Letter 8-a

Date (sent): 22 August 1870
Writer: Harmen Jan te Selle
Place: Holland, Wisconsin
Addressee: Mrs. Dela te Selle-ten Damme and brothers
Address (sent to): Winterswijk, Netherlands


Harmen Jan is replying to a letter he received from his mother and brothers on July 3, happily noting that all his family in Winterswijk is well. He says that he forwarded the letter immediately to his brother, Jan Hendrik, who had moved to Nebraska in March 1870.

Harmen Jan reports that the weather and the crop yields have been wonderful this year, but that has caused the prices to drop. Day laborers are well paid for their work, better than in Holland. However, Harmen Jan seems to discourage farmers in Holland who are thinking about coming to Wisconsin to buy a farm. Land is scarce and expensive, so the farmer may be better off staying at home.

Here are some of the key points in the letter:

  • Recently exchanged letters indicated that all is well both in Wisconsin and in Winterswijk.
  • Jan Hendrik has written that the family is healthy in Nebraska, but the dry weather has made for poor crops.
  • The crops and weather in Wisconsin have never been better, according to Harmen Jan.
  • Prices are down because of abundant crops, but day laborers are making a good living.
  • Farm land is scarce and expensive, which is not good for Holland farmers considering a move to Wisconsin.

Worthy Mother and Brothers and wives and children. Because of the goodness of the Lord I am allowed to write you a letter and to let you know that presently we are all well and healthy. We hope the same for you. The letter that you wrote July 3 we received in good health. From it we noted that all of you are still well, which makes us very happy.

I sent the letter as quickly as possible to brother Jan Hendrik[1. Jan Hendrik, born 1841, left Wisconsin in March 1870 and homesteaded near Firth. Nebraska. That particular farm has remained in the family ever since. lt is presently (1991) owned by his grandson, John Henry Te Selle, Firth.  John Henry’s father was Benjamin H. Te Selle.], so he could read the same and note how it is in Holland. But I have not yet received an answer back. I also wrote that in case he had not yet written, that he would not wait so long, but write quickly to you. I have 14 days ago received a letter from him, when he wrote that he was well and healthy, which gladdened us very much. He bought land and a yoke of oxen and other items. But I hope that he will write you soon, then you can note about his welfare from his own pen. But he wrote me that it was very dry there, so that the grass stood dry and withered on the ground.

But with us this is not the case. We have a blessed year, there is almost nothing we can say which is bad. So long as I have been in America, I have not seen such a nice stand of crop as this year. Since it has been dry for a time, so the buckwheat and corn need a little rain. One could not wish for a better harvest, no heat to hinder us, no rain to prevent us from working, so that all was quickly and dry gathered in, also those who have threshed, say that much, and good seed is produced.

But the wheat is presently cheap (niet duur ‑ not high), is hardly a dollar a bushel, that is not very high. If one has a day laborer to work, especially in the harvest, one must pay them a dollar and a half day wages. That is 1½ bushels of wheat a day. So one can think that for a day laborer in America it is better than in Holland to obtain his daily bread. And for a day laborer, it is better to come here than for a farmer, because there is not much land to rent here and to buy. Land is expensive. So many came here the past year who had expected something else. They thought to get land to own here as they had rented in Holland. And that was disappointing, even though they observe the way of life that there is plenty and enough here, they cannot decide to say America is good, but a day laborer is better at home. He sees there is no difference between the day laborer’s bread and the rich farmer, and this is surely true that even a day‑worker can even so have his bread as well by working two days a week rather than in Holland 6 days.

Yes, loved ones, what I shall write I have written in the former letter. I have written much about the price of cattle and grain, and more generally therefore. I shall not write more. I had on the letter that I had wanted to write to Janamoeje Bloemers his brother and sisters could have written, but I thought I would write to you especially.

I must close with the pen but not with the heart.

I, Harmen Jan te Selle, and his wife and children[2. Harmen Jan’s wife in 1870 was Berendiena Aleida Reusink Schreurs.  The children: Stepson, Manus Schreurs and daughter Dela, born April 21, 1868.], wish you all the Lord’s blessing. Give our greetings to all the brothers and all the friends, and to those who ask about us ‑ the greetings from us all.

H. J. te Selle

Write us soon again.