FROM THE 'NETHERLANDS' IN EUROPE TO 'NEDERLAND' IN TEXAS
By Anna Antje Koelemay (Mrs. A. B.) Cooley
(This heart-warming story is the autobiography of a first-generation American as she struggled to combine the Dutch culture of her parents with that of her childhood peers. Although much of the story occurs in Holland, Beaumont, Winnie, and Devers, a great deal of it occurs in Nederland, where Klaas Koelemay served variously as dairyman, grain merchant, postmaster, postal clerk, & the first city manager of Nederland. The editor knew and worked in the post office with Klaas Koelemay for many years, and knew him to be a fine, devout Christian gentleman.--W. T. Block)
I was born in Bolsward (Friesland) Holland on the 10th of June, 1905. My mother was Neelkje Rienstra K. and my father was Klaas Koelemay. They were in Holland for an extended trip, and to make up their minds about their future. Would they remain in Holland, or return to America. They had met and married in Texas, U. S. A (met in Nederland-married in Beaumont).
The Koelemay family in 1897 lived (in Hoogkarspel) near Enkhuizen, Holland. My grandmother was Antje DeJong, who was born on January, 10, 1852 in Andyk, Holland. She was the daughter of Jan. DeJong born in 1818 and died in 1878, and her mother was Klaasje Koorman, 1826-1887. Their home was in Andyk, Holland. She married Maarten Koelemay (Koelemaij), who was born on October 2, 1847, in Berkhout, Holland. He was the son of Pieter Koelemay and Diewertje Waterman of Berkhout, Holland. Maarten and Antje were married April 8, 1872. They had eight children, all born at Hoogkarspel, Holland. There names were Pieter, Jan, Tryntje, Diewertje, Klaasje, Klaas, Maarten, and Laurens.
In the fall of 1897, the family was and had been engaged in the dairying business and also cheese making. Their home was some distance from the herd and pastures. It was necessary to travel by boat down the canals, and in winter it was quite a problem. The family had to work hard and long hour, and it was a happy family. Most were musically inclined and so the family nights share many hours of music and singing. The boys and girls belonged to choirs and school and town choral groups. Musical perfection was their goal, and several members belonged to a group that went all over Holland and won the highest award for harmony and knowing the many parts from memory. Among them was my father, Klaas Koelemay. He could never get over how carelessly and quickly our choir members and directors assumed that we knew a song well enough to present it as a special. His remark, partly as a joke, and mostly in criticism, was "I guess you can call it 'making a joyful noise unto the Lord.'" The older children had the equivalent of about a fifty or sixth grade education. However, one could not sell them short. Their mathematics was drilled in and drilled in until the way they could handle figures in their heads - without a pencil or paper - fooled many better educated people later in life. The understanding of their national mother tongue (Dutch), in view of the fact that every small province had a dialect of its own, also was very astute.
The family decided to send one of the younger sons to the next higher school as they were teaching English there, and the movement toward America was already stirring in many of these Dutch people's minds. Their intent, I am sure, was to send the three younger sons, but time did not permit. So Klaas, my father, was chosen to go to college as he was sixteen years old by then and had made good grades in his earlier schooling. As he learned the English language, he could teach it to others at home.
About the same time, Piet, the oldest son, came home with exciting stories about America. Men were talking in all the public places of the promising lands in Texas. He brought pictures of lush, green pasture lands, orange groves, banana trees, and fig orchards. They were being shown by the Port Arthur Land Company, begging for immigrants to come and go into the dairying and rice industries. Apparently the pictures were made in Florida, for no such pastures or orchards existed in the Port Arthur area at that time. The steamship companies were offering cut-rate fares for those signing up to come.
Due to the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War, the economy of the Netherlands was at a very low level; also, there was a compulsory military law facing all the boys. For those reasons, the family met and had many discussions about leaving for America. Grandmother Koelemay and all the boys and girls wanted to come, but Grandfather was hesitant about it. (Editor's Note: This reference to the Franco-Prussian War has cropped up in other histories about Dutch immigration to Nederland. However, the editor must question that as a cause. The Franco-Prussian War was fought between France and Prussia, the forerunner of Germany, in 1870-1871, or twenty-six years before the first Dutch immigrant set foot in Nederland. Holland was not involved in the war except perhaps from some financial or money-lending standpoint. The long history of The Netherlands in Encyclopaedia Britanicca does not mention that cause as plaguing Holland's economy during the 1870s-1890s, but does mention that Dutch agriculture was in financial straits as early as 1885. It seems more plausible that the severe depression of 1893-1894 in Western Europe and America would have been the catalyst for the large Dutch migration to Michigan, Iowa, and South Africa during the middle 1890s. Note the editor only said he questions the war as a cause. Note too that the availability of large-scale land acreage for sale had not existed in Holland for centuries, whereas it did in Texas, and surely had to have been the primary catalyst--W. T. Block)
They sold out their farm, and gathering their clothing and a few cherished heirlooms, the family decided to come as a unit. It was a giant step for a family of ten to start to Texas. Uncle Piet was so enthused that he gathered apple tree cuttings, berry cuttings, gooseberry plants, and also had the family bring their cheese molds, as he felt sure they could make Edam cheeses.
