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The Letters of Arnold Verstegen

August 12, 1850 to July 13, 1880

with an introduction and notes by a priest, Rev. M. [or N.] J. Vanden Elsen, who translated them

Introduction:

Arnold Verstegen, with Anna Maria Biemans, his wife, and four small children, came to Little Chute, Wisconsin, in the year 1850. From that time until 1880 he kept up a correspondence with his father-in-law, Delis Biemans, of Erp, Holland. His letters were preserved these many years and were given to Rev. M. J. Vanden Elsen, O. Praem., [the translator of the letters and author of the notes] and by one of the grandsons of Biemans. If they have no great historical value, they at least present a picture of pioneer life in Wisconsin and are of special interest to the people of the Fox River Valley, where Nol Verstegen was a well-known person in the early days. Many of his descendants live there today. John Verstegen, his brother, was already established in Little Chute when Arnold came, and their aged father must also have come with either of them. Following is a liberal translation from the Holland language.

[Notes in brackets added by Jack Hartjes]

Letters of Arnold Verstegen

 

 

First Letter. Little Chute, August 12, 1850

Dear Father:

I should have written long ago, but my brother has kept me busy planting, seeding and working at his house which he is building, and besides I did not feel like writing. I was very much disappointed at first. The country appeared too wild--woods, woods, nothing but woods, and only a small clearing here and there with a ramshackle building upon it. And, worst of all, the crops looked bad because it had not rained all spring. I thought at first that I could never live in a country like this. I felt as though I wanted to go back home right away. My brother, however, laughed at me and said that he had experienced the same feeling when he arrived; I should have a little patience and I would soon get over my gloomy spell. He was right; everything is changed now. There has been a good rain, the crops are much improved, the country looks more friendly and I am in the mood to write a long letter.

You know that we left Rotterdam on the 25th of March. We sailed along, making good progress with the favorable winds until we reached the banks of New Foundland. There we encountered a mild storm and adverse winds, and our ship, which was an old one, was leaking so badly that we had to pump day and night. We finally arrived at New York on May 2. By steamer we went to Albany, and by train to Buffalo. From there to Green Bay there were two routes: the one by boat through the Great Lakes, and the other for some distance overland and then by boat through Lake Michigan. Most of our party took the former route, which is the longer, with Father Vanden Heuval. I chose the shorter way. At Milwaukee, Father Vanden Heuval went to see the Bishop while I, with my family, went on to Green Bay alone.

When we finally reached Green Bay, I left Anna and the children at the dock, comfortably seated on a bench, and went uptown to inquire which was the best way to go to Little Chute. It so happened that on that same day brother John was in Green Bay on business; and although he did not expect us for at least two weeks, when from a distance he saw a strange lady, dressed in Holland fashion, he was anxious to find out who she was, and walked up to meet her. You can imagine how they both were surprised, and how happy a meeting it was. Our anxieties and cares of the last several weeks were now at an end; we now had a leader for the rest of the journey, and that was a short one. The next day, June 9, we arrived at Little Chute, where Father Vanden Heuval had arrived the previous day.

I had expected that our coming to Little Chute would be an event of some importance, and that the Hollanders at least would be anxious to see us and to bid us welcome. Here again I was disappointed. The people were all excited about the expected visit of the Most Reverend Henni, Bishop of Milwaukee, and had no time to bother about anything else. The Church was being decorated and the women were housecleaning and getting their best clothes ready; they were baking and cooking as if the Bishop were surely going to eat dinner in every house.

Father Vanden Heuvel and H. Bongers had been sent to Green Bay to escort his Lordship to the town, and when the great day arrived, soon after sunrise, people began to congregate at the church, coming from every direction, and some from a great distance. At 7 o'clock the crowd became restless and brother John was dispatched on horseback to determine the cause for the delay. At 7:30 he came back, galloping at full speed and shouting, "I've seen them! They are coming!" A procession was formed, the priest and altar boys leading with the cross; and when we met the Bishop's carriage, we all knelt down and received his blessing. Then the procession returned to the church, the little girls strewing flowers from their baskets onto the road, and the church bell ringing. It was Our Lord entering Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

After a short visit at the church and in the priest's house, the Bishop offered Mass and was assisted by four priests, the Rev. Fathers Vanden Broek, Vanden Heuvel, Ferenacci (an Italian) and Bullock (an American). After Mass the Sacrament of Confirmation was administered and the Bishop gave a fatherly talk, which made a deep impression upon the children and the grown-up people as well. It was a great day for "NepoMuc" or "Little Chute."

Meanwhile our companions, from whom we had become separated in Buffalo had not arrived, and we were beginning to feel uneasy about them. Our apprehension grew especially when news reached us that a boat on the Lakes had a disastrous fire and had sunk with all on board. Our fears were dispelled, however, when they arrived on June 27th. We all went to Confession and Holy Communion, and Father Vanden Broek offered a Mass of Thanksgiving.

Father Vanden Broek has willed all his possessions to the church at Little Chute; it is his earnest wish that the church of which he is the first pastor shall always have a resident priest. He is in good health now, but in the event that something unforeseen should happen, Father Vanden Heuvel will be his administrator--until the Bishop appoints a new successor. He wants to build a larger church, twice the size of the present one, and asks us all to do our share. At first he had it in mind to build of stone, but finding the cost prohibitive, he has now decided to build of wood.

For the present we are staying with brother John, and are working together. John, who can talk with the Frenchmen and the Germans, as well as with the Hollanders, thought he would make use of his linguistic talents, and has gone into the store business. Our stock is rather small now, but our ambition is to have a general store some day. We are now settled down, right at home. Anna was sensible from the beginning, and I am ashamed of myself to have acted like such a baby.

Our little boy got sick in New York. On the journey we made him as comfortable as could be done under the circumstances, but he seemed to be getting weaker right along. We hoped that as soon as we had settled here, there would be a change for the better. Father Vanden Broek came to see him everyday and did everything he could to save the life of the child, but he said that there was little hope. He died on the 8th of July, and was buried on the next day; eight small boys carried him to his little grave.

There, father, you have all the news. We wish you and all of our friends good health, and God's blessing.

