HOLLANDERS OF IOWA
JACOB VAN DER ZEE
Submitted by Gayle Harper
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ENCOURAGEMENT OF DUTCH IMMIGRATION BY THE STATE
IT Is a fact peculiar to later American history that most western States have taken a more or less active part in promoting immigration to land within their borders. Legislatures have repeatedly provided for the machinery necessary to advertise the resources of their respective States in order to enhance local prosperity by inducing homeseekers to invest their capital and lives in unused lands. Except for a few years the State of Iowa seems never to have taken a keen interest in the dissemination of printed information relative to its excellent natural advantages. Only once was provision made for the circulation of advertising material in foreign countries, and yet Iowa could not complain that her lands were too slowly occupied by settlers, whether from the eastern States or from Europe.
The bulk of the population of Iowa in 1880 was American-born. About one-half of the inhabitants were born within the State, while the other half consisted chiefly of natives of Ohio, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Virginia, and Kentucky. Foreign-born inhabitants composed about one-fifth of the entire population. These facts are cited to show that Iowa was probably content with the immigration of native Americans and probably preferred not to enter into competition with other States for the attention of foreigners.
Although Iowa as a State failed to encourage immigration, other agencies such as railroad corporations, land companies, and speculators more than did their part to advertise the State; but the operations of these agencies were restricted as a rule to the United States and English-speaking countries, where they were largely successful. During the years of the Territorial period and the early years of Statehood the promotion of immigration was left entirely to private enterprise.
Chief among the factors which attracted the attention of Hollanders to Iowa were two pamphlets written by Scholte, the founder of the Pella colony. That these interesting but true accounts of Pella were widely sold and read in Holland can .not be said with certainty, but prospective Dutch emigrants who were at all interested in Scholte's leadership of the Separatist movement in Holland must have eagerly looked for his letters. Pella colonists also reported their experiences to friends and relatives in Holland, and no doubt urged many to emigrate to. Iowa. For instance, Sjoerd Aukes Sipma had his "Important Reports from Pella" published at Dokkiun, Friesland, in 1849.
The Dutch booklet on Iowa and Pella, published in 1858, must also have exerted considerable influence on the emigration movement in Holland, though the writer denied any intention to make Iowa appear preferable to any other part of the United States. "No, people of Holland," he declared, "Pella need not offer the slightest inducement to lure you within her borders. Year after year a respectable host of Hollanders as well as Americans enters unsummoned and uninvited, and all without the usual advertisements generally scattered around America by land speculators and others. Unlike her sister colonies in Michigan and Wisconsin, Pella has no agents in New York and other ports to attract emigrants by means of fine-sounding descriptions. . . . The man who is interested in land has only to consider how land has risen in value here; the laborer, how many hands are busy here; yet this does not mean that both can not still find work with profit."
The "Gelderschman" who published his letters in 1858 declared to the people of Holland that much opportunity still existed for the establishment of other Dutch colonies in northeastern and northwestern Iowa, where the State was less thickly populated than in Marion County. He suggested that an association be formed in Holland to arrange with trustworthy persons in Iowa or Pella as to the place of settlement. "Pella acquaintances could be of the greatest use", he said, "since they are thoroughly familiar with the best way to establish such a colony and select the finest lands, and also know where government land can still be secured." For such a settlement the best prospects were opened. The appeal, however, went unheeded for it proved to be premature.(106)
In 1856 the Iowa House of Representatives adopted a resolution, not without Republican opposition, that five hundred copies of Governor Grimes's biennial message be printed "in the Holland language for the use of the House". In 1858, several thousand copies of the Governor's message and of the inaugural address were .ordered printed in the English language, about two thousand in the German language, and five hundred in the Dutch language, while the Norwegian language was slighted. In 1860 also, and biennially thereafter until 1870, one thousand copies of the Governor's message and address were ordered to be printed in Dutch. A further resolution was passed to the effect that "H. P. Scholte be employed to translate and superintend the printing"; while one month later the same house resolved that Scholte be required to report "whether he has translated said message, and printed the same, and if so, why they are not placed upon the members' desks for distribution."
