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Dutch Immigrant Murderers Go to the Gallows

Robert P. Swierenga

Paper presented to biennial conference of the Association for the Advancement of Dutch American Studies (AADAS), meeting at Redeemer University, Ancaster, Ontario, Canada, June 2009. Published in revised form in Across Borders: Dutch Migration to North America and Australia, eds. Jacob E. Nyenhuis, Suzanne Sinke, Robert P. Swierenga (Holland, MI: Van Raalte Press).

Dutch Americans like to think that other ethnics, e.g., the Italian Mafioso in Chicago, commit serious crimes, but not them. They believe that the police seldom have trouble with church-going Hollanders, because pastors and teachers had drummed into them the duty to respect parents, police, and all those in authority. The editor of Onze Toekomst [Our Future], the Chicago Dutch-language newspaper that served the Midwest, boasted in 1908 of the low Dutch crime rate. “No other race has done so much for law and order than the example of the Hollanders… There are fewer criminals than those of any other race.” Of the 20,000 Dutch Americans in Chicago at that time, the editor observed, “not more than ten ever came in contact with the police.” Of the three hundred prisoners in the Joliet State Penitentiary in 1911, only one was Dutch. According to Chicago Police Department crime statistics, 1915-1924, the Dutch per-capita felony rate was the lowest of the twenty-one major ethnic groups in the city. The hard evidence, at least after 1900, seems to support the prideful boast of the newspaper editor.[1]

Netherlands historian Jacob Van Hinte inquired into crime rates among his American compatriots during his field research in 1921. In his book, Netherlanders in America, Van Hinte reported his “impression” that “our people are generally known as ‘law-abiding.’” The Netherlander did allow, however, that his kin sometimes were guilty of breaking liquor and traffic laws. The act of murder, however, never crossed his mind. It should have.[2]

While reading back issues of two Dutch-language dailies in Holland, Michigan, De Grondwet and De Hollander, I came across accounts of three Dutch immigrants convicted and executed for the crime of murder between the years 1879 and 1889. The evil deeds took place in Illinois, Indiana, and New Jersey. Johannes De Boer, a teenage, brutally attacked another teen and left her dying in a cornfield near Pontiac. Teunis Labee, a divorcee and father, who immigrated to Paterson from Rotterdam, killed his estranged second wife in a fit of anger. Wiebe Wartena, a husband and father of three from Friesland, had first settled in the Chicago suburb of Roseland, and then moved to De Motte, Indiana, where he shot his German neighbor to death. In each case, county judges or juries found the defendant guilty and he went to the gallows after losing appeals to governors for clemency.[3]

Johannes De Boer

Johannes (Hannes, Hans) De Boer came to Illinois in 1866 as the six-year son of Binne De Boer, his mother, and four siblings. The family emigrated from Leens, province of Groningen, and settled in Minonk (Woodford County), Illinois, a small town near Peoria some ninety miles southwest of Chicago.[4] Binne opened a bakery shop and worshiped at a local church of unknown denomination. At age sixteen, in 1877, De Boer was apprenticed to a Minonk blacksmith named Pickard, for whom he worked until his crime. The De Boer family was “poor and friendless,” according to the local newspaper.[5]

On a Sunday afternoon in late October 1879, the nineteen-year-old Hans abducted seventeen-year-old Ella Martin about a mile from Minonk while she was walking home from church along the Illinois Central Railroad tracks. He made an “indecent proposal,” and when she began to scream, he beat and strangled her, slit her throat, and then left her for dead in a nearby cornfield. The victim was the only daughter of stockbroker J.D. Martin and his wife; the couple has four sons. The next day Ella’s brother found her barely alive, but able to name her attacker. The Woodford County sheriff arrested De Boer and brought him to Ella for a positive identification moments before she died. Ella knew Hans from her frequent visits to the home of the blacksmith.[6]

When word of her death spread in the community, a lynch mob started for the local jail, but the sheriff had already moved the prisoner to Pontiac in Livingston County for safekeeping. When De Boer was brought back briefly for arraignment by a grand jury, the victim’s father restrained the mob. He wanted justice, not revenge. The jury brought a charge of murder.[7]

