TeGrotenhuis Reunion 2013: what we know about the TeGrotenhuis-Sipma journey
How Did Ed and Jennie TeGrotenhuisEnd Up in Colorado?In 1908, a young couple named Ed and Jennie TeGrotenhuis, moved from a small farm town in westernIowa to the western slope of Colorado. They traveled here with the first four of what would eventuallybecome 11 children, to join Jennie’s parents in making a new home in this beautiful country. Thatendeavor went pretty well, as evidenced by the crowd of us that stem from the roots of that specialfamily tree.As we prepare to gather in Colorado for our 2013 family reunion this summer, I’ve been looking over thehistorical information pulled together for our 1991 event. I am so thankful to those who took the timeto gather up that story, dating back to our first American Sipma ancestor, Sjoerd(pronounced “zhooerd”,and translates as “Stuart”) AukesSipma, who took the time to write two letters in 1847-48 that describein great detail his journey to Iowa and the conditions he and his fellow Dutch immigrants encountered.Those letters are so rich, in fact, that they are cited in a number of publications—justgoogleSjoerdAukesSipma and see for yourself.The emigration story for our TeGrotenhuis side has been more of a mystery. We knew they did notmake their way to Iowa with the Sipmas, but little else about when and where they first settled inAmerica. A few of those bigger questions now have answers.In this little paper, I’ve tried to pull together what we know about the TeGrotenhuis-Sipma journey fromHolland to the western slope. There are still some holes in the basic tale, so I welcome you to fill in anyof these that you can. And, of course, please straighten me out if anything here is just not quite right.Alan HoltSon of Alice TeGrotenhuis (10thchild of Ed and Jennie TeGrotenhuis), and Hardy Lloyd HoltJune 23, 2013
The Sipma JourneyJennie’s grandfather, SjoerdAukesSipma was born on August 17, 1812 at the village of Bornwird in themunicipality of Westdongeradeel, in the province of Friesland (or Fryslan) on the Netherlands northerncoast. Bornwird (sometimes shown as Bornwerd or Boarnwert)today is a small village in the mergedmunicipality of Dongeradeel and has about 130 citizens (2004). Friesland is culturally distinct from therest of Holland. Even today, over 90 percent of the residents of this province speak the native Frisianlanguage, which has many similarities to Old English. Frisian was primarily an oral language from thetime the Saxon conquest of Friesland established Dutch as the official language in the 15thcentury, untilthe 19thcentury when Frisian literature blossomed anew.Sjoerd would have conducted business,writing, and conversation with non-Frisian Dutch immigrants in the national High Dutch language, andspoken Frisian with his family and Frisian neighbors.Sjoerd was a son of AukeSipkesSipma and YttjeRitskesReitsma. He worked as farmhand and marketgardener at a time when work was scarce, severe hunger was the norm, and the prospect of owning oreven leasing farmland was far out of reach for most families in the Netherlands. These hard times werethe result of a war that split off the wealthy, industrialized southern portion of the Netherlands to formBelgium, leaving the north more dependent on agriculture at a time when the potato blight was wipingout this major food source much as it did in Ireland. The war also burdened the people with massivetaxation to replenish the national treasury. At the same time, Sjoerd’s community struggled underreligious oppression. The Dutch monarchy had claimed control over the church after the defeat ofNapolean in 1814, and by the 1840’s the failures of this nationalized church had given rise to a strongand widespread “dissenters” movement. The government, in turn, clamped down on these religiousdissenters, preventing them from organizing their own churches and jailing their ministers. These twoforces—desperate poverty and religious persecution—drove thousands of Dutch families to organizeemigration “associations” in which they pooled their resources to form new communities in SouthAfrica, the East Indies, America, and elsewhere. (See the appendix below for more on this subject.)Less than a month before emigrating to America, Sjoerd married JantjeSjoukjes de Vries. She was bornon June 6, 1819 at Engwierum in the municipality of Oostdongeradeel, a daughter of SjoukjeRuurds deVries, a labourer. Together, Sjoerd and Jantje left Friesland on April 3, 1847 to go to America in searchof a better life. Sjoerd’s sister Heiltje and her husband HierkeYpesVierson were part of this sameemigrant group. (His brother Ritske joined Sjoerd in Iowa in 1853 and raised a large family there. Hiseldest brother SipkeAukesSipma left Holland to join his siblings years later, at the age of 70, but diedduring the voyage. Three other siblings—Grietje, Jeltje, and Iltje—never left Holland.) After a gruelingbut successful ocean voyage they arrived in Baltimore on June 11, 1847 and on August 31, 1847 in theopen prairie that would become Pella, Iowa. The details of this journey are described in Sjoerd’s lettershome, which are attached below. These two letters* warrant a close and careful read by any familymember, for they say a lot not only about the times and the country, but about the character of the manwe all share as a common “first American” ancestor. They speak of dedication to family andcommunity, open-mindedness to strangers, and the quiet boldness to build a living out of virtuallynothing other than hard work, careful preparation, and skilled execution in harmony with his neighbors.
