HOLLANDERS OF IOWA
JACOB VAN DER ZEE
Submitted by Gayle Harper
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TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OF GROWTH IN THE ORANGE CITY COLONY
DURING the decade from 1870 to 1880 the growth of the new settlement in Sioux County was not especially encouraging, and yet the population of Sioux County increased from 575 in 1870 to 2872 in 1873, to 3220 in 1875, and to 5426 in 1880. This was indeed a rapid increase, considering the destruction of crops year after year. How many of the inhabitants of the county were Hollanders it would be difficult to estimate. Judging from the fact that the number of foreign-born Netherlanders in Iowa, a total of 4513 in 1870, had risen to only 4743 in 1880, few foreign-born Hollanders settled in Marion and Sioux counties. Many American-born Hollanders, however, had immigrated to Sioux County from other States of the Middle West.(151)
The establishment of Holland Township gave a decided impetus to the settlement of vacant public lands in Sioux County. Of the inhabitants in 1870, only one hundred and sixteen were foreign-born Hollanders; but these with Pella-born Hollanders probably comprised a majority of the population. The village of Orange City contained fifty inhabitants in 1871 and ninety-six in 1873, when there were also two other small villages, East Orange and Hospers, stations on the St. Paul and Sioux City Railway. Holland and Nassau townships contained a majority of the people of Sioux County in 1873 (about 1500 souls) most of whom were Dutch. In 1872 Orange City was selected as the county seat.(152)
The Hollanders were reported to have taken the greater portion of five townships in 1870; and a traveler afterward roughly estimated the size of the Dutch settlement at fifteen miles square, though much of the land still belonged to railroad companies and speculators. A Keokuk newspaper man described his visit to Sioux County in 1874 as follows:
During the early years of the settlement the Hollanders transformed the appearance of the country so that what had once been an ocean-like expanse of prairie became dotted here and there with little groves. Nearly every homesteader planted from one to five acres of trees - a work which entitled him to have one hundred dollars for every acre of trees deducted for ten years from the assessed valuation of all his real and personal property, provided he did not plant trees farther than eight feet apart and kept them in a healthy and growing condition. Similarly, those who set out fruit trees not farther than thirty feet apart were to be exempted for five years from taxation on fifty dollars f or each acre so planted. Thus tax-payers among the Hollanders received a powerful incentive to plant many acres with forest and fruit trees.(154)
This offer of a premium or bounty by the State, as well as the need of some protection against the icy blasts and blizzards of winter and the heat of summer, stimulated the planting of trees such as cottonwoods, soft maples, box-elders, Lombardy poplars, and willows, all of which grew rapidly upon Sioux County soil. As a rule the Dutch pioneers planted these trees to the north and west of their houses and yards. When little artificial groves began to appear upon the homesteads, the bleak prairie for miles in every direction lost much of its distinctively monotonous aspect.
The legislature of the State of Iowa desired to promote not only the production of timber, so that fence posts and fence rails might later be obtained in abundance, but also wished to encourage the growth of hedges as an excellent substitute for rail fences and barbed wire. As the land in Sioux County became settled and more and more was brought under cultivation, great damage resulted to growing crops from the invasions of live stock. To protect the crops the Sioux County board of supervisors submitted to the voters a State law which permitted property owners to distrain "stock taken in the act of doing damage, between the hours of sunset and sunrise"; and so the "Herd Law" was adopted in the autumn of 1874.
When the general custom of letting cattle, horses, hogs, and sheep run at large and wander where they liked was thus brought to an end, farmers in the new Dutch settlement were forced either to build fences or to keep an eye on their stock. Then it was that men advertised their readiness to herd cattle and horses during the summer. One Hollander secured a large area of rich grass land in the Rock River valley and requested contracts; while another offered to begin herding at two dollars per head as soon as the grass permitted and to continue until the first of October. (155)
During the summer of 1875, when promising farm conditions prevailed in Sioux County, the Orange City settlement claimed 468 families or about 2500 people. There were good buildings, flourishing little groves, excellent gardens, and splendid fields of grain. The Hollanders subscribed $800 for a genuine Dutch wind-mill. As long as this old-fashioned mill ground their wheat into flour it was the one feature of the landscape which told the world of the colony's nationality. But it was soon dismantled and supplanted by a modern steam roller-mill. As one pioneer suggested afterward, it deserved a better fate and should have been preserved as a landmark, as a monument to the early settlers, and around it a park should have been laid out where old settlers' picnics and other community celebrations could have been held. (156)
In the autumn of 1875, when the Dutch farmers were rewarded with a really tremendous harvest, the most memorable incident, suggestive of the community of interest and blood. relationship among the Hollanders of Iowa, was a big excursion from Pella to Orange City, a repetition of a journey taken two years before. The proposed jaunt was advertised at a round-trip rate of $5.50, provided at least two hundred and twenty-five persons availed themselves of the opportunity, and a brass band was scheduled to accompany the party. An Orange City editor urged that an elaborate reception be tendered to the guests. "Get quartettes together," he said, "put your organs in shape, string your violins, get out your flags and prepare garlands of flowers ! Orange greets Pella: Welcome, thrice welcome!"