When De Boer stood trial before circuit judge Franklin Blades in the Pontiac Courthouse, Illinois Governor Shelby Cullom ordered a detachment of the local state militia to guard the prisoner. The soldiers with loaded muskets and fixed bayonets flanking the prisoner gave the trial the appearance of a court martial. De Boer’s parents and two sisters also sat in the packed courtroom, which was the first time they had seen him since his arrest three months earlier. In court, Hans, described as looking “sullen and morose,” with his head hung down, readily confessed to the “vulgar killing.” The prosecutor asked for the gallows, but De Boer’s attorney pled for the prisoner’s life by arguing that during the last few years the accused “had frequently given proof of insanity.” Neither the melodrama nor the defense tactic swayed the judge, who a few days later pronounced the penalty, death by hanging in three weeks. At this, De Boer broke down and “wept like a child.” Try as he might, the judge could find no “mitigating circumstances” to warrant a lesser punishment. The judge did move the hanging back a month to give the defense time to appeal the verdict.[8]

Otto J. Doesburg, editor of De Hollander of Holland, Michigan, devoted a single story to the crime and opined that De Boer was “probably the first Dutch person to receive the death penalty in this country.” Doesburg made the story into a “teachable moment.” Let the young man’s fate be a lesson to all young people, he declared: “Ponder this sad news. If you start behaving rebelliously and immorally, you might end up in jail—or worse, suffer the death penalty. Be warned and make sure you keep safe!”[9]

De Boer’s attorneys in late February presented their appeal to the State Supreme Court in Ottawa, claiming several “fatal errors” by the judge. Within two weeks, the court announced that it rejected the appeal. The attorneys and family members then penned letters to Governor Cullom, pleading with him to commute the sentence to life imprisonment. But the governor “could not be moved.” He insisted that the trial was lawful and the verdict just; “Johannes De Boer deserves his punishment, he should die.”

In his last weeks, De Boer began to pray, read a German Bible, and attend jail worship services. Finally, the Pontiac Sentinel could report that the condemned was "broken in spirit." In a "Dying Statement" penned to his "father confessor," the Rev. C.H.G. Schliepsick of Cayuga, Ill., De Boer allowed that Satan had been "first in my heart." But prayer and confession had given "consolation in my soul" and the assurance that "my bad crime and all my sins would be forgiven by the blood-shedding of Jesus Christ."[10]

On 17 March 1880, De Boer went to the gallows in front of fifty eyewitnesses, with a large crowd gathered outside the jail. It was the first such execution in Livingston County and the Sentinal devoted its entire front page to the affair under the headline “Murderer’s Doom,” with the subheading: “The Crime, the Sentence, the Execution, and the Last Words of De Boer.” Readers wanted every titillating detail. “He had to die a shameful death because of his crime,” Doesburg concluded. Woodford County citizens raised $500 for a marble monument in memory of Ella Martin. The fourteen-feet high shaft was topped by a three-feet female figure.[11]

Wiebe Wartena

The second murderer was Wiebe Abes Wartena (1844-86), who at age 39 emigrated from Friesland in the spring of 1883 with his wife and five children, ranging in age from a newborn to teenagers.[12] The family settled in Pullman, Illinois, near Chicago, where Wiebe found work on a truck farm and as a laborer in a factory, likely the Pullman Palace Car Company. The family joined the First Reformed Church of Roseland, under the Rev. Balster Van Es. A year later, in the spring of 1884, the Wartenas “in deep poverty” moved to a rising farm colony for Roselanders in Keener Township near De Motte, Indiana, a few miles north of the Kankakee River. Here within six months Wartena murdered a German neighbor.

