The Dutch and the Founding of New (Amsterdam) York

island-center-world-shorto-2004One of my spring/summer reads is Russell Shorto’s The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America (Doubleday, 2004). I’ve often wanted to read more about the history of the Dutch settlers in the New World, and when this book was brought to my attention, I knew it was one I wanted to delve into.

It is a well written narrative, filled with fascinating details and interesting twists. It is based on a remarkable (and abundant!) set of Dutch records that surfaced in the State Library in Albany, New York and that are still being translated by 17th-century Dutch scholar Charles Gehring. It seems the common Dutch characteristics – hard work, cleanliness, strong faith (especially Calvinism), and a penchant for stubbornness and strife (persistence, perseverance?) – marked the early adventurers who signed on to go with Henry Hudson (think of Hudson Bay and the Hudson River) to settle on the island of Manhattan.

In the third chapter (“The Island”) Shorto speaks, for example, of a newlywed couple – Catalina Trico and Joris Rapalje, who having married in the Walloon Church in Amsterdam in January of 1624 at the ages of 18 and 19 respectively, set sail with Hudson for the New World. Here’s how he describes their adventure – and their influence:

Considering the stupendous dangers awaiting them, first at sea and then on arrival, it wasn’t a union a betting man would likely lay money on. And yet, sixty years later, when the English colonies of Pennsylvania and Maryland were embroiled in a border dispute and needed evidence of ‘Christian’ occupation of certain lands along the eastern seaboard, the representatives of William Penn found an old woman to testify who was known to have been among the first European settlers. Catalina Trico, now in her eighties, was a widow, but she and Joris had had a long and fruitful marriage. The records of New Netherland show them among the first buyers of land in the wilderness of southern Manhattan, building two houses on Pearl Street steps away from the fort, obtaining a milk cow, borrowing money from the provincial government, moving their homestead to a large tract of farmland across the river in the new village of Breukelen [Brooklyn], and giving birth to and baptizing eleven children. Their first, Sarah, was considered the first European born in what would become New York (in 1656, at the age of thirty, she proclaimed herself ‘first born christian daughter of New Netherland’). She was born in 1625, and the same records duly show her marriage in 1639, to the overseer of a tobacco plantation in what would become Greenwich Village, and in turn, the birth of her eight children. Over the course of the brief life of New Netherland and into the history of New York the Rapalje children and their offspring would spread across the region. …Their descendants have been estimated at upwards of one million, and in the Hudson Valley town of Fishkill, New York, a lane called Rapalje Road is a quiet suburban testament to the endurance of a long-ago slapdash wedding of two young nobodies on the Amsterdam waterfront, which, as much as any political event, marked the beginning of the immigrant, stake-your-claim civilization not only of Mahattan but of America (pp.41-42).


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!


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.


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).


More Seminary Library Books Relating to the Synod of Dordt – The Staten Bible and the Dutch Annotations on the Whole Bible

Throughout this year and into next year we are highlighting the 400th anniversary of the “great” Synod of Dordt (1618-1619), which begins this year and will continue into next year.

In our initial post we called attention to some general things and in our last post we started to call attention to some special (and rare) books connected to that Synod and its work.

Title page of the 1637 Staten Bible

In this post we call attention to the two more special books related to the work of Dordt. Both relate to the special Bible translation commissioned by the Synod, a new Dutch translation that came to be called the “Staten Bible” (or Bijbel, in Dutch) or the Statenvertaling (States translation). It was first published in 1637 and the PRC seminary has several first edition copies, one of which is enclosed in a special case in the library (cf. the image below; the other is placed in the rare book case). To see one such rare edition, visit this page where one was for sale.

One of the seminary library’s copies of a 1st edition Statenvertaling Bible



The second book (or set of books actually) related to Dordt’s work also is connected to this Dutch Bible, the Statenvertaling. The first edition included annotations on the text of the Scripture (in Dutch), that is, special notes or comments about the meaning and application of the passage. Later these annotations were published separately as well, as the title page above indicates. The editor and translator was Theodore Haak and this work was published first in London in 1657 – in English (which you may also find online here).


