Letter 6

Letters From America

Date (sent): 5 April 1869
Writer: Harmen Jan te Selle
Place: Holland, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin
Addressee: Mrs. Dela te Selle-ten Damme, Derk Willem te Selle
Address (sent to): Fökkink farm, Winterswijk, NL


Harmen Jan spends most of this letter berating the behavior of his older brother Hendrik Jan back home in Winterswijk. Hendrik Jan has remarried a second wife after his first wife died, but apparently this second wife "is a bad lot." He intends to leave her and come to America, along with his oldest daughter from his first marriage. Harmen Jan describes how he wrote back to Hendrik Jan, counseling him not to come to America, because he would not be well-received by the Dutch neighbors. Apparently brother Jan Hendrik thought Harmen Jan's words were a bit harsh, so he attempted to console brother Hendrik Jan with some kinder words. This family issue was clearly very important and contentious. This letter provides interesting insight into the family morality and ethics.

Harmen Jan also provided the obligatory crop prices and weather report, which he knew would be interesting to his farm family back home.

Harmen Jan touched on several other topics, as highlighted below:

  • Harmen Jan and Jan Hendrik have received a message that brother Hendrik Jan is also thinking of emigration to America, but without his second wife and children
  • Harmen Jan sends, by way of neighbor G. Lammers, a present to his mother and some money to his nephews and nieces
  • Prices of products of agriculture and cattle
  • Janna Ongena van het Loderhuisje married a widower with three children, and has become Harmen Jan's neighbor
  • According to Harmen Jan, there is a shortage of single women in America
  • Jan Hendrik and his wife are expecting a baby very soon
  • Harmen Jan provides G. Lammers with a portrait of daughter Dela to take to Dela te Selle ten Damme
  • Harmen Jan is very thankful for all his blessings as an American immigrant: he now "possesses 30 times more than brother Jan Hendrik, who had three times more than he had when they left the Netherlands"
  • A small addendum on April 12: On April 4 Jan Hendrik and his wife had a daughter named Dela

Town Holland (Wisconsin) 5 April 1869

Worthy and Highly Respected Mother and Brothers together with your Wives and Children, we let you know that we are all still in good Health and we hope to hear the same from you. If this is not so we would deeply regret it. Thus I will take up my pen to inform you about all kinds of things. But I almost forgot to tell you that we received your letter of 10 January and learned that you are all well.

But that letter was not very agreeable, One can say that it is pathetic to hear such a thing about one of our Brothers[2. This brother is Hendrik Jan te Selle
Born: Farm “De Selle” — October 3, 1832.
Place: Town Winterswijk, neighborhood “Het Woold”
Occupation: Farmer. Town: Haaksbergen.
Deceased: Farm “Klein Rikkers” — April 4, 1911. Town Winterswijk, neighborhood “Dorpbuurt”.

1st Marriage: March 16, 1859.

  • Grada Willemina Veenhuis
  • Born: March 4, 1823. Town: Winterswijk, neighborhood “Corle”. Farm “Vlierkamp”
  • Deceased: July 16, 1863. Town: Winterswijk, neighborhood “Dorpbuurt”. Farm “Klein Rikkers”.

2nd Marriage: October 2, 1867.

  • Aleida Johanna Krozenbrink
  • Born: October 3, 1836. Town: Winterswijk, A 224. Weafster.
  • Emigration to the USA on June 27,1877, from Town Winterswijk, neighborhood “Meddo”, number 12.
  • Deceased in the USA.

It seems as if the devil holds complete power over him. Mother and Brothers now that we hear those things about him, I’ll also write you something about him. Almost a year ago he wrote us a letter, but also forbade us to write to DW te Selle that he wrote us that letter. And we wouldn’t have done so if we hadn’t heard anything from him anymore.

