Sioux County, Iowa



Henry C. Van Roekel was born July 17, 1877 in Bennekom, Netherlands, to parents Cornelius and Gerritje (Veldhuizen) Van Roekel. They all immigrated to the U.S.A. on July 23, 1892. The first house they lived in stood where the education building of the First Reformed Church of Sioux Center now stands. Henry's first job was working on the farm of William C. Hulstein located 3 1/2 miles northwest of Sioux Center.

On March 22,1904 he married Allie Vander Ploeg, daughter of Tjasse Willem and Taaktje (Valk) Vander Ploeg, who came to the U.S.A. from the Netherlands on May 12, 1881. Allie was born in Sioux Center on August 7, 1882. Her parents were in the funeral business, furniture sales, and some carpenter work. Allie helped her parents build caskets for the funeral business.

After their marriage they moved to a farm 3 1/2 miles southwest of Sioux Center, living there for a year or two. They then moved to a farm 4 1/2 miles southwest of Sioux Center where they lived until they retired in the town of Sioux Center in 1945.

Henry C. and Allie (Vander Ploeg) Van Roekel

Twelve children were born to this marriage. Neal, the first son, remembers the long hours the parents worked, never having electricity, indoor plumbing, running water or modern conveniences. He remembers that his parents never complained, and they appreciated their landowners treating them fairly and kindly. As the children grew up each had their own jobs to do. After school the younger ones went to the hog yard to pick up the cobs for burning in the stoves used for cooking and heating. Kerosene and gas lamps had to be filled and lamp chimneys washed.

The farm work was done with horse power, and the corn picked by hand and often in very cold weather. All had a hot breakfast before going out to the field, including lots of fresh, warm milk directly from the barn. At the end of the day the corn would be scooped off the wagon on a pile or into a crib. Later there was an elevator used. Two horses drove the "horse power" which elevated the corn into the cribs. Much excitement was had when the horses would go on the run away!

The older children attended Hope Christian School just a half mile south of the farm home. Students came from a radius of 3 ½ - 4 miles, either walking to school or with horse and buggy. Each family paid whatever they could. The school was started by the Christian Reformed Church, and the average number attending was about 25, with the Van Roekels having four. Then hard times came and in 1925 the school was forced to close. After that the children attended two different rural schools.

During the summer neighbors worked together for the threshing of oats and when it was finished everyone packed a dinner and spent the day together, usually on the school grounds. It was a real treat when someone provided ice cream for all. Another picnic time was the annual family reunions, which were an all-day affair. There was always visiting back and forth with neighbors; all would go and everyone had a good time.

Family laundry was a long, hard task. All water had to be carried with buckets from an outdoor pump, put into a boiler on the wood burning stove, and heated until boiling. Then it was dipped out again into the washing machine. The older children remember using a scrub board. The first washing machine used "dog power". Polly, the dog, had to be caught and tied up on Sunday night because otherwise on Monday morning she could not be found to do the walk for washing.

Most all the food came from the farm. Animals were butchered on the farm with help from the neighbors. The women canned all the meat, taking several days. After all the steaming of the meat was done, all the walls had to be washed. There was always a large garden and many potatoes were grown; a lot of vegetables and fruits were canned. Several times a week many large loaves of bread were baked. We always had our own eggs, milk and cream, and no one remembers ever going hungry.

On Sunday everyone went to church with a horse and buggy, or a bob sleigh in winter. In 1920 Henry bought his first car, an Overland, for $600. There was only one car until the oldest boys bought their own.

The year 1916 was a sad year. Following is a part of the article that appeared in the local newspaper, translated from the Dutch: "May, 1916: The household of Mr. & Mrs. Henry Van Roekel is passing through a way of grave testing. We have to announce the death of the l0-year-old daughter Fannie. The little girl became sick last week with spinal meningitis, complicated with brain fever. Tuesday morning she passed away. The 12-year-old son (Neal) having had a serious accident being kicked by a horse, is not out of danger, and on top of this he bas gotten the measles. Besides this the family was increased in the beginning of the week (John). May the Lord be near to them in these days of suffering."

Henry served as a deacon and elder in the First Reformed Church, he served as a county road boss, and also on the board of the Co-op. Produce. Allie sewed a lot of blankets and clothes, beside all the cleaning, baking and canning. She was a member of the Senior Ladies Missionary Society of the First Reformed Church, serving as its treasurer for many years.

Henry and Allie ware married for 61 years; Allie died Dec. 15, 1965 and Henry died August 22, 1969. They were the parents of the following children: Neal of Sioux Center, Fannie died in 1916, Garret of Sioux Center, Tena Sneller of Sioux Center, Carrie Franken of Sioux Center, Tony of Sioux Center who died in 1989, John William of Orange City, Henry Allen of Sioux Center, Fannie Sneller of Clarkfield, Minnesota, Cynthia Van Regenmorter of Sioux Center, Harriet Meendering of Sioux Center, and Ellen Lorene of Sioux Center.

By Harriet Meendering

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


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