Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My Great Grandma's story

In the little town of Moddergat, near the North Sea, in the province of Friesland, Wiltje Hoekstra worked for a farmer plowing fields.  It was a crowded country, wet and cold most of the year.  William (Wiltje) and Johanna had borne 12 children, including 3 sets of twins.  Four of the children had died, Katie's twin, John's twin and a small baby six months old, also 14 year old Eelkje (Ida).  It was a hard life, hard to find enough food to go around the big table.  The women sold fish when the fishermen came home from the sea to help out, but it was never enough..

So, Wiltje and Beppe (Johanna) decided it was time to go to America where the land was cheap and there was lots of it..

They would go where some friends had already settled, the Fishers and Woltjers in Clara City, Minnesota.  (The Fishers could be related to Johanna's maternal grand parent, Jeltje Visser).  It was decided that Pakka would take the three older children and find a place to live, and mother would follow later with the rest of the family.  So he left with Hendrik (Henry), Fobbe and Hielkje.  Henry's twin brother Klaas would stay behind and look after mother and the younger children.  Also, of course, Klaas's sweetheart was there and he wanted to get married..

Wiltje and his children went to Clara City near their friends and worked until they could buy some land.  The children also found work wherever they could, farming and keeping house..

One year later, Beppe came with Jeltje, Trijntje (Katie), Detje (Deddie) and Jan (John).  Klaas couldn't persuade his bride to leave, so they stayed there..(At that time) in a big sailboat, it took two weeks to get across the water.  They were all sick except Jeltje, who managed to get tea from the boat captain for the family..

They landed on Halifax Island and were taken to a high building where they could  look down at all the little people and houses.  It was like Fairyland to little Deddie, age 4 and little John.  Soon they were placed on a train headed for Minnesota.  They didn't have any food and hardly any money, and couldn't speak English - What an experience!  At one place, Beppe spotted an outdoor fruitstand near the train tracks and sent Jeltje to buy some oranges to eat.  Beppe stood with one foot in the train and one foot on the ground to be sure the train wouldn't go until Jeltje was safely back onboard..

Deddie had taken her little doll all the way from Holland to America, the one rememberance of her home across the big sea.  It rode all the way across America on the train too - but when they got off the train at Clara City, in all the confusion, it was left behind.  That sad little girl still remembers it, although she is now 95 years old.  She had ten children to take it's place but there is still an empty spot in her heart..

So they came to this wild country with the big men dressed in bear skins, who frightened little Dutch girls.  But it is remembered as a good time too, when everyone helped each other, building a church together, spending whole days in church on Sunday, including picnic food, and having coffee served by the Eufrou.  They learned to play instruments, and sing and have fun together.  Although, Wiltje and Beppe's family must have not had a lot of togetherness, with each trying to make a living as best they could..

When Pakka was 68 years old, he died suddenly in February.  They had lived here for 18 years and had aquired several farms.  They had moved to Bill and Eleanor's farm - a farm with a big slough, as it is remembered.  Beppe felt bad that her oldest twin son, Klaas, was still in Holland and hadn't seen his father since they had left Holland and before he died.  She asked Jeltje to go back to the old country to try to persuade him to come to America.  Jeltje had married by then and three children, George, Bill and Frieda.  Aunt Deddie stayed with them until Jeltje returned.  She finally had their consent to travel with her to America if the relatives would send the money.  It was sent and they all came to be united that fall.  (Sept 1911).

Uncle Klaas settled on the Clarence Brower farm, Nick and Julia Douma on the (now) Bill Douma farm, Henry on Harvey's farm and John on the home farm where Beppe continued to live with them for 5 years.  Fobbie was on the Wn. F. farm.  Deddie went to Crookston and Katie to Pease with their husbands.  Later, Hielkje and Wietze De Vries, and Nick and Jeltje Douma built the store in Roseland and Deddie and Harry Plowman lived on their farm..


*This history was created from notes taken during a conversation with Deddie, age 95 - the last living Hoekstra child of Wiltje and Johanna Hoekstra - in the year 1984.

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