Jan van Dam

(1801 - 1864)


Geesje Meinders



Donald Riddering


                                         Questions about the following information can be directed to J.K.Berends

The original textdocument is rewritten in HTML by J.K.Berends, Groningen, The Netherlands, and can be read by the browsers : Netscape and Internet Explorer
Who am I ? I am also a cousin. My name is Jan Klaas Berends, born in 1936 on a farm in township Onnen municipality Haren in the Province of Groningen. I graduated as civil engineer and later working in the ICT.
My GreatGrandparents were Grietje van Dam and Jan Breeman. Grietje is a sister of Pietertje van Dam who emigrated with Egbert Nyenhuis in 1865 to America. I am now retired, and for the first time (Sept 2000) I bring a visit to my cousins in Michigan and have great interest in the history of my American branch.
And so I am a cousin, cousin... of the van Dam,Riddering, and Nyenhuis family
The ancestors of them emigrated to Michigan in 1848 and 1865 in the track of Ds. A.C. van Raalte
A descendant of the Nyenhuis family is : Prof. Dr. Jacob Nyenhuis, Provost at Hope College in Holland Michigan
Co-author of : A Dream Fulfilled, The Van Raalte Sculpture in Centennial Park (1997)
ISBN: 0-9634061-5-9

In 1997 a group of 48 persons visited the roots in the Provinces Groningen and Drenthe

Groningen , July 2000
E-mail : j.k.berends@gmail.com










ROELF JANS (1767-1847)


JAN VAN DAM (1801-1864) AND GEESJE JANS MEINDERS (1801-1876)











The story of any family is never complete, always one more document, one more story, one more discovery. But there comes a time when the story must be written down, for two main reasons: first, to put into a coherent form the information already discovered, and second, to encourage the discovery of additional information. It is, therefore, our hope that the omissions in our story of the van Dam family can be filled in by interested persons who will find new information and documents. The story we have gathered so far, has been aided greatly by the following family members who provided both documents and information.

Carolyn van Dam Kiekover
Hendrikus van Dam
Martin Klaver

Jan van Dam (1801-1864) Geesje Meinders van Dam (1801-1875) Photo before emigration in 1848

Jan van Dam (1801-1864) and Geesje Jans Meinders ( 1801-1875), my great grandparents, lie buried in a private burial plot in the midst of a pasture which once was part of their farm near the village of Drenthe, Michigan. The occasion of a van Dam family reunion for the purpose of rededicating this burial plot (July 13, 1993) was the impetus to write the story of their lives. It is the hope that this story will bring understanding and sensitivity to the recalling and honoring of their lives. Without some historical perspective it is impossible for our generation to comprehend the decisions which brought our ancestors to this lonely burial plot.
The province of Drenthe in The Netherlands has been dragged finally into the second half of the 20th century with all the mechanization and telecommunications of our time. A visit to Drenthe in this modern age would not give a valid picture of the life and times of Jan van Dam and Geesje Jans Meinders. In order to understand Jan and Geesje and the power of their decisions to transplant their lives to Michigan, it is necessary to understand the world in which they and their ancestors had lived for countless generations.

It is in the Province of Drenthe in The Netherlands that our story begins. This is the oldest inhabited part of The Netherlands and it is also the one Province that throughout the history of the country was not yet even counted as one of the Seven Provinces. It has its own history-long, unusual and powerful-which shaped the character of those living within the borders of this isolated area. Although there is archeological evidence that reindeer hunters were in this area at least by 13,000 BC hunting reindeer on the tundra, Drenthe may very well have been had its most influential place in the outside world some 4,000 years ago when it was part of the civilization of the late Stone Age. The inhabitants at that time built stone monuments (hunnebedden)--probably group graves of clan or family. These people took part in the culture of similar groups extending from Portugal through northern Germany into Denmark. They were not isolated from the surrounding world culture at that time.
Archeologists have been able to describe this culture through their study of the graves and artifacts found in Drenthe, but also from a buried settlement of some 200 or 300 habitations preserved in peat bogs and covered with clay near Oldenburg in northern Germany.
Evidence from these excavations shows that there was a common culture throughout northern Europe in which Drenthe was a full participant even regarding the style and manner of building the typical farmsteads, known as Saxon.
A change in the world climate, however, between 1200 BC and 800 BC brought a dramatic change in the geography of Drenthe. Water levels in the North Sea rose, and extensive swamps were formed around the central sandy core of the Province. Drenthe can be compared to an upside down soup dish, high in the middle and low around the edges. The resulting isolation of the higher lands left the inhabitants to live their lives through the centuries relatively immune from the racial and cultural migrations and invasions by other tribes and nations.

In fact, "It is not at all impossible that the inhabitants of the old villages on the sandy ridge of Drenthe are in part the direct descendants of the race of the Neolithic times, and that the ancestors of the present inhabitants were those who built the huge stone monuments (hunnebedden) which still today are held in such great honor. There is really not much changed in Drenthe since the Neolithic Age.

This means, of course, that Drenthe was even oblivious to such events as the rise and fall of the Roman Empire at the beginning of the Christian era and the invasions of the Goths and Huns in the 5th and 6th centuries. The actual conversion to Christianity began in Drenthe between 700 and 800 AD with the arrival of the first Christian Missionary, Willehad 3 and probably proceeded spiritually at least in the usual manner of northern Europe. But the political power of the organized church was certainly delayed with some success by the simple farmers of Drenthe. In fact, the Bishop of Utrecht finally decided to bring these rebels into the power of the church and led his knights out to accomplish this political conversion.
The farmers of Drenthe led them astray into the vast bogs where some 400 armored "knights" were easily defeated, and the Bishop himself was killed in what is known as the Battle of Ane in 1227. It took almost another 100 years with a more determined assault to bring finally the power of the church to the area if not by religious fervor at least by force. Their stubbornness, however, paid off, and Bishop Frederik in 1412 agreed that these farmers be permitted to continue running their own affairs in the farming community, in the villages and even in the whole Province. The villages, moreover, had been established long before Christianity arrived so that the churches in most instances are not in the center of the village but rather somewhat on the outskirts as a new arrival to the social structure.
The Reformation too by decree on a certain set date, May 10, 1598, not so much perhaps by a deep religious conversion but rather by political practicality. It is clear, however, that the development of the idea of separation of church and state, so strong in The Netherlands, may very well have developed among these embattled farmers.

An agricultural society and culture had developed in Drenthe during this long period of isolation from the rest of the world. The communities were very closely knit, with the Saxon farmhouses grouped in clusters where the social responsibilities of neighbors were carefully prescribed. The farming was done partly on cultivated lands, partly on meadows for hay and partly on common heather moors for the grazing of sheep. A farmer had his own house and yard and a certain share of the agricultural lands. It was an intensely cooperative society, socially as well as for agricultural production.
Money did not seem to play much of a role it was, rather, a matter of shared services, labor and production.