The family left from Europe in the dead of winter. The crossing was very stormy. Traveling at cheapest (steerage) rates, they were in the fourth class quarters, with people from Poland, Russia, Germany, Italy, and France, and confined in close quarters for several weeks. It was a horrible experience. Many years later, the family still got sick at their stomachs as the recalled the incidents with all the seasick, homesick, unwashed bodies.
I do not know the exact date of their arrival in Galveston, but do know that they landed in Nederland on March 1st, 1898, on my father's birthday. The weather was bitterly cold for a fresh 'blue norther' had blown in that day. They came by K. C. S. Railroad to the flag station at Nederland. They found a muddy street laid out on the proposed townsite. There were a few houses, a hotel, a blacksmith shop, a store, and a hardware store, a couple of saloons, and acres and acres of unfenced, unimproved lands. Aunt Myre'a folks - the J. B. Cooke family - also came to Nederland in 1898. (Ed.'s Note: The Koelemay exit permit, signed by the burgomaster of Hoogkarspel, is dated February 4, 1898, which meant they had to board ship immediately to make the three week voyage to Galveston. Also Dieuwertje Koelemay's (Block's) wooden steamer trunk was hand-painted "From Antwerp to Nederland, Texas," which meant they boarded ship in Antwerp, Belgium. The writer has tediously studied the marine columns of Galveston "Daily News" for all of February and March of 1898, only to learn that the only ship the Koelemays could have sailed on was the German liner Lauenberg of the Diederickson Line, which sailed from Bremen on February 1, Antwerp on February 7, arriving in Galveston on March 1st. So Klaas Koelemay actually arrived in Galveston on his birthday. They would then have caught the Galveston and Interstate to Beaumont, changed to the Kansas City Southern Railroad and arrived in Nederland possibly on March 2nd. The winter of 1899 was even worse. Temperatures dropped to 4 degrees F. in Beaumont on Feb. 14, 1899. Sabine Lake froze over, and many of Nederland's Dutch settlers took their ice skates on the train to Sabine Pass, where they ice-skated on the lake.-W. T. Block)
The house which had been thrown up for the Koelemays was referred to those days as a "shotgun house. There were four or five rooms built in a straight line, one behind the other, built with 1x12 upright boxing, with 1x4 lumber, called "battens," used to cover the cracks in between. The older boys hired out to the rice farmers or worked on the railroad for from fifty cents to one dollar for a 12-hour work day. The girls went to work in Beaumont as nannies, nursemaids, and household servants of the wealthy lumber families of Beaumont at three dollars a week. All the money earned was turned over to Grandmother Koelemay. As needs arose, they took turns at getting a new pair of shoes, or a dress. All the rest was pooled to buy a few acres of land.
On February 2, 1899 (date in error), a blizzard hit the Texas coast. Cattle died by the thousands, the Neches River and Sabine Lake froze over solid. Grandfather Koelemay had ridden a horse to town to get supplies, and had left while it was warm. By the time he returned home, the weather temperature had dropped dramatically, and his heavy beard had frozen on his face.
Early that spring or summer, a tornado moved the house across a fence on some land next to them. It must have been their land, as that spot later became the site of the original two story Koelemay house. A picture of that home has been presented to the Dutch Windmill Museum in Nederland. (See photo of that house, also Koelemay family pictures, adjacent to page 16, of Volume I, of "The Chronicles of The Early Families of Nederland, Texas").
A hotel (Orange Hotel at Boston and 13th) was built in the fall of 1897 by the Port Arthur Land Company, and it was soon to shelter all the immigrants who were coming into Nederland by that time. It was a three story hotel with thirty-five rooms. It was called the Orange Hotel, in honor of the royal House of Orange of Holland's Queen Wilhelmina, who was to be crowned in September, 1898. The building was painted a bright orange. The hotel was first operated by a Mr. (A. J.) Ellings, but only for a short time.
In (Nov.) 1897, a Mr. and Mrs. D. Ballast came from Holland with their daughter, Johanna, and son, Dierk; also some members of the Van Heinigen family arrived. There were fifty-one Dutch immigrants who sailed from Belgium at that time on "The Elena" (error-the Diedericksen liner "Olinda") Mr. Ballast was a builder and wood-carver (furniture builder), so he built some of the first houses and worked on the K. C. S. depot. This family also took over management of the Orange Hotel for a time.
During the year 1898 a great celebration was put on by the Port Arthur Land Company for the coronation of Queen Wilhelmina. The hotel was the scene of the gala affair, with dancing and many Dutchmen tasting their first ice cream. They had barrels of Dutch beer sent from Holland, and a park and trees were named in honor of the queen. Johanna Ballast and family and the other Dutch people shared in this affair. (See Port Arthur Herald microfilm, September 8, 1898, at Port Arthur Public Library, for this full-page account of activities and the Koelemay family members first mention in print in Texas. They won several prizes and sang in Dutch to the crowd. Piet Koelemay was a member of the planning committee of the event.)
The hotel was also proud of a library of over 1,000 books, some of which are still in the possession of some of the older family units.
