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(Delivered at Devers Methodist Church at Funeral of Mrs. Cooley in 1986)

Anna Antje Koelemay Cooley was born in Bolsward, Holland, on June 10th 1905, the daughter of Neltje Rienstra Koelemay and her husband, Klaas Koelemay, who were two of the pioneer immigrant settlers of Nederland, Texas. The couple had returned to Holland for the birth of their first child, Anna Antje, and to decide whether to return to America or make their future home in Holland.

Earlier, an elder brother of Klaas, Piet Koelemay, had returned to Holland from a visit to Texas, bringing with him exciting stories of the Port Arthur Land Company, begging Dutch immigrants to come to Nederland, Texas, to raise rice and dairy farm, each beautiful picture showing lush green pastures, orange groves, banana trees, palms and fig orchards, a veritable Garden of Eden. Grandfather and Grandmother Koelemay and their family of ten then emigrated to Nederland, Texas. The enthusiastic "Uncle Piet" was so inspired he gathered up apple tree cuttings, berry vines and gooseberry plants, and urged his family to bring along their cheese molds, as he felt they could surely make their famous Edam cheese in Texas just as well as in Holland. The family arrived in Texas on March 1, 1898. The "Land of Promise" so fallaciously promoted by the Port Arthur Land Company turned out to be a low, flat, muddy, and mosquito-infested land and treeless prairie, primitive and with none of the comforts of home. They didn't consider returning to The Netherlands since the economy of their homeland was in a severe state of depression and they had already sold their property there. These hardy, hard-working groups of Dutchmen, after many trials and tribulations, established the Nederland community as we know it today. They have through the years been influential and have contributed to this part of Southeast Texas by producing doctors, lawyers, pastors, teachers, becoming large land owners, bankers, dairy farmers and all other kinds of first-rate citizens of Dutch ancestry.

At the age of ten months, Anna and her parents came to America to live in Nederland and to join their friends and relatives who were the earlier immigrants. Later there were two more children born in the Klaas Koelemay family, Katrina (Katie) and Carl John Koelemay. Times were hard, what with learning the language and securing citizenship papers. Anna was blessed with a strong religious heritage (Lutheran, Presbyterian, and finally the Methodist faith). The next few years the family adjusted to their new life, moving here and there as circumstances required. They ran the post office in Nederland from June 28, 1920 until April 5, 1924, during which time Postmaster Klaas Koelemay ran his grain store at 1155 Boston and Anna worked in the post office in one corner of the building. Much earlier, they had lived in Beaumont for many years, while Klaas delivered mail in the South Park area. They lived for some time in Amelia, then on to Winnie to grow figs. In Winnie, Anna worked in the fig plant cannery, taught Sunday School classes, and worked with the young people in the Epworth League, sang in the choir, and helped out in all other activities of the Winnie Methodist Church. In Winnie, she met and married Adrian Cooley, who was a cowboy and rice farmer. Later, they moved back to Nederland, where Adrian worked at the Pure Oil Refinery in Nederland.

Anna Koelemay graduated from South Park High School with honors in 1922. She was a first-rate student, excellent in English composition, director and star player in the Junior and Senior High School plays, and she represented her school on the Debate Team at the State Interscholastic Meet in Austin. Her eagerness to learn and her quick, sharp mind were a delight to her teachers.

The years of the Great Depression were most difficult for everyone. At or near the beginning of those turbulent years around 1930, Adrian and Anna were asked to come to Devers to work on the Devers Canal and live at Cottonwood Headquarters for a while, as the folks who had lived there had returned to Kentucky. Later, E. V. (Pat) Boyt acquired his Uncle Captain Boyt's farm and ranch house that was to be his personal farm and ranch headquarters from that time on. Anna and Adrian moved into those headquarters, where Adrian was to serve as foreman of the farm and ranch operations for many years. Those were years when Anna's talents were to come into full focus. There her two sons grew to manhood. Her many relatives, cousins, children and grandchildren, in-laws, and many others came out to visit, to play, hunt, fish, ride horses, and help with the rice harvests and assist the ranch hands, working the springtime cattle roundup at branding time. Anna cooked hearty meals for the rice field laborers and ranch hands, taking the food, hot and steaming, out to the harvest fields and cattle pens, wherever the men were working, serving the food cafeteria-style from the long tables or from the back of her truck or station wagon. Everyone lived the ranch life, and as a result, many birthdays, Christmases, Thankgivings, anniversaries, church parties, graduation parties, etc., were celebrated at the ranch, where the welcome mat was always out.

The duck hunters and fishermen came every season, and Adrian and the "boss man" were expected to bring them by to "drop-in" at the ranch kitchen for hot coffee and gingerbread, and sometimes a hot meal. Everyone loved Anna's cooking, and Anna got to meet all types of people, mostly men, from all over the country, as well as from overseas, visitors from India, South America, and elsewhere, who came to see how our rice and cattle are grown here. The Boyt Ranch is situated about thirteen miles south of Devers, but the busy life at the ranch headquarters did not interfere with her church work at Devers Methodist Church. She also worked with the school P. T. A. at the Devers School, and for many years, she supervised the voting polls during all elections. (Voting in all elections was also at the Devers School.) At church, she taught the Adult Bible Class in Sunday School for may years, and later took over the younger children's classes. She led the singing during church services, was Sunday School superintendent for a while, as well as Secretary of the Church Board for many years. At one time or another, she had indeed served her church in every way, fashion, and form.

Because of continuous effort at self-improvement, as well as her being an avid reader and one who kept up with the latest news releases of the news media, she was often asked to give her excellent book reviews at meetings of civic organizations, church groups, literary clubs, although ranch life never allowed her time to be a member of any of the clubs. However, she was often invited as a guest and many times gave wonderful devotionals or book reviews for a program. This remarkable woman could do most anything - like milking a cow, cooking and cleaning, washing and ironing, fixing a flat tire, driving a truck, tractor, or car over muddy roads, do fancy handwork, needlework, knitting, embroidering - and she could also preside like a QUEEN as hostess at a fancy party or pouring tea, never meeting a stranger, and all the while seemingly at ease under any circumstances.

With all the many years of her activities, she had a physical handicap to cope with (like St. Paul and his thorn), hers being chronic phlebitis, which gave her much trouble and pain at times, and she always had to be on the alert. But she never complained, and her associates were unaware of her condition, only her close friends and family knew.

One legacy she has left to posterity is a written account of her Dutch heritage and the emigration of her ancestors from Holland to Nederland. She has carefully recorded experiences, dates of birth, marriages, deaths, etc. The latter part of this manuscript gives a yearly account of the P-Cross farm and ranch activities in detail. Copies of this were presented to each of her sons and the original was placed in the "Dutch Heritage Windmill Museum" in Nederland, Texas, for the benefit of future generations.

There has never been any fan-fare or publicity about the activities of this remarkable person through the eighty-one years of her life, but there need not have been. Her scripture was---"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven."

Copyright 1998-2018 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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