Sioux County, Iowa



The church work of the Reverend James De Pree will be covered in the history of the First Reformed Church of Sioux Center, of which he served the first regular pastor and then for many years. However, not to be forgotten is the contribution of his entire family who like all the other pioneers of the day struggled through many hardships to give this community what it has today. The information in this story was gathered from the De Pree Family History Book, that was prepared first by Herbert G. Keppel of Zeeland Michigan in 1903, with later additions updating the De Prees in Iowa.

orman Evenhuis and Mrs. Harold Boeyink made copies of this history available to this story writer. Norman and Harold were grandsons of Rev. James De Pree. Also referenced in this story is information taken from the booklet "Historical Sketch 1871-1927 of the First Reformed Church of Sioux Center."

The family of Rev. James De Pree consisting of his wife and three children arrived in Sioux Center to become the pastor of the new Reformed Church which at that time was called the West Branch Church in the year 1880. The church was called West Branch until 1890.

Jacobus "James" De Pree was a son of Jan De Pree and Magdeline Maria Meulendyk, he was born on November 29, 1845. His mother died January 22, 1847 in Axel, Zeeland, Netherlands, leaving his father alone with seven living children. Three children had died at young ages. His father Jan De Pree, came to America arriving at Zeeland, Michigan, on September 4, 1849, with his family of seven children. On March 16, 1851, his father married a second time to Aaltje Brinkerhof and to this union six more children were born, several of whom also died at young ages. Jan De Pree was an architect and builder, and is believed to have designed and built the Reformed Church in Zeeland, Michigan, as it resembled the church in Axel, Netherlands. The De Pree family ancestory consists of staunch Protestant Reformers dating back to the French Huguenots. The surname De Pree has many variations in spellings from its early French origins [du Pré].

Rev. James De Pree family in 1890. Front row L- R: Rev. James De Pree, Gertrude (Mrs. Henry
Evenhuis), Mrs. De Pree, Albert. Back row L-R: "Neal," James, Magdalena (Mrs. Gerrit Boeyink),
and Seine.

James De Pree married Johanna Bolks on July 17, 1870. She was the daughter of the noted Rev. Seine Bolks and his wife Geertje Brower. She was born November 5, 1844. Her parents came to Iowa in the 1860's and settled in the Dutch Colony at Orange City. The Rev. Bolks was not only a preacher, but he served as a lawyer, doctor, and aided in organizing and establishing the first church in Orange City in 1871. Rev. Bolks was instrumental in getting his son-in-law Rev. James De Pree to come serve the small settlement at West Branch at the location of "Old Town" Sioux Center. For several years church had been held in homes and schools at West Branch. The first church was built in 1877 in the same block as the General Store. In 1884 a bigger new church was built.

Rev. James De Pree began his ministry in Spring Lake, Michigan, in 1870 and he served that church for about ten years. In 1880 he came to serve as full time pastor for the West Branch Church. The first church had already been built in 1877. A parsonage was built and ready for the family when they arrived. There were three parsonages over the course of their ministry. The most remembered house was a large rambling house that years later was moved from the site. This large house consisted of a parlor on the main floor that was used for weddings and visiting dignitaries. The minister's family entertained most visitors to the community until a hotel was built. The house also had a sitting room, bedroom, sewing room, dining room, kitchen, pantry and wash room on the main floor. The second floor was comprised of five bedrooms and the pastor's study and library.

The first winter the family spent in this prairie community in 1880 there was a terrible blizzard that lasted several days. One of the parishoners, Gysbert Van Beek who lived near by, worried that the minister's family didn't have fuel. He sent his two young sons with two sacks of corn tied to their backs over to the minister's house, he told the boys to follow the fence to the end of the Van Beek farm and then they could see the church and next the parsonage. He told the boys to stay there until the storm subsided. In such an emergency, the De Pree family without much hesitation accepted that form of fuel, since they had started to burn their possessions.

The De Pree family life was busy as was all of the pioneer families. Meat bought or brought in from the farmers in the fall was processed and stored in stone crocks. The family had a large vegetable garden and an orchard. They had a cow for milk and cream, and they made their own butter. They had chickens and a horse or two for transportation. (In those days everyone provided for all of their own needs, even the minister's family!)

Mrs. De Pree was kept very busy with family and entertaining. She did a lot of cooking and baking. She made a lot of wedding cakes for marriages. At that time the wedding cake was a light fruit cake which she made in tiers. The kitchen of the house had the luxury of a sink with a hand pump so water could be obtained without going outside. All the baking for Sunday was done on Saturday so Sunday could be a day of rest.