Mosquitoes proved to be a great problem for all the early residents. They were very bad as drainage was bad and the many river swamplands and low lands around Port Acres were breeding places. There was quite a bit of malaria among the early settlers. This land of summer and flowers proved to be a testing ground! The freezes, the mosquitoes, the sticky black gumbo soil, and the lack of dairy cattle surely tried their mettle.
Then the gulf storm of 1900 hit the area. Papa recalled that they spent four days in the Orange Hotel, having to board up all the doors and windows, and the country was afloat. This was the same devastating storm that hit Galveston directly. Many people (6,000 drowned at Galveston) died in that storm, and horrible tales were told of the looting that took place after the storm. People were accused of cutting off fingers to get diamond rings, and the houses that were left standing were robbed of everything left in them. Many stranded victims were found on housetops and (tied) in trees. (Sabine area residents learned early to tie their children to stout branches of live oak trees at Sabine Pass when the water rose.)
Apparently the Ballast family decided to try other (greener) pastures, as somewhere around that period they moved to Colorado. Johanna, who loved music, learned many of the old folk-songs of America and later taught them to her children, especially Marie Fleming who still remembers some of the words.
After the Ballasts left, the hotel was run by my father's family, the Koelemays. Grandmother was especially known for her pancakes and "Olie Koeken," a sort of fritter. The whole family worked very hard, but they also played here too. This was the meeting place for all the many settlers who by now were flocking into the area. Big dances were held here and many times the dancing lasted all night. Papa's sisters, Dieu and Clara, were wonderful dance partners and could waltz (or polka) for hours. It was at one of the dances that Dieu Koelemay met and latler was married to Will Block of Port Neches. Also another sister, Kate, was married to George Rienstra, the first settler of Nederland who named the town.
My father taught English, along with a young woman from Beaumont, helping all the immigrants who were applying for citizenship papers. This was no easy task.
In rummaging through my father's papers after his death, I ran across a small ledger in which he kept the accounts of the roomers at the hotel. The meals were 25 cents each, and they kept a boarder for $15.50 per month, and also would do the laundry. In this ledger were many of the names of the early settlers whom we came to know and visit with in later years. They also kept accounts of all the items bought and these proved to be very interesting. Nederland must have had a doctor or two by this time, for I found entries of money paid to a Dr. Simmons (error-should be Sammons) and a Dr. Richards. Another item of interest was a sum of $17.000 paid for trees for an orchard on the land they were paying out. It was for $17.00, which was quite a big sum for those days.
Along about that time, my grandfather began to buy some cows. Also, in 1899 Uncle John Koelemay returned to Holland to marry his sweetheart, Jeltje Stelling.
The cows grandfather bought were longhorns and wouldn't give over two quarts of milk per day. The poor old fellow spent half the time climbing a fence or up on the barn to get out of the way of the wild cattle's paths. It was hard on him, as he had used to the fine pure-bred Holstein cows of Holland that had all been very heavy milkers.
In 1903, my mother, then living in Holland, decided to come to the United States for a visit. This is where the crossing of the lines of the Koelemays and Rienstras started. Mama was coming to Texas with her brother, D. J. or Dan Rienstra and his wife, Johanna Ballast, earlier mentioned. Dan Rienstra had come to America in December, 1898, on the same boat (ie: the German liner Ellen Rickmers ) as a Westerterp family. He came to joi his older brother, George, who was already established here. In 1903 he and Johanna Ballast were married and made a trip to Holland, bringing Mama with them on the return trip.
I now need to turn back a few years and bring Uncle George (Rienstra) up to this date. In 1895 George (or Gatze Jan Rienstra) heard of America. He came to New York, went to Michigan for awhile - then spent one year in Iowa where he learned the blacksmith trade. In 1896 he heard of a small settlement of Dutch people at Alvin, Texas, so he came with wagon and team to Alvin, having to ford many streams. He stayed in Alvin a while, and then decided to go back to Holland for a visit, leaving his wagon and tools with a friend in Alvin. While in Holland, he was contacted by the Port Arthur Land Company and asked to come and settle on some of their land. The Port Arthur Land Company gave him a choice of 80 acres, paying $1.00 down for the first transaction - and three lots in the townsite where he later built a blacksmith shop. At first he looked over the land and chose a ridge near the vicinity of Wagner-Block (Ave. H at So. 12th) Road. Marking the site with his stove and a stake, he went to Port Arthur to buy lumber for his home. He paid $8.00 per acre for his land. Returning late inthe afternoon, the mosquitoes go so bad he spent the night in the prairie. The next morning he climbed upon the wagon and located the stove. Here he set about building a house.
Aunt Fannie (Feikje Rienstra), who was in Alvin then, decided to come and keep house for him, so she caught a train to Beaumont, Spent the night in a hotel, and next morning she caugh the K. C. S. train to Nederland, which was still a flag stop. There was no one to meet her (the depot had not been built yet), and she couldn't speak English, so she just started walking down the railroad track toward Port Arthur. She finally saw the little new house.
In March, 1900, Uncle George Rienstra married Kate (Tryntje) Koelemay, my father's sister. In 1903 my Uncle Dan had married Johanna Ballast, so as of thatg year, my mother, Neelkje Rienstra, had two brothers and a sister in America. When Uncle Dan and Johanna went to Holland on their honeymoon, the wanted my grandmother Rienstra to come to America also. She and a brother were already residing in the small town of Bolsward, and my mother felt she should come first and see what it was like. So Mama, Uncle Dan, and Aunt Jo came back in July, 1903.
