A HISTORY OF THE JOHAN THEODORUS VAN OOSTROM FAMILY
By Mrs. Shirley Van Oostrom Chapman
My grandfather, Johan Theodorus Van Oostrom, was born the seventh of eight children, in Abcoude, Holland, on November 8, 1888. His parents owned a modest dairy farm in that small community or village. His first entrance to America was around 1905 at about the age of eighteen. Up until that time, he had worked on the family farm, but seeing no future there, he decided to head west across the ocean. Being so far down the totem pole of the family heirarchy, so to speak, he knew that the bulk of the farm would be given to his older siblings. He may have joined the Dutch army around 1906, for it is known that he visited the Dutch Guiana colony in South America while he was still a soldier. It is unclear whether he entered America after his military stint in South America, or whether he went home to The Netherlands first. At any rate, he still had to obtain permission to be released from military duties in order for him to come to America. It is likewise unclear whether he first arrived here via New York, Galveston, or where, which was about the year 1907. He worked as an itinerant farm hand, riding the railroad trains, following the harvests for a few years. He saved his money wisely, though, and may have returned to Holland around 1910. His family found him a sort of apprenticeship as a butcher in Amsterdam; however, he did this only for a short time, for he had heard of a wonderful Dutch settlement in Southeast Texas. He could have arrived in Nederland as early as 1905-1907, and he was certainly here by 1912; Grandpa was never good at remembering dates. He worked at many jobs when he first arrived---rice farming, butchering and selling meat from his wagon and market, as well as construction and building of houses. He also met the Pleiter family, who told him about a young neice in Holland who very much wanted to come to America.
My grandmother, Johanna Pleiter, was born in Wapenueld, Gelderland, The Netherlands, on February 22, 1900. She was the oldest of several children, who were born to a farming couple in a rural area. Being the oldest, she was aware that that meant the responsibility of rearing all of her younger siblings. She learned to sew and cook wonderful things, as she was given special training at a large "manor" house nearby. However, this was not the way she wanted to spend the rest of her life, and especially since World War I had put Western Europe in great turmoil. A large encampment of German soldiers spent a large part of World War I just down the road from her parents' home. Hence, she was anxious to come to America as soon as the war was over.
She obtained financial help to come to American from her uncle in Nederland, so she boarded a ship in 1920 and came alone to Nederland. She met my grandfather soon afterward, and they were married. My uncle, Johannes Geisbertus Van Oostrom, was born on November 27, 1921, and my father, Albert William Van Oostrom was born February 10, 1925. They were born in houses my grandfather built on what is now Twin City Highway, near the railroad tracks, between Highway 365 and Nederland Avenue.
My grandfather worked very hard in early-day Nederland, operating his buther shop, constructing homes, trading cattle, doing whatever was necessary to earn a livelihood, and saving his money diligently. He bought many acres of land in the Nederland-Port Neches area when land was very cheap, often no more than $50 or $100 per acre. He was a quiet, gentle man, who would give a stranger the shirt off his back. During the Depression, he was well-known for helping out those who needed help. During the early 1940s, he purchased quite a few acres of land on the north side of the railroad tracks in the Central Gardens area of Jefferson County, still very close, however, to his hometown of Nederland, and he built a large brick home there, as well as barns for his farm, and a large covered building for the lumber he used to build homes for others. During the 1940s-1950s, he operated the Van Oostrom Lumber Company from that point. He and his sons built small homes for others and ran the family farm there until his death at the age of 92 in 1981. It can truly be said that my grandfather, John Van Oostrom, was the last survivor of Nederland's original Dutch colony who came here from Holland before 1910.
My grandmother, Johanna Van Oostrom, was a delightful person to know. She was warm and friendly, and liked to entertain her granddaughters endlessly. She was a fantastic cook and a very talented seamstress. Her training at the manor house certainly came in handy. She was the "author" of the famous Dutch cookie recipe found in quite a few of Nederland's cook books. She travelled back to Holland in 1929, but she never saw her Dutch family again after that.
