HOLLANDERS OF IOWA
JACOB VAN DER ZEE
Submitted by Gayle Harper
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THE JOURNEY TO AMERICA
NO SOONER had the ferment caused by over-population, scarcity of work, and religious discontent shown its effect in the stir of people desirous of finding relief in the New World than certain leaders arose to give advice and directions. Chief among these were the dissenting clergymen van Raalte, Brummelkamp, and Scholte, who as pamphleteers and speakers exerted a powerful influence upon the emigration movement. They perceived the perils which might flow from indiscreet and indiscriminate emigration, and accordingly they cautioned prospective emigrants against removing to America without all necessary information. Among the numerous dangers which they foresaw and most earnestly pointed out were settling in the fatally hot marsh and rice lands of the slave States and scattering among English-speaking people - two disadvantages which were capable of rendering Hollanders extremely miserable.
In view of such risks the Separatist clergymen not only urged the formation of emigrant associations, but assisted in their organization. in various parts of Holland. These societies, which consisted of the heads of families and other members of church congregations and which were not limited to Dissenters, were formed to procure funds to defray the expenses of emigration and to serve their members in every possible way. Profane, immoral, or intemperate persons were not admitted to membership. Avowed atheists, skeptics, and Roman Catholics also were excluded. Those members who could command the means were expected to take charge of one or more poor but worthy persons or families desiring to emigrate.
The leaders at once began to search for a region in America with temperate climate and one from which the inhabitants might easily transport their products: there the emigrant associations might separately or jointly establish themselves. In advocating the purchase of sufficient land in one locality the members of the associations had their own personal interests at heart. They wished to make scattering impossible, to prevent their colony from becoming the hiding-place of those who desired to escape their creditors; and they hoped to secure themselves against undesirable persons in general. But first of all they determined in this way to provide for their own form of religious worship, Christian education, and prompt medical attention.(37) In associations, therefore, the clergyman leaders saw strength - "eendracht maakt macht."
The reason which moved such clergymen as van Raalte and Scholte to encourage people to emigrate in bodies was traceable to the intimate relations existing between them and their congregations. For many years they had striven and suffered together, and at the price of much self-sacrifice they had in some measure realized their aspirations. Would not this whole gain be rendered of no account if the Dissenters spread themselves among strangers in a strange land, and would they not be as sheep without a shepherd? "That they had the courage, in the interests of their followers, to break the chains which bound them to the fatherland is to the honor of Scholte and van Raalte, and sets the stamp of uprightness on their intentions." Thus the destinies of pastors and flocks became linked together.(38)
After much discussion of the subject of emigration at informal gatherings and also in Scholte's periodical devoted. to the religious views of the new sect, a formal meeting was called in the city of Utrecht in the month of August, 1846. An emigrant association was formed of nearly seventy well-to-do families, mostly from the province of South Holland. Later many more families from other provinces joined, so that the society is said to have had one thousand three hundred members .(39) A committee of delegates selected from various congregations of Dissenters to draw up rules to govern the emigration movement convened at Utrecht on September 4, 1846. When they computed the amount of land which the association was prepared to buy it was found that the members had subscribed for the purchase of twelve square miles of territory. Later the purchase of much additional land was authorized.
During the summer of 1846 certain members of the Utrecht association decided to undertake the journey to America as soon as possible. Although they had not yet determined which part of the United States would be most suitable for settlement, these Hollanders, numbering thirty persons young and old, being the first emigrants who later founded homes in the State of Iowa, bade farewell to their friends and fatherland on October 2, 1846.
This little band of people paved the way for the exodus of Hollanders the following spring. As forerunners of Dutch emigration to the Middle West of America, in company with home-seekers from other parts of Europe, they set sail from Rotterdam. After being detained by a three days' storm in the English Channel their ship was steered into the North Sea along the eastern coast of England and around Scotland, and thence, with favorable wind and weather they completed forty-five days of sailing and set foot upon American soil at New Orleans, Louisiana, on November 19, 1846. Hendrik Barendregt, the leader of the party, in a letter to Scholte from St. Louis dated December 14, 1846, praised and thanked the Lord "who has shown us day by day that He is with us and out of his abundant love has led and saved us, and given us strength, even more than we could expect." He described the five-thousand-mile water journey, and on conditions in the Mississippi Valley he made many intelligent observations which afforded much instruction and information to oncoming emigrants from Holland.(40) (See Appendix A.)
