Family Histories

Robert (Bouwko) Swierenga Family History

            by Robert P. Swierenga,  revised 8/13


            Robert Swierenga established one of eight branches of the Jan Swierenga family, which imigrated to Chicago in 1893.  This account relates the history of his family both in Holland (briefly) and in the United States.


The Name Swierenga

    The families Swierenga (also spelled Swieringa) are "echte Groningers," although the name points to Frisian origins.  In ancient and medieval times the Frisian peoples inhabited the entire northern region of the Netherlands, as well as the North Sea coastal region of western Germany up to the border with Denmark.  The -a ending in Frisian signified "son of," as did the -ing ending, which also could mean "belonging to."  These two types of suffixes were combined into the -inga ending in the Middle Ages.  Swier is the Frisian and Groningen contraction of the germanic name Sweder: swind meaning "strong, fast," and her, meaning "army."  The compound name Sweder or Swier likely has no actual meaning.[1]

            The name Swierenga (Swieringa) first appeared in the Dutch records in 1811, when under government edict of the Napoleonic regime, all families were required to adopt surnames.  The reason for selecting the name Swierenga is unknown.  It seems that the inga and enga name endings originated in the 1820s when the widower Barteld Hindriks remarried and his second set of children wished to distinguish themselves from the first set.


The Swierenga Genealogy

            At least since the year 1600 the ancestors of Robert Swierenga lived in the northern Dutch province of Groningen, in the Fivelingo region lying north-northeast of the capital city of Groningen.  The progenitor of the paternal line was Barteld Jans, born before 1600, followed (after a gap in the records) by Jan Bartolds (b. ca. 1665), Bartelt Jans (b. 1691), Barteld Jans (b. 1729), Hindrik Bartels (b. 1760), Barteld Hindriks (b. 1798 and the first to adopt the family name), Hindrik Bartelds Swierenga (b. 1816), Jan Swierenga (b. 1847), and Bouwko (Robert) Swierenga (b. 1888).[2]

            Some Swierengas gained sufficient prominence to have named after them a small polder (land reclaimed from under water) and a short street. "Swieringa-polder" lies a mile or two southwest of Ten Post along the old Stadsweg (State road) to Ten Boer. The street named "Swierengapad" is one-block long and leads to the gemeentehuis (courthouse) in Ten Boer, which is the renovated home and barn of Jan Bartels's grandson Jan Geerts Swierenga. The large building, built in 1882 and housing both the barn and home under one roof as is the Dutch custom, was bought by the municipality in 1961 and modified at a cost of $1.25 million for use as the courthouse and government center. The mayor's office is in the former living room. The street honors Jan Bartels Swierenga, who served as the first "wethouder" (councilman) of the municipality of Ten Boer following the end of the Napoleonic occupation of the Netherlands in 1815.

            Robert Swierenga's heritage is a goodly one. His descendants were a humble, peasant folk of Reformed religious persuasion who devoted themselves to family and faith. They quite frequently married cousins and even in-laws, which suggests that the clan shared a social life together. Over the generations the family moved southward closer to Stad Groningen.  They lived in the following villages: Middelstum (early 1600s), Zandeweer (late 1600s-mid 1700s), Minkeweer (late 1700s), Huizinge (1750s-1760s), Oldenzijl (1790s-1809), Stedum (1780s-1830s), Lellens (1840s-1870s), and Kroddeburen, a hamlet one half mile northwest of Ten Post (1880s-1893), from which Jan Swierenga and family emigrated to Chicago in 1893.

            The Population Register of the municipality of Ten Boer, 1880-1920, lists the address of Jan's rented home as Kroddeburen No. 20. It was a substantial red brick house located next to the famous windmill "Olle Widde" (Old White, because it was painted with a white lime), which stood at No. 20a, according to the 1834 plat map. The area was surrounded by rich farmlands where the farmers raised grain, mainly wheat and rye, so the mill was always busy. A Mr. Meijer of Ten Post owns both the mill and house. He restored the mill and converted the house into the fashionable Restaurant bij de Molen, which opened in mid-2010. For photos of the restored mill and restaurant, go to www.restuarantbijdemolen.nl.

The Swierenga family also shared a common faith. Until the nineteenth century, they belonged to the Hervormde (Reformed) Church, but after the spiritual revival in the Netherlands in the 1830s, known as the Afscheiding or Secession of 1834, some joined the orthodox Christelijke Afgeschieden (Christian Separatist) and later Christelijke Gereformeerde (Christian Reformed) Church and served as elders and deacons. Bouwko's father, Jan, transferred from the Hervormde Church to the Christelijke Gereformeerde Church in 1876, probably at Ten Boer, since the church in Ten Post has no record of the family.

            The men over the centuries worked as farm laborers, farmer operators, and in the last three generations in the nineteenth century as grain commissioners and canal bargemen, hauling wheat and other grains to the market in Stad Groningen. The wheat-producing region of Groningen and Friesland suffered a severe depression in the 1880s, due to falling prices in world markets from the glut of new production on the rich American and Canadian prairies. The agricultural crisis forced Dutch farmers to mechanize and consolidate land holdings in order to compete with North American growers. Farm laborers and small farmers were cast off in the tens of thousands and emigration to America offered the best long-term opportunity.


Decision to Emigrate

            The precipitating event in the decision of Jan Swierenga and his wife Katrijn nee Koning to emigrate to Chicago was a financial blow caused by a canal shipping accident.  Daughter Hillechien (Alice) Miedema of Des Plaines, Illinois recalled the tragedy in the early 1930s.[3]  While hauling a full load of wheat to the Groningen grain market, Jan had to pass through a sluis or lock on the Damsterdiep Canal. He followed the usual procedure of tying his barge to the side of the sluis, but failed to allow enough slack line. When the water level in the lock dropped suddenly and unexpectedly, the rope became taut and caused the boat to tip and the entire load, about 20 tons, was soaked and ruined. This disaster drained Jan financially and he decided to start over in Chicago, where his older brother Barteld and family had emigrated in 1882 and his uncle Friedus had settled in 1867 and was well-established. Barteld agreed to sponsor Jan.

            Economic pressures had also forced Barteld to emigrate. A canal bargeman like Jan, he had resorted to having his horses inspected by government officials on Sundays, so as not to lose a day's work, which he needed to survive. This failure to keep the Sabbath day holy caused a guilty conscience and also brought the condemnation of the church elders. To free himself from the necessity of violating the fifth commandment of the Law, Barteld decided to immigrate to Chicago. All this is told in the consistory minutes of the First Christian Reformed Church of Chicago (June 26 and August 1, 1882).

            The emigration of the Swierengas had a bearing on the lives of every descendent. Instead of hauling grain in Groningen, for example, Jan's sons and grandsons became teamsters and produce commissioners in Chicago.


The Immigration Experience

            Jan and Katrijn emigrated to Chicago with eight children: Kornelia (Kate) age 16, Trientje (Catherine) age 14, Hendrik (Henry) age 12, Hillechien (Alice) age 11, Eppe (Edward) age 10, Bouwko (Robert) age 5, Hendrika (Henrietta) age 3, and Bartelda (Tillie), a baby of 6 weeks. The family originally had nine children, but sometime before emigrating, their third son Hendrikus died in childhood. In the same year of 1893 seventeen families and eleven single men (116 persons) emigrated to America from the municipality of Ten Boer. Most were farm hands and day laborers. They were headed (in order of importance) to Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, Chicago, eastern South Dakota, and northwest Iowa.

            The Swierenga family went by canal boat from Groningen to the port city of Rotterdam and probably stayed in an emigrant hotel for a night or two while awaiting passage. Around May 10 or 11, 1893, they boarded the S.S. Veendam, a large passenger steamship of the Netherlands American Steamship Company, a forerunner of the Holland-America Line. The Veendam was en route to New York via the French port of Boulogne, where it took on more passengers. This was the usual route of N.A.S.M. vessels and the complete voyage took about six days, arriving in New York on May 17. The Veendam was built in the early 1870s by the famed shipbuilders Harland & Wolff at Belfast, Northern Ireland, for the British White Star Line. In 1889 the N.A.S.M. bought from the British company at second hand the Veendam and six sister ships for its rapidly growing immigrant business. The Veendam was a quick-sailing four-master of shallow draft, 460 feet in length with 4500-tons displacement, that served the Holland-America Line well until it sank in the Atlantic Ocean in the late 1890s, only a few years after it carried the Swierenga family safely to New York.

            The Veendam passenger manifest, which the captain provided to U.S. customs officials at New York harbor according to law, listed the Swierenga family as follows: Jan Swierenga age 46, occupation "skipper," wife Katrina (Katrijn) age 40, and children Kornelia 17, Trijntje (Trientje) 15, Hendrik 13, Hiltchie (Hillechien) 11, Eppe 10, Bouwke (Bouwko) 5, Hendrika 3, and Bartelda 2 months.  The family traveled, as did all but the wealthiest immigrants, in steerage class (the cheapest fare), and were assigned to the main deck, compartment 3. They had six pieces of luggage. There were more than 700 passengers aboard, most of whom were Dutch, and they were heading primarily for places in Michigan, but some stated Paterson or Passaic, New Jersey; Randolph, Wisconsin; Fulton, Illinois; and Orange City, Iowa. A few intended to go to Chicago and to Roseland or Kensington on the far south side of Chicago. Other Groningers on the Veendam were the families of Renne Bronkema, Sieke Dykstra, Auke Kampen, Evert Faber, Hendrik Vander Schaaf, Sybrandus Wiersum, Haring Wallenga, Haring Havinga, and Ruurd Boltjes.

            Jan Swierenga's destination, according to government emigration records in the municipal courthouse of Ten Boer, was Grand Rapids, Michigan.  But the ship passenger manifest listed Chicago as the intended destination. Jan apparently changed his mind after registering to emigrate and decided to settle in Chicago near the family of his older brother, Barteld (Barney), who had immigrated eleven years earlier in 1882. According to family tradition, Barteld had agreed to be Jan's sponsor and had offered to help him find housing and a job.  Jan's uncle, Friedus Swierenga, who had immigrated in 1867 (26 years earlier) was also well established in Chicago.  It was significant that Friedus had returned to Groningen for a visit in 1892, a year before Jan emigrated.[4] Did Friedus encourage his nephew to emigrate? It is certainly possible and even likely. 

            The Windy City was a focal point for many Groningers.  The pastor of the Christian Reformed Church reported in 1893 that his congregation "expected seventy five families of immigrants to join them this summer.[5] The growing city seemed to offer more economic opportunities than Grand Rapids. But, as it soon became apparent, Jan and Katrijn must have wondered if they had made the wisest choice.

            Problems began from the outset. Already on the ship, Katrijn, weak from childbirth became ill and never fully recovered. Nothing else is known of experiences en route. The family arrived at the new Ellis Island Reception Center in New York Harbor after passing the Statue of Liberty, which had been opened the year before (1892). All ten members of the family successfully passed the feared medical examination and were permitted to enter the United States. That Katrijn passed the exam was a blessing, because she may have been in the early stages of the incurable disease tuberculosis, which if the doctors had detected it would have barred her from entry. The family left for Chicago by train, taking either the New York Central or the Erie Railroad, both of which linked New York City and Chicago.

            As they neared the downtown Chicago terminal, they could see from the train windows the futuristic, gleaming white buildings of the World's Columbia Exposition, which had opened that year on the lake front. The Fair symbolized Chicago's rebirth from the Great Fire of 1871.  A bust of a woman with the slogan "I Will, Chicago, 1893" emblazoned across her breast, was chosen by fair officials as the most suitable expression of the Chicago spirit.


Jan and Katrijn in Chicago

            Upon arrival in Chicago, the Swierenga family settled among their fellow Groningers in the "Groninger buurt" (Groninger neighborhood) on the near West Side. Their sponsor, brother Barteld (Barney), apparently failed to have a home ready so they had to live temporarily in the basement of their church, the First Christian Reformed Church of Chicago, known popularly as "The Old Fourteenth Street Church," because it was located at 423 (new numbering 1324) 14th Street between Throop and Loomis streets. The church had been purchased from the Presbyterians in 1882 and was razed in 1941 to make space for government public housing. The building stood on the north side of the street exactly in the middle of the block. Soon Jan found a rat-infested basement flat a few blocks west at 15th Street and Wood Street, where they lived for a short time. Then the family moved to a house at 692 (new numbering 1645) West 14th Street, between Ashland Avenue and Paulina Streets, three blocks west of church. By 1897, when Jan died, they were living five blocks east to 398 (new numbering 1131) West 14th Place, two blocks east of the church. What a contrast these places were to their commodious brick home with its large garden in the rural community of Ten Post!

            The newcomers suffered from harsh living conditions and the poor economic times brought on by the financial panic of 1893 and ensuing depression that lasted for five years. This was known as the "Cleveland hard times," because Grover Cleveland was president in those years. Unemployment in Chicago increased fourfold between 1893 and 1893, from 3 to 12 percent, and in 1894 it jumped again to 18 percent. Over the next four years, 1895 through 1898, unemployment rates remained at 14 percent.

            Jan must have struggled mightily to find work in this job market. According to the Chicago city directory of 1899, the only directory in which he was listed, he was a laborer. His family name was misspelled as Swieringa, and he had Anglicized his given name to John and assumed the middle initial H., after his father Hendrik, in order to distinguish himself from Friedus's son John F. and Barteld's son John B.  Although we do not know what kind of work Jan did or if he was self-employed, he was clearly at the bottom of the labor force and suffering from the language barrier as well as culture shock.  This lowly position was a far cry from his status as a canal bargeman and grain commissioner in Groningen.


Death of Jan and Katrijn Swierenga

            Katrijn and Jan both contracted the feared disease tuberculosis, for which there was no known cure. Katrijn, listed as Katrina on her death certificate, took sick shortly after their arrival and died of "consumption" at age 44 on May 5, 1897 only four years after moving to Chicago. Jan, listed as John on his death certificate, became ill in 1896 and followed his wife in death two and a half years later on November 14, 1899. He died at age 52 of pulmonary tuberculosis, according to the death certificate. At the time he was a laborer and he and the children were living in a rented flat at 398 (new numbering 1131) West 14th Place, where they had moved after his wife's death. Undertaker John Cermak of 604 (new numbering 1653) S. Throop Street handled both funerals and the couple were buried in the original "Dutch section" of the Forest Home Cemetery located west of South Des Plaines Avenue in Forest Park, Illinois, a far western suburb.  Katrina is buried in Lot 201 and Jan in Lot 482, both in Section HL, which is just west of the Des Plaines River.  Both graves were unmarked, but in 1995 Robert and Jack Swierenga placed a headstone on Jan's grave, which is located immediately to the right of brother Barteld's grave, which also has a headstone.  The Swierenga memorial stone states the names and dates of Jan and Katrina and includes the phrase "By faith they came."


The Progeny

            Jan and Katrijn had 43 grandchildren and 123 great grandchildren. Kate and Nicholas Tillema had 8 children, Keimpe Miedema and Alice 8, Edward and Effie Wiersum 10, Henry and Mary Wiersum 5, Robert and Grace Dykhuis 5, Frank Fokkens and Rika 3, and John Tameling and Tillie 4. All lived in the Chicago area except Kate and Nick Tillema and family, who moved to Platte, SD (later to De Motte, IN), and Henry and Mary Swierenga, who first joined the Tillemas in Platte and then after Henry's death there, Mary and her five children moved to Prinsburg, Minnesota.  In the 1930s and 1950s, three of Mary's children married into the Breems family of Prinsburg. Then in 1996 Robert Swierenga's great-granddaughter Suzanna Swierenga, daughter of John's son Robert, married Brent Breems, a grandnephew and nephew of the Prinsburg Breems. See Appendix I for the names of all Jan Swierenga family couples.