Isaac Verwey, editor of De Grondwet, followed the case with intense interest, believing it “a very rare occasion that a Hollander is declared guilty in this land of the crime of murder.” Hence, the paper reported extensively on the judicial proceedings over the next two years. Wartena, according to reports, was “disinterested in working, but a lover of hunting and fishing.” He was a ne’er-do-well. A neighbor, John Dreger, a young German who lived alone, took pity on the indigent Dutch family and befriended them, even bringing fresh milk for the children. Dreger, a very generous man, “had not an enemy in the world.” Wartena repaid him bad for good, and killed him in order to plunder his possessions and escape from poverty.[13]

The deed was premeditated. On 8 October 1884, the Dutchman enticed the German to go fishing in the Kankakee River, and Dreger drove the two to the river with his own team and a borrowed wagon. After reaching a secluded spot on the bank, Wartena bludgeoned Dreger to death with the butt of a pistol. He had intended to shoot him, but feared some neighbor might hear it. Wartena tied two old iron pumps to the corpse and used the horses to drag it into the river. The murderer than went to Dreger’s farm and took everything—horses, cows, and other animals, household goods, and clothing, even his best suit. The schemer tried to cover his tracks by concocting an elaborate tale. He stated that he had purchased Dreger’s property for $375 and given him a bank note for $400, which Dreger had gone to Chicago to exchange and get $25 in cash for Wartena.

The story sold well for several weeks, until another fisherman found Dreger’s body floating in the river. The iron weights had not been enough to keep the bloated corpse submerged. Following the coroner’s inquest, the Jasper County Sheriff, Samuel Yoeman, arrested Wartena in early November 1884, and in January 1885 a county grand jury indicted him after he confessed, with countryman Wincey Punter of Keener Township serving as an interpreter. The defendant’s wife, with an infant on her hip, sat nearby. When Wartena stood before Judge Ward the next week, he “threw himself on the mercy of the court.” The judge, who personally opposed capital punishment, nevertheless, condemned Wartena to die by hanging on May 15 of that year. P.F. Veldman of Keener Township joined Punter as an interpreter. On hearing his grim sentence, Wartena slumped in his chair, “overcome with agony, and wept bitterly and long.’ The conviction landed his desperately poor wife and three youngest children in the county poor house. The Dutch Reformed community in Keener Township voiced their approval in the verdict.[14]

When Rev. Van Es learned of Wartena’s crime and punishment, he and elder Klaas Madderom went to visit their pitiful parishioner in the county jail in Rensselaer. They also enlisted Rev. Wietze Lubach of the Lansing (Ill.) RCA church. Said Van Es: “When we learned all this, we experienced feelings of deep compassion for the poor man, who would be so close to his eternal destiny.” The date of execution was less than one month away, and Van Es, who did not approve of capital punishment in the first place, determined that the Dutchman had not received adequate legal counsel. The condemned had almost no comprehension of the English language, let alone American legalese, and no one in the Rensselaer legal community could speak Dutch. Moreover, the Dutchman was illiterate and mentally deficient. How could he receive a fair trial? The Dutch dominie immediately set out to appeal the verdict, and barring that, to induce the governor to commute the sentence to life in prison. The appeal bore fruit, and the court of appeals ordered a new trial by jury.

While Van Es worked the legal system on Wartena’s behalf, he and Madderom gave priority to the state of his soul. Placing his hand on the prisoner’s shoulder, Van Es spoke gently: “Wiebe Warner [only later was the name corrected], here are three people, also poor sinners, who have a heartfelt desire to discuss this matter. We have spared no effort or expense in order to bring you the good news that you can receive a pardon from the judge of heaven and earth.” He then explained the way of salvation with the “most possible simplicity” and read several Scripture passages. Wartena broke down in tears, and seemed genuinely remorseful for the first time. Even the sheriff, a devout Christian, was touched. On the afternoon of that same April day, the pair returned to the jail with two American clerics and again prayed with the prisoner, before going back to Chicago.[15]

Wartena’s second trial before a citizens’ jury in November 1885 took four days and local papers provided detailed reports of “the most important legal procedure that has ever taken place” in the county. Circuit Court Judge Ward subpoenaed fifty prospective jurors, of whom the prosecution and defense agreed on twelve, all farmers, to try the case. This time the Hollander had a court-appointed lawyer, who did not dispute the facts in the case or the Dutchman’s confession of guilt. Instead, he pled insanity, but to no avail. The public defender even put Wartena’s wife on the stand and she testified that two of Wiebe’s sisters were insane and so was he; he “often talked to himself, and said strange things, for example, that he was going to dig a hole in the ground and live there with his family.” But the jailer and two local physicians who had visited the prisoner testified to his sanity.