Your devoted son and daughter,

Arnoldus Verstegen and Anna Maria Verstegen


Second Letter - Little Chute, Wisconsin, December 26, 1851

Dear Parents (in law):

We received your letter dated February 19th, but since the questions did not press for an immediate answer, we waited until we were settled in our new house and can give you a description of the same. It isn't a rich man's castle, but has all the room and conveniences we want, and that ought to satisfy anybody. The ground plan is 32 by 24 feet. Both gable ends go straight up to the peak of the roof. Besides two small attic windows there are thirteen windows with twelve glass panes in each, size 12 by 10. So you see that all the rooms are well lighted. To air the rooms the windows can be raised, and they stay up without a prop put under them. A cord, a trolley and a weight are doing the trick, and everything is so well concealed that those who see the window stand up all by itself, and don't know the secret, are puzzled. It is a new American invention. The roof is covered with small boards, which they call shingles. We cut logs in lengths of about 16 inches, split them into slices about half an inch thick, shave them so they taper to one end, and nail them on the roof. Exposed to the weather they turn a grayish color, and in the course of time it looks like a genuine slate roof. Not many houses in Little Chute compare to ours; I wish you could come over and see it.

You like to know the progress we have made on our farm. This year we had 13 acres under cultivation, and everything we planted did fairly well; the potatoes here have the same disease or blythe as in Holland. But not quite so bad. The coming winter we will start clearing another five acre plot of land. It isn't heavily timbered but covered with small oaks, hazelnut and wolf apple trees and all kinds of brush wood; nearly everything can be cut out with a root axe.

Next we will build an American fence around it to keep cattle and pigs from rooting it up, because every farmer lets his animals roam where they please and feed themselves on whatever they can find. The American fence is a peculiar structure. We take good sized tree trunks, about 15 feet long - those that are too thick are split in four parts. We lay them down on the ground in a zig-zag line, crossing them at the ends, and keep on piling them up until they reach the required height. It is a good fence, and even the pigs cannot squeeze themselves through. The tops and branches and the brush wood will be piled in the field and burned.

I know what is now on your mind, father. You would like to know what is the idea of wasting good fire wood. You will be shocked when I tell you that here in Little Chute, since the first settlers came, hundreds of acres of dense primeval forests have been up in smoke, because there was no saw mill and no market for the lumber, and the land was needed for grain fields and pastures. Compare this with conditions in Holland. Around their fields you farmers plant hedges to serve the double purpose of fence and firewood. Every few years the hedges are thinned out; the sticks are cut up and tied in bundles to supply the family with fire wood. The poor people of the town are allowed to search for dead branches in the hedges, and that is their scanty source of fuel.

Even now wood here had little value; it is being used as material for paving roads instead of brick or stone. The highway which runs between our house and barn is being paved with planks over a distance of nine miles. We farmers think that the first heavy rain will scatter the planks all over the land, but we must wait and see first. The Americans like to experiment, and often their seemingly foolish exploits are surprisingly successful.

Take for instance the electric telegraph. A telegraph line is under construction, coming from Milwaukee and heading for Green Bay and passing a few rods from my house. First, they put up poles about 200 feet apart; then an iron wire is stretched from pole to pole, suspended on something that looks to me like a door knob and high enough so that a load of hay can pass under it. The construction boss claims that by means of electricity short messages can be sent over the wire and are received the same instant they are being dispatched, no matter what distance.

You asked me if the Kermess [an outdoor fair in the Low Countries, according to GuruNet] is celebrated in America and if we have any parties or amusements. In the winter the young people, and especially the French, have parties and dance to the music of the violin. In summer everyone is too busy, and meeting at the church on Sundays and exchanging news of the week is about our only passtime.

The only kermess celebrated all over America is the Fourth of July. This country was once a colony of England, but on the 4th of July, 1776, some patriotic citizens boldly signed a declaration of independence, telling the world that this country was free and had a right to govern itself. England, hating to lose the revenue of a rich colony used all her might to suppress the revolution. It was like Goliath fighting David, but David won, and England had to recognize the independence of the United States. The Fourth of July is therefore rightly called the birthday of the nation and is celebrated in the cities with parades and speeches and fireworks. Here in Little Chute there are not enough people to have a parade, or if we had one, there would be nobody left to see us march. The best we can do is to set fire in the evening to a big brush pile and light up the sky, and show the people in Appleton that we are just as patriotic as they are.

Father Vanden Broek is dead. On All Saints Day, when he was singing the High Mass, he was sruck with paralysis, and a week later funeral services were held with great solemnity. People came from everywhere to pay their last respects to the man who had brought them to this country and who as a kind father took an interest in everybody's welfare. Father Vanden Broek left all his property for the upkeep of the Church of Little Chute, of which he was the founder. If I am well-informed, he named the Crozier Fathers in his last will, and if they establish a community here, there will always be one or more priests, and our church will be as well-served as yours in Erp or Uden. Even now there is catechism and instruction every Saturday; the French children come in the morning and the Holland and German children at two o'clock in the afternoon. Adriana and Anna Maria know many answers of the catechism and can say their prayers well.

You asked me about our livestock; we have two horses, two cows, one calf, ten pigs, and eleven chickens. We butchered two oxen weighing a little over 700 pounds each; they had worked hard plowing in the spring, and that accounts for their light weight.

Arnoldus Dirks lives half a mile from here, and his family is doing well. My wife, Father, and brother John send you their best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year.

Yours respectfully,

Arnold Verstegen


Third Letter - Little Chute, June 16, 1852

Dear Parents:

Your letter of April 24, received here May 23, afforded us great pleasure. Not getting an answer sooner, we were afraid that perhaps our letter might have been lost. You tell us that Mother has been sick, but is now improving; we wish her a speedy and complete recovery.

While I was reading the rest of your letter, tears came to my eyes. You suggest that we take our inheritance at this time; and I read between the lines that you are under the impression that we are living here in great poverty and are too proud to ask for help. We are happy to hear that we still have a place in your heart, although undeserving of it, since we came to America against your advice. But, Father, we are not poor; we are rich! We have more and better food than we ever had in Holland; we live in a warm house and have good clothes; we have Mass in our church each Sunday, and the children go to school and catechism. The little patch of land which we have cleared is sufficient to supply all of our wants. No, Father, do not give your money away; rather keep control of yours as long as you live, and may that be for many more years.

If, however, you have some money lying idle in the house and wish to invest it, that is a different proposition. I need a few more horses and cows and have no money on hand with which to buy them. My credit is good, and I can borrow the money here, but not for less than 12%. Two hundred dollars is all the money I need, and I will promptly pay you 6%; in this way we both will make a profit.

The best way to send money is buy a money order from a bank in Rotterdam which has connections with a New York bank. They will give you three drafts if you ask for them; mail them to mee, one at a time, about a month apart; one out of three will always reach its destination. Store-keepers in Appleton are glad to give me cash for them. Instead of going to Rotterdam in person, you could ask Doctor Van Loo in Behegl to arrange that matter for you; his first wife was a sister-in-law of Mr. J. Wap, the banker in Rotterdam.