Forest Home Cemetery

            The Forest Home Cemetery was more than ten miles from the "Old West Side" Dutch settlement, far beyond the reach of the streetcar line, and it required an entire day to make the trip by wagon.  A tavern on the corner of Roosevelt Road and Des Plaines Avenue, near the entrance to the cemetery, was the customary noon stopping place after the committal service at the graveside, before the long homeward journey.  The apparent reason that the Dutch had to travel so far to bury their loved ones was that private city cemeteries were snobbish about selling graves to poor immigrants and the Christian Reformed and Reformed churches in the Dutch neighborhood did not have churchyard cemeteries, as did the Catholics, Lutherans, and other denominations.  Forest Home, which had its first interment in 1877, and the adjacent Waldheim (German Masonic) cemetery, which opened in 1873, were willing to accept immigrants, and Forest Home maintained a convenient downtown office at 88 W. Washington to transact business. The two cemeteries merged in 1969 as Forest Home Cemetery.


The Orphans

            Jan's death left seven orphans, since the oldest daughter Kate, age 23, had in 1897 married Nicholas Tillema. The orphans were Catherine or Katie (Trijntje) age 21, Henry age 20, Alice age 18, Edward age 16, Robert age 11, Henrietta or Rika age 9, and Tillie age 6. According to Robert's oldest son, John R. (my father), when Jan died, the younger orphans moved into the parsonage of the First Christian Reformed Church, which was vacant at the time, and their sister Alice, aged 18 years, cared for them. They lived in the parsonage for several months. Jan's older brother Barteld had become the church janitor in 1894, after working for years as a laborer and then a chairmaker. His family now resided on the church property and received free lodging and fuel, plus a monthly salary (raised from $8 to $10 in 1909, according to the consistory minutes of Dec. 30, 1909).

            Catherine (Trijntje), the oldest sister, was also stricken with T.B., and the deacons of the Douglas Park Christian Reformed Church of Chicago, according to the consistory minutes, in 1901 provided her with monies for medicines. Then in August of that year, at the request of her brother-in-law, Nicholas Tillema, the deacons agreed to give Trijntje $2 per week, which they soon increased to $5. The next year, 1902, she married John Nienhuis, but she died of T.B. six months later in 1903.

            When the children had to vacate the parsonage, they were taken in by their oldest married sister, Kate and Nick Tillema, who lived on a small farm in West Town (now Maywood), at 26th Avenue and Madison Street--the exact address (old numbering) was 2647 West Madison Street. On June 14, 1900, when the U.S. census marshal visited the farm on his appointed rounds, he reported a household of eleven: Nicholas Tillema, age 32, a market gardener on a rented farm, wife Katie 24, son John l, daughter Aggte 8 months, and the in-laws Katie 21, Henry 20, Alice 18, Eddie 17, Robert 12, Henrietta (Rika) 10, and Tillie 7. Katie, Henry, and Eddie were working on the farm; Alice worked for a cutlery company; and Robert, Henrietta, and Tillie were in school.  Later the Tillemas rented a farm in Bellwood at Mannheim Road and Madison Street.

             Henry and Edward first, and then Robert, subsequently went back to Chicago. Robert worked as a teamster delivering fresh milk from house to house with a horse and wagon. He lived with Alice, now a widow since her husband, Henry (Hendrik) Dykema, had died shortly after their marriage. Alice lived temporarily in the vacant parsonage of the Douglas Park Christian Reformed Church located immediately north of the church at 1333 South Harding Avenue, where she had the job of cleaning the church. When Alice remarried Keimpe Miedema, a farmer, and moved to the western suburbs, she took in the youngest sister, Tillie, age 17. Robert went to live with Alice's first husband's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Klaas Dykema, in their home at 173 (new numbering 311) West 22nd Street and later at 1315 S. 40th Court. The Dykemas were charter members of the Douglas Park Church and had a warm Christian home, as Robert's son John recalls. But the couple suffered much; their younger son Henry died early and their older teenage son Cornelius left home and was never heard from again. Robert was treated as a son and remained with the Dykemas until his marriage in April 1910 at age 22 to Grace Dykhuis.

            Robert's early work record is not altogether clear. From about age 17 to 19 he worked for the Haywood-Wakefield Company at 2600 West Arthington Street, a manufacturer of wicker furniture and baskets. Around 1907 or 1908 Robert bought his own horse and wagon and delivered coffee beans in bulk sacks to retail stores and wholesale outlets. "Be your own boss" was his adage. Perhaps he worked for the canned milk company and delivered door to door before buying his own horse and wagon. From coffee beans, Robert began delivering fresh fruit and vegetables from the Chicago farmers' market and commission houses on South Water Street to retail grocery stores in Chicago.

            Robert's older brothers, Henry and Edward, are shown in an undated photograph as teamsters hauling large limestone slabs. Robert's son, John, recalls that his uncles were hauling the rock from a quarry at South 39th Street and Halsted Street to the lakefront for the construction of breakwaters and retaining walls. This indicates that the Swierenga brothers were general teamsters. Indeed, the 1910 city directory lists Robert as a "driver," and the 1910 census reports Henry as a self-employed teamster. Henry and his wife Mary were then living in a rented home at 2821 West Twentieth Street on the southwest side.


Swierenga Bros Commission House

            Eventually, around 1914 (during World War One), Robert, with his older brother Ed, who also had a fruit and vegetable route, together opened a produce commission house on West Randolph Street. In 1922 or 1923 Louis and Henry Smit of the Archer Avenue Reformed Church, who had their own fruit and vegetable routes, became partners under the name of "Smit & Swierenga, wholesale potatoes, fruits, and vegetables, tel: 2374" (see quarter-page advertisement in the Excelsior Band Program at Pilsen Hall of Nov. 12, 1930). At first, Swierenga Bros was located in a three-story building at 937-939 West Randolph. Later, around 1925, they moved next door to 941-943 West Randolph Street, when a new building was constructed on the site. The essential equipment was a big walk-in refrigerated cooler in the rear of the main store. The egg candling operation was on the second floor. An advertisement of the firm on a promotional thermometer from the 1940s reads as follows: "Swierenga Bros., Wholesale Butter, Eggs, and Cheese, Fruits and Vegetables. 943 W. Randolph Street, Chicago, phone Monroe 2374-2680.

            The food products came from far and wide. Robert went at dawn to buy fruit and vegetables at the wholesale auction at the South Water Street Market, where products arrived by rail from coast to coast and area truck farmers sold their produce from the tailgates of their vehicles. In later years Swierenga Bros. specialized in distributing butter, cheese and eggs.  Their high quality butter came by refrigerated truck twice weekly from a creamery in Newall, Iowa. It brought premium prices and was in demand by grocers.  The creamery packaged the butter in 1 lb and 1/2 lb wooden boxes, each stamped with the Swierenga Bros. label, which were shipped in 50 lb crates. Fresh eggs came in each Tuesday and Friday from Randolph, Wisconsin. Harry Vander Meer collected them from Dutch-American farmers in the Randolph, Waupun, and Friesland region, crated them, and trucked them to Chicago, leaving at 2 am. in order to arrive on Randolph Street by 6 am. Later, Swierenga Bros. cut his deliveries to once a week because chain stores such as Kroger and Atlanta & Pacific (A & P) took customers away from the neighborhood grocers. Chains over time proved to be the death knell of the small grocery stores and wholesale commission houses that fed them.

            In the heyday of the business, the 1920s through 1940s, Swierenga Bros. delivered to 60-65 stores in the western and northern parts of Chicago. They also did a wholesale cash and carry business. Some retail merchants from outside the city came to the firm's outlet on Randolph St. to buy and pick up produce from as far as Elgin, Aurora, and Fox River Grove (20 to 35 miles west). Stanley Totura of Fox River Grove and Edward Vinicky of Elgin were the firm's largest customers, as the photograph of the Swierenga Bros. store attests.

            The partners each owned a team and wagon and the horses were kept in a barn at the rear of Robert's home at 1404 South Kedvale Avenue. Edward with his wife Effie and family lived nearby at 1320 S. Keeler Avenue. (Both houses and the barn are now gone.)  Soon the firm boasted a motor truck, a 1914 King-Zeittler (see photograph), one of the first hard tire trucks made in Chicago. (The firm later merged into the Available Company). Once around 1927 or 1928 the wooden barn caught fire at midday from sparks that escaped from a neighbor's burning trashcan in the alley. Fortunately, the vehicles were on the road but drums of oil and hay in the loft fueled the fire. Teenage son John happened to be home and called the fire department from Barn No. 77 at Roosevelt Rd. and Komensky Avenue four blocks away. The fireman saved half the structure but the doors, roof, and back wall were destroyed and had to be rebuilt. 

            Robert made deliveries while Ed remained in the store. The merchants ordered by phone or placed new orders when they received their deliveries. Perishables not sold by closing time on Saturday noon were brought home by the partners for family eating or canning. The central city that Robert and the other Swierenga men crisscrossed as teamsters was congested, bustling, dangerous, and noisy. Streetcar accidents were commonplace. Citizens complained about the smoke pouring from coal furnaces and the locomotives of hundreds of trains that converged on the city every day. Street vendors, clanging streetcar bells, the whirring of industrial machinery, and the crush of humanity on the sidewalks added to the din. Street vendors literally choked the sidewalks, and mud, horse manure, and trash cluttered the streets. Debris and building materials lay everywhere from the frenzied pace of building construction. Slowly, Chicago cleaned up its act, prompted by Daniel C. Burnham's Plan of 1909, which created a lake front park and completely revamped the central city.

            To help out in the Swierenga Bros. store as business volume increased, Ed and Rob hired a salesman, Mike Venterelli, a second-generation Italian who is pictured in the photograph of the warehouse. This was a wise decision, since Italian-Americans dominated the Chicago wholesale food provision business and Italian neighborhoods dotted the near west side of Chicago. Mike Venterelli eventually joined the firm as a full (one-third) partner and continued with Swierenga Bros. until it ceased business in 1959 with the death of Edward. Robert had already died in 1949.  Between 1939 and 1942, Robert's second son, Ralph, worked behind the counter and also was bookkeeper, until Ralph's older brother John R. persuaded him to come to work for him as a driver in his trucking business. Edward's sons Joe and John E. also worked for the company for five or six years-- Joe in the office and John E. on the truck. Edward's married daughter, Kathryn Rispens, worked in the office. The Second World War, with its food rationing system, presented the partners with a major moral challenge. That was to resist taking advantage of the lucrative black market for dairy products and eggs. But Robert refused to sell above the government-set price.

            Robert's wife's uncle, Omke Groot, also owned a large fruit and vegetable commission house on Randolph Street a block east across the street from Swierenga Brothers. Groot bought fruit and vegetables directly from farmers and frequently Swierenga Brothers bought their produce from him. Groot was a very successful merchant. In the 1920s he purchased a luxurious home in the upscale suburb of Oak Park on Lombard Avenue; he was also one of the first in the family to own a car.


Robert Swierenga and Grace Dykhuis

            On April 27, 1910, Robert married Grace (Gerritdina) Dykhuis (aged 21 years) in the Douglas Park Christian Reformed Church of Chicago. Reverend Cornelius De Leeuw (1876-1963), pastor of the church (1905-1910), officiated. Grace was born on July 3, 1888, in her parents' home at 692 (new numbering 1749) West 15th Street near Wood Street, which was later a B.&O. Railroad yard. Grace's first grade teacher suggested the name Grace for Gerritdina.  This was the customary way that children's Dutch names were Anglicized.


Immigration of the Roelf (Ralph) Dykhuis Family

            Grace's parents were Roelf (Ralph) Dykhuis, born in April 1856, and Hendrika (Henrietta)--known as Rika--Groot, born in August 1857. They had been married in Baflo, Groningen on February 28, 1879.  Two year's later, in 1881, after the birth of son John on April 5, 1880 in Den Andel (two miles north of Baflo), and with Rika again pregnant, they emigrated to the United States.  In early April the Dykhuis family took passage in steerage from Rotterdam on the W.A. Scholten, Captain Y.G. Vis, which was the second oldest fourmaster (a combined sail and steamship) in the fleet of the Netherlands American Steamship Company.  The family included Roelf, age 25, a carpenter, his young wife Hendrika, age 21, and infant son John, age 10 months.  The ship, which had a capacity of 650 passengers, carried only 465 passengers, 370 being Dutch.  It arrived in New York on April 16, 1881.  The family tradition reports that the vessel was antiquated and required three weeks to cross the ocean.  This may be true, but usually the ship used its steam engine to augment the sails and crossed in less than two weeks.  (The W.A. Scholten was built by the British firm, R. Napier & Sons, in 1873.  It was 3,529 registered tons and 370 feet in length.  The ship was named after a Groningen industrialist who spearheaded the founding of the Holland-America Line and provided much of the initial capital.  The W.A. Scholten had a tragic accident at sea in September 1887 and sank with great loss of life).

            The official Groningen emigration list of 1881 reports that Roelf was 25 years of age, a day laborer (dagloner) by occupation, and the family lived in Baflo (two miles east of Eenrum).  They emigrated for economic betterment ("verbetering van bestaan") and were of middling social status ("mingegoeden"). In the same year Roelf's older brother, Gerrit Dykhuis of Eenrum also emigrated to Chicago with his wife.  He was 28 years old, a day laborer, and very poor.  Hendrika Groot's uncle, Pieter Omkes Groot, had already emigrated to Chicago in 1855 from Warffum, Groningen, as a 28 year old unmarried carpenter.  Gerrit Dykhuis (often listed as George in the city directories in the 1890s) became a peddler and Peter Groot owned a grocery at 666 (new numbering 1335) South Fairfield Avenue for many years. The family lived next door at 664 (1331) Fairfield. Gerrit's family resided directly across the street at 606 (1365) Fairfield.  Gerrit in 1899 took over the grocery and Peter opened a very successful produce commission house at 190 (new numbering 733) West Randolph Street, which street had become a major wholesale produce center in Chicago along with the South Water Street market.

            The Ralph Dykhuis family settled initially in the Dutch colony of Holland, Michigan, no doubt traveling by train from New York City to Detroit and then on to Holland, where son Lambert was born on August 3, 1881. Soon the family moved to the Groningen section on the Old West Side. It is recalled by daughter Ann that the family was inadvertently separated when they moved to Chicago. Ralph went ahead to seek work and when Rika and her two young sons soon followed, she could not find her husband for several anxious days. The youngest daughter, Henriette Vos, recalls that the kindly ticket agent at the train depot took the forlorn family home for the night when Ralph did not meet them there.


R Dykhuis & Son Grocery and Meat Market

            Grace's father, Ralph, had been a day laborer and sailor in the Netherlands.  In Chicago he was mainly a peddler with his own horse and wagon, selling straw and hay and later delivering fruit and vegetables to retail grocery stores. He also farmed for two years in 1895-1896, when the family moved temporarily to a vegetable farm on the west side of South Kedzie Avenue near 32nd Street on what was then the city's far southwest side. Later he was a contractor and carpenter for a time, serving as the general contractor for the building of the Douglas Park Church in 1900. Thus, Grace's father and her husband Robert were both teamsters. Later, from 1907 to 1911 Ralph ("Grandpa") Dykhuis owned and operated a grocery store and meat market with oldest son John R. under the name "R Dykhuis & Son." The store (see photograph) was located in a German neighborhood at 1361 (new numbering 3310) West Ogden Avenue between Homan and Spaulding Streets in a rented building (the site is presently a vacant lot). Son Lambert, then in his twenties, was a salesman and teenage son Peter clerked in the store, as did Peter's twin sister Anna and older sister Grace. The family of nine lived above the store. By 1909 John Dykhuis opened his own grocery at 2294 (new numbering 4255) West 12th Street; his wife Dean helped in the store besides caring for three young children.  Grandpa Dykhuis sold his store to two of his employees, Bill and Otto Rudolph, and returned to his fruit and vegetable delivering business.