"One of the most noteworthy characteristics of such a village is the subordination to nature. It was completely one with the surrounding landscape which in its turn also followed nature. Only the most necessary changes had taken place. And so it was that in the middle of the land here and there a pond or a sandy knoll with a tree or two had been left, and it was never smoothed away. Centuries long it remained so. The trees developed into real primal forests filled with flowers. In Sleen and Rolde in the very middle of cultivated lands themselves are still "hunnebedden", (Stone Age monuments and tombs consisting of range unhewn stones resting on upright ones, forming a little room). The beauty and the natural order irregularity reigned supreme. This irregularity, completely adapting to nature, to the ridges o the surface, to the curves of a brook, to the different soil conditions - all here made into a system. In everything, the sensitive awareness of nature can be noted. These olden people o Drenthe understood the art of creating a natural landscape and a village scene completely fitted to Nature. This situation remained for a long time. " 5

In fact, until the 2nd World War a visitor was often surprised that a village was not really visible until he was close by. The large thatch-covered farm buildings were then finally seen under the green canopy of the trees. Here, there were no colorful roofs with files, only moss-covered thatch. Such a farm house is remarkable for the lack of attention it seeks. These farm buildings are unobtrusive, in their shape, in their color or in any special decoration.

"These people of Drenthe did not like to seek attention. This characteristic did not suit them in regards to each other. They did not want anything to do with a "show off". Even if a relatively well-to-do farmer lived in a farmhouse, it was still only one link in the whole chain of the village. Such a link should as much as possible, remain the same as the other links, all of which together formed the context of the village" 6

Through this same isolation and through its completely agricultural community, the social structures of power developed without the usual nobility as power brokers. The independent farmer with his age-old share in the agricultural lands was and remained the position of power in the society.
Finally in the 16th century there were created "knights" of Drenthe who lived in some 18 estates throughout the area, but their power depended on their share of ownership in the local agricultural lands. A separate level of authority for the nobility never developed in Drenthe, which retained its very democratic social structures of independent farmers.

While life on the sandy ridges of Drenthe grew and developed in its own remarkable way by its isolation throughout the ages, the edges of the area, soggy and swampy, had grown in their own wild way into forested wetlands surrounding, the higher sandy ridges where the earlier inhabitants had chosen to live.
About 1200 AD. a new group became active along the North Sea coast north of Drenthe in what is now Groningen and Friesland in those areas of delta land where land could be reclaimed by manipulation of water with dikes and canals. This was a long, slow process of learning, and yet we know how proficient The Netherlands have become in this skill. Population increases made land reclamation possible and profitable. Modem Netherlands is a living monument to the skill of these people in shaping the environment of water and the delta lands. The tree -lined edges of Drenthe, recognized by place names with the suffix wolde or wold (Foxwolde, Ruinerwold, Roderwold, Paterswolde), began to be inhabited by these people who were acquainted with the ways of water. New villages were built, water flow was controlled, and different agricultural procedures were developed for these marginal lands. The 13th century brought many of these settlements to the lower edges of Drenthe, each one with its visible connection to the political power of the church in the middle ages, often actually sponsored by a nearby cloister. Some of the attitudes toward life were different in these new settlements from those of the traditional villages on the higher ridges. The patterns of the landscapes were different. The older were without any regularity, grouped at angles together under the protecting canapé of trees; the newer were on straight lines along dikes and ditches with prescribed lot sizes; the older reflected a more closely knit social structure of dependence on the immediate neighbors; the newer reflected a more individualistic choice of exploiting one's own prescribed territory.
These differences are mentioned here only briefly although they both play a role in understanding the background and decisions of our ancestors. The van Dam family was certainly a part of the society developed in Foxwolde, one of the "newer" settlements along the northern edge of Drenthe and mentioned in historical documents as early as 1382 .
But our ancestors also were part of the older traditional inhabitants dating to immemorial times in the community of Zuidlaren. There is no reason to assume that our ancestors were anything other than the descendants of those original settlers some 4000 years ago. And that is the reason that they are so interesting - and at the same time so puzzling in trying to understand their break with their traditions to resettle so far away in America

For a visual description of the geography of Drenthe a modern photo of an old settlement can do much to present the physical appearance of what it may have been throughout the ages. But a description in the words of an artist may make our picture more complete.
Vincent van Gogh visited Drenthe in the Fall of 1883 from September to November, about eleven weeks. During that time he wrote some 22 letters which amounts to some 76 pages of closely printed text in a recent edition. A few excerpts in his own words:

"Drenthe is superb, but whether I can endure depends on things, depends on whether one can put up with the loneliness. " 10
"O it is so strange and so still, so peaceful. I can find no other word than ‘peace’ "

"There is something here of good will, and I believe that here you can do whatever seems best for you. There is here a surprising youthful atmosphere.
Drenthe is so beautiful; in general it grabs me and consumes me absolutely. If I couldn't be here forever, I had rather not seen it all! It is indescribably beautiful" 13
"O brother, come paint on the heather, the potatofield; come walk along behind the plow and with the shepherd-come look in the fire- be blown by the storm that rages over the heather.
Break away! I do not know my fortune or how it would be different or if everything will prosper, but I must say this: Don't look for it in Paris, don't look for it in America, that is always the same for eternity. Indeed, change, look for it in the heather.14

Within this general background of beauty and history, just what do we know specifically about Jan van Dam and Geesje Meinders who were born into this peaceful, low key, withdrawn, introspective, dark, even mysterious part of the world?

