Submitted by Gayle Harper

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STATE and national statistics afford a good criterion of the growth in numbers of foreign-born Hollanders in Iowa, but they do not record the relatively large number of children of Dutch parentage except as native-born inhabitants of the State. To estimate the number of Hollanders in Iowa, both foreign-born and native, is largely a matter of speculation; but such an estimate need not for that reason be avoided in all cases.

According to all census enumerations previous to and including the year 1870, Marion County was the leading county in Iowa in respect to the number of Holland-born inhabitants. Of 4513 Hollanders in the State in that year, Marion had no less than 2077; Mahaska, its neighbor to the east, had 318; and Lee County could point to 258, most of whom lived at Keokuk, the natural gate through which Hollanders had passed for many years on their way to Pella and vicinity. Muscatine County contained 185 people from The Netherlands; and next in order came Sioux County with its budding colony of 133, and Dubuque County with 111. Foreign-born Hollanders dwelt in all but thirty-five of the ninety-nine counties in the State.(166)

Beginning with the year 1870 one can trace the increase and decrease of the numbers above quoted, and for convenience the State of Iowa may be considered in four large groups of counties where the largest numbers of Dutch immigrants have found homes. Of the Mississippi River counties Lee has gradually declined from a strong little colony of 258 in 1870 to 201 in 1885, 167 in 1895, and 105 in 1905, and nearly all of these lived in the city of Keokuk. A small number of Hollanders have continued to make their homes in Scott County: 46 in 1870, 30 in 1885, 25 in 1895, and 39 in 1905, centered chiefly in Davenport. In 1885 Clinton County had 33 Hollanders in Clinton and De Witt, and in Orange Township, but only a negligible number has resided in the county since that year. Dubuque County, with the city of Dubuque as the chief point of settlement, dropped from 111 in 1870 to 38 in 1885, 82 in 1895, and 56 in 1905. The Hollanders have always found Muscatine an attractive county: it had 185 in 1870, 170 in 1885, 189 in 1895, and 159 in 1905. A Dutch Reformed Church has been maintained in the city of Muscatine since 1891.

Many Dutch immigrants settled in the counties .situated north and east of Marshalltown, but never attained any particular numerical strength. Benton County with 29 in 1870 fell to 15 in 1895, and in 1905 about the only suggestion of Holland or Hollanders to be found in the county was the name of a town, Van Horne. Tama County had 26, mostly in Columbia Township, in 1885, but lost these within a few years. Hardin County has always contained a small number of Holland-born citizens: 46 in 1870, 43 in 1885, 60 in 1895, and 44 in 1905, living for the most part in the town of Ackley. The number of Hollanders in Grundy County increased from 56 in 1870 to 58 in 1885, and 96 in 1905: German Township contained most of them, while the town of Holland had none at all ! Butler County has retained a thriving settlement in its southwestern corner, especially at Parkersburg and in Albion Township: the Hollanders increased from 21 in 1870 to 119 in 1885, 1511 in 1895, and 279 in 1905. It is a noteworthy fact that very many of the counties in this part of the State have congregations of the Dutch Reformed and the Christian Reformed Churches, but the membership consists almost exclusively of people who speak the East Friesian dialect of the Low German.(167)

Cerro Gordo County with 23 in 1885 and 29 in 1895 had no Hollanders to speak of in 1905, as was also the case with Howard County on the Minnesota border. Franklin County had. 58 Dutch immigrants in 1905; Black Hawk County increased from 16 in 189.5 to 22 in 1905; while Wright County rose from 36 in 1895 to 83 in 1905. Webster County with 18, mostly at Fort Dodge, in 1885., and 20 in 1895, had scarcely any in 1905. Humboldt County has wavered from 44 in 1870, 22 in 1885, and 54 in 1895 to 30 in 1905; and Pottawattamie County claimed 16 in 1870, 38 in 1885, 56 in 1895, and 42 in 1905, mainly at Council Bluffs.