The Ralph Dykhuis Family

            Ralph Dykhuis's entrepreneurial skills provided a good income and enabled the family in 1888 to leave their rented home at 692 (new numbering 1749) West 15th Street and to purchase their own home at 652 (new numbering 1327) South Turner (now Christiana) Avenue, where they moved in August when Gerritdina was 6 weeks old.  It was an eleven-room cottage that they subsequently enlarged by putting a full basement under it. (The site is now a vacant lot.)  Ralph's brother-in-law, Omke Groot, married to his step-sister Gertie nee Brands, later lived on the same street about a half block north at 599 (new numbering 1232) South Turner.

            Ralph and Hendrika Dykhuis had 15 children, of whom 3 died in infancy. They were John R., born April 5, 1880 in Den Andel, who married Dean Beré on March 16, 1903, a grocer and food wholesaler, died May 16, 1957; Lambert, born August 3, 1881 in Holland, Mich., who married Rika Bond on Jan. 9, 1916, an insurance salesman, died Jan. 13, 1958; Mary, born Oct. 20, 1882 in Chicago, who married Ben Buikema, died Oct. 19, 1976; Jennie, born March 25, 1884 in Chicago, who married Frank Clinton, divorced, remarried Charles Scholtens (a brother of his sister-in-law Elizabeth, wife of Peter Dykhuis), died Dec. 23, 1949;  Berendina (Dean), born August 11, 1885 in Chicago, who married Nick Jongsma May 24, 1907, died April 8, 1973;  Kate, born Feb. 28, 1887, who married Jelke (Jake) Nauta July 6, 1909, died Apr. 8, 1973 (the same Sunday as sister Berendina); Grace; Peter and Anna, twins, born July 11, 1894 in Chicago--Peter served in France in the First World War, who married Elizabeth Scholtens June 13, 1919, was a bookkeeper and dispatcher for Landon Cartage Company of Chicago, and died May 2, 1956; Anna, a nurse, who married Anton Schermer, a minister in the Reformed Church of America, on June 18, 1928, and died Dec. 13, 1984; Gertrude (Gertie), born June 5, 1896, who married Jake Vander Schaaf June 22, 1921, died Oct. 19, 1967; Ommelina (Emily), born June 5, 1898 in Chicago, who married Jake Dykstra Sept. 13, 1922, died Jan. 26, 1965; and Henrietta, born Jan. 18, 1901, who married Art Vos Nov. 26, 1924.  She was the last of the children to die on ??,  after living for several years in the Rest Haven Christian Convalescence Home in Palos Heights, IL. These 12 children produced 41 grandchildren and 109 great grandchildren!


The Dykhuis Conversion   

            After seven children were born, sometime in the early 1890s, Rika first and then Ralph experienced a spiritual renewal or rebirth. In the Netherlands they had been members of the national church (Hervormde Kerk). In Chicago they joined the First (Fourteenth Street) Christian Reformed Church and had their children baptized by the Reverend John Riemersma, pastor of the church from 1893 through 1899. Thereafter, they tried to live by a strict code of obedience to the Christian faith.  In 1899, Ralph Dykhuis, together with his father-in-law Lammert (Lambert) Groot, who had immigrated from Baflo to Chicago in 1882 at age 48 and had also experienced a spiritual rebirth, led in the organization of a daughter congregation further west.


Douglas Park Christian Reformed Church

            Founded on April 19, 1899, the new Douglas Park Christian Reformed Church met temporarily in a store at 1732 West 12th Street (now 3410 W. Roosevelt Road) just west of Homan Avenue. On September 29, 1900, the congregation dedicated their new church building at 1329 (old numbering 616) South Harding Avenue near Douglas Park Boulevard, and Ralph served as elder in the first consistory. The building (now numbered 1333 S. Harding) was sold in 1927 for $40,000 cash and became a Jewish synagogue. It currently is a Black church, affiliated with the Church of God, and was completely remodeled by its congregation in the early 1980s.  Douglas Park's members were mostly blue-collar workers in cartage, construction, shopkeeping, and truck farming.  They eschewed factory work and went into business for themselves.

            In November 1899, the year that the new congregation began, Rev. Riemersma of First Christian Reformed Church was deposed from the ministry. As a result, several families left First Church to join the Douglas Park Church, but it is not known to what extent these troubles in the mother church affected the new congregation. Regardless, "the future was West," where building lots were larger and cheaper and people of a better class. The Dutch migration continued and the churches followed. In 1927, the congregation removed to the nearest western suburb of Cicero and built a new church at the southwest corner of 14th Street and 58th Court where Klaas Wezeman, an influential grocery merchant and church leader, had secured three 50-foot lots. The congregation took the name Second Christian Reformed Church of Cicero but later changed it to Warren Park, in order not to play "second fiddle" to its daughter congregation, the Third Christian Reformed Church of Chicago, which had moved to Cicero in 1925 as the First Christian Reformed Church of Cicero, located four blocks away. In 1973, the congregation again followed its members west to Elmhurst and in 1976 dedicated a commodious brick church with the name Faith Christian Reformed Church.


Grace Dykhuis Growing Up

            Grace Dykhuis went to the local public school on Sawyer Avenue through the fifth grade and then began doing housework for her Aunt Gertie Groot for three days a week for $1.25.  From age 19 until she married at age 21, she helped out in her father's store on Ogden Avenue, but mainly she helped her mother at home. All of the children had to turn over their earnings to their parents except for a small allowance. The Dutch language was spoken in the home and in church.  Only the two youngest girls, Anna and Henrietta, graduated from high school.  Henrietta was the only child to attend Timothy Christian School, the Dutch Reformed day school at 4224 West 13th Street and Tripp Avenue built in 1912, but she transferred to the William Penn public school because father Ralph was dissatisfied that Timothy had only one teacher and an inadequate building.  Another memorable event in the family history is that once a bad storm blew in the windows of their home on Turner Avenue and floodwater stood a foot or more deep in the street and carried away the outdoor privy.  In the early years, they kept horses, chickens, and cows in the basement of the home--a practice similar to that in the Netherlands where the home and barn was under one roof--but later they built a separate barn.  In 1907 when Grace was 19 years old, the family sold their home on Turner Avenue and moved into a flat upstairs of the store. Here she was married in 1910. In 1911 or 1912 her parents built a two-story brick home at 1420 South Ayers Avenue, where they lived until their deaths. Grandson John recalls visiting Grandpa and Grandma Dykhuis there and Grandpa Dykhuis cutting his hair.

            Grace as a youngster and teenager attended Sunday school, the girls' society at church, church choir, and catechism (doctrine) classes. The life of the family clearly revolved around the church and its programs and activities. Each child gave a penny or two in the church offering plate. Daughter Ann recalled that "often Ma Dykhuis gave her last penny for the offerings, so she testified, but the Lord always provided and there was always enough to eat and to clothe her children." Ann also wrote: "Mother Dykhuis had a very definite conversion after she had five [seven?] children. Pa Dykhuis was converted a few weeks after Mother's experience. They did their best to raise their family in the true Christian faith and the Lord heard and answered their prayers because all of the children publicly professed their faith in church in their teen years and married Christian men.


Grandma Brands

            Grace's paternal grandfather was John Dykhuis, who was born in the small village of Noordhorn, Groningen Province, a few miles west of the provincial capital, Groningen City.  Noordhorn was on the Van Starkenborgh Canal, one of the main canals radiating into the capital city.  John Dykhuis married Maryka Schuiteboer in Noordhorn.  She was born September 27, 1823, and died on May 16, 1921 in Chicago at 98 years of age. 

            Her first husband, John Dykhuis, died in the Netherlands and Maryka remarried John Brands. The four children of the first marriage were Gerrit, Ralph, Peter, and Berdien (who married a Workman), and her two children with John Brands were Freerk (Fred) and Gertrude, who married Omke Groot.  John and Maryka emigrated to Chicago in 1882, a year after stepson Ralph Dykhuis. Son Fred Brands followed in 1885 with his new wife Laura and in 1910 the family lived at 1247 S. Harding Avenue.

            John Brands acted irresponsibly at times. In 1909 the elders of the Douglas Park CRC of Chicago began formal discipline proceedings against him. After first warning him to change his ways, the elders announced publicly to the congregation that he lived an "offensive way of life," staying away from home for days on end without good reason. After his death, Maryka lived alone in her home on Lawndale Avenue near Washington Boulevard until age 87 or 88 and then moved in with her daughter Gertrude Groot in Englewood until her death. At 84 years, she successfully underwent an appendectomy.  Grace and the other Dykhuis children regularly walked over to Grandma Brands on Lawndale Ave. Maryka Brands was buried at Forest Home Cemetery.


The Lambert Groot Family

            Grace's maternal grandfather was Lambert Groot who was born in Warffum, Groningen Province, and owned a tavern and inn at Warffum and later at Pieterburen. Both were small farm villages on the North Sea coast of northern Groningen. In the Netherlands he was a member of the Hervormde Church but was not a practicing Christian, unlike his first wife, Jantje Spoelma who died of diabetes at the age of 40 in 1869. According to her grand- daughter Ann Schermer, Jantje Groot was a "real Christian woman who loved the Lord and aimed to serve him." The family with five children emigrated for economic betterment and were of middling social status.  Lambert and Jantje had four children: Hendrika, born September 6, 1888, who was 11 years old when her mother died; Antje (Annie) who married George Knol; Trijntje (Kate) who married Hendrik Berends; and Omke who married Gertie Brands, Ralph Dykhuis's step-sister. Widower Lambert emigrated to Chicago in 1882, shortly after son Ralph. He lived for a time with Ralph and Rika but then remarried. Lambert's second wife was Jantje (      ?). Lambert died in October, 1885, at age 62. He and Jantje are buried in Forest Home Cemetery, as are John and Maryka Brands, and Ralph and Hendrika Dykhuis. Indeed, all of the Swierenga, Groot, and Dykhuis families in Chicago are buried in the Forest Home Cemetery.


Death of Ralph and Rika Dykhuis

            Ralph Dykhuis died on June 8, 1914 at age 57 years at Robert Burns Hospital where he had a mastoid operation. He suffered from mastoiditis, an infection of the temporal bone of the skull, but died of septicemia, a bacterial infection of the blood. (John Swierenga recalls that Grandpa Dykhuis died of Bright's disease.)  Six children were still at home, and the youngest, Henrietta, was 13 years old.  Hendrika Groot Dykhuis died on December 29 (or 27?), 1927 at age 69 years in the Jane Lamb Hospital in Clinton, Iowa. She suffered from cancer of the female organs but died of T.B. perontinitis. She had remarried John Wiersma of Fulton, but it was not a happy union.  Her body was returned to her former home on Avers Avenue for the wake, which home was then owned by her daughter Henrietta and son-in-law Arthur Vos. The funeral service was held on New Year's Day of 1928 and was the first in the new Second Christian Reformed Church of Cicero.  Rika was buried beside her first husband Ralph at Forest Home Cemetery in Section 49 west of the River. 


The Family of Robert and Grace Swierenga

            When Robert and Grace were married on April 27, 1910, they lived for a few years in an upstairs flat at 1346 South Crawford Avenue (later Pulaski Road). The building was near the city limits (4000 west) at the end of the streetcar line. It is today one of the few buildings on the block still standing and inhabited. Robert earned $15 a week and paid $10 a month rent. Here John was born on January 21, 1911, Henrietta on March 8, 1913, and Katherine on October 17, 1914. Before the end of the year the couple bought their own home at 1404 Kedvale Avenue near 14th Street in the Lawndale neighborhood. They upgraded the bungalow by having a basement put under it with a new coal furnace. The house had three bedrooms upstairs and one on the main floor. It stood on a 25 foot lot augmented by a vacant lot on the south side planted in a garden. A side driveway led to the two-vehicle garage/barn at the rear. Robert usually parked his truck in the driveway. The last two children, Ralph (born February 13, 1919), and Henry (born July 16, 1924), saw the light of day at the Kedvale Avenue home, with Mrs. Tinge as the midwife. The building was destroyed in the turbulent Chicago riots of the 1960s.


Swierenga Family Naming Pattern

             The naming pattern of the children exactly followed the traditional Dutch custom.  The oldest son, John, was named after his paternal grandfather, Jan Swierenga; the oldest daughter Henrietta, was named after her maternal grandmother, Henrietta Groot; the second son, Ralph, bore the name of his maternal grandfather, Ralph Dykhuis; the second daughter, Katherine, was named after her paternal grandmother, Katrijn Koning; and the third son, Henry, carried the name of his paternal uncle (who had died of Bright's disease as a young husband and father of five children) and his paternal great grandfather, Hindrik Bartelds Swierenga. As was then the custom, none of the children bore a second or middle given name.  John was baptized as Jan by Rev. Jacob Manni (1859-1935), pastor of the Douglas Park Christian Reformed Church from 1910 to 1916.  John slept on corn husks covered by ticking in a crib made by his grandfather Ralph Dykhuis, who earned extra income by making ticking and cribs.  John's crib was covered with oil cloth to keep it dry.

            Because the Swierenga family had favored the name Jan for more than 300 years--the earliest known progenitor before 1600 was Barteld Jan, every male line in America had a son named Jan. To distinguish them and avoid confusion, each as adults took as his middle initial the first letter of their father's given name. Hence, John of Robert was known as "John R.," and his first cousins were John E. of Edward and John H. of Henry. Second and third cousins were John F. of Fred, John B. of Barney, etc.


The Move to Cicero

            Robert and Grace moved again in the spring of 1934 to a modern brick bungalow at 1534 South 59th Court in Cicero.  They had become more affluent by then and wanted to live nearer the church which in 1927 had relocated in Cicero about three blocks from their new home.  A fellow church member, Ben Huiner, a building contractor, and his son John, built the house.  (Ben's wife was a Wierenga and the Wierenga family also emigrated from the area of Ten Post and knew the Swierenga family.) The house was first rented by Nicholas Davids, the father of daughter Katherine's husband, John Davids. Robert lived here until his death in 1949 and Grace until she moved into a convalescent home in 1965; then the house was sold.


Religious Life

            Robert Swierenga was active in the church and he took life seriously. In the Douglas Park Church and later Second Cicero Christian Reformed Church, he was elected first as deacon for one term and then as elder for seven terms.  Once he served as vice-president of the consistory.  Altogether he was a member of the consistory for a total of 25 years, with brief intermittent breaks between terms.  He also led the Men's Society. He never taught Sunday School.  Consistory members filed in when the minister mounted the pulpit and sat on separate platforms at the front of the sanctuary--elders on the left and deacons on the right. Grace and the children tried to sit as close as possible in a nearby pew.

            Robert and Grace always tried to live their Christian faith in daily life and to maintain a high spiritual level in the home. Often Robert would quietly bring 100 lb. sacks of potatoes to needy families in the church, especially widows with small children. Robert led in prayer before each family meal to thank God for the food and for His loving care. After the evening meal (and noon meal on Sundays) Robert read a passage from the Bible, going verse by verse from Genesis to Revelation, and closed in prayer. He used the Dutch language for devotions until John began school and then for the sake of the children switched to English, which he spoke without an accent. When the children learned to read, they each received a Bible and followed the daily reading, sometimes finishing the last verse. As young teens, the sons especially were taught to pray at the table. Use of the radio in the home was monitored and Christian programming favored.


Making Music to the Lord

            The Swierenga family was always interested in music. Besides church activities, Robert devoted his spare time to music. He was self-taught. He played an accordion and a harmonica for his own enjoyment and a cornet in public forums. On Sundays he loved to play the parlor organ (later piano), gather the children around him, and sing simple hymns. He also sang in the church choir, under his brother Edward who was the director for many years. He later sang in the Knickerbocker Male Chorus, a community choir composed largely of Christian Reformed men.  Robert played the cornet and was a charter member of the Excelsior Band, which like the male chorus was drawn from the church community. The Band, fully uniformed with hats, held midweek concerts in the church auditorium and played on the bandstand at the summer Church Sunday School picnic. The people especially enjoyed the hymnsing, accompanied by the Band and led by the conductor.  Occasionally the Band members provided special music on charter boat excursions on Lake Michigan to St. Joseph and elsewhere. 


