A HISTORY OF THE ALBERT HENRY RIENSTRA FAMILY
The Memoirs Of Dorothy Davis (Mrs. A. H.) Rienstra
Albert H. Rienstra, for more than forty years a prominent merchant and civic leader of Nederland, Texas, was born in Nederland, the Dutch colony that his parents helped to found, on March 12, 1912. His uncle, George Rienstra, was the city's first settler, having arrived here in May, 1897. His father, Dan J. Rienstra, Sr., and his mother, Johanna Ballast, arrived here from Holland only a few months later. Albert's maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Dirk Ballast, came to Nederland in November, 1897, where Mr. Ballast was the lay minister for the local Dutch Reformed congregation. Albert's paternal grandparents, Jan Rients Rienstra and Anna Rusticus Rienstra, were citizens of Parrega, near Bolsward, Province of Friesland, in The Netherlands.
On Labor Day, September 6, 1937, Albert Henry Rienstra and Dorothy Fowler Davis were married. The scene of the wedding ceremony was the home of the bride's parents in Tyler, Texas, with the bride's brother-in-law, Reverend Allen G. Roe (the husband of the bride's identical twin sister) officiating. The traditional ceremony was a simple one, the bride having her twin sister as her only attendant. There had been no wedding rehearsal since none seemed necessary.
An altar had been improvised at one end of the rather long living room which adjoined the bedroom from which the matron-of-honor and the bride would enter. The Lawrence Koelemay family, who were close friends of the Davis family, furnished the wedding music. At the appointed time, the bride's sister Jane, the matron-of-honor, made her appearance and walked toward the altar. She wore a full-length dress of pastel blue and carried a bouquet. To Jane's complete surprise upon reaching the altar, Albert took her arm and started to face the minister, who was Jane's husband. She quickly whispered, "Wait for Dorothy," as she stepped aside. Then the bride entered, wearing her mother's lovely white wedding gown and the traditional veil.
As the ceremony ended, the guests broke out in mild laughter to the bride's surprise. Everyone was in a festive mood during the small reception that followed. Many jokes were made at Albert's expense.
Later, when Dorothy and Albert were discussing what had happened, Dorothy said, "I trid to tell you yesterday just how the ceremony would proceed, and that I would be the one dressed up like a bride." Albert's answer was typical, " Well, SHE looked like a bride to me!"
Dorothy Fowler Davis Rienstra was the second, by 25 minutes, of identical twins born to William Ferdinand Davis and Janie Warren Davis in Athens, Texas. Her parents were married on July 30, 1908, in Lufkin, Texas, which was the home of the bride. Dorothy's father, "Ferd" as he was called, was born in Nacogdoches County on October 7, 1860. Ferd's father was killed at the Battle of Sabine Crossroads at Mansfield, Louisiana, on April 8, 1864 while Ferd was still a very small boy. His mother was Frances Louisa McKnight, the daughter of "Uncle Jimmy" McKnight, who had homesteaded his farm land. Ferd's mother took her two small sons to live in the home of her parents after her husband's death. Ferd's grandfather became the father figure during those years while the young boy was growing to manhood.
Ferd's mother later married Judge Dixon of San Augustine, and after Ferd finished what schooling was available to him, including some courses at the Normal College at Huntsville, he taught school and studied law under his step-father, and in time was admitted to the bar. He became interested in politics and was elected District Attorney of San Augustine County.
Ferd's first marriage was to Myrta Van Vleck of Woodville. Her father was a Dutchman, and he held high office in Masonic circles. After Ferd's first wife's death, he married Janie Warren, who had taught in the Austin school system for several years. She accepted the role of mother to three children from Ferd's first marriage, as follows: James, age 14; Bessie, age 11; and Myrta, age 8. By that time, Ferd had felt God's call to preach, and he was already the pastor of the Methodist Church in Lufkin at the time he married Janie. He entered the Texas Methodist Conference on trial in 1897.
Janie was the third of five daughters - no sons - born to Henry Clay Warren and Mary Virginia Fowler Warren. Henry Warren came to Texas from his plantation home in Georgia sometime after the Civil War. He had left home, intending to study medicine at Tulane University. On the train, he met up with several young men, adventurers, who persuaded him to go to Texas and "seek his fortune." He always had a job, but never became a professional man as he had intended, when he left his plantation home, which had been destroyed during the Civil War. He had grown up in the lap of luxury, but much like the people in "Gone With The Wind," all of that was destroyed by the war.
Mary Virginia Fowler was a descendant of the Andrew Jackson Fowler line, who came from Kentucky to Texas. Originally, the Fowlers were from Virginia, and they finally arrived in Texas in 1837. The Fowlers were mostly well-educated, professional people, and they were active in the early life of the Texas republic and in its political and public affairs.
Of the five Warren girls, four were teachers, and the fifth was a clerk in the post office. They were reared in the small community of Homer, near Lufkin.
Ferd Davis and Janie Warren Davis reared four daughters, namely: Mary Frances, Jane and Dorothy (the twins), and Margaret. They were known as the Davis girls. Their half-sister, Myrta, spent many happy years with the family, but was away in school and at work much of the time. In later years, when Myrta was often with the four sisters, they laughingly called themselves "The Blank Five."
