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Hollanders in the United States

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The Hollanders played by no means an insignificant part in the early history of the United States. They first appeared in this country at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Holland has the distinction of being one of the smallest of independent European countries (12,648 square miles). Though it was in an almost continual conflict with Spain from which it sought complete freedom, and though the scene of constant religious dissensions, it enjoyed at the same time a world-wide reputation as a maritime power, whose commercial enterprise, especially in its colonies was everywhere acknowledged. In June, 1609, Henry Hudson, an Englishman in the service of the Dutch East India Company, sailed in his ship "De Halve Maan" (The Half Moon) to the new continent and was the first to ascend, as far as the site of Albany, the river which now bears his name. Hudson, however, was not the discoverer of this grand river, for, eighty-five years earlier, the Florentine, Giovanni da Verrazano sailed on what is now called New York Bay, and in 1525 another Catholic mariner, Estevan Gómez, explored part of the same beautiful river, which he called Rio San Antonio, under which name it appears on the Ribera map designed in 1529.

The reports of Hudson stimulated the commercial activity of the Dutch, who laid claim to the territory along the river. In 1614, a number of Hollanders, most of whom were agents of the trading company, established themselves on Manhattan Island. Other Dutch settlers, realizing what great resources were at stake, erected several trading posts, beginning at Albany (Fort Nassau; Fort Orange) and extending as far south as Philadelphia. The territory between these two points was called "Nieuw-Nederland" (New Netherlands). Through the influence of William Usselinck, a Holland West India Company obtained from the States-General a charter granting them a commercial monopoly in America and a part of Africa for the term of twenty-four years. The members of the company collected a fund of 7,200,000 florins ($2,880,000) which they divided into 1200 acties (shares). The entire government of the colony was in the hands of the company, with this restriction, that the States-General delegated the nineteenth member to the general convention, and that it was to sanction the appointment of the governor. From 1624 to 1664 the colony was ruled by four governors: Peter Minuit (1624-33); Wouter van Twiller (1633-38); William Kieft (1638-47); Peter Stuyvesant (1647-64). Peter Minuit purchased Manhattan Island from the Indians for the sum of twenty-four dollars (which was paid in merchandise) and there laid the foundation of the city of Nieuw Amsterdam, which extended as far north as Wall Street in what is now New York City.

In order to encourage emigration, the West India Company (1629) issued its charter of "privileges and exemptions" by virtue of which any member of the company who within four years should plant a colony in New Netherlands of not less than fifty persons of over fifteen years of age, should obtain absolute title to a tract of land extending sixteen miles along the navigable river, or eight miles if on both shores, and so far into the country as the situation of the occupants would permit. These proprietors, called patroons, held great political power as well as judicial power over the settlers. Other grants were given to colonists in 1640, which suppressed the external practice of any religion other than the Dutch Reformed, was revoked the next year. But although no laws existed by which the religious convictions of the immigrants were restricted, the Dutch population was nevertheless predominantly Protestant and belonged chiefly to the Reformed Calvinistic Church . In 1628 Joannis Michaelius organized the first Dutch congregation in New Amsterdam, and by the year 1664 thirteen other Protestant missions had been formed. As only a very small percentage of the Dutch immigrants were Catholics, history does not take notice of them, nor does it record the establishment of any Dutch Catholic parish or institution in that community. The French Jesuit, Father Isaac Jogues ( martyred 18 Oct., 1646), was the first Catholic missionary to the New Netherlands, and exercised his ministry principally among the Indian tribes.

