Jan Willem TeSelle – Letter 1

Matlock, Iowa — 16 January 1923

Jan Willem TeSelle lived with his family on a ranch in Fruitland Mesa, Colorado from about 1904 to 1922. Fruitland Mesa is near Crawford, Delta County in western Colorado. Jan Willem had moved to Fruitland Mesa from North Yakima, Washington, where he was a minister. According to the recollections of his daughter in the Johanna Margaret TeSelle Fries history, Jan Willem became distraught with the minister’s many responsibilities, as well as the unrest and gossip between members of his congregation. Thus, he left to homestead land at Fruitland Mesa, near Crawford, Colorado.

However, by 1922, according to his daughter’s historical notes, Jan Willem was not making enough money from the farm to pay the government for the property, and was “not getting anywhere.” His wife Gertie had died in March 1922. Jan Willem decided to accept a call to return to the ministry in Matlock, Iowa. He had been a minister in nearby Carmel, Iowa, some 25 years earlier, as his first assignment after graduating from Western Theological Seminary, Holland, Michigan, in 1897. The following letter tells of Jan Willem’s move from Fruitland Mesa, Colorado, to Matlock, Iowa, in 1923.

[Verbatim typed copy of a handwritten letter by Jan W. TeSelle (apparently originally in pencil, difficult to read, and with many misspellings, etc.) Page breaks are indicated by numbers in parentheses.]

Matlock IA. Jan 16, 1923

Dear Children:

Well, it is all settled. I am to stay in Matlock and begin to feel at home somewhat. On the 11th they had a meeting of the congregation and on that occasion I told them that I would accept the call. On Friday, Jan l3th we were to have tea in a meeting at the home of a family in the country, but our way lead past the church and there was light in the basement and a number of cars around the church so they suggested they would drive to the church to see what was going on there. By that time I suspected
2) what was up. The town people and the whole congregation had gathered in the basement of the church and had prepared a good surprise. The Mayor made a speech first welcoming me to the town, then an elder, then they gave me a chance to talk and by that time I was in a pretty good mood to talk. We sang a number of hymns, had coffee and cake and a general good time. I find the people are somewhat backward in many ways and especially the young people. They evidently never had much here to fore and are very easily pleased. I preach two Sundays here the first Sunday we had communion.
3) Some people come as far as 13 miles to church. The audiences are not very large yet, but they tell me they are larger than usual. The church will seat about 175 people. In the afternoon they fill it up quite well. It seems to me I must have over a hundred invitations of people to come and see them. And there sure is plenty of work, especially among the America element, and I am going at it with all my might.

Everybody is ready to take me where ever I want to go. Have already visited Hull, Boyden and Middelburg. And yesterday we were to Sheldon to buy a bed and a few things so that I
4) can make my stay in the parsonage. And I shal get my board at a private family.
Today the people are busy getting the parsonage ready and expect to be able to move in by evening. The parsonage is a pretty good building but it is not modern: It has a basement with a hot air furnace, a pump in the kitchen and electric light. Everything is very high here. I bought only the things that I absolutely needed and it costs over $100.00.

Wether is wonderfully nice for Ia. snow gone again and roads fine. Cars skooting along the road every day. But I have not seen any yet that looks quite like ours.

The country round about here
5) shows prosperety everywhere although at present people are short on money. I spent all the money I had with me and from now on they will have to carry me through some way. I am glad to hear that you get along as well as you do. I did not have money to send for the medicine that Lillie spoke of but if Carolyn’s eyes are not better yet it would be well to take her along to the doctor sometime. What became of your radio prospects? I have not heard anything about that yet. I listened to one in Hospers but was disappointed.

What did Eugene trade for that horse? Am glad cream is such a good price, you will
6) probably get some debt paid offgradually.

How are Carolyn and the little pup getting along? I would like to have a letter
from each one of you occasionally.

The girls have plenty of invitations already for next summer when you come, but
I don’t see what we will do to get a saddle horse for Carolyn. There is nothing here but
big farm horses.

Now I must close. Do not neglect your Bible reading and prayr. All pray to
become stong in faith you will need it. There will be many tials for all of you.

Your loving father
J. W. TeSelle