"Our Own Kind"

            Life revolved around church programs and Christian school activities. There was little intermingling with non-Dutch neighbors. As John recalled, "We were rather isolated. We found our friends amongst our own kind and our own people. And marriage partners the same." Even sporting competition, such as softball and bowling, was organized as church teams. For recreation and holidays, the family almost invariably visited relatives who lived on farms near Chicago, such as the family of his sister, Kate Tillema and her husband Nicholas in De Motte, Indiana, and his sister Alice Miedema and her husband Keimpe, who rented a farm in Des Plaines, Illinois, at Touhy and Wolf Roads, near present-day O'Hare International Airport.  Evenings were often spent in church activities or in visiting relatives. For many years the Swierenga and Dykhuis reunions on national summer holidays brought the extended family together.


Vacationing by Car

            The family's first car was a 1925 Overland sedan with iceinglass curtains, purchased in 1926. They used the car to commute the two miles to the new church in Cicero.  Son John learned to drive with this car.  In 1930 Robert bought a new Buick and Etta learned to drive with this car. Twice in the 1930s, the family traveled with the 1930 Buick to visit relatives in Corsica and New Holland, South Dakota.  Both times Robert fell asleep at the wheel and caused an accident. The first accident, a minor one, occurred when the car went into the ditch and scraped along a barbed wire fence. The second accident was severe enough that Robert made no more long distance auto trips thereafter. On a secondary road near Trip, South Dakota, the wheels sank into the soft gravel shoulder of the road. The car, moving at about 15 mph, first turned on its side and then flipped over on its top. Robert quickly turned off the ignition to prevent a fire and the whole family climbed out of the windows unharmed. The windshield was broken and so they drove back to Chicago with no windshield. The next car was a new green 1940 Pontiac that carried them through the War years. In 1949, only five months before his death, Robert purchased his last car, a 1949 DeSoto, from John Smit, a Chrysler-DeSoto dealer in Summit. All of the children learned to drive, but Grace never wished to get behind the wheel.


Bringing Up the Kids           

            Within the family, Robert was the head and ultimately made the key decisions, although Grace's recommendations and wishes were carefully considered.  Grace had the responsibility for housekeeping, shopping for all clothes, shoes, and food, except the groceries that Robert brought home from the store.  Grace also ordinarily disciplined the children, although in severe cases Robert meted out punishment with a wide paint stick or a pinch on the arm.  But the eldest son, John, recalls that "mother was quicker to use the stick."  Once when John was 12 years old he took his father's prized Overland car for an unauthorized joy ride in the neighborhood.  Unfortunately, at the corner of the block, he struck Mr. Pribble's parked candy truck and dented the fender of the car.  His father was furious and gave John a real tongue-lashing.

            John's offense was the greater because as the oldest son he carried the greatest obligations and privileges.  His place at the dinner table was directly across from father.  He was also expected to work to support the family as soon as possible.  Until marriage all earnings of the oldest children were turned over to their parents, but as the family finances improved, the younger children were permitted to retain their earnings. John and Katherine worked for the Western Electric Company of Cicero, the city's largest employer, but John soon quit to get out of the confining and smelly plant. Etta worked briefly for the nearby Victor Gasket Company of Chicago located on Roosevelt Road, but she preferred helping out at home.  The children married between 22 and 26 years of age except for the youngest, Henry, who was almost 28 years at marriage.  None of the children received a cash wedding gift or dowry from the folks.  After marriage the daughters were expected to be full-time homemakers and mothers.



            Robert and Grace believed in Christian education for their children, despite the high cost of tuition, but they did not encourage higher education or professional careers. All attended the new Timothy Christian School on Tripp Avenue and 13th Street. Ralph, the second son, was the only child to finish secondary school, graduating from Chicago Christian High School. Katherine completed the two-year certificate program at Christian High. John, Henrietta, and Henry quit Christian High after one or two years, when they reached age sixteen, as the law allowed. Henry, the youngest son, was the only family member to serve in the armed forces. He was drafted during World War Two and was assigned to the Army Signal Corps as a signalman in the Pacific theater from 1942 to 1945.

            Robert's goals were, first, to establish a Christian family based on mutual love and respect, and secondly, to achieve a decent standard of living and a nice home in a good neighborhood.  He reached both of these goals and reflected on his life with satisfaction before his death. All of his children became professing Christians in the Christian Reformed Church and married Christian wives who were also members. Robert and Grace had 20 grandchildren and many more great grandchildren.


Death of Robert and Grace Swierenga

            Robert became ill with esophageal cancer sometime in the mid-1940s. He had long suffered from indigestion and for more than ten years drank a glass of caustic baking soda and water every day after dinner to quell heartburns. This no doubt aggravated his illness, if it did not cause it. In the final two months he wasted away in great pain and died at age 61 on December 17, 1949 at the West Suburban Hospital in Oak Park, Illinois, following a two-week hospitalization. To augment the pain medication, which was as strong as could be prescribed, his family gave him whiskey mixed with sugar. His son-in-law Paul Tuitman, who lived with daughter Etta in an apartment in the basement of the home, sat with Robert throughout most of the long nights. The sons and daughters, especially Etta, took turns during the day to relieve Grace.

             Robert, who lost his mother at age 9 and his father at age 12, got much comfort from the Bible.  On the day before he died, his sister-in-law Rika Dykhuis read Psalm 116 and Paul had to assure him from Scripture that his salvation was guaranteed. "He was a Christian man," Paul recalled, but he "had struggles" with the prospect of facing God. After Paul read verses of assurance, Robert declared: "Now it's closed." Shortly before he passed away, Paul asked, "Are you going to Jesus?" "Yes" was all Robert had the strength to reply. He was conscious to the end. After a thronged three-day wake at the Mulder Funeral Home in Cicero, owned by a fellow Hollander and church member George Mulder, and funeral services at the Warren Park Christian Reformed Church, where Robert had worshipped for so many years, his body was interred in the "Dutch section" (Section 75) of the Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois. 

            Grace lived for another 17 years, 15 of which she spent in her home at 1534 South 59th Court. Then early in 1965, due to arteriosclerotic heart disease, she suffered a cerebral thrombosis and was hospitalized for three weeks at the West Suburban Hospital. Her memory was temporarily affected, but she recovered sufficiently to be discharged to the Rest Haven Christian Convalescent Home in Palos Heights, Illinois. Here after thirty months she died peacefully on June 11, 1967, following another cerebral thrombosis that had occurred ten days earlier.  During these months she improved considerably and was able to move about in a wheelchair. She died only three weeks shy of her 79th birthday.  Following a wake at the Mulder Funeral Home and a funeral service on June 14 at the Warren Park Christian Reformed Church, she was buried beside her husband.  All of her children survived her. Twenty years later, son Ralph passed away unexpectedly from heart failure on January 15, 1987, a few weeks before his 68th birthday. He too died in the West Suburban Hospital and was buried in the Forest Home Cemetery near his parents' grave. The other four children continue to live in the Chicago area.



The Second Generation


John R. Swierenga and Marie A. Hoekstra


            Robert and Grace's children came of age in the 1920s and 1930s and remained within the tight family circle.  All resided after marriage within a half-mile radius of the parental home in Cicero.  Life continued to revolve around church, school, and family. Each family worshiped at the Cicero II church and the children and later the grandchildren participated in Sunday School from age 5 and catechism from age 9 or 10, until joining the church by making public profession of faith at age 18. As teenagers they were active in young men's and young women's societies, which prepared them for the adult societies. Timothy Christian School activities, including drama, musical programs, and sports, took up leisure time. The parents meanwhile were occupied raising funds for the school and setting broad policy at organizational meetings, since the school was owned by a society of parents.


John R. Growing Up

            Robert and Grace presented their six weeks old son for baptism at the Douglas Park Church on March 5, 1911 by Rev. Jacob Manni. Six years later he began Sunday school and was enrolled in first grade at Timothy Christian School located three blocks from home at the corner of Tripp Avenue and 13th Street. On reaching the 5th grade he also began attending Saturday morning catechism classes at the church on Harding Avenue four blocks east. Elders Tromp, Bulthuis, and Dykema assisted Pastor John O. Vos as teachers of the graded classes. John graduated from Timothy in 1925 in a class of 16 (see class photo), 7 boys and 9 girls. The school principal was Nicholas Hendrikse. All church and school instruction was in English but worship services continued in Dutch until the late 1920s when English was introduced in the morning service. As a result the oldest children, John, Henriette, and Katherine became fluent in conversational Dutch. They also picked up the Groninger dialect, which was spoken at wider family gatherings with uncles, aunts, and grandparents. Later in life they enjoyed conversing in the "Hollandse taal" with oldtimers, fresh immigrants, and real Netherlanders when traveling in the Old Country, which John and Marie did four times. Henrietta put her language skills to good use after she met and married Paul Tuitman, a 1930 Dutch immigrant, in 1938.

            At age 15 John could join the Young Men's Society at Douglas Park Church. He did so eagerly; it was a "very live organization," he noted.  He remained active until his marriage at age 23, rising through the officer ranks as secretary, treasurer, vice-president, and president.  Elder D.T. Prins was the capable leader and mentor who instructed the young men in Reformed church history and taught them to evaluate all of life from a Calvinist world view.  Since John dropped out of school at age 15, the Young Men's Society provided his continuing education. It also ensured valuable social networking with Christian Reformed young men from greater Chicagoland and even beyond the region, because each society was affiliated with the Chicago Chapter of the National League of Reformed Young Men's Societies, which held semiannual city-wide meetings and annual national conventions. Through the society John began lifelong acquaintances with all the Christian Reformed men his age in Chicago and beyond, many of whom he worked with later in life in various organizations.



The Lawndale Neighborhood

            The Lawndale neighborhood where many Dutch lived was predominantly Russian Jewish and Slavic Catholic. John's childhood friends included Bernie and Samie Basner who lived across the street. Mrs. Basner always had a pot of kosher chicken soup simmering on the stove, which John enjoyed sampling. He played softball with both Dutch and Jewish boys on the playgrounds of Bryan Public School and, after a building addition covered the ball field, at the Mason Public School field at 18th Street and Keeler Avenue. John and his Dutch Reformed buddies were fascinated as teenagers to observe Jewish culture and worship, especially the "bedlam" of chanting in the "shule" (synagogue) and the deft skills of the "shuker" in slaughtering chickens at the local butcher shop for 10 cents each. In mere seconds with a sharp knife the shuker slit the throat in such a way as to leave the head dangling but not entirely severed. The kosher chickens were certified as premium in quality and brought higher prices as they hung by their feet on hooks in the shop window.

            These neighborhood experiences enabled John to appreciate and understand Jewish ways and thinking, which was a great benefit later in his trucking business when most of his customers were Jews. John won their goodwill by honest dealings and by kibitzing in broken Yiddish about their culture, so that they jokingly called him a "Yiddischer Goy" (Jewish Gentile). Amazingly, Samuel Basner, John's orthodox Jewish friend, later converted to Christianity at the Nathaniel Institute, the Jewish Mission of the Chicago Christian Reformed churches, located in the 1300 block on Crawford Avenue. His parents disowned him. For years Basner and his Dutch Reformed wife, Carol Lubben, resided in Elmhurst near his friend John. He affiliated for a time with the Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church, and shopped at the same Jewel store on York Road where they occasionally conversed. In 1987 John observed Samuel trip and fall at the store and subsequently testified in Samuel's successful court suit in the Du Page County courthouse in Wheaton. So after 75 years their paths continued to cross in remarkable ways and they will spend Eternity together.


Continuing to Making Music

            For recreation John turned to music, since he had an ear for it.  At age 10 or 11 he began playing cornet alongside his father in the Excelsior Band, the band of the Douglas Park CRC, taking the second and third scores. He switched to a slide trombone at age 17, which he mastered and played for 60 years.  He also learned to play hymns on the piano respectably well and he sang baritone alongside his father in the church choir and later in the Knickerbocker Male Chorus, along with brothers Ralph and Henry, who sang first tenor until the choir disbanded in 1970. John was self taught and learned to read music and master the techniques of the instruments. On trombone he could easily transpose notes for piano accompaniment or shift to any key as needed. Beside the Band, which disbanded in the late 1930s, John used the trombone to lead singing at family reunions, church programs and picnics, Easter sunrise church services, the Helping Hand Gospel Mission on skid row at 848 West Madison Street, and many other places.

            The Mission was a joint outreach of the Christian Reformed churches of Chicago, and Robert began conducting Sunday evening worship services there once a month in the 1920s.  Robert led the singing with his cornet and later John joined him on his trombone. In the 1940s when failing health forced Robert to give up this ministry, John took his place and later introduced his own children to this music ministry. John and Marie encouraged each of their six children to take up wind instruments and piano and organ, and the family regularly played together in the living room following Sunday morning worship and Sunday school.  Robert and Grace had established this pattern in the 1920s, as noted above.


John R.'s First Jobs

            John's working life began early. At age 10 or 11 he delivered the Chicago Daily News, an afternoon daily with no Sunday edition. John quit high school in 1926 at age 15, during the tenth grade. "I didn't like school," he recalled, but more importantly, he added, "my Dad said I wasn't going to become a minister or a teacher, so he would not continue to pay Christian school tuition." Until he reached age 16, however, John had to attend "Continuation School" one day per week on Wednesdays. Once that was completed John took a full-time job polishing furniture with pumice at a furniture factory. The work was disagreeable and he quit after some months to become a messenger boy at the Western Electric Hawthorne Works in Cicero.  But this job proved even worse because John had to walk through buildings all day where the air was pungent with smoke from burning insulation on electric wires and phone cables. "I hated it."  Western Electric was "like a jail," he declared.

            John held on for only four or five months until at age 17 in 1927 he found a prized job as an insurance file clerk in downtown Chicago at the Royal Group of London & Lancashire Insurance Company. The firm was located on the tenth floor of the twelve-story Brooks Building at 223 West Jackson Boulevard, where coincidentally in the 1950s and 1960s John's trucking company, the Excel Motor Service Company, had its rented office in a small room off of the rear loading platform of this same building. John rose within the company to the position of head "map clerk," being responsible for rating fire insurance on residential policies in the three-state region of Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas. The position offered security but only slow upward mobility and a meager salary. John approached his boss early in 1930 and asked for a raise of $20 a week. "You have great potential," the boss replied and offered $5 more, with the admonition to be patient and grow with the company. "No," John replied. "You and I have to part company."

            At nineteen years of age, John earned his last pay check and left the white collar world of insurance for good. He borrowed $1200 from his father for a down payment on a new Ford truck and went into business for himself as a fruit and vegetable peddler. An advertisement in the Excelsior Band Program at Pilsen Hall on Nov. 12, 1930 read as follows: John R. Swierenga, fresh fruits and vegetables delivered daily, quality and service, twl: 2052, 1404 S. Kedvale Ave., Chicago, Ill." John played a trombone in this band made up of members of his church, the Douglas Park Christian Reformed Church.


John's Spiritual Life and the Labor Day 1929 Drownings

            John Swierenga made public profession of faith in the Second Cicero CRC in 1929 at age 18. He was motivated by a "shattering disaster," a drowning of several close friends, from which he was providentially spared. On Labor Day 1929 he and his best friend Evert Veldman had arranged to take their steady dates, Anna Meyer and Marie Hoekstra, respectively, for an outing to Long Lake north of Chicago where they would join eight other couples from area churches, including Harry Wezeman and the brothers Thomas and Peter Huizenga of Cicero, Cornelius Gelderloos and John Hoving of Chicago, and George Ottenhoff of Hinsdale. The men were between 19 and 23 years old. Marie Hoekstra took sick and canceled her date that morning, much to John's chagrin. He had to stay home and spend the holiday with the family.

