HOLLANDERS OF IOWA
JACOB VAN DER ZEE
Submitted by Gayle Harper
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MARION COUNTY AND ITS FARMS IN 1847
THE Hollanders found that the claims and government lands which their leader, Scholte, had purchased lay in the northeastern corner of Marion County in Jefferson and Lake Prairie townships. From the highest point they beheld a vast expanse of undulating prairie covered with long wiry grass and wild flowers, dotted here and there with little groves of native timber, sloping gently toward the dark and heavily timbered valleys of two large rivers, the Skunk and the Des Moines, which flowed southeastward and parallel about ten miles apart. Under a clear sky the landscape extended for many miles in every direction. Then too were visible some of the crude log cabins and other little buildings of the widely-scattered homesteads of American pioneers, and small fields of Indian corn and other grain enclosed in the picturesque, zigzag rail fences of that primitive day.(66)
Marion County lay in a vast stretch of country which had been ceded by the Indians to the United States government in 1.542. This immense area, known as "The New Purchase", was not thrown open to homeseekers until May 1, 1843, after the Indians had in silence once more vanished further to the westward. On the 10th. of June, 1845, Marion County was established; and though it constituted one of the fairest portions of the Territory of Iowa in April, 1846, it could claim a population of not more than fifteen hundred souls. Its only considerable town was Knoxville, the seat of justice.(67)
In 1847 Iowa City was the State capital, while Fort Des Moines, the future seat of government, had but recently been evacuated by United States Dragoons. The Hollanders had come, therefore, to live upon the outskirts of civilization at a time when the vanguard of hardy pioneers advancing to conquer the great American West had just reached and occupied the central portion of the State of Iowa.(68)
Here upon the western American frontier Scholte secured the title to eighteen thousand acres of excellent land, a very small part of which consisted of the scattered farms of the original settlers, and the remainder of government land, much of which was covered by warrants issued to veterans of the Mexican War as remuneration or reward for military service. A wealthy citizen of Keokuk aided Scholte in buying up these land-warrants for one hundred and sixty acres at from $80 to $100 apiece. Other government land was purchased at $1.25 per acre.(69)
When Scholte and his colleagues visited Marion County to investigate its possibilities, they had only limited authority from the association and insufficient association funds. Scholte, however, did not hesitate to act upon his own responsibility. He purchased not only government lands and the farms, but also crops, stock, and other personal property, being glad to supply from his own purse the necessary money for that purpose because he perceived "the excellent quality and exceptional fertility of the soil and the facility of cultivation ".(70)
Scholte took precautions to make his payments of money directly to the United States government in order to be assured of the title to the claims. Thus he insured himself against deceitful speculators. Of course he paid the original settlers, who numbered about thirty, what they demanded as a reasonable return for their improvements on the land. From the amount of purchase-money and the government price he was able to calculate how much the land would cost per acre and what each subscriber's share would be. Lots were drawn to fix the order of landowners and the numbers of the sections to which each owner was to be assigned, whereupon a surveyor could proceed to measure off the areas for which the members of the association had subscribed in Holland.(71) Such were some of the steps preliminary to the realization of Dutch community life in Iowa.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
(66) Scholte's Eene Stem nut Pella, pp. 20, 21.
(67) Newhall's A Glimpse of Iowa in 1846, pp. 40, 44; and Garver's Boundary History of Iowa Counties in The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. VII, pp. 73-75.
(68) Newhall's A Glimpse o f Iowa in 1846, pp. 46-48.
(69) In Nollen's De Afscheiding, p. 52, the number of acres is placed at 18,000, based on county records. In the History of Marion County, Iowa, pp. 331-334, there is a list of land sales for the year 1847, and Hendrik Peter Scholte and John A. Graham are credited with the purchase of most of the land in two townships. They could obtain land only in the even-numbered sections because the odd-numbered sections had been appropriated for Des Moines River Improvement in 1846 and were not yet on the market.
(70) See Scholte's Eene Stem uit Pella, pp. 19, 29. Nollen in De Afscheiding, p. 52, says of Scholte: "Because he lacked a competent bookkeeper, this was the beginning of financial difficulties, which afterward led to much friction."
(71) Scholte's Eene Stem uit Pella, p. 29. This pamphlet contains a map which indicates the location of the farms which Scholte bought from the original settlers.
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