In 1870 Lambert Kniest, a Dutch resident of Dubuque, Iowa, founded Mount Carmel in a township in Carroll County which received his name. He planned to build up a prosperous colony of German and Dutch Roman Catholics, but the former have always preponderated. The Hollanders in 1885 numbered 62, and were almost evenly distributed among Kniest and Roselle townships and the town of Breda; they were still 62 strong in 1895, but dropped to 52 in 1905.(168)

The third group of counties where the Hollanders have flourished with especial vigor despite the fact that the population of that part of Iowa has remained stationary for thirty or forty years consists of Marion County and its neighbors. Immigrants from Holland have, during the last four decades, passed by Marion and located almost entirely in adjacent counties. Polk County has gained consistently, going from 21 in 1870 to 51 in 1885, 77 in 1895, and 97 in 1905, the city of Des Moines attracting the majority of them. In Wapello County to the southeast dwelt 55 Hollanders in 1870, principally at Eddyville, but the number had decreased from 57 in 1885 to 39 and 33 in the years 1895 and 1905, respectively. In Jefferson County there lived 38 in 1870, but there were none to speak of in 1905, and only the name Batavia remains to remind one of Holland. The number has slowly risen in Jasper County from 33 in 1870 to 166 in 1885, 338 in 1895, and 473 in 1905; likewise in Mahaska County from 318 in 1870 and 303 in 1885, to 523 in 1895, and 621 in 1905. Since 1870 Marion County has dropped from first to second place for the number of its Holland-born inhabitants: it had 2077, one-twelfth of the entire population of the county in 1870, but fell to 1577 in 1885, to 1638 in 1895, and to 1531 in 1905.(169)

Of the Hollanders of both foreign and American birth residing in the counties of Marion, Mahaska, and Jasper, the city of Pella with its 3000 people is still the chief center. In Lake Prairie Township, where the Hollanders first settled in 1847, and in Pella the Americans form only a small minority of farmers and business men. Although the stream of Dutch immigration to Pella and surrounding country has diminished greatly in recent years, it continues to be steady.

In Marion County itself the Hollanders have slowly spread out as land-owners, buying up the country situated between the Des Moines and the Skunk rivers and also land north of the latter river. South of the Des Moines River many own farms in Clay Township. During the past two years the Hollanders have bought considerable land in the vicinity of Harvey and Bussey in Liberty Township. Only a few Dutch families live in Knoxville and Union townships near the Des Moines River. In Polk Township perhaps three-fourths of the people north of the river are Hollanders, while a few dwell south of the river. Summit Township to the west of Lake Prairie, is almost entirely in the hands of Hollanders, as is perhaps one-tenth of Red Rock Township.

The Dutch have gradually brought into their possession certain townships of Mahaska County, east of Pella, so that they own about three-fourths of Black Oak Township, one-fifth of Scott Township, and one-third of Richland Township. South and west of these townships there are numerous Hollanders in Prairie Township, where they have lately bought much land in the vicinity of Taintor and New Sharon, and in Madison Township where they own about one-tenth of the land. There is a fair sprinkling of Dutch in Garfield, Jefferson, and West Des Moines townships. At Oskaloosa they are increasing year by year for the reason that they can find plenty of work in that city. In the other townships farther east, families of Hollanders are few and widely scattered. South of Oskaloosa they have been buying land in the neighborhood of Eddyville in Monroe County.

North of Marion and Mahaska counties the Hollanders have been spreading into Jasper County so that about one-tenth of Elk Creek Township and one-fifth of Lynn Grove Township are Dutch-owned, and Fairview and Des Moines townships each have a good quota of Hollanders. They have bought up considerable land in the neighborhood of Prairie City, Monroe, Reasnor, Galesburg, Killduff, Sully, and Lynnville.(170)

In 1911 the Dutch in southern Iowa were confined to approximately all that area of country which lies within a radius of fifteen miles from Pella, north of the Des Moines River; while they and their descendants were steadily pushing the circumference outward. But few American farmers live on the twenty-mile road between Pella and New Sharon or occupy farms on the highway between Pella and Oskaloosa, a distance of eighteen miles. There is at least a grain of truth in the following interesting bit of American journalism:(171)


     At the present rate of purchase, it will not be many years until Hollanders will own all the land between Pella and Oskaloosa, and between the Des Moines and Skunk rivers. They buy several thousand acres every year, and it is an accepted axiom that when a Dutchman gets a farm he never sells it. Their specialty also is to buy the less expensive land and make it blossom like the rose.
     The bottom lands along the river, at which the American shies, especially during the season of high water, is the Hollander's delight. He knows from experience in his own country that if he can keep the water out, this land will produce enormous crops. And there is where he is beginning to shine here. The first thing a Hollander does after taking possession of the land is to tile it and then begin the erection of dykes. Skunk River for miles is being walled up, and it will only be a few years until high water in this section will have no terrors for the owners of low lands. The Hollander also is an intensive farmer, and it is no unusual thing for one of them to make a crop pay for the land.