It has been two years now since we arrived here, and we are becoming accustomed to the country and its people; so I shall give you my impressions. The country is still in the making, and much of the improvement is of a makeshift character. The land, after clearing, is left full of tree stumps, which will be removed as soon as the roots have decayed enough so that they can be pulled out. But in the meantime we must plow between them the best we can, and everything grows without fertilizer. The buildings are mostly constructed of logs; there is no beauty about them; the roads are rough, and during the wet spell heavily loaded wagons have to keep off lest they sink into the mud up to the hub.

This is a free country, where only a few necessary and useful laws are made. Ordinances and restrictions which would benefit only a few and would be a burden to the people are generally and wisely avoided. And with few laws and few officers to enforce them, the people have respect for the law and like to see it enforced; as a whole the people cooperate with the officers, so that transgressions are few.

There are policemen in the cities, but we never see one; still we don't have to lock the house or the stable, or keep a vicious watchdog to frighten burglars away. You can leave a spade or any implement or tool in the field after using it, and it will still be thee whenever you go back to use it again.

Is there a Komeis (revenue collector) in Little Chute? Of course you think that no town should be without one, to watch everyone's every move, to prevent illegal butchering, brewing or baking, etc. No we have no Komeis, and that is another reason why I like this country.

There is no compulsory military service here. Every state in Europe maintains a large standing army because each country is afraid of its neighbors, and the quarrelsome nations of Europe are too far away to cause any serious concern. We have only a small army of volunteers, and no compulsory service.

There are no game laws; you can go fishing or hunting whenever ou please. There is plenty of game, big and small, in the woods; and the rivers are full of fish.

Do we pay taxes? Certainly we pay taxes, and enjoy doing it! I am paying taxes on 160 acres of land, and I am highly assessed because my land is of the best, yet I am only paying twelve dollars a year, and that includes school tax. My brother John has been elected tax collector, the highest paid office in town; he receives 5% of all the money taken in, and it will bring him a neat sum of $80 a year, but he must go from house to house to collect it.

Now, Father, you will understand why we love our new country, and you will not be surprised when I say that we have made up our minds to make it our home for the rest of our days, bringing the children to become American citizens. But to come over to Holland for a visit and spend a winter with you is what we are wishing and praying for. However, it will take at least two more years of hard work before the conditions of our farm will allow us that luxury.

Now for a bit of local news. The Fox River, a river as big as the Nuess, is shallow and fast flowing, because Lake Winnebago, its origin, is seventy-five feet higher than the Green Bay, into which it empties, and the distance is only forty miles. A plan has been adopted whereby the river can be made navigable. Dams are being built at several points to retard the flow and raise the water to a higher level, and locks will be installed at each dam to help the boats from one level to another. One of the locks will come right opposite my land. Water transportation will be a great boon to towns along the river. At this moment the work has been stopped on account of a dispute between the contractor, Mr. Martin, and the governor of the state. They say that it will come to a lawsuit, and that it may be some time before the work will be resumed.

Another public work, now in progress, is the paving of our main road with planks. They want to straighten out the road and run it through my land, which will necessitate the moving of my house. There is also a dispute between a certain road boss and one Mr. Verstegen, Governor of This Manor! They have not come to terms yet about the cost of moving the house and the price of the land. In the meantime they have skipped my land and are already two miles beyond it, grading the road and making a bedding for the planks. The planks have been laid for a distance of five miles, up to the house of Brother John, and that part of the road is open for traffic.

The price of produce is as follows: wheat, per bushel, 75 cents; rye, 60 cents; oats, 30 cents; beans, $1.60; peas, $1.00. Flour is $400 a barrel (200 pounds); salt pork, per pound, 10 cents; butter, 14 cents; coffee (not roasted) 14 cents; rice, 8 cents; and eggs, 12 cents per dozen.

Father is still with us. Adriana and Anna Maria are going to school to learn English and are beginning to speak it quite well and read it. J. Van Lieshout says that he will pay his share and you may go ahead.

With best wishes, respectfully, Your Children,

Arnoldus Verstegen

Anna Maria Verstegen (Biemens)


LETTERS OF ARNOLD VERSTEGEN

(There is an interval of five years between the last letter and the next one. In the letter written in 1852 anna Maria is said to be going to school; in the following letter, written five years later, she is said to be a baby, and has her picture taken sitting on her father's knee! This apparent contradiction is easily explainable. The bright little Anna Maria, who "knew her prayers well" in 51 and "could read and speak English quite well" in 52, was soon afterwards taken by an untimely death; and when the mother was still mourning the loss of her dear child, a baby girl was born and baptized Anna Maria in order that the name would survive in the family. In the same interval a baby boy arrived, and these pathetic and important events, together with other news items, were surely communicated to the parents in Holland, but the letters are missing.

The Verstegen family so far has had a full share of human tragedy; one or perhaps two children died in Holland before the family came to Little Chute, and two have died since. There are now four children living; Adriana about 16 years old, Johanna Catharina, 8; Anna Maria 3, and Johannes Egidius, one year old.

Rev. M. J. Vanden Elsen)

Fourth Letter - Little Chute, Wisconsin, August 30, 1857

Dear Parents:

Arnold Hurkmans, a friend and neighbor of ours, will be leaving here in a few days on a visit to Holland. We would like to go with him in person, but that being impossible, he will bring you our portraits. They have been made by a new progress [process], not painted by the slow brush of an artist, but by a clever device which does the work quick and neat, although the pictures are small. It must be a new American invention, because I never heard of it in Holland. There is a man here in Appleton who knows all about it and gets many customers because he is doing wonderful work. A few weeks ago I went there with Ma and the two youngest children, the ones who were born in America, Anna Maria and Egidius. The machine that performs the mysterious work is simple enough - just a square box that has a big glass eye in front. I was told to sit down a few feet away from the machine and hold the little girl on my knees. Next he told [us] to sit and to look pleasant and to try not to move. Then he removed the cover and let the magic eye look at us for a few seconds and that is all there was to it. Ma and the baby were next. A few days later we got the pictures and they were just wonderful. When I look at mine, I seem to be looking at myself in the looking glass. It is too bad that the children's faces didn't turn out so well; they are a little foggy.

Are we not living in a wonderful world? One marvelous invention looms up after another. It took us two months and a half to come to this country and that is only seven years ago, and now your letters reach us within a month.

The wild land we undertook to tame a few years ago has seen a great change. We have almost forty acres under cultivation, a nice herd of cattle, and can take life a little easier from now on. The harvest was better this year than any previous year. But Hurkmans will tell you all about that. He knows us and our circumstances. Just ask him and he will tell you everything. In Holland they think that visitors coming from America are fond of telling tall tales and that they like to make things look twice as good as they really are. However, Hurkmans is not that kind of a man; everything he says can be taken at its full value.

