Dutch Family Relocates to Grand Rapids, Michigan

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


| Good Old Days



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.





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