The jury agreed with the prosecution, and after twenty-four hours of deliberations, came in with a verdict of murder in the first degree. A month later, the judge sentenced Wartena to death, and set February 26, 1886 as the date of execution. To ensure that Wartena understood the verdict, the judge had Peter Dykstra, a Netherlander living in Goodland, to serve as interpreter. When the murderer heard in his own tongue that the penalty was death by hanging, he “fell as if he were dead” and lay unconscious on the floor for more than an hour.[16]

Editor Verwey would not allow his readers to celebrate the holidays without thinking of Wiebe Wartena sitting in his cell awaiting the hangman’s noose.[17]

We cannot keep Wiebe Wartena out of our minds. We have celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas in joy and gratitude and we are looking forward to the New Year’s celebration that is to come soon. But there is still a voice that whispered, and continually whispers, to us: ‘Wiebe Wartena! Wiebe Wartena! How is it going with him now?’

It is a terrible situation in which he must find himself…. We hope that when we die the ties that bind us to life will be loosened gently, and not like it will be with Wiebe Wartena, when these are torn suddenly by the hands of the executioner…. The gallows will be his deathbed; the executioner’s hands will carry his dead body. He is facing all of this, incarcerated in a lonely jail, while two of his children have to earn and eat their bread among strangers [as apprentices], while his wife with three other children eat the bitter bread of public benevolence in the Poor House.

Editor Verwey concluded by preaching to the choir. He warned his mainly Reformed readers to be ready for their own deaths. Wartena will die in less than two months, on Friday, February 26, 1886, “between the hours of 10 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon…. It could even be earlier for us.”

Verwey dramatized Wartena’s fate to humanize him and build support among Hollanders for a campaign, based on the “bond of nationality,” to pressure the governor to commute the sentence to life imprisonment, on grounds of insanity. Verwey made much of the fact that Sheriff Yoemens, who had regular contact with the prisoner for many months, believed he was insane and should not be executed. Verwey’s passionate account led two men from the First Roseland congregation, Jakob Ton and Teunis Snip, to go to Rensselaer at their own expense to speak to Wartena about his spiritual condition. The murderer seemed hard of heart; he would have nothing to do with the Bible or any religious book. The men left with heavy hearts but a clear conscience. Before returning to Roseland, they visited Wartena’s wife and two of the younger boys.[18]

A week before the execution, the governor announced that he would not commute the sentence. This news prompted Rev. Van Es and elder Madderom, on the day before the execution, to return to Indiana to try one last time to save Wartena’s soul. A Catholic priest and two nuns had tried for five days to baptize him, but to no avail. Now it was the turn of the Dutch Reformed pair. They visited Wartena for an hour in the afternoon and returned in the evening with the sheriff and a Methodist clergyman. While the prisoner knelt on the iron floor of the cell and wept, the four men prayed over him. Yet, he would not confess his sins or repent. He had nothing to confess, he insisted, since he was innocent of murdering Dreger. Instead, he leafed through the dominie’s Bible and “pointed out many places where, in his judgment, the Scripture was in conflict with itself…. His education in modernism had entirely infiltrated his view of Scripture,” Van Es concluded. Yet, Wartena softened enough to ask Van Es to accompany him to the gallows and pray with him.

The next morning, the Catholic priest returned before the execution to baptize the condemned man. Van Es “vigorously objected” to this and advised Wartena not to agree. At this, the priest became angry, but the Dutch dominie held his ground. He told the priest, “If you wish to give a biblical prayer for him, I have no objection, but there is no Catholic ceremony for a Protestant.” At this, he ordered the priest to leave.