As they helped establish the first Dutch community and surrounding towns in the eastern part of Iowa,Sjoerd and Jantje had three children, Ietje, Auke (died in infancy), and Jan (John). Jantje died sometimeafter the birth of John before 1856. Sjoerd remarried in 1857 to Boukje (or Bertha)BoonstraBrunia, awidow with one daughter, Tryntje. Sjoerd and Boukje would have six more children together. Sjoerdmade his living as a farmer and by buying and selling land. He was well-respected in his community, asevidenced by the fact that he was chosen along with three other men to set out in 1869 to inspect landsavailable for homesteading further west. The scouting party filed claims for about 80 families over17,920 acres of land near the settlement of Cherokee in far northwestern Iowa, not far from theMissouri River and the Nebraska border. (A record of their exploration describes the mayhem in thestreets in front of the land claims office in Sioux City, where men ran foot-races to determine who wouldwin a disputed claim. The well-organized Dutch party arranged with the land office agent to meet at theback door to the office that evening to file their large claims, apparently in recognition of the benefit tothe country that would come from the establishing an orderly Dutch community. Or was the land agenta cousin?) Their claims in hand, they moved west by wagon in 1870, and established the newcommunity of New Holland, later renamed Orange City, as well as other towns over the coming years.Other Dutch families from Iowa, Holland, and from Dutch settlements elsewhere in the U.S. joined thenew community in northwest Iowa, and among these was the family of Ed TeGrotenhuis. More on theTeG’s later.Sjoerd never regretted his decision to leave Friesland as is witnessed in his many letters to the countryof his birth. But leaving had been difficult for him.A short fragment from one of his letters:Now a few words for you, my elderly father, if you are still alive. For you to come here wouldprobably not be good, you would likely not complete the voyage. Parting from you was difficultfor me, much more difficult than I let on at the time. I would wish to be with you, Father, andwith my brothers and sisters, but I would not wish to return to Friesland. O Father, should ournames be written in the Book of Life, about which from this side of the grave we know but little,then we will see each other again in the heavenly Jerusalem where there is no mourning or tears;then all our tears will have been wiped away.Sjoerd’s second wife Boukje—the mother of our ancestor John Sipma—died in 1884. Sjoerd married fora third time, to KaatjeDeBoer. Upon his death in 1896, Sjoerd was buried next to Boukje in theWestlawn Cemetery in Orange City. He left behind 63 grandchildren.By the time his parents moved the family western Iowa in 1870,JohnSipma was a young man of 18,raised on the hard work of creating a self-sufficient farm from Iowa’s tallgrass prairie. Undoubtedly, aman’s share of work fell to him in this new push west.While we don’t know the year of their marriage, by 1878, John’s bride Dena Harmson (5 years his junior)gave birth to Jennie (or June in Dutch), followed by Nettie (Antonia) in 1879, Edith (Eatje) in 1881, Gerritin 1886, Stuart (Sjoerd) in 1888, and Edward in 1891. Somewhere along the way, John and Dena movedto the new town of Hospers, about 50 miles northeast of Orange City in Sioux County, and built a