Hoping to receive an answer with Hurkmans, I am your obedient son.

Arnold Verstegen.

P.S. We recommend Hurkmans to your kind hospitality.


Fifth Letter - Little Chute, Wisconsin, October 28, 1858

Dear Parents:

We received your letter of October 20 of last year, but did not answer because A. Hurkmans was on his way to Holland with a letter from us and would bring all the news personally. In the meantime, there has been an increase in the family. On the 15th of September a baby boy arrived. His name is Hermannus. That brings the total again up to five, three girls and two boys. The baby is doing fine, but the mother suffers from cramps in her legs, although she is otherwise in good health.

Hurkmans tells us that you liked the pictures but that you would sooner have seen us in person. It has always been our plan to come to see you as soon as the conditions of our farm would allow us. But we overlooked one thing and that is the children. For no money in the world would Anna leave them to the care of a stranger. A few years from now it will be different; Adriana, who is a willing and handy worker and already does much of the housework will then be able to take the the place of her mother, and then you can expect us. We left Holland not because we disliked the country, but to give our children better opportunities. Here I will be able to put each one of them on a farm, something I would never have expectd to do in Holland. But if it is God's will, we hope to see Holland once more and walk the streets of Erp and Boekel and Uden and meet our old friends and have a happy family reunion.

Hurkmans tells us that he spent many hours with you, and that you were delighted to hear of the progress we have made on our farm. He told us, too, how he had to draw maps of Little Chute and point out the location of our house and of the house of John and of the church. I am sure you now have a pretty good picure in your mind of the entire town.

Late in the summer an unusual sight was noticed in the sky; it was a star with a tail. As weeks passed by, the tail grew longer and the head grew brighter, and it seemed to come nearer the earth. In the month of October it began to look so threatening that people began to fear that something was amiss and that the end of the world was coming. One Sunday our priest talked about it in church and said that it was a comet and that similar stars had been seen in the past and that it was a friendly wanderer of the universe, not intent upon any mischief, and that it would disappear noiselessly, just as it had arrived. The papers tell us that it was seen all over the world; you must have seen it in Holland too.

Father has been very sick this summer and hasn't been in the church for three months; he was anointed, and for a few days his condition was such that any moment he was expected to pass away. To the surprise of everyone, he recovered and is going to church again, although he is not as strong as he used to be. Next summer he will again be seen working in the garden and doing odd jobs around the house and taking the children for a walk.

Now a little about the weather. Thee was so much rain this spring that the work in the fields was much delayed. The horses would sink in the mud as deep as the land had been plowed before. It was July before all the seeding was done. Then a dry, hot spell came. Once the temperature registered 105 degrees; and the latter part of the summer was wet again.

Wheat is only 85 cents a bushel, so that farmers in some states, considering the low price and the poor quality of the grain, have set fire to the crops, not thinking it worthwhile to harvest them. I, myself, have two acres of wheat still standing in the field. It has plenty of straw but little grain, and even that is infested with smut.

The money you have sent I have put on interest. Home breeding has taken care of the increase of my stock, so that I need not buy any more. When I see a good piece of property, I will buy it.

I was told two years ago that Cornelia Vanden Elsen was married. Is it true that Uncle Cornelis of Boekel is also married? Give my regards to all relatives and friends.

Yours truly,

Arnold Verstegen


Sixth letter - Little chute, Wisconsin, January 2, 1860

Dear Parents, Brothers and Sisters-in-law:

Anna has been telling me right along that the new year was coming fast and that it was time to look for pen and ink and send our New Year's greeting to Holland, and I kept on saying that there was no hurry, for no other reason that I know of except that I dislike the mention of pen and ink; that puts the blame on me for their coming so late.

Accept our sincere wishes for a happy New Year's. So far God has been kind to you and given you a good share of the blessings of this life, and we pray that you may enjoy the same happiness for many years.

Your welcome letter of January 3, 1859, found us all in good health, except that Anna is still suffering from cramps in the legs; it is four years now since she began to complain, and now it is so bad that she has difficulty in walking; otherwise, she is in good health.

Wheat, rye and oats were fairly good last year, but most of the winter wheat has to be seeded over in the spring. Early in the month of July a severe frost did much damage to Turkish wheat, buckwheat and potatoes, and another killing frost the last days of August aggravated the damage done earlier in the season. That is the climate of Wisconsin -- impetuous -- extreme cold and long winters and short, hot summers; everything mus grow in four months' time; and it is surprising what a wealth of grain and fruits can grow in so short a period. Buckwheat seeded in the latter part of June is ready to be cut in the week of Boekel Kermess. All in all we did fairly well this year.

The prices of produce are as follows: wheat, $1; oats are 30 cents; potatoes are 50 cents per bushel; flour is $5 a barrel; butter, one shilling per pound. I have two fine work horses for sale and three milk cows; that would leave me seven horses and as many cows; but although grain brings a good price, livestock is cheap and I don't like to sell at the prevailing price. I think I have told you everything worth while mentioning, and we remain as ever, with respect and love, your son and daughter.

Arnold Verstegen and Anna Maria Biemans


Seventh Letter - Little Chute, Wisconsin, August 20, 1860

Dear Mother, Brothers and Sisters:

Your letter of May 30 brought us the sad news that father is dead. It was a shock to all of us, not only because it came so unexpectedly but also because we realize that all of us now suffer a great loss. Father was always so sympathetic and so anxious about our welfare, although we had left home like wayward children. He would write such beautiful and encouraging letters and was much interested in everything we were doing here and was always looking forward to the day that we should come over for a visit. We see that happy day never dawned for him; God willed it otherwise. We surely are remembering him in our prayers; I have a Mass offered for the repose of his soul on the 23rd of every month for one year. It will not be said this week because there is no priest here now but we are expecting one next Sunday.

You say that Mother would like us to come over now and not wait any longer, because she feels her days are too numbered and fears that we shall find an empty house if we keep on postponing our long promised visit. We have talked the matter over and discussed it from every angle. Anna cannot come for a new baby arrived the latter part of July (we named her Ardina) and besides she dreads a long journey because of the condition of her legs. She urges me to go alone and not wait for her any longer. Adriana is now a big and strong girl, a willing and handy house maid, well able to take care of the house and of the children; and brother John can always be depended upon if help or advice of any kind is needed.

It has been agreed upon that I go alone, and I intend to leave here about All Saints Day; in case something should happen to upset our plans, I will let you know. Don't send any money - we can arrange that matter upon my arrival.

The harvest this year is abundant; the wheat crop is heavy and is already in the barn; oats and other cereals too look very promising. This summer we had many thunderstorms and rain at the right time, and that, combined with warm weather always means a heavy crop. It would also mean long sessions on the threshing floor in the barn next winter, but I have solved that problem by the purchase of a threshing machine. You wonder how, but I have solved that problem with a machine which can be made to swing a flail and therefore I will explain to you how it works.

