Letter 7

Date (sent): Circa July 1870
Writer: Harmen Jan te Selle
Place: Holland, Wisconsin
Addressee: Derk Willem te Selle
Address (sent to): Winterswijk, Netherlands
Remarks: Apparently the first part of this letter is missing.


Apparently the beginning of this letter has been lost. The remaining portion begins with Harmen Jan describing the spring planting and the crop and livestock conditions and prices. In past years the potato crop has been infested with large potato bugs, but Harmen Jan is hopeful that this year will be better.

Jan Hendrik moved on March 28 from Wisconsin to Nebraska, but as yet Harmen Jan has had no letter from him. He heard from Mr. Onnink (Jan Hendrik's father in law) that the move went well. In this letter to his family, Harmen Jan shares this news about Jan Hendrik and the conditions in Nebraska.

Harmen Jan closes the letter by sending greetings from himself and his family -- wife Berendiena, stepson Manus Schreurs, and daughter Dela.

Here briefly are the main topics of this letter:

  • Harmen Jan reports on crop conditions and the spring planting.
  • The potato crop has suffered in past years from huge potato bugs.
  • Horses and pigs are cheap, but cows are expensive.
  • Brother Jan Hendrik has moved from Wisconsin to Nebraska. Harmen Jan shares the little bit of news he has received about conditions in Nebraska.
  • Harmen Jan sends greetings to his brothers and mother Dela back home in Winterswijk.

Yet it was with spring, very, very nice weather. The land was very dry so that the planting and sowing had a good outlook, also the stand of wheat is pretty good. But the grass is short because it suffered much from the frost, and in addition, there was a long time of drought. Then the clay becomes very hard, that it does not have a very good outlook.

As far as the potatoes are concerned, what they will produce I do not know. The year before we were very much plagued by the worms. They ate up everything that was green. And now it is much worse. It seems that they grow up out of the ground and as soon as the potatoes are seen, the worms sit on them in piles, and the worms cannot be compared with anything better than bugs (“wandluizen”). So we name them after ‘plat Gelders’ (dialect of Winterswijk), but they are four times as big and have wings. Where the potatoes are, there they go, and do not go away until they have taken everything (alles op hebben). What the price of grain is concerned, that is cheap. Wheat 80 cents to 90 cents a bushel; oats 40/50; rye 70 cents. Potatoes cost almost as much as the wheat, butter 18 cents, eggs 1 cent each.

The horses are also cheap, because this winter one could buy a good horse for $100. I bought a three year old for $82, a very beautiful horse. This fall one broke its leg. and I had to kill it.

Cows are quite high (costly). For them we have to pay from $40 to $60. Pigs are also cheap, for small ones 36 to 40 cents in a week. We have 7, and when winter comes I will take them to market, then they are much higher in price (duurder).

Brother Jan Hendrik is no longer here. He went at least 500 miles farther west to the state of Nebraska; there the land is cheap.

There they can buy 80 acres for $100, but there, there is almost no timber. When they first arrive, they must build a house with sod, or as they say with you, pieces of turf (plaggen). Wallboards are very costly there, and they have to drive 13 hours to get them. It is an entire wilderness, so they say. But how it goes with Jan Hendrik I do not know. He sold his land and everything.[1. This refers to when Jan Hendrik left Wisconsin for Nebraska.]

On March 28 he left (vertrokken ‑ departed). But he has not yet written us a letter. He wrote a letter to his wife’s father that he arrived healthy and well, and that the trip cost him $100, also that the land was wild and hilly, and that in places water was hard to get. There was a man who dug a well 100 feet deep and still had no water. Stone coal (hardcoal), they could get from four hours away and cost 25 cents a bushel. They use this for fire (heating purposes), because there is not much wood.

More have gone there, but I know of two who have returned who did not find things so well there. What it is further, I do not know. According as they write there are many rattlesnakes, prairie wolves, etc.

More I do not know much about it to write. I expect a letter from them every day, but I don’t see one yet. Whether he has written you yet I do not know, but he will most likely write you. I do not know how he has it there. Herewith, I must end.

Greetings from Bloemers uncle and aunt.[2. Gerrit Willem Bloemers and his wife, the former Janna te Selle. She was a sister to Harmen Jan’s father, Jan Albert te Selle, born 1800, deceased 1845.]  Both are well. Also greetings from the family. Give our greetings to the brothers and all those who ask about us. Receive them, from all of us, greetings ‑ as wife and children.[3. Wife and children: Berendiena Aleida Reusink-Schreurs; Harmen Jan’s stepson ‑ Manus Schreurs; and Dela te Selle, who was born April 21, 1868.]

Yours ‑ H. J. te Selle