TRANSPLANTS TO EAST TEXASBy
W. T. Block
The Dutch Migration To Nederland, Texas, 1895-1915
the East Texas of 1900, whose non-native population can be delineated as
the overflow of the Anglo-Saxon Lower South, a Dutch colonization scheme must
have appeared somewhat phenomenal. To the promoters, who were owners of Kansas
City Southern Railroad, it was sound business, designed to convert surplus railroad
acreage into cash, and to stimulate business along those points of the line which
were barren of population.|
Arthur E. Stilwell, dreamer and railroad entrepreneur
of the late nineteenth century, expressed no qualms about accepting credit for
the plan. Financier and head of Guardian Trust Company of Kansas City, Stilwell
entered railroading, seeking a sea outlet for Midwestern wheat for export, hoping
to keep that product more competitive in price, and to evade the exorbitant rates
charged by the East-West lines.
Stilwell must be remembered as the man
who, when stymied in his efforts to build Kansas City Southern trackage (hereinafter
abbreviated K. C. S.) to the sea, dug an eight-mile ship canal and carried the
sea to the rails at Port
Arthur. When likewise stymied for domestic capital during the panic of 1893-1895,
Stilwell turned to Amsterdam bankers, and raised the $10,000,000 needed to bring
the K. C. S. rails south from Siloam Springs, Arkansas - hence the appellation
As a result of one of his famed 'hunches,'
Stilwell envisioned a thriving community of Dutch rice farmers on the coastal
plain north of Port Arthur,
of which he said:
|Again my thoughts
turned to Holland, and I decided that as we owed a debt of gratitude to the Dutch
people for their faithful support of the Kansas City Southern, here was a chance
to repay a part of it, to say nothing of the fact that the people of that country
make exceptionally capable farmers. So I founded a town and called it Nederland,
and instructed my emissaries to make a drive on the country districts of Holland
to entice a good class of citizens to the newly-organized community. We housed
them in a large hotel (Orange Hotel) especially erected for that purpose and gave
them good accommodations at reasonable rates. As soon as they could buy their
property and build their homes, we could bring over another delegation and put
it through the same process...|
|When the flow of domestic
capital slowed to a trickle in 1893, Stilwell recalled a Dutch acquaintance,
Jan de Geoijen, a coffee merchant of Amsterdam, whom Stilwell had met on a trans-Atlantic
crossing. He rushed to Holland and upon enlisting de Geoijen (phonetically anglecized
to "deQueen") as his Holland agent, managed to unload $3,000,000 of the railroad's
securities in twenty-seven minutes. Thereafter Dutch investors and workers were
granted a large voice in the management and operation of Stilwell's company.|
1897, after K. C. S. trackage had reached Port
Arthur, Dutch natives were employed at all levels. H. Visscher, an Amsterdam
accountant sent over to examine the railroad's books, remained in Kansas City
as the company's treasurer. In Port
Arthur, the firm organized a number of subsidiaries, including Port Arthur
Townsite and Land Company, with M. R. Bos as its first immigrant manager; Port
Arthur Canal and Dock Company; and Port Arthur Rice and Irrigation, which also
operated the Port Arthur Experimental Farm.
H. H. Beels, a Dutch immigrant
railroad builder on the Great Plains, became resident engineer for Port Arthur's
canal project. Jacques Tutein-Nolthenius became a trustee of the townsite company
and vice president of another K. C. S. affiliate, the Missouri, Kansas, Texas
Trust Company of Kansas City. Nolthenius was also right-of-way buyer for the railroad.
W. I. Vandenbosch became the railroad's emigration agent, commissioned to recruit
Hollanders who had earlier settled in Iowa and Michigan. L. Zylekins was Port
Arthur's first depot agent.