At the last meeting of the Utrecht association, which was held on the 25th of December, 1846, the members adopted a constitution, elected H.P. Scholte and A. J. Betten president and vice-president respectively, and chose as council J. F. Le Cocq, G. H. Overkamp, A. Wigny, and J. Rietveld, with I. Overkamp as secretary. They fixed upon late March or early April in 1847 as the best time for their departure to the New World.(41) The first to disembark upon American shores in the spring of the year 1847 were Scholte and his family, who had left Rotterdam and traveled by way of London and Liverpool to Boston, arriving on the steamboat "Sarah Sand" early in the month of May after a journey of thirteen days. (42)
When the time came for the great body of members of the Utrecht association to take final leave of relatives, friends, and the fatherland and set out for a country of which they knew comparatively nothing, four three-masters were chartered to convey them to America. The "Nagasaki" left Rotterdam on April the 11th with over two hundred persons on board; and at about the same time the ships "Maasstroom" and "Catharina Jackson" set sail with about one hundred and ninety-seven and one hundred and sixty-nine passengers respectively; while the "Pieter Floris" departed from Amsterdam with men, women, and children numbering about two hundred and twenty-two. In all there were approximately one hundred and sixty families, and these together with many unmarried persons comprised a total of over eight hundred individuals.(43) Their leaders were A. Wigny, Rev. A. J. Betten, G. H. Overkamp, Isaac Overkamp, J. F. Le Cocq, H. Y. Viersen, J. Rietveld, and J. Smeenk, two of whom were assigned to each ship to exercise general supervision and to take turns in conducting daily religious services on shipboard.
Seven or eight weeks were consumed in making the ocean voyage to America. Despite terrible storms and. such discomforts as awaiting one's turn to cook meals on the ship's stove, general peace and satisfaction reigned in the community life on board the sailing-vessels. Though the time passed without serious mishap, two adults and eighteen children found graves in the Atlantic. Several children were born. The emigrants looked forward patiently and hopefully to better things to come in the New World, and during these weeks upon the water they were enabled to become better acquainted with one another: their interests became more closely identified and their aims became more clearly defined. The four little ships finally cast anchor in the harbor of Baltimore, Maryland - the first late in May and the last early in June. Much happiness prevailed when the Hollanders beheld American shores, for it meant the end of a tedious ocean trip.
Thus the first large organized body of emigrants who forsook the intolerable conditions of The Netherlands willingly submitted to inconvenience and suffering in order to find a better life in America; but they were to experience still greater discomforts and griefs before finally establishing themselves upon the prairies of Iowa.(44)
NOTES AND REFERENCES
(37) Van Raalte's Landverhuizing, pp. 37, 54,
55. In their letter to Christians in North America, van Raalte and
Brummelkamp appealed for money to help promote the emigration of the
worthy poor: "In the following month [June, 1846] fifty persons,
partly members of our congregations, partly other Christian countrymen,
intend to journey via New York and the Lakes to Milwaukee, Wisconsin,
where a few families from the province of Gelderland already live; while a few others intend to journey down the Ohio to Hollanders in
Illinois, later join those in Wisconsin, and together to found a colony
whither subsequent emigrants may go, according as the Lord shall. supply
us means to cover traveling expenses."
(38) Nollen's De Afscheiding, p. 42. Scholte said of himself: "At an age when man is at the zenith of his power to work, with all my God-given wealth and spiritual gifts, I can be of use there to my own family and to many of my present and also future countrymen: here at home the way to that is closed." - Van Stigt's Geschiedenis, Part I, p. 24.
(39) Donnell's Pioneers o f Marion County, p. 160. The number is given on the authority of A. J. Betters, one of the first Dutch settlers in Iowa.
(40) The Dissenters were pretty well scattered
throughout the kingdom, but most of them were to be found in the
provinces of North Brabant, Gelderland, Overysel, Groningen, and
Friesland. H. P. Scholte was the leader at Utrecht. -- See Nollen's De
Afscheiding, p. 29.
(41) Van Stigt's Geschiedenis, Part I, pp. 85, 86.
(42) Nollen's De Afscheiding, p. 43; and van Stigt's Geschiedenis, Part I, p. 32.
(43) For the names of perhaps all off the Dutch emigrants upon these vessels see van Stigt's Geschiedenis, Part I, pp. 89-112. This book, pp. 112-114, also contains the names of about seventy-five persons who came to America on various other ships, and afterwards settled in Iowa.
(44) Van Stigt's Geschiedenis, Part I, pp. 115-121.
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