Letter 3-a

Letters From America

Date (sent): October 21, 1867
Writer: Harmen Jan te Selle
Place: Town Holland, Wisconsin
Addressee: Mrs. Dela te Selle-ten Damme, Brothers
Address (sent to): Winterswijk, NL


Harmen Jan describes his visit with his recently arrived countrymen, J. A. Sikkink and Dulmer, who are staying with J. Sikkink two miles away. Harmen Jan offers to take them to visit his brother Jan Hendrik te Selle, who lives 9 miles away, which is 3 hours by horse and wagon.

Harmen Jan has built a large barn this past year at great expense in both labor and materials. He describes the wood shingles, which are different than the roof tiles used back home in Winterswijk.

Harman Jan had an accident, cutting himself quite badly while sharpening his scythe. It was "really a nuisance and unprofitable right in the middle of a season of haying and threshing, and me being unable to do anything."

He continued with ample information about the status and prices of the crops, which was certainly interesting to his farm family back home. Harmen Jan closed with the words, "I could write much more, but the paper turns out to be too small."

Town Holland (Wisconsin) 21 October 1867

Farm Holland

Very beloved Mother, and Brothers, with your wives and children. We inform you that we are still well and in good health. And we have learned from your last letter that you are also well, for which we are very happy.

We have also heard Jan A. Sikkink tell quite a bit about what has happened in Holland since we left. Thank you mother and brother for the trouble you have taken to send us what we asked you for. It is very fine material, too. We certainly do like it.

It will soon be New Year or Christmas. Why don’t you come and visit us and we shall have a cup of hot chocolate again. J.A. Sikkink and Dulmer have also arrived safe and sound at J. Sikkink’s place. He lives two miles from here. When I heard that they were there, I went to see how they were. “Well”, said J.A. Sikkink, “I’m eager to talk to J. H. te Selle some time, but it is so far from here I’ve been told, and I don’t know the way, and it is such a busy time that I can’t even borrow a horse to get there”. I said: “Well, it’s indeed a busy time, but I can’t work anyway. I will hitch the horses to the wagon and take you there”. “Well”, he said, “that would please me very much”. And so, the next morning, I hitched the horses to the wagon and took them to Jan Hendrik, because he lives 9 miles from our place, which is a 3 hour distance.

But it has not been so good here anymore for the newcomers, because the land is getting mighty expensive. The prices range from 40 to 50 dollars per acre and I think it is bound to get far more expensive still, because it is amazing how many people keep arriving.

Well, I will tell you a little about the work we have done during the year. In the beginning of the year, in the month of March, we began to build a barn. During the previous year we had already had boards sawed for it, and had cut wood during the winter, so we could start working on it right away and could finish it soon. For we had 2 carpenters all the time and often even 3, but that cost a great deal of money. Just the carpenters cost us $ 72,- plus board, and they slept here during the night. We had German carpenters who were too far from home to go back once in a while.

For the roof we do not have tiles as you have, but what are called shingles here, which are sawed from cedar or pine, about 6 inches wide and 17 inches long. The roofs here are much like those of your windmills. But they are very expensive, too and we fetched them from a place 24 miles from here. We needed 17,000 of those for our barn. We had most of our own boards and wood, and the work we did ourselves should not even be counted as part of the cost. Still it cost us about $ 400. But then again: it is quite large, 45 feet long, 35 feet wide, and 17 feet high, that is, up to the roof.

In the beginning of the letter I wrote that I had told Sikkink I could not work. You will probably wonder why I could not work. I will explain briefly: I and our farm-hand were mowing the grass. You will probably say: “Do you mow the grass yourself? Don’t you take care of yourself? But it is an easy job here. Even boys aged 14 and 15 can do it here. But as I was saying, we were working together, and here one doesn’t strickle with a strickle as you do, but with a whetstone almost one foot long. However, I had broken one stone and had only one left at the time. So first I whetted my scythe or “Swaa”. With my left hand I had held the scythe upright in order to whet its lower part and our hired man was standing a few steps away from me. So I wanted to throw this whetstone to him and in doing so, I hit the point of the scythe with my arm right in the wrist, so that the blood squirted all over my arm. But the farm-hand hurried up to me right away and tied his handkerchief round my arm so tightly that the bleeding stopped. The doctor was sent for immediately to bandage me and it healed excellently. At first I feared that my hand or fingers would stay stiff, but they are alright again. But the thumb and forefinger are so numb that I can hardly hold a pen to write. Do not blame me for the poor writing. So four weeks went by while I could not do anything. I could hardly even dress or undress myself. That was really a nuisance and unprofitable right in the middle of a season of haying and threshing, and me being unable to do anything.

But now I will in a few words write about how the crops were this year. First of all, the hay yield was quite good. We have brought in 22 loads of hay for the horses, and because I could not help, we had to have a few acres mowed for half of it and for that the people had to do the haying together with us and bring the hay into the barn. The wheat has also been pretty good. We have had most of it mown by machine. Then about 6 acres can be taken care of per day, the work being done with two horses and two men. And we have had it threshed already. That is done here by machine, too. It took a day and a half with 12 men and 4 horses. And now we have 270 bushels of wheat and 43 bushels of buckwheat. I do not know about the oats, because I am going to cut it for the horses. We had 3 acres of oats and 3 of peas. We have not yet dug up all of the potatoes. So far we have already dug up 60 bushels. The corn is very poor. I am not sure if you know what corn is, but you call it Turkish white wheat. The wheat is very high-priced. It costs $1.80 or $1.90 per bushel. So we have already sold 100 bushels and delivered to the city. I think we will make 350 dollars on the wheat.

Yes dear folks, I could write much more, but the paper turns out to be too small. As far as I know, Jan Hendrik and his wife are still in good health. Greet all of the friends and acquaintances. And greetings to you too from me and my wife.

Harmen Jan te Selle

Tell Mrs. Toebes that Janna te Brummes sends her her regards and wishes her good health. Derk Willem, when you write me let me know if your leg has healed well.