Wisconsin was an early destination for many Dutch immigrants arriving from the eastern Netherlands looking to establish new homes and farms. The climate in Wisconsin was similar and the land was plentiful. The socio-economic and political conditions in the Netherlands during the early 1800’s fueled a large exodus of people seeking better conditions. (See “Reasons to Emigrate”)

The TeSelle immigrants joined other Dutch families in Sheboygan County along Lake Michigan, between the cities of Sheboygan and Milwaukee. Early Dutch settlers lived in towns like Oostburg, Cedar Grove, and Gibbsville.

The earliest record of TeSelle family members in Wisconsin is Janna te Selle Bloemers (1796-1870), whose name appears on the 1830 Federal Census along with her husband, Gerrit Bloemers. Janna’s nephews Harmen Jan te Selle (1844-1919) and Jan Hendrik te Selle (1838-1921) came from Winterswijk in 1865 and lived with Janna and Gerrit until the newly arrived te Selle brothers could arrange housing and farm work for themselves. By the early 1870’s, Harmen Jan te Selle and Jan Hendrik te Selle had moved to Lancaster County, Nebraska, where they homesteaded land, raised their families, and spent the rest of their lives (see the Nebraska section of this website for more information.)

The descendants of Janna te Selle Bloemers all initially had the surname “Bloemers,” so they do not appear in the TeSelle genealogy in this website. However, we would like to share the stories of those descendants. If any website readers would like to share photos and memorabilia with us, please contact us.

A tragic disaster occurred in 1847 on Lake Michigan near Sheboygan, Wisconsin, which left an indelible mark on the local Dutch community. Initially, a group of about 51 Winterswijkers had decided to leave Holland and seek their fortune in the promised land of America. After two months of traveling, about 40 of these people lost their lives when the ship SS Phoenix caught fire and sank just a few miles off the shore of their final destination at Sheboygan. Fortunately for our family, it appears that no te Selle family members were among the people who lost their lives. The few survivors were cared for by the Sheboygan residents. Because Sheboygan had no telegraph service, the news of this disaster did not reach their relatives in Winterswijk for almost 3 months! A day of mourning was declared in Winterswijk, heralded by the sound of church bells everywhere throughout the country of Holland. A memorial monument was eventually erected in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, to mark the date and commemorate all those who lost their lives aboard the SS Phoenix. You can read about the disaster and look at the list of victims in the following article: “The Lost are Found – A New Perspective on the Passengers of the Phoenix”, by Mary Risseeuw.


Wisconsin Milestones

  • 1847 – Phoenix shipwreck on Lake Michigan