HOLLANDERS OF IOWA
JACOB VAN DER ZEE
Submitted by Gayle Harper
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DUTCH IMMIGRATION AFTER 1664
IT IS common knowledge that during the colonial period the English-speaking population of America was constantly reinforced by fresh accessions of people from the British Isles, and that to-day the American nation is dominated by Anglo-Saxon influences. Equally worthy of note is the fact that, although for over a century and a half after the English conquest of New Netherland the immigration of Hollanders from Europe had practically ceased, at least so far as the number of arrivals can be ascertained, the eight or ten thousand Dutch colonists of 1664 nevertheless throve and flourished in the valleys of the Hudson and the Mohawk rivers in New York and in northern New Jersey and Delaware. There the seeds of a Dutch population took firm root and grew vigorously, as is shown by the history of the one important institution which the United States has inherited from New Netherland - the Dutch Reformed Church.(16)
The influence of Dutch ideas as exemplified by the continuity of the Reformed Church has never been absent in those eastern States where the-Dutch originally settled. As a matter of fact the American descendants of the original Dutch settlers have shown that they are tenacious of the customs and ideals which their church organization and home life have preserved and handed down to them. This more than anything else disproves the assertion that early Dutch colonization was but an episode or an event of trifling importance in American colonial history.(17)
Probably no better light can be shed upon the growth of the Dutch element in the United States than that which comes from the history of the Dutch Reformed Church - though of course it would smack of presumption to infer that all descendants of the early Dutch have maintained the church connection of their fathers, or that all Dutch immigrants to America have united with the church. Bearing in mind the fact that Hollanders are endowed with a strong feeling of national pride and are pretty generally partial, to ancestral ways and beliefs, it is natural to assume that wherever the Dutch have come together to live they have retained their national institutions, traits, and traditions whenever practicable.
When English domination began in New Netherland there were eleven Dutch churches: four on Long Island at Midwout (Flatbush), Amersfoort (Flatlands), Breuckelen (Brooklyn), and Gravesend; one at Bergen, New Jersey; one at New Amstel (New Castle), Delaware; and five in New York at Manhattan or New Amsterdam, Fort Orange (Albany), Esopus (Kingston), Haarlem, and Bushwyck. Despite the amalgamation of Dutch and English which ensued, the Hollanders remained predominant in the population of New York and continued to speak their native language in the Reformed Church for almost one hundred years; while the Church itself, depending to a large extent upon the state church of Holland, looked in that direction for its ministers until 1772 when national ties were finally broken.(18)
For many years after 1664 the Dutch carried on a successful struggle in New York for the preservation of their religious liberty and church organization, and owing to the oppressions of English governors many emigrated and formed congregations in the valleys of the Raritan and the Millstone in northern New Jersey, a region which on account of its spiritual prosperity has come to be known as "the Garden of the Dutch Church". Here the people afterwards established a college and a theological seminary. At the end of their prolonged fight against the attempt to foist the Anglican Church establishment upon them, the Dutch could boast of an increase from eleven churches in 1664 to thirty-four in 1708.(19)
From such feeble beginnings in 1664 under particularly trying conditions, although the political institutions and language of the Dutch were in course of time almost entirely wiped out and supplanted by those of the English, the Dutch Reformed Church in America developed and prospered until by the year 1840 it comprised a membership of several hundred churches in the States of New York and New Jersey; while a few scattered congregations existed in Pennsylvania, whither a stream of emigration from New Jersey had started towards the close of the eighteenth century. Descendants of Dutch ancestors took a prominent part in the westward movement which set in after the close of the Revolutionary War. They were among the pioneers of western New York and of Kentucky, whence it is said "as from a hive, colonies swarmed off into southern Ohio and Indiana." Indeed, the names of Dutch pioneers can be found throughout the American West. At the same time it would be quite impossible to determine the number of descendants of the original Dutch colonists of New Netherland.(20)
There may have been a slight movement of people from Holland immediately after the peace treaty of 1783, but there is no government record of immigration prior to 1821. Conjecture places the number of immigrants to the United States before 1820 at about 4000 annually, and of these the Hollanders can not have counted more than a small fraction. Statistics indicate that for the first two decades of the record only 2500 Hollanders arrived at American ports, but f or the years 1841-1902 inclusive The Netherlands contributed more than 135,000 immigrants to the population of the United States.(21) To be sure, this is a small percentage of the 20,000,000 foreigners who sought American shores; but the Hollanders and their descendants have been a desirable and welcome factor in promoting the development and prosperity of the country.
