Letters to the Netherlands: The waves rise mountain high …

My great-great grandfather arrived in America from the Netherlands in 1889 with his wife and three children, including my great-grandfather. In his letters from Iowa to family and friends back in the Netherlands, he seemed uncertain whether he would be able to return for a visit. He’d apparently been strongly discouraged by others from doing so because of the difficulty of making such a voyage. He was about 60 years old at this time. Below, as translated, are a few brief excerpts from two of his letters to Rijssen in 1889.

In August, he wrote of their trip to America: “… then the waves rise mountain high – at times dashing over the ship… [T]hat happened when we were aboard; our Jenken just happened to be on deck – the child came down soaking wet, and when she came down she was still smiling – but the sea is no pleasant sight …”  Then, in September, he wrote: “If it is the Lord’s will and I live a few more years, I hope to visit you again and all of our friends – but the Lord knows whether this will come about – the end can come so soon … [M]ay we learn to count our days in order that we may we wise in heart – may the Lord grant us grace now and in the future – then all will be well … In the hope that you may receive this letter in good health – that is my hearty wish. Give hearty greetings to all the friends from us …”

These letters are part of a larger collection of Dutch immigrant letters in the archives of the Christian Reformed Church at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I am occasionally posting very brief excerpts in no particular order. 

See other posts in this series: Letters to the Netherlands.

This entry was posted in CLOUD OF WITNESSES ... COMMUNION OF SAINTS, IOWA (ALL), IOWA (Sioux County), Kreykes, Letters to the Netherlands, NETHERLANDS, Smalbrugge, THINGS OUR ANCESTORS DID and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Letters to the Netherlands: The waves rise mountain high …

  1. Sheryl says:

    The excerpts are so poignant. It had to have been so very difficult for your great-great grandfather to be so far from his loved ones in the Netherlands.

  2. ljhlaura says:

    Yes … and thank you for your observation. I am still moved by his letters every time I return to read them …

  3. Jana Last says:

    What a lovely letter this is. I also read the other letter you posted from him in an earlier post. He sounds like a very spiritual and faithful gentleman.

    It must have been very difficult for him to not see his dear family and friends again back in the Netherlands.

    • ljhlaura says:

      Thank you so much for your kind description of him. I obviously never knew my g-g-grandfather, but I feel I’ve learned a little about him from his letters. It’s clear he found satisfaction in being in America but also that the rest of his family and friends back in the Netherlands were never far from his thoughts and heart. This must have been a fairly common immigrant experience, with each person’s circumstances also being unique. It humbles me to contemplate it.

  4. Letters are so nice to have. My sister teaches at Calvin…I didn’t even know they had these. Small world. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • ljhlaura says:

      Interesting! Yes … it is indeed a small world! Calvin has a collection of Dutch immigrant letters, as well as some family histories in the CRC archives at the library….

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