With an increase of wealth and prosperity came an expansion of the land area owned by the Hollanders in the vicinity of Pella. As their sons grew up new farms were needed and purchased, very often at high prices. Indeed, the market of that part of Iowa was not flooded with cheap or abundant land, and this fact forced hundreds of Hollanders to seek their fortunes elsewhere in America. Under such circumstances Pella's only. successful daughter-colony was founded in Sioux County, but as that region filled up with farmers, and homesteads rose in value, many Hollanders of Pella and vicinity settled in Minnesota and South Dakota in communities established by Hollanders from Michigan.

Thus, at about the time when Henry Hospers led a band of settlers to Sioux County, other Pella people went southward to Kansas where they founded Rotterdam and Prairie View, two communities which were never a match for their northern neighbors. Another group established a village named Pella in Lancaster County, Nebraska, a small agricultural community. Still other associations hopefully founded towns of the same name in Texas and in Colorado, but both towns were extinct in 1911. Southwestern Iowa was also considered, but land could not be secured.

As they grew in numbers and found it increasingly difficult to obtain additional farm lands at home, the Hollanders inspected lands in other localities. Pella's Weekblad and other newspapers advertised land-seekers' excursions to this or that district opened to settlers in the West. In 1911 the Dutch colony at Winnie, Texas, offered special inducements. Many emigrated to Oklahoma. And wherever they went they bore their church affiliations, established churches or allied themselves with those already formed. The proverbial Dutch clannishness is well illustrated in the fact that emigrants from the Dutch colony around Pella have either established communities of their own or they have found homes in other Dutch settlements: comparatively few have scattered to live alone among strangers. Feelings of nationality and kin have prompted Hollanders to dwell together in America, just as emigrants of most European lands have always been induced to live among their friends and relatives in certain sections of the country. This clannishness appears to be merely one means of self-preservation.(172)

Northwestern Iowa, however, contains more than one-half the foreign-born Hollanders in the State. The stream of Dutch immigration has continued toward that part of the State more strongly than to any other part since 1870. Osceola County with its poorly drained lands claimed but 22 in 1885 and 83 in 1905, chiefly at Sibley. Woodbury County, with Sioux City as the center, had 12 in 1885, 106 in 1895, and 125 in 1905. Lyon County rose from 142 in 1895 to 279 in 1905; and O'Brien County from 64 in 1885 to 114 in 1895, and 237 in 1905, located very largely in the town of Sheldon, and in Baker and Carroll townships; while Plymouth County had 15 in 1870, 187 in 1885, 311 in 1895, and only 171 in 1905, residing chiefly at Le Mars.

Sioux County has made the most remarkable gains. From a small group, 133 in 1870, the number of foreign-born Hollanders increased to 1818 in 1585, 4325 in 1895, and 4407 in 1905. The entire Dutch element in the State, exclusive of descendants of foreign-born parents, consisted of 1108 in 1850, 2077 in 18.56, 2615 in 1860, 4513 in 1870, 4743 in 1880, 5461 in 1885, 7941 in 1890, 9126 in 1895, 9388 in 1900, and 9677 in 1905, and of this element Sioux County has had almost one-half in later years. Other Hollanders were distributed, in most cases widely scattered, among all but fourteen counties in the State in 1885 and among all but six counties in 1905.(173)

It is estimated that over one-half of approximately 25,000 people in Sioux County are Dutch, either by birth or descent, thus making that county the home of the largest settlement of Hollanders in the State, although Pella and vicinity are a close second. The Hollanders are advancing farther westward into the county, southward into Plymouth County, eastward into O'Brien County, and northward into Lyon County, and they are primarily responsible for increasing the percentage of rural population in Sioux County from five to fifteen per cent during the past ten years.

In Holland Township the Dutch own all but one section of the land and, with a few American families, they number 1374 people at Orange City. In Capel Township, with its village of Middelburg, the Hollanders own all but five sections, and nine-tenths of the land of West Branch Township is Dutch-owned, while Sioux Center has only four or five non-Dutch families in a population of 1064. There, as at Orange City, Hollanders own and carry on nearly all business enterprises. All but one section of the land in Welcome Township belongs to the Dutch.