            Later that evening John learned the awful news that five of the men including Everett Veldman and Harry Wezeman, his classmates at Timothy Christian School for eight years, had drowned when an overloaded boat with an outboard motor capsized after the motor caught in weeds and swamped the boat in 15 feet of water. Six were in a boat designed for four and none could swim. Thos. Huizenga, who was driving the boat, clung to the boat seat until being rescued by his older brother Peter, who was following in a second boat.

            Two Chicago newpapers carried the tragedy. The heading of the Chicago Daily Tribune article read: "Boys Tip Boat, Five Drown in Tragic Outing" (Sept. 3, 1929). The bold, black, front page headline of Onze Toekomst cried out: "6 Hollandse Jongelingen op 'Labor Day' Verdronken," (Sept. 4, 1929). The Tribune said witnesses among the 3,000 people at Stanton's Resort enjoying the holiday reported that the men were "frolicking in an overloaded boat,.. standing up and rocking their boat to amuse Miss Helen Brouwer, 1642 West 14th Place, and Miss Jennie Dekker, 1413 South Ashland Avenue, who were in another boat close by." The editor of Onze Toekomst disputed the frolicking charge. "One of the girls strongly denies [it] ... and we readily believe her. Moreover, all five boys had a good reputation and in some respects exhibited exemplary behavior," said the editor.

            The Tribune reported there were ten men and ten women at the Dutch outing, but named only the five victims and the two women. The Onze Toekomst account states that "many young people came too" and identified the seven men noted here plus five women, namely Brouwer, Dekker, Anna Klein, Bertha Holtrust, and Thomas Huizenga's date Jennie. Others were Veldman's date Ann Meyer and possibly Peter Huizenga's date Betty Bovenkerk. Dekker, Brouwer, and Klein had rented a cottage at Long Lake for the prior week, and this was the base for the holiday party.

            The disaster traumatized the West Side Dutch Reformed community like few events in the twentieth century, because it impacted many congregations and their interrelated family clans. "We suddenly all feel that same shudder, all our nerves are touched with compassion, and our hearts express real sorrow and sympathy," wrote the editor of Onze Toekomst, as he struggled to find words of comfort. The funerals were the largest and most unforgettable in the history of the churches, and friends who served as pallbearers and indeed that entire generation carried the emotional scars for the rest of their lives. Many feared water and avoided swimming and even boating. Others took their Christian faith more seriously.  

            The close call with death and loss of his friend Evert certainly had a profound effect on John, one of the pallbearers, who also could not swim. Veldman was a "leader with great potential," John recalled. Even forty years later, in 1989, he testified: "I was moved to see these young men taken out of life so suddenly. It made me aware that I should be more consistent in my Christian life. God had other plans for me. This gave me motivation and incentive."


Dating Marie Ann Hoekstra

            John met Marie Ann Hoekstra while her father, the Reverend Peter A. Hoekstra (known by colleagues as P.A. or "Pa"--an acronym Alice disliked) served as the first pastor of the newly relocated Second Cicero church from 1927 to 1940. The family arrived in the new parsonage at 1406 South 58th Court in June. "When she saw me and I saw her, we saw something in each other," John admitted coyly years later. They began dating casually by taking walks on Sunday evening after the church service, as was the custom among Dutch-Americans. After agreeing to "go steady," they sat in church together during the evening worship. This signified to the congregation that the relationship was serious. Marie made public profession of faith on May 26, 1929, a few months earlier than John. Following a courtship of about five years, John and Marie were engaged on Christmas day 1933 and married in the church on August 8, 1934. Both were 23 years of age and the first in either family to marry. The Great Depression was at its worst in these years and it required much faith to marry and raise a family. John even quit his insurance clerkship after six years to go into business for himself in order to support a family.


John and Marie's Wedding

            The wedding, at which Dad Hoekstra officiated, fell on one of the hot (100+ degrees), humid "dog days" of August. During the traditional congregational singing and wedding sermon, the wedding party sat down on a bench in front of a church full of family and friends. The bridal party included Marie's sister Winifred (bridesmaid), John's sister Henrietta (maid of honor), and John's friends Edward Wezeman (best man) and Abe Van Kampen. The reception and program, which followed the wedding and receiving line at church, was held in the decorated basement of the Swierenga home, with Uncle Nick Jongsma as toastmaster. The newlyweds honeymooned for several days at the Wisconsin Dells and then John returned to the vegetable route.


The Anne (Andrew) Hoekstra Family

            Marie was the firstborn of Peter A. Hoekstra (1886-1965) and Alice (baptized as Jacoba Alida) Clausing (1885-1993). The paternal bloodline was pure Frisian, but the maternal side had no Dutch blood, it was Prussian, German, and French Huguenot. Peter was born in the small village of Ee near Dokkum, Friesland on March 4, 1886, the seventh child of Anne Lolles Hoekstra (1843-1920) and Willemke Aagje Kloostra (1847-1921), a farm family. He was baptized in the Hervormde Kerk of Ee. Anne was one of eight sons (a daughter had died when young) and his father's farm could not support eight families. Willemke also bore the stigma of being illegitimate. When Peter was two years old, his parents decided to emigrate to Roseland, Illinois where many fellow Frisians lived. They moved in two stages. Anne went ahead alone, sailing from Rotterdam to New York on the Holland-America Line steamship P. Caland, arriving June 12, 1888.  After the train trip to Chicago, Anne boarded in Roseland and found work as a wood machine laborer at the nearby Pullman Car Works at 111th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.  The firm made the famous railroad palace sleeping cars. Within four months he saved enough money to send prepaid tickets in steerage class for his wife and seven children.  They departed from Amsterdam on the SS Edam, arriving in New York on October 8, and then by railroad to Chicago. Since Pullman required families of new hires to live in company housing in the company town of Pullman, the Hoekstras resided at 558 (new numbering 10706) South Fulton Avenue.


Working at the Pullman Palace Car Works

            As soon as possible in the early 1890s, Anne Lolles, who Anglicized his name to Andrew Louis, moved the family to Roseland, where Pieter (Anglicized to Peter) began public schooling in 1892. Two events in 1893 stand out, one enjoyable and one devastating. Andrew found extra monies to take the family to the Chicago World's Fair (the Columbian Exhibition) to see the wonders of the Midway and especially to experience the thrill of the Ferris wheel. Soon the great financial panic of 1893 and violent labor strife at Pullman in 1894 made the pleasures of the Fair a dim memory. When the Company cut wages but not rents and prices at the company store, the 5,000+ Pullman workers went on strike, which quickly spread into a nationwide rail stoppage.  This brought federal intervention with 14,000 troops, state militia, and local police to open the plants and crush the union. Andrew and his sons, as Christians and Republican in politics, did not condone the strike, but were powerless. They were out of work for over a year and took up market gardening. The family was cast on the city relief rolls and fish from the relief store was the only meat.

            After peace was restored and the plant reopened, the destitute Hoekstra family moved back to Pullman, residing several doors from their previous home at 544 (new numbering 10722) Fulton Avenue. The oldest sons Louis and William also were hired, as were Richard and Thomas later. Peter attended school but the neighborhood was rife with youth gangs and he had to join the Allen Block gang to protect himself; they fought the Foundry gang with fists and pitchforks.  


Peter Hoekstra in Roseland

            In 1896 or 1897, Andrew and Willemke moved back to the safety of Roseland, living briefly in Gano near 117th and LaSalle streets and then at 10707 South Wabash Avenue behind the First Reformed Church on Michigan Avenue, where they worshiped under Reverend Balster Van Es. By 1898 they settled permanently at 10503 S. Curtis Ave. Peter completed his education at Van Vlissingen public school (108th and Wentworth Ave.) and enrolled in Auburn Park High School. He had a good mind and, as the next to youngest child with older brothers working, the family could afford to keep him in school. He graduated with honors in 1903 as salutatorian of his high school class, received a full scholarship to the University of Chicago, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1907. The summer of 1902 the seventeen year old worked two months at the Pullman shops with his father, brothers, and uncles; he helped install inlaid wood (a task known as marquetry) in the palace sleeping cars. Earlier after his sophomore year in high school Peter spent a summer on a vegetable farm earning $3 a week weeding and picking, but his agricultural career was cut short by the fact that he was colorblind and could not distinguish green from ripe red tomatoes.

            In 1900, when Dominie Van Es left First Reformed, the Hoekstra family affiliated with the Second Christian Reformed Church of Roseland. The family was deeply pious. Willemke in simple faith regularly sang children's hymns to her toddlers. Peter remembered "Scheepje onder Jezus hoede" (Sheep under Jesus care).  He attended Sunday school, catechism, young men's society, and being musically inclined and self-taught, played the organ in church and gave piano lessons. He made public profession of faith at age 16 and decided to study for the Christian ministry, under the influence of Simon Blocker, a pre-seminary student at Rutgers University who he probably met while attending the University of Chicago.[6] Peter's pastor, the Rev. Klaas Kuiper, who had served two churches in the Netherlands before emigrating in 1891, also inspired him with high ideals and introduced him to Dutch Reformed ecclesiastical and theological writings. Peter found further stimulation from the pastor's son, R.B., who was his age and likewise aimed for the ministry. They forged a lifelong friendship. R.B. became president of Calvin Theological Seminary. To hone his public speaking skills, Peter taught Sunday school and participated in debates and discussions staged by the young men's society.

            Andrew and Willemke had eight children: Pietje Nellie (1870-1949); Rigtje Rose (1871-1945); Lolle or Louis (1876-1960), Willem or William (1878-1957), Geeske or Gertie (1881-1964), Taeke or Richard (1883-1946), Pieter or Peter (1886-1965), and Theunis or Thomas (1891-1960). Later in life Willemke became extremely overweight and sedentary. She complained of headaches, cold stiff hands, and had little interest in life. She spent her days sitting in a wicker chair by the window and Andrew had to care for her and do the housework.  In 1919 they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a reception at their home at 16 West 107th Street. Andrew died of pneumonia in 1920 and Willemke followed ten months later of heart failure.


The Jacobus Clausing Family

            In his third year at the University in 1905-06, Peter Hoekstra met Alice J. Clausing, a member of the First CRC of Roseland and daughter of Jacobus Clausing (1844-1885) and Anna Maria Kiel (1845-1930). The Kiels, who had been sausage makers for generations (kielbasa was the famed Kiel family product), migrated from Rastenburg, Prussia (now in Poland) to Amsterdam, where Anna's father, Pieter Cornelis Kiel (1812-??), M.D., practiced general medicine and pharmacology. Family tradition is that King Louis Napoleon III, Emperor of France (1848-1870) and a grandson of Napoleon Bonaparte, ordered one of Dr. Kiel's famed secret-formula medicines. Kiel's wife, Johanna Muller, a butcher's daughter, was of French Huguenot extraction. The Clausings, originally cattle buyers from western Germany in the Twente area, lived in nearby Alkmaar, where Jacobus and his younger brother Cornelis Laurens grew up in a Lutheran orphanage after their mother died in 1854. Orphaned at ages 10 and 7, Jacobus was apprenticed to a tailor and Cornelis to a painter. Jacobus earned 35 cents a week in 1859.  Jacobus and Cornelis both married Kiel daughters; Jacobus wed Anna Maria on May 7, 1870, a year after Cornelis had wed Johanna Antoinette on Jan. 31, 1869. These were not socially acceptable matches, because a doctor's daughter should marry one of her "state" and not a day laborer and orphan at that! Anna's parents had selected a schoolteacher, but he had a long nose and she did not like him. She had dark brown eyes.

            Three years later, in 1873, when Jacobus and Anna's child Peter was only 18 months, they emigrated from Warmenhuizen with Cornelius and his family of four to Roseland, Illinois, which was a center for Noord Hollanders. Both families had caught the "America fever" and wished to get away from poverty and the Dutch social conventions. They took passage in steerage on the Dutch steamship Castor, 942 tons, from Rotterdam to New York, entering via the Castle Garden reception center on May 9, 1873, after three weeks at sea. Anna became so sea sick they despaired of her life. Jacobus found work at the Pullman shops as a laborer in the lumber yard, earning 13 cents an hour for ten-hour days. The couple eventually had eight children and remained very poor, living in a string of rented houses until settling in a little red brick house at 46 West 111th Street across from the Roseland Community Hospital. Here Jacoba Alida was born on December 2, 1885. She never knew her father, who died before her birth. According to Simon Dekker's "History of Roseland" (1938), the fresh immigrant Jacobus with his "soft tailor hands ... had to do all kinds of hard work, but not for long. He took sick and died very suddenly leaving his wife and a large family. But the Lord took care of them" (p. 163).

            The Clausing family, unlike the Hoekstras, were initially not religiously orthodox. This was a legacy of Jacobus growing up in an orphanage. They did not attend church in Holland, had no family devotions, and thought nothing of working on Sunday. But in Roseland they were so starved for fellowship and entertainment that they began attending the only Dutch-language church in town, First Reformed, which had just installed an organ to lead in singing the good old Dutch Psalms. Wondrously, the Clausings were converted under the preaching and teaching of the pastor, the Reverend H.R. Koopman, and Jacobus and Anna made profession of faith and joined the congregation, probably in 1876.

            Old Mr. Dekker's recollections in "The History of Roseland" confirm this account: "Coming to this country, they [the Jacobus Clausing family] found everybody going to church and nothing else going on, so they felt so uneasy and disasatisfied with themselves, that out of shear vexation they said one to the other, let us go to church and not because of any interest in religion. But still we believe they were led by the Holy Spirit, for from that time on they were regular attendants at church" (p. 163).

            In late 1877 Rev. Koopman took a call to Paterson, New Jersey, just as the Roseland congregation became embroiled in the debate over freemasonry and other doctrinal issues that had been rocking the Reformed denomination for a decade. The upshot was that sixty-one members, including Jacobus and Anna, seceded to form the "True Holland Reformed Church" of Roseland (later changed to First Christian Reformed Church). The new congregation erected a building at the corner of 111th and State streets, within a block of the Clausing home.[7] Here in June, 1885 was the burial service for Jacobus, who died at age 42 of heart trouble, leaving his large family to struggle and live in great poverty. Early in 1886 the widow Anna presented Jacoba Alida, born six months later, for the sacrament of baptism by the Rev. P. Koster. Some urged her to put the baby up for adoption, but son Peter said "No, if seven can eat then eight can eat of it too."

            Jacoba Alida went to the Dutch Christian school for the first three years and then transferred to the same Van Vlissingen public school that Peter Hoekstra attended. Her first grade teacher did not like her name and changed it to Alice, which she used for the rest of her long life. At first her classmates also shunned her because she had no father. Once she went home at recess and asked if the coffee was ready, but mother sent her right back to school. Anna worked as a birthing nurse, took in washing, and sent the oldest son Peter out to work. Her vegetable garden kept the family relatively healthy; Alice ate as many carrots as she could. But they rarely ate fruit and only received an orange and box of candy at Christmas. Apples were cut into eight slices. The milk and homemade butter from their cow had to be sold for food. As a result, Alice did not drink milk and was very thin. One summer she was sent to relatives on a farm in Wichart and gained weight. For birthdays she received a penny, which would be spent at the store for popcorn or candy. Her only doll, made of plaster, was crushed when an old lady stepped on it.


The Reverend Peter A. Hoekstra

            Peter and Alice's courting was curtailed when Peter went to Grand Rapids, MI in 1907 to enroll in the Calvin Theological Seminary as the first student with a four-year college degree, and that from the prestigious University of Chicago. Peter thrived at Calvin. The Board of Trustees licensed him to preach after completing the first year, as was the norm, and he was sent for the summer assignment of 1908 to small churches in the frontier west, in Minnesota, Montana, and Alberta. At Farmington, MN he led worship services in a schoolhouse with a soapbox on the desk as a pulpit and an oil lamp for lighting. He walked many miles and once rode a western pony across prairies and streams to visit parishioners living in dugouts and sod huts. There were no paved roads. In Lethbridge, Alberta, he hitched a ride on a loaded coal wagon without springs, with his suitcase slung atop the coal. As adventurous as was this first assignment in the west, Peter's second summer was in the urban east, in Paterson, NJ near New York City, which set his future course. Peter took the opportunity to go to New York to visit his friend Simon Blocker, who pastored a Reformed church there. 

