Dutch Family Relocates to Grand Rapids, Michigan

Woman shares history of her family leaving Holland for a better life.

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My paternal grandfather, John Lindemulder, deserted the Dutch navy to come to America. His girlfriend, Kay Batema, later my grandmother, came with her parents to farm in Grand Rapids, Michigan. My grandfather came with them, declared that he had $20 and was a farmer, too. By the time I came along they had moved to a Dutch neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. It was the practice at the time, in Holland at least, for the family to save money to send the oldest son to America. He would earn money at whatever job he could find and send it to bring the rest of his family to join him. I believe this was the case with all of my grandparents.

The older Batema and Lindemulder boys worked in a laundry in Grand Rapids.

My maternal grandfather, Sam Hoekstra, came with his family when he was 6 years old. His older brother was recruited in Holland by the Pullman Company, which built railroad cars south of Chicago. My grandfather also went to work for Pullman when he was 12 years old and worked there until he retired at 65.

My Grandpa Lindemulder also went to work at Pullman, but later went into the trucking business, hauling produce, smoked fish, Christmas trees, etc. from Michigan to the Chicago market.

My Grandma Hoekstra, nee Susan Vanderveen, was living in one of the Pullman homes for employees when she was orphaned. Grandpa Hoekstra met her through her brothers. I suspect it was an arranged marriage, as I know that Grandma ended up doing all the housework and laundry for both households. She was only 15.

The Pullman community was a self-contained city established by the company for its employees. At the time it was touted as a great social experiment. There were rows upon rows of adjoining brick two- and three-story houses. There were company-owned stores, a hotel, a hospital, schools, bars, recreation halls, gyms, dormitories for single men and anything else that might be needed. There was even a technical high school for the training of the next generation of workers. The community still stands today, with many of the buildings restored as historical landmarks.

Pullman sent representatives all over Europe to recruit workers. Their fare would be paid and they would get housing.

The factory was organized by nationalities. My grandparents, and most others of Dutch descent, worked in the woodworking shop where all the cabinets and wood trim were made. Other nationalities worked in separate shops. That way they could communicate with everyone in their work place. The housing was mixed, meaning your neighbors could be Irish, Polish or German. As a little girl, I was amazed that my grandfather, who had never gone past the sixth grade in school, could speak six languages.

Before I was born, the families had moved to the Chicago Dutch community of Roseland. The Lindemulders and the Hoekstras lived next door to each other. The families were very close. My parents, who were the same age, took short business courses after eighth grade and went to work. They never dated anyone else and married as soon as they reached the age of 21, when they did not need parental consent. My mother's sister married my father's brother.

Roseland was a community dominated by four Dutch Reformed Churches. The next community over was the Polish, and then there was a community of Irish, both with their bars, lodges, theaters and Catholic Churches. The Dutch section was dry. Movie going and joining a lodge were forbidden.

Eleanor Lindemulder Mattausch
Benson, Arizona

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.