HOLLANDERS OF IOWA
JACOB VAN DER ZEE
Submitted by Gayle Harper
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POLITICS IN SIOUX COUNTY
WHEN the Hollanders established themselves in the southeastern townships of Sioux County they found politics and county offices in the hands of a few Americans at Calliope, the county seat and only town. Dutch voters were almost at once as numerous as American settlers, and at the first election they placed two of their candidates in office: Tjeerd Heemstra became chairman of the county board of supervisors in January, 1871, and Jelle Pelmulder became clerk of the district court, a position which he retained continuously until 1887 - the longest term ever held by an officer of Sioux County.
In the autumn of 1871 the Hollanders nominated three candidates, one of them an American, for county office and later elected them: Henry Hospers as member of the board of supervisors, and A. J. Betten as auditor. The victorious Hollanders had the pleasure of driving twenty-three miles across country through blizzards and cold weather to perform their duties at Calliope. Thus in January, 1872, three officers-elect journeyed from Orange City to the county seat where the board of supervisors convened. Hospers took the oath of office; but when his comrades came forward and presented their official bonds the Calliope members of the board refused to accept them. Three times they balked despite the vigorous protests of Hospers.
Incensed by this unreasonable policy of the American office-holders, about one hundred and fifty men, three-fifths of whom were Hollanders, hitched up their teams one bitterly cold day in January and drove to Calliope in "bob-sleds" to exercise their powers of persuasion. It is reported that when this long train of horses and sleds appeared in sight of the courthouse, the chairman of the board of supervisors hastily adjourned; and as he was preparing to flee to the Dakotas the angry Hollanders arrived, unhitched his team, and told him he had better attend to business, approve the bonds, and place their men in office.
A Sioux City lawyer, aided by Hospers, pleaded the merits of the case for a few hours while the Orange City men tended to their horses and fried "bacon and ham of which there was a good quantity, found in a barrel in the court-house." All arguments fell upon deaf ears, and the upshot of the controversy was that the visitors called upon the county treasurer to surrender his key in order to give them access to the county records and documents. When they obtained a key which failed to open, they backed a sled against one corner of the courthouse, chopped a large hole in the building, let down the steel safe, and started back across the prairies in a blizzard. All arrived home at midnight, without the heavy safe which was stuck in a snowdrift. When they hauled their booty into Orange City the next day, it is said that "a thousand guns were fired in honor of the occasion." Some days later the sheriff came to announce that the board of supervisors would capitulate, and so with several yoke of oxen he bore the safe and its contents back to Calliope. The Hollanders, however, had won their first victory over "the trappers and hunters" of the Big Sioux River.(211)
After the colonists had circulated and signed a petition requesting the removal of the county seat in a legal manner, they outvoted the old Calliope gang and secured the choice of Orange City as the new seat of justice. At the same time they retained Pelmulder, Betten, and Hospers in office, and the next year added Nicholas Jongewaard as sheriff, leaving three offices to Americans. Most noteworthy was the fact that while the Dutch of Pella had been conservatively Democratic the Dutch of Sioux County were overwhelmingly Republican. In 1873 they gave Governor Carpenter ten times as many votes as his rival, Jacob G. Vale.(212)
Early in 1873 Sioux County was sued on several thousands of dollars worth of bonds - an action which Hospers fought through several years of litigation. The Hollanders had found the county legally organized "in the hands of a band of freebooters, buccaneers of the prairies, looters, and grafters who had gone there for the express purpose of organizing the form of a county government that they might rob it, sell its securities, and impose a burden on the community that should develop in the future."
Dutch citizens were thus face to face with a huge bonded debt of thousands of dollars for which they had nothing tangible to show. In May, 1874, they voted not to levy a ten-mill tax for the payment of these fraudulent bond issues. Not until 1876 did Hospers, chairman of the board of supervisors, carry the battle to a victory by settling the case out of court for about seven hundred dollars ! A committee of the State legislature in 1876 reported that the days of unprincipled men who fattened themselves upon the credit of Sioux County had passed away and that affairs were economically and prudently managed.(213)
During the summer of 1874 a courthouse arose upon the public square at Orange City; and in 1876 a jail was erected and a poor-farm was laid out near town. In that year also the board of supervisors offered a premium of $2000 to any one who should discover coal in the county, and later raised the sum to $3000. One settler some years before had traded his homestead for mules and horses and started out on a serious search, but neither he nor any one else ever found a trace of coal.(214)
One of the important political events of the year 1874 in Sioux County was the establishment of a Dutch newspaper by Henry Hospers - who had also founded the first Dutch newspaper in Marion County. The editor declared at the outset that his paper was not to be the organ of any definite political principles; nor was it bound to any party. But, he said, "we propose to spare no effort to encourage good-will and harmony among our colonists, even though it may become our unpleasant duty now and then to expose to public contempt the dealings and intrigues of selfish persons." Elsewhere Hospers proclaimed: "We propose to guard the interests of our colony, to promote harmony, to fight interference with our united strength as voters, to expose to contempt every person who desires disunion, and to publish an account of his intrigues and personal conduct in such plain Dutch language that every Holland-American farmer may understand."(215)
In De Volksvriend (The People's Friend) Hospers faithfully reported the proceedings of the county board of supervisors and also translated the proclamations and messages of the governors. He likewise showed an active interest in the political movements in the county, especially during the autumn of 1875. A county convention had been called where the delegates from American townships had not merely ignored the Hollanders but openly raised the slogan of " Down with the Dutch! " The Yankee delegates might as well have unfurled a banner with the motto: "No foreigner in office!" The Hollanders who represented about two-fifths of the voters withdrew in disgust and allowed the Americans to arrange their own program. De Volksvriend loudly reprimanded the Americans and their candidates for slandering the Hollanders in order to procure votes, and accused them of introducing such a nefarious spirit even in township affairs.
