg.
If I have forgotten any names inadvertently, I beg forgiveness.
The land was cleared; simple houses (generally sodhuts) were built; a good frame schoolhouse was erected; and a store was opened in the little town of Orange City .
The people were glad, thankful and satisfied.