First, there is the power plant, which sands outside and looks like the coffee grinder which Anna brought from Holland; only a hundred times magnified. A team of horses hitched to a long pole, goes around it in a wide circle, turning a big wheel. By means of a long shaft the power is transmitted to a second maching which sands in the barn and does the actual work and which for size and outward appearance resembled the fanning mill which I had in Holland. The main feature of it is a big open mouth full of teeth. Some of the teeth are set in the roof of the mouth and are stationary; others are planted in the tongue, which in this case is a fast revolving drum. Sheaves of grain are fed into the mouth and the monster swallows them, greedily crunching them between its teeth. The chaff must still be winnowed out in the old way, but the threshing is done and no flails are used.

Threshing was always a tedious occupation on the farm; to stand there day after day and swing a flail with the regularity of the pendulum of a clock was monotonous drudgery, and now an American invention comes to the rescue. I paid close to $100 for the machine and consider it the best investment I ever made. With the help of a few assistants, I can thresh a hundred bushel of grain with it in a day. It is rumored here that soon there will be a machine that will cut hay and grain and when it comes I will not be the last one to discard the scythe and the sickle. Some of my neighbors say that they don't like the deafening noise of the machine and that the rhythmic beat of four or five flails handled by an expert crew is more musical and soothing to the nerves. Their objections don't seem to be very serious though for I hear that some of them have already taken steps to install the unmusical machine in their own barns.

But why am I taking up so much time writing all this? If it is God's will, I will spend the coming winter months with you in Erp, and we will have plenty of time to discuss these and other matters. Anna is very sorry that she cannot be with you at this time, Mother, and prays that God may give you strength to carry your heavy burden of sorrow. With greetings to all and hoping to find you all in good health I am your son and brother.

Arnold Verstegen


Eighth Letter - Little Chute, May 6, 1861

(He tells about a happy homecoming! The Civil War has broken out.)

Dear Mother, Brothers and Sisters:

You have been waiting a long time to hear from me, wondering if I would find my way back home again, and here I am to tell you that I found it and without much trouble. As you know I left Erp on Wednesday, March 13, and went only as far as Beghel that day; the next day to Den Bosch and Friday to Rotterdam. A boat took us across the English Channel and landed us in Hull, on Sunday. On Monday we left for Goole, where we boarded a fast train which speeded us all the way across England from East to West until we reached the seaport of Liverpool. On Wednesday, in a small boat we were taken to the big ocean liner which was waiting outside of the harbor. The sea was rough and we were shaken up prety badly and I was glad when I set my feet again on more solid ground, that is, on the deck of the big ship. After sailing for a day and a half we arrived on Friday, March 22, at daybreak, in Queenstown, Ireland, where we stopped for half a day and took 200 more passengers on board, which brought the total to 400.

From Queenstown we crossed the Atlantic to New York in a straight line. A steamer pays no attention to where the wind blows from and depends wholly on its faithful giant engine, which keeps on going day and night and never seems to get tired. Twelve days later, on Wednesday, April 3rd, we arrived in New York. Here I spent a couple of days sightseeing and again I stopped over at Buffalo for two days to see an American on some business, and on Saturday, April 13th, I was back home in Little Chute.

I was happy to be again surrounded by my family after an absence of almost half a year. We had so much to tell each other. Anna was much interested to know how her mother was feeling and how her brothers and sisters were getting along and how the home town looked. The children were never tired hearing me tell about the big buildings and busy streets and beautiful stores of New York. The news of my return soon spread all over the neighborhood and my house has been stampeded over since by Hollanders and Frenchmen alike. The latter just drop in to shake hands and tell me that they are glad to see me back home again; the Hollanders, however, are not so easy to get rid of. In Holland I visited their home towns and their relatives, and they have a hundred questions to ask and I have been talking until I am hoarse, and people begin to ask me where I caught a cold. In the house and in the stable everything is in good shape and the cattle were well taken care of during my long absence, which goes to show that no matter how important a person thinks himself to be he is after all only a figurehead.

There was much talk on the boat about a civil war threatenig the United States. In New York papers were bought eagerly; everybody wanted to know the latest developments; and on the train war was the only topic of conversation. The cause of it all is the Negro question. In the Southern states slavery is a legal institution; slaves are bought and sold and forced to do hard work for no pay, just as we do with horses. The North condemns slavery as an unjust and barbarous institution, and for many years the question has caused friction between the North and South. Of late years the South is showing impatience and threatens to withdraw from the Union and set up a government of its own. And that is what actually has happened now. Abraham Lincoln was elected president last November, and because his announced policies did not suit the South, several southern states held a convention, declared themselves free; and a man by the name of Jefferson Davis was declared president of the new republic. So you see the mess we are in now. President Lincoln has pledged himself to keep the union intact, and if it cannot be done in a conciliatory manner, war is sure to follow.

One of the passengers on the train had this to say on the situation. "I worked on summer as foreman on a plantation in Louisiana," he said. "The boss would come every day to see the Niggers work and his attendant would carry a chair for him so he could sit down in the shade whenever he felt tired. The attendant had to stand by and fan the boss and chase the flies away. When they moved to a new location and had to cross a mud puddle, the boss would climb on the Nigger's back to be ferried across so as not to dirty his shoes. Now that man was not old or sick but the average type of Southerner; and that's the type of soldier our tough boys of the North will meet in the battlefield. I predict a speedy and easy victory for our side and I know what I am talking about."

Nowadays we hear that hostilities have begun and that the South has fired the first shot and taken possession of Fort Sumter on April 14th, the day after I came home. Both sides are preparing for war on a big scale. President Lincoln calls for 75,000 volunteers, and many respond, attracted to the high wages. Eight dollars a month and 16 acres of land when the war will be over.

Prices are going up on account of the war; wheat is now $1.10 a bushel. We hope that the prophesy of the man on the train will come true.

There was much snow last winter, too much rain this spring. From all indications the crop will be bad and wheat will suffer much from smut, as often happens after too much rain.

Anna sends her love and best wishes to you, Mother, and to her brothers and sisters.

Arnold Verstegen


Ninth Letter - Little Chute, Wisconsin, June 1, 1862

Dear Mother, Brothers and Sisters:

We must bring you again some very sad news; Adriana, our eldest daughter, is dead. You know her well -- the nice little girl who was of school age before we left Holland and came often to see you, and you liked her sweet disposition. Here too she went to school a couple of years and learned so well that she talked and read English as if she had been American born. When she grew up, she was a favorite with everybody because she had such winning ways, not proud of herself nor selfish, but satisfied with the humblest place, just like her mother.