Three days before election the editor of De Volksvriend indignantly asked: "Will you allow this sort of thing? Drop your threshing and come to the polls - let's vote as one man - don't let them win by your staying at home. Bring your neighbors - 'eendracht maakt macht' (in union there is strength). Don't vote for Plumbe but for the candidate whose name you will find on our ticket. "
Great was Dutch jubilation when election results became known. De Volksvriend featured the news with a large crowing cock and two columns of big type; and greeted its readers as follows: "Well done Hollanders ! Holland, Nassau, East Orange and Floyd townships, you have worked as one man! Our whole ticket was chosen with a majority of from 130 to 160. It showed the unanimity of our Hollanders - what we can do when united. Two Dutchmen and three Americans were elected. . . Unprincipled men used dishonorable means to destroy our power, but with Batavian and Frisian fist-blows their Know-Nothing designs were demolished. An 'Aesculapius' even intends to depart." (216)
The Hollanders who were to hold office during the year 1876 were Jelle Pelmulder, Anthony J. Betten, Francis Le Cocq, Simon Kuyper, and Henry Hospers; while the six other officials, including two supervisors, were Americans. Township election returns for 1875 showed that the Hollanders of the four townships mentioned above cast 275 of the entire number of 470 votes in the county for Governor Samuel J. Kirkwood; while Democrats from the same townships were responsible for only 40 of the 90 votes in the county for Shepherd Leffler. Since 1875 the townships of Nassau, Floyd, and East Orange, with their strong German element, have often gone Democratic; but Holland, Sherman, Welcome, and West Branch townships have been solidly Republican.
With the exception of ante-Hollander days, Sioux County has always produced substantial Republican majorities for Governors and very large ones for Presidents. For instance, the voters gave Governor Cummins 1908 votes in 1903 and Sullivan 1027, while in 1904 they cast 2994 votes for Roosevelt and 1151 for Parker. In several townships where majorities were ordinarily Democratic in county and State elections, Republicans preponderated at presidential elections. It would appear from this fact that the Dutch voter tends to shirk his duty to vote. Generally speaking the Hollanders have faithfully listened to the call of their Republican leaders. In late years they have chosen to ally themselves with the progressive wing, of the party, but they have not cared to draw party lines too closely when a Dutch Democrat and an American Republican were candidates for the same county office: one Hollander, a Democrat, has been sheriff for about twelve years since his first election in 1891.(217)
To show that the Hollanders are a factor in the politics of Sioux County it is interesting to quote some Dutch names and statistics. During the period from 1870 to 1912, Anthony J. Betten and George J. Bolks held the office of county treasurer for fifteen years; Anthony J. Betten, Henry J. Lenderink, Ed. de Mots, John Boeyink, and Herman Te Paske served twenty-two years as auditors; Francis Le Cocq, Henry J. Lenderink, and John Jongewaard were county recorders for eighteen years; Jelle Pelmulder and E. C. Oggel were clerks of court for twenty-one years; Nicholas Jongewaard, Herman Betten, Peter R. Schaap and Albert Balkema were sheriffs for twenty years; Simon Kuyper and John Kolvoord superintended schools for ten years; Peter van Oosterhout, Anthony Te Paske, and John W. Hospers officiated as prosecuting attorneys for fourteen years; and Albert de Bey, John Warnshuis, Frank J. Huizenga, Albert C. Jongewaard, and D. J. Gleysteen performed the duties of coroner for nineteen years. As members of the board of supervisors the Dutch voters have elected in the third district Jacob Koolbeek, Anthony J. Betten, Arie van der Meide, and Chas. Harmelink, and Henry Hospers and Arnold van der Wilt in other districts.(218)
Political ideas among the Hollanders of Sioux County were considerably stimulated when the Sioux Center Nieuwsblad and De Vrije Hollander (The Free Hollander) of Orange City came into existence in 1892. The former newspaper and De Volksvriend have supported Republican policies, while the latter has been radically Democratic. The first editor of De Vrije Hollander threw into his work a fiery enthusiasm and partisanship that will long be remembered by his readers. No more characteristic expression of his views can be cited than his editorials during the administrations of McKinley and Roosevelt. He did not hesitate to remonstrate against the former's imperial policy as indicated by the war in Cuba and the Philippine Islands; and he asked Hollanders how they could remain Republicans while McKinley and Roosevelt quietly allowed Great Britain to trample upon the Transvaal and kill the Boers, a people of Dutch ancestry. The Hollanders of America - as well as those perennial enemies of England, the Irish - naturally advocated American intervention in South Africa, and many did not forgive the government for refusing to aid the South African Dutch in their struggle against "British lust".(219) (See Appendix B.)
