Letter 1-a

Letters From America

Date (sent): January 1865
Writer: G.W. Bloemers
Sender: G.W. Bloemers
Place: Gibbsville, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin
Addressee: Derk Willem te Selle
Address (sent to): Winterswijk
Date (received): July 19, 1865
Remarks: Letter 1-a was returned to Bloemers by the messenger, so was sent again with Letter 1-b


Note: This is the first letter from America that has been preserved. The author Gerrit Willem Bloemers belongs to the so-called "separatists" and likes using frequent Bible quotations in his letters. He is married to Janna te Selle and they had already emigrated in 1846. In 1865 Gerrit and Janna take care of Janna's nephews, the brothers Jan Hendrik and Harmen Jan te Selle when they also emigrated to America.

In this first letter, Gerrit Willem makes some enlightening observations and comments about the American Civil War.

  • Describes the circumstances of living and prices
  • Son Tobias assigned by lottery to the American Civil War
  • GW wants to send a book through somebody from Noord-Brabant (a province in the Netherlands) and asks for comments.
  • GW asks if his three sisters are still alive
  • GW wants to know if anyone has admitted God in their lives
  • Health: wife Janna te Selle-Bloemers suffers from gout. He himself is getting deaf; on April 14 he hopes to become 71 years of age
  • J.W. Kortschot and Dulmes families are in good health
  • Gerrit Willem's grandchildren: 2 boys and 4 daughters (children of Tobias Bloemers)
  • Summer 1864. For the first time after 18 years, Gerrit Willem visited his brother in Michigan. (Note: Gerrit Willem and Janna's son Gerrit Jan (1830-1847) died at the age of 17 in Michigan, perhaps while Gerrit Willem and his family were there visiting his brother 18 years earlier.)
  • The letter only arrives in Holland on the 19th of July 1865, together with letter 1-b

January 1865

Dear friends and other relations,

We let you know that we are still in good health and we hope you are likewise; and we want you to know that we have received Jan Willem Korsschot’s enclosed letter in which we read about your good health about which we truly rejoiced.

We have also read in it that many of our friends and acquaintances have been called to an irrevocable eternity, they being, so to speak, only just a little ahead of us, but beloved ones let us hold on to our calling and election in the Lord so that through Christ’s justice we may enter into his kingdom that he already prepared before the foundation of the world; but enough of this, each of us should find out for himself whether we are entitled to a share of that kingdom.

Furthermore we inform you of the circumstances in which we are: the yield was rather successful except for the summer wheat and the hay, which suffered a lot due to the persistent drought; all the food articles for cattle and people are expensive, particularly the bacon: 14 cents a pound; beef: 10 and 12 cents; butter 32 to 34 cents; this also makes good cattle quite expensive. We sold a yoke of oxen for 100 and 33 dollars and a young horse that is going to be 3 years old this coming May for 100 and 25 together with the gear. Also clothes and fabrics of cotton are as much as three times as expensive as in former years, including the working-tools that contain iron.

The day’s wages are also much higher than before because in March war will have been going on for 4 years and this involves a lot of expenses and brings poverty to many because surely you must have heard that they must draw lots here and the last time they drew lots for conscription, Tobias drew a bad number too, and with lots of pains, after having been away from us for 23 days he got out of it because of the fact that he occasionally spits blood. Otherwise it will be of no avail: they don’t care whether they have many children or old people. In the latest conscription five times a hundred thousand were selected and now they need three times a hundred thousand more. Still we enjoy many privileges here. Everything in the South is being destroyed and burnt.

There they have to draw lots from the age of 45 down to the age of (1)02 ? and then they can also buy below and over those ages and then they will cost from 1 to 8 hundred dollars and this for a year. Dear ones, what more shall I write of this; you know what the Lord says about it in his Word, a house or country that is divided against itself will be destroyed and it is the same over here; what more shall I write to you about the war; where should I begin and where should I end. It is my wish that it may incite/induce (her) to implore and pray before the throne of Mercy!

Now I let you know that I intend to send you a book through a man born in Noord-Brabant, who is going to visit his parents, and who lives close to us; but from where he will forward it, Arnhem or Rotterdam, I don’t know, but my wish is that you may receive it in good health and that you may draw blessed fruits from it for yourself and for yours. Perhaps you will occasionally encounter strange things in it, but in that case examine what the Word says about it and do not “put flesh to your arms” (to your poor ?) and should it come into your hands, read and read it again and write me some day what you think of it.

Will you please also inquire whether my three sisters are still alive, because I have received no news from them at all and write me whether there are some in the family in whom the Lord has worked and whether the Lord has added any newcomers to his kingdom, and how you yourself, your wife and your mother have been. You must not think that I am tough on you, no, I just wish to admonish you like a brother. The Word teaches us that if we were not born again he shall not inherit the kingdom of God. So we may admonish one another as long as we may be in mercy today; and even though we have merely received one talent, we should make profit out of it and not bury it in the soil like that useless servant, and that the same will be taken from him which he owned.

Furthermore we let you know that we enjoy rather good health, except for mother who has so much gout in her one leg that she has to go on crutches, but her heart is still very healthy. As for me, my deafness is increasing, too, and the strength of the body is declining for I shall be 71 years old on 14th April, but I cannot thank the Lord enough for the favours bestowed on me, poor sinner.

I also let you know that J.W.Korschot and his wife are also well, as are Dulmes and his wife and children. And we also let you know that we have a family of 6 children: 2 boys and 4 girls (one little boy died) and they all look good, fresh and healthy. Please be patient with my poor writing and do write back soon. Do not give this letter to anyone else. Convey it orally, as I do not want them to know about the book.

Come to think of it, there is something I should also report to you. This summer I went to my brother, to Michigan, to visit him, since we had not seen one another for 18 years, and I saw many acquaintances from Holland there and most of them are doing fine. I really enjoyed being there.

I have to stop, because writing is becoming quite a hard job for me. It is probably the last letter I am writing to you. Not to put an end to our friendship, no far from that. Be so kind as to remember me and all of my family to all friends and acquaintances. And please write back soon.

July 19 1865

Address written in black ink

To mister
D.W. te Selle