Jan and Geesje were both born in the same year (1801) and in the same storm of change that was tearing apart the social structures which had been in place for thousands of years.
For it was in 1795 that the armies of Napoleon had succeeded in seizing the Netherlands and in putting Napoleon's brother, Lodewijk Napoleon on the throne. In the French mind, logical and systematic changes would have to be made in the economic, social, religious patterns in order to make the nation - as one whole - governable. Drenthe through the centuries had been allowed to drift along its own inimitable pattern primarily because of its lack of wealth and resources. There was no real profit to be gained by conquest! But for some reason Lodewijk Napoleon took an avid interest in changing Drenthe.
What better way to introduce a change than to have a census -- for the first time -- in order to know how many inhabitants (+ or - 40,000). Marriages became civil contracts, not the realm of the church. A military draft was instituted to provide soldiers for Napoleon adventures in Russia. The new French King even dared to change the patterns of ownership of land: the undivided, or common lands, of each village community were divided into individual parcels, mainly for the purposes of taxation. All citizens were compelled to register with a family name, not as traditionally, Jan Roelf's son, or Roelf Jan's son. And it was, indeed, the father of Jan van Dam who had registered the name of the family as "van Dam." Roelf Jans ( 1767-1847) the son of Jan Roelf (1740-1808),became Roelf Jans van Dam
"Meinders" as a family name also was taken by the father of Geesje Jans Meinders van Dam. These were all fundamental changes in the way of life for our ancestors. This had never happened before in the long history of this area. Such changes were not easy, nor easily accepted, although they were viewed as temporary because the certain defeat of Napoleon would restore Drenthe to its previous secluded existence. At this same time there was a tremendous influx of population into Drenthe, more than doubling from 1795 (40,000) to 1850 (83,000). Most of his growth came from unemployed workers who were being enticed to Drenthe to work in the harvesting of the vast peat bogs on the edges of Drenthe. Life as, indeed, changing at an overwhelming pace for this previously peaceful society
And then, of course, the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 did not restore the previous conditions. The final defeat at Waterloo brought international interest in re-casting of the political landscape of Europe. It was decided by the allied nations to remold Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands into one kingdom as a power block to any resurgent French ambitions. The young prince of Oranje Nassau, who would have become Stadhouder Willem VI, if the Dutch Republic had remained independent, was selected as the first King Willem I, to bring about this unlikely merger of the Catholic south and the Reformed north.

A farmhouse in Drenthe and a restored farmhouse in Drenthe

What better way for the new King and his government to succeed than to use and to build on the structures already in place for the Napoleon era? And so the "Reforms" were not allowed to disappear but rather were strengthened and reinforced in an effort to create a new unity in the diverse kingdom. It was, however, the centralization of the church authority that finally brought a reaction to all of the revolutionary changes that had started in 1795. King Willem I was determined to have a state Reformed Church as a balance to the Catholic Church in the south. When some of the Ministers of the Reformed Church began to preach about "separation" and began to call themselves "separatists", the King reacted severely in an attempt to put down what he saw as a threat to the unity of the new kingdom. (In the history of the Reformed Church many of these Ministers are well known: Hendrik de Cock, Wolter Kok, Frederick Kok, Albert C. van Raalte ( He founded Hope College in Holland, Michigan), H.R. Scholte, Antonie Brummelkamp ) The whole fabric of life in the villages was torn apart by these tensions in the church. Villages were divided, families were divided, friendships were broken. It was becoming clear that the unity of the Reformed Church in the Province was an impossibility. No punishment of force by the King would be effective with the "Separatists" who, in general were the "quiet ones and the most introspective 16

"The people of Drenthe have always been strongly religious but entirely different from the dogmatic neighbors in other provinces. In Drenthe there is a definite mystical and meditative character."17

It was very clear that force from the government would be to no avail against these people.

In addition to these problems of church authority in The Netherlands, all of Europe was in a severe economic depression because of the crop failures of 1845-47. The potato blight in Drenthe had brought agricultural collapse to many farmers. There were certainly many factors- economic, social, religious, personal-- that would sow the seeds of emigration, which were destined to grow with the care and nurturing of the "Separatist" Ministers.'.
In 1846 Rev. van Raalte, Rev. Brummelkamp. and Rev. Scholte published a booklet describing their plans to form a religious colony in North America.
This booklet was widely dispersed among the Separatists and convinced many to make the decision to go along to " America", that distant concept of freedom, opportunity, wealth and escape. It is certainly in this general context that we must see the lives of Jan and Geesje and their decision to come to Michigan with a family of six children. Whether they were active participants in a "Separatist" church in Zuidlaren is unknown. We do know, however, that they were neighbors of the van Rhee family in Zuidlaren and that Jan van Rhee and Jan van Dam even bought in common 160 acres of land in Overijssel Township, Allegan County, in addition to the land that each purchased individually. According to official records in the Netherlands of emigration for the year 1847, only the Jan van Rhee family was listed for Zuidlaren and there as a "Separatist" (Christelijke Afgescheiden)."
The van Dam's joined their former neighbors in Zuidlaren as neighbors in Overijssel in 1848. We wish we knew more about the Separatist movement in Zuidlaren, but both families undoubtedly had come under the influence of the van Raalte booklet of 1846. We do know that one of van Raalte ‘s early associates in the Separatist movement was a Rev. Johannes van Rhee. He later left the movement entirely and did not participate in the emigration. He may very well, however, have been a relative of Jan van Rhee, who was in this way imbued with Separatist enthusiasm. It is interesting to note in this connection that two sisters of Jan van Dam, Hester and Egberdina, donated to the Separatists in Haren in 1852 land on which to build a church.
This land had been inherited in 1848 as part of the estate of their father, Roelf Jans van Dam
(The deed to the church stipulates that if ever the land is not used by the church, the land will revert to the heirs of Hester and Egberdina, which would certainly be a goodly number, on both sides of the ocean.)
It seems quite clear that the van Dam family in general was active in the "Separatist" movement and that this involvement played an important role in the decision of Jan and Geesje to emigrate from The Netherlands to the Colony in Michigan.

As van Hinte pointed out in Netherlanders in America, the causes of the immigration of 1846 were partly social and economic, but predominately religious. "It was the religious motive that gave ,form and character to the movement. 20

The van Dam family was, indeed, an active participant in the spirit of the immigration of 1846.

From exiting church records in Groningen we know that the grandfather of Jan van Dam, Jan Roles (1740-1808), came from the village Foxwolde to Haren, probably in 1763, the year in which he joined the church in Haren on June 2. Church records in Foxwolde are sketchy or nonexistent partly because the records disappeared at the time of the Reformation when the last priest in Foxwolde in 1548 delivered the records to the Spanish authorities in the Netherlands. Some of these Dutch church records are now being discovered in archives in Spain. Perhaps Foxwolde will appear someday. It is clear, however, that the family origins were in Foxwolde, a village on the marshy edges of Drenthe. As early as 1139 AD the records show that there was a church in Foxwolde, established by a cloister in Aduard to bring the help of monks in building the first dikes and dams -- to control the water to make the area more livable. In 1444 there were only 5 independent farmers in the village, and by 1612 It had grown to 53 people in 10 families. From 1600 to 1700 there was a floor tile factory in Foxwolde allowing some growth so that in 1810 there were 18 houses, some 16 farmers and 2 families without property. There were also tradesmen such as shoemaker, weaver, shop keeper, and barber. Just exactly what role in the community the family of Jan Roles may have had, we do not know. But we do know that there is a dam in Foxwolde and a "Dam Street" (Damweg). When Roelf Jans (1767-1847), the son of Jan Roelf, was required to register a family name in 1811, he probably thought of the family roots in Foxwolde and chose the name "van Dam" (from the dam). The family may very well have lived near the dam in Foxwolde.