He then wrote us Respected Brothers that he was still in good health, he and his Children, but he didn’t write anything about his wife[3. Aleida Johanna Krozenbrink, second wife of Hendrik Jan te Selle
Born: October 3, 1836. Town: Winterswijk, A 224. Weafster.
Emigration to the USA on June 27, 1877, from Town Winterswijk, neighborhood “Meddo”, number 12
Deceased in the USA.]. At first we couldn’t learn that he had got married. But finally it came out. Brothers I got married again but I cannot agree with that for she is a bad lot and she can talk about this and that so nicely when she is with someone else and then she pretends to be very pious, she is always the best then and have you ever heard me complain about Grada[4. Grada Willemina Veenhuis, first wife of Hendrik Jan te Selle
Born: March 4, 1823. Town: Winterswijk, neighborhood “Corle”. Farm “Vlierkamp”
Deceased: July 16, 1863. Town: Winterswijk, neighborhood “Dorpbuurt”. Farm “Klein Rikkers”.], that she was no good. Perhaps he wanted to tell me it isn’t my fault. But how would it be at your place would it be good for me over there I could be a clogmaker or a farmhand. Please write me how much farmhands earn over there. For it is my intention to come to you. And also write me if it is good for Janna[5. Janna Geertruida te Selle, eldest child of Hendrik Jan te Selle.
Born: December 27, 1859.
Deceased: January 17, 1904.], for that girl I love very much and I would wish her to have a good life as well. She now works at the sexton’s and earns 40 guilders and they love her very much. And many more of such detail from which we could gather so much that he intended to run away just like that and leave his Wife behind. We were taken back of such a letter.

Well, says Jan Henderik what must we do about it, I say well if you don’t know, I do, We’ll write a letter from which will be clear what we think of him, yes but not too harsh, I say yes but he must not get much consolation from it. Well, says Jan Hendrik[6. Jan Hendrik te Selle
Born: Farm “De Selle” — January 22, 1838.
Place: Town Winterswijk, neighborhood “Het Woold”
Emigration: To the USA September 29, 1865. Leaves from the new family farm “Fökkink”. Town Winterswijk, neighborhood “Kotten”.
Occupation: Farmhand
Deceased: March 13, 1921. Firth, Nebraska. Farmer.
], write one then.

I wrote Brother to our regret we received a letter from you. And from that we learned that you got married again but with whom you don’t write us whether it is an old woman of 40 or a young girl of 18 we don’t know anything about that, But you write that you don’t agree with her, What about, about religious matters you shouldn’t argue with her too much, or is it about household matters you shouldn’t give her too many orders, if she is in her right mind she will know what she has to do or if she is really a bit strange, then seek to improve her, And remember the words of the Apostle the wife’s flaw will be sanctified by the husband and the husband’s flaw will be sanctified by the wife. Oh Brother, do not admit such thoughts that you want to Divorce her, and then go to America you will think they don’t know anything about that. There I will be a free Man, there I can still be an honest man. Brother you are mistaken. There are so many Dutch people here and we know more than you would think,

And if you did a thing like this you would disgrace us very much and they would avoid you and say that Man is from Holland and he left his Wife and Children behind, that is a Profligate, there is not much to him. And if you do a thing like this you ought not to come to us. But if you come together with your wife and children and behave up to our standards then we’ll receive you with pleasure. And I wrote more things like this, but it would be too much to write it all.

Thus I went to JH and he added some more words, but with some more consolation For he considered the letter too harsh.

If you write us you must let us know from what family that woman came. We have asked W. Wassink who didn’t know either. Brother D W you wrote in the letter that you wrote to me that you had enclosed another letter in a letter from ten Henpe who is married with the daughter of the Sijbelskamp but so far I haven’t seen that letter[7. In a direct letter to Harmen Jan te Selle, the eldest brother Dirk Willem reported that he already wrote another letter before. He put this letter into a letter written by someone by the name of te Hennepe. This man is married to a wife originating from the farm “Sijbelskamp”. Harmen Jan says he never received that letter.].

Respected Mother, while I have a good opportunity, for G Lammers returns back to Holland in a fortnight and I know him very well, I’ll send you, Mother, a present not because I think that you need it to alleviate your poverty but for remembrance sake.