They had a storm cave that was used to store food in the summer time because the temperature was cooler in the cave and products such as milk stayed good longer. That storm cave was used by the family in 1902 when a tornado destroyed the church. The house was a few blocks from the church and when the father looked across the pasture in the light of the lightning he could see that the church was gone. At that time the neighbors would put a light in the window of their homes to show that all was alright and this was the means of communication at night. The lights of neighbors homes appearing after the storm was a welcome sight. There was much damage to the town and area after the storm.

Summer time was always active with parties and, picnics, the family relatives would often come from the east for enjoyable visits.

In those early days of 1880's and the 1890's illness and epidemics were particularly feared by all because the diseases had a high mortality rate. Eight children of the church died in 1880 from a diphtheria epidemic, including one of the De Pree's children shortly before this epidemic struck. Rev. De Pree never refused to visit the homes of his ailing parishioners. Since there was no cure for diseases like smallpox, diphtheria, scarlet fever, typhoid and the like, an old preventive measure used in those days was to put a couple of whole cloves in the mouth before entering the house and spitting them out when one left.

In 1905 there was noted in the newspaper, that a 25th anniversary celebration was held in honor of Rev. and Mrs. James De Pree for serving in Sioux Center for 25 years. An all day celebration took place at the church and all the stores were closed for the day.

During his ministry Rev. De Free delivered 4986 sermons on Sunday, 234 week-day sermons, baptized 1335 persons of which 1186 were during his ministry in Sioux Center. He officiated at 492 funerals, performed 325 weddings and received 492 members of church by confession of faith. He loved his work of the church going beyond the regular duties of a pastor, as during World War I, when he wrote over 100 of his "boys" regularly.

In 1926 he received an honorary degree Doctor of Divinity from Hope College of Holland Michigan, at the graduation of a grandson.

Rev. James De Pree D.D. died on May 26, 1927 and his wife died September 9, 1932. They are buried in the Sioux Center Cemetery. They were the parents of seven children as are recorded in the following:

Magdaline Marie De Pree was born July 3, 1871. She married Gerrit Boeyink on December 27, 1899. Magaline helped her father with the church work as a young girl and after she was married, her mother was kept so busy with the family and entertaining visitors. Magdaline and Gerrit Boeyink were Sioux Center residents and the parents of four children: Joan Elsie (Mrs. Marshall Noble), Elsie Angeline (Mrs. Anthony Hasselo), Harold Boeyink married Grace Wandscheer, and Gertrude Elizabeth Boeyink. The story of Gerrit and Magdaline Boeyink is given separately.

Doctor Seine Bolks De Pree was born August 24, 1873. He married Elena Hyink on August 12, 1903. He was a physician in the Sioux Center area and they were the parents of four children: James F. De Pree married Lulu A. Wagner, John B. H. De Pree married Gladys M. Huizinga, Dr. John N. W. De Pree married Veronica M. M. Lahr, and Lucille J. was Mrs. Owen Manning.

Rev. John James De Pree was born February 29, 1876. He married Maria K. Boer on September 9, 1903. He was a minister serving in Kansas and various churches in Iowa. They were the parents of two children: Donald J. W. De Pree married Florence B. Clark, and Wilbur H. B. De Pree married Frances L. Holton.

Geertje Gezina De Pree was born October 22, 1878 and died August 23, 1880 due to a serious illness.

Geertje Gezina De Pree was born June 16, 1881. She married Henry Evenhuis. They were from Sioux Center. He was a painter and decorator. They were the parents of four children: Arnold E. Evenhuis married Grace Engelsman, Melvin J. Evenhuis married Gertrude Rons, Lawrence S. Evenhuis married Mildred Kikkert, and Norman Evenhuis married Rose Ridder. Norman and Rose reside in Sioux Center.

Cornelius "Neal" De Pree was born April 20, 1884. He married Cynthia Boer on November 27, 1907. They were from various communities in Sioux County. He was a mechanic, farmer, lumber yard manager. They were the parents of two children: Kenneth J. De Pree married Gladys Den Herder, and Seine B. De Pree married Margaret Roggan.

Albertus Gerrit "Albert" De Free was born April 25, 1887. He married Anna Van Putten on August 18, 1909. They were from Sioux Center and he worked many years for De Ruyter Hardware. They were the parents of three children: Johanna Edna (Mrs. Peter Rons), Edna Leona (Mrs. Dr. Bernard N. Mouw) who was a dentist in Sioux Center, and LaVonne G. (Mrs. J. Harold Mulder).

By Wilma J. VandeBerg

Source: Sioux Center Iowa 1991 Centennial Book--Family Contributor, Mary Haverhals


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