Now she was a grown-up lady, a stout and healthy-looking woman. She started young to help her mother with the housework, and the last couple of years she did practically all the work alone, until she got married two weeks before Lent, February 16th. We could hardly afford to lose her much needed help, but her companion, Arnold Hurkmans, was a nice young man, and they seemed well-matched; and it would have been unwise to interfere with plans concerning her own future happiness. On the wedding day there was much feasting and rejoicing and well wishing, in which nearly the whole Village of Little Chute took part.

Two weeks after her wedding Adriana took sick; on Ash Wednesday the doctor was called and found it to be a serious case of an infection of the liver. She grew steadily worse and wasted away so fast and so completely that her friends who came to see her toward the last said that she did not look any more like the Adriana they had known so well. As soon as she realized her condition was hopeless, she became reconciled to God's will and suffered patiently, asking only for our prayers. She died peaceably on Saturday, May the 24th.

Eighteen hours after Adriana had breathed her last, her mother gave birth to another girl. Mother had looked forward to that event, expecting to have Adriana at her bedside; Adriana was always happy when she could wait on her frail mother. Her ways were so gentle, and, as by instinct, she would always do and say the right thing; her presence alone gave her mother a feeling of safety and security and comfort.

And now preparations were being made for her funeral, which was to be held the next day. We felt real anxiety for Mother; but her trust in God and her calmness and patience in the most trying situations did not desert her this time; she is doing well now. The baby was baptized on the day of her sister's funeral, May the 26th, and was named Adriana, to honor the memory of our first Adriana, hoping that she will grow up to be as fine and virtuous a woman as her predecessor was. Of the four children which we brought from Holland, Johanna is the only one left; she is now thirteen years old. On our farm we have done well since we came here, but misfortunes in our family have been too many and too severe. But it is God's will and we must carry our cross no matter how heavy it is.

The war between the North and the South is still going on with great fury; the papers bring news every day of battles being fought, more soldiers being killed, more property being destroyed; and we don't seem to be making any headway. The end is not yet in sight. Only volunteers are being asked for, to raise an army of over 600,000 men.

With best wishes for you all, and asking you to remember Adriana in your prayers, I remain with love and respect.

Arnold Verstegen


Tenth letter - Little Chute, Wisconsin, June 19, 1862

(The railroad comes to the town. Little Chute comes near to having a real Holland windmill.)

Dear Mother, Brothers, and Sisters:

Only two weeks ago I wrote you about the death of Adriana and the arrival of a new baby girl. Now I am writing you again to let you know that mother has stood the ordeal well and that the baby too is doing fine. However, we still miss Adriana and I don't think we will ever forget her; but it is God's will and we must carry our cross with patience.

Now I want to tell you about the great works which are here in progress. The railroad is coming to Little Chute. Already for some time trains have been running as far as Fond du Lac and Oshkosh, and now the line is being extended through Appleton and Little Chute to Fort Howard and Green Bay. At first the road had been surveyed through my land, but now it will run between my two properties and will pass within 500 paces from my house and 300 paces from my land. A big crew of men is working with shovels and pickaxes and a scraper down by my horses, making a perfectly level roadbed. It is surprising that in these times of uncertainty funds can be found to finance so big an undertaking, and that with so many young men joining the army enough labor is available. But the work is progressing nicely, and we expect trains to be running soon. This will be a great boon for our part of the country; it will mean markets for our produce and merchandise for our stores; factories may locate here and Little Chute may become a big City. When we want to go to Appleton on business or for pleasure, the train will bring us there in less time than it now takes to hitch up a team of horses.

It is also rumored (and rumors of this kind are usually based on good authority) that the canal will be widened to one and a half its present size, to accommodate the big lake steamers, which cannot now pass through the locks. That also will give employment to many workmen, so that there will be jobs for everybody for a long time.

The other item that will interest you is that we are building a mill. Of course, you think of the windmill, which is a common sight all over Holland; you can look at one in Erp without leaving your house. That kind of mill is not known in America, although Little Chute once came very near having one. When I first came here the notion first came to my mind to build one. We farmers had to sell our wheat cheap and buy flour at a high price. A windmill would have solved that problem nicely, just as it does in Holland. I spoke to my neighbors about it and they all encouraged me; the sight of it alone, they said, would be worth a good deal and would cure the homesickness of newcomers. Brother John, however, ridiculed the idea and wouldn't listen to my arguments. "Don't you remember," he said, "that our miller in Erp often was seen sitting in the doorway of the mill scratching his head, watching the weather, when stacks of grain were piling up waiting to go through the grindstones, and that the wings of the mill with all sails spread stood motionless, as if paralyzed, becase there wasn't the slightest breeze to turn them around? Why don't you put a waterwheel here in the river? The river never stops flowing; and the water that goes over the dam here in Little Chute has more power than all the windmills in the whole of North Brabant combined." From then on we started figuring and planning, negotiating, with the results that today the foundations for a mill to be driven by water power are finished. We cut through five feet of limestone on the bank of the river to make room for the installation of up-to-date machinery, enough stone has been excavated to build the foundation walls, the lumber for the superstructure is on hand, and it won't be long before we will be ready for business. We call it the Zeeland Mill, after our home town. Little Chute has now a railroad, a canal, and a factory. Watch her grow from now on.

The newspapers every day are filled with accounts from the battlefields. If I wanted to repeat all that, I would run out of paper before I had half done; I am sure that our papers carry the news too. Everybody here would like to have it over with.

The crops are generally good; the winter wheat is excellent. Best regards from Anna, and greetings to all relatives and friends.

Yours very truly,

Arnold Verstegen


Eleventh letter - Little Chute, Wisconsin, December 1863

Dear Mother:

I am bringing you bad news, Mother, but it must be told. Anna, your daughter, is dead; but don't weep; she was a saint, a martyr, she is in heaven. For the last seven and a half years she suffered from cramps in the legs; she didn't make much of it, and always said that it didn't matter at all and that it only slowed her up in her work; but now we think that she kept her troubles to herself and did not want us to worry about it. After the death of Adriana, however, she could no longer conceal it that she was really suffering; and the last four days poor Anna was in terrible agony; it was the pain alone and no other sickness that caused her death. She died December the 16th, and was buried on the 21st.

