Arie Kreykes: Netherlands to Iowa

ArieKreykesMy great-grandfather was born in the Netherlands 147 years ago today.

Arend Jan (“Arie”) Kreykes was born in Rijssen, Overijssel, in the eastern Netherlands, the son of Jan Willem and Hendrika Smalbrugge Kreijkes, who themselves were also born in Rijssen.

In fact, the Kreykes (Kreijkes) family dates back to at least 1690 in this region of the Netherlands, so his family’s roots there were deep when Arie, at the age of 16, crossed the ocean in 1889 on the ship Rotterdam with his parents and two of his siblings to come to America. The passenger list from their ship, shown below, shows Arie’s parents, Jan and Hendrika, as well as Arie and his older brother Johan and younger sister Jenneken.


Arie grew into adulthood somewhere near Hospers in northwestern Iowa, but I am still working out the details of precisely where. It was a region already being settled by Dutch Americans when they arrived.

KreijkesfamilyLetters that Arie’s father wrote from Iowa to family and friends back in the Netherlands offer only a few snapshots of young Arie. In one letter, his father writes that Arie has been ill, and in another letter he says that Arie and his siblings are using their earnings to help pay for land on which their parents have built a house. The letters indicate that Arie is contented in America. He is the young man standing behind his mother in the picture at right.

Arie married Mattie Reitsema in 1896, when he was about 23. Mattie had also immigrated from the Netherlands as a teenager, although her family had come from Groningen in the north. Arie and Mattie had seven children, of which my grandfather, Joe Kreykes, was the fourth. One son died at the age of 2.  It is my understanding — and the Census taker’s — that Arie did learn English, though apparently he often still spoke Dutch with close family members. According to Census data, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1896. I am still researching the details. Arie and Mattie are pictured below with their family. My grandfather is the youngest boy.

KreykesFamYoung2Arie and Mattie raised their children in the Christian Reformed Church, the denomination of Arie’s father, and we learn in the 1911 Hospers Tribune that Arie attended, with Rev. Van der Heide, the denominational classis in Sioux Center, Iowa, as a representative of Hospers.

My mother remembers her grandfather as a man with a calm and good-natured disposition who was not easily upset. This is illustrated by an October 1918 newspaper article from the nearby town of Alton:

As Mr. Arie Kreykes drove through, three little tots of about three years old … were throwing stones at him and one hit his wind shield and went straight through. Mr. Kreykes is a good natured man and took it as a good joke. Still, parents better warn their children not to throw at cars, as men are not all like Mr. Kreykes and it is very dangerous.

As far as I know, Arie farmed for his entire working life. In a land where agriculture reigned, we learn from the Hospers Tribune in 1910 that Arie had lost one of his best horses the week before. It is rumored from a source I’ve forgotten that Arie and Mattie suffered losses to a hailstorm one year, helping to prompt their retirement and move into town. I’ve yet to determine if that is related to a story from the Boyden Reporter in 1929 telling us that

… on Friday, Jan. 18, Arie J. Kreykes will dispose of his farm machinery and stock at public auction. The Kreykes family will probably move to Hospers. Mr. Kreykes has attained the reputation of being a good farmer who has made a success in the farming business. He listed a large amount of machinery in his sale bills printed in the Reporter office and it may be well to note here that his machinery is in good shape. Comments from farmers who have viewed his livestock lately state that they are in good shape and should draw a good crowd.

By this time, Arie would have been in his late 50s, with most of his children grown. This was just before the dawn of the Great Depression and five years before the birth of my mother. Arie and Mattie eventually resided a bit farther south in Orange City, the county seat, where they were members of the First Christian Reformed Church, from which they lived just across the street.

A 1946 clipping describes the celebration of Arie and Mattie’s 50th wedding anniversary at the town hall in Orange City, with 110 guests, as well as the Men’s Society “Dient Den Heere” (“serves the Lord”) of Hospers and the Hospers Quartet. “The decorations were in gold,” the newspaper said, “and several pretty plants were set about the room.” We learn that the program consisted of a song by the audience, a prayer by Rev. Schuurman, a number by the Hospers Quartet, and several contributions and readings from their children and grandchildren, among others.

My great-grandfather turned 90 the year I was born. His wife Mattie had passed on by this time, and an open house was held for him at the home where he lived with his daughter and son-in-law. About 100 guests called on him throughout the day, according to the newspaper. Arie survived his wife by 16 years. He lived with his daughter for more than a decade, during which time the typical newspaper clippings of the day report on his visits to the homes of friends and family members and on occasional visits to the hospital. He spent a brief time in the Hull Nursing Home the year before his death in 1967 at the age of 94. He and Mattie are buried together at the Hospers Cemetery. Pictured below are Arie and Mattie in their later life with their adult children and their spouses.

From his birth in the Netherlands, to his immigration to America as a teenager, to his farming years, growing family, then quiet retirement in Iowa, my great-grandfather seems to have lived a straightforward and dignified life, and I am grateful for him, for his life decisions, and the legacy he left. Dank u wel, Arie Kreykes. Rest in perfect peace.


This is the eleventh in a series, Birthday Profiles, which includes descriptions of ancestors on the anniversary dates of their births. It is one good way to slow down on gathering data and focus on individuals in their totality.

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6 Responses to Arie Kreykes: Netherlands to Iowa

  1. Amy says:

    The story about him not losing his temper at the children who threw rocks through his windshield is so telling. He also was very fortunate not to be killed! Wonderful tribute to your GGF.

  2. Wonderful pictures. I love the one of the family at the 50th anniversary celebration.

  3. Pingback: Dutch naming traditions in the Van den Bosch family | Branch and Leaf … a family history blog

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