Young Jan Roelf (1740-1808), 23 years old, moved from the home village of Foxwolde to Haren where he joined the Reformed Church there in 1763. Three years later he married Hester Borcherts (1740-1803) in May 1766. The next year on March 22, 1767 their only child was born in Haren, Roelf Jans (1767-1847). The young family rented a house and farm "facing the street" from 1771-1780. In 1784 they bought a parcel of land in Onnen, about 3 miles away from Haren. They also bought grave sites in the churchyard in Haren.
The family seemed to be prospering in Haren. From death records we know that when Hester Borcherts died on June 22, 1803, Jan Roelf paid an extra 3 guilders 10 cents for the "best shroud". After her death Jan Roelf may have returned to Foxwolde. In any case his death certificate shows that he died in Foxwolde on April 27, 1808. The signature of his son, Roelf Jans, is on the certificate.

Map of Drenthe

The church in Foxwolde, built in 1831 from the bricks of 12th century church

Our earliest document, the death certificate of Jan Roelfs (1740-1808)

Familytree van Dam -Nyenhuis family
(The original tree made by Don Riddering is extended by J.K.Berends a cousin living in Groningen The Netherlands)

ROELF JANS (1767-1847)
Roelf Jans grew up in Haren and was a shoemaker there. He married Egberdina Wuffing (1777-1839) from Zuidlaren where her family lived.
They had a family of 8 children, only two of which had descendants, Jan van Dam ( 1801-1864) who was responsible for the American branch-, and Hendrik van Dam (1806-1877) who was responsible for The Netherlands branch of the family. The other children were Hester (1800-1800), Hester (1804-1867), Egberdina (1816-1871), Lammechien (1818-1837), Roelf (1819-?), and Jans (1824-1846).
The family in this generation too was thriving and was acquiring additional property.
When Roelf Jans died in 1847, the assets were divided among the surviving children, Jan, Hester, Hendrik and Egberdina. The inheritance was divided according to a document dated April 7, 1848 wherein it is clear that Jan received his share in cash (5839.30 guilders).
His siblings received properties.
Both Jan and Hendrik were married with families by this time.
Hendrik van Dam (1806-1877) had married Grietje van Norg (1805-1878) in Haren and had a thriving business in Haren, a combination cafe and bakery in the center of Haren called "de Kroon" (The Crown). Hendrik and Grietje had eleven children. The third child, Pietertje (1836-?) married Egbert Nijenhuis and came to join her cousins in Michigan in 1864.
Their story will be included with the Michigan family.

The family of Hendrik and Grietje continued to thrive in Haren with their active business enterprise, and they are the forebears of the van Dam family in The Netherlands. Their oldest son, Hendrik van Dam (1835-1908) and brother of Pietertje van Dam Nijenhuis, had a total of 13 children as a result of two marriages, first with Geesien Adolfs (?-1875) and after her death with Hendrikje Berends. At the death of Geesien Adolfs, Hendrik inherited the Adolph's farm and house which became the family home of the Haren van Dam's. Hendrik was killed when his horse bolted in downtown Haren in 1908. Heerke van Dam (1894-1977) was the youngest child of the 13 children. He married Maaike Dijkstra in 1932. Two of their 5 children, Anne Jan (b. 1938) and Hendrikus (b. 1948) have attended the Van Dam family reunion in Drenthe, Michigan on July 13, 1993.

JAN VAN DAM (1801-1864) AND GEESJE JANS MEINDERS (1801-1876)
Jan van Dam and Geesje Jans Meinders were married on the 8th of August 1824 in Zuidlaren, The Netherlands, both 23 years of age. From the marriage certificate we learn that Jan was a bakers apprentice in Zuidlaren. His parents, Roelf Jans van Dam and Egberdina Wuffing
lived in Haren where Jan had been baptized in the Reformed Church. Jan's father, Roelf Jans van Dam was a shoemaker in Haren and assumed the family-name "van Dam" in 1811 as was required by the laws of the French occupation. Jan had presented a document showing that he was excused from participation in the National Military draft. One of the witnesses who signed the certificate was Harm Frerik Bakker, 60 years old, a baker in Zuidlaren, probably the man for whom Jan worked in the bakery. (Harm Frerik had probably chosen the family name "Bakker" because of his profession.) Another witness was Roelf Wuffing, 72 years old, a farmer in Zuidlaren who was the great uncle of Jan. Jan's mother, Egberdina Wuffing van Dam and his father, Roelf van Dam both signed the certificate as giving permission for the marriage.
We also learn from this marriage certificate that Geesje Jans Meinders had been baptized in the Reformed Church in Gieten, Drenthe, where her parents lived, father Jan(?) Willem Meinders and mother Jeichien Schuiling- Meinders.
Her father had chosen the family name "Meinders", perhaps because his father was either "Meinder" or "Meindert". By profession he was a skipper of a ship that probably carried peat, mined from a bog near Gieten, to other parts of the country. Bath of Geesje's parents signed the certificate as giving parental consent.

The family of Jan's mother, Egberdina Wuffing, lived in Zuidlaren. Jan had come from Haren, about 15 miles to the north, where the van Dam's lived. Jan went to Zuidlaren, probably because of the Wuffings and began his career as an apprentice baker. He may have been accompanied by two of his sisters, Hester and Egberdina van Dam. By 1832, eight years after his marriage, he owned the bakery on the main corner of the market. (1832 was the first year in which accurate records were kept of property and owners.) Jan van Dam is listed as owner of that property where even today there is still a thriving bakery. We do not know how or exactly when Jan acquired the bakery, but we suspect that it was with the help of the Wuffing's, his mothers family in Zuidlaren.
When it came time for Jan and Geesje to emigrate, the bakery was not sold but was rented for the benefit of his sisters, Hester and Egberdina. Jan and Geesje did not need to liquidate the bakery to pay the expenses of moving across the ocean because Jan had taken his share of the inheritance of his father, who died in 1847, in cash, a sum of 5,839.30 Guilders
In term of present-day dollars it is difficult to assess how much this was, but it apparently was sufficient to finance the emigration of the whole family to America, to buy acreage, and to get settled in their new life without selling the bakery, although there may well have been a loan of some sort from Aunts Hester and Egberdina. We learn more about these financial arrangements from a contract dated January 12, 1865, after the death of Jan in Michigan, a contract between the American family and Aunts Hester and Egberdina. It is an agreement that the American family shall no longer pay interest to the Aunts and that the Aunts shall no longer pay rent to the American family. The interest my have been on a loan for the emigration; the rent my have been for the use of the bakery in Zuidlaren. All concerned on both sides of the ocean signed the contract. It seems clear enough that economic and financial pressures were not the motivation for Jan and Geesje to emigrate, nor did they sever financial ties with the homeland. In fact, these responsibilities were the reason for two different return trips to the Netherlands, Roelof van Dam in 1865 and Egbert van Dam and Albert Riddering, the husband of Dina van Dam, in 1872.

