Sioux County, Iowa



Remko Kooi was born in Chicago, IL, on July 4, 1864. He was the son of Pieter Rueben Kooi (1823-1873) born in Oldenzyl, in northern Netherlands and Gerrje Pieters Abbenga (1833-1874). Remko Kooi's parents came to America and married in 1854. They settled in Chicago after a three month voyage by sail boat. Remko's parents died in Chicago when their children were still young. Remko was only ten years old at the time, and the four children lived with aunts and uncles in Chicago.
In 1881 at the age of 17 years, Remko Kooi came to the Sioux Center area by train along with the Roelof Borgman family. Their son Jim Borgman and family became life long friends of the Koois. Remko worked as a hired man for Hessel Roorda, Sr. and Teunis Weyenberg.

On Sept. 25, 1888 Rev. J. De Pree married Remko Kooi and Grada "Clara" Kastein. Her parents were Benart Kastein and Fredrika Ten Brink. (See their separate story.)

In 1888 Remko Kooi homesteaded land which is right west of Lebanon. He broke the prairie with a sod buster plow and as time went on he accumulated more land in parts of four sections around the home place for a total of 960 acres of tillable land, pastures, sloughs, hilly ground and along dry creek bottoms which ran for a mile length from the northeast. At first the creek bottoms were very soggy and wet, which was a reason that this part of the country was last to be settled. Also, claims had been slow to clear from former owners. 740 acres were added when farms were bought in Center and Eagle townships. Later the married children and families lived on these farms that had been occupied by tenants and hired help thru the years.

Sioux Center was a fast growing town in the 1890's. There were several implement dealers and the family friends, Jim Borgman, was one of those supplying the farms to the west of Sioux Center. There was demand for the new machinery for planting, haying, and harvesting. Binders cut the corn stalks, bundles were set in shocks, later pitched on racks to feed livestock in mangers in the yards. Shocks of grain were pitched on racks then on to the cone shaped stacks, set in groups of four or more. Steam thrashers went from farm to farm. The threshing engineer and separator tender stayed overnight to save time to get the work done sooner. John Kroon of Sioux Center came many years with his rig, also near by neighbors, the Miller brothers.

A close call happened one day in 1891, in near by "dry creek", 18 month old Gertie was found floating in the water with her doll in her arms. A hired man galloped horses to bring a doctor from Hudson SD, 3 1/2 miles away. Gertie had been massaged by her mother during those minutes and survived that near drowning.

There were no bridges over the Rock River the first few years, so the quickest way was to ford the river and make a short cut thru the fields. Mail had to be picked up from the Hudson, SD. Post office, before rural delivery began about 1910. This mail delivery was done by using a horse and buggie from Hawarden, IA.

Trips to Sioux Center and to Hull, IA, to visit Grada's sisters meant a full day of long driving in the early morning and again in late afternoon with the little ones going along. The children attended Garfield #8 school, one mile west. The farm work kept the boys away from school many times. The family read books and papers and enjoyed playing games.

Some of the first farm buildings are still in use today. A large 60 by 90 foot livestock barn built in 1898 still has the name "Blue Grass Stock Farm" painted on it. The hay loft was a place to play for the children. Well kept horses were a source of pride in the stalls of the horse barn. The boys spent much time on horse back, herding cattle in the early years. The fat cattle were driven by horse back the eleven miles to Sioux Center, to go by rail to Chicago or Sioux City.

During those pioneer years Grada Kooi repaired the shoes, did the sewing, had eggs hatched by hens and incubated, had a big garden, a fruit orchard and many flowers and shrubs. There were always many hired men to feed besides her family of ten children. In 1902, 2000 maple and box elder trees were set out in furrows around the acreage which grew into a tall grove lasting some 60 years.

Much sand was hauled on one box wagon from the Rock River for farm use. There was an ice house to store the blocks of ice in saw dust, and a smoke house to cure meat. A "Delco Light Plant" provided the electricity for the house with two rows of batteries which were recharged by a gas engine, was in use in the later years, thru the 1920's.

Trucks, tractors and autos came after 1910. Two of the first cars were a "Regal" and Carter Car. Mud made the roads impassable at times. These cars had a hard time going up any hill.

Kooi relatives from Chicago and Wyoming came for visits. Church activities, friends and relatives were a part of family life. There was an organ for music and in 1904, Remko Kooi's brother Peter Kooi shipped a piano from Wyoming as a gift. Today it is still being used by a great grandsons family. There was accordian and mouthharps for the boys, an Edison, with cylinder records, phonograph with its large trumpet horn. The first radio came in 1923.

