Letter 32

Date (sent): April 15, 1894
Writer: Gerrit Jan te Selle and Anna Jonkers te Selle
Place: Holland, Lancaster County, Nebraska
Addressee: Derk Willem te Selle
Address (sent to): Fökkink, Winterswijk, Netherlands


Gerrit Jan te Selle writes yet another letter to his brother Derk Willem te Selle, even though he has not received any reply to several of his previous letters:

  • GJ's daughter Dina married on January 8, 1894, to J.B. Sikkink. She now lives 500 miles away in Minnesota.
  • GJ allotted 9 days to see the World's Fair in Chicago. It "was worth a journey to the end of the world to see it"; he was extremely impressed by everything he saw.
  • Twice he heard sermons by pastor J.W. Dunnewold, who originates from farm "Pikkers" farm in Winterswijk. There he is known under the name of “Pikkers Jan Willem”.
  • He “had spoken a lot with dad (Jan Albert te Selle) during his illness”

A separate note was written by Anna Jonkers-te Selle:

  • She is looking forward to a letter
  • She gets 70 to 80 eggs a day .... from 150 little chickens.



Holland, Nebraska April 15, 1894

Dear beloved brother and additional friends.

I want to let you know that we are all very healthy and hope for you the same. All of the time during the fall we looked forward to your letter but alas! Then I thought that you would write during the holidays, but also in this we were disappointed!

Would this not have happened, then I would have written earlier to you and I would have invited you for the wedding of my third daughter, Dina[i], who married on January 8 with Jan Berend Sikkink, from Minnesota, third son of J. A. Sikkink, our neighbor and our Albert[ii] is married to his sister. But he still lives on the land of his father, who has 160 acres there and I thought I told you already that he bought here a plot of land as well, where he lived for a year. Albert, my son, lives there now, as he had rented a house from my neighbor who left for Kansas. J.A. Sikkink bought that place now for 3,600 dollars and the 80 acres which came with it are between mine and Jan Hendrik’s land. So Dina now lives more than 500 miles away from us[iii] and it is going well with her as she recently wrote us. He has 4 horses, 4 cows, 5 calves and that’s pretty good for the beginning.  If we have some time to live then we will visit her in the future if they don’t do it. It is very good up there, but very cold.  It is more than 300 miles to the north. Nevertheless, the land is very fertile.

I had written you to come to the world exhibition. I went myself for nine days. We left here at 2:30 in the afternoon and arrived in Chicago at 7:30 in the morning.  It is impossible to describe what great things you could see, from all parts of the world! Even though I haven’t seen hundreds of thousands of it or better looked at it. After having been there already for two days the brothers came also, though they did not want to at first because his wife[iv] then also wanted to come together with the child, and that cannot be done.  The largest building covers 41 acres, 1,687 feet long, 787 feet wide. Cost $1,500,000 dollars. A total of 3,000,000 square feet timber flooring, 1,000 houses of 25 by 50 feet would fit within the walls. The outside walls are 66 feet high. The bows over which the roof is built are 375 feet high and were there over a length more than a fourth part of a mile. These bows were 14 feet wide. The ridge or roof had 31 of them. A total of 12 million lbs. of steel was used for the middle section of this building and 2 million for the cover. The whole building provided with streets, also one corridor on the inside which is 50 feet wide, and 86 smaller corridors of 12 feet wide. Small changes in carpentry did cost the principals “only” 198,000 dollars. Exactly  100,000 lbs paint and 30,000 panes were needed for this building alone.

And now you probably ask me how they erected those bows. Well, they constructed a chest, as I call it, which was 260 feet long, 50 feet wide, and 120 feet high. On this a tower of 135 feet high, for a total of 255 feet. The weight of this scaffolding was 20,000 lbs. and over half a million timbers were used for this scaffolding, which were shipped by rail, through the building. The 27 big bows were lifted with a great number of pulley blocks and screwed together there.  I would not like to get the timber for free if I would have had to pull it down…..  A total of 900 acres was covered this way, at a cost of $5 million total.

It was worth a trip to the end of the world to see this! Water was brought into the exhibition by two big machines. One brought 24 and the other 40 million gallons of water. Every day 17,000 horsepower was necessary for electricity. That is ten times more than in 1889 in Paris. A total of 24,000 horsepower was necessary in steam to keep the machinery moving and these cost between 26 and 30 million dollars. I cannot go into details for all these things because it is impossible to describe.  One day I, or better are we because I met a person who lived here 17 years, visited the town. lt is incredible!  It is impossible to see the whole city.