When the excursion had to be postponed once owing to bad weather, the following letter appeared in the Dutch newspaper at Orange City, in answer to "Mother's" letter:
One morning early in September, at four o'clock, the Pella excursionists left home after "500 roosters had been sacrificed and 500 more were in danger in case of postponement." The visitors were welcomed with loud hurrahs by their Orange City hosts at East Orange station where eighty vehicles were waiting to convey them to the county seat. Two years before there had been a scene of indescribable enthusiasm at the same station adorned with flags and green twigs. On the day after the arrival the guests from Pella inspected the country and in the afternoon old and young at Orange City laid aside work to celebrate. In the evening Pella's brass band serenaded Orange City's chief men. In the afternoon of the second day hosts and guests gathered at church: prayer was said; Psalms were sung; Rev. Bolks spoke about "Mother's visit"; Rev. Winter replied for the visitors; the choir sang; and after the benediction the congregation followed the band away.
Two days, "days of feasting", were consumed in visiting. Relatives and friends once more enjoyed each other's society and genuine hospitality reigned in every Dutch home. As the colony's leader afterwards remarked, those were "indeed happy days, oases on the desert of life which should long be held in remembrance and do us good." And the men from Pella had nothing but words of praise, encouragement, and flattery for their Sioux County friends and kinsmen. (157)
For a few years after its establishment Holland Township contained an area three times the size of an ordinary township. Nassau Township was reduced to its present size in 1875 by the organization of East Orange Township to the east and Sherman Township to the west. Floyd Township, to the east of Holland, was constituted in 1873. These townships in the southeastern part of Sioux County had a population of nearly 2000 inhabitants in 1875, most of them being Hollanders.
In 1876 West Branch Township with a population primarily Dutch was organized from a part of Holland Township. North of West Branch, Welcome Township was established in 1S82; and later a township was named Capel, after that Kapelle in Europe where it is said "the Dutch cut the dykes and let in the sea to defeat the Spanish and again about a century later to flood out the French." The present townships of Sioux County were all in existence in 1885, but those not mentioned here were not originally strongholds of the Dutch element.(158)
To show the relative importance and growth of various parts of the Dutch settlement in the townships named it is interesting to note that congregations of the Dutch Reformed Church were established at Orange City in 1871, at West Branch in 1877, at East Orange in 1877, at North Orange in 1883, at Maurice in 1884, at Pattersonville in 1885, at Middelburg in 1885, at Hospers in 1886, at Boyden in 1888, at Rock Valley in 1891, and at Carmel in 1896. West Branch became Sioux Center in 1881; East Orange, though perpetuated as the name of a township, was later named Alton, although certain citizens preferred the names of Wilfred and Delft; North Orange became Newkirk; and Pattersonville was changed to Hull.(159)
East Orange Township had a population of 103 in 1880, Floyd 438, Holland 1028, Nassau 596, Sherman 336, and West Branch 420. Of the inhabitants of Sioux County in 1880, two-thirds were of American birth, mostly Iowans, including those of Dutch descent; while the remaining one-third were of foreign birth, predominantly Hollanders, with Germans, Irish, and Canadians next in order of importance. If there were 2500 Hollanders in Sioux County in 1875, the number can not have increased much before 1880, because the destruction of crops by grasshoppers had practically checked the flow of immigration to the Dutch settlement.(160)
Inasmuch as the immigration movement to the northwestern counties was greatly retarded by the locust scourge, the report of which had given this poverty-stricken district no savory reputation throughout America and Europe, the State of Iowa once more undertook to induce homeseekers to take up its thousands of acres of unused land. Having been selected Commissioner of Immigration in 1880, George D. Perkins secured the aid of real estate dealers and also of the commissioners of the leading land-grant railroads, all of whom cooperated with him to distribute certain documents which he had prepared - among which were three thousand copies of De Volksvriend.(161)
The coming of two more railways to Sioux County at about this time also stimulated immigration. The Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad reached Pattersonville in the fall of 1878, while the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad was completed through Alton, Orange City, and Maurice in 1882. The growth of towns was considerably promoted and farmers were relieved of the necessity of making long hauls to distant markets. Orange City was incorporated in 1883.
Census returns for 1885 gave Sioux County a total population of 11,584, of whom 3904 persons were foreign-born. Of these 146 came from England, 164 from Ireland, 249 from Canada, 83 from Norway, 896 from Germany, and 1818 from Holland, one-third of the total number of Holland-born people in Iowa. The Hollanders probably comprised a majority of the inhabitants in Capel, Floyd, Nassau, Sherman, Welcome, West Branch, and Holland townships, and in the towns of Alton, Orange City, Hospers, and Sioux Center.(162)
In 1885 a gentleman from The Netherlands who visited all the important Dutch centers in America (such as Paterson, New Jersey; Albany and Rochester, New York; and Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, and Holland, Michigan), in the interest of a charitable institution, also came to Iowa. He wrote a book describing his American journey, and said of Orange City:
Out of a population of 18,370 in Sioux County in 1890, one-third were still foreign-born. The number of Hollanders can not be estimated. The greatest increase in population, however, took place in the townships and towns occupied by the Dutch. In this year the Sioux City and Northern Railway (now the Great Northern) brought Sioux Center into prominence.