Back Row L-R: Peter, Gertie, Ben, Fred.
Middle Row L-R: Bertha, Dreaka, John.
Front: George.

Remko and Grada added on to their original home built in 1890. By 1913, the result was a large stately house with four large pillars on the front porch which are still a feature of the house today. They first attended church services in a school house one mile east and then a church was built in 1904 where the village of Lebanon had its beginning. Remko Kooi donated an acre of land on which the Lebanon Christian Ref. Church was built. By 1914 Remko Kooi also had properties in Lebanon, having built a Hardware Store and a Blacksmith, both with attached housing and a separate house, a "Kooi Garage" for repair, selling tires, and selling the first model of Chevrolets costing about $490. His brother-in-law, Steven Campagne, of Sioux Center was associated with this operation as he had a car business there.

During the World War I period the Koois sponsored many families from the Netherlands, who would work for a time and most would go on to farm on their own. Two sons, Ben and Fred served in the army in WWI. A daughter Dreaka died in 1927. Remko Kooi lived on his farm until his death at age 60 on Oct. 31, 1924, as well as did his wife Grada who died Feb. 13, 1935. They are buried in the Lebanon Cemetery. There are nearly four hundred descendants of Remko Kooi today. The children of Remko Kooi and Grada "Clara" (Kastein) Kooi are as follows:

Gertie (1899-1964) married Peter Haverhals (1890-1964) on Feb. 1914. Their children are; Anna (Henry Dekkers), Grace (Peter Dekkers), Gertie (Melvin Bonnema), Siebert, Rena (Chris Dragstra), Peter, Dreaka (Allen Boeve), and Adelene Haverhals.

Benart "Ben" (1891-1981) married Lura Brown (1894-1975) on March 3, 1919. In 1946 they moved to Pella and Ben worked at the Veterans Hospital at Knoxville, IA. Their eight children were; Lewis, Earl, Esther (Vander PIas), Margaret (Lloyd Dickerson), Joyce (Delmar Van Wyk), Florence (Robert Blom) and Ruth Kooi (1892-1914) died by drowning in the Rock River.

Frederick (1894-1986) married Ida Sybesma (1899-1984) Jan. 27, 1921. In 1945 they moved to Denver, CO. Their children were; Raymond, Gladys (George Gritter), Clarence, Bernice (Neal Afman), Peter, Stanley, Vicki (John Peterson), Mildred Kooi, Irene (Douglas Chadwick), Elmer and Glen Kooi.

Bertha Jeanette born June 14, 1896 married Gerrit Vander Lugt (1896-1968) on Jan. 27, 1921. Their children were; Margaret (Andrew Vander Stoep), Raymond, Grace (Severt Haverhals), Allen, Lois (Tony Hooyer) and Dorothy (Lester De Jong).

Two youngest children of Remko Kooi
L-R: Ellis and Jennie.

John born May 18, 1898 married Gertie Vander Lugt (1900-1966) on Feb. 21, 1921. Their children were: Dreaka (Henry Van Ballegooyen), Grace (Cornelius Harthoorn), Randall, William, Peter and Elmer.

Dreaka Helena was born Feb. 19, 1901 married Case Haverhals (1898-1943) Jan. 30, 1923. She died June 19, 1927 after an operation for a ruptured appendix. Their children were; Cornelius, and Geraldine (Clifford De Mots).

George Remko was born Aug. 24, 1904 married Margretha Vos (1907) on Feb. 12, 1930. Their children were; Grada (John Van Ballegooyen), Leonard, George, Alida (Marvin Scholten), Margaret (Teunis Fluit) and Linda (Kenneth Altena).

Ellis Daniel born July 28, 1907 married Christine Van Zanten (1908) on July 20, 1929. Their children were; Grada (Clifford Raak), Bertha (Duane Vos), Renzella (Richard Kempema) Kenneth and Karen (Noble).

Jennie Marie was born Jan. 8, 1911 married Adrian Haverhals (1912) on Nov. 20, 1931. Their children were; Marie (Edward Jensen), Greta (Donald Cavanaugh), John, Robert, Arthur, Laurence and Douglas.

by Jennie Haverhals

Source: Sioux Center Iowa 1991 Centennial Book--Family Contributor, Mary Haverhals


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