The trip was very stormy and rough. The came on the Bremen, which was on her last sea voyage. The ship having suffered damages en route, they had to make port at Baltimore, Malryland. It was there that Uncle Dan bought some cantaloupes and gave the girls a knife and spoon. They cut several, but threw them overboard, for they figured they must have been rotten with those watery seed inside. They reached Galveston on July 31, 1903, and then Nederland, by that time with a depot, on August 1, 1903. Uncle George met the train with a light spring wagon. It was a sweltering and hot humid day. Mama had on heavy Dutch clothing, and she said she welcomed the sight of two one-hundred pound blocks of ice. She just sat down on it!
There was a period of readjustment for Mama. She was a very pretty, rather plump, and a very sunny dispositioned young woman 23 years old. She was a very dedicated Christian girl, and those trying pioneer days were quite a change. Mama's father died when she was about three years old, nearer four. After his death, her mother awoke to hear one of her children crying. Grandmother Rienstra had fourteen children, eleven of whom were living. Of course, the older ones had already gone out to work or were married, but she still had five or six at home. She did not discvover until the next morning that her next to the youngest child, Neelkje, could not walk. The polio epidemic had hit their area. Mama was badly crippled on her right side, especially her foot. It dangled loosely, and she used crutches until she was fifteen years old. It was good that she possessed her optimistic outlook, and so she laughinly called herself "Crip" - or its equivalent in Dutch. She attended school with the others, and slid along on the icy streets many times. She told of how on one occasion she was running a little late for church. Everyone in the churches there were so solemn. She had ice under her shoe and as she started down the center aisle, she started skidding and went right on down the aisle and ended up sitting right in front of the preacher. She said that was another one of those times when she tried not to laugh, but it got funnier and funnier and that day's sermon was lost!
When Mama was fifteen years of age, the local physician told them of a wonderful specialist from Germany. Grandmother had him come to Holland and operate on Mama's foot. For almost a year, the casts were changed, and finally the day came when she could walk. Oh, she had to have heavy hand-made shoes, high topped and built-up heel and instep - but how wonderful!
Mama must have been about sixten years old or so when Uncle George Rienstra first left for America. Then her sister, Aunt Fannie, came back with Uncle George in 1897. She was still single at that time. One of her sisters had been courted by a Herman Houseman in Holland, but apparently he had his eye on Aunt Fannie. They were married in Alvin, Texas in 1898. Their first son was named John, and they returned to Holland for a visit after his arrival. There were seven children in this family - namely: John, Harry, Pete, Anna,m Dora, Henry and Katie. The family moved around quite a bit as Uncle Herman couldn't seem to find a place to settle down. This was hard on the children and Aunt Fannie. When Grandmother Rienstra died in 1916, she left Aunt Fannie some money, and with this she built a house in Port Arthur. Uncle Herman resented this, wanting to make another trip, so there was a "parting of the ways." The children, by then old enough to go to work, all started out to help maintain the large family. After a few years, Aunt Fannie met and married Ed Van Der Vegt, a bachelor and ex-seaman. He was a wonderful stlep-father to the children and a good provider All the children grew up to marry and have good jobs, nice homes, and made good citizens in their respective communities.
By 1900 there were as many ad five saloons on Main Street. many of the immigrants were from countries where they were used to meeting in beer parlors and pubs. There were not many who drank excessively, as most had to watch their pocket-books very closely. Also most of the saloons came into existence after the discovery of oil at nearby Spindletop.
Uncle John Koelemay and Aunt Joe returned to Nederland with their young son, Martin, who was born in Holland. This must have been around 1901 or 1902. He ventured into rice farming, along with some truck farming and buying a few milk cows. He farmed near Port Acres, Texas, and the other Koelemay brothers helped. it was hard work, with teams of mules and sulky plows. We have pictures of them. The mosquitoes dealt them much misery. They had to wrap their arms and legs with newspapers. Also it was necessary in the fall to keep men in the fields with shotguns to try to scare off the thousands of ducks and geese the came south in the winter. They got water from the McFaddin pumping plant, a picture of which is in the Museum in Nederland. (Probable error-author probably means Port Arthur Rice and Irrigation pumping plant at Smith's Bluff. McFaddin pumping plant at Dupont pumped on north of Dupon Road. Everything south of Dupont Road was served by the Port Arthur Rice Co. canals.)
They also used the old-time steam thresher, fired with coal. The rice was cut with mule-drawn binders and shocked by the men. After curing in the shocks, the latter was then loaded on wagons and pulled to the thresher. (Ed.'s Note: The thing that was "fired with coal" was usually a steam tractor, which then turned the thresher pulley with a foot-wide leather belt.)
In 1904 Uncle John and Pape changed localities. Theymoved tp Pine Island on old Highway No. 90 west of Beaumont. This was the old B. I Canal System. They put in their crop. In july, 1904, my dad went to Nederland and got Nellie Rienstra and they were married on July 31, 1904, in Beaumont, Texas. Mama insisted on a church wedding, so Dr. Godby, of the First Methodist Church in Beaumont, performed the ceremoney. In the book"Cornerstones," a history of early Methodism in Beaumont, which was co-authored by my cousin, Rosa Dieu Crenshaw, a page which was picked at random from Dr. Godby's four Pastor's Books contained the names of my father and mother and their marriage. We were so happy over this "happen so."