Brother D Willem thus I will give 2 Guilders to your children as a remembrance for her, you can buy whatever you like. I send you 7 seven Dollars, but how many guilders that will yield I don’t know for here one loses much if one wants to exchange banknotes for gold. Thus I will give it to G Lammers who can exchange it in New York and then he can deliver it to you in money, gold or silver or whatever, but if you have received it you must write me soon how much you received. For then I would like to know how much the difference was.

The winter has been very mild here, and we didn’t have bitterly cold weather, but now it still begins to reach us. On 1 April we had some heavy snowfall that it could be called a good December day. The ground is still covered with ice and snow, in some places still two feet, but still spring is not as early as in your country it lasts until mid May before the cattle are fully fed with grass.

This year’s Wheat costs half the price of last year’s It now costs 95 Cents to 1 Dollar. And last year’s price was over 2 Dollars. And the plants didn’t grow as well as last year for it was very dry.

The Hay wasn’t half as much as last year. Where low lands were concerned, it was extremely good but the high lands were bad.

The hay costs between 8 and 9 Dollars per thousand pounds. It hasn’t been that expensive for a long time. Butter costs 30 Cents a pound. The Eggs are 8 Cents per half a dozen. The horses are very cheap. The oxen are between 100 and 140. The two good dairy cows are between 40 and 45 Dollars. The lean pigs are also well priced..

Still another word and that will be the most important one. Janna Ongena became our neighbour eight days ago. She married a man with three children. She is suddenly blessed with three children.. She is our next-door neighbour. You do know her don’t you? Janna Ongena from the Loderhuisjen[8. Loderhuisjen: Loderhuusken is the name of a Winterswijk farm.]. If there are still young girls to be found who would like to find husbands, send them all to us for there is a great lack of single girls.

Here I must end.


Added into the margin and upside down:

1. As far as I know Brother J H and his wife enjoy a good health. He is going to have a young son or daughter[9. Dela te Selle (daughter of Jan Hendrik te Selle)
Born: April 4, 1869 — Oostburg, Wisconsin USA
Deceased: January 21, 1971.
] very soon, so you can easily see that America is a fertile country. Now kind regards from us all

H. J. Te Selle

2. Here is a portrait of our little Dela[10. Dela te Selle (Dela is Harmen Jan’s eldest child and – true to tradition – named after Harmen Jan’s mother.)
Born: April 21, 1868. Holland Township, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin USA
Deceased: February 13, 1900.]. She is 11 months now She is sitting on a chair on her own but it was difficult to keep her still for such a long time

3. I went to the post with that letter and then it was too heavy. I’ll send that portrait with G. Lammers

Number 06-a: additional small note.

Yet another small note. Mother and Brothers, About something my heart could not hold back any longer.

I often think of Holland that Old Native Country (Motherland), when I reflect how many people there fare and some of my own brothers as well how they have to work from the early morning until the late evening and then have to be content with a sober meal. Then I often think I wish they were here, and I think of myself how three times a day we are capable of filling our tables with so much bacon and Meat as we can eat, oh how privileged I am compared to many of my brothers. Thank the Lord that he has given me so much possession on the earth, but before I decided to get married I often prayed to the Lord and asked just like David shall I advance.

When I left Holland brother Jan Hendrik had trice as much as I had, but now I have thirty times more than he has, so times can change, On Sunday mornings I can tell the farmhand to harness the horses to the carriage and thus I and my wife sit in the carriage and drive to the church. Thus my eyes are often filled with tears when I think how the Lord has blessed me so much.

Number 06-b: another additional note:

Town Holland 12 April

Another small letter and I inform you we are still in good health. Brother Jan Henderik and his Wife are still in good health too He also received a young daughter on 4 April and Wife and Child are very well and healthy. The little one’s name is Dela.. Come and visit her soon and receive her regards, and from us all as well.

H J te Selle
When G. Lammers comes to see you he can Tell you more than I can Write to you.