Jan van Tyen arrived in Port Arthur as
Holland's consul and de Geoijen's personal emissary, became manager of Port Arthur
Land Company and Holland-Texas Hypotheek Bank, amassing quite a fortune in the
course of his lifetime. His business associate, E. J. Everwijn-Lange was another
early and prominent Port Arthuran, who later returned to Holland. A. J. M. Vylsteke,
Holland's first vice-consul and agent for Joseph dePoorter Steamship Line, was
one of Port Arthur's
first citizens, living in a tent on the townsite before it was surveyed. By 1903,
Port Arthur's Dutch
immigrant population was estimated at 150 persons. In November, 1897, the
Herald stated: "...Port
Arthur is a new opening and the shrewd Hollanders are quick to take advantage
Stilwell's south Jefferson County land holdings came into
existence on October 15, 1895, when he purchased 41,850 acres of land from
Beaumont Pasture Company at $6.75 an acre. On December 4 of that year, title was
transferred to Port Arthur Land Company, Other than the railroad's right-of-way,
4,000 acres were reserved immediately and platted for the townsite of Port
Arthur. That left approximately 37,000 acres, which were surplus, to be utilized
for agriculture and other purposes.
That Stilwell prudently planned
to assure the success of his Dutch colonization attempt, to include a church and
school, is quite evident. That his project essentially failed is more attributable
to the temperaments and eccentricities of particular immigrants, who were unaccustomed
to American soil, climate, language, and folkways; to actions of his emigration
agents; and to the failure of rice markets and other uncontrollable factors.
made a number of trips to the Dutch colonies in Iowa and Michigan to recruit prospective
settlers to the new colony. On one trip, he managed to induce eight Iowans to
come to Texas and investigate conditions for resettlement. Texas Colonization
Company of Iowa's advertisements in the Dutch-language newspapers expounded concerning
the agricultural advantages to be found in Southeast Texas' soil and climate.
During 1898 Bartle J. Dijksma, and immigrant horticulturalist at Port Arthur's
experimental farm, painted rosy, prosaic pictographs of Nederland in Holland,
Michigan's Dutch-language newspaper, De Grondwet.
One result of those
early land promotions in the North was the arrival in May, 1897 of Gatze
Jan (George) Rienstra, Nederland's first settler. On his initial visit, Rienstra
expressed satisfaction with the site of the proposed colony, with Port Arthur's
experimental farm and pleasure pier, and noted that his fellow Dutch immigrants,
Port Arthur farmers J. Gautier and a Mr. Engelsman, were prospering. On his next
trip, Rienstra left his kitchen stove, farm implements, and personal effects standing
beside the railroad tracks at Nederland while he drove his wagon on to Port
Arthur to purchase lumber.
In Holland, Jan de Geoijen employed
J. E. Kroes, the former inspector of Netherlands-American Steamship Company, to
screen prospective applicants and establish their suitability for resettlement.
Emphasis was placed on the sturdy Dutch farmers of the provinces of North Holland,
Friesland, Groningen, and Gelderland, among whom agents of Port Arthur Land Company
circulated. Again, the picture most often painted was that of a 'Garden of Eden'
in East Texas, rather than that of open pasture land which, as of 1897,
had only one economic boon to warrant its habitation - the newly-laid railroad
trackage. Tradesmen, clerks, shopkeepers, teachers, even pastors, were solicited
as well, in order to stabilize the economic and social requirements of the planned
community. When the first group of these settlers had liquidated their assets
and prepared to travel, Albert Kuipers, a Dutch employee of the land company who
had been recruiting in Holland, made arrangements at Antwerp to escort the first
contingent of settlers to their new home in East Texas.
the meantime, Stilwell moved ahead with his plans for Nederland and its rice industry.
In 1896, he began Port Arthur's experimental farm, the purpose of which
was to experiment with all varieties of domestic animal and plant life, determining
which strains were most suitable for growing in the climate of south Jefferson
County. In March, 1897, he transferred F. M. Hammon, superintendent of the railroad's
farm at Amoret, Missouri, to Port Arthur as the new farm's manager. At the same
time, G. W. J. Kilsdonk, a well-known bulb grower and horticulturalist of Holland,
arrived to work on the farm and as the vanguard of the Dutch settlers slated for
In July, 1897, the farm superintendent was reporting
'great success' in the growth of sea island cotton, rice, asparagus, two varieties
of tobacco, and other farm products. By then the farm's facilities included 80
acres of bearing pear trees as well as olive, fig, and orange orchards, and a
large herd of imported Jersey cattle. That Stilwell overlooked no possibility
is evident in the farm's adoption of the umbrella china as the ideal shade tree
for the Dutch immigrants' front lawns. A thousand seedlings for transplanting
in Nederland were awaiting the arrival of the human transplants from Europe.
