HOLLANDERS OF IOWA
JACOB VAN DER ZEE
Submitted by Gayle Harper
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A GLIMPSE OF SIOUX COUNTY IN 1869
No SOONER had the committee reported at Pella than the emigrants prepared to make a brief preliminary visit to their homesteads in Sioux County. Early in September, 1869, seventy-five men in eighteen wagons, with three surveyors and sufficient provisions, journeyed to the site of their future farms nearly three hundred miles away, labored for a week or two surveying and plowing in compliance with the law, and then returned home, thoroughly convinced that they had seen the finest land in the State of Iowa.
No words could better describe the appearance of northwestern Iowa than those of an eminent visitor from Holland:
Though its establishment as a county dated back to 1852, Sioux County lay too far away from every beaten path between the East and the West to attract any serious notice at this early date. Like its neighbors Plymouth, Osceola, and Lyon counties, it consisted simply of prairie, with hardly a tree to be seen. What could a pioneer accomplish without timber for logs, fence rails, fuel, and boards? Sioux County also lacked railroads. It is not strange, therefore, that homeseekers had found no great inducement to lay out farms on the bleak prairies. As a matter of fact, in 1869 it was only on the heavily wooded banks of the Big Sioux River, the western boundary of the State and county, that settlers were to be found. Here a small village called Calliope had sprung up.
Before settlers made their appearance in northwestern Iowa nothing certain is known of its history. That man had ever had a fixed abode on those beautiful prairies there was not the slightest trace; but bones, scattered here and there upon the earth's surface or half-buried in the soil, proved that herds of buffaloes, elks, and deer had grazed there from time immemorial, and suggested that tribes of Indians might have hunted and departed again to their wigwams in some other region.(119)
Census statistics gave Sioux County a population of 10 inhabitants in 1860, estimated the number at 25 and 20 in the years 1863 and 1865, at 18 in 1867, and at 110 in 1869, when Buncombe Township, which was established sometime before 1861, embraced almost the entire county. The same census for 1869 credited Lyon and Osceola counties with no inhabitants, O'Brien County with 51, and Plymouth County with 179, while the counties just to the east were only a little less sparsely settled.
But if Sioux County in 1869 lacked everything except fertility, its inhabitants and others interested in its future knew that within another year a railroad would reach Le Mars about eighteen miles away, and that they might soon expect a second railroad to place them in touch with St. Paul and Sioux City. Then exploitation of the soil would promise great rewards. It was, therefore, a matter of but a few years before Sioux County would have all the means of transportation and communication possessed by older communities.(120)
NOTES AND REFERENCES
(119) Sioux County Herald, July 6, 1876; and Pella's Weekblad, September 7, and October 5, 1869. Dr. M. Cohen Stuart's Zes Maanden in Amerika. (Six Months in America), Part II, pp. 23, 24, where be describes a journey from Le Mars to Orange City in the month of November, 1873. For a reprint of his impressions concerning Orange City, see De Volksvriend, September 1, 1875.
(120) See Iowa Historical and
Comparative Census, 1836-1880, pp. 199, 581, 582; and The Sioux
County Herald, July 6, 1876, where Jelle Pelmulder's historical sketch
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