prosperous hardware business to support their growing family. Four months after his 50thbirthday in1902, John’s eldest child, Jennie, married Ed TeGrotenhuis.The TeGrotenhuis StoryEd TeGrotenhuis was the seventh child of Evert Jan TeGrotenhuis and Bernedine(or Bernendina)Aleida(sometimes abbreviated as B.D.A.)Rensink. Evert (born March 5, 1832) and Bernedine(born June 27,1839) had joined the wave of emigrants leaving Holland to escape the poverty and religious persecutionof the mid-19thcentury. Unlike the Sipmas, the TeGrotenhuis’ were from the municipality of Aalten inthe province of Gelderland in the central-east part of the Netherlands, immediately adjacent to theGerman border. It is likely that their first language was Dutch, and certainly not the Frisian of theirSipma in-laws.The TeGrotenhuises immigrated to America in 1866, according to Bernedine’s obituary. I haven’t foundany details of their journey, nor any record of where they first settled in America other than Aunt MabelBarton’s 1991 reunion letter indicating that they first settled in Michigan. Michigan was a populardestination for Gerlanders (along with New York and Wisconsin). According to the 1880 and 1885census for West Branch Township,Sioux County, Iowa their three oldest sons were Gerrit Jan born in theNetherlands in 1865, Hendrick born in Wisconsin in 1867, Dirk Willem born in Wisconsin in 1868, andWillem born in Wisconsin in 1872. Dirk Willem’s birthplace is listed as Waupun, Dodge County,Wisconsin, and another sibling was born in nearby Cedar Grove, Sheboygan County, suggesting thefamily lived in more than one location during their five years in Wisconsin. Evert and Bernedina movedthe family to Iowa in 1872 and their seventh child Edward John was born in Sioux County in 1876. (Edhad three other siblings: John, Jane, and Mina, also born in Iowa.) When he married Jennie, Ed wasnearly 24 years old. He built a house and a successful blacksmithbusiness in Hospers, within blocks ofthe Sipmahome and hardware store.The Move to ColoradoBy 1903, JohnSipma’s father Sjoerd had passed away (1896). With his three daughters now marryingand his three sons in their teens, John, together with a number of other Holland families, began toexplore new opportunities further west. He fell in love with western Colorado, and much to theexasperation of his dear wife, John sold theirpleasant Hospers home and successful business to finance anew start west of the Rockies near Crawford. I have no record of their journey from Iowa to Colorado,but presumably some portion of it was by train, perhaps from Omaha to Grand Junction, and then bywagon to Crawford. I also do not know if their younger boys—Gerrit, Stuart, or Edward—joined theirparents in the move to Colorado or remained in Iowa. They lived at first on a fruit ranch owned by afellow Hollander (Van Zyles, according to Uncle John’s 1991 reunion letter), before moving to their ownhomestead 10 miles from Crawford where John cleared sage and cedar, built a simple four-room cabin,and planted a fruit orchard of his own.
