The Hollanders in Roseland (Hope), IL

A few weeks ago, bookseller Gary VDS brought over a few more treasures for the PRC seminary library, including another rare book covering the history of the Dutch in America, this time in Roseland, IL (the town was first called Hope, as it reflected the strong faith of the Reformed Christians who settled there). Since I had the flu all last weekend, I took the book home and had extra time for reading. And what a treasure this story of these Hollanders is – I had a hard time putting it down!

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I knew the Dutch had settled early (mid-1800s) in the mid-south area below Chicago (also known as the Calumet area, along the ridge from 100th-120th Sts. and including Michigan Ave., State St., etc., including farther south – South Holland, where my Uncle Menno and Aunt Sadie Smit lived, he being  a truck farmer like many in those early years, and where my wife and I lived for nearly 8 years in the 1980s-90s), but I really did not know this history – certainly not Roseland, though the name was familiar enough. But I am learning a lot from author Marie K. Rowlands who tells “The Story of Roseland” in the packed book Down an Indian Trail in 1849.

The book was originally published in the Roseland, Illinois Centennial Issue of the Calumet Index (Monday, June 20, 1949), but was reprinted with wonderful pictures from various historical societies by the Dutch Heritage Center (ed. by Ross K. Ettema), found at Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, IL.

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According to the editor’s introduction, Mrs. Rowlands (author) “is particularly well qualified to write this Story of Roseland…. Of Holland ancestry, she is a daughter of the late Henry R. Koopman, who was Roseland’s first photographer.” But more interestingly, her grandfather “was the Dominie of the First Reformed Church of Roseland from 1870-1877.”

The story begins in the town of Schoorl, North Holland, the Netherlands, where in April of 1849 sixty-two pioneers left on the ship “Massachusetts” for the New World. On the trip over, cholera hit the group and 17 died at sea, leaving 45 to settle in America. The Dutch names are familiar: DeJong, Jonker, Kuyper, Eenigenburg, Dalenberg, and more. So was their faith. According to the author, “The dreary weeks that followed [the death of those at sea] put the faith of these man and women to a severe test, but since adversity always strengthens a strong faith, they emerged far more consecrated. With dogged persistence they argued that, although God had led them through dark waters, He was still their God and would eventually bring them unto the promised land. With renewed fervor they recited the Catechism and sang the beloved Psalms” (p.10).

We’ll return to this story again to share some more of the Dutch faith, hardiness, and humor as newcomers to America.

dutch-chicago-swierenga-2002For more on the Dutch in Chicago area, visit the Encyclopedia of Chicago. To read another major study on these Hollanders, turn to Robert P. Swierenga’s Dutch Chicago: A History of the Hollanders in the Windy City (Van Raalte Institute/Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2002).