After a honeymoon trip to Galveston, they returned to Pine Island to live with Uncle John and family. The road to beaumont was still a dirt road, and after rains the water often came up over the floor of buggies as they crossed some of the sloughs between Amelia and Beaumont. Martin proved to be a source of entertainment and joy to Mama and Tante Joe. Mama and Tante Joe fed all the rice hands. Neither of them spoke English, and they were so afraid that they couldn't cook good enough; but that 'Dutch" cooking was gobbled up as they peeked out of the kitchen door. They made all the bread - white, whole what and raison - and would set their dough in thehall on the stairway. One time little Martin climbed up the steps and came tumbling down into the pans of dough. Mama and Tante Joe got so tickled they could hardly rescue the little boy who was "dripping in dought."
In looking over entries in the small ledger of Papa's, some interesting figures came to light. They had cows and chickens and sold lbutter and eggs at "Boyt's Store," that was at that time run by Uncle Capt. Boyt. They got 10 cents to 25 cents for eggs and 30 cents a lb. for butter. They paid shockers in the rice field $1.00 to #2.00 per day and their dinner. They bought rice sacks at 200 for $16.00 and wheat bran for 90 cents. A suit, stockings and shoes cost $12.31; corn chops at $1.20; McCalls Magazine at 65 cents; a dress at 93 cents; short 50 cents; and lemon drops at $2.40 (I think they must have really liked lemon drops). I later learned that all the rice farmers used lemon drops to help hold their thirst in the field. Ladies unio suit was 45 cents; undershirt 30 cents, and drawers, 35 cents.
When harvest time was over Uncle John and Tante Joe returned to Nederland to start on their dairying and pasture improvement programs. Mama and Papa went to Bolswalrd, holland, for a visit with Grandmother Rienstra - or "Beppa" as I called her later. upon their arrival in Holland a studio was for sale in thelittle town. Grandmother Rienstra helpled my dad to apply for and get his photographic material and the shop. He took a lot of very good pictures of the family, and they are scattered among the Rienstra relatives here in the States. After her coronation, Queen Wilhelmina made a tour of the Dutch towns and happened to visit Bolsward. Papa got the only picture of her in the great street parade and celebration in he rhonor. So he did quite well on his pictures of the Queen.
Mother was expecting a baby when she left the United States, so they decided to stay in Holland until after the birth of her child, for Grandmother was so anxious to see her baby daughter's child. So on June 10, 19056, Mama presented me to the world, and of course, she was named Anna after her Grandmother Rienstra, and also after her paternal Grandmother, Antje Koelemay, in Nederland, Texas. All of the first-born or oldest daughters in the Rienstra familes were named Anna, and most of the first boys were named Jan or John. Grandmother had a pretty broach made up for me, and I still have it. Mama wouldn't let me wear it until I was ten years old.
Mama and Papa lived above the studio and had to have a maid. Because of prestige, Mama couldn't push my cart down to the park - the maid must do all that. After the taste of American freedom, lthis didn't set so well; also Papa had applied for and passed all the requirements for American citizenship and was only on a visitor's visa in Holland. Also he had taken a Civil Service examination in Beaumont, Texas, befoire he left Holland. So Papa sold the shop, and we returned to America in May, 1906. I was eleven months old at that time. We traveled from Bremerhaven, Germany, on a Lykes Brothers ship, the Chemnitz, and arrived in Galveston on May 28, 1906. My name was not listed on the passenger list except as "K. Koelemay, wife and baby girl." Later in life this was the cause of quite a bit of trouble for me in establishing the fact that I was the baby girl mentioned.
Our family returned to Nederland for a while. uncle John had moved back to settle on a farm northwest of Grandpa and Grandma Koelemay. He (John) began to buy good dairy cattle and gradually built up one of the finest herds in Jefferson County. He was also one of the first to venture into permanent pastures, planting Lespedeza grass and other hay crops. Eventually he had a herd of fine Holstein cattle, and the baby specialists of Beaumont highly recommended John Koelemay's Grade A Holstein milk for babies.
Papa went to work for a short time on the (KCS) Railroad, awaiting word from the Civil Service exams he took upon his return from Holland. We lived near the railroad tracks. There were so many "bums" on all the trains, and since Mama was very sympathetic and could not speak English very well, she always had a handout ready. One day a drunk came up and asked for something to eat, so she made a thick ham sandwich, unlatched the screen door, and handed it to him. He snatched the screen door, came in and sat in the rocker; then he reached over and grabbed me out of the cradle. Mama rant out of the house to the neighbors and pulled the man over to our house. He called the law, and they took the drunk to the little one-cell jail just across the track from our house. When Papa got off from work, the man appealed to him for some food. Needless to say, when Mama relateld her tale, Papa ignored the man's appeal!
Along about this time, Mama lost a baby girl; also Tante Jo (Mrs. John Koelemay) lost a child too, and as there was no cemetery in Nederland, there were several of the babies buried at Grandpa and Grandma Koelemay's house beneath a big pine tree near the entrance to the gate farm.