And so Jan and Geesje in 1848 at the age of 47 left their home and bakery in Zuidlaren to join the "Separatists" in the wilderness in Michigan with a family of six children, the youngest only 3 years old. It is indeed difficult to imagine the emotions as they went aboard the ship Dione to sail to the New World. The passenger list of the vessel Dione shows the family all listed except Lammechien age 11. The other are listed as follows: Roelf age 17, Egbert age 14, Jan age 9, Dina age 6, and Jeichien age 3. Lammechien apparently came later, probably in 1854, the date she herself gave the census taker in 1900. Just why she did not come with the family is not clear. There are several suggestions from family lore. Perhaps she was needed by Aunts Hester and Egberdina in Zuidlaren; perhaps she was needed by her elderly widowed grandmother, Jeichien Schuiling Meinders, who could very well have used the services of a mature eleven year old in the household.
After six years, however, It must have been a joyful reunion in the van Dam family in Overijssel, Michigan on their new farm -- where additional help was probably very welcome.

The Reformed Church in Haren

(built on land donated by Egberdina and Lammechien van Dam, sisters of Jan van Dam)

The site of the 12th century church in Foxwolde

(now the cemetery, where van Dam ancestors are probably buried)

Jan van Dam upon arrival in Michigan, purchased 80 acres in Section 4 of Overijssel Township, the East half of the Southeast quarter on October 7, 1848.
United States Land Office records also show that on the same date Jan van Dam and Jan van Rhee jointly purchased the adjoining 160 acres in Section 3, the Southwest quarter.
Jan van Rhee had already purchased for himself the 160 adjacent acres to the East on January 12, 1848 before his friends from Zuidlaren had arrived. According to family recollections, this joint 160 acres was divided in 1849 with Jan van Dam obtaining the West 80 acres and the van Rhee's the East 80, for a total of 160 acres for Jan van Dam 80 acres in Section 4 and 80 in Section 3. According to family recollections again, the van Dam's and the van Rhee's built their houses, log cabins, quite near each other on opposite sides of a small stream. They built a bridge themselves to cross the river. The traces of the old bridge still remain and also the drive up to the original house. The friends and neighbors in Zuidlaren were together again in the New World with a total of 400 acres to clear and to make tillable! The work involved in such a task is difficult for us now to imagine. Perhaps Professor Henry Lucas sum up this gigantic undertaking in the brief statement,

"In the span of one lifetime the immigrants from the Netherlands had cleared the forests, laid out their farms, built their houses, barns and churches, and founded a community unique in the annals of American immigration,"

The first work of clearing the trees was done by a pair of oxen, but they were later replaced by horses. Van Dam's liked horses, and usually they had fine teams of driving horses. The old wooden ox yoke was still in existence a number of years ago, but it was sold with the farm and has now disappeared. This awesome task of clearing the land for agriculture was not accomplished in the first few years. In fact, from the 1860 Agricultural Census we know that Jan van Dam and Jan van Rhee together had only 110 acres of "improved" land.
And yet Jan van Dam prospered on his farm, and soon, by 1861, he was able to buy more land primarily in Section 3, about 450 acres. The North 1/2 of Section 3 was a land grant to a veteran of the War of 1812, L.J. Rosecrants who received a patent for the land on September 27, 1836, long before the Dutch settlers arrived. This land was probably for sale at this time to the new settlers
By this purchase Jan van Dam Sr. was able to provide each of his sons with about 80 acres near the original farm, and his son Jan Jr. bought the home farm in 1862 just before Jan Sr. died in 1864. On the original farm just east of the barn (still standing) was a pasture extending across the river and including a large pond. Along the northern edge of it in a little family cemetery close to the location of the first log cabin, Jan van Dam Sr. was buried in 1864. Even though the East Drenthe Cemetery was in existence at the time, the family made the decision to bury him at home on his land in the New World.

The arrangement family finances with Aunts Hester and Egberdina, as mentioned earlier, after the death of Jan in 1864 in Michigan was undoubtedly the reason that Roelf van Dam (1830 -1912) returned to The Netherlands in 1865. As a result of this visit, there seems to have been more activity and interest writing letters to the family in Haren, or somebody in Haren took pains to preserve the correspondence from America. Recently Hendrikus van Dam in Haren discovered in the attic a little chest with some 40 letters written from America between the years 1865-1878. No one in America has yet found a similar collection of letters from the Netherlands!

The Dutch Reformed Church Zuidlaren

Map of first purchasers of land in Overisel Township

The earliest letter is dated April 10, 1865 written to the relatives in Haren upon his return voyage by Roelof van Dam on board the ship Edinburg and posted on arrival in New York on April 14, 1865
'With the Lords unending mercy we have landed in New York and hope to continue our trip further at 6 o'clock this evening. My very dear family are all well as the brother of Klaas had sent a letter to New York in which I learned that all were well. The war (Civil War) is as good as decided. The whole city has flags flying. '

This same letter describes life on aboard ship with a touching description of a burial at sea April 22, 1865:
"Today is so foggy that we can't see two lengths of the ship ahead. The crew blows the fog horn every 5 minutes because otherwise they are afraid that they might sail into another ship. This morning at 7:30 a little child of 8 months was buried at sea. The little body was in a wooden box loaded with weights with holes bored inthe bottom so that it would sink. The captain said a routine prayer. The box was set on a plank and so glided into the sea. It was achild of an Hollander. There are 60 Hollanders on board. Through the goodness and endless mercy of the Lord I am still fresh and healthy. "

He also tells about some religious disputes on board the Edinburg:
"Yesterday was Sunday. The crew then does no work unless it is absolutely necessary. The Captain has church in his cabin. What faith he has I don't know. Klaas thought that they were Quakers. There are also many Catholics on board, and they had services too. The Irish are almost all Catholic, and there are many on the ship. There are also Scotch on board. They are in general good people, and 1 believe that many of them fear God. In the afternoon one of the Scotch gave a sermon. He had for his text Matthew 22 verse 42: "What do you think of the Christ? "
He had a solid argument, but then you should have heard the Catholics! It was as if the devils of Hell had come to disturb them in their religious beliefs . One of them gave them a sharp rebuke pointing out what they might expect, because they are not insulting the people but God himself. Finally orders came from the Captain to quiet down or go up on deck, and then they quickly controls themselves.
The Catholics have not changed for, if it were in their power, they would exterminate all the Protestants from the face of the earth!"

On this same trip in 1865 Roelof had apparently convinced his cousin Pietertje van Dam (1836-?) and her husband Egbert Nyenhuis to come to Michigan. In a letter to the family inHaren dated 15 June 1865 shortly after his return home. Roelof writes :
"We have not yet received a letter from you and expect one soon. I had expected one already from Egbert. How are you Cousin Egbert? Are you beginning to get cold feet or do you still have the courage to cross the ocean? Look before you leap is the maxim. Know the Lord in all your days and He shall make your paths straight.