During the late summer of 1897, Port Arthur Land Company began work on
the first buildings at Nederland. The three-story, 33-room Orange Hotel (named
for the ruling house of Holland and built on the northwest corner of N. 13th and
Boston) was begun, and by November, was nearing completion. Its purpose was to
provide room and board at reasonable rates for the new immigrants until each had
completed his own home. As might be expected, the hotel soon became the center
of social life in the new community, religious as well as educational. Kilsdonk
was also transferred to Nederland as the land company's resident overseer. He
immediately began work on two store buildings, and soon afterward became Nederland's
December 24, 1897, Stilwell, Jacques Nolthenius, and Judge J. M. Trimble,
as trustees of the land company, platted the first townsite of Nederland, which
spanned both sides of the railroad track, and reserved to themselves "exclusive
rights to erect.... street car lines, railways, electric lights,... gas and water
pipes, mains and conduits...." With particular intent to please the immigrants,
they established two parks, Mena, named for the young and beautiful queen-regent
of Holland, and Koning (King's) Park. Street names were in the Dutch language,
and included such names as Kuipers Straat (street), de Geoijen Straat, Wilhelmina
Straat, and Heeren Straat.
In October, 1897, Stilwell organized the
Port Arthur Rice and Irrigation Company, capitalized at $50,000, with intent to
build a Neches River pumping plant and a system of 25 miles of rice canals sufficient
to irrigate 5,000 acres. The company's headquarters were built at a point two
miles south of Nederland (on Rice Farm Road), and its management was assigned
to Superintendent Hammon. Construction work on the canal system began in January,
1898, with 55 men and 27 mule teams, supervised by D. Zimmerman, a railroad engineer
who had been transferred from Kansas City.
At Smith's Bluff, a mile north
of Nederland on Neches River, a 100-horsepower steam pumping plant, with an outflow
of 18,000 gallons a minute, was installed. Two miles of inclined, outflow flume
were constructed above ground level, with the river end elevated fifteen feet.
(In 1922 the canal levees were flattened to provide the plant road into Pure Oil
(Unocal) refinery.) By the end of 1898, seven miles of the canal system
had been completed and three other miles were still under construction. During
1898, the rice company planted 700 acres of rice (460 of which returned a $21,000
profit), which production along the canal system reached 13,000 acres by 1904.
Rice production increased so rapidly, that the capacity of the pumping plant and
outflow flume had to be tripled within two years, forcing the irrigation company
to increase its capitalization to $150,000. Width of the outflow flume was increased
to 100 feet and pumping capacity to 78,000 gallon per minute.
November 18, 1897, Port Arthur Herald splashed its front page with news
of the first contingent of Dutch immigrants for Nederland, 46 men, women, and
children. They arrived at Galveston
on November 14th, but for some unexplained reason, did not arrive in Port Arthur
until three days later. Galveston Daily News carried the following notation:
|The steerage passengers,
fifty in number, were undoubtedly the finest lot of people that have been brought
here by any vessel recently. They all had money, the least any one of them had
being $30. The majority were bound for the new Holland colony at Nederland on
the Kansas City Southern railroad, and at least one of the steerage passengers
had bought his farm before he left the old country. |
All these colonists
were inspired to try their fortunes in this country by Mr. Albert Kuipers, who
has been over a considerable portion of the west and finally settled on Nederland
as the ideal spot...
After inspection, the Nederland party was placed
aboard a tug and conveyed across to Bolivar and thence by Gulf and Interstate
(rails) to destination. Before leaving the vessel, the passengers united in a
resolution, with Mr. Kuipers as chairman, by which they extended a vote of thanks
to Capt. Hansen and officers of the steamer Olinda for kind and courteous treatment
received during the voyage, and that they were pleased to recommend the Diederickson
line to the traveling public...
| The Herald stated
that many of the passengers spoke some English, and expressed favorable reactions
toward their new country and Port
Arthur. The article added that they were met at the depot by "several of their
countrymen," as well as the land company representatives, after which the newcomers
were fed at the Terminal Hotel and then taken to the Nash House for the night.