When Papa and Mama left Holland, they sold the studio to a man who made only a few payments, and then left with the equipment for parts unknown. So they lost all the money they had invested in Holland and now had to start from scratch.
Papa passed all the Civil Service exams and was hired as a (post office) carrier out at South Park in Beaumont. We had to move hurriedly, and they had to move into an undesirable location at the beginning. They saved a penny and finally moved to Adams Street in South Park in Beaumont. Papa delivered mail with a cart and a horse. The route was long and the hours were long. Mama fed the horse every evening and once lost her engagement ring in the horse's hay.
Another little sister arrived January 30, 1908. She lived only five or six months. Her name was "Katriena." She was so delicate and frail, and Mama had to stay up day and night with her. I was only three years old, but could say "Doctor," and she would send me to the corner store. The owner was a very kind Italian man, John Benedetto, who had the only phone in the block. He understood and would call "Dr. Jim Gober." I believe Dr. Gober delivered more babies at home than any doctor in that area.
Many babies died that summer due to lack of refrigeration and poor sanitation. The "summer complaint" hit many homes in the neighborhood. It was a common sight to see a little funeral procession somewhere nearby that summer.
The neighbors had all been "stand-offish" toward us "foreigners," but now hearing of the baby's death, they all flocked in. Mama, being worn out, didn't understand and felt that it was just curiosity on their part. Dr. Gober also felt that they hadn't offered any help during all those trying months, so he ordered mama to bed and the neighbors "out." Kindly neighbors, however, helped Papa get a little casket and put her in "Babyland" in Magnolia Cemetery. Later in life we learned that this was the "American way," and we learned to be truly appreciative of the helpo offered in the loss of a loved one.
Papa now began to insist tht we speak only English in our home, as I was getting mixed up. Also he felt that this was the only Mama would break away from her mother tongue. Of course, Mama taught me my ABCs in Dutch also.
Mama's health was very delicate, but I do not remember her ever complaining of any of the upsets in her life. She had the most complete trust in her God. When "going became rough," her simple prayer was "God, help us!" She believed He would answer, and lived accordingly. During the year, another miscarriage occurred. This really made her weak. In November, 1909, however, she gave birth to my sistger Katrina (Katie). It was touch and go for eleven months with her, but she finally began to gain weight. She was nearly seven years old when she became robust.
Mama had been reared in the very Orthodox Dutch Church. I had her church membership under glass. She joined the church just before coming to America. Long before she could understand English, she insisted that Papa take he to church. One of their first experiences was during a revival at the Roberts Avenue Methodist Church. In those days when the evangelist held his last sermond, a special collection was tken. People raised their hands as the came for "Who will give $10.00 - $5.00 - or $1.00?" Mama watched in amazement, nudged Papa, and asked, "Are they auctioning the preacher off?" She said this in Dutch, and Papa got so tickled he could hardly answer. She had attended many auctions with her mother in Holland. Grandmother Rienstra loved a good auction and stiff bidding.
The next church she decided would be more like the Dutch church was -- the St. John's Lutheran's Church on Franklin Street and Avenue A. There were quite a number of German families here and she felt more at home. Also they taught Catechism classes and she like that for me. I was only six years old, and as soon as I knew my way, I rode the Park Streetcar to the Royal car line, transferred, and then walked two blocks over to the church. When I got a little older, I ventured forth and walked with some other children from Avenue A to Park Street. We went through part of the Negro section of town here, near the Gas Plant. One of the boys found a dead grass snake and wrapped it around my neck. I yelled for dear life, and an old negro mammy came to my rescue. She shamed the boy and chased him off. For many years I detested the sight of those three children, a sister and her two brothers.
Papa had joined the Woodmen of The World (lodge), and thus wasn't accepted (for membership) by the Missouri Synod of Lutheran Churches at that time. Mama felt the family should go to church together. So it was then decided to join the Westminster Presbyterian Church uptown. We remained members of this church until we left Beaumont. Papa was a bit slow in joining. Somehow in his college days, he had been shaken up on some of his beliefs and he found his mind questioning the divinity of Christ. Until he could accept this, he would not ask for church membership. Rev. Frank Robbins was our beloved pastor. He and some of the elders and a visiting evangelist met with Papa and he became a very strong church member and served in later years as Elder and senior Elder.
One Christmas Mama and I made five hundred red and white tissue paper flowers for a huge Christmas tree. The family also was to sing carols in Dutch. Sister Katie was always shy, ans so she turned her back to the audience and sang. Years late she pulled the same trick on me in Winnie.
The First Church decided to open a Mission Church out at South Park. So in the mornings we rode the streetcar uptown to Sunday School and Church; the the long ridehome; a quick dinner cooked on Saturday; and then to the Mission Church at two o'clock. Often Katie and I were the only children there, but we went right on. This later became the big Presbyterian Church on Highland Avenue.
After several years, Papa was promoted and took the business district on Pearl and Orleans Streets in Beaumont. He carried the mail on the west side of the street, and a fellow carrier, George Bristol, was on the east side. Before the birth of my little sister Katie, Papa kept the Bristols informed, and when she was born, Mr. Bristol sent his wife and daughter, Ruby, to see the little Dutch woman. I was posted at the gate as the welcoming committee. So I swung back and forth looking for them, being only about four and one-half years old. A life-long friendship sprang forth from this meeting.