The tallest house was 20 floors above ground, 302 feet high! Another hotel was 17 floors and cost 3.5 million dollars. Many of these 15 and 16-floor buildings are in the heart of the town. You can’t stand still to look at them. The town is 37 miles long, but every evening we went outside where long ago small villages existed, which are now incorporated in the town and lots of Dutch people live there. 20 miles with the electric railways cost only 5 cents.

On Sunday I visited Lansink[v], which is 28 miles distance from the town where Reverend Dunwold of Pikkers[vi] lives. I heard him preach twice. I visited his house in the evening. He talked a lot to Dad during his disease.[vii]

During the other nights, I visited Kensington and every time I took a different road in order to see the town as much as possible.

But I cannot describe a hundred of thousands of it. I visited a department store which was 400 feet long, 200 feet wide, and 8 floors. Eight lines, each 17 pillars carried this building! More than 6,000 customers were visiting there scattered over all the rooms. 16 steam machines brought people and goods up and down. I asked him how many sales clerks there were. The answer was in busy times 2600, as well as outside as inside the building.  Everything any person might need you can get there! All kinds of newspapers, even in Dutch! You can read there for free! Even a doctor and lawyer and post and telegraph office are there, everything.

Last summer was dry, everything was cheap.  Grain 45, corn 26 cents, butter 10, eggs 8. We had nice weather and enough rain, it kept us busy. Wheat was 25 cents, oats 23, corn 98. Please write to me soon and I wish you the blessings of the Lord. Kind regards from all of us and from me

Your brother  G.J. Te Selle.


I would really like to notify you that we now expect a letter from you soon, as we have heard nothing from you for such a long time. We always look out for a letter from you.

We are becoming very busy soon. We have 8 cows to milk and we are getting 4 more. We are also busy now with the chickens. We already have 150 young hens and that’s a lot of work. Daily we get about seventy to eighty eggs, and that’s nice.

We should be satisfied in view of the excess we get. We have no time yet for gardening, but that’s no problem, the year is still young. The paper is full, so I can’t write much any more. I must finish writing now, but not with the heart. My best regards to all of you. Who calls herself Anna te Selle


Dina/Dena (born March 4, 1875), married  Sikkink (John Berend Sikkink). He was born January 20,  1871.


Albert (also known as John Albert, J. A. and A. J.), was born September 17, 1869 in the Netherlands. Albert was married to Minnie Sikkink.


Dina and J. B. Sikkink lived in Minnesota.


Commentary by Norma te Selle-Prophet, Firth Nebraska:

“When I first read the above letter, I thought that the Fair was held in the year of 1894. I have discovered that the Fair was initially dedicated on October 12, 1892, but was not held until the following year, May 1, 1893.  through October 30, 1893.

I believe the “wife” who Gerrit Jan is speaking of is Harmen Jan te Selle’s  wife, Johanna (nee Brethouwer) Te Selle. She had a son, John Henry Te Selle, born on January 31, 1893. Therefore, during the time of the Fair (May 1, 1893 through October 30, 1893), John Henry would have been only 4 to 9 months old.

Gerrit Jan is describing a big building. lt appears to be the Manufacturers and Liberal Arts Building. I found a picture of it in a picture album which belonged to the Dietz family.

Each year the City of Lincoln and Lancaster County Library holds a book sale. One year I discovered they had placed on sale a large notebook that held original copies of little pamphlets dated 1894. These pamphlets were entitled “Reminiscences of the Fair, A Portfolio of Photographs of the World’s Columbian Exposition.”


“Lansink” is Lansing, Michigan.


See “Winterswijkse pioniers in Amerika” , Willem Wilterdink   page 65.             ISBN 90-70560-15-1

In Clymer and Sheboygan people began to miss the church after a while. In Clymer they asked ‘Pikkers Jan Willem’ (J.W. Dunnewold * July 1821) from the Woold near Winterswijk (who lived at that time in Milwaukee and worked in a quarry) to be their minister.  This “Pikkers Jan Willem, who was not a minister at all, decided to take lessons and in 1851 he was ordained into the church.  After 19 years in Clymer, he was called as a minister to Gibbsville, Sheboygan County where a church was founded in 1856.  Dunnewold arrived in Boston on December 4, 1846.  The year before Jan Albert te Selle, Gerrit Jan’s father died at the farm ‘De Selle’.


Gerrit Jan is referring to his father Jan Albert te Selle, who died in 1845.