Though these messages and inaugural addresses of the Governors were printed. ostensibly for the use of the legislators themselves, they were intended primarily for gratuitous distribution among the Dutch inhabitants of the State and for further circulation in other Dutch-speaking communities. For example, in 1862 Henry Hospers was employed to translate the Governor's message for "publication in the Holland paper at Pella, provided it can be done at an expense not to exceed $25." Thus the Governor's resume of conditions in Iowa could be widely scattered and brought to the knowledge of foreigners at home and abroad, but the profit therefrom can not have been far-reaching as a means of promoting immigration.(107)
During the first three or four decades in the history of Iowa the State made a poor showing in the matter of attracting immigrants from foreign countries when compared with other western States. In Wisconsin laws had been passed authorizing the appointment of a commissioner of immigration to reside in the city of New York for the purpose of giving immigrants necessary information relative to soil, climate, and branches of industry to be pursued with advantage, and to protect immigrants as far as practicable against the impositions often practiced upon them.
As early as 1852 and 1854 Governor Stephen Hempstead
urged the legislature of Iowa to adopt Wisconsin's attitude towards
foreigners who might wish to become citizens of Iowa. He deplored the fact
that some Americans perceived danger in foreign immigration, declaring:
"They are generally industrious - purchase, settle upon and improve
our lands, rear their homes, educate their children with ours, become
attached to our laws and institutions, and assist in the defence of the
country in times of
Not until 1860, while Samuel J. Kirkwood sat in the Governor's chair, however, did the State of Iowa give its official sanction to the appointment of an officer to reside for two years at New York City and thus compete with other western States. At the end of his term, Lieutenant-Governor Rusch, the first Immigrant Commissioner of Iowa, urged in his report, which was accepted, that his office be discontinued because it was of no advantage to the State. He had learned that most immigrants bad selected their points of destination before landing at New York, and in his opinion, the only way to inform foreigners of the resources of Iowa was to reach them before they left Europe. He called attention to the good results obtained by emigrant companies and by the Illinois Central Railroad Company through agents in Europe, without expense to the State of Illinois. He added, furthermore, that foreigners needed no State commissioners to protect them from fraud because the New York State authorities had found impositions and robberies so numerous and unbearable that a landing-place for all aliens had been established at Castle Garden, and from this landing all agents and runners were strictly excluded.(109)
In his biennial message of 1870 Governor Merrill recommended that something be done to diffuse information relative to Iowa in foreign countries, as neighboring States bad systematically and successfully done for many years. A Board of Immigration of six members, two of whom, E. Mumm of Keokuk and C. Rhynsburger of Pella, were Hollanders, was accordingly created "to do all, and everything, which may and will enhance and encourage immigration" to Iowa. This board through its secretary prepared a pamphlet of ninety-six pages entitled "Iowa: The Home for Immigrants", which was translated into the German, Danish, Dutch, and Swedish languages. Five thousand copies were printed in Dutch.
The board commissioned five men to act as agents in Europe - among them Henry Hospers, Mayor of Pella. The latter went to Holland late in the year 1870, and for over two months put forth his best efforts to aid, promote, and advise immigration to the State of Iowa. When he returned to America, the board appointed a reliable resident agent in Holland to distribute documents and promote the welfare of emigrants generally. Thus for the first time Iowa was competing on equal terms with her sister States for a share of European emigration.(110)
NOTES AND REFERENCES
(106) De Hollanders in Iowa, pp. 166, 167; and Buddingh's De Hervormde Hollandsche Kerk in de Vereenigde Staten van Noord-Amerika, p. 159.
(107) House Journal, 1856, p. 25; 1858, pp. 32, 62; 1860, pp. 68, 69, 75, 77, 266, 418; 1862, pp. 35, 50, 76; 1864, p. 60; 1866, p. 30; and 1868, pp. 39, 146, 324. See also The Pella Gazette, December 18, 1856, and March 11, 1858, where the editor urges that "the State Printer be hurried up a little."
(108) Shambaugh's Messages and Proclamations of the Governors o f Iowa, Vol. I, pp. 430, 459.
(109) Legislative Documents
(Iowa), 1861-62; and Laws of Iowa, 1860, p. 60.
(110) Shambaugh's Messages and Proclamations of the Governors o f Iowa, Vol. III, p. 303; Laws of Iowa, 1870, p. 33; and Legislative Documents (Iowa), 1.872, No. 27.
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