Her brother, Bernard Pleiter, came to Nederland during the 1950s, and he ran a thriving drapery business until the late 1960s. We called him Uncle "B" Pleiter, and he lived on the same road, about one block away, from John and Johanna's farm on Fourth Avenue in Central Gardens. He died in the 1970s while living in Holland, Michigan, where he had moved earlier.
My Uncle "Hanse" and my father, Albert Van Oostrom, may have been the sons of immigrants, but they certainly gave everything of themselves except their lives during World War II. Hanse received his degree in Pharmacology from the University of Texas in 1942, and immediately he went into the navy as a corpsman (medic). He saw duty in the Pacific sector, but once quipped that his more horrible moment of all was while he was riding out a typhoon near Japan in late 1945. He came back home and worked with his father and brother, building homes and maintaining the farm. Hanse had a heart of gold and loved good conversation of a historical or political nature. He could always spare a moment to play a game of hide-and-seek with his neices. He died in April of 1988, after suffering a long illness.
My father, Albert, retired from Union Oil of California refinery in Nederland in 1986, after having worked there as an operator for over thirty years. He has always found time to devote to the farm, and he enjoys raising Angus cattle. He too gave a lot of himself during World War II, having been shot down over Eastern Europe in 1944, and spending nine months in a German prisoner of war camp. He lost quite a lot of weight, but was otherwise unhurt by that experience. He came home from the war late in 1945, and met a young lady from Jennings, Louisiana, named Genevieve Montroy. They were married in 1946, and they had the first of their three children, Carolyn, in November, 1947. Shirley came along in 1952, and Mary Kay was born in 1957. Albert and Gene have resided for many years at their home at 1611 Detroit Avenue in Nederland.
My grandfather's sister, Theodora Cornelia Van Oostrom (Vanderweg) came to Nederland at an early day, probably 1905-1906. For a while, she lived with John and Johanna and later she married George Vanderweg. Her children include Betsy Ruysenaars and George Vanderweg, Jr., who died in 1988. She lived most of her life at her home at 803 Nederland Avenue, where she ran a dairy for many years. Her old home has been moved and now stands in the 200 block of South Ninth Street, where it is used as a day care nursery.
Email received 11/23/2002
Hello Mr Block
I`m Vera van Oostrom, and I have some information for you About Johannes Theodorus van Oostrom and Cornelia Wijnanda van Oostrom (in your story John Theodorus van Oostrom and Theodora Cornelia van Oostrom).
Gijsbertus van Oostrom, born on: 26 October 1837 Schonauwen, Province Utrecht, Married on: 9 January 1879 Abcoude-Baambrugge, Province: Utrecht, passed a way on: 27 December 1899 Abcoude-Proostdij, Province: Utrecht, son of Hermanus van Oostrom and Cornelia van Rossum.
Elisabeth Gerarda Peek, born on: 8 April 1951 Abcoude-Baambrugge, Province: Utrecht, Daugther of Arnoldus Peek and Gerritje de Rijk.
I have all the Dutch Born Documents of these People !!!!!!
About number 6 Cornelia Wijnanda van Oostrom
In 1886 the 18 th mouth December came Gijsbertus van Oostrom, 49 Years old, Dairyfarmer, lived Abcoude, to the County of Abcoude-Proostdij.
On 15 October 1886 at 11:30 pm in this county in the house Wijk B number 105 is Born a child a girl with the names CORNELIA WIJNANDA.
People sign: Jan Koekenbier, 66 Years old, Dairyfarmer, lived in Abcoude, and Maarten Vaars, 42 Years old.
About number 7 Johannes Theodorus van Oostrom
In 1887 the 10th mouth of November came Gijsbertus van Oostrom, 50 Years old, Dairyfarmer, lived in Abcoude, to County of Abcoude-Proostdij.
On 8 November 1887 at 4:30 am iin this county in the house Wijk B 106 is born a child a boy with the Names Johannes Theodorus van Oostrom.
People sign: Maarten Vaars, 43 Years old and Peterus Johannes Rentinck, 35 years old.
Number 1 is the Father of my Grandfather Gijsbertus Martinus Theodorus van Oostrom.
Vera van Oostrom