HOLLANDERS OF IOWA
JACOB VAN DER ZEE
Submitted by Gayle Harper
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THE DUTCH PRESS IN IOWA
HENRY P. SCHOLTE and Edwin H. Grant formed a partnership, erected a two-story building for the purposes of a printing establishment, and on the first of February, 1855, issued the initial number of The Pella Gazette with its double motto: "Independent in Everything" and "In Deo Spes Nostra et Refugium." The reason for not founding a newspaper in the Dutch language was revealed in an editorial which is characteristic of Scholte's enthusiasm and illustrative of his hopes. After presenting a brief historical sketch of the town of Pella he concluded as follows:
Scholte had acquired a good speaking knowledge of the English language, but like most Hollanders experienced no little difficulty as a writer. The following is not only a fair specimen of his style during the first few months, but also an indication of his feelings on a subject which lay close to his heart and caused him several times to warn his American neighbors:
The fact that many thousands of newspapers were issued throughout the United States to millions of eager readers excited the wonder of the Hollanders, who had been accustomed in their fatherland to club together for the reading of a few newspapers and periodicals. They were at first surprised to find that every American town of importance had a daily or a weekly, and that every good American read his own newspaper, sometimes two or three, regularly; but when they discovered the American's intense interest in politics and the low price of American newspapers they ceased wondering. They learned that The Weekly New York Tribune with nearly 200,000 readers cost only one dollar per year, though it was eight times the size of Het Amsterdamsche Handelsblad.(224)
In a community where the majority of inhabitants could read Dutch only, Scholte recognized a need and accordingly he inserted in The Pella Gazette a notice headed: "Hollandsche Courant". He promised to issue a Dutch newspaper for the Hollanders upon receiving the guarantee of a sufficient number of subscribers at the rate of one dollar and a half a year in advance. The Hollanders of Pella, however, failed to take advantage of the offer. (225)
According to an estimate made by the postmaster in 1856 the number of newspapers and periodicals which came to Pella was "extraordinarily large". Among them were two newspapers printed in Dutch De Hollander from Michigan and De Nieuwsbode from Wisconsin. The latter by its unreasonably partisan advocacy of Republican principles drove Scholte to devote a few columns of his newspaper to news which might be read by the Hollanders at Pella who could not read English. "Several times ", he declared, "I have been asked to publish a Dutch newspaper. Inasmuch as there were two such sheets in existence, and the Hollanders, who know no English, are in general not busy readers, I have wavered and always said, that I was ready whenever they offered me a subscription list which would guarantee expenses."
Scholte now decided, however, to print several columns of news in the Dutch language, and he declared that in case the subscribers manifested a real, live interest he would either continue this policy or even publish a separate Dutch newspaper. Everyone who approved his plan was urged to subscribe at the rate of one dollar for a half year. When the period had expired, Scholte notified his readers that "Holland news will be discontinued", and also that he would publish a Dutch newspaper, De Unie, if he could get seven hundred subscribers. They were promised all the news, civil and religious, from Holland and the United States that was worth knowing. But again the Hollanders missed their opportunity.(226)
In September, 1857, The Pella Gazette suddenly ceased publication: its paper supply was exhausted; subscribers failed to pay their subscriptions; Americans refused their patronage; the population was so largely Dutch; and business men did not advertise. On July 22, 1859, the Gazette was resuscitated by S. AI. Hammond under the editorship of Scholte, and it flew the Republican banner for campaign purposes until it once more ceased to be issued on February 22,1860. Thereafter Scholte wrote many articles on contemporaneous politics which appeared above his signature in various Iowa newspapers.(227)
The Hollanders of Pella in the year 1860 must have kept themselves informed on current events largely through the medium of the American press of Marion County and through Dutch newspapers from other States. Some of the Hollanders, especially the younger generation, were now well able to read English; but the Holland-born members of the community were also enabled to follow national movements by reading the Dutch newspapers published in Wisconsin and Michigan. That a Dutch newspaper had not yet been published at Pella seems strange when there were between two and three thousand Hollanders in the community.