Following the untoward confrontation between the two clerics over the soul of a man about to die, Sheriff Yoemans came and read the death sentence. The clerics reverently removed their hats. The procession then made its way from the cell to the gallows. Van Es and his Methodist colleague led the way, heads bared, followed by the sheriff and Wartena, dressed in his best suit. He walked by himself up the long steps to the gallows, and when asked if he had anything to say, insisted again that he died an innocent man.        Rev. Van Es then placed his hands on Wartena’s head and prayed that God would be gracious to him. The sheriff then secured the black hood and rope, and at twelve o’clock Wiebe Wartena dropped into eternity. Some 200 spectators witnessed the execution, while 2,500 curiosity seekers waited outside to pass by the swinging corpse. After thirty minutes, the body was taken down, placed in a coffin, and following the mandatory postmortem, turned over to the widow. “The wages of sin is death,” declared Rev. Van Es. “I hope that this account will be a warning to our youth that they may never soil their hands with blood.”[19]  

Teunis Labee

Teunis Labee, age 29, and his second wife, Johanna Cornelia van Tinteren, emigrated from Amsterdam on the Edam, a N.A.S.N.C. [Netherlands America Steam Navigation Company] vessel, arriving in New York in late November 1888. The couple settled in Paterson, New Jersey, a favored destination for Hollanders. Labee was born in 1859 in Sliedrecht (province of Zuid Holland), a municipality on the north bank of the Maas River facing Dordrecht, where he grew up and married.[20]

The couple had a checkered past, according to Labee’s testimony in court. At age 24 he married his first wife, Johanna Kraaijenveld of Rotterdam, and the couple had two children.[21] The birthing of the second was so difficult (the baby died) that the doctor told the wife that she would likely not survive another pregnancy. At this, she made the difficult decision to cut off sexual relations with her husband. Labbe, however, lived with Johanna for many months after this child’s death. The truth was that he was an alcoholic, na’er-do-well, and wife-abuser. At age 29, with $2500 from his deceased father’s estate, he went to Rotterdam and took up with the attractive, eighteen-year-old Van Tineren woman, a Roman Catholic from Bergen op Zoon, who worked at a brothel. Labee and Cornelia purchased the brothel, and Cornelia (she went by her middle name) became a “waitress.” The pair wanted to marry, so Labee pressed his wife for a divorce, to which she agreed after six months, with Labee paying her $200. The mayor of Rotterdam solemnized Labee’s second marriage in the city hall two weeks later, in August 1888. Cornelia married against the will of her parents.[22]

Labee could not make a success of the brothel and sold it under duress. The couple then moved briefly to Breda and then went to Amsterdam, where Labee unsuccessfully sought work. After three months, the pair decided to immigrate to America, and settled in Paterson, where they found lodging on Gray Street near People’s Park. The marriage was obviously on shaky grounds. Labee refused to seek a steady job, claiming that his rheumatism had flared up and he was too ill to work. After two months of fights over money, Cornelia left him to be a domestic for Mrs. James Van Piper on Ellison Street. Under her chosen American name “Kate” or “Kittie,” she told her employer she was single. Labee apparently found out where she lived and came and persuaded her to return to his bed and board. Within two weeks, in late February 1889, the nineteen-year-old lay dead and buried in the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.

Eyewitnesses to the stabbing testified before the coroner’s jury that Labee’s knifing of Kitty was entirely unprovoked. Labee offered a different story. The problem began two weeks earlier when Cornelia asked him to fetch coke for the stove, and before he returned she moved out, taking “almost everything of value.” Cornelia found shelter with Cornelius Slootmaker and his wife, who rented a flat above Cornelius Vanden Hoek, the landlord, on Chestnut Street. She convinced the Slootmakers that she was a battered wife, and that Labee would divorce her as readily as he had his first spouse. Labee testified that he pleaded with Cornelia to live together again, but she refused. Then one day, he devised a ruse. He arranged to come and bring Cornelia a treasured photograph that she wanted. While Mrs. Slootmaker and her widowed mother, Mrs. Peter Byl, were sipping coffee, the couple began arguing over their possessions, until Mrs. Slootmaker offered to buy them all. Teunis then took out a butcher knife he had just bought and laid it on the table.