All the rest of the Koelemays and Rienstras had settled around the South Jefferson County area. We were a very "family oriented" group. Grandmother and Grandfather Koelemay's home was the gathering place.These grandparents were both very small of stature, but were made of iron. They were such hard workers, and they kept a herd of milk cows, making butter to be sold in Nederland and Beaumont for their cash money. They had to abandon any ideas of making cheese for this climate would not permit it. They kept the milk cool on a large screened-in back porch. They had a large tin vat made, would set the big crocks of milk in it, and constantly during the day, someone had to pump cool well water around the crocks. The cream was skimmed off and put into a large barrel churn on a stand. It had a crank on it to be turned, and we all loved to help turn the churcn. Later they purchased a cream separator, and the warm milk was immediately put through it to save so much work. They then used old time ice chests to keep the cream cold. By then they could buy ice in Nederland.
They had a large orchard between their home, and what was later Piet Koelemay's home. Theorchard constined satsumas, pears, peaches, plums, fig trees, pomegranites. Later Uncle Piet transplanted dewberry vines all along a gully that ran around the outer fringes of the farms. He kept them fertilized and pruned and they bore beautifully. Also a large garden was planted each, both summer and winter vegetables ere grown and canned. For meat they had lots of cuks and geese in the fall and winter from the rice fields. They also raised chickens and tame ducks. There were lots of rabbits, and Grandmother could cook them to perfection.
Little grandmother kept the large house spotless, polishing her fine wood range every day. She made the butter, tended to the garden, canned, made all their dresses and shirts, did the laundry, and still managed to have a lovely front yeard full of all kinds of shrubs, trees and beds of roses, portulacacs, climbing vines, and roses.
With all that, one could wonder if it "was all work and no play?" But that wasn't true. During the cold winter months, she made doll clothes, bean bags, string balls. She helped us make kites. Outside of her kitchen window, she had a big swing put up, see-saws, gym-style rings and a croquet court. A long living room ran across the front of the house. At one end were tables for dominoes and cards. In the middle was a pool table, as all the men loved billiards. At the other end, a table with the finest photographs and records; also all kinds of stereoptican slides. Frandfather had a big pipe rack near the door. One of his pipes was the kind he had to sit and smoke - with a long stem - the bowl of it on the floor. The menfolk usually took over the front, and the women gathered in the kitchen and dining area. A long table near several windows, with a long built-in window seat down one side, took care of us children. The women gathered there and helped cook, exchange new recipes from America, and the latest dress patterns. All of them did handwork and a new crochet or knitting pattern was always being introduced. They had two beautiful hanging lamps with crystal drops hanging over the living room and dining room tables.
We grandchildren - and by that time there were many of us - had marvelous times. Every kind of game, both inside and outside, was enjoyed, the grown-ups often taking part, for they were a fun-loving group. The library was also enjoyed - a carry-over from the Orange Hotel days. Not having room in the house, a portion of the warehouse in the back was partitioned off and wall cabinets built to take care of the hundreds of books. Also all the early magazines were filed each year, and the pictorial news sheets from Holland were kept.
For a number of years we all traveled with buggies and horses. We owned none of our own, so Papa would hire a livery stable rig. At that time there were a number of livery stables on Main Street in Beaumont. We proudly climbed aboard, hoping all the neighbors were aware! We knew they were, for we could see the curtains pulled aside! Papa rode a bicycle to and from work on good days. We rode the street cars everywhere around. I remember having an abscessed tooth one time, and Papa taking me to the dentist several miles on the bicycle. I can still feel each hole e hit. Ouch!!
At one of the wedding anniversary parties of grandparents, we left near midnight. It was a bright, moonlit night. An old cistern had been thrown in the ditch alongside the road, and the horse shied at the sight of it, turning so suddenly and unexpectedly, it turned the buggy over on us and broke loose. We were not hurt, but Papa had to walk back two or three miles to get some of the folks to come and catch the horse and repair the buggy axles. We reached home at daybreak.
Often on paretty spring and fall days, Papa and I walked to Nederland from South Park. Most of the Dutch did much walking, to spare their horses for work. We lived several blocks from the streetcar line, and we had a terrible board walk from Highland Avenue to the line, especial after "big rains," as some of the boards would float off. I can still see Papa carrying Katie, and Mama and I feeling our way along in the dark. Many an fall and soaking feet occurred.
Around 1910 or 1911, Papa bought a home, our first, on Highland Avenue. It was a five-room house, with a bath tub, but still "a path to the rear (outhouse)." He fixed a nice playhouse for us children, with nice umbrella chinaberry trees for shade all around. It was from this house that I started to school. I had to walk six or seven blocks. I was so scared so Mama went along. She was so afraid I wouldn't look right, so she walked with me and left me with Mrs. Bristol and Ruby. They tried to get me to go in, but I stood firmly planted by the door, peeping in. The little girls didn't look like I did. I had a stiffly starched pinafore over my dress, with wide crocheted edging, and my hair was plaited back in two braids so tight I could not blink my eyes. The school superintendent, Mr. L. R. Pietzsch, came by and put his arm around my shoulders and said, " Don't be afraid, honey. You know, I was a little German boy and I was just so scared when I went to school the first day. you'll be alright." That did it - and so to me a wonderful world had opened up. Each day I learned something new and could hardly wait to get home and help Mama learn it too. Also, I made a new and a life-long friend that first day, as Kathleen Nelson (later Mrs. E. V. Boyt), and we always sat together in our classes through many years
In 1912 Mama had a baby boy. They were so glad to have a son now, but he lived only five days.
