THE DUTCH SETTLEMENT OF TODAY
The community around Holland is now no longer a pioneer settlement. A few of the old settlers remain, but most of them have passed on to their final reward. Life in the colony has undergone a complete change. While this change has been evolutionary rather than revolutionary, it is possible to review its progress and determine an approximate date when the little village had passed completely through its adolescence, and achieved a state of development characteristic of maturity. This point is coincident with the beginning of the twentieth century.
The economic and social life of the community is almost entirely different from that portrayed in earlier chapters. The predominant industry is still agriculture. Methods, however, have so completely revolutionized the industry that it bears little semblance to the primitive culture imported by the settlers.
Corn, wheat, and oats are still the prevailing crops of the community.1 Buckwheat is no longer grown. A few acres are set apart for rye and cane. After the turn of the century, alfalfa and red clover were introduced into the settlement. More attention is now given to diversified farming. Today many of the farmers sow a part of their land to sweet clover, which is mostly used for pasturage. More attention is devoted to dairying. Milk routes, under the supervision of Robert’s Dairy, have taken the place of the old skimming station and the hand separator. The milk is picked up each morning at the farmers’ homes.
The Dutch farmers now take an increased interest in state and federal researches. They make greater use of the Farm Bureau, the State Fair, and the United States Department of Agriculture. The Holland farmers have joined the Lancaster County Milk Association with an office located at Lincoln. The object of this organization is to secure cooperation of the farmers in order to receive better prices. The Dutch farmers were enthusiastic supporters of the Agriculture Adjustment Act. After the act was declared unconstitutional, however, they did not support other programs that followed.
We have seen in previous chapters the reluctance of the pioneers to accept cultural improvement. The children of the pioneers, however, were open-minded toward the improvements developed by their more progressive neighbors. Riding tools became universal and mechanization of farm machinery became popular. In 1913, Mr. John TeKolste was the first Hollander who purchased a one-cylinder Titan tractor. He used it for practically all agricultural operations.2 At the close of the World War, Derk Bade purchased a one-cylinder Titan tractor. Shortly after this, others purchased tractors. After 1919, when the Fordson tractor first appeared, the use of tractor-drawn implements became common. Walvoord & Lefferdink at Hickman were the agents for this tractor, and so energetic was their sales campaign that practically half of the farming operations in the precinct were, at one time, performed with tractor-powered implements.
In many cases progress in machine methods has been made with resultant loss of profits. The present average acreage is only one hundred seventy acres per farm. Machine culture calls for a heavy capital outlay, and where the cultivated acreage is too small, machine culture is really too expensive. The heavy overhead has caused reversion to horse-drawn implements on many of the smaller farms.
The improved threshing equipment, however, has materially increased profits from small grain. In 1920, the home company threshing crew invaded the almost monopolistic field of small grain threshing. Groups of farmers would purchase a threshing machine in common. This machine was operated by a tractor. The group would first thresh the grain belonging to members. Each member would pay into the group treasury a threshing fee. After their own grain was threshed, the group would enter into competition with purely private threshers for the business of non-members. Dividends were declared at the close of the threshing season.
The average acreage per farm, which is one hundred seventy acres, is now considerably below that at the beginning of the century. This is neither alarming nor undesirable. Equal distribution of property upon the death of the owner between his children is an established Dutch tradition. Usually, on the death of a pioneer leaving an estate consisting solely of realty, the land is divided equally among his sons. Its value is determined, and daughters are reimbursed for their distributive shares by the sons.
We have seen the almost total lack of finances which characterized the pioneers. We have seen the development, from those rude beginnings, of a community, financially stable and enjoying the convenience of modern comforts. It must not be assumed, however, that the banishment of the poverty of pioneer days has left the community free from financial problems. In common with farmers throughout the United States, the farmers at Holland were caught in the land boom which occurred during and after the Great War. The war retired so many of the world’s producers from the fields of production that an acute shortage in foodstuffs and other farm products developed. Wheat and corn rose to fantastic prices, so fantastic that in many cases one crop would almost pay for a farm. It was inevitable that a mad scramble for land should ensue. Farms were sold and purchased at absurd prices. Many farmers mortgaged clear farms in order to obtain the down payments on additional farms. Sub-marginal lands were cultivated. Per acre prices rose to a height never before attained, and, as common sense should have warned, could never be maintained. In the maddened frenzy for exorbitant profits, however, the entire nation entered into a foolish and destructive landgrabbing speculation. High prices in farm produce were maintained until 1921 when the European farms again put their produce on the market. With a more plentiful supply, prices tumbled and with them land values.