Under oath in court, Labee concocted an unlikely tale of what happened next: “I walked toward the stove, and, at the same time, my wife stood up and cut me in the neck with the knife…. I was so shocked that my blood went to my head, and I lost my memory and cannot recall anything until I was on the hill behind our house.” The prosecutor filled in the details for the jury. Pointing to Labee, he asked: “Do you remember that you stabbed your wife through her corset, and in her neck, or that Vanden Hoek [the landlord] threw you out of the house?” In fact, the autopsy listed thirty-four stab wounds to the head, neck, and abdomen, many grievously severe. Cornelia died within twelve hours from shock and loss of blood. To all this, the defendant pleaded ignorance. The prosecutor then asked about the time in the Netherlands three years previous when an inebriated Labee had stabbed a drinking buddy, inflicting “two ugly wounds.” The story did not play well in court. The jury deliberated only seventy-five minutes and returned with a verdict of murder in the first degree. Labee sighed audibly at the news, which “devastated and deeply moved” him. “Horribly Butchered” blared the headline of the Paterson Daily Press as it recounted the gory details.[23]

Court officials took extra care to follow the law in every particular, from the coroner’s jury to the grand trial to the execution, which cost the county more than $2,000. Labbe, who understood little English, always had Dutch translators at his side, first Leonard Krygsman and then Marinus Houman. The court also hired Henry Beeuwkes Jr., a Dutch-speaking attorney in Paterson, to serve as Labee’s counsel, alongside the court-appointed attorney, a Z.M. Ward. The Paterson Daily Press and Paterson Morning Call gave the murder of Kitty Labee and her husband’s subsequent trial and execution front-page coverage for four months, from March until late June 1889. On May 25, following a lengthy trial, Passaic County Judge Jonathon Dixon sentenced Labee, age 30, to the gallows and set 27 June as the date of execution. Krygsman translated the death sentence into Dutch, so Labee well understood his fate.[24]

A Dutch visitor reported that the prisoner passed his final weeks completing an account of how many weeks, days, hours, and minutes he still had to live. He seemed reconciled to his lot and smiled as he said farewell to fellow prisoners. During his final week, a Dutch Catholic priest from Riverdale and seven Dutch Reformed pastors, notably Rev. Helenius Nies of the Paterson’s Union Reformed Church, tried to save Labee’s soul, some staying until the wee hours. At first, Labee told Nies not to come again. Remarkably, Rev. Elbert Van’t Loo of the Second Paterson Reformed Churhc, was Labee’s pastor at Sliedrecht in the Old Country.[25] Rev. Eppe Vander Vries, the former pastor of First Paterson Christian Reformed Church, returned a thousand miles from his Holland, Michigan charge to counsel Labee. What special ties brought Vander Vries back is unknown. Attorney Beeuwkes and several visiting members of the Christian Women’s Association seemed to touch Labee’s heart more than the clerics.[26]

Two days before the execution, Labee reportedly “spent hours kneeling in prayer, shedding many tears, and confessing his situation to God.” “Repentance at Last,” blared the headline. The influence of a godly grandmother seemed to have its effect. The prisoner even wrote a letter of thanks to all those who have consoled and counseled him. Labee assured them that he had heartily confessed his sins and asked God for forgiveness for Christ’s sake.” So ready was he for death that he refused the customary glass of whiskey, like his Savior at Calvary. “I want to enter eternity with a clear mind.” Labee declared. At the execution, the first in forty years in Passiac County, Rev. Nies offered a short prayer, at which Labee cried out, “I love Jesus,” and then attorney Beeuwkes recited a blessing, at which the condemned called out loudly: “Oh, Lord, save my soul.” The sheriff sprung the trap door and Labee was “Jerked into Eternity,” as a newspaper headline read.. A thousand people gathered in front of the county jail to share the drama within, which was closed by law to twelve eyewitnesses. The body was buried in the Poor House Farm cemetery.[27]

De Boer, Wartena, and Labee very likely were the first Dutch immigrants in the nineteenth century to go to the gallows for the crime of murder. Ironically, had they committed their crimes in Michigan, a state that outlawed capital punishment in 1846, they would have lived out their lives in prison, as each one hoped to do.

