HOLLANDERS OF IOWA
JACOB VAN DER ZEE
Submitted by Gayle Harper
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EARLY PROMOTION OF IMMIGRATION TO PELLA
MOST memorable in the history of emigration from Holland to America are the years 1846 and 1847 because they mark the beginning of an exodus which has never abated and which resulted in the founding of the prosperous Dutch colonies in Michigan and Iowa. Thousands of Hollanders have since found homes in all of the north central States. An examination of census statistics reveals the fact that in 1850 there lived in Iowa 1108 foreign-born Hollanders, 2077 in 1856, 2615 in 1860, and 4513 in 1870. These figures are by no means surprising; indeed they are rather disappointing when compared with those for Michigan. The northern State succeeded in luring more than twice as many Dutch immigrants to her forests as Iowa attracted to her fertile prairies during the same period.
One reason assigned for Michigan's large Holland-born population is the fact that the families which followed van Raalte were for the most part poor but ambitious people, and for such it was easier to get a start in Michigan than in Iowa. Financially the Hollanders of Iowa were better off: Scholte is said to have led "the flower of the Dutch emigration of that day". The vast majority of Dutch immigrants were destitute and therefore were compelled to settle where they could get lands for almost nothing. Michigan's boundless timber tracts furnished the majority of the poor laborers and peasants with just what they wanted, while Iowa's prairie lands in the neighborhood of recent settlements were not within reach of their depleted purses.(91)
Another reason for the extensive settlement of Michigan by Hollanders as compared with that of Iowa is probably to be found in the nature of the two leaders themselves and in the character of what may be called their advertising methods. It is a noteworthy fact that both men encouraged their fellow-countrymen to flee from the Old World and come to a land where the honest workman was openly welcomed and easily enabled "to earn and eat his own bread ".
Early in 1847 van Raalte wrote a lengthy letter to a friend in Holland describing the colony which be had just founded. The letter was printed in the form of a pamphlet entitled "Holland in America, or The Dutch Colony in the State of Michigan", and it was offered for sale to the Dutch public. Van Raalte furnished an excellent account of his new home, his reasons for selecting timber land, a statement of general economic conditions in America, and he suggested the best routes of travel for prospective Dutch settlers. Incidentally he declared that trustworthy men had unanimously urged him to go to Wisconsin or Michigan rather than to Iowa, where much sickness prevailed owing to an unhealthful climate. In short, the pamphlet was an excellent advertisement written in attractive style and intended to convey the information which prospective emigrants needed.(92)
In March, 1848, Scholte wrote his first letter from Pella and had it published in pamphlet form to be sold among the people of Holland. He told about reading van Raalte's account of the climate of Iowa, and went on to say that when he arrived in America he obtained an entirely different impression. After informing the people of Holland how well he and his followers had been received in America he explained why he preferred Iowa to Michigan. He asserted the claims of Iowa and expressed the brightest hopes for the development of his colony in Marion County. To Scholte's credit it may be said that though he was aware that attempts were being made in Holland to exalt Michigan above Iowa, - not by producing simple facts but by giving false colors to affairs and conditions, he never undertook to detract from the strength of Michigan's appeal, gladly admitting that friends who wrote from that State were quite satisfied with their choice.
As to his own object in publishing letters about the Pella settlement Scholte said that he desired to give a short but truthful account, neither colored nor filled with a description of the wonders of Iowa. "Always repelled by exaggerated reports from America", he wrote, "I am now all the more opposed to them, because I have seen the tragic results of such excited writings in the miscalculations and disappointments of our people upon coming face to face with realities. You doubtless must have read many letters which revealed a picture more attractive, more stimulating to the emotions than mine; but I feel obliged to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, without giving it a color of my own. I shall not invite you to leave Holland and come to us: you have to know and to decide that for yourselves."
