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By W. T. Block

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George Vanderweg, Sr. came to Nederland in May, 1898, at a time when extensive railroad track-building was under construction in South Jefferson County. A Dutch-language advertisement of B. J. Nauta, a colonizing agent of the Port Arthur Land Company, published in Leeuwarden, Friesland, The Netherlands, on March 30, 1898, bears Vanderweg's and Robert Gerbens' names as two emigrants who had agreed to emigrate to Nederland, Texas.

George Vanderweg, Sr. was born on November 20, 1871, at Holwerd, in the northern province of Friesland. He and two friends, Gerbens and Jake Doornbos, sailed on the North German-Lloyd steamer Olinda from Antwerp, Belgium, probably in April, 1898, and arrived in Galveston three weeks later, in May, 1898. Gerbens, who married Elizabeth Westerterp, another Dutch immigrant in Nederland, and settled in Port Arthur, was from Hardegarijp, Friesland, and Doornbos was from Warfum, province of Groningen.

One of Vanderweg's and Doornbos' first jobs in Texas was to help build the Sabine jetties at Sabine Pass. Their task was to haul the heavy boulders or rocks, some of them weighing up to ten tons, out of which the jetties were constructed. That first job did not last very long before they began working as day laborers for the Port Arthur Rice and Irrigation Company in 1899. In 1900, Vanderweg and Doornbos, as partners raised their first crop of rice, about where the YMCA is located at South Twelfth Street and Avenue A. In the early years of Nederland, South Twelfth deadended at the 400 block, up against the levee of one of the early Nederland rice canals.

Vanderweg married his wife, Theodora Cornelia Van Oostrom, about 1909. She was born, one of eight children, in Abcoude, near Amsterdam, The Netherlands, on October 15, 1886, and arrived in Nederland at a very early day, probably 1904-1905. Her first marriage to Hendrick Van Cleave ended in divorce. She became the mother of two children by that marriage, Guy Van Cleave of Nederland and Wilhelmina Van Cleave (Detrich, Sterling) of Galveston. During those years prior to her marriage to Vanderweg, Cornelia Van Cleave resided either with her brother and sister-in-law, John and Johanna Van Oostrom, or at her home at 105 Nederland Avenue, adjacent to another early rice canal (now the Port Neches city limits).

George Vanderweg, Sr. farmed rice until the Port Arthur Irrigation Company and its canal system failed and went bankrupt. He then turned to dairying, as several other Dutch immigrants had done, and he built his home at 823 Nederland Avenue, where he lived out the remainder of his life. After his marriage to Cornelia Van Cleave, they became the parents of two children, a daughter, Elizabeth, born on February 19, 1910, and a son, George Vanderweg, Jr., born on March 25, 1917.

George Vanderweg, Sr., became a substantial land owner in Nederland, acquiring two tracts of acreage on Nederland Avenue; a 70-acre tract on Avenue H, where Midway Addition was surveyed and sold in 1948; and business property along South Twin City Highway. After residing here for 42 years, during which time he became a well-known and respected Nederland dairyman, Vanderweg died of a heart attack on September 10, 1940. His widow survived her husband for 26 years, dying at age 81 on April 11, 1968. The original Vanderweg home still survives, but it has been moved to 224 South Ninth Street, where today (1991) it is used as a day care center.

All of the Vanderweg children graduated from Nederland High School. Elizabeth Vanderweg was a very beautiful girl and a talented piano player. She married Nick Ruysenaars, and for forty years prior to their retirement, she and her husband operated a dairy at their home at 3135 Nall Street in Port Neches, where they also still reside. They are the parents of three children, including two sons, John and Nick Ruysenaars, Jr. and a daughter, Theodora Elizabeth Quibideaux.

At age nineteen in 1936, George "Babe" Vanderweg, Jr., was appointed "tick inspector" by the State of Texas for Nederland and the surrounding area. He had charge of a mandatory livestock-dipping program, which eliminated tick fever in Texas, that took place for four months of that year. Nederland livestock had to be dipped, no exceptions, every week or two weeks during that period at dipping vats built in Beauxart Gardens, 27th at Helena, Eighth Street at Nederland Avenue (on Vanderweg property), and on Avenue H.

In 1939, "Babe" Vanderweg built the "drive-in cafe" at Nederland avenue and South Twin City, that was operated by J. E. Pitre for the next twenty years. Later he sold that site to Mobil Oil Company. "Babe" and his wife, the former Virginia Godwin, began a number of other business enterprises along South Twin City, including Jiffy Trophies, Arnold Bowling and Billiard Supply, and others, most of which they sold when they retired. They built their home at 2900 Merriman Street in Port Neches, where they resided until "Babe" Vanderweg died on August 25, 1988. After his death, Mrs. Virginia Vanderweg sold her home in Port Neches and moved to 1410 Nashville Street in Nederland. They were the parents of one son, Joe Warren Vanderweg, who is the father of two children.

Cornelia Van Cleave Vanderweg was also the grandmother of three children by her first marriage. Wilhelmina Van Cleave married (1) E. Detrich of Galveston, and after his death (2) -----Sterling. She is the mother of one daughter, Mrs. Ethel Detrick (maiden name spelled with an "h;" married name with a "k"). Guy Van Cleave, Sr. was the father of two children Guy Van Cleave, Jr., and Kay Van Cleave.

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Copyright 1998-2023 by W. T. Block. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, the material published on this site is copyrighted by William T. Block.
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