Pietertje and Egbert did not have "cold feet" about the trip and arrived in Michigan in October 1865. Pietertje and Egbert Nyenhuis were the only other van Dam family to emigrate.
The others all remained in the Netherlands. Jan van Dam in his generation was one of a family of seven, and ]Pietertje in the next generation was one of eleven siblings. The attraction for America was not particularly strong in the Van Dam family. And it does seem clear that the motive for these two family members was not primarily economic but rather a strong religious drive to join the "colony" in Michigan.

The little family cemetery where Jan van Dam Sr. was buried in 1864 grew by one grave in 1865 when a grandson, Jan, two years old, the son of Jan van Dam Jr. and Jantje Visscher, died on August 17, 1865 only a few months after the return of Roelof from the visit in Haren.
We learn about the illness of baby Jan in a letter dated August 13, 1865 when Roelof writes again to the family in Haren :
"Brother Jan's little boy has been very sick but somewhat improved last Thursday he became ill and so severe that in a moments time it seemed to be the end. Toward evening he got convulsions and so bad that we could see almost no life in him. Arms and legs became entirely stiff. Toward morning the severity lessened somewhat. The house was sometimes too small for me. In the cavern of the night I had to pour out complaints in the open field while the blue heavens were decorated with flickering stars. 'Call on me in the day of trouble, and I shall give you help', says the trusting God. 1 begged urgently for Gods promise. It seems that the Lord has always wanted to listen up tonow. Many times I have seen from my departed father that when all human help falls short, there is no better way than to take refuge in flight to the Lord, for there is deliverance from death. Brother Jan was onhis knees continually and called on God. His wife said constantly ‘It is done'. I said, 'As long as there is life there is hope '. She said, "Then it is a miracle if he ever comes to again so that it yet may serve as a blessed ending. Amen",

In yet another letter, written by Albert and Dina van Dam Riddering dated August 20, one week later:
"We must report, to our great sorrow, that the Lord saw fit to tear away in death the child of brother-in-law Jan van Dam on the night of the 17th and 18th of August at midnight aftersuffering one week of dysentery and was buried on Saturday, August 19. May the Lord pour balsam in their wounded hearts, for it was difficult for them when they saw their own off-spring carried away to the chilly grave. You can certainly understand, for such dear lambs are torn from their parents with pain. May the Lord give them and us comfort in His path, for it is a clear call for us all to prepare, knowing that all must die, and we are not assured of even one hour in our life.

Geesje Meinders van Dam

A 200 year old farm house of the van Dams in Haren the same farm rebuild in 1997 and sold

The letter just mentioned was written by Albert and Dina on August 20, 1865 and was sent to the Netherlands but not to the relatives in Haren, but rather to brother-in-law Jan Boer, the husband of Lammigje (Lammechien) van Dam (1837-1927). Jan Boer was in the Netherlands that same summer apparently recruiting friends and acquaintances as new immigrants for the "colony" in Michigan.
There are several letters which have survived from this trip. The first was written by Jan Boer on August 4, 1865 in New York City describing his trip by train :
"along the Hudson, so that passed by the boats, ships, and everything else that moved, at great speed. We covered 150 (miles) in little more than 5 hours-- that is going fast".

The next letter is from Jan Boer to his wife from London on the 16th of August where he was enjoying the hospitality of a Dutch Coffee House where awaiting the departure the next morning of a Dutch ship for Rotterdam. He hoped to receive a letter from home when he would arrive in Zwolle on Friday. An undated letter written by Lammigje to her husband may very well be the letter he was expecting.
The news from home was not encouraging:
"I must take up a pen to write you a note although I don't have much desire to do so because of the present situation. The children are quite well except Jacob--not better- and think continually if you weren't gone it would not happen.(Note: Jacob, who was four years old, was a lifetime invalid.) Jan, you can well imagine how thing are. (illegible). Now little Jan is so sick, and I too am not well, but if Jacob gets a little better I think that I toowill be better. My wish and prayer is that the Lord may bring you back soon to your home in safety without too long a stay there. May the Lord watch over you and be a haven of safety in all your travels there".

Lammigje also asks that Jan bring home with him a Bible for the pulpit. She also mentions that Albert, ((Riddering)) and Dina would soon write a letter. She ends the letter with the statement :
'You must not take letter too seriously because everything is going so fast here as if I were being driven along.

Jan Boer in The Netherlands was certainly far away from Lammigje and the children at home in Michigan. Lammigje had perhaps reason to be apprehensive and ill at ease because on September 10, 1865 she gave birth to a daughter, Egberdina, their sixth child.
Jan apparently did not receive the news until he found a letter waiting for him in New York City. He wrote to the family in Haren on October 4, 1865 and enclosed the letter he had justreceived with the news.
He comments :
"Here I begin again to write while I stand in the office of my butterdealer , and I open the enclosed letter. Oh, my dear friends, my eyes flow with tears for the Lord that He has seen to bless me so richly which singles me out from so many. I didn't dare tell you what the situation was in our family in order not to upset you, but now the Lord has helped and has rescued us from need and anxiety, and with mercy He has heard our prayers. Give thank then to the Lord for his mercy poured out on me and on all of us together.

We can well imagine the happy welcome and reunion when Jan Boer arrived home in Michigan to join his family.

In a letter from Pietertje and Egbert to her parents in Haren (March 18,- 1866) we learn that she and Egbert had arrived in Michigan on October 7, 1865 probably in company of Jan Boer who had brought a group of new immigrants with him on his return voyage.
The letter tells of their search for land and the final choice, the farm of Jan Zijdde 40 acres and another 35 acres from the van Dam's.
He reports that he had learned to fell the trees and clear the land from the son of a neighbor who worked for $ 1. 00 per day.
'To my great satisfaction I can report that with his help I have learned to direct the fall of the trees and I can take care of myself that we have together already cut 28 acresand then considering that I was busy the first two weeks in house helping Pietertje after the birth, and also in two weeks in January we cut only a day and a half because of snow and cold. '

During the first winter Pietertje and Egbert lived with their Aunt and Uncle, Jan and Geesje van Dam :
"We live in the sitting room and keep house there with a hired girl, and we had the wife of A. Kamps, the girls mother, here fore 8 days for special nursing care because the girl was not yet acquainted enough with the housekeeping. We bought a milk cow last fall and arranged with Jan van Dam for feed, hay, and straw for $12. "