Afterward, the immigrants "thronged the streets, bent upon sightseeing..."
In a letter written to Holland on the same day, Kuipers reported that
he was immediately beseiged by prospective employers. In great demand were the
Dutch women and girls to work as household servants at $10.00 per month. Kuipers
reported as well that he immediately secured employment for the men as teamsters
and railroad laborers at $1.50 daily, as well as carpenters and gardners.
After they had rested, the vanguard of settlers were taken to the Orange
Hotel in Nederland, where they immediately selected their land and began preparations
to build homes. The newspaper gave the following partial list of arrivals: D.
Ballast, N. Rodrigo and six children; J. H. Muller, A. Teggelaar, N. Ernsting,
L.Tynkema. R. van Dalen, H. P. de la Bye, P. Koimann, M. Jorritsma and son, B.
H. Lans, W. F. Lans, A. J. Rysemann, J. G. van Tyl, K. Bronstsema, Miss Waterdrink,
Jan Tromp, C. van der Bout, M. Koot; A. J. Ellings, wife and four children; T.
ten Dekker, and J. C. van Heiningen.
next known contingent to arrive, 16 persons, came on the Diederickson line steamer
Lauenberg to Galveston,
arriving there on March 1, 1898, after a stormy voyage of three weeks.
More than half of that group were comprised of the Maarten Koelemay family, including
his wife Antje, sons Peter, John, Klaas, Martin and Lawrence; and daughters Tryntje,
Dieuwertje, and Klaasje, all of the latter at or approaching adulthood. Koelemay,
a cheese maker of Hoogkarspel, near Enkhuizen on the Zuider Zee, brought his cheese
molds with him, expecting to continue his former occupation, but that proved impossible
in the warm and humid climate of Southeast Texas. The family, who arrived simultaneously
with a blustering cold "norther," found the 'promised land' of Nederland to consist
of one muddy street, "a few houses, a hotel, a blacksmith shop, a mercantile and
a hardware store, a couple of saloons, and acres and acres of unfenced, unimproved
third group of whom the writer has a record arrived at Galveston
and Nederland on the same date, March 28, 1898, aboard the German liner
Olinda, after a stormy, 21-day crossing from Antwerp, which saw the vessel's stearing
gear break. Again Galveston Daily News reported that the 26 passengers for Nederland,
including 20 young men, were "the finest-looking company of immigrants seen at
Galveston in many years." Each was reported as being clean-shaven, and freshly-attired
"in white linen" and black ties. These arrivals of Dutch immigrants at Galveston
continued for many months and years thereafter, with a fourth group arriving on
the German liner Curatyba on April 26, and still a large, fifth contingent arriving
the following December 27, 1898 aboard the German steamer Ellen Rickmers.
last party to arrive in March had been escorted from Holland by B. J. Dijksma
of Port Arthur experimental farm, and had been met at Galveston by Kilsdonk. Upon
arrival at Nederland, they too were taken to the Orange Hotel, by then being managed
by Mr. and Mrs. Ellings, who had arrived earlier. As with the first group, Kilsdonk
immediately found employment for the young men with the railroad in Port Arthur.
Dijksma admitted that their first impressions of Nederland were mostly unfavorable
(some immigrants returned to Holland almost immediately), but Dijksma's attitude
was reversed in the course of his latter writings. He did advise that no immigrant
should attempt to settle in Nederland as either a farmer or orchard grower unless
he had the "proper means" with which to support himself for one year.
By April, 1898, the population of Nederland could be reckoned at no less
than 100 persons through immigrant arrivals from Holland, plus a handful who had
resettled from the Dutch colonies in the North, as well as a few native families,
who had taken up residence in the Dutch colony. In 1897, Louis A. Spencer,
his wife and six sons arrived and began operating a brick kiln a mile north of
Nederland. Handmade bricks fired in that kiln were used in the construction of
Orange Hotel and in buildings in Port Arthur. In 1898 J. B. Cooke brought his
family to Nederland and entered the lumber business.
same month also witnessed the beginnings of religious life in the new community,
and organization of a Dutch Reformed congregation (now Reformed Church of America).