In Lynn Township more than one-half of the lard is farmed by Hollanders; Germans and Americans own the rest. In Floyd Township Dutch and Germans share the land about equally. The town of Hospers and the village of Newkirk are, however, mainly Dutch. In this part of Sioux County the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railroad practically separates the areas occupied by the two nationalities - the former owning land to the north and the latter to the south of the railroad. East Orange Township, therefore, is almost entirely in the hands of Germans; and Nassau Township, with its town of Alton, is perhaps predominantly Dutch. The Germans are equally prosperous as farmers in that district, and have owned their lands as long as their Dutch neighbors so that the proportion of nationalities has not changed for many years. The Hollanders prefer to rent out their farms to Dutchmen, while German owners just as strongly insist upon German renters.

Americans are in a majority in Grant Township, with their neighbors about evenly divided between Dutch and Germans, the former owning about ten sections of land. The same is true of Sheridan Township where the Hollanders own thirteen sections of land and are also firmly intrenched in the town of Boyden. Lincoln Township has for many years been passing into the hands of the Dutch until they hold about one-half of the land, while Americans and Germans own the rest. The town of Hull, once strongly American, is now largely Dutch, and the village of Perkins is entirely so.

Sherman Township and the town of Maurice are one-half Dutch, with some Germans and a good many Irish. Reading Township and the town of Ireton, once strictly Yankee and Irish territory, are gradually being taken by the Hollanders - for Irishmen seem to think that land at from $100 to $150 per acre is too good for them.. About one-half of Center Township, three-sevenths of Plato Township, two-fifths of Rock Township, including the town of Rock Valley, and one-fifth of Sioux Township have fallen into the hands of Hollanders, although their neighbors, Germans and Americans, predominate. These people, with some Norwegians, occupy the greater part of Settlers and Garfield townships, but the Dutch own one-tenth and one-fourth of the land, respectively. Americans and Germans are still firm in the southwestern townships with only a mere sprinkling of Dutch.(174)

American-born Hollanders have been invading the counties around Sioux so that in Sheldon, O'Brien County, nearly every store and bank employs Dutch-speaking clerks. They have spread east of Sheldon and have established a church at Sanborn. There is a goodly number of Dutch in the western townships of O'Brien County, and also in the southern townships of Lyon County. It is believed that the Hollanders will be in control of the northwestern corner of O'Brien County and the southern part of Lyon County within a few years. Plymouth County has not as many Dutch as formerly.

It is true that with the rapid expansion of the Dutch in Sioux and neighboring counties, many have been forced to buy land in other States: many have found homes in the neighborhood of such towns as Harrison, Platte, Corsica, Springfield, Worthing, Chancellor, and Volga - all in South Dakota. Others in their search for land have obtained farms near the towns of Luctor, Leota, Edgerton, Clara City, Roseland, and Spring Creek, Minnesota; and some have migrated to Hull, Westfield, Twin Brooks, North Marion, and Litchville, North Dakota. A considerable number went to Linden, Oak Harbor, and North Yakima, Washington. Other families invested their money in cotton plantations in Mississippi.

In late years many have gone to Crawford and Denver, Colorado; and not a few have helped swell the tide of emigration from Iowa to the cheap lands of the Canadian northwest.(175) In practically all of these communities, which are mainly agricultural, are to be found Hollanders from the older Dutch settlements in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The existence of these settlements with their thriving little churches where Dutch is preached shows better than anything else how partial the Hollanders are to people of their own nation and to ancestral institutions.

Seldom if ever do the Hollanders of the Dutch communities in Iowa return to live in The Netherlands. After years of prosperity in America some immigrants go back for a few months' stay, or perhaps for a winter's visit with friends and relatives in the old home, but those who expect to live out their days in Holland find themselves quickly disillusioned: they are happy to escape from a life which grates on them with its pronounced social ranks. A renewal of their acquaintance with social conditions in the fatherland convinces them that western America with its ideas of equality is preferable to a poor man's wretched lot in Holland. The Hollanders who have visited their people in Europe have been the means of carrying American enthusiasm with them and they have frequently conducted Dutch families to Iowa. Some years ago a Sioux County visitor in Holland returned home with six families of from five to eight children each.