Anna was all for her family, forgetting herself; as long as the children were well she was happy, no matter how she felt herself. She loved to be with them even if they were noisy; only when their mischief would carry them too far would she gently reprimand them. When they were sick she was at their bedside day and night; and it has happened too often that in spite of her tender care and her fervent prayers her patient would get paler and weaker, as days and weeks went on, and would finally close their eyes never to open them again. Then she would be tears for several days, but finally persuaded herself that her child was an angel in heaven and to be envied rather than to be pitied. And after she had seen four of her little children carried to the grave, one more sacrifice had to be made; it was the turn of Adriana, the strong and cheerful one, whose greatest pleasure it was to wait on her frail mother and to relieve her of the burdens of the household. Again she brought that offer[ing] heroically, but her strength from then on began to fail, and she realized that now too her days were numbered and began to prepare herself for a happy death. And now in heaven she has joined the company of those who were so dear to her here on earth.

Five children have been made orphans; the oldest 14, and the youngest a little over a year old. I will do the best for them I can, but a father cannot fill the place of a mother, for certainly not of a saintly mother as Anna Maria Biemans was.

It looks now as if those who are gone are to be envied rather than the living; what prospect is there for the generation that is growing up in a land torn by the horrors of war? It is now the third year that we hear of nothing but slaughter and destruction. It is true that the conflict is still far away and that lately our side has won great victories, but volunteers no longer come in sufficient numbers and the draft had to be resorted to. The provost marshal of the district has ordered a census to be taken in Little Chute of all the male population, and twice a lottery has been held; some are exempt because they are supporters of a family, others have bought themselves free for $300, and quite a few are gone to serve in the army.

The railroad is now completed as far as Green Bay, and trains are passing regularly every day, and the line is being extended as far as Lake Superior, a distance of about 160 miles.

Our mill is now running and we are doing fairly well for a beginning, and the prospects for the future are good. On account of the war the price of labor is high; I am paying $18 a month to a son of J. Van Haandel, and his brother working in a lumber camp earns $26. The price of everything has gone up; we get more for what we sell and pay more for what we buy, so that in the end we do break even.

The harvest was fairly good; some are complaining, but most of us are well satisfied. Grains that were seeded late have not done so well. Winter wheat is $1.00 a bushel, spring wheat is $1.10, butter 18 to 23 cents, fat beef 5 cents, and pork 6 cents a pound.

It seems to me that I have covered every subject. If anybody is interested in a certain matter that I failed to mention, let me know about it and I will be glad to answer his questions.

Greetings to all brothers and sisters-in-law, also to uncles and aunts living in Boekel. Tell Peter Teunis that his sister sends him her best wishes. Remember Anna in your prayers, and in conclusion I wish you all a happy New Year and hope to meet you in heaven.

Yours very truly,

Arnold Verstegen


(Soon after the conclusion of the Civil War in April, 1865, Arnold made another trip to Holland, seemingly for the purpose of finding a new mother for his orphaned children. Fearing that a second marriage would displease the relatives of his first wife, he went about his business with great secrecy, and succeeded so well that he was already embarked for the return trip with his new wife, a young lady by the name of Catherine Vanderaa, before his relatives in Holland knew what had happened. The following letter explains why for seven years the correspondence had been interrupted. - Rev. N. J. Vanden Elsen)

Twelfth letter - Little Chute, Wisconsin, November 17, 1870

Dear Brothers and Sisters-in-law:

For a long time I have been anxiously waiting for an answer to my last letter. I began to think that you were all displeased with my second marriage and that my letters were no longer welcome and I should[n't] bother you anymore. Now Martin Derks comes and brings me your best regards and tells me that you have been waiting for a letter from me for ever so long. Evidently the letter I wrote last year got lost, and all my suspicious have been unfounded. On my part I can assure you that you are still as close to my heart as ever, and that Anna will be remembered as long as we live.

It is true I am married again; shortly before I left Holland I was married to a wonderful woman in secret. I know how people like to talk; and I didn't want to see them point the finger at me and to hear them whisper behind my back and leave Erp with unpleasant memories of my visit. I should have let you in on the secret, however, but I didn't have the courage, not knowing how you would take it.

What some have criticized me for has been done with the best intentions. I was left with five small children, the oldest one fourteen, the youngest a year and a half old. Someone was needed to take care of them and to manage the household. Of course, a step-mother cannot make her love with the same affection for the chldren that are not her own that a real mother has, but in my case I thought it was the best solution. And that my wife is of a poor family should not make her less eligible; she has fine qualities of mind and character, and that is in my estimation worth more than money; she has proved to be a real mother for her adopted children. When we arrived in Little Chute we received a hearty welcome and congratulations from the priest as well as from our old friends. Three children have been born since; one of them died.

I have lived in this country now for twenty years, and the progress that I have sen in that short time is like a dream. Our Little Chute was then a hamlet with one store, where only the most necessary household articles could be obtained. The news from the outside world was weeks old before it would reach us. Traveling any distance was slow and hazardous. Now passengers arrive here in the afternoon who in the morning were still in Chicago. Daily papers gather news by telegraph from distant parts of the country, and it reaches the readers when it is still fresh. The hamlets of the "fifties" have become cities with factories and fine churches and schools and beautiful stores and office buildings. When I first came here I felt as if I was fated to lead the life of a hermit the rest of my living days, and now I am surrounded with more luxuries than I have ever seen before.

The Catholic Church too has made great progress. When the Most Reverend Henni came to Milwaukee as the first bishop of Wisconsin and the northern part of Michigan, he had only four priests to administer the spiritual needs to the small number of Catholics scattered all over. Now this large territory has ben divided into four dioceses: Milwaukee, La Crosse, Green Bay, and Sault Ste. Marie. The diocese of Green Bay alone has forty priests in charge of flourishing congregations and needs more priests. Father Deems, a Crozier Father from Uden, the Vicar General of the diocese and a good friend of mine, often speaks of the scarcity of priests and says that ten or twelve priests could be placed immediately in charge of congregations with more than a thousand souls. If you know of any priests or theologians willing to come to this country, tell them to write to me and I will forward the letter to Father Deems. If they [need] money to continue their studies or to make the journey, let me know about it, and that matter will be taken care of.

The Little Chute congregation too has prospered and increased in numbers. For a year now we are using our new church, which is a brick building 111 feet long, 50 feet wide and the walls are 35 feet high; masons are still working on the tower.

Last summer my brother John died, who was a great friend of our famly and to whom we are indebted for much of what we have. If John had not arrived here first -- he took the whole family in his house and helped us in every way he could -- we probably would not be here. His wife received most, the bulk, of his estate, and in his last will he bequeathed his share of the mill to me. Shortly before he died, he had given $200.00, and other donar of $150.00 [?] for the purchase of a new church bell, and it was tolled the first time at his funeral.

I am now the sole owner of the mill, which represents an investment of $16,000. I bought last year a 33-acre piece of land for $1000, and have now 180 acres in all. Land opposite my house has been sold for $100 an acre.