Scholte wrote his letter of March, 1848, with a view to attracting the attention of Holland's wealthy Christians. Thousands of oppressed persons wanted only the opportunity to make a living, but they lacked the means necessary to pay the expense of a journey to America. Scholte therefore called upon the rich to do their duty - to help the poor by furnishing the necessary money at reasonable interest, and thus enable them to get a foothold on American soil.
In November, 1848, appeared Scholte's second letter from Pella, with contents just as interesting and encouraging as those of his first pamphlet. But the people of Holland were frankly warned not to be unduly influenced by what he wrote: they were urged to come of their own accord, upon genuine reasonable grounds and without unreasonable anticipations - for in the latter case they would be disappointed like certain mischief-making persons who, after leaving Pella, bad settled in St. Louis and there advised all newcomers from Holland to go to Michigan.(93)
Scholte chronicled the arrival of many families at Pella. They had experienced all sorts of temptations and allurements before they finally reached Iowa. At New York and other places, such as Buffalo, they met persons who did their utmost to frighten all Hollanders away from Iowa and to lure them to Michigan. This policy was pursued not only by men directly interested in the Michigan colony, but also by the agents of speculators in that State who held vast areas of land for sale. These speculators, finding themselves unable to sell to Americans, tried in every possible way to induce foreigners to settle in Michigan, hoping thus to increase the value of their own lands.
Somebody advised Scholte to station an agent at New York in order that he might better spread reliable information among incoming Hollanders, but he made this characteristic reply: "I could not decide upon such a practice, because I was firmly convinced that the growth of our Colony was not dependent upon the efforts of human beings, that I had given sufficient information in Holland about our Colony, and therefore I would leave the rest to God's guidance." Scholte, therefore, contented himself with giving a short account of the social, political, and religious conditions at Pella, general information relative to the journey to America, advice as to what might be brought from Holland, a statement of the prices of lots at Amsterdam and Pella, and a summary of the routes leading to Iowa.
Hollanders of that day were recommended to take the easiest and cheapest route direct to New Orleans during the spring or autumn; or, upon arriving at New York they could take a steamboat to New Orleans and another up the Mississippi River to St. Louis, whence they could proceed to Keokuk, Iowa. The most advantageous overland route lay from New York to Buffalo, Erie, Beaver, Cincinnati, and St. Louis. It was also possible to go by way of Buffalo, Chicago, and the Illinois River. During the summer of 1848 a railroad was completed between Sandusky and Cincinnati so that home-seekers could travel by steam all the way from New York to St. Louis.(94)
The Governor of Michigan at this time urged that everything possible be done by the State legislature to extend to the colony of Hollanders not only tokens of welcome and encouragement but also evidences of the State's fostering care. Much was thus done to direct immigration to Michigan. Iowa, the youngest State in the Union, made no organized effort to attract settlers to her vacant lands until many years later, though the General Assembly did not hesitate to make a concession similar to that made by Michigan, allowing the Hollanders a township organization of their own.(95)
Newspaper men in Holland, favorable to the government of their day, were not ashamed to publish articles in which emigrants to America were placed in a false light, while certain Christian people of Holland are said not to have refrained from creating a wrong impression as to the character of the people who were emigrating. Despite all attempts to stop the movement toward America, the time for emigration was ripe, and every year since 1847 Hollanders have emigrated to Iowa.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
(91) Brummelkamp's Holland in Amerika, pp. 13-16. Here van Raalte wrote that he would not dare "to plant a colony on the prairies, since it demands too much money. The expense of importing lumber for the houses and barns . . . . is in general too great for our people; and furthermore the rich farmer may feel at home on the prairies, but people trained in other lines of work will feel out of place." See also Nollen's De Afscheiding, p. 46.
(92) Brummelkamp's Holland in Amerika, pp. 8, 9.
(93) Scholte's Eene Stem uit Pella, pp. 4, 19, 42, 44-47; and Tweede Stem uit Pella., pp. 4, 5.
(94) Scholte's Tweede Stem uit Pella, pp. 3, 4, 28, 35.
(95) Scholte's Eene Stem uit Pella, pp. 50-52, 61.
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