The Ritual of Capital Punishment

            In reading the newspaper accounts of the three murders, clerics, civil officials, and editors seemed to follow a certain ritual or “script” in what was really a morality play in real time. The papers reported on the state of mind of the criminals and the condition of their souls, looking for any sign of a softening toward man or God. At first the murderers had hearts of stone and spurned all spiritual counsel. Pastors and counselors came and went, often with little effect. The papers reported on the prisoners at least weekly, detailing their daily routines, quoting comments of sheriffs and jail-keepers, and noting any sign, ever so slight, of a change of heart. As the fateful day approached, the clerics fought for the soul of the condemned, and the papers kept readers informed of any glimmer of hope concerning their souls. De Boer and Labee had deathbed conversions, made their peace with God, and asked forgiveness for their crimes. Wartena alone insisted on his innocence to the very end. Rev. Van Es blamed his education in “modernism” for his stubbornness. Finally, the Dutch Reformed clerics and editors used each case as a “teachable moment” to young people about the awful consequences of rebellion and lawlessness. 

[1] Robert P. Swierenga, Dutch Chicago: A History of the Hollanders in the Windy City (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 495-96.

[2] Jacob Van Hinte, Netherlanders in America: A Study of Emigration and Settlement in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries in the United States of America, 2 vols. (Groningen: Noordhof, 1928; English translation, Robert P. Swierenga, general ed., Adriaan de Witt, translator, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1985), 962.

[3] I am indebted to Janet Sjaarda Sheeres for genealogical research on the three criminals.

[4] Swierenga, Leens (Groningen) Landerhuizerslijsten, p. 46, lists the likely father as Binne age 40, with wife and 5 children, emigrating in 1866.

[5] Pontiac Sentinel, 21 Jan. 1880, citing the Minonk Times. The Sentinel covered the murder and subsequent trial and execution in detail. De Boer was described as “an ignorant, uneducated German boy, who although 19 years old in October last, would readily pass for 17.”

[6] Ibid. Unfortunately, state law before 1916 did not require county death records to be kept. The Livingston County clerk reports its records are “sketchy” and De Boer does not appear in the death index  (Letter of Kristy Masching to author, 6 July 2007).

[7] Pontiac Sentinel, 22 Oct., 5 Nov., 31 Dec. 1879 (citing Minonk News).

[8] Pontiac Sentinel, 21, 28 Jan. 1880.

[9] De Hollander, 23 Mar. 1880, translated by Simone Kennedy. Doesburg reported that De Boer’s parents were living in Chicago (probably the Groninger Hoek on Chicago’s West Side, a focal point for immigrants from that province).  Perhaps the family moved to Chicago after the murder.

[10] Pontiac Sentinel, 14, 21, 28 Jan., 11, 18, 26 Feb., 3, 10, 17 Mar. 1880 (quotes in 17 Mar. issue).

[11] Ibid., 17, 31 Mar. 1880.

[12] Wiebe Abes Wartena (also Wiebner or Wiebren Wartner) was born 20 July 1844 in Rijperkerk, municipality of Tietjerksteradeel, province of Friesland, and he married at Rijperkerk at age 24 in 1869 to Anje Jans Huizenga, age 23. The couple in 1885 had five children, born in Rijperkerk between 1870 and 1883, a boy of 15 apprenticed to a blacksmith, a boy of 13, and girls ages, 8, 4, and 2 (De Grondwet, 12 Nov. 1885). I am indebted to Janet Sjaarda Sheeres for providing genealogical data on the Wiebe Wartena family.