             During his years in the seminary and on the far-flung summer assignments, Peter faithfully wrote his beloved Alice letters and postal cards. Occasionally he wrote in poetry, using her baptized name Alida, which he liked. One birthday poem that Alice saved is entitled "Ad Alidam" (Latin, To Alida):

            Hail, Thou Alida, maiden calm and fair!

            May angels, ministering to thy care

              Thee blessings bring this day.

            Hail thou, my princess, dearest to my soul!

            May th'heavenly servants to the destined goal

              This happy wish convey.


            Blessed be this day, that in the year's sweet round

            Thou do'st hear voices round about thee sound

              Of greetings to thee brought.

            Blessed be this day, that richly doth abound

            In multitud'nous welcomes, and is crowned

              With this verse I have wrought.


            Count thyself blessed that the Lord did spare

            Thy mortal frame which th'Evil One would tear

              Asunder if he might.

            Ascribe all thanks and honor to the Lord

            That he so graciously thy conduct did reward

              Unworthy in his sight.


            Remember all Jehovah's tendrous love

            And loving care shed on thee from above

              And kneel before His throne.

            But sweet'st of all sweet things it is, below

            To be convinced that God's love fire doth glow

              In us who are his own.


            May many a birthday thee, Alida, greet

            May'st thy lips many a day be spared to meet

              The lips of him who loves thee.

            Above all, may thy life be consecrate

            To God's high cause, and may He thee await

              In mansions far above thee.


     Lovingly Yours, Peter Hoekstra


To stymie the inquisitive eyes of the mailman and family members, in his postcards he used a Greek script, though in the English language, that only he and Alice could decipher. They exchanged letters regularly for three years until Peter graduated in June 1910 and returned to Roseland for the wedding set for August 2nd in the First CRC. The Rev. John Walkotten married them and a reception followed at Alice's home. They honeymooned for several weeks in Minneapolis and at Maple Lake, MN at the home of a cousin, and then moved to Moline, MI, because Peter had accepted a call as the first pastor of the newly organized Moline Christian Reformed Church. He was installed on September 11, 1910, following a successful examination by the Classis of Grand Rapids. The congregation worshiped in the Dutch language.


The Moline, Michigan Church

            The move to this rural village required a big adjustment for the Chicagoans. The parsonage had no indoor plumbing or electricity, but rather an outhouse, oil lamps, and a pump in the kitchen. The Juffrouw (Dutch for "lady," a title of respect) had to wash clothes by turning a wheel on the side of the washing machine and bake bread on a kerosene stove. The church furnished a buggy, harness, and sleigh, but it took most of their first year's salary of $700 to buy a horse and neither knew horses. "Both of us were afraid of the horse. When he heard a [rifle] shot, he would become unmanageable," said Alice, and "once we were both thrown into the snow." 

            As Alice recalled in a letter to the congregation in 1983 on its 75th anniversary (when she was 97 years old!): "I had never been so close to a horse before this and I was somewhat afraid, as I had to go into the stall to feed him during times when my husband had a classical supply," i.e., when Peter had to leave on Saturday to preach in vacant churches many miles away.  "Having been used to streetcars in Chicago, my husband had difficulty adjusting to the horse and buggy mode of travel.  He often walked miles to make a visit." Coincidentally, Alice in her early nineties returned to the Moline church from California in 1978 and again in 1979 for the marriage ceremonies of two of her grandsons with sisters of the congregation (Dennis Dykstra with Elaine Rottman, and Andrew HetJonk with sister Jane). Alice went by airplane and noted that 1978 was the 75th anniversary of the Wright Brothers maiden flight. "I was 18 years old & remember it, as though it happened yesterday. No radio or TV, only the Chicago Daily News. I remember no one believed it could be done." No one believed her longevity either; Alice passed away in 1993 at 107 years of age!


Marie A. Hoekstra Growing Up

            On July 4, 1911 the young couple welcomed the birth of Marie Ann, who was named after her maternal grandmother.  Known as a "firecracker baby," Marie always enjoyed celebrating her day on the nation's birthday. She had other distinctions. Alice told the congregation in 1983: "We went to Wayland for a baby bed for our first child, the first to be born in your first parsonage."

            In the fall of 1911, after a very brief pastorate of only eighteen months, Rev. Hoekstra accepted the call of the Fourteenth Street CRC of Holland, MI. To leave Moline so soon was bad form, but the shortage of pastors able to preach in English in urban churches was acute. The large Fourteenth Street church already worshiped in English, since it stood in the center of the mother Dutch colony and near the intellectual life of Hope College and Western Theological Seminary. Here in the spacious frame parsonage with a side driveway for the horse and carriage, were born daughters Winifred Ruth on May 5, 1913 and Josephine May on New Year's Day in 1915.

            In mid 1915, after nearly four years in Holland, Rev. Hoekstra took his family to the East Coast by accepting the call of the First Paterson CRC. This was likewise a large, historic congregation in the heart of a dense Dutch settlement. The church stood in a rundown neighborhood traversed by the Passaic River and surrounded by silk mills and saloons. Marie recalls as a youngster being afraid of drunkards walking past the parsonage from a nearby saloon. These were the years of the First World War, but the Dutch in Paterson did not suffer from the anti-German nativism as did their brethren in the rural midwest, where schools, churches, and barns were torched by super patriots. The Hoekstras prospered and bought their first car, a Saxon, with which they toured all the scenic spots in the Hudson River Valley, the Catskill Mountains, and Long Island. Alice's widowed mother Anna (Grandma Clausing) also joined the family at this time and remained with them until her death in Cicero in 1930 at the ripe age of 85 years. She was buried at Mt. Greenwood Cemetery among the Clausings.

            Marie Hoekstra entered first grade in the Christian school in Paterson in 1917, but after completing the second grade her father in 1919 accepted the call from the Alpine Avenue CRC of Grand Rapids, MI, located in midst of the west side Dutch community. Marie graduated from the Alpine Avenue Christian School in 1925 and continued her studies at the Grand Rapids Christian High School located on the east side near Calvin College and Seminary. Rev. Hoekstra led this rising, second- generation immigrant congregation through the trauma and controversy of the language transition from Dutch to English in the post-war era. The old timers stubbornly held on the "language of heaven," but their minister was concerned for the souls of the children who could hardly understand the sermons in the native tongue. Despite the struggles, Peter enjoyed the labors here very much, and in 1981 when the congregation celebrated its centennial, his widow told them: "My husband often said that this was his busiest and his most beloved church."  Here, too, three more children were born: Andrew Louis on Nov. 26, 1919, Evelyn Dorothy on Sept. 11, 1923, and James Peter on Nov. 20, 1926.

            In 1927, after eight years in the denominational center and home of its college and seminary, the Hoekstras moved to a very different setting, the Groninger congregation of Second Cicero CRC, a Chicago suburb. This became Rev. Hoekstra's longest pastorate, 13 years, and all of the children except James completed secondary education at the Chicago Christian High School in Englewood. Marie and Andrew also married in Chicago.

            Marie graduated in 1928 and went to work as an order clerk in the office of the Hurley Machine Company on 54th Street in Cicero, which manufactured Thor washing machines.  She continued to date John R. Swierenga and remained active, along with her sisters Win and Jo, in the church young women's society until marriage. Andrew Hoekstra followed in his father's footsteps and enrolled at the University of Chicago, graduating with a B.S. degree in chemistry and physics. He then enrolled in the medical school of the University of Colorado. After graduation he accepted a residency in psychiatry under the auspices of the U.S. Army and practiced in the military for eight years. At the University of Chicago he met Portia Kellog Rich and they were married in 1940 in the parsonage of the Rev. Frank Doezema of First Roseland CRC. Andrew's father had several months earlier moved to the CRC of Hanford, California, so he could not marry them.  Witnesses at the private ceremony were the Rev. Doezema's married daughter Annette Boomker, who lived two doors away, and sister Marie, who traveled by streetcar from Cicero. Curiously, sixteen years later Annette's daughter Joan married Marie's son Robert, and the women became mothers-in-law!

            Winifred studied nursing at Presbyterian Hospital of Chicago and earned an RN degree. She also taught Sunday school at the Cicero church. In order to become a missionary nurse for Navaho and Zuni Indians at the Rehobeth Christian Hospital in Gallup, NM, Win enrolled at the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. So opposed were the church elders to the Arminian theology taught at MBI that they refused to reappoint Win as Sunday school teacher, fearing she might pass the contamination to the youth. Being the PK (preacher's kid) cut no ice with these stijf kops (literally, stiff heads).


John and Marie's First Years Together    

            The newlyweds made their home from 1934 to 1939 in a brick two-flat at 1625 South Austin Boulevard, where they rented the first floor. The two-bedroom home was conveniently located only one half block south of Dad and Mother Swierenga. Robert Peter (Bobby) arrived on June 10, 1935 and a year later Raymond Calvin on July 16, 1936. Both were born at Presbyterian-St Luke Hospital. Robert was named after both of his grandfathers; but "we just liked the name" Raymond, John explained. Bobby sported a full head of blonde curls while Ray's hair was straight and a little darker. Marie took the boys for almost daily walks to her parents or to John's folks.

            Aunts Etta (Henrietta) Swierenga and Evelyn Hoekstra helped as baby sitters and housekeepers. Evelyn, then in high school, came every Saturday to clean the house, wash clothes, and play with her first nephews. In the summer she did the same on Wednesday as well.  Marie at first raised the boys according to Dr. Benjamin Spock, following a rigid four hour feeding regimen. But this left Bobby and Ray hungry and fussy, until one day Etta put them on a three-hour schedule and to Marie's amazement they were content and slept. Evelyn recalls taking Bobby and Ray to an ice cream parlor on Roosevelt Road and introducing them to the tasty treat for the first time, when she was babysitting them during the Saturday afternoon wedding of Paul and Etta Tuitman in 1939.

            In 1936, shortly after Raymond's birth, the family faced a severe crisis when Bobby, then 18 months, took sick with the dread scarlet fever. Since the disease was highly contagious, the Cicero health department by law quarantined the home. For John to be able to work and Marie to care for the baby, Grandma Hoekstra agreed to be quarantined with Bobby for six weeks while the others moved in with the Swierengas. Again in 1941 scarlet fever struck the third child, Alyce, a toddler of two years, but this time only she was confined to her bedroom. By then sulfa drugs had lessened the scourge.


Life at 1230 South 59th Avenue (1938-1946)

            The birth of Alyce Joanne (named by custom after Grandma Alice Hoekstra) on April 20, 1938, at Presbyterian-St Luke Hospital, pushed the family out of the small flat and into their own home at 1230 South 59th Avenue, just four blocks to the north. In March 1939, the Swierengas paid $4,500 for a two-bedroom, one story bungalow with a narrow side driveway, featuring two concrete strips for car tires leading to the garage at the rear. They borrowed the $1,500 down payment from both parents but primarily from Dad Hoekstra. Monthly mortgage payments on the land contract from the seller were $30 a month at 5% interest, and real estate taxes totaled $107 a year. It was the only flat-roofed building on the block and faced the McKinley public school.

            Before moving in July, John contracted with Peter Tazelaar to remodel the back porch into a third bedroom at a cost of $1,500. Other major renovations in 1939 were a complete new roof and a coal-burning boiler installed by Edward Tazelaar. Edward Van Der Horst wallpapered the rooms and Uncle Jelke (Jake) Nauta remodeled the bathroom. All were fellow church members.

            This home served the family for eight years, while three more children were born: Donald John on May 28, 1941 at Presbyterian-St Luke Hospital, Grace Marlene (named by custom after Grandma Swierenga) on Feb. 24, 1944, and John Robert Jr. on June 11, 1945, both at Loretto Hospital. John weighed only 4 pounds 12 ounces and spent his first ten days in the "premie" ward. The hospital charge was $3 per day! A seventh child, James Lee, was stillborn on July 5, 1949 at West Suburban Hospital.  He was a perfectly formed boy of 6 lbs. 7 oz. but the umbilical cord became detached a few moments before birth. "It can't be explained," Marie wrote her family in California. "It was just God's will that it happened." Doctor Henry Wm. Rottschafer had never experienced such a complication, she noted. The undertaker George Mulder, pastor Enno Haan, and John buried the baby at Chapel Hill Gardens in Villa Park.  Two years later John purchased six graves at the Forest Home Cemetery, adjacent to those of his parents, and the baby was reburied there. In April, 1957 son Robert's first child, John Robert III, died three days after a premature birth of six weeks and was buried at the foot of the same grave.

            After the Hoekstra family moved to Hanford, CA, daughter Evelyn, who had spent all her teenage years in Chicago, missed her friends and wished to return. In 1942 she came to board with John and Marie for six months. She worked full time for an agency in the Insurance Exchange building in downtown Chicago and was a live-in helper with the four children, including baby Donald. Marie's numerous pregnancies had caused kidney problems and she was frequently bedridden with infections. Thus Evelyn briefly relieved John's sister Etta, who lived nearby and bore the brunt of helping Marie. 


Life at 1418 South 58th Court (1946-1969)

            By 1946 the 59th Avenue house was too small. It was sold for $9,500 and replaced by a much larger red brick bungalow with full attic and basement, plus a two-car frame garage off the alley, at 1418 South 58th Court, less than two blocks away. The house, which they purchased in April for $14,500 from Henry and Martha De Boer. It was one of three adjacent dwellings of the De Boer brothers, Henry, George, and Clarence. The realty firm of Stob, Knol & Huizenga, attorneys, did the legal and abstracting work for De Boer and John had cousin Dick Rispens record his deed. P. Ploegman & Sons movers handled the heavy furniture and appliances for $46.35, including $6 for the piano, which took four men. Ann Kreuger and her unmarried daughter, Marg, were the long-time neighbors on the north side. They had once lived in fashionable River Forest, but had been wiped out by the stock market crash of 1929.    

            The building stood just six houses south of the Cicero II church and the parsonage where Marie had lived for eight years before her marriage. This spacious home served the active family for twenty-three years, until all the children were married, and it housed boarders and visitors as well  A wide circle of friends enjoyed "coffee and" in the parlor on Sunday evening visits, including among others, Barney and Grace Hoeks, Ray and Minnie Schaafsma, Bernard and Ann Huiner, Richard and Bess Tolsma, pastors Enno and Florence Haan and Fred and Grace Van Houten, and numerous Christian school teachers. Overnight visits by relatives and friends were also a regular occurrence.

             Brother-in-law James Hoekstra returned from California in the summer of 1946 to attend Calvin College and lived in the finished attic bedroom on weekends and holidays while dating Jane Vander Velde of Englewood. After completing the Freshman year, Jim returned to Cicero to be near Jane. He enrolled briefly in the MacCormac School of Commerce and then took a job as salesman for one of Excel Motor's customers, Kumfy Undies & Woolies, located in the Brooks Building. After some months he boarded in Englewood and worked at an Ace Hardware store, then at the stockyards as a time keeper and paymaster, and finally as a bricklayer. All of these jobs prepared him for later owning a hardware store and home construction business in Laton, CA. He and Jane married in September 1949 and after the birth of James Jr. they moved to Hanford in November, 1951, prompted by the decision of Jane's parents to resettle in Waupan, Wisconsin.

            In 1953-54 Ruth Schermer, the 18-19 year old daughter of John's Aunt Anna and Uncle Anton of St. Catherines, Ontario, lived with the Swierengas for a year and worked in Chicago.  

            For the boys and their friends, the center of activity was the regulation-sized pool table in the basement that came with the house for an extra $75. The teenagers spent many an evening at that table and on holidays all the men gathered around it for friendly games of "eight ball" and billiards. It was a melancholy day in November 1965 when Dad ran an ad in the Cicero Life newspaper and sold the pool table, which had been such an integral part of growing up. By then all the children were married and the table was subject to damage from periodic sewer flooding in the basement after heavy rains.