Three times have the voters of Sioux County rejected the proposition to relocate the county seat. Sioux Center asked for the courthouse in 1891 and 1896, and Alton citizens offered a large bonus in 1901. Both towns were decisively defeated at the polls. By voting in favor of bonds in December, 1901, the people put an end to all rivalry: Orange City obtained for all time a beautiful new courthouse and county jail.(220)
Among their accomplishments in the field of Republican politics the Hollanders of Sioux County point with the greatest pride to the election of Henry Hospers as Representative in the Twenty-second and the Twenty-third General Assemblies and later as State Senator for two terms. Founder of the Dutch colony, and "guide, philosopher, and friend" to the Hollanders individually and collectively, Hospers was honored not only by them but also by other classes of immigrants who had poured into Sioux County: he retained his leadership because he possessed the qualities of integrity, determination, and courage. An Iowa editor observed on the occasion of Hospers's death in 1901 that he "will never be accorded half the honor that is his right for his contribution to developing northwestern Iowa. He was one of the men who deserve foremost places in the history of a great State." (221)
Only one other Hollander has reached the State House of Representatives from Sioux County. Gerrit Klay of Orange City came to America in 1883 at the age of sixteen, engaged in farming, later applied himself to the study of law, was admitted to the bar in 1897, and obtained a seat in the General Assembly in 1908 and again in 1910. At the same time the Dutch of Sioux County as well as other citizens of the "Big Four" senatorial district of northwestern Iowa have recently had the honor of being represented by Nicholas Balkema of Sioux Center, a man who was born in the Dutch colony of Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, emigrated to Iowa in 1884, gained success as a merchant, and in 1908 was elected State Senator.(222)
NOTES AND REFERENCES
(211) De Volksvriend, September 19, 1895; and The Iowa State Register, October 25, 1901. Also The Historical Atlas of Sioux County; and The Des Moines Weekly Leader, October 24, 1901. See especially Pelmulder's correspondence to Pella's Weekblad, January 27, and February 2, 10, 17, 1872. Both Pelmulder and Hospers declared this was not the work of a mob.
(212) Census of Iowa, 1873, pp. 144, 147.
(213) De Volksvriend, September 19, 1895; Legislative Documents (Iowa), 1874, Vol. 2, p. 5; and The Sioux City Tribune, October 22, 24, 1901.
(214) De Volksvriend, September 19, 1895, Mr. Betten's article; and Pella's Weekblad, June 25, 1870.
(215) De Volksvriend, June 18, 1874.
(216) De Volksvriend, September 1, and October 10, 21, 1875.
(217) Census of Iowa, 1875, pp. 452, 456, 493; 1885, p. 390. See also the Iowa Official Register from 1887 to 1910.
(218) The writer is indebted to Mr. Herman Te Paske of Orange City, Iowa, for these statistics. See also the Iowa Official Register from 1887 to 1912. Of the nine county officials besides the supervisors, five were Hollanders in 1912. Americans, however, have always received the support of Dutch voters. Hollanders have been equally strong in municipal politics and school elections.
(219) De Vrije Hollander, October 13, 1899, and April 6, 1900. Pella's Weekblad, March 27, 1903, made political capital of Roosevelt's display of favoritism towards the English. The editor ridiculed Republicans for supporting Roosevelt and referred to his Dutch blood thus: "Half Irish, all American, one fourth English, half Dutch, some Polish or Hungarian, and some French and German - that's Roosevelt!"
(220) De Vrije Hollander, November 8, and December 6, 19, 1901.
(221) The Sioux City Tribune, October 22, 24, 1901. See also Iowa Official Register, 1911-1.2, p. 92; and The Des Moines Weekly Leader, October 24, 1901.
(222) Iowa Official Register, 1911-12, pp. 594, 621.
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