It is unfortunate that most of the Holland pioneers passed away during the period of the boom. Following time-honored custom, the sons usually purchased the interest of the female heirs in the fatherly estate. Distributive shares were valued at the current inflated rates, and the sons borrowed money to pay for the shares of their sisters upon the basis of those values. When the crash came in 1921, they found themselves in the same condition as their speculating neighbors. Both purchased land on margin, and pledged it as security, when wheat was selling for two dollars per bushel.3 Beginning with 1921, wheat produced upon the same land brought only eighty-three cents, and a farmer with a large mortgage had to produce over twice as much wheat to pay his installments.4 The land would not produce it, and as a result, the farmers were hard-pressed financially. At least seven farms have been lost by Hollanders in South Pass Precinct to insurance companies and loan agencies.5 A number of foreclosures have been made by private individuals.
The story of the recovery during the twenties followed by the crash of 1929, which did not affect the settlement at Holland acutely until 1931, and the long years since 1931 is typical of all American communities, with few exceptions. The Dutch farmers, while Republican in established political beliefs, enthusiastically welcomed the Agricultural Adjustment Act and the benefits it conferred. They were too proud, however, to accept direct relief. During the whole period of its availability not more than six families of the community ever accepted direct relief. Only eleven people in the community are receiving old age pension.6
While the farmers have felt the influence of cyclic depressions, yet they have achieved as an average condition sufficient wealth, to live comfortably in moderate circumstances. This wealth has given them means to enjoy many of life’s luxuries which their fathers were denied. The increased efficiency of their tools and methods have given them the time to indulge in activities which are solely pleasurable. This has completely changed the social side of their life. Social activities are no longer confined to exchanges of visits between neighbors, church services on Sunday, and prayer meetings during the week. The automobile has shortened the half day’s journey to Lincoln to a few minutes. In Lincoln, the theatres afford a pleasant means of passing the evening. The automobile has made it possible for the Dutch farmers to take advantage of the free picture shows in nearby towns. Added social activities of the church are the result of favorable transportation. Modern transportation methods also facilitates the annual family reunions, which are very popular in the community.7 The radio has brought the finest of amusement to their very homes. The telephone is widely used and is a means of carrying on social intercourse. In a word, the social life of the community has become “modernized.”
The church, despite its few peculiar characteristics has also become essentially modern. ln 1904, the church was remodeled, and no seating provision was made for separation of sexes. This was the beginning of an Americanizing influence which has continued until the present time, and which has resulted in numerous changes in the customs of the church. These changes became marked during the time of Dominee Van Zyle, who had charge of the congregation between 1920 and 1935. During the first few years of his administration, he almost completely revolutionized the practices of the church. Today no greater difference exists between the Holland church and other protestant churches than exists between other American denominations.
The greatest change in customs that took place at the Holland church after Dominee Van Zyle’s arrival was in the conducting of funerals. Under the chapter on the History of the Church, we observed a peculiar custom of funeral arrangements. The congregation prohibited the bodies of the dead from being brought into the church. We also observed that this arrangement had been violated by Dominee De Bey. After the arrival of Dominee Van Zyle, and through his influence, the congregation at its regular meeting held in January, 1921 voted in favor of bringing the bodies of the dead into the church during funeral services. We also observed that before 1920, no flowers were permitted at funerals. Today, however, this practice is no longer observed.
There is also a marked change in the practice of the church relative to election and seating of church officials. Before 1920, the elders were elected and held their position for life, while deacons were elected for two-year terms, and were not permitted to succeed themselves. Today both elders and deacons are chosen for two-year terms, and are subject to the same rules against succession of terms. Furthermore, the church officials during services no longer sit in one group.
During the earlier history of Holland, we noted a lack of social activities in the church. Programs and other entertainments were restricted. Today, however, programs are held on the pulpit, and various entertainments are conducted in the newly constructed basement. This change is not entirely in accord with the wishes of the few remaining pioneers.
The services on Sunday afternoon are well attended. An attendance of a thousand is not an infrequent occurrence. The services have undergone a complete change from those of the earlier church history. The sermons are not so long as in former years and the Dominee does not work himself into hysterical frenzy of religious fervor as he was wont to do in the past. The psalms are no longer sung by the congregation in the Dutch language. Instead, a choir located near the organ and about ten feet above the floor level, usually renders an anthem and leads the congregation in the singing of ordinary church hymns. The Dominee still retains a very definite place in the community and is respected by his congregation.
Under the chapter on the History of the Church, we observed that young people were expected by the parents not to seek spouses outside the community. This is now seldom demanded by the parents, and young people who have accepted positions in the city have had the privilege to choose their mates outside the settlement.