While the PRC seminary library does not have a first edition of this book of annotations, we do have the 5 volumes that were reprinted by Inheritance Publications and edited by Roelof Janssen (cf. title page above and the five volumes on the shelf below).


Roelof J. recently stopped by the seminary and spoke to us about his publications (old and new). In the course of the conversation we mentioned that he ought to finish this reprint and get the rest of the volumes completed. He is hoping to do so, if he can generate enough cash flow. Something to think about, if you are so inclined (by purchasing books from Inheritance Publications you are also helping this cause!).


For now, notice the quality and beauty of the initial volumes (image of volume 1 above). But, of course, the content of these books makes for fascinating reading.

R.C. Sproul and Berkouwer’s Dogmatische Studien | Open Book with Stephen Nichols

We recently introduced you to this new podcast series featuring Dr. Stephen Nichols with Dr. R.C. Sproul. It bears the name “Open Book” and the episodes feature interviews with Dr. Sproul in his home about special books in his personal library and their impact on his faith and life.

Episode 2 introduces us to Sproul’s studies in the Netherlands at the Free University in Amsterdam, where he studied under famed Dutch theologian G. K. Berkouwer. During this fascinating interview you will learn about Sproul’s struggle to learn and read the Dutch language while delving deeply into the person and work of Jesus Christ under this theologian.

Below is the little summary provided at the webpage and then the link to listen to this podcast. Enjoy learning a little Dutch while also learning about Sproul’s Reformed education in Holland.

On this episode of Open Book, Stephen Nichols and R.C. Sproul discuss the person of Christ, Dutch pronunciation, and a page that took 12 hours to translate.

Source: R.C. Sproul and Berkouwer’s Dogmatische Studien | Open Book with Stephen Nichols

Life at Calvin College, 1920s – J.Timmerman

     The last year I roomed at the dormitory. …I wanted to be a part of that beehive for one year at least. The Calvin dormitory was a home away from home for about eighty students. Except for their common religious background, they were as piquantly varied in personality, capabilities, and attitudes as any group I have ever been associated with. They were almost all Dutch, but the Dutch are not noted for monotonous unanimity. …There were the ultrapious who seemed already poised in the prestige of the pulpit, and there were the bed-wreckers, the room-dishevelers, and pranksters.

One preseminary student imported little bombs the size of golf balls, and another presem dropped them from the third floor to the first, where they erupted like thunder. All ate the food, but one offered this concluding prayer: “Lord we thank Thee for this food. Some enjoy it, but we do not know who they are.” …Telephone pranksters had fun calling up strangers: one called up a Pole on the west side and told him he had a hundred sheep to take to the market and offered the man a job. Two students went to a naive gentleman and told him they were collecting money for the victims of the moth inundation of Vladivostock.

…Pranks on the campus ranged from amazing ingenuity to the edge of cruelty. Prior to one chapel session, some students planted carefully timed alarm clocks; as the speaker began his address, they went off a few minutes apart from various places in the chapel. The statue of Moses at the door of the chapel was an irresistible target. Sometimes he wore a cap, then scarves and vests; and sometimes a hat and cigar stuck in his mouth. Coats were thrown on him as students hurried into chapel.

Through a Glass Lightly-TimmermanJohn J. Timmerman reflecting on his years at Calvin College in the 1920s, as found in his Through a glass lightly (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), pp.31-32.

Happy Birthday Holland | Michigan in Pictures

This past Tuesday Holland, MI marked the 169th anniversary of its founding. “Michigan in Pictures” featured its story along with this marvelous aerial view of Holland harbor during this winter season.

Because Holland was founded by Dutch immigrants and still maintains its strong Dutch history and heritage, we point you to it today. “MIP” has a link to the history of Holland in its story, part of which I include here.

Join me in saying “happy birthday” to the historic city of Holland!