During the more recent years the Hollanders have formed large communities in the upper Mississippi Valley - chiefly in Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin - though thousands have found homes also in New York and New Jersey. Census returns for 1900 gave these seven States the largest number of foreign-born Dutch, though every State and Territory in the Union contained some Hollanders in its population.(22)
Other indexes suggestive of the numerical strength of the Hollanders in various States of the Union are recent church year-books. While the number of foreign-born Dutch in New York and New Jersey is comparatively small, it appears that of nearly 700 congregations of the Reformed Church in America the former State has over 300, and the latter 125. Then follow Michigan with 62, Iowa with 50, Illinois with 33, South Dakota with 20, Wisconsin with 15, Minnesota with 11, and Pennsylvania with 10. Kansas, North Dakota, Nebraska, Montana, Colorado, Washington, Ohio, Indiana, South Carolina, and Maine have a few churches each. Furthermore, there are about 200 congregations of another denomination, the Christian Reformed Church, planted for the most part in the western States and therefore more solidly Dutch than the Reformed Church congregations, whose membership, in the East especially, consists by no means exclusively of Hollanders.(23)
NOTES AND REFERENCES
Griffis in The Story of New Netherland, p. 48, believes the history
of the Reformed Church in America to be all-important "because the
highest Dutch social life was closely associated with the Church, and was
from the first found in its largest and fullest form in the congregations.
The Church nourished a spirit of democracy, besides maintaining the
schools and culture after the English conquered New Netherland and the
royal governors abolished the public schools. . . . The Reformed Dutch
Church was the seedbed for the sprouting of American and Continental, as
opposed to aristocratic British notions. The language, customs,
traditions, and best inheritances of Patria lingered longest, and are
to-day found most notably in the Reformed churches in the East and West
off our country. When New Netherland ceased to be, the Dutch Church and
people still remained a potent element in the making of the American man
and the world's grandest political structure."
(17) Low's The American People, pp. 378, 379.
(18) Corwin's Manual, pp. 4.2-44, 116, 126, 131; and Griffis' The Story of New Netherland, pp. 249, 251.
(19) Corwin's Manual, pp. 45-47, 99,143, 162.
Corwin's Manual, pp. 1073-1082, where can be found a chronological
list of the congregations of the Reformed Church in America, 1628-1902.
See also Griffis' The Story of New Netherland, p. 265.
(21) United States Summary of Commerce and Finance, June, 1903, p. 4339. The exact figures on Dutch immigration by decades are as follows: 1841-1850 -- 8251; 1851-1860 --10,789; 1861-1870 -- 9102; 1871 -- 4880 -16,541; 1881-1890 -- 53,701; 1891-1895 -- 25,812; 1896-1900 -- 6004; 1901-1902 -- 4633. During the years 1821-1902 European nations contributed to our population in the order named: Germany, Ireland, England, Italy, Norway and Sweden, Austria-Hungary, Russia and Poland, France, Scotland, Switzerland, Denmark, Holland, Spain and Portugal, and Belgium.
(22) United States Summary o f Commerce and Finance, June, 1903, pp. 4375-4399. In 1900 the following States contained more than one thousand foreign-born Dutch Michigan, 30,406; Illinois, 21,916; New Jersey, 10,261; New York, 9414; Iowa, 9388; Wisconsin, 6496; Minnesota, 2717; Ohio, 1719; Indiana, 1678; South Dakota, 1566; and California, 1015. The foreign-born Dutch in the United States in 1900 numbered 104,931, of whom 2608 and 18,555 lived in New York City and Chicago, respectively.
Minutes of the General Synod o f the Reformed Church in America,
June, 1910, pp. 778-817; and consult also the Yearbook of the Christian
Reformed Church in America, 1910, pp. 33-45.
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