            The spacious basement also had room for Bob and Ray's HO gauge model train layout on a 4' by 12' table, complete with mountain tunnel, wooden trestle bridge, and several loops of track for both freight and passenger trains, all of which they built from kits. The younger boys, Don and John, had American Flyer and Lionel train sets, and later they built their own rolling stock for the HO layout. As preteens, Bob and Ray listened to children's programs on the Spartan radio set. In 1949 the family bought its first phonograph, an RCA Victor console, and began ordering band and choral records. Only in 1951 did John and Marie give in and buy a 19 inch TV, but viewing was strictly monitored.

            While the boys had primary responsibility for mopping the basement floor, cleaning windows, etc. home maintenance again was put in the hands of professionals. Painters and decorators Joe Van Denend and Gerrit Peters did the annual spring restoration, Francis Medema did needed electrical work, Edward Wezeman cleaned the carpets, Martin Kingma and brother Henry Swierenga remodeled the kitchen and upstairs respectively, and Ed Tazelaar installed a new Timken Burner oil furnace in 1946, ending forever the soot of the coal bin and carrying out ashes. All were Dutch Reformed.

            Marie had her hands full running the household and keeping up the weekly correspondence with the far-flung family, especially the folks in Hanford and later the children in college or married. Marie was the information gatekeeper of the family and a faithful letter writer. She used carbon paper liberally to multiply her letters and enclosed letters from siblings.  In 1947 Marie got an Easy washing machine with the spin dry feature, followed the next year by a Thor "Gladiron," the latest invention in ironing. Hanging out clothes became less of a chore in 1951 when they bought a Sears gas dryer, along with a matching washer. John first indulged himself with a window air conditioner in 1955. Until the opening of the A & P and Jewel supermarkets on Roosevelt Rd., Marie ordered groceries by phone from Vander Ploeg's Market on 57th Court in Cicero, which the owner's son delivered in a special bicycle with a huge basket over a very small front wheel. Groceries were bought from the Italian peddler, Joe Battaglia, who came down the alley in a truck twice weekly. In 1946 John ordered the home delivery of milk, which was brought for the next fifteen years by John Visser, Clarence T. Boerema, and then Peter Buikema. The thirsty family drank over 150 quarts a month by 1951, until the older children went off to college and the milk order declined. John also bought meat in bulk from Jerry Sebesta Market after purchasing a chest freezer in 1953.  

            Adding to the hubbub of the household was a dog, which Don prevailed on Dad to get, over Marie's protestations, in 1953. Peter Tazelaar was hired to fence in the back yard to contain Trixie, a jet black Manchester terrier, who nonetheless managed to get pregnant. The birth to a litter of puppies in the kitchen closet was a great learning experience for the wide-eyed kids.  Trixie also followed the family to church one Sunday evening, went up the stairs into the auditorium full of people, and walked across the pulpit platform where Reverend Haan was sitting just before the service began. This was an unforgettable experience for the children! In 1958 Trixie got lost and they posted a notice to no avail in the Cicero Life newspaper lost and found column "for Dog." Skipper, grey and also a Manchester terrier--Dad's favorite breed, replaced Trixie. He came from a litter of Paul Tuitman's dog and was a nervous animal, no doubt reflecting the busyness of the Swierenga home. Memorable was the time one of the boys gave him a caramel to chew and it stuck to his molars. Watching him struggle vainly to dislodge it was hilarious.

            In the home Marie stressed the importance of good reading material. She subscribed to Christian periodicals and books and a smattering of secular ones like Reader's Digest (first ordered in 1942) and the National Geographic. The books were a staple around the Christmas tree, ordered by mail from Baker Book House, Eerdmans, and Zondervan in Grand Rapids.  Besides the denominational weekly, The Banner, and Zondervan's Daily Manna, the Swierengas received The Christian Indian featuring the Navaho and Zuni tribes where sister Winifred nursed at Rehobeth Hospital, the children's monthly My Chum, The Chicago Calvinist, a magazine for teens, and in the 1950s U.S. News and World Report, Christianity Today, Torch and Trumpet, and the Chicago-area Reformed monthly, The Illinois Observer, edited by the Reverend Arthur De Kruyter. 

            For school reports the children relied on the multi-volume encyclopedia, Crolier's Book of Knowledge and its annual supplements, which was purchased in 1948. The newspaper of choice for decades until it went defunct was the Chicago Daily News, delivered through the C. B. Agency on 16th Street and 59th Avenue. All the children worked in their turn delivering newspapers for C. B. owner "Jack the Jew," beginning with Bob and Ray in 1945. Even Alyce and Grace delivered papers, including the Cicero Life, which route Bob and Ray had first.   

            Physicians who kept the family healthy and treat the colds, bruises, and myopia of the eyes were Drs. William John Yonker, Henry Wm. Rottschafer, and Everett Van Reken (beginning in 1952 after Yonker's retirement). Dentists were John Balk, and after his retirement Leonard Boke, Peter A. Boelens, and William Vennema, Jr. The greatest fear was contracting polio, the scourge of the era. The city swimming pools were often closed during the summer after a severe outbreak. In 1946 John bought the first polio insurance policy covering the family from Continental Casualty Company, and he renewed it until 1956, when polio vaccines became available. Dr. Van Reken gave Don, Grace, and John their first polio vaccination in 1956.  Optometrist Peter Bardolph, operating out of the basement of his home on 59th Court, prescribed glasses after 1955, which Yonker had done previously. Rottschafer gave obstetrical care to Marie, except for a female doctor, M. D. Ward, who delivered Grace and John. After 1957 Marie used Florence Haan's gynecologist, Frank M. Fara of Berwyn. Ever since the 1970s West Suburban Hospital physician Marvin Tiesenga, John's former Sunday school pupil at Warren Park CRC, became the family surgeon and internist, and Everett Van Reken's son Philip took over his father's patients.

            The family was remarkably healthy. None of the children had any chronic problems, although John as a little boy suffered from severe croup until he outgrew it. Bob and Don were both struck by cars while delivering newspapers. Bob suffered only cuts and bruises while Don had a concussion and broken collarbone. He came to rest on 15" from the "third rail" of the Douglas Park "El," which would have electrocuted him. Marie suffered periodic kidney infections as an aftermath of her seven pregnancies and was also prone to colds and bronchitis. In March 1956 she was hospitalized for three days at MacNeal Memorial Hospital in Berwyn for a D & C, and on New Year's eve of the same year she was admitted again for three days after she fell on ice on the front steps of the house and broke her arm. In March that year John had suffered a mild heart attack due to stress from his business, and was hospitalized four days at West Suburban. He had long since given up smoking cigarettes, a teenage addiction, and substituted a pipe. This too he quit. John in March 1967 also fell on the ice and badly bruised his right arm and shoulder, requiring many x-rays and three months of doctoring. In 1969 he suffered a second heart attack and was again admitted to West Suburban Hospital for a week.


The Move to Elmhurst (1969-1997)

            After all the children were married and the business sold, John and Marie in July, 1969 sold the home in Cicero for $27,500 and bought a spacious brick ranch home in Elmhurst at 353 East Butterfield Road for $54,000. They enjoyed the bright airy view, the tree lined yard, and the city park directly across the street. The home was less than a mile from their relocated Cicero church, now called Faith CRC of Elmhurst. The children had to adjust emotionally to the loss of the home, church, and neighborhood of their youth. They experienced the old adage: "You can never go home again."


Christian Education

            John and Marie believed in Christian education just as strongly as their parents did, and they willingly sacrificed to pay for it. They also stressed entering one of the helping professions. John did not push any of his four sons into his trucking business, even though all worked for him during college summer vacations. All six children attended Reformed Christian schools from first grade through high school and college. They began at Timothy Christian School in Cicero on 14th Street at 59th Court (the school had relocated from the Lawndale district to Cicero in 1927), and then went to Chicago Christian High in Englewood (Bob and Ray only) and Timothy Christian High, located in the 1200 block of 61st Court. All attended Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI.  Robert, Alyce, and John Jr. earned education degrees and Raymond and Donald had a pre-seminary degrees. Grace finished two years and then completed the RN degree program at Mt. Sinai Nursing School in Chicago.


John's Fruit and Vegetable Business

            While Marie had full responsibilities in the household, John concentrated on making a success of his retail fruit and vegetable route. John bought produce from his father's wholesale house, Swierenga Bros., and other Randolph Street commission houses, and peddled door to door in Cicero and Berwyn, going up and down the alleys on alternating days, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in Berwyn and Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday in Cicero. He acquired steady customers, sometimes up to ten on a block. While testing the viability of the venture, John put off buying the requisite peddling licenses, $75 in Cicero and $50 in Berwyn, but the police pestered him. After two years of stalling by giving them produce, he finally had to buy the licenses, even though he could see that the business had no future. "The handwriting was on the wall." Small grocers, peddlers, and the commission houses that supplied them could not compete with the new "chain stores" such as Great Atlantic & Pacific (A&P) and Jewel Tea.

            John's most graphic memory of his brief peddling venture was the attempt by one of his competitors, Eddie Azzarello, to steal his truck and merchandise. John was on the second floor back porch with a customer in the 1200 block of 61st Court when Eddie's helper, a "little Italian fellow," jumped in the truck with its motor idling and drove off. John, 200 lbs of solid muscle, saw the truck moving and bolted down the steps jumping over the first floor railing in hot pursuit. Fortunately, the thief had a problem shifting the truck's gear and also a car briefly blocked the alley at the T on its north end behind Murphy Motors Service garage. This allowed John to overtake the truck and catch the man, who he recognized. In blind rage, John yanked the thief out of the cab and beat him badly until the man managed to run away, leaving pieces of his shirt in John's hands. This incident gave John vivid dreams for years and at least once in his sleep he even smashed his fist into the wall above his bed, narrowly missing Marie, as he warded off a thief.


Excel Motor Service

            In 1935 John left peddling after signing a contract with the Adams Union Company (located at Taylor and Western Avenue) to haul general freight within the Chicago area for $50 per week. He did this for two years and even though he got an increase to $75 per week, he decided that the amount was too low, considering that he had to pay all the truck maintenance expenses. John mentioned his predicament to his first cousin by marriage, Dick Rispens, who operated an insurance agency, and Dick suggested that John buy his own trucking business. He noted that Clarence Klassens, a fellow church member, wished to sell his run-down business, known as Motorcycle Delivery Service, consisting of fifteen accounts and two decrepit trucks, and a driver with a drinking problem. John and Clarence struck an agreement for $600 on Feb. 1, 1938.

            Swierenga sold his Adams Union contract and truck to a fellow Hollander, a Mr. Smith of the Reformed Church, and took over Klassens's company. John ran the business for thirty-two years; Dick Rispens handled all his insurance needs on the trucks and cargo. John kept Klassens's 1935 Chevrolet truck and replaced a 1930 "junker" with a 1936 Chevrolet, laid off the tippler and hired Uncle Ed Swierenga's son Edward (Eddy) for $13 per week, and chose the name Excel Motor Service. To save overhead costs John rented space and had his phone at the office of Standard Cartage Company, owned by Leonard Gorter, another church member, at 612 South Sherman Street in the south "Loop." The office was actually a wooden shack along the sidewall of a brick building fronting at 161 West Harrison Street. In August 1940 John first listed the firm in the Chicago "Red Book" or telephone directory for $1.50 a month. The phone number for many decades was Harrison 7-3041.

            Several of the original accounts, such as McCarty Letter Service, Fruit Growers Express and Burlington Refrigerator Express, and Baum Folder, proved to be valuable, but John hustled new customers.  He hauled anything that he and the trucks could manage--machinery (for Baum Folder and the Harris-Diebold Company, for example), bolts of woolen goods and garments such as men's suits and women's coats, water coolers (the Morry Blons Company, an account acquired in 1941), and paper products ranging from skids of bulk paper sheets weighing 1000+ pounds to small packages of stationery and advertising signs for city transit buses and trains. The firm also hauled bulk mail such as magazines, catalogs, and documents, placed in large canvas mail sacks, to the central post office on Harrison and Canal Streets. The company declined to carry jewelry and tobacco and alcohol products.

            In December of 1940 John hired his brother-in-law Paul Tuitman, who worked in an icehouse, but had recently been fired for refusing to work on Sunday. Paul drove for Excel for thirty years until his retirement in 1970 and for many years had primary responsibility for the Fruit Growers Express and Burlington Express accounts. These twin firms provided railroad refrigerator cars with charcoal or kerosene heaters in the winter to keep food products from freezing. The heaters had to be hauled from incoming train yards to storage areas and then trucked as needed to outgoing train yards. It was hard, dirty work in often extremely cold conditions but very lucrative. 

            In 1941 the State legislature required trucking companies to obtain an operating license or authority from the Illinois Commerce Commission. Dick Rispens wisely helped John write a contract with the broadest possible authority-- the right to haul general commodities within a fifty-mile radius of the city center. Fellow churchman, attorney Ben Ottenhoff, recorded the contract with the State agency and registered the name Excel Motor Service for $1.  Subsequently, when the number of trucking companies in Chicago exceeded the perceived needs of the market, the ICC sharply restricted the number and authority of new licenses issued. Excel Motor's broad license was "grand-fathered" and became valuable.

            Excel Motor made several acquisitions over the years. In 1942 Swierenga paid $350 to Edward Arnold for a 1937 Ford truck and his few accounts, including Wheat Flour and Bauer & Black. He also obtained the lease to Arnold's office at the rear loading dock of the twelve-story Brooks Building, 223 W. Jackson Boulevard, which served as the firm's downtown office until 1970. This was the same building where John worked as a young man in the insurance company. Walter, the Russian immigrant, manned the freight elevator, and Bernie efficiently directed the operators of the three passenger elevators in the lobby. In November 1942, to handle the growing business, John hired his brother Ralph, who was clerking in the Swierenga Bros. store of his father, to drive the red Ford truck for a starting pay of $35 per week. The next acquisition was in January 1950 when Excel bought a one-truck operation for $2,750 from Harold Carr and four accounts, including Harold Mayer, a wholesale clothier.

            As the volume of freight increased rapidly in the prosperous years of the Second World War, John, Ralph, and Paul Tuitman had to hustle all the more. All were subject to military conscription but, fortunately for the company, for various reasons they did not have to serve. Paul failed the army's physical exam and was classified 4F. Ralph was deferred die to dependents (status 3-A), and John was granted an exemption (1-A status) by proving that he hauled vital materials such as the railroad car heaters. The youngest Swierenga brother, Henry, after his army discharge in January of 1946 also drove for Excel Motor for seven years until taking up carpentry. In 1947 John added a fifth truck, driven in turn by Abel Korringa, Henry Van Kampen, and Paul Zaagman.

            In the 1950s the company added trucks for two "steady houses"--Formfit (women's undergarments) and McCarty Letter Service (printing materials). Beginning in 1955 Ray Stuit drove the Formfit truck, whose side panels advertised in gold letters over a royal blue background "Formfit bras and foundations." Leonard Peters, a Lutheran church member, handled the McCarty account.  Peters replaced Ralph, who in 1951 took over the management of Monroe Cartage, the trucking company of brother-in-law John Davids, who died of leukemia at 36 years of age, leaving a widow with four children. Following a family conference, it was decided that Ralph should operate the company, which had four trucks and three employees at the time.

            At its apex in 1966, Excel Motor had nine vehicles on the street and eight employees; John continued to drive as well. For the first twelve years, until 1951, John hired only fellow Hollanders. Beginning in 1953 his drivers joined the Teamster's union, and he was then pressured to hire out of the union hall. John Kok, Abel Schoonveld, Robert Hoppe, Raymond Rozendal, Ronald Kripner, James Kedge, Sam Cangelosi, and Russell Erffmeyer drove during the 1950s. In the next decade came Bernard Weidenaar, Ralph Trumbell, Stanley Konczal, Abel Van Kampen, Arthur Romero, Ray Mador, and Nich Melone. Henry Evenhouse filled in during summer vacations while in medical school in the early 1950s.