February 9th is the 169th anniversary of the founding of Holland, Michigan. The History of Holland has some background about one of the prime factors for the city’s success, the Holland Channel:

From its very beginnings, Holland provided a refuge for those seeking freedom of expression and a more vibrant economy. Persuaded by religious oppression and economic depression, a group of 60 men, women, and children, led by Albertus C. VanRaalte, prepared for their 47-day trip from Rotterdam to New York. VanRaalte intended to purchase land in Wisconsin, but travel delays and an early winter caused the group to layover in Detroit. After hearing about available lands in west Michigan, VanRaalte decided to scout the territory. They reached their destination on February 9, 1847 on the banks of Black Lake—today’s Lake Macatawa.

The hundreds of Dutch immigrants that followed expected to find their promised land, but instead found a swamp and insect-infested forest. Although food was scarce, and the log sheds they built were unable to hold everyone, the settlers persevered. VanRaalte realized the practical and economic potential of the dense forest: trees could be felled to build homes and businesses, while the excess lumber could be sold to purchase farming supplies.

Source: Happy Birthday Holland: Looking back on the Holland Channel | Michigan in Pictures

Roosevelt Park PRC Bulletin – 1944

Tuesday afternoon of this week, Seminary library assistant Kevin Rau was doing some PRC archive research for me (Actually, for one of our ministers who wanted to know when our Dutch services ended) and spent time going through some of the old bulletins of SW PRC here in Wyoming, MI.

Only, back in the 1940s, SW PRC was known as Roosevelt Park PRC. That congregation was organized early in our history (1926 with 16 families), and has really continued, but with several name changes. In 1945 it became Second PRC, and then later on SW PRC.

While browsing these 1940s bulletins, Kevin came across this fine sample (click on the image to enlarge). You will notice the attention given to the men serving our country in the armed forces. It was WW II time, and our congregations too had many young men off to Europe and elsewhere to battle the Nazi powers. No doubt, you will recognize some of these names – perhaps they are fathers or grandfathers of some of our readers.


While we are on the subject of Dutch services, we may put the question before you: when did Dutch services end in the PRC? We have checked several congregations now, and you might be surprised to learn when these services came to an end.

Published in: on October 22, 2015 at 6:33 PM  Comments (1)  

Early CRC Life in Orange City, IA – John J. Timmerman

Through a Glass Lightly-TimmermanIn his “semi-autobiographical story” titled Through a Glass Lightly (Eerdmans, 1987), John J.Timmerman, long-time professor in the English Department at Calvin College (my alma mater), reflects on his early years in Orange City, IA, where he grew up as an adopted son of a CRC minister (Jan Timmerman).

I found his thoughts on his family and church life in NW Iowa in the early twentieth century to be a fascinating look at the nature of Reformed church life in our “mother church”, so on this archive/history day this is part of our history lesson.

Orange City, Iowa, in 1909 was a little town almost lost in the endless prairies. Most of the members of my father’s church were survivers, sturdy people of great faith and superior intelligence who had refused to be conquered by successive waves of crop-devouring grasshoppers.

…The city, as it called itself, was to a large extent a Dutch town. Dutch was spoken in the stores, on the porches, in sermons and catechism classes; even the horses understood some of it. The city paper, ‘Volksvriend’, was a Dutch paper. It was a very civilized city: I don’t remember if it even had a jail; and I never saw a drunk. The congregation was, as my father often said, well above average in intelligence and reading habits, and some of them read Kuyper and Bavinck instead of merely displaying their works. Religion was at the core.

As a little boy, I has no awareness that our church was a citadel of conservative and exclusivistic religion. From the perspective of a boy, we were, as a church and individuals, in the infallible hands of the Lord, God’s eye was upon us, especially during the three Sunday services, devotions at every meal, and evening prayers – but everywhere else also. I remember my mother saying, when some children were missing in a storm, ‘De Heere Jesus zal de kinderen wel bewaren’ (‘the Lord Jesus will surely care for the children’). Life in those days was often harsh: childhood diseases were less curable; pitiful accidents occurred on the farms; great storms ravaged the land; hail wiped out crops. Tornadoes were eerie and devastating. However, nothing – nothing at all – was outside the pattern of the Lord. Religion was a comfort in life and death, and the grave a resting place before glory (7-8).