[13] Rensselaer (Indiana) Republican, 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 Jan., 5, 12 Feb., 5 Mar., 16, 23, 30 Apr., 7, 14, 21 May, 4, 11 June, 5, 12, 19 Nov. 1885, 18, 25 Feb., 4 Mar. 1880. De Grondwet, of Holland, Michigan, which circulated widely in Dutch circles, also reported on the Wartena case in several articles, all translated by William Buursma. See issues of 12 May 1885 (reprinted from two articles by Balster Van Es in De Hope, 28 Apr., and 5 May, 1885); 24 Nov. 1885, 19 Jan., 2 Feb., 2 Mar. 1886. For a brief account of the founding of the Dutch colony in De Motte, see Robert P. Swierenga, "The Low Countries," in Robert M. Taylor and Connie McBirney, eds., Peopling Indiana: The Ethnic Experience (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1996), 317-18.

[14] Rensselaer Republican, 22 Jan. 1885.

[15] Ibid, 12 May 1885, from De Hope.

[16] Ibid, 24 Nov. 1885.

[17] Ibid, 29 Dec. 1885, translated by Nella Kennedy.

[18] Ibid, 19 Jan. 1886, including letters from the Sheriff Yoemans and a correspondent in Rensselaer printed in translation. In the 1880 federal census, Jacob Ton worked at the Union Rendering Company and Tony Snit was farming in Calumet. Neither man was 

[19] Ibid, 2 Feb., 2 Mar. 1886. In 1898, a Hollander “from one of the suburbs” of Chicago killed a compatriot a drunken quarrel. “Little known, no churchman and shy of temperance, was this man now on trial. Every paper, morning, noon or night, brings shocking news of suicides and murders in our city (William Moerdyke, "Chicago Letter," Christian Intelligencer, 15 (or 19?) Jan. 1898, p. 9). I have not yet investigated this murder. In 1940 Neil Koopman, age 30, killed his father, John Koopman, in a disagreement over "money matters" at the family grocery in Holland, Michigan. Koopman confessed to the crime and after three psychiatrists deemed him sane, a jury convicted him of murder in the second degree and Judge Fred Miles sentenced him to 25 to 50 years in the Jackson State Prison (Holland City News, 24 Jan., 15 Feb., 14, 21 Mar. 1940).

[20] Robert P. Swierenga, “Dutch in America, 1800s,” Family Records Archives CD #269, Ancestry.com. The lengthy account of Labee’s travails in De Grondwet, 21 May 1889 was translated by William Buursma. The full story is told in the Paterson Daily Press and the Paterson Morning Call, 1 Mar.-29 June 1889. The papers at first mistakenly spelled his name “Tunis Labbe.”

[21] Sheeres could find no record of the birth of this child, which makes one wonder if Labee fabricated the story. Paterson papers also reported that he had two children by his first wife (ibid., 1 Mar. 1889).

[22] For this and the next three paragraphs, see Paterson Morning Call, 1 Mar., 6 June 1889; Paterson Daily Press, 1 Mar., 14 May, 5 June 1889.

[23] Paterson Morning Call, 1, 2, 4, 9 12 Mar., 23, 24, 27 Apr. 1889; Paterson Daily Press, 1, 2, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14 Mar., 17, 23, 25, 27 Apr. 1889.

[24] Paterson Daily Call, 2 Mar., 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 22, 27, 29 May 1889; Paterson Daily Press, 13, 14, 15, 16, 25, 27 May, 15 June 1889.

[25] RCA pastors included Helenius Nies of Union (Paterson), Elbert Van Het Loo of Second Paterson, James Huysoon of First (Holland) Paterson, and Jacobus Diephuis of Propsect Park. CRC pastors included Hendrik Dieperink Langereis of Free Reformed (later CRC) Paterson, Ebenezer Van den Berge of Summer Street Passaic, and Edward (Eppe) Vander Vries of Market Street Holland, Michigan (Paterson Daily Press, 3 June 1889).

[26] De Grondwet, 21, 28 May 1889, citing the Paterson Telegraph of 21 and 28 May 1889, Paterson Daily Press, 3, 5 June 1889.

[27] Paterson Morning Call, 17, 22, 24, 27, 29 June 1889; Paterson Daily Press, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28 June 1889; De Grondwet, 2 July 1889.