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The actual number of inhabitants in New Amsterdam in 1664, just before the English took possession of it, was nearly 1200; that of the entire colony about 10,000, divided among English, French, Bohemians, and Dutch, with the Dutch predominant. On 4 September, 1664, the English, unjustly disputing Holland's claim to the New Netherlands, appeared with a fleet before New Amsterdam, and the Dutch, realizing their powerlessness to offer any effective resistance, reluctantly surrendered. Again taken by the Dutch under Cornelius Evertsen in July, 1673, during a war between Holland, on the one side, and France and England, on the other, it was restored to England under the treaty of 1674. Thus the rule of Holland in America came to an end; Nieuw Nederland became an English possession, and Nieuw Amsterdam received its present name of New York, in honour of the Duke of York, afterwards James II. Very few of the Dutch returned to their native country. The majority stayed and for many years carried on a bitter struggle with the English Government for the independence of their Church. This was guaranteed to them by charter in 1696. In 1698 they had forty congregations.

Although many of the Dutch intermarried with other races, yet there were a goodly number who remained faithful to their nationality, so that at present the element of Dutch extraction in the Eastern States is considerable. Some of the descendants of the old Dutch settlers who gained renown in political and economic activities were: Van Cortland, from whom Van Cortland Park, in New York, derives its name; General Stephan Van Rensselaar, the New York statesman; Martin Van Buren, the eighth president of the U. S. From the end of the seventeenth till the beginning of the nineteenth century the emigration from the Netherlands was small. That of the nineteenth century had two principal causes, the first of which was the religious strife among Protestant denominations in Holland during the reign of William I. Dutch Protestants professing the Calvinistic creed established large colonies in Iowa and Michigan. The other cause of emigration was the unfavourable economical conditions in their native country. These conditions were brought about by the defects of social legislation and by the limited opportunities for business enterprise in a country so densely populated as Holland is. This is particularly true of the southern provinces, where the inhabitants are almost exclusively Catholic, where the soil is less fertile, and where a large portion of the productive land is in possession of the wealthier class. Of late, however, Catholic social organizations have ameliorated conditions somewhat; hence emigration from these provinces is decreasing.

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According to the twelfth census, that of 1900, there are about 105,000 foreign-born Hollanders in the United States (one per cent of the entire foreign-born population). These are distributed over the different states as follows:

California Illinois
Kansas Massachusetts
New Jersey New York
South Dakota Utah
Wisconsin 1,015
21,916 1,678
30,406 10,261
637 1,327

The number of Hollanders in the States not mentioned above is very small. It will be noticed that in the North Central Division alone, there are 79,000; this being over seventy-five per cent of all foreign-born Hollanders. Of the larger cities, New York had a Dutch population of 2600; Chicago, 18,500; Milwaukee, 600; Cleveland, 800; Paterson, 5000; Rochester, 1000; Grand Rapids, Mich., 13,000; Philadelphia, 300; St. Louis, 400. These statistics do not include the Hollanders born on American soil from foreign parentage. The Census Bureau gives no account of them. Of late the immigration from the Netherlands is between five and six thousand persons every year; of these nearly two-thirds are men, and one-third women ; while of the entire number almost four per cent are illiterate.

Catholic colonization began in 1848, when Father Th. van den Broek , a Dutch Dominican, after a missionary career of seventeen years among the Indian tribes in the Middle West, returned to the Netherlands, where he published a booklet on conditions in America. This booklet explained what bright prospects were in store for Catholic colonists. The result of his efforts was that, in March, 1848, he set out from Rotterdam with three shiploads of Catholic Hollanders. The vessels bore the names "Maria Magdalena", "America", and "Libera". All who accompanied him settled in the Fox River Valley, a fertile and beautiful, but at that time an uncultivated and uncivilized, part of Wisconsin, between Lake Winnebago and Green Bay. This region, at one time (1630-75) the missionary field of Fathers Marquette, Ménard, Allouez, André, and Silvery, became the territory of these settlers. Many Catholic Dutch colonists followed those of 1848, and they have, after years of privation and thrift, established several prosperous settlements. The Fox River Valley, called the "heart of the state", still remains the centre of Dutch Catholic colonization in the United States.