Preserved in the chest in Haren were some 13 letters from Pietertje and Egbert Nyenhuis dated from 1865 to the last letter of March 1878.
They tell of home sickness, illness, crop conditions, financial arrangements, sale of property in The Netherlands, reactions to news of deaths of Aunt Hester and brother Roelf in Haren. There are comments about church problem with the arrival of Rev. J.B. de Boer in Michigan. They speak of general dissatisfaction of life in Michigan with the resulting decision to "go live on the prairie". Their whole experience in the New World is perhaps summed up in that last letter of Pietertje on March 1878:

Orange City, March 1878
Dear Mother, brothers and sisters,
May peace and blessings be with you. We have awaited a letter from you for a long time, but so far nothing received. Or didn't you receive our letter of September in which I answered the letter of Roliena (1849-1929, a younger sister of Pietertje). We are all well by the goodness of the Lord. We have had here a mild winter and it is almost time to begin planting. Last summer the harvest was very goodhere. We have 450 bushel wheat, 100 barley, 180 oats, 180 linseed, 5 horses and cows. The young cattle are fine so far. We got in March four more to milk, and if they all have calves, then we can milk six this summer. The land here is very good. I think that if Hendrik Breeman and Jan Breeman with their families were here, it would be very good. The boys of Hendrik and Diena are old enough that the draft will soon come to have to serve the King in Europe, which is in my opinion difficult for the parents.
(Note: Two sisters of Pietertje were married to Hendrik and Jan Breeman, Egberdina (1834-1891) and Grietje (1850-1878). Earlier in Michigan I did not dare to write to come here because Michigan didn't suit me very well. But now frankly we write to come if you can. After our departure from Michigan there are already five more families who have come and 12 young men and this week there are 7 more families coming. Now that they hear that it is much better here than in Michigan, they are following us. We have a healthy climate here, a steady, market, and we can use machines because of the excellent lay of the land.
Dear, dear Mother and Sisters and Brother, blessing and peace be with you is my wish. Amen.

I am very eager for a letter to be able to hear about your health and how everything is with soul and body and what may happen about you coming here; but so long as Mother lives, you must stay with her and take good care ofher.
If we weren't so far from each other ,I would long before this have visited you. Egbert feels much more at home here than in Michigan and also much healthier. Haven't you received the letter with the answer to the question of Roliena how many children we had. We still have five: Lammegien is 12 years old, Hendrik 10, Janna 6 next May, Johannes 3 years and Grietje one half year on February 18. She is blossoming and can sit up, on the floor already. And two we have lost. Is Mother still always healthy? Is old Janna still alive? And the mother of Hendrik Breeman, is she living with Jan and Grietje? We are four miles from the church and that is troublesome for me. With the wagon we can get there quickly-~ the roads here are usually good. But with a little child you can't do that in the winter time. Because they are far away they often take the children along with them. We have a great advantage in that we have many books if we can't come to the church and then can experience thatthe Lord is not tied to any place or time if there is a lawful reason. But, 1 don't feel right at home if it is possible to get to the church on Sunday where the Lord is worshipped according to his instructions. Is Rev. Breitsem still with you? Does he have a blessing in his work? Now I will stop with the pen but not with the heart. Write back soon.
Greetings from all of us, loving daughter, Pietertje van Dam

Pietertje van Dam Nijenhuis

The bakery in Zuidlaren Jan and Geesje van Dam were the owners

Jan van Dam and Geesje prospered on their farm in Overisel Township.
'The census of 1860 provides detailed information about farm activities. By that date Jan had 60 "improved" acres, and the cash value of the farm was $2,000 and equipment $100. He had livestock valued-at $400 including 3 horses, 5 cows, 2 working oxen. 1 sheep, and 3 swine. He raised 275 bushels of wheat, 180 bushels of oats. 100 bushels of Irish potatoes, 200 lbs. butter, 20 tons hay, 2 lb. maple sugar, and 50 lbs. honey. This certainly gives a picture of a busy farm life. Farming was apparently profitable at that time. Prices for farm products were relatively high. Roelof writes to the relatives in Haren in July 1866 that the price of wheat was $1.27 a bushel. The price in today's newspaper (June 1993) was $2.60, 127 years later, with all the increased production costs. In any case by 1861 van Dam's were able to buy additional land, a total of about 450 acres, enough so that Jan and Geesje could provide each of their sons with an 80 acre farm, all very close to the original farm.
The north half of section 3 was a land grant to a veteran of the War of 1812, L.J. Rosecrants, who received a patent on the land on September 27, 1836 long before the Dutch settlers arrived. This land was probably for sale at this time to the new settlers.
In 1862 Jan van Dam, Jr. bought the home farm from his father only two years before Jan, Sr. died in 1864. The younger generation was active on the farms, all in and around the original homestead. The census of 1870 again gives a picture of activities, farm by farm, for comparison. Statistics are given for Jan van Dam, Egbert van Dam, Roelof van Dam, Egbert Nyenhuis, and Albert and Dina van Dam-Riddering.
As an example of profitability, the cash value of the farm of Egbert in 1870 was $4,480, and the value of all farm products in that year was $1,138, or 25% of the total value of the farm in me year- and then with only 32 "improved" acres.
Egbert and Pietertje van Dam Nijenhuis are listed With a high "value of forest products": $550 which 1 suppose shows that he was still very busy clearing more acreage.
The picture is certainly one of tremendous activity and work; and the economic rewards were

1870 census

  Jan Egbert Roelof Egbert Albert-Dina
  van Dam van Dam van Dam Nijenhuis Riddering
Acres improved 50 32 30 30 70
Acres woodland 60 48 40 70 42
Acres other   20 20 20  
Cash value farm $2000 $4480 $2580 $3000 $4000
Cash value impel $300 $193 $150 $80 $150
Wages paid $100 $165 $60 $25 $200
Number horses 4 3 2 2 2
Number milk cows 8 5 5 4 4
Other 3 8 6 10 11
Number sheep 4 1 5   7
Number swine 3 2 8 2 5
Value livestock $800 $600 $430 $360 $700
BU - wheat 140 160 150 150 160
Bu. Indian cows 100 75 100   280
Bu. Oats 20 70 140 25  
Bu. Barley 60 150 60 80 90
Bu. Buckwheat   30      
Bu. Rye       20  
Lb. Wool 20 7 20    
Lb. beans/peas     1    
Bu. Idaho potatoes 100 70 70 60 70
Lb. Butter 400 780 580 200 650
Tons hay 15 12 12 8 20
Lb.honey   40 30    
Value animals slaughtered $60 $180 $80   $100
Value all farm products $750 $1138 $824 $63 $1800
Value forest products   $90 $112 $550  

Van Dam family in OveriselTownship (1864-1969)

Map of Overisel

The house of Hendrikus and Guerdon van Dam and the chest in Haren in which Hendrikus van Dam