Early in his adult life, Ferd Davis had felt God's call to preach, but he fought it at first. Finally, he decided to give up his law practice and enter the ministry in the Methodist Church, at that time known as the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (which reflected the North and South divisions of the church before the Civil War).
Around the turn of the century, Ferd Davis was ordained as a minister, and he served in that capacity until 1930, the year that he retired from the active ministry, following his two-year pastorate in Nederland. Dorothy began teaching in the Nederland Schools that same year.
When Albert and Dorothy married in 1937, Albert was managing a Texaco service station on the southwest corner of Boston and Twin City, that he later sold to Goodwin Griffin. At about the same time, he operated the Rienstra Auto Supply in the Roach building next door. (Albert had received his Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the University of Texas in 1935). Albert and Dorothy became the parents of five children, namely: Byron, a Nederland physician who married Marcia Hamilton of Dallas in 1964; Roger, who became president of the Witherspoon Company of Fort Worth and married Bennie Walker of Port Neches in 1962; Rita, who married Daniel Premo from Michigan in 1967 and who became a professor at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. Rita is now employed by the United States Postal Department; Doris, who taught school in Farmers Branch and married Joe Williams, a Certified Public Accountant, in 1971. Doris is now Director of Youth Activities at Christ United Methodist Church in Farmers Branch; and Myrta Anne, who taught in the Houston School System and is now a counselor in the Fort Bend Independent School District. All five siblings hold degrees from the University of Texas. Dorothy Rienstra, the only family member without a Texas University degree, is a graduate of Southern Methodist University.
Albert and Dorothy have nine grandchildren.
From his earliest adulthood, Albert Rienstra was interested in community affairs. He became convinced very early that the town would never progress until it incorporated.
One morning the business men in Nederland were surprised and perhaps even shocked to find leaflets scattered on Main Street (now Boston Avenue), promoting the incorporation of Nederland. Albert had been busy during the wee hours of the night after returning from a movie date with Dorothy. Alvin Barr had agreed to help distribute the leaflets all over the town, but when he could not help distribute them, Albert just delivered them along Boston Avenue, flooding the area with leaflets.
Eventually, the town did incorporate in 1940. Albert was selected to serve on the planning committee, and he helped to write the city charter which is still in force. At that time he was a member of the Young Men's Business League. This organization later became the nucleus of the Nederland Chamber of Commerce.
The original building of the First Methodist Church was torn down in 1939, and the building which is now the Fellowship Hall was erected, completed in 1940. Much of the labor was furnished by able-bodied and interested church members, one of whom was Albert Rienstra.
During the 1940s, several business men became interested in organizing a bank in Nederland. Albert and his brother, Dick X. Rienstra, were very active in that endeavor as well. They, along with other business men, made contacts, held interviews, undertook trips throughout Southeast Texas, all with the purpose and intent of getting that bank started. After the first application for a state charter was denied, Albert contacted and consulted Sen. (later governor) Alan Shivers, a man of considerable political influence and expertise in Austin, who originally was from Port Arthur. He and Albert had attended South Park Junior College together and had become well-acquainted with one another. Because of Alan Shivers influence, the charter was finally granted, and Nederland State Bank (now NCNB) became a reality in 1947.
One day in 1963, Dr. Robert Moore came into Albert's store to talk over a matter of great importance to both of them. Dr. Moore said two Houston doctors were interested in starting a hospital in Midcounty and were hoping to obtain support from the Nederland business community. Albert immediately agreed to help. During the next few months, many meetings were held, and the details were worked out. Albert was chosen as treasurer of the board of directors. A site was chosen and purchased, and soon afterward, the hospital building was under construction. In the spring of 1964, Mid-Jefferson Hospital became a reality when its doors were opened for business. Several physicians (although not all of them), one dentist, and several business men of the Midcounty communities made a dream come true. After a time, the Houston doctors withdrew, and the hospital became solely Midcounty's own institution.
These are only some of the area projects that Albert Rienstra had a hand in accomplishing. He served his church faithfully, holding every church office that a layman could possibly hold.
Many people may not think of Albert as a home-builder, but that was another field in which he contributed to the growth of Nederland. At the close of World War II, Albert built a number of small homes, many of them on South 12th Street, and sold them to returning servicemen. He and his brother Dick developed Central Heights addition, north of Nederland, during the 1960s. They had a partner from Beaumont, Robert Collings, who also took part in that endeavor.
After the Young Men's Business League disbanded and the Chamber of Commerce was organized, Albert served twice as the latter's president. He was also active - actually he was the instigator - in starting up the YMCA branch in Nederland, serving on that board for several years. He is now serving on the Advisory Board of the Salvation Army in South Jefferson County.
Albert's affiliation with the service station and auto parts businesses was only a fleeting phase of Albert's business career that occurred prior to World War II. Most Nederland oldtimers will recall the decades that Albert and Dorothy devoted to operating Rienstra Department Store at 1204 Boston and Rienstra Hardware Store on Twelfth Street. Both businesses were liquidated many years ago prior to their retirement. They have enjoyed retirement years. As one of his retirement projects, Albert has taken up the game of golf, but he still maintains a keen interest in any civic matter that concerns the City of Nederland.