Census statistics for 1895 gave Sioux County a population of 21,405 inhabitants, of whom one-third were born outside of the United States. Sweden was the birthplace of 102; Norway and England produced 106 and 159 respectively; Ireland and Canada sent 205 and 221; Germany 1376; and Holland 4325. The increase of foreign-born Hollanders for ten years, therefore, was nearly 3000, and Sioux County at this time contained about one-half of the whole number of Dutch in the State of Iowa.(164)
The autumn of 1895 was, therefore, an occasion when the Hollanders fittingly celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of their coming to Sioux County. They chose Orange City as the scene of their jubilee festivities; and, "dressed in their best", they assembled in thousands from all their towns and farms throughout the county to honor the pioneers. Old settlers dropped their activities, gathered together, glanced back upon the road by which they had come, recounted the experiences of the preceding years, and thanked God for past and present blessings. The young folks, little realizing how much their parents had suffered in the early days, found amusement in various street attractions such as ringing knives and canes, hurling balls at wooden or rag dolls or "[word omitted as being offensive] babies", throwing eggs, three for a dime, at the black man's head, and riding in merry-go-rounds. They also enjoyed great quantities of red lemonade, ice cream., and other things good to eat, and measured athletic skill in numerous street sports before the eyes of hundreds of friends.
Newspapers in the county issued special numbers in honor of this event. The first and oldest Dutch weekly appeared clad in a gala attire of red. It presented a series of short accounts of the growth and development of the various localities where the Hollanders had congregated in sufficiently large numbers to maintain church organizations. Thus, one may read a sketch by the editor of the founding of the newspaper, a short account of the beginning of the colony by Henry Hospers, a chronological review by A. J. Betten of the chief events of the first decade, a brief history of the Orange City Public Schools and of Northwestern Classical Academy, and also short sketches of Orange City, Newkirk, Middelburg, Boyden, Rock Valley, Hull, Hospers, Sioux Center, Maurice, Alton, and Le Mars (in Plymouth County) - all towns in and near which the Dutch had then achieved financial and church prosperity.(165)
NOTES AND REFERENCES
(151) Iowa Historical and Comparative Census, 1836-1880, p. 581.
(152) Census of Iowa, 1873, pp. 58, 97; and Iowa State Register, August 10, 1870.
(153) The Gate City (Keokuk), June 17, 1874; and De Volksvriend, July 16, 23, 30, August 6, and October 29, 1874.
(154) De Volksvriend, September
19, 1895; and Laws of Iowa, 1868, pp. 126-128. Considering the
ruthless destruction of the nation's forests everywhere and the rapidly
increasing demand for lumber, it was believed that encouragement by the
State by means of bounties would result in the gradual reproduction of
timber tracts. The act of the legislature was hailed with general
(155) Laws of Iowa, 1868, p. 202; Agricultural Report ( Iowa), 1870, p. 19, and 1871, p. 434; and De Volksvriend, June 18, 1875.
(156) De Volksvriend, September 19, 1895; and The Historical Atlas o f Sioux County, Mr. Gleysteen's article.
(157) De Volksvriend, August 25, and September 9, 16, 1875. September 9, 1873, was the date of the first excursion. See Pella's Weekblad, August 16, 23, 30, September 6, 20, October 4, 18, and November 1, 1873.
(158) For a history of these townships see Iowa Historical and Comparative Census, 1836-1880, p. 581, or the United States Census, 1880, Vol. I, p. 170; and also The Historical Atlas o f Sioux County. The names "Welcome" and "Capel" are said to have been suggested by John van den Berg and M. P. van Oosterhout, respectively.
(159) Corwin's Manual, pp. 935-1044.
(160) United States Census, 1880, Vol. I, pp. 170, 507.
(161) Legislative Documents (Iowa) , 1882, Vol. I, No. 11.
(162) Report of the Board o f Railroad Commissioners of Iowa, 1879, p. 206. See also Census of Iowa, 1885, pp. 69, 175.
(163) Jan van 't Lindenhout's Zes Weken tusschen de Wielen, of De Hollanders in Amerika, p. 173. The frontispiece is a likeness of Rev. S. Bolks, the first regular Dutch Reformed minister in Sioux County.
(164) United States Census, 1890, Vol. I, pp. 157, 485; and Census of Iowa, 1895, pp. 149, 307.
(165) De Volksvriend, September 19, 1895, contains contributions on all these and various other subjects.
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