Muscatine County, Iowa


This family story was given to Gladys Mittman, a member of the Muscatine County Genealogical Society.
She, in turn, submitted to the Muscatine County IAGenWeb site in November, 2014.

By John Graaskamp, Dec. 1952

        When I was in Muscatine, Iowa, from 8 – 12 November 1952, visiting with some distant relatives, to whom I had been writing from the Netherlands already (Mrs. W. Shafer), I discovered there must be quite a few other people from Winterswijk in that city, since I noticed such names as Mentink, Nijenhuis, Heesen, Schreurs, Sijwassink and others. I took the opportunity to talk to some of them whence comes the following report.

        Some of the earliest ones to come to Muscatine, Iowa, from Winterswijk in the Netherlands, were: Jan Bernend Nijenhuis and his brother Garrit, Jan Nijenhuis, Jan William Geurkink.

        They must have come around 1848.

        The story goes that there were quite a few families, relatives and friends of the “Winterswikjers” in Muscatine, that were interested to come to America, but did not want to come across, unless somebody from Muscatine would come out to accompany them to their destination. That’s how, in 1953, Jan W. Geurkink went to Holland again and came back with a whole crowd of immigrants, mostly from Winterswijk. There may have been some more in the same party who did not go along to Muscatine, but who stayed in Wisconsin or New York State because their relatives lived in Cedar Grove, Wis., or in Clymer, N.Y. or elsewhere.

        In February 1854, Geurkink and his followers left Rotterdam in a sailing vessel, landing in New York in April of the same year. The crossing took some 58 days. Amongst them were a William Nijenhuis, 16 years of age, a younger brother of the above-mentioned 2 brothers and his younger sister Janna Hendrika Nijenhuis of 11 years. She was the youngest girl of the Nijenhuis family. According to the Records of the Courthouse in Muscatine she died at the age of 56 years, on Nov. 22, 1899. Her brother Jan Berend was killed, when he was working on a scaffold, fell off and broke his neck (Aug. 18, 1888); he had been born in 1832, so that also he only lived to be 56 years.

        As to Willem Nijenhuis, he married to a Willemina Schreurs in the U.S.A.; they had 3 daughters and one son. They were:

    1. Ella Nijenhuis, married to August Altenbern, a contractor. They are still living.
    2. Janna Nijenhuis (still living), married to Fred Hofline (he died 4 years ago).
    3. Minnie Nijenhuis who died of typhoid fever at the age of 17 yrs.
    4. Charlie Nijenhuis (died Jan. 26, 1940 at the age of 55 yrs). He married Lula Farmer.

    They had 1 girl, Marian, who died at the age of 6 years. A boy, William who died when about 2 years and another boy anmed Robert. Robert is now 33 years old, and married to a Miller girl; they live in Des Moines, Iowa and have a one year old daughter.

        Along with Jan Willem Geurkink, in 1854, came one of his younger sisters. She was 24 years of age and married to a Gottschalk.

       In August, 1883, a nephew of Willem Nijenhuis, named Garrit Jan Heesen (born Jan. 28, 1867), being 16 years of age, came across from the Netherlands with his 10 year older sister, who in Holland had married a van Gent. This van Gent had to leave Holland because he had deserted from the Army. Garrit Jan Heesen was the son of William Heesen and Geertruida Nijenhuis; a brother of his father’s, named Jan Derk Heesen, was married to a sister of his mother’s, named Aleida Nijenhuis, known as “Leideken”.

This rather complicated relationship is easier to see in the following order:

Willem Nijenhuis (to USA in 1854) married to Willemina Schreurs. Children: Ella, Janna, Minnie, Charles. His brother -Jan Berned Nijenhuis (to USA in 1848) married Cathrine Heesen His sister - Aleida Nijenhuis married to Jan Derk Heesen, a brother of Cathrine Heesen. His sister - Geertruida Nijenjuis, married to Willem Heesen, a brother of Cathrine Heesen.
  Aleida & Jan Derk were the parents of Harmen Jan Heesen, who was father of Jan Derk Heese, Javastr., W'wikj Geertruida and Willem Heesen were the parents of Garrit Jan Heesen (to USA in 1883)  

       Garrit Jan heesen is 85 years old now. He told me, he was the only one of the faily to go to America. His parents, brothers and sisters all stayed in Holland and he had never been back to the old country. His brothers and sisters in Holland were: Hendrik, Janna, Hanna, Diena, Willem, Jan, Gerrit and Chris.