Hester van Dam and Egberdina van Dam had been left the use and income of the bakery in Zuidlaren when Jan and Geesje emigrated to Michigan in 1848.
When Jan died in 1865 a new contract had been drawn up between the Aunts and the heirs of Jan in Michigan. Aunt Hester died in 1867 and Aunt Egberdina on April 29, 1871. The time had come to dispose of the bakery after 24 years.
It was necessary for someone to return to Zuidlaren to take care of the business of selling the holdings. Egbert van Dam and Albert Riddering, the husband of Dina van Dam traveled together to The Netherlands in 1872.
(Albert had other business in the Netherlands concerning an inheritance from an uncle in Sleen, Jan Lancing)

From the official documents of the sale of the properties, dated 19 July 1872, we learn that Hendrik van Dam in Haren had been authorized to represent the family in America, namely, Geesje Meinders, Roelof van Dam, Egbert van Dam, Jan van Dam, Lammechien van Dam Boer, Egberdina van Dam Riddering and Jeichien van Dam Borrower.
The property sold consisted of three separate parcels:

been sufficient to buy a farm of 80 acres in Michigan 1872. Egbert van Dam wrote from Haren on March 20, 1872 that he and Albert had been to Zuidlaren to meet with Mr. Kniphorst, the lawyer, and with Mr. Bantam the purchaser of the bakery.
"We were royally received. By the last mentioned there was directly a bottle of wine on the table. By the other It wan’t less! I still knew the wife or J. Bantam.

Egbert also comments about the business affairs,
'Uncle (Hendrik van Dam) has dealt wisely with the money affairs. Everything that is paid after May must be paid with 5%.

Egbert (1833-1882) was a youth of 15 years when the family left Zuidlaren in 1848. He certainly had memories of life there. In a letter dated March 25, 1872 he wrote to his family in Michigan about revisiting Zuidlaren.
"I have been twice to Zuidlaren. The house was very familiar,- I could still find and locate everything, but what I really would have liked to find, wan’t to be found, but often I discover that Gods word is the truth. One can neither find nor recognize his birthplace anymore.

When Egbert returned from his visit in Zuidlaren, he wrote that he felt more at home in Haren. "I feel more at home at Uncle’s, and there is reason for that, for it is almost as though I see father again. The resemblance is so great that I can hardly keep from using the word ‘father’".

Albert and Egbert were very busy with visits to old friends and family, but also with acquaintances wanting to come to the "colony
"We receive continually many letters so that sometimes I think I wouldn’t want even one. This .forenoon I have had three people here already and at the same time three more letters- headaches with all of . that". "Today people from Zuidbroek want to come, namely H. Rubens and his brother-in-law F. de Cok. What they want I don’t know.

Apparently the "colony" in Michigan was becoming very popular,, and these who had returned for a visit were heroes- and a contact for new settlers.
Egbert and Albert sailed on the return voyage from Liverpool on April 25, 1872 on board The "City of Montreal".
In a letter written in Michigan on the 14th of May we learn that they arrived home on the 10th-only two weeks from Liverpool to Michigan.
"Through Gods goodness and unending mercy it was granted me to meet again all o mine in health and happiness. I arrived in Grand Haven on the morning of May 10. Brother Jan came with the afternoon train to meet me. My wife and Dina and other friends were all waiting in the station, including my little Jan and brother Roelof. Jan and my hired man were with horse and wagon. Albert arrived the next day. Both the little trunks that had remained behind in New York, followed me quickly. The other baggage has arrived and some already sold. Four of the beautiful Bibles I sold to the van Rhees, 2.for $6 apiece and 2 others for $5.75 per book, not nearly enough!"

Albert brought along a large Dutch family Bible for himself and Dina. This Bible, printed in Arnhem in 1864, is still a prized possession of the Riddering family.
With the sale of the property in Zuidlaren in 1872, the economic and business ties with The Netherlands were broken, but not ties with the family in Haren. Letters continued to go back and forth. The two last letters which were saved in Haren were dated January 22, 1877 from Roelof van Dam to the relatives in Haren and March 1878 from Pietertje van Dam Nijenhuis in Orange City, Iowa.
Contact between the American branch and the branch in The Netherlands was re-established recently when Hendrikus van Dam (b. 1948) in Haren wrote a letter addressed to "The van Dam family, Drenthe, Michigan".
Little did he know the size of that family! Fortunately, the letter came into the good hands of Carolyn van Dam Kiekover. Once again there were letters and now even visits from both sides of the ocean. 'the sense of family has been re-discovered and re-energized.

The purpose of this study was to gather and write down the history of the van Dam family in America as it pertains to all the various and separate branches in common. We have tried to relate the commonality, the roots, not the individual branches. The branches can better be done by each family individually. In fact, some have already been written. Martin Klaver has completed a study of the Lammechien van Dam/ Jan Boer family. Carolyn van Dam Kiekover has prepared-a study of-the Jan van Dam/ Jantje Visscher family. Donald Riddering has prepared a story of the Dina van Dam/ Albert Riddering family.
May these stories be the inspiration for additional studies and preservation of our family history.

News-paperadvertisement auction van Dam property


  • 1. Dorpen in Drenthe, A. Kleijn, 1984, Heemschut Series, p.23.

  • 2. Ibid., p.25.
    3. Kent U Drenthe Ook Zo?, Jan A. Niemeijer, p.28.
    4. Ibid., p.26.
    5. Dorpen in Drenthe, A. Kleijn, 1984, p.48.
    6. Ibid., p.49.
    7. Ibid., p. 82.
    8. Rowol Toen Der Tied Van Kerspel Naar Buitendorp,Commissie Historisch Boek Roderwolde, P. 11.
    9. Van Goghs Omzwervingen Door Drenthe 1883, G. Kuipers, 1990, Foreword.
    10. Ibib., p.48.
    11. Ibid., p. 51.
    12. Ibid., p. 51.
    13. Ibid., p. 34.
    14. Ibid., p.35.
    15. Zwerven Door Drenthe, Fop I. Brouwer, p. 24.
    16. Geschiedenis Van Drenthe J.Heringa, 1985, p.456.
    17. Kent U Ook Drenthe Zo?, Jan Niemeijer, p.39.
    18. Drenthe in Michigan, H.J. Prakke, 1948, p.81.
    19. Legends Of The Dutch, Adrian Van Koevering, 1960, p.43.
    20. Netherlanders in -America, Henry Lucas, 1988, p.42.
    21 Rowol Toen Der Tied, p. 11.
    22. There seems to be some confusion in the spelling, sometimes 'Wuffen" and sometimes "Wuffing", which would have been logical variants.
    23. Netherlanders in America, Henry Lucas, 1988, p.293.
    24. A Family history, Martin Klaver, 1992, p.53.

    Questions or comments about the above family can be directed to J.K.Berends

    Van Dam private Cemetery

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