A newspaper in the Dutch language had, however, been contemplated for some time. In the year 1861 Rev. P. J. Oggel and Henry Hospers canvassed the situation, secured the necessary capital, organized an association of ten share-holders, and purchased the printing-office and supplies of the defunct Pella Gazette. On the 28th of September, 1861, Hospers issued the first number of Pella's Weekblad. It contained American and European news, especially news from Holland and the Dutch settlements in America, editorials on politics, translations of Iowa laws, and items of State and local interest.(228)
Since Pella's Weekblad reported only political, social, and economic affairs and lacked religious news, Pella's Maandblad began to appear in conjunction with the Weekblad once a month after April, 1862. Edited by Rev. P. J. Oggel and devoted to the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures and to religious news from all sources, this publication continued until its editor left Pella in 1863.(229)
To offset the Democratic influence of Pella's Weekblad, the radically Republican Pella Blade appeared in 1865. After a hard struggle to survive it came into the hands of a Dutch newspaper man, H. Neyenesch, under whose direction for over twenty years it developed into the foremost Democratic newspaper in the English language in the community.(230)
From September, 1866, until his death in 1868, Scholte published De Toekomst (The Future), a monthly periodical devoted to religion. In his "In Memoriam" at the time of Scholte's death on August 251 1868, the editor of Pella's Weekblad asserted that it would be impossible for people "to forget the pearls of wisdom which lie collected in his monthly De Toekomst, and which he has left behind as a legacy, as it were, to believers, to testify to his comprehensive knowledge of the Bible and his clear insight into the living realities of the Gospel.(231)
In March, 1867, Gerrit van Ginkel, who had learned the printer's trade on Pella's Weekblad, began the publication of a Republican newspaper in the Dutch language, De Pella Gazette. He discontinued the enterprise in 1869, contracted with the Weekblad to assume the obligations of his unexpired subscriptions, and later amassed a considerable fortune as a result of business ventures at Des Moines and in the cities of Springfield, Illinois, and Dallas, Texas.(232)
Pella's Weekblad has always been widely read among the Hollanders of Pella and vicinity. There was a time when the Weekblad had agents at Keokuk, Iowa; Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, Holland, and Kalamazoo, Michigan Little Chute, Appleton, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Cedar Grove, Amsterdam, and Woodland, Wisconsin; Paterson, New Jersey; Roxbury, Massachusetts; Clearwater, Minnesota; Excelsior Mills, Illinois; and also in The Netherlands. Henry Hospers, the first editor, eventually sold his establishment to H. Neyenesch in June, 1870, and went to live among the energetic, young colonists of Sioux County.
The Weekblad in 1880 could boast that it was one of the largest Dutch newspapers in the United States with subscribers in nearly every State and Territory, and with the largest circulation of any newspaper in Marion County. It had a Dutch rival in Pella's Nieuwsblad for over two years previous to October 4, 1901. Pella's Weekblad has continued down to date, owned and published by H. F. Johnson & Co., and although newspapers from Holland and from other Dutch-American settlements are to be found among the inhabitants, except for De Christelijke Uitdeeler, a monthly religious magazine published by K. van Stigt, it is the only Dutch newspaper printed among the Hollanders of south central Iowa.(233)
Newspapers in the Dutch language have been more numerous among the Hollanders of Sioux County. Pella's Weekblad has always circulated among them to a limited extent. The Sioux County Herald - removed from Calliope to Orange City - for a time printed some news in the Dutch language. On June 18, 1874, however, Henry Hospers, who had been the founder of Pella's Weekblad, issued the first number of De Volksvriend, which "humbly made its bow and timidly took its place among the well-directed Dutch newspapers of America." The editor expressed himself further as follows:
Accordingly, De Volksvriend in the early years was full of information intended to attract foreign immigration to the new Dutch colony. The excellence of the soil and all other advantages were continually advertised. Netherlanders in Europe were strongly urged to come: "If you have no money, all you need is a good body with two strong arms and health; and if you have children, they are the best capital you can bring to America." De Volksvriend also printed much foreign news, especially from The Netherlands, together with items of interest from Pella; and it furnished its readers with general American news.(234)
Locust ravages nearly brought De Volksvriend as well as the whole Dutch colony to an untimely and disastrous end. Many times the editor threatened to cease publication unless his readers paid their subscriptions or signed notes for the amounts due. At one time things had come to such a pass that the readers were notified to call at the printing-office in person if they wished to get their copies! On the other hand, the editor used his newspaper in those dark days to encourage and cheer his miserable Dutch friends and neighbors. Hospers' faith and confidence that the country would ultimately emerge into the sunshine of prosperity were to no small degree communicated to the people through the columns of De Volksvriend.(235)
Published for many years by H. P. Oggel, editor also of De Heidenwereld (The Heathenworld), a monthly missionary magazine, De Volksvriend has had rivals in the field since March, 1892, when the Sioux Center Nieuwsblad first appeared, and September, 1892, when De Vrije Hollander was founded at Orange City by Martin P. van Oosterhout. In late years Charles H. van der Meulen and Peter van Donselaar have owned the Sioux Center Nieuwsblad, and Henry Toering has published De Vrije Hollander as a semi-weekly. (236)
All of these newspapers have circulated among the Hollanders of Sioux, Lyon, O'Brien, and Plymouth counties and other localities in Iowa to which Hollanders have removed; all are read by the Hollanders who have left Iowa to try their fortunes in Canada, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Colorado, Washington, Kansas, Illinois, Michigan, and other States. One characteristic of these Sioux County newspapers and of Pella's Weekblad is the large amount of space set aside for correspondence from Dutch communities not only in the neighborhood, but also in distant States: local personal news is chronicled every week and brought to the knowledge of readers who wish to keep in touch with friends and relatives.