       After coming to American, he had boarded with his uncle Willem Nijenhuis for 12 years. His uncle belonged to a Baptist Church. Then Garrit Jan married Theresia Gottschalk (whose mother had come to USA with her brother Jan W. Geurink in 1854), born Feb. 10, 1869. She is 83 years now. Their daughter Stella Heesen married Ivan Klein who has a good garage business.

       The address of Mr. & Mrs. G. J. Heesen is 1031 ˝ W. Lucas Str., Muscatine. They are still writing to a relative in Holland, viz. Mr. Maillie (married a Heesen girl), Morsestraat, Winterswijk.

       Around 1882 a Jan Willem te Selle cae over from Holland with his wife Dina Kruisselbrink, his mother-in-law, old Mrs. Jannao Krusselbrink and together with them came his sister Janna Willemina Geertruida te Selle (geb. 1851) with her husband Hendrik Jan Bruggers and her family. One brother, Berend Willem te Selle, married to Hendrika Eggink stayed in Holland, op den “Tol” in de Brinkheurne. Their son Gerrit Hendrik te Selle, now living in Twello, Holland, has 2 girls writing to Muscatine.

       In those days quite a few Dutch belonged to the Baptist Church. There used to be a Rev. Christopher Schoenmaker, Mininster of that Baptist Church, who, after it broke up, went to Concordia, California. Some also went to the German Presbyterian Church which later became a Dutch Reformed Church. One preacher there was called Dracht, who, as the story goes, persuaded quite a few Dutch families to migrate to the State of Kansas where there was supposed to be cheap lands. Some of the families involved were Wllem Simmelink, Jan Willem te Selle, and his mother-in-law Mrs. Jannao Kruiselbrink. Bruggers and Beukenhorst. However the new colony did not prosper too good in Kansas (Cawker City, Down,s Luctor, all in Smith County) and the Baptist Church once had to send clothes to Cauker City to support them. Probably the dry climate and less fertile soil were the factors that hampered the development the most. When I was in Downs, Kansas, on Nov. 19, I found that most of the Dutch people over there originated from the Dutch province of Drente which was one of the poorest provinces of Holland. The people from Drente probably had more tenacity to survive and get ahead on the drier soil in Kansas; their children and grandchildren now have prosperous and well-kept farms.

       Jan Willem te Selle was married to Dina Kruisselbrink. They lived right close to the Heesens in Muscatine. Mrs. Te Selle’s mother, old Mrs. Jannao Kruisselbrink, whose husband had died in Holland, lived in with them. The children of J.W. te Selle were:

           John te Selle, born in Holland, who has 2 sons and 3 daughters living in Downs, Kansas. His wife, Dora, is still living.

           Jennie te Selle, who married Pracher Dracht’s son Egbert, living in Millbanks, S. Dakota. She also was born in Holland.

           William te Selle, born in W.S.A., drowned in Kansas as a young boy.

       Pracher Dracht, after the failure of the colonization in Kansas, supposedly went to Minnesota. His daughter, Plona Dracht whom I met in the Methodist Church in Muscatine, was married to John A. Te Strake, who came to Muscatine on Aug. 8, 1881. She can talk High-Dutch pretty good yet. John A. te Strake: 118 W. 6th Street (Phone 1104)

       Janna Willemina Geeertruida te Selle, born in 1851, was married in ‘7 to Hendrik Jan Bruggers. They came from Holland with some small children, together, with J. W. te Selle, his wife, mother-in-law and some children, in 1882. They had 2 boys and 3 girls, i.a.

    1. Lydia Bruggers, married to a Wolbert, lives in Downs, Kansas.

    2. Miene Brugges, now 78 years, married to Ben Sijwassink, lives at 205 W. 6th Street, Muscatine with her daughter Gertrude. (Phone 2205)

       Hendrik Jan Bruggers’ brother Petus Alertus Bruggers stayed in Winterswijk, Holland, whose daughter Willemina (married to G. W. Kortschot) is now 73 yrs of age and living in Winterswijk (corner Walienseweg-Singelweg-Vred.Weg)

       In Downs, Kansas, I met a Mrs. Worley, daughter of Willem Simmelink and Theodora Mennink. Wille Simmelink was born Mar. 10, 1849 in Winterswijk, died April 1933 in Downs, Kansas. His wife was born Mar. 13, 1856 and died June 20 1913. They came to Muscatine, Iowa Aug. 8, 1881 and fro there went to Kansas around 1900. They had 5 boys and 3 girls. Willem went back to Holland for a trip in 1914.