Services led by lay leaders had been conducted each Sunday at the Orange Hotel
almost from the beginning, apparently by D. Ballast, whose signature appeared
on existent baptismal certificates. Dr. Henry Beets, then of Sioux City, Iowa,
made a special trip to Nederland to organize the parish, after which the new church
(until it dissolved about 1905) was affiliated with the Classis (synod) of Iowa.
A church was built at the corner of "Kuipers and Heeren Straats" (now Tenth and
Boston). Church records indicate that the congregation remained too small to afford
a full-time pastor. As of 1898, membership included four families and 28
members, and apparently did not vary greatly from those figures during its existence.
Education lagged only momentarily for Dijksma reported in the same article
that plans were afoot to establish a school and engage a teacher. The first school
was conducted in an outbuilding connected to the Orange Hotel, utilizing a teacher
from Beaumont, with Klaas Koelemay serving as interpreter. It remained there until
the small building was blown away during the hurricane of 1900. That the Dutch
were dedicated to higher learning can be attested to by the 1,000-volume library
that was maintained at the Orange hotel from its beginning.
5, 1898, Kilsdonk resigned and was replaced as the colony's resident manager
by W. I. Vandenbosch, the emigration agent for the land company. Kilsdonk planned
to visit his wife and son in Holland, but remained in Nederland until after the
queen's coronation festivities to serve as chairman of the preparations committee
(of which Peter Koelemay was a member). He apparently never returned to America
since he was still living in Holland as of 1900.
The early Hollanders
of Nederland found it mutually advantageous to organize for their protection.
For one thing, a definite language barrier existed between the Dutch and the native
inhabitants, with few if anyone who could adequately translate in the complex
legal and technical terminology which many problems required. As of July 1,
1898, Nederland's Colonists Union had twenty Dutch farmers, plus some skilled
craftsmen and laborers, as its members, with W. F. Lans serving as the organization's
president and P. J. van Heiningen as its secretary.
In an article
published in Holland at that time, van Heiningen commented on the costs involved
for those Dutch immigrants who chose to become rice farmers. Land sold at from
$20 to $50 an acre. A team of mules was valued at $170, a span of horses cost
$120, while good quality Jersey cattle sold at $70 each. In the same article,
Willem Beukers, a Dutch visitor to Nederland in January, 1898, noted both
the advantages and the disadvantages incurred by Dutch immigrants who settled
in Southeast Texas. Because of the cultural habitat which Holland represented,
Beukers concluded that "pretty good in the old country is better than very good
May 26, 1898, a meeting was called by the Hollanders of Port Arthur and
Nederland for the purpose of preparing for a giant celebration on the following
September 6, the date of the coronation of Holland's young Queen Wilhelmina. All
Dutch settlers in each town were required to attend. At that moment, "when Nederland
could hardly be termed a settlement," the utter magnitude of the event attests
to the importance accorded to it by the officials of Kansas City Southern railroad
and by its affiliate, Port Arthur Land Company. No expense was spared, and fortunately
Port Arthur Herald has left a most graphic account, filling five columns, more
than half of its front page, for Septembr 6, 1898.
the lines, the writer interprets that Stilwell considered his Nederland experiment
to be hanging in jeopardy. Life in the colony was undoubtedly both harsh and monotonous
for the newcomers, as evidenced by those who sought greener pastures elsewhere
or returned to Holland. Stilwell probably wished to placate the Hollanders who
were still here, while at the same time calling attention to the rice growing
potential of Nederland (whose canal system by then represented a huge investment)
to the area's farmers. At any rate, the land company sponsored a gala event long
to be remembered by both Beaumonters and Port Arthurans as well, and although
the Dutch continued to arrive for many years more, their numbers were augmented
by an increase of native-born shopkeepers and rice farmers, who took up residence
among them. The celebration demonstrated as well that the Dutch were as fun-loving
as they were industrious.
the day of September 6, from 7 AM until 2 AM the following morning, special trains
were run from Port Arthur
and Beaumont to Nederland,
carrying the celebration participants, the pleasure-seekers, the spectators and
the curious. At 7:45 AM the first train arrived from Port Arthur, carrying the
first visitors and the Port Arthur band. After the latter had played a number
of selections at the depot, the participants formed a line of march to the hotel.