For entertainment on Sunday afternoons e often caught the Park Streetcar and exchanged to the other lines, riding out to visit friends, or to ride out to the end of the line and back. We paid regular visits to "Babyland" at Magnolia Cemetery, then we got off at Emmett Street near Hotel Dieu. Beaumont still had the old "lovers' lane," from Sabine Pass at Hotel Dieu, and over to Orleans Street was still river-edge property. The "O'Brien Oak" was at the other end. A wooden bridge was built over a slough that emptied into the Neches River. There was an ice cream parlor at the end of Emmett Street. They had the most wonderful ice cream, and so many, many kinds, it was so hard to choose. If we were good, we could have maybe four or five dips of different flavors! What a treat! Also it was a scenic walk, and there were domino games being played under the shade trees. Pipkin Park was also located there. Yeas later a street was built through there.
Not only did we make our trips to Nederland, but all the folks there took turns about coming to see us and enjoy the city events. When the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus came to town, the house was full. They brought all the cousins, some inbuggies, some in wagons, and we all went to the parade and the Big Tent; so excited and happy and undecided about which ring to watch! Usually someone would break out with measles, chicken pox, or whooping coughj shortly afteward! After the Kyle Opera House was built, we always knew Grandmother would come in with some of the others. They loved all the Al Field's Minstrels. We went to hear the stirring music of Philip Sousa, and when Marian Talley, the opera star, appeared, Papa, Grandmother and I attended. She loved beautiful voices, but she would get so disgusted when the accompanist would rise and come over to kiss Miss Talley's hand. The Koelemays felt they should never show outward emotions like that!
On several occasions when they ran the special excursion trains from Beaumont to Galveston in the heydays of High Island, Caplen, and Rollover, the whole Koelemay family would go to Galveston. This was fun! Eating out, some swimming, the penny arcades, the shell displays, and all the tourist attractions were such fun. There were big hotels at Rollover, High Island and Caplen. The 1915 storm demolished most of them.
Also in this area, the Neches River afforded pleasure trips. At one time it was a fad to own a house boat and many were anchored around the river's bend around Hotel Dieu, the hospital area. Mr. Bristol built himself a boat and named her the "Ruby G" after his daughter. People went down river to Port Neches Park, or Grigsby's Bluff as it was then known - spent the day - then came back usually at twilight. We made the maiden voyage on the "Ruby G." It was a short one as Mrs. Bristol was scared to death, so we skirted the river's edge, never getting out in midstream. It was soon after that Mr. Bristol found out his craft had sunk. Maybe Mrs. Bristol was justified in her fright!
One summer the Presbyterian Sunday School group rented a three-deck pleasure craft. We went down to Port Neches and had a picnic lunch and some games. We came back at twilight and all the harbor and home lights were burning. It was an unforgetable scene, and we sang "Let The Lower Lights Be Burning" as we came into the dock.
In 1915 we experienced one of the dreaded Gulf Storms. We boarded up doors and windows and stayed in our small house. The water came up over the third step. Because of back water in the Port Arthur area, it had to be evacuated. Our house was full! Part of Aunt Fannie's family were with us. They had been forced to move up on their second story floor and were rescued by boat. They locked all their clothes and foodstuffs and left, only to find everything had been stolen when they returned home. Harry, one of the older boys, had some sort of rare bone disease. He had been to Mayo's Clinic in Minnesota and was on crutches at that time. The Van Der Staals, a baker and his wife, their daughter and son came to stay also. Then the Bondsma family of seven in all. The Van der Staals' daughter, Lena, was to be married soon, with a planned church wedding, and she and her fiance, Walter Andrus, decided to hurry it up; so they became the "Storm Bride and Groom." They were married from our house and the City of Beaumont gave them a lot of gifts.
A few of the school incidents left some things I'd like to remember. One of our art teachers from the North was very strict. After one of our writing lessons she told me not to take our papers home. I was so proud of my grade and paper that I took it home for Mama to see. Nexzt morning I forgot the paper. When Miss Hanks called for it, I told her "I think Earl got mine." He denied it, and I was sent to her office. The older students had told us the wildest tales. They said she would lock one up with nothing but bread and water and keep you from lunch and recess hours for weeks. I was so frightened, I crawled up under the flounce of a small rocker she had in her office. When she came in, she called me again and again, so finally I crawled out. She saw how scared I was and pulled me up on her lap, where, crying my heart out, she consoled me and I found out she was human after all.
Each year at Fair time, each city school had some part of the opening parade. Beaumont had lots of parades in those days - down Pearl Street and back up Orleans. (From here on, some of this story is lost out of my computer, which I hope soon to put back-WTB)