Dutch immigration to Iowa has not yet ceased. Fathers of large families in Holland still want to give their sons a good start in life. Many who come to the Iowa settlements are unable at once to rent farms. Consequently they live for a time in town where they work as day-laborers at odd jobs, or cultivate a few acres of land, and gradually obtain a knowledge of American farm conditions. When their sons grow up they rent farms and, after saving for a few years, may buy land of their own.

In the spring of 1911 American newspapers heralded the coming of thousands of Hollanders to America, lured by the eternal hope of bettering their condition and of establishing themselves in a country where advancement is possible to the poorest man, if endowed with ambition and determination.

Eastern reporters interviewed an Iowa Hollander who said:

Most of those who are coming over now are from Friesland. They come here as a land of refuge from conditions which have grown intolerable in their home land. There opportunity has departed, and to remain means that a man must ever be a plodder. Of course, over-population enters into the question. In such a crowded country there is no chance for that spirit which we call over here "get up and get". There is no chance for fortune to smile, and there is no incentive to develop the land which one does not own.
     Holland is becoming a country for the well-to-do. The rich own much of the land. The land is nearly all in their hands. If by chance there is a piece of land, the farmer must bid for it. When a piece of land is vacant, which is not often, it is advertised for about a week and a date is set for renting it. The lease is then practically sold at auction. One farmer will make an offer for the property and another will raise the price a bit. And so it will go until finally it is a question whether the man who obtains possession is really the fortunate bidder. The price is run up to such a figure that one may perhaps make a living, but as to making more, never.
     Now, if this holds for the farmer, the man generally who has inherited some money or a lease, or who has slowly climbed the ladder by the hardest kind of work, work that bows the shoulders in age and in time turns a man into a dull plodding fellow, what chance has the farm laborer, the honest, hard-working man who has seen the sun rise and set in the fields as long as he can remember? His chance of becoming a leaseholder is reduced to a minimum, and he has hardly a chance of ever becoming a landowner.
     Is it to be wondered at that these men are turning to the United States; that they are coming here filled with an ambition to succeed? Could a more desirable class knock at the gateway of the New World? I crossed the Atlantic with several hundreds of my countrymen and I was proud of them every knot of the way. They combine thrift with a capacity for the hardest kind of work, and they are seldom discouraged. They were born to fight for existence in crowded Holland, and that is the spirit they bring with them across seas. (176)

On the 28th of February, 1912, newspapers throughout the United States reported the arrival of two hundred Dutch farmers and their families on board the steamship "Noordam". They were on the way to Iowa where they had purchased a large tract of land. All were said to be in possession of ample funds - all were declared to be "splendid specimens of the sturdy Friesland yeoman farmers, who have been the backbone of Holland in the time of trouble", and who were now forced by high rents and heavy taxation to leave their fatherland.

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(166) United States Census, 1870, Vol. I, p. 353. Jackson County could lay claim to 746 foreign-born Hollanders, but the writer believes this number was misplaced when the census returns were printed. At any rate, the county had almost no Dutch later on.

(167) Rev. John Schaefer of Alexander, Iowa, informed the writer that so far as he was acquainted with the congregations of his Classis of the Dutch Reformed Church the people were nearly all Germans.

(168) Pella's Weekblad, January 8, and February 26, 1870. Mt. Carmel in Carroll County was advertised in Pella's Weekblad, June 1, 1872.

(169) For these statistics see Iowa Historical and Comparative Census, 1836-1880, pp. 169, 170; and Census Reports of Iowa, 1885, p. 175; 1895, pp. 307, 330-333; and 1905, pp. 517-520.

(170) The writer is indebted to Mr. Henry P. Scholte, a son of the founder of Pella, for estimates as to the amount of land owned by Hollanders in the various townships of Marion and adjacent counties.

(171) The Register and Leader (Des Moines), July 28, 1909.

(172) Pella's Weekblad, August 12, 19, 1871, and December 1, 1911.

(173) See note 169, above, and also United States Summary of Commerce and Finance, June, 1903, p. 4,381.

(174) These estimates as to the strength of the Dutch in the townships of Sioux County are based on the tax-books and are furnished by Mr. Herman Te Paske of Orange City, Iowa.

(175) Rev. James de Pree of Sioux Center, Iowa, believes that these communities attracted most of Sioux County's Dutch emigrants, and bases his judgment on a thirty years' acquaintance with northwestern Iowa.

(176) The Boston Herald, March 19, 1911.


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