There exists in the United States a national non-sectarian society, "De Nederlandsche Bond", which has its head-quarters in Chicago, and forms a branch of the same organization in other continents, and which has in view the promotion of national feeling amongst its members. As the number of Dutch Catholics in America is relatively small (25,000), and as they are scattered throughout nearly every state of the Union, there exists as yet no Catholic national society. In the Fox River Valley, however, they have local societies for religious and social purposes in every one of their settlements. In January, 1907, a league of Holland and Belgian priests was organized in Chicago for the two-fold purpose of providing for the spiritual needs of neglected Dutch and Belgian Catholics in such a manner as circumstances might suggest, and of protecting and directing their countrymen on their arrival in America. This society known as "Association of Belgian and Holland Priests " has been affiliated with the "Church Extension Society " under the name of "Holland and Belgian Section of the Extension ". It is still under the separate management of its own officers. As the non-Catholic Hollanders are less scattered, it has been an easier task to foster organizations among them. There are "Dutch Societies " at Grand Rapids and Holland, Michigan, at Chicago, and at Orange City, Iowa. In New York, the "St. Nicolas Society " and the "Netherland Club" are composed of men descended from the early Dutch colonists of the seventeenth century.


The parochial system is vigorous in all the Holland Catholic settlements. In the Fox River Valley, for instance, their parish schools are attended by some 1764 children, who are taught by forty-three religious teachers. Their schools have always maintained a high standard. The Dutch language is not taught in any of them. It is a common opinion that Hollanders are, of all non-English speaking peoples, the most apt at learning the language and adopting the customs of the United States . The fact that in these schools, established by Dutch immigrants, the rich language of the Netherlands is entirely eliminated would seem to confirm this opinion. It may be said that the Dutch Catholics, both at home and abroad, have shown themselves strong advocates of Catholic education. Hence it is that, in parishes where their number is insufficient to form a congregation of their own, they pledge their material and moral support to parochial institutions irrespective of nationality, and they manifest appreciation as well as fidelity in regard to the faith which their forefathers kept and cherished through centuries of governmental oppression and other forms of adversity. In 1902 the Premonstatensian Fathers from Heeswijk, Holland, founded St. Norbert's College at Depere, Wisconsin. This college was erected primarily for the education of young men aspiring to the priesthood, secular or regular; but a business course was introduced later. Although opened only seven years ago, it is now in a flourishing condition, numbering ninety students, fifty of whom are preparing themselves for the priesthood. The Dutch Sisters of Mercy , at Baltic, Connecticut, conduct an academy for young women, and have an enrolment of ninety pupils. Of Dutch non-Catholic educational institutions may be mentioned Hope College (1866) and the theological seminary (1866), both at Holland, Michigan ; and academies at Orange City, Iowa ; at Cedar Grove, Wisconsin ; and at Harrison, South Dakota ; all belonging to the Dutch Reformed Church, which at present is divided into two sects, the "Christian Reformed" and the "Reformed Church ", while the Rev. Mr. Hugenholtz started a Liberal ( Unitarian ) Holland Church, at present quite insignificant, in Michigan.


There are sixteen Dutch periodicals in the United States : one in Chicago ; four in the State of Iowa (one at Orange City, two at Pella, one at Liona Centre); seven in Michigan (three at Grand Rapids, three at Holland, and one at Kalamazoo); two at Paterson, New Jersey ; one at Rochester, New York; and one at Depere, Wisconsin. These journals are all weeklies. Their subscribers, taken collectively, number about 70,000. The "Volkstem" (Voice of the People) published at Depere is at present the only Catholic publication in the Dutch language. The "Holland Amerikaan", issued weekly at Rochester, New York, though non-sectarian, strongly promotes Catholic interests; the other newspapers -- of which "De Hope " and "De Gronwet", published at Holland, Michigan, and "De Volksvriend", at Orange City, Iowa, are of main importance -- espouse the cause of the Dutch Reformed Church.