All of Nederland's buildings were festooned with bright bunting and the national
colors of both Holland and the United States. The Orange Hotel was decorated in
like manner, inside and out, with large pictures of the young queen, and with
holly and evergreens, "among which were interspersed red, white, and blue roses."
Other "accoutrements" of the hotel on that date were 750 gallons of Dutch beer,
brewed by Lans en Zoon of Haarlem, Holland.
Activities of the morning
included marching with the band to meet arriving trains at the depot. At 9 AM
the crowd assembled in King's Park, where a memorial orange tree was planted and
dedicated to the young queen. Kilsdonk addressed the crowd in the Dutch language,
and was followed by J. E. Kroes, who read a brief history of the young queen and
of Nederland's founding, also in Dutch. This was followed with translations by
Vandenbosch, after which all documents were signed by the festivities committee
and buried in an air-tight bottle with the tree.
The day's principal activities
consisted of competitive games at the race track. These included foot races over
a specially-designed obstacle course, bicycle races for both men and women, followed
by kite racing, greased-pole climbing, and a horse race. Betting was permitted
with participants soon learning that their favorite horse could place no better
than third. Since an election was imminent, political candidates campaigned freely
among the crowd.
At noon the crowd was treated to a Dutch menu with all
the trimmings, including fish, veal cutlets, roast beef, roast chicken, and vegetables.
Desserts included ice cream (the first that many Dutch had tasted), mixed fruits,
and cake. Drinks included coffee, tea, and beer.
Festivities of the
evening included one of the most brilliant pyrotechnic displays ever witnessed
in Southeast Texas up until that time, as well as dancing at the Orange Hotel
until 2 AM. The Herald noted that the most popular dance number was the "Rose
Grip Polka," and that many dancing prizes were awarded. Vocal selections were
rendered throughout the evening by members of the Koelemay family, with musical
accompaniment on the zither. The Herald also conceded that, as the Beaumont and
Port Arthur visitors boarded trains after midnight, they were "all convinced that
the Dutch know how to conduct an affair of the kind, so that all the people present
can have a good time."
speaking, Nederland's rice farmers subsequent to 1899 were about equally
divided between the colony's Dutch and non-Dutch inhabitants. Most often the Hollanders
who were able to begin rice farming immediately, as S. R. Carter had in 1899,
were those who had resettled from the Dutch colonies in the North. High operational
costs required that others work as laborers until they had acquired sufficient
land and means to begin. Perhaps, due to language barriers, the Dutch, almost
to a man, shunned any connection with the mercantile activities in the colony.
By 1900 Nederland's railroad tracks were lined with large storage
warehouses for, lacking a rice mill, farmers had to sack all harvested rice in
order to ship it elsewhere for milling. Elimination of the sacking system was
a principal cause for the organization in 194 of Nederland Rice Milling Company,
By May, 1903, Nederland's economy was booming. Rice production
increased steadily, and the Spindletop
oil boom, seven miles to the north, brought new money and settlers to the town.
By that time, the Dutch colony could boast of a population of 500 persons, two-thirds
of whom were Hollanders. In 1902, First National Bank and a newspaper, the Nederland
News, were established. The town's principal retail houses, Cammack Brothers,
King Mercantile Company, and Nederland Supply Company were all described as "doing
a handsome grocery, feed, and farm implement business..."
economic setbacks in the year 1905 were to have a disruptive effect on
Nederland's growth. A number of causes can be cited as contributory. In one year
rice acreage under cultivation plummeted from a high of 13,000 to 6,000 acres.
With little thought given to market demands (and that in an era when rice, like
grits, was regarded as a cereal grain or dessert ingredient), unsold backlogs
of rice began to appear, and delegations of Jefferson County rice millers began
to visit Europe in search of new markets.
