Submitted by Gayle Harper

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LATE in the month of June, 1869, the second committee of four was appointed with authority to make a definite choice of land for a colony, and to secure the land in accordance with the requirements of the national homestead and preemption laws. Moreover, they were authorized to select and buy a town-site, and to do everything that was necessary to advance the colonization plan of the prospective emigrants from Pella.

Of the committeemen - Leen van der Meer, Dirk van den Bos, Henry John van der Waa, and Henry Hospers - three made the journey to Sioux City with mule-team and covered wagon. Hospers went by rail by way of Des Moines and Council Bluffs in order to make a preliminary study of maps in the land office and procure all necessary information. He wrote from Sioux City that his "train was loaded with emigrants thirsting for land, land, land." When they had arrived at Sioux City, the committeemen were greatly exasperated to find that their plan to buy land a few miles west of Cherokee had been frustrated by speculators, who had gobbled up all that region with the hope of selling it to the Hollanders at a handsome profit. Despite this disappointment, the committee resolved to do the next best thing: since the Hollanders of Pella desired a large area exclusively for themselves at government prices, they would pass by the speculators in Cherokee County and examine Sioux and Lyon counties where government and railroad lands were still abundant.

At Sioux City, therefore, the four men loaded their covered wagon with provisions calculated to last during a three weeks sojourn on the prairies, engaged a surveyor, and set out northward to explore the northwestern counties. They traveled the road to Junction City (now called Le Mars), where they found only one small store building, and then followed the banks of a stream, the Floyd River, for about fifteen miles to the southern boundary of Sioux County. Except for the homes of three or four pioneers they saw neither dwellings, trees, nor roads - only a series of gently rolling swells of beautiful prairie land clothed with its wealth of green buffalo grass and wild flowers of every kind.

The appearance of Sioux County early in July so impressed the Pella prospectors that without the slightest doubt or hesitation they unanimously declared: "Here is the place! " With map and surveyor's compass as guides they sought and found the corner stakes of the government sections, measured off two townships, selected a town-site six miles north of the Plymouth County line, gave the locality the name of "Holland", and took possession of thirty-eight sections of land. After throwing up small mounds of earth in the new townships to mark the way back, the party returned to Sioux City. There, in a surveyor's office, they apportioned the land among the prospective colonists in the following manner: section numbers and names of homesteaders were written on separate slips of paper and placed in separate boxes; for each section number a name was drawn; and the drawer became entitled to the northeast quarter of the section and also to the choice of relatives whom he wished to have settle on the adjoining quarter-sections. After this work was done three members of the committee returned to Pella, while Henry Hospers remained at Sioux City to make sure that the necessary papers were prepared and filed according to law and that affidavits were deposited in the name of the various Pella homeseekers.

By the United States homestead law of that day a duly qualified person could obtain either eighty or one hundred and sixty acres of government land according as the land lay within or without the range of a railroad land grant. In Sioux County every alternate section of land, designated by odd numbers, for ten sections in width on each side of the line of the proposed road had been granted by Congress in 1864 to the St. Paul and Sioux City Railroad. Much of the land selected by the Hollanders in even-numbered sections was situated within ten miles of the proposed railroad, and hence each prospective homesteader was entitled to only eighty acres.

To obtain a homestead it was necessary to file an application and affidavit with the Register of the Land Office at Sioux City, at which time the claim took effect, and thereupon the applicant was required to make his home upon the land. After five years of settlement and cultivation, or within two years, upon satisfactory proof to the Register, a patent or complete title-deed was issued to the settler.

Congress provided a second method by which a title to government land could be obtained. By the preemption law, the person who desired to "preempt" rather than "homestead" was obliged to settle on one hundred and sixty acres of land, and within thirty days to file at the District Land Office his declaratory statement as to the fact of settlement, appear at the office within one year, make proof of his actual residence on and improvement of the land, and at the time of "proving up" secure the title either by filing a warrant duly assigned to him or by the cash payment of $1.25 or $2.50 per acre according as the land was situated without or within the limits of a railroad land grant.(118)

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(118) Pella's Weekblad, June 29, and July 6, 1869; De Volksvriend, July 23, 30, and August 6, 1874; September 19, 1895; and The Alton Democrat, September 3, 1910.
     For the railroad grant, see United States Statutes at Large, May 12, 1864; and Laws o f Iowa, 1866, p. 143.
     For the homestead and preemption laws see Iowa: The Home for Immigrants, published by the Board of Immigration in 1870, pp. 59-61.

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