       I also visited with Mr. & Mrs. G. C. Mentink, Letts, Iowa and his daughter and son-in-law Mr. & Mrs. A. W. Mentink Ogier, Columbus Jct.. Letts and Col Jct., are appr. 15 miles from Muscatine. M. Mentink’s daughter found some old letters from Holland one time, and, wondering what had become of their distant relatives in Holland after the war, wrote to a family of Esselink on “Damkota-Huusken”, Woold, Winterswijk. When I was at the Esselinks one time searching for relatives in the U.S.A. I got the address of the Mentinks in Letts, Ia., and started writing to Betty Mentink, who in 1951 married A. Wayne Ogier and now has a small baby, Diana Elaine. Mr. G.C. Mentink is the grandson of Garret W. Mentink and Johanna te Strake. According to the records in the Courthouse In Muscatine this couple was married Jan. 29, 1875 by Klaas Swibs, minister of the German Presbyterian Church at Muscatine. Mr. G. C. Mentink still has one aunt and an uncle living in Muscatine. The Mentinks came to the U.S.A. in the 1860’s.

       In 1884 Berand Willem Nijweide came to Muscatine with his wife Aleida Anna Geertruida Mengers, born Feb. 13, 1844 and 3 children:

           Jan Wille Nijweide, born Jan. 13, 1880

           Janna Gesiena Nijweide, born Apr. 23, 1877

           Hendrik Jan Nijweide, born Nov. 8, 187?

           Born in U.S.A.: Leida Nijwide, born June 3, 1887

       Hendrik Jan died in 1946, was married to Bertha Weido. They had one son, Charles

       Jan Willem married Mary Te strake, born Sep. 2, 1879 (both still living). Has two sons & 3 daughters.

       Lida married David Flikkea, born June 26, 1906 (both living). Has three sons & 3 daughters.

       Janna Gesiena (Jennie) married L. N. Miller and has 3 daughters, viz: Mrs. Maude Miller Houdek, Mrs. Beulah Gertrude Miller Herlein, Mrs. Elizabeth Miller Johnson. After her husband died in 1945, she married Mr. Willia Shafer. When the war was over, she was anxious to know what had become of her distant relatives in Winterswijk, the Netherlands. She wrote a letter to the Red Cross in Winterswijk, telling therein that her mother had sisters married to Willink, Graasskamp and Bruiselbrink. I got to see the letter at the home of Mr. Freriks, Groenloseweg, Winterswijk, and wrote to Mrs. Shafer ever since. Although one sister of her mother’s was not actually married to a Graaskamp, but to a Kruisselbrink on the farm of “Graaskamp”, still she is related to me, as her mother’s mother was a Janna Geertruid Graaskamp which was a sister of my great-grandfather father Gerrit Willem Graaskamp on “Geesink-Kapken” [umlandt over the a] in Brinkheurne, Witnerswijk. Mrs. Shafer’s address: 1015 E. 8th Street, Muscatine, Ia.

       Mrs. Shafer’s father was first married to a Sene Beusink and had one daughter from her, Jennie Nijwiede. He had i.a. one brother in Holland by the name of Gerrit Jan Nijwide, of whom 2 sons are still living viz, Gerrit Hendrik, born 1863 (tweeden Poolman) and Jan Hendrik (eersten Poolman, Brinkneurne, Winterswijk). “den tweeden Poolman” told me that his uncle before he went to U.S.A. used to be quite a drinker (ne preuvemeister) but then he seemed to have improved in the States.

       Mrs. Shafer’s father’s first wife was a widow of Jan Berend te Strake and already had 2 children, viz. Hanna Te Strake, born Mar. 3, 1861 and died Mar. 28, 1889 and Jan Willem Te Strake, born Aug. 17, 1867. I visited Mr. J. W. te Strake on Oct. 25, 1952. He lives in Ripley, N.Y. with his son Carl Te Strake on a grape farm and has 16 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren. He is 85 years and was still picking grapes when I found him. He told e he came to the U.S. in 1886 with his sister Hanna. His uncle, a brother of his mother’s, paid their way across.

       As to the Muscatine”Winterswijkers” I also noticed the name of Schreurs, as the owner of a big Radio and Television Store.

       Most of these “Wintersijkers” belong to the Methodist Church. The Dutch Reformed Church broke up some 20 years ago.

       John Graaskamp

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