By 1905 the oil boom at Spindletop
had ended, which eventually caused the closing of the Orange Hotel due to insufficient
lodgers. Within two years time, a number of the town's leading merchants, namely,
the bank, the newspaper, the rice milling company, and retail businesses had folded
in bankruptcy. From that year until it eventually ceased operation, Port Arthur
Rice and Irrigation Company was beset with problems due to disrepair of its facilities,
and the continuous threat of salt water as the Neches River channel was deepened.
And in 1906-1907 a serious national recession arrived.
no more than thirty Dutch families remained in Nederland. Three-fourths of the
original colony had moved away in search of better economic opportunity, a few
to neighboring points in Port Arthur or Winnie, but many went to Arkansas, Colorado,
Iowa or Michigan. The Dutch who remained were those who had already acquired sizeable
land holdings, and most of them turned to dairying, ranching, or truck farming
when the rice economy crashed.
Rev. Ralph Koelemay, formerly of Plover, Wisconsin, laughingly advised this writer
by letter many years ago that, on occasion, Nederland's Dutch colonists were equally
as guilty of misrepresentation in Holland as were the agents of Port Arthur Land
Company. Among Nederland's permanent colony that remained, it appeared that some
of the men arrived single, and later returned to Holland to marry their childhood
sweethearts. Fearful that their finacees might renege if they really knew how
primitive that living conditions in Nederland amounted to, some men resorted to
fantasy, and at least one bride arrived to find a squalid, one-room bachelor abode
instead of the livable quarters which she had expected. In that instance, however,
the bride accepted her new circumstances stoically and "pitched in" to help her
husband carve out an acceptable and prosperous existence for themselves.
In retrospect, the Dutch migration to Nederland could hardly be expected to leave
a large and permanent mark in view of the large number of colonists who moved
away. And of those who remained, their numbers were insufficient to bequeath a
heritage comparable to the Acadian regions of Louisiana or other large migrations.
In fact one characteristic of the Dutch personality strongly counteracted any
such possibility, for successful competition in the market place simply required
that the Dutch assimilate as rapidly as possible.
Henry S. Lucas, an immigration
historian, concluded that "Nederland became a place which is Dutch in name only,"
but careful scrutiny reveals that his assessment is not entirely correct.
It is true that Nederland's 18,000 inhabitants are primarily of East Texas, Louisiana,
or other native extraction, but a goodly number remain whose parents or grandparents
were Dutch immigrants.
Most of the thirty Dutch families of permanent residence
fared well economically and educated their children accordingly. The late C. Doornbos
and his family have contributed immensely toward Nederland's growth, and the C.
Doornbos Trust remains a family-operated, diversified enterprise. Their most recent
bequest was the 22-acres and funding for Doornbos Park, the city's main recreational
Children of the Dan J. Rienstra family have contributed in like
fashion, providing Nederland with two principal merchants (Albert and the late
D. X. Rienstra were longtime directors or board chairmen of Nederland State Bank,
now Bank of America, from its founding in 1948); Beaumont with two leading attorneys,
two school teachers, and a U. S. naval commander and graduate of Annapolis.
Dutch settlers, namely, George Rienstra, Jacob Doornbos, S. R. Carter, George
Vanderweg, Christian Rauwerda; John, Klaas, Martin and Lawrence Koelemay; Gerrit
and Peter Terwey, Baucus Westerterp, Carollus Bruinsma, and John van Oostrom to
name a few, made similar contributions, many becoming economically independent
as well. And for the most part, many have made substantial contributions to the
city's growth and well-being, for idleness and criminality were vices virtually
unheard-of among Hollanders. Whatever the heritage left by them, Nederland is
justifiably proud of its origins, and has built a towering memorial as proof of
that assertion. Its broad-sailed Windmill Museum testifies in silence each day
as a tribute to that little band of Hollanders who braved the unknown in search
of a better way of life.
> next page
W. T. Block, Jr. |
Tales" > more
11, 2006 column
This story is a condensation of a longer one, "Tulip Transplants
To East Texas: The Dutch Migration to Nederland, Port Arthur, and Winnie," which
appeared in East Texas Historical Journal, XIII No. 2 (Fall 1975), 36-50, and
which is copyrighted by East Texas Historical Association, and is reprinted with