Besides the editors and publishers of Dutch newspapers, there are several Hollanders who own and operate other newspapers and printing establishments in Sioux and other counties: Isaac Hospers edits The Sioux County Herald; John F. D. Aue directs The Alton Democrat; Wm. C. Muilenburg has recently purchased The Grant Chief; J. W. Vanderburg & Co. own The Sheldon Mail; the Southerland Courier is in the hands of G. H. Vos; The Monroe Mirror and Marne Free Press are owned by J. Vandermast and Dirk Tollenaar, respectively; The Waukon Standard is published by John DeWild, and The Evening Times and The Cedar Rapids Republican are edited by Cyrenus Cole, a native of Pella.
Newspapers in the Dutch language will exist as long as Dutch immigrants continue to find homes in the communities of their people in Iowa; and they will prevent the entire disappearance or disuse of the Dutch language among the American-born children of foreign-born parents. As the years pass, Hollanders of the younger generation who receive their early training in American public schools tend to become more and more accustomed to the speaking of English; but Dutch newspapers with their reports of local news will be one of the potent factors which will enable children of Dutch parentage to retain at least a fair reading and conversational knowledge of their native tongue. (See Appendix C.)
NOTES AND REFERENCES
(223) The Pella Gazette, February 1 and May 17, 1555, and May 15, 1856. This, with the exception of one at Council Bluffs, was said to be the westernmost newspaper in Iowa in 1855.
(224) De Hollanders in Iowa, pp. 130, 131.
(225) This notice was run for several issues after February 1, 1855.
(226) De Hollanders in Iowa, p. 131; and The Pella Gazette, August 14, 1856, and January 29, 1857.
(227) The Pella Gazette, September 24, 1857. See The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, July 21, August 25, September 1, 8, 15, 29, October 6, 20, 27, and December 15, 29, 1860; and The Keokuk Gate City, August 15, 1860.
(228) The share-holders were: John Hospers, Jacob de Haan, Henry Hospers, G. van Houwelingen, P. M. van der Ley, A. C. Kuyper, Isaac Overkamp, William van Asch, J. Akkerman, and A. Duinink. - See van Stigt's Geschiedenis, Part III, pp. 37, 38; and also Pella's Weekblad, April 16, 1870.
(229) Van Stigt's Geschiedenis, Part III, p. 42.
(230) Donnell's Pioneers of Marion County, pp. 114, 115; and van Stigt's Geschiedenis, Part III, p. 69.
(231) Van Stigt's Geschiedenis, Part I, pp. 41, 42, 65.
(232) Pella's Weekblad, March 23, 1869; van Stigt's Geschiedenris, Part III, p. 38; and Donnell's Pioneers o f Marion County, p. 116.
(233) Pella's Weekblad, January
11, 26, 1869, and June 25, 1870; Donnell's Pioneers o f Marion County,
pp. 68-70; and The History of Marion County, Iowa, p. 638.
(234) De Volksvriend, June 18, 1874, and October 28, 1875. Mr. A. J. Betten of Orange City, Iowa, owns the files of De Volksvriend covering the early years.
(235) De Volksvriend, December 3, 1874, and November 18, 1875.
(236) The writer is indebted to the editors mentioned in this chapter for much information.
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