In 1908, Ed and Jennie left Iowa to join Jennie’s parents in Colorado, bringing with them the first four oftheir children (John, Dena, Nettie, and Mabel). Again, we know little about their journey, although wecan again assume they travelled by train and wagon, and perhaps that they would have waited until thelate summer to make the journey since Mabel, the youngest, had just been born in February. Jennie’ssister Nettie and her husband William Den Beste also moved to Crawford(as did her sister Edith and herhusband Jim Teeslink?), thus putting in place the foundation for the renown TeGrotenhuis/Den Bestechoirs, quartets and general sing-alongs our TeGrotenhuis parents talked of so often. This and the restof their Colorado stories are told in their children’s memories, and in the letters some wrote for the1991 reunion, and of course, in the marks they each made on the communities they helped to build.“Must” reading for our clan members:1. Two letters written in 1847-48 fromSjoerdAukesSipma to the “instructor of youth” in Bornwerd,Friesland, together with the introduction to their publication in Holland by said instructor,JellePelmulder (who would later join the Dutch settlements in Iowa and be among the four menselected to scout new homesteads in western Iowa together with Sjoerd in 1869). (I have pdf ofthese letters.)2. Overview of Sipma history prepared by our cousins Henry and Thessa Sawyer in 1975. (I havepdf of this document.)3. Obituary of SjoerdAukesSipma from the January 22, 1896 edition of the Sioux County Herald,Orange City, Iowa. Includes a photo of Sjoerd. On the web at http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=185657314. Jacob Van der Zee (1912) Hollanders in Iowaathttp://www.iagenweb.org/sioux/books/hollanders/hollanders_26.htmThis publication (from 1912) offers a deeper look at the Holland that our ancestors left behind,their motivations for doing so, and the vigorous growth of the Iowa communities they founded.The excerpt below describes the conditions in the very region of Holland from which ourSipmaancestors emigrated. What’s more, our ancestor SjoerdAukesSipma was a “farm laborer”,whose general plight in Holland is specifically described below:Most of those who are coming over now are from Friesland. They come here as a land of refugefrom conditions which have grown intolerable in their home land. There opportunity hasdeparted, and to remain means that a man must ever be a plodder. Of course, over-populationenters into the question. In such a crowded country there is no chance for that spirit which wecall over here "get up and get". There is no chance for fortune to smile, and there is no incentiveto develop the land which one does not own.Holland is becoming a country for the well-to-do. The rich own much of the land. The land isnearly all in their hands. If by chance there is a piece of land, the farmer must bid for it. When apiece of land is vacant, which is not often, it is advertised for about a week and a date is set forrenting it. The lease is then practically sold at auction. One farmer will make an offer for the
property and another will raise the price a bit. And so it will go until finally it is a questionwhether the man who obtains possession is really the fortunate bidder. The price is run up tosuch a figure that one may perhaps make a living, but as to making more, never.Now, if this holds for the farmer, the man generally who has inherited some money or a lease, orwho has slowly climbed the ladder by the hardest kind of work, work that bows the shoulders inage and in time turns a man into a dull plodding fellow, what chance has the farm laborer, thehonest, hard-working man who has seen the sun rise and set in the fields as long as he canremember? His chance of becoming a leaseholder is reduced to a minimum, and he has hardly achance of ever becoming a landowner.Is it to be wondered at that these men are turning to the United States; that they are cominghere filled with an ambition to succeed? Could a more desirable class knock at the gateway ofthe New World? I crossed the Atlantic with several hundreds of my countrymen and I was proudof them every knot of the way. They combine thrift with a capacity for the hardest kind of work,and they are seldom discouraged. They were born to fight for existence in crowded Holland, andthat is the spirit they bring with them across seas.5. Robert P. Swierengen, The Western Michigan Dutch, from a 2004 talk by the author. (This papergives some idea of the Michigan settlements that our TeGrotenhuis ancestors may haveencountered as they settled in nearby Wisconsin before moving on to Iowa. On the web athttp://www.swierenga.com/hgspap1204.html6. Greetings from America 7—A bit more info on Sjoerd, including this comments: “A number ofthese letters [from SjoerdAukesSipma to relatives in Friesland] have been saved and those whoremained in Friesland have published them in an historically worthwhile booklet. Sipma canrightfully be named as one of the most important pioneers that came from Friesland andworked so hard to build the American midwest.” The booklet including the letters may be theDutch language publication shown on Amazon.com when you search for SjoerdAukesSipma.Would be great to get these translated. Greetings from America 7 is on the web at:http://iagenweb.org/marion/GROETEN/English_GROETEN/GroetenTrans_7.htmMost intriguing family mystery: Who was the American farmer who gave SjoerdAukesSipma a house tolive in and a job after a pennilessSjoerd lost many of his belongings in a house fire as winter was settingin during his first months in Iowa? (See his first letter from Iowa to Friesland.)Since we’ll probably neverknow, I guess our only way of repaying this incredible favor is to ‘pay it forward’ to some other strangerin need.Grave Sites and Obituaries:Grave of SjoerdAukesSipma and Boukje (Bertha) BoonstraSipma--Visit the West Lawn Cemetery,Florida Ave. NW at 6th St. NW, Orange City, Sioux County, Iowa. North Center Section, Row 22.