I had a portrait of Adriana reproduced to give one to each of my children. If you are still in possession of the portrait of Anna, will you please send it to me and I will have it also enlarged and reproduced for the children and have an exra copy for you.

My nephew, Johannes Verstegen, is pastor of the Church of Freedom, where he is well-liked and doing good work; my daughter Johanna Cathrine is keeping house for him. My wife and the children send you their best wishes. Yours with love and respect.

Arnold Verstegen


Thirteenth letter - Little Chute, Wisconsin, October 20, 1871

Dear Brother and Sisters-in-law:

(Enclosed with this letter was a copy of a supplement to the Appleton Crescent, dated October 14, 1871; a reprint of the Green Bay Advocate of October 12th. It gives a detailed description of the big fire.)

I suppose the newspapers in Holland have told you all about the terrible forest fires which have raged in Wisconsin, and you have thought of us wondering if we were still alive. I hasten therefore to let you know that we are all well, but we have heard and seen enough of a terrible catastrophe. In the first weeks of October the air was so saturated with smoke that it pained the eyes, and at night a reddish glow hung in the sky and struck fear in the heart of everyone. It looked as if the world all around us was on fire and it was closing in on us, leaving no escape. All we could do was pray and hope that God in His Mercy would spare us. There is much land cleared around Little Chute and the remaining woods stand like islands in a sea, so that the fire could not leap across the intervening space or was at least much retarded. A heavy rain coming at the opportune time quenched the fire before it had reached us, and that saved Little Chute.

For you in Holland it is difficult to form an idea of the woods in America. The only forests you have are patches of stunted trees, planted in a soil too poor to use for anything else.

Here the forests cover hundreds of square miles of rich soil and the climate is favorable, so that trees of many varieties grow to immense sizes. From the time of Adam they have never felt the woodman's axe; when they die of old age and the decayed roots can no longer support them, they crash to the ground and become the food for a new generation which grows upon them.

Now it happened that we had a long dry spell this summer and that the dead trunks and branches scattered in great profusion throughout the woods became very inflammable, and when once they caught fire by some accident, it spread very rapidly and, fanned by a strong wind, it leaped to the tops of the trees, devouring everything in its path. Thousands of acres of beautiful forests became a sea of roaring flames and are now a scene of desolation. It had taken nature a thousand years to build a beautiful paradise, and now, through the carelessness of perhaps one human being, it has become a black and charred waste.

As I said our many clearings saved us, but 60 miles north of here, where the woods are more contiguous, the town of Pestigo [Peshtigo], with a population of 1200 inhabitants has been completely wiped out, except that one boarding house remains standing. On October 8th at ten o'clock in the evening a fiery cloud rolled over the town like a hurricane, setting every building on fire almost at once, and in four hours' time there was nothing left but smoldering ruins. Three hundred people died in the flames and many more have died since of wounds. Those who managed to reach the river saved themselves by standing in the water up to their necks and ducking under water every so often to keep their hair from burning. Burning logs were floating on the surface and added to the danger. I talked to some of those who had harrowing experiences. Johannes Van Rysen of Uden is said to be one of the victims. We must be thankful to God for our personal good fortune, and as the recent conflagration has removed a great fire hazard, a similar catastrophe will never happen again.

On the same day Oct. 8th, the big city of Chicago of 250,000 people also had a disastrous fire. It had no connection with the forest fires of Wisconsin; that it occurred at the same time was just a coincidence. I happened to be in Appleton the next day, Monday, where telegraphic accounts came in of the disaster all day long. In the evening it was reported that 2000 acres covered with residential and business houses had been laid waste by the fire and many lives were lost. Chicago is a big and beautiful city and has many large buildings; some are said to have cost a million dollars and their contents were worth an equal sum. Their fireproof construction did not save them, because the heat was so intense that the iron pillars which supported them melted as if they had been wax candles, at least that is the story.

The dry season that started the fires has also damaged the crops; the wheat is poor and the other crops are only fair. Hay was good but many haystacks have burned. As to my occupation, I spend most of my time in the mill supervising the work; I have worked hard enough in my younger days and I think I am entitled to take it a little easier now. My oldest son, Egidius, is also working in the mill and learning the trade. Please let me hear from you soon and forget it that my wife's relatives are poor. For my children it is better to have a kindly stepmother than a rich and a hard one, but let us not mention that subject anymore. Kind regards and best wishes to all brothers and sisters-in-law, and to all relatives and friends, with love and respect.

A. Verstegen

P. S.

I had this letter ready for the mail and now I have a chance to send it with Janus Vanden Boom, who will deliver it in person and tell you all about the big fire and everything else. My brother's wife and I are not on friendly terms just now. It has been caused by the last will and testament of my brother, who bequeathed his share in the mill to me and my descendants.


Fourteenth letter - Little Chute, Wisconsin, July 13, 1880

Dear Brother and Sisters-in-law:

Your letter of June 26th was received July 12, and I was glad to hear it that you are all well. It is several years now since we have corresponded; the last news came from the son of Jan Biemans of Erp, and your letter was an agreeable surprise to us all. It is always a pleasure to us all to hear from the family, and I will be glad to write at least once a year and if you ask me any questions I will know better what to write about.

In regard to my family, I can say that everybody is in good health and enjoying life. Ten of my children are living -- five of the first and five of the second marriage. Of the first Marriage are the following:

Johanna Catharina, 31 years old, born in Holland. She is married to Martin Coenen, Zeeland; they have six children. The second is Anna Maria, 26 years old, married to Jan Hooymans, a Gulderlander; they have five children. Both of the above mentioned live on farms. The third is Johannes Egidius, 24 years old, whose intended marriage has been announced in the church and the wedding will take place next Thursday. His bride is a German but she seems to be a good girl. I invite you hereby to come to the wedding. Three hundred more guests are expected. The fourth is Hermannus, 22 years old; the fifth is Adriana, who was born the day after her older sister Adriana died and is 18 years old.

Of the second marriage are the following: Frans 11 years; Aridina [Ariadna] 9, Petronella 7, Arnoldus 3, and Joseph 2 years old. That is enough about the family; now for a little about our country----------------------

(The rest of the letter is missing and this is the last one of the series. Arnold Verstegen was one of the tens of thousands of immigrants who came to this country from all parts of Europe. They were sturdy people, honest and religious, and who by their untiring and persevering labors have turned a wilderness into a beautiful country, in which it is a pleasure to live. Their mortal remains are now resting in the old cemeteries; the wooden crosses which marked their graves have disappeared long ago and the present generation, which owes so much to them, hardly remembers the names of its worthy ancestors. May their reward be great in Heaven -

Reverend N. J. Vanden Elsen.)