A Dutch Poem in English: “Volgen” – “To Follow”

Sometimes tucked away in books given to or purchased by the PRC Seminary library are interesting items – from old bookmarks to receipts to newspaper clippings – to, yes, poems. Even Dutch poems. Translated into English, thankfully (though the Dutch has its own beautiful rhythm and cadence).

As part of today’s archive postings, I give you one I found just yesterday (yellowed stains and all) in a book that came from Neal Pastoor (SE PRC, Grand Rapids). I put the poem aside and then read it this morning. It contains wonderful lines about the nature of the Christian life in terms of following wherever God leads us. I pray it is a blessing to you as it was (and is!) to me (Click on it to enlarge even more.).

Poem - Volgen -To Follow_Page_1

Word Wednesday: Dutch Words in the English Language – Aardvark, boor, etc.

HollandsInfluence-TdeVriesOne of the more fascinating word books I recently discovered is the book by Dr.Tieman deVries titled Holland’s Influence on English Language and Literature (Chicago: C.Grentzback, 1916) [You may find the entire book online at this Dutch site. And on Google books here.]. I came into possession of this book from the library of a local CRC man, Albert Bosscher, whose family generously allowed us to take most of his Dutch items, as well as some English resources, which didn’t seem to have value to others.

Mr.Bosscher’s library was quite eclectic – he was a well-read man! Among its treasures were many language books, including many on the Dutch language, which is not surprising given the fact that he was a post-WW II immigrant (a concentration camp survivor, no less!).

After packing up tens of boxes and bringing them back here to Seminary this past Spring, I started to go through them in more detail this summer. That’s when I found this little treasure on the Dutch influence on the English language. Dr.T.deVries was a professor at Calvin College, but the impetus for this book came when he lectured for two years at the University of Chicago on Dutch history, art, and literature.

In chapter XI deVries starts to go into detail about how the Dutch language has affected the English language, not merely here in America, but worldwide. The chapter is titled “The Influence Which Holland Has Exerted on the English Language“, and it includes a lengthy list of words that have come into the English language compliments of the Dutch (through a Dutch scholar named W,deHoog). I found many of these quite interesting – and surprising! I provide you with a few samples here, and encourage you to work your way through the entire list as found in the link provided here.

aardvark – earth pig. An edentate mammal in South Africa, feeding on ants. The name originated with the Dutch settlers at the Cape of Good Hope who thought the animal resembled a pig.

Armenian – an adherent of the doctrine of Arminius (We are more familiar with the spelling “Arminian” – cjt). From D. Arminiaan. Arminius rejected the doctrine of predestination. Arminius is the Latin name for Harmensen.

boor, boer – a peasant, a tiller of the soil. Cf. boorish; the Boors – the Dutch speaking settlers of South Africa. Already in ‘Beaumont en Fletcher’s Beggars’ Bush,’ 1622. Derived from D. boer with dialectic oe instead of ‘u’ – buurtgenoot. Boer is etymologically the same as buur. Cf. Eng. neighbour.

to chuck – to strike gently, to toss. From Fr. choquer, which is derived from O.L.G. Cf. D. schokken (I personally like this one – always wondered how my name came to be used this way! Thank the Dutch, I guess 🙂 )

dopper – a Dutch Baptist or Anabaptist. From D. dooper. Cf. D.wederdoopers.

filibuster – a pirate, freebooter. From Sp. filibustero, which is the Spanish pronunciation of the Eng. word freebooter, and this is derived from D.vrÿbuiter, cf. Eng. freeboater, flyboat.

furlough – leave of absence. From D. verlof, vorlof. M.D. orlof. Cf. H.G.erlauben. In Sw. förlof, which word has about the same pronunciation as the Eng.

Gomarist – a follower of Francis Gomar 1563-1641, who zealously defended Orthodox Calvinism in opposition to the doctrines of Arminius. From D. Franciscus Gomarus, Professor at Leyden, who defended the doctrine of predestination against Arminius.

OK, that’s enough for today. Isn’t that great! Browse the list yourself and you will find more amazing Dutch influence on our English language.