Today, the Hollanders are as progressive in education as other communities. Under the chapter on education, we observed that the Hollanders recognized the importance of modern school buildings and efficient teaching staffs, which was an important step toward development of the settlement. The curricula is no longer exclusively composed of the rudimentary three R’s. Before the turn of the century, we observed in the local newspaper, their recognition of the importance of teaching physiology.8 Hygiene was an important factor in the safeguarding of the health of the children at school and in the home. The compulsory education act was formerly frowned upon, but today, however, parents cooperate and favorably respect the law.9 Parents today are taking more interest in advanced education than in former years. A majority of the children of the Dutch settlement complete the eighth grade. Many of them attend high school and continue their education in college. The school, during its early organization, was usually the center of all social activities. Today, it is even more important. Various organizations hold their meetings there. One of these that seems to be the most popular is the Parent-Teacher Association. The parents spend an hour socially with the teachers each month. This affords an opportunity for social intercourse and promotes a better understanding between the teachers and parents.
It has previously been mentioned that a majority of the voters of the Dutch settlement have always concurred in opinions of the Republican party. In the eleven presidential elections from 1896 to 1936 inclusive, there was a total of eleven hundred twenty-five Republican votes cast in the Dutch settlement or the north half of South Pass Precinct. The total Democratic vote was two hundred two. President F. D. Roosevelt, in 1932 received the largest number of votes ever given by this community to a Democrat, although he did not carry the community. In 1924, the Democrats polled only three votes in the settlement and in 1928, Al Smith received only seven votes. In 1912, the Democrats received seventeen votes, only one less than were cast for the Republicans. The Holland settlement in that year showed a heavy preference for Theodore Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Progressive ticket.10
It is highly probable that there were other factors favoring the issues of the Progressive platform. In view of the consistent conservative Republican tendencies of the Dutch community, it is possible that the popularity of both the Roosevelts was due to their Dutch ancestry. The unpopularity of Taft’s administration was an advantage to the Progressive candidate in this election. Furthermore, Theodore Roosevelt’s popular administration was an outstanding factor that gave him this heavy preference in the Dutch settlement. Since 1912, there have been no votes cast for the Progressive party. This indicates that in 1912, the Dutch settlement supported the candidate rather than the party.
Even the most superficial view of the community around Holland shows a sharp contrast with its rude origin. It began as a Dutch settlement and for years it remained strictly Dutch. lts founders tenaciousIy fought the influences of the “Melting Pot.” Holland, for many years, while under the sovereignty of the United States, was essentially a colony of the Netherlands. Today, Holland and the surrounding country is a typical Nebraska farm community, a typical American village. This result, has not been achieved by infiltration into the community. The village still is predominantly of Dutch descent. The amalgamation has occurred rather through Americanization of the Dutchmen. This influence has been subtle, and many things have contributed to it. Imitation of superior farm methods, observation of luxuries enjoyed by other people, trade with other nationals, as well as, in later years, intermarriage with other nationals–all of these have conspired to effect the passing of the Dutch Colony, and the creation of the modern Nebraska community.
1 A. Anderson, statistician, State House, Lincoln, Nebr. 1937, mms. Assessor’s report of South Pass Precinct for agricultural statistics for 1937; The following figures show the average acreage per farm and also the average acreage under cultivation for leading crops of seventy-seven Dutch farmers in South Pass Precinct. This average is much less than at the turn of the century because of the distribution of the estates which will be explained later in this chapter.
|Acreage||Per farm||Corn||Wheat||Oats||Alfalfa||S. Clover||Misc.*|
*Miscellaneous acreages include millet, sorghum, pasturage, wild hay, garden, etc.
2 Personal interview with Mr. Henry TeKolste, 1938.
3 Anderson, Nebraska Agricultural Statistics, 56.
5 Personal interview with Mr. William Vandertook, 1938. Mr. Vandertook and Mr. John Vanderwege have alternated in the office of precinct assessor of South Pass Precinct for the past ten years.
7 The families of the Walvoords, TeSelles, Lefferdinks, and the Liesvelds are among those that hold reunions annually. The Dutch families are unusually large. Pioneer Martha Liesveld had 352 descendants. This does not include infants who died under two years of age.
8 The Hickman Enterprise, April 10, 1896. A meeting of the local Teachers Association was held at April 4th. The subject for the afternoon was physiology and narcotics. A paper on oral physiology was read by Miss Bernice Warner, she gave a full demonstration how the subject should be taught. Teachers put too much emphasis upon wrong uses and effects and neglect its favorable uses.
9 The county superintendent made frequent trips to members of the settlement to discover why parents failed to send their children to school the necessary number of days required by law.
10 Election Reports, mss., 1896-1936, Office of Lancaster County Clerk, Lincoln, Nebr.