Grave of Evert Jan and B.D.A. TeGrotenhuis—Visit the Newkirk Cemetery, (cemetery of the FirstReformed Church of Newkirk (Hospers), Iowa, which lies less than a mile south of the church onRoad 400 west of Hospers. Middle section, row 3 from east side.From the Alton Democrat of Oct 19, 1901 .Hospers News.Died at his home in Newkirk on Thursday E. J. Grootenhuis at the age of sixty nine years.Bruialservices were held from the Dutch Reformed church at Newkirk of which he has been elder foralmost twenty years. He was a good Christian man and was respected by all who knew him.From the Sioux County IA cemetery index and from ancesty.com accounts. Evert JanTeGrotenhuis born 15 Mar 1832 Lintelo, Aalten Geld. Neth, died 15 Oct 1901 Floyd Tsp. SiouxCo. IA. His parents were - Jan HendrikTeGrotenhuis and AleidaReimes. He and wife were buriedin the Newkirk cemetery. He married BerendinaAliedaRensink Sep 11, 1862 at Aalten Geld.Neth. She was born Jun 27 1839 and died 2 Jan 1912. Their children were - Johanna 1863, Gerret1865, Henry 1867, Dirk 1872, Johan 1874, Jan 1877, Jennie 1878, and Jane 1879.From the Alton Democrat of Jan 6, 1912 .(A family picture appeared)Mrs. Evert J. TeGrotenhuis died at her home near Newkirk Iowa on Tuesday January 2nd ofailments brought on by old age. Mr. [Mrs.?]TeGrotenhuis was born at Aalten, provinceGelderland, Netherlands on June 27, 1839. In 1866 she came with her husband to America andthey located in Sioux County in 1872, and deceased was therefore one of Sioux Countyspioneers. To Mr. and Mrs. Grotenhuis ten children were born, six of whom survive. Mr.TeGrotenhuis died about ten years ago. The funeral services will be held this Saturday afternoonand will be condutced by Rev. Douwstra. Ed TeGrotenhuis, a son who resides at Crawford CO, isexpected to attend the funeral. The surviving children are Mrs. G. Kleinwolterink of Sheldon, G.J. TeGrotenhuis of Orange City, D. W. TeGrotenhuis, John Te. Grotenhuis and Mrs. John DeVriesof Hospers and Ed TeGrotenhuis of Crawford CO. Deceassedis also survived by two brothers andone sister: Henry Rensink of Sheldon, G. J. Rensink of Hospers and Mrs. G. W. Wesselink of SiouxCenter.(on www.genlias.nl found the marriage of Evert Jan teGrotenhuis born Aalten Geld. Neth 1832married Aalten 11 Sep 1862 to BerendinaAleidaRensink b. 1839 Aalten, daughter of Gerrit JanRensink and JennekenteBokkel. His parents were Jan HendrikteGrotenhuis and AleidaReimes)Note—TeGrotenhuis or teGrotenhuis or teGrootenhuis is a “farm name” meaning Evert Jan ofGrotenhuis farm. A person using this naming tradition would change his or her surname if theymoved. A man might marry a widow and move to her farm and, then, change his surname tothat of his new wife’s farm. The French established the civil registration when Napoleoninvaded the Netherlands between 1795 and 1811, requiring citizens to stick with a singlesurname so that the government could identify boys to be drafted for the army. The farm nametradition still shows up in surnames like ours.