There are two Dutch religious orders in the United States one of men, the other of women. The Premonstratensian Fathers, more commonly known as Norbertines, from their founder, St. Norbert, came to America in November, 1893, from their abbey at Heeswijk, in North Brabant, Holland. They came at the request of Bishop S. G. Messmer, of Green Bay (now Archbishop of Milwaukee ), Wisconsin, to take charge of the Belgian missions in his diocese. In 1898, they canonically erected a convent at Depere, Wisconsin. In 1901 a novitiate of the order was also established with papal approbation. These fathers, faithful to the motto of their founder Ad omne opus bonum parati (Ready for every good work) have charge of six Belgian congregations and seven missions in the Diocese of Green Bay. They are, furthermore, engaged in parish work in the Dioceses of Marquette and Grand Rapids and in the Archdiocese of Chicago. They also conduct St. Norbert's College, mentioned above. The order in America numbers twenty-one priests, three scholastics, five novices, and four lay brothers. The Sisters of Our Lady, Mother of Mercy, came to America in 1874 from their mother-house at Tilburg, North Brabant, Holland. They began their first mission at Baltic, Connecticut, in the Diocese of Hartford, which is at present their headquarters. They also opened two schools and a city hospital at Willamantic, Connecticut, and one school at Taftsville, Connecticut. Since these sisters have taken charge of missions in the Dutch East Indies, they have declined to open any more houses in the United States. The order in America has seventy-six professed sisters, eleven novices, and four aspirants, while 1900 pupils receive a Catholic education through their devoted efforts. There are in the United States seventeen Catholic Dutch congregations and a few smaller missions, some of which have been more or less mixed with other nationalities, especially with the Flemish. The Dutch are, moreover, well represented in several other parishes, especially in the States of Michigan, South Dakota , and Montana. The Dutch priests, secular and regular, number 137 -- a significant indication of the strong missionary spirit of the small Catholic population (2,000,000) of the Netherlands.


Among the foremost of these was the Most Rev. Francis Janssen, for whom see N EW O RLEANS, A RCHDIOCESE OF . The Rev. Th. van den Broek, O.P. , was born at Amsterdam in 1803, and was ordained priest after entering the Order of Preachers. In 1832 he entered upon his missionary career in Kentucky, Michigan, and Wisconsin. In Wisconsin, he was one of the pioneers in the present Diocese of Green Bay, where also he began his first Catholic colony of Hollanders at Little Chute (1848). This afterwards developed into seven others. He was a man of extraordinary activity in the missionary field and of deep piety. On All saints' Day, 1851, while speaking to his flock of the glory and happiness of the saints, he was attacked by apoplexy and died 5 November, 1851. He was buried in the church at Little Chute, Wisconsin, where the Dutch have erected a magnificent monument to his memory. The Reverend Arn. Damen, S.J., was born at De Leur, Holland (N. Br.) 20 March, 1815. He entered the Society of Jesus and set out for America with several others under the guidance of Father De Smet, S.J., was made a professor in St. Louis University, and soon after became pastor of the college church at St. Louis. In 1857, he inaugurated a church and school in Chicago on the spot where now stands the Church of the Holy Family and the College of St. Ignatius. Though Father Damen accomplished meritorious work in the line of Catholic education, still his main achievements were the missions which he gave in nearly every important city in the United States. He died at Creighton College, Omaha, Nebraska, 1 January, 1890. -- For the Rt. Rev. Cornelius Van den Ven, see N ATCHITOCHES, D IOCESE OF .

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Thrift, economy, cleanliness and other domestic qualities make the Dutch desirable citizens of our Republic. Religious indifference is, generally speaking, unknown to them, but with an undying fidelity, they cling to their respective beliefs. The Catholics are noted for their faithfulness in attending services on Sundays. It is especially in rural districts that the Hollanders have obtained the best success in their material undertakings. Coming from a land which is famed as a dairy country, and accustomed to labour, they have proved themselves fit to stand the unavoidable hardships of pioneer life. Many of them have attained a remarkable degree of prosperity.

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