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DeVries, Gerben, 1847-1935


Posted By: Lydia Lucas - Volunteer (email)
Date: 7/14/2019 at 23:43:30

From the Sioux Center News, February 15, 1934:

February 4 marked the 87th milestone in the life of Gerben A. De Vries, one of Sioux Centerís few remaining homesteaders. In honor of the event 103 of his descendants and friends gathered at the John Smith home. Rev. L. A. Brunsting offered a short prayer and gave a short talk. The rest of the time was spend in singing and listening to Mr. De Vries recount the old days.

Mr. De Vries loves to reminisce of times gone past. His life has been a full and interesting one. Born in Bilt, Netherlands, in 1847 he lived in the Old World long enough to acquire some of its thrifty and desirable habits before coming alone to America in 1868 when he reached his majority. He moved directly to Pella where in 1869 he found romance and was married to Susie Brandsma. The young couple lived near Pella for a few years before the stories of the rich farm lands in Northwest Iowa [so] appealed to them that they decided to move.

Accordingly, in 1872 Mr. and Mrs. De Vries with two small children made the long, tedious journey to Sioux County in a covered wagon. For a short time they farmed near Orange City. Before long, however, Mr. De Vries took a homestead three miles south of here, on the present J. Vander Schaaf farm. In 1883 the De Vries family moved to another of their farms northeast of town which was the home of Mr. and Mrs. De Vries until 1905 when they retired and made their home in Sioux Center.

The first years in Sioux County were hard ones for Mr. De Vries and his family. The future was beginning to look brighter, when as in a great cloud, grasshoppers descended on their farm, blotting out not only the sun but the bright future. For three years these winged insects ruined their crops. In one year their total crop yield was a single load of unthrashed wheat. To many pioneers the strain was too much and they moved back east. However, Mr. De Vries stayed here and prospered in the end.

Mr. and Mrs. De Vries were united in happy wedded life until 1920 when Mrs. De Vries passed away. Her death was the first break in the family circle. A daughter, Mrs. Peter Vande Berg, succumbed three years later for the only two deaths in the immediate family circle. Mr. De Vries still has nine children. All of them live in this vicinity.

Perhaps Mr. De Vries has the largest number of descendants of any living Sioux Countian; at any rate among the most. Besides his nine children, he has thirty-seven grandchildren and thirty-six great grandchildren for a grand total of 83 direct descendants, not counting those married into the family. If those who became members of the family by marriage are to be included the De Vries clan numbers five score and eight. Incidentally, of this large number only one family, the Bill Goemans family, does not live in Northwest Iowa.

Like so many of the old pioneers this venerable gentleman lives a life of the past. Present day experiences are measured by those of the nineteenth century in his eyes. He loves to recount the past, and it is with a bit of pride in his eyes when he tells of the growth of this territory, for he was one of the early settlers who persisted through the hardships and saw this land emerge triumphantly. Although he spends much time in the past Mr. De Vries is interested in present day affairs. He anxiously awaits the papers and watches with a critical eye the news from Washington. Mr. De Vries calls himself a strong Republican and it was a keen disappointment to him not to have Hoover reelected in the last election. Besides reading his papers Mr. De Vries devotes a part of his day to studying the Bible.

Although he is troubled with a slight cold now Mr. De Vries has never been seriously ill. When he first came here he was troubled with rheumatism and that is the total amount of his sicknesses. His eyesight is better than [that] of many people a score or more years younger than he. Mr. De Vries still reads without glasses. Until recent years he delighted to putter around in his garden but now Mr. De Vries prefers to sit in his easy chair and read or talk of the olden days.

(Transcriberís note: His obituary, posted separately, gives his wifeís name as Seitske Bruinsmaa. Her obituary has her birth name as Sietske Bruinsma.)


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