Source: Letters from America, 1865-1911

From Kotten to Wisconsin and farther to Nebraska

Fokkink, Winterswijk - 1957

Dela ten Damme te Selle and her family needed to move to a new farm; there were not enough jobs for her young boys; emigration to America seemed very appealing. Soon Jan Hendrik, Gerrit Jan, and Harmen Jan te Selle were on their way to America.

S. S. Helvetia Passenger List

Page 1 of SS Helvetia Manifest

Name of Ship: S. S. Helvetia Port of Embarkation: Liverpool, England Date of Embarkation: October 12, 1865 (Source: Harmen Jan te Selle, Letters from America, Letter 2, November 26, 1865) Port of Arrival: New York City, New York, USA Date of Arrival: October 30, 1865 Page 1 of the ship’s manifest for the voyage embarking… Read more »

Letter 16

Gerrit Jan conveys the sad news of the death of Uncle Christiaan Graaskamp, husband of Harmina te Selle Graaskamp, the aunt of the Gerrit Jan, Jan Hendrik, and Harmen Jan te Selle. Christiaan and Harmina lived with Gerrit Jan in Holland, Nebraska. Gerrit Jan also describes the recent drought and plague of locusts which devastated the Nebraska plains.

Letter 15

A letter to Dela ten Damme-teSelle from her sister and brother-in-law in Wisconsin, encouraging Dela to write to them and tell them about friends and family in the Netherlands.

Reasons to Emigrate

Wisconsin Dutch Homestead 1855

Why did so many Dutch farmers decide to emigrate to America in the mid-1800’s? What would inspire two young farm boys in 1865 to leave their friends and family in rural Winterswijk, Netherlands, in order to undertake an uncertain venture across the Atlantic Ocean to an unknown future in America? Read about the powerful cultural and economic forces that motivated our ancestors to seek their future prosperity in a far away land across the sea.

Letters from America, 1865-1911

Dela ten Damme te Selle (1802-1883) at Fökkink farm

(Go directly to List of Letters) The 35 Letters from America to Holland provide a fascinating insight into the lives of the three te Selle brothers who emigrated from Winterswijk, Netherlands, to the United States, settling first in Wisconsin and then later in Nebraska.  The letters were written primarily to their mother, Dela te Selle-ten… Read more »

te Selle, Harmen Jan (1844-1919)

Harmen Jan te Selle, 1844-1919

Harmen Jan te Selle (1844-1919) was born on the “De Selle” farm, near Winterswijk, Netherlands. He and brother Jan Hendrik te Selle (1838-1921) emigrated to Wisconsin in 1865, where they lived with their Aunt Janna and Uncle Gerrit Bloemers. Within a few years the brothers moved from Wisconsin to Lancaster County, Nebraska, where they homesteaded farm land, raised their families, and remained for the rest of their lives.

Letter 14

Gerrit Jan te Selle indicates that this is his second letter back home, but it is the first that has been preserved. He announces the birth of his third child, a daughter Dela (1873-1940). He then describes in detail the family’s journey from the Netherlands to Panama, Nebraska, by ship, rail, and finally by wagon for the last nine miles. Gerrit Jan next describes his purchase of 80 acres of land followed by the building of his farm house in just 7 days. Finally, he gives a detailed account of farming methods and crop prices. This letter is an excellent description of how Dutch farmers got their start in Nebraska in the 1870’s.

Letter 13

Gerrit Willem te Selle was quite a religious person, so this letter begins with several paragraphs that sound more like a sermon than a letter — there is very little actual “news”. Eventually Gerrit Willem shares the news that his granddaughter, Gezina Woordes, got married. Gezina is the child of Gerrit Willem’s daughter Anna. Gerrit Willem sends photo of his deceased wife, Janna te Selle Bloemers (1796-1870), who was an aunt to Derk Willem te Selle, as well as to Jan Hendrik and Harmen Jan te Selle.

Letter 12-b

These brief notes were written on the back of Letter 12-a. The first note was written from Derk Willem te Selle to the Grutters family, and forwarded along with Letter 12-a, as originally requested by G.W. Bloemers in Letter 12-a. The second note was written back to Derk Willem te Selle by G.Z. Bloemers and C.A. Grutters, thanking Derk Willem for forwarding the letter, and returning the original Letter 12-a to Derk Willem as he had requested.