            For many years, the trucks were parked overnight behind the Action Shell gas station on the southeast corner of Roosevelt Road and Central Avenue in Cicero, a mile or so from the homes of John and his drivers. The station provided free parking in exchange for fueling the trucks, but security was minimal for the trucks and the merchandise aboard, and the winter weather took its toll on the equipment. About 1954-55??, John leased space in the Castle Garage, called "Oscar's Garage" after the owner-manager, on Roosevelt Road at Keeler Avenue (4200 west). It was a heated and locked facility with a gasoline pump just inside the door next to the office and a repair bay in back. Drivers fueled up at the end of the day and Oscar's mechanics made minor repairs. Each morning, with the trucks lined up alongside one another, the drivers sorted and transferred cartons and packages picked up the day before, for delivery according to each trucks' regular routing, i.e., the "north-side truck," the "south-side truck," the "Loop truck," etc.

            Each driver was responsible for arranging his bills of lading by address for the most efficient delivery, and the merchandize was loaded accordingly, with the last "stops" in front and the first stops at the rear. John helped the novices sort their bills, and drew on his total mastery of the city streets to advise them on the best routes, and warn them about problematic loading docks, intersections with no left turns, low clearance bridges, one-way streets, boulevards forbidden to trucks, and other issues that could trip up an inexperienced man In the mid-1960s??, Excel moved to the Harrison Street Garage near Laramie Avenue in the Austin district. Stuit's "Formfit truck" (known as a "steady house" arrangement), for a few years was kept at the Action gas station in Cicero, since it was only half-a-mile from Formit's plant on Roosevelt Road and Laramie Avenue. Later, the truck was housed overnight at the Formit docks.

            Driving the city streets and alleys had its pleasures and challenges. Seeing the vibrant city up close and personal was interesting, and the fashionable women were candy for the eyes. But the downtown alleys, made for horse and wagon days, could be a nightmare. One delivery truck could block an alley from end to end for hours. So John's warning to drivers was not to get trapped in alleys. Better to park at the street and carry in the cartons or use a two-wheeled truck to reach the loading dock. Completing "stops" on time was the "name of the game." Each truck had to be ready for the late afternoon "mail run" to the main post office on Canal Street. Beginning about 3 pm, each driver had regular daily pickups at insurance companies, financial houses, catalog houses, and similar downtown businesses that had outgoing metered mail in canvas postal mail bags or loose in baskets.

            The challenges for cartage men came from police, taxicabs, inept car drivers, pedestrians, and drunks. The police liked to ticket trucks for pausing (instead of stopping) at stop signs, running yellow lights, and double or triple parking on downtown streets when making package deliveries in office buildings. Yellow cabs were everywhere and most drivers moved with abandon, making u-turns without signaling, squeezing in front with inches to spare, and stopping abruptly or blocking traffic for a fare. Most had fenders held together with "body putty" from frequent encounters with other vehicles. For a trucker, nothing was more satisfying than to crease the fender of an offending cab when the driver left it momentarily in a poorly chosen spot. Pedestrians ruled downtown intersections and they streamed across the street until the traffic signals changed. Unless a driver making a right turn slowly nosed his truck into the pedestrian stream and intimidated one or two to stop, he could be stuck for several cycles of the lights. Every right turn was a test of wills between driver and pedestrian. The alleys were dens for drunks sleeping off binges. Dead end alleys with poor lighting were especially dangerous. Excel drivers had to back into one such alley off Wabash Avenue near Lake Street every afternoon for a mail pickup. John's youngest brother Henry once day in the 1950s backed over some cardboard in the alley and ran over a sleeping derelict. He was stunned to see over the hood of his truck a man lying fatally wounded. Several hours passed before the police, coroner, and paddy wagon to take the corpse to the city morgue had completed their grim work.

            Beginning in 1953 and for the next fifteen years, John Swierenga hired as summer relief drivers his four sons and a son-in-law during their college years. Bob started driving as a replacement for Henry Swierenga in April 1953 and continued through the summer until enrolling at Calvin College in September. He worked every summer through 1959 while in college, graduate school, and teaching. Raymond worked infrequently because he drove for another company during his college vacations. Donald drove during vacations from 1959 to 1966 while attending college, seminary, and law school. John Jr. joined him from 1962 to 1966 while in college. Gary Nyland, Grace's husband, drove in 1966 and 1967, also while in college. Driving was a good paying summer job and solved Excel's need to cover the paid vacations of its regular employees, but it was an ongoing problem to keep the union representatives at bay.    

            The powerful Chicago teamsters union, I.B.T. Local 705, caused Excel Motor many problems over the years. In an early attempt to sidestep the issue, in 1943 John, Ralph, and Paul joined the Christian Labor Association (CLA), a union based on Reformed principles that rejected the strike weapon. But the Teamster leaders refused to recognize the CLA and demanded that Excel drivers join the secular union. When the men refused, union "goons" threatened to damage their vehicles and even harm them. Finally, in 1953 Tuitman, Peters, and Henry Swierenga reluctantly joined up, as did subsequent new hires. As an owner-operator, John was not required to be a member. The company thereafter paid monthly health and welfare fees, which despite much waste and fraud provided the drivers with medical and retirement benefits.            The only major trouble came on April 7, 1967 when the Teamsters went out on strike for several weeks. Paul Tuitman and Lenny Peters took a great risk and crossed the picket lines.  After a week Bob Hoppe and Ray Stuit also broke ranks, and Sam Cangelosi joined them the third week, but Ray Mador and Nich Melone refused to work until the union settled on April 28th for a whopping 25 cents an hour wage increase, plus a paid birthday holiday. The lost business and increased cost of labor forced John to lay off Melone, the last man hired. The strike left a bitter taste in the mouth and it took some time to restore a spirit of camaraderie among the drivers.

            Except for the Formfit and McCarty steady house accounts that were on yearly contracts and billed by the month, most of Excel's deliveries were billed by the piece according to annual contracts. The paperwork was enormous. Every evening after dinner, John swiveled his chair from the kitchen table to his desk behind and began recording the number of cartons, packages, bolts of woolens, water coolers, etc. that were delivered that day for each of his accounts. Rayburn, an office supply house, was especially onerous, because of the sheer volume of the packages destined for dozens of offices all over the city. After the first of the month, the daily worksheets for the previous month were totaled, and Marie, the faithful wife, typed individual bills and mailing envelopes on a manual typewriter, each containing a breakdown of the daily and monthly cartage with the amount owed. Marie had followed a business course at Chicago Christian High School and worked for a few years before marriage in the clerical department of Hurley Machine Company. When the family grew to six children by 1945, Marie no longer had the time and energy for the clerical work and John hired a woman to do it. For his accountant, taxman, and general financial advisor, John hired William "Bill" Hlavacek, a Presbyterian layman, who became his trusted friend and confidant. Many a night, into the wee hours, Bill sat at John's kitchen table working on financial statements and tax forms. John later helped Bill financially to open a jewelry store on Cermak Road (22nd Street) in Berwyn that succeeded admirably.


Monroe Cartage (now Transportation) Company

            Ralph built Monroe Cartage into a large and successful operation over the next thirty seven years. Like brother John, he was fair and honest in his dealings, but he drove himself harder and bore the pressures of growing the company into a large business with many employees, dozens of tractor-trailers and over the road drivers, and a big dock facility. For more than twenty years he paid sister Katherine a weekly stipend from business income, until her children were adults.  Then he assumed sole ownership until his death in 1987. Sons Ralph Jr. and Jack now own and operate Monroe Transportation, headquartered in Addison. Paul Tuitman, after his retirement from Excel Motor in 1970, worked part-time for Monroe Cartage for almost twenty years as a janitor and building maintenance man.


The Road to Retirement

            Trucking changed in the 1960s. Increasing government regulations and restrictive union work rules and rising wage scales forced small firms to expand or stagnate. This meant finding dependable drivers, buying or leasing more trucks, and securing bigger dock and garage facilities. Also the operating range began to increase dramatically with the relocation of manufacturing plants and offices from the city center to the suburbs. The aggravation of the business produced ulcers, hemorrhoids, and heart attacks. John's family doctor, Everett Van Reken, advised him to sell the business in order to reduce stress, but John put off the decision.  After the second heart attack in 1969, Van Reken again urged selling and this time John listened.          When Bernard Mulder, one of brother Ralph's drivers and a fellow church member, expressed an interest in buying Excel Motor, John agreed and the two, with their accountants and advisors, fixed a price of $50,000. This included all accounts, nine trucks and equipment, the operating authority, and the nebulous but essential "good will." The sale on May 17, 1970 was traumatic for John. "I felt that the world was caving in, that my life was over," John recalled later. But he never looked back and indeed filled his days for another twenty years with fulfilling Christian volunteer work, vacationing with Marie, and visiting the children and grandchildren.


Doing the Lord's Work

            John's involvement in church leadership began as a teenager in young men's society.  After marriage he became a Boys Brigade leader (the church's answer to the Boy Scouts), and taught Sunday school for twenty years, the last five as superintendent. In this capacity, he jealously guarded the time allotted for classes after the morning worship service. Once, the former pastor Rev. Hoekstra, his own father-in-law, returned to the pulpit while visiting from California and he lost track of the time while preaching. John, in desperation, finally got up from the pew near the front on the organ side (where our family usually sat), went up to the pulpit, and told "Dad Hoekstra" it was time to "wind it up" for the sake of the Sunday school. Parishioners never forgot the time John Swierenga had enough nerve to approach the pulpit and tell the minister to stop preaching.

            In the mid-1940s the Timothy Christian School Society elected John R. to the board.  Several of his children attended there. In the early 1950s the society of the Chicago Christian High School, where Bob and Ray attended, elected him to that board. The school, founded in 1918, occupied a modern two-story brick building on the corner of 71st and May streets in a Dutch immigrant neighborhood of Englewood. It served youth of the Christian Reformed churches throughout greater Chicago and Illiana, and to a lesser extent, Reformed and other Protestant churches. John's leadership now reached beyond the local church and the West Side. 

            In the mid-1950s he joined the Trinity Christian College board, which set out to establish a Reformed Christian college for the Chicago area. In 1959 as one of a group of fifteen businessmen known as the Pullman Land Trust, he provided $25,000 (as part of the total cost of $985,000) to buy the Navaho Country Club and golf course in Palos Heights, including the club house and service building, for $1,550 per acre. The associates sold at cost thirty-two acres and the buildings to the fledgling college, which opened in 1957 in the remodeled clubhouse.  Chicago Christian High School in 1961 purchased at cost ($49,000) fourteen acres and relocated there from Englewood to a new building on the campus completed in 1963. A few years later, the Radio and TV ministry of the Christian Reformed Church, The Back To God Hour, purchased two acres from the College on 127th Street for its studios and offices. John was a member of the Trinity Board of Trustees for its first nine years, but he saw none of his children at the school. Bob and Ray attended Calvin College before Trinity began, and the younger four followed their older siblings. Calvin was also a fully accredited school with a comprehensive curriculum strong in education, music, and theology.

            In the late 1950s the Warren Park CRC (new name for Second Cicero) elected John as elder. He held two three-year terms, each of which was extended by one year to fill out terms of men who died in office. In these years he led a committee to expand the church building with an $88,000 addition for classrooms. In 1960, Classis Chicago North elected John as one of their two elder delegates to the National Synod in Grand Rapids, where son Raymond, a seminary graduate, was examined as a candidate for the ministry in the CRC denomination. There was one proud and thankful father at Synod that year! From 1969 to 1981 John also served the CRC denominational committee, the Fund for Needy Churches, which allocated church monies to small congregations under guidelines and approval of the national synod. Swierenga chaired the committee for the last six years.

            Besides the Navaho syndicate for Trinity Christian College, John served on three site selection committees: for Timothy Christian School, Warren Park CRC, and Rest Haven Christian Convalescent Home. His extensive knowledge of the city and its suburban growth patterns made him an asset. Around 1970 the Christian school decided to relocate further west where most families had moved. John joined a ten-member committee who bought 20 acres for $60,000 on Butterfield Rd. and Prospect St. and eighteen months later sold it at cost to the school society. Around 1972 the Warren Park CRC appointed a site committee to relocate the church in the Elmhurst-Lombard-Villa Park area, which selected property at 1070 South Prospect St. across from the Christian school.

            John Swierenga was a member of the Rest Haven board for four three-year terms between 1961 to 1984. He participated in the decision to move the Holland Home from Roseland to a new six-floor facility in South Holland in 1973. In 1980, he helped select the Village Woods facility in Crete (the former Balmoral Inn), and in 1984 was involved in buying Bridgett Manor in Lombard for Rest Haven West, which in 1988 also became the site of the new Saratoga Grove Retirement Home. Paul and Etta Tuitman and Katherine Davids later resided there.

            From 1975 to 1989 John filled three consecutive terms on the board of Pine Rest Christian Psychiatric Hospital in Cutlerville, Michigan, representing the Chicago area. He was motivated in part because the children's program of the hospital had helped two mentally-retarded grandsons and a nephew. Also his son-in-law, Dr. Richard Houskamp, was an administrator and counselor there. 

            The longest ministry was at the Helping Hand Mission at 848 West Madison Street in the heart of Chicago's skid row. From age 18 John accompanied his father to the preaching service and helped lead the singing with his trombone. At his father's death in 1949, John stepped in and conducted the entire service for the next 25 years, until 1975 when the mission closed. John felt called to the ministry with alcoholics because, as he drove his truck in the area, he saw the homeless derelicts hanging around in their desperate condition and was concerned for their bodies and souls. What "tremendous satisfaction" he received when men responded to the call of the Gospel and came forward after the service with tears in their eyes! Marie played the piano for the hymn singing, until daughters Alyce and then Grace took over. Bob and Ray played baritone and trumpet, along with Dad's trombone, until they went off to Calvin College in 1953; Donald and John took their places, also with baritone and trumpet, until they went to Calvin.  This family sharing was truly a pleasant time and the men enjoyed the music immensely. In the late 1930s Marie's sister Evelyn also sang at the Mission.

            Beside the mission work, John affiliated with the Gideons International in 1964 and faithfully distributed Bibles to hospitals and hotels and New Testaments to high school and college students. Later he helped raise support for the cause by speaking at church services in the western suburbs.


Tri-City Savings and Loan Association

            A secular involvement that John enjoyed began in the early 1960s when the officers of the Tri-City Savings and Loan Association of Oak Park (located at the corner of Roosevelt Road and Humphrey Avenue) appointed him to the board. George Ottenhoff had founded the bank in the 1920s on the Old West Side. The directors were all fellow church members, including Ben G. Ottenhoff vice-president, Conrad Ottenhoff president, Herman Ottenhoff director; and Maurice Vander Velde bank manager. In 1976, Tri-City followed the trend of the times and agreed to merge with the larger St. Paul Federal Savings & Loan. John voted against the merger, but the board approved it by a 5-4 vote. The Tri-City board was given a paper portfolio as an "advisory board" to St. Paul's operating board; they no longer approved mortgages or policy changes. John served ten years with Tri-City and eight with St. Paul.


The First Cars

            All leisure life revolved around church activities and visiting with the extended family.  John and Marie bought their first car, a 1930 Nash, in 1935 for $30. One of John's elderly customers on the fruit and vegetable route, a Mrs. Brown whose husband had recently died, owned the clean four-door sedan. John accepted because the truck was no longer ideal for the growing family. The Nash was small and efficient, but Dad Swierenga did not trust it for out-of-town trips and insisted that John borrow his Buick. In 1940 John replaced the Nash with a 1937 Studebacker, manufactured in South Bend, which he kept for two years. This, like all the Swierenga cars, was a four-door sedan. In 1942, in the face of the rising demand for automobiles during the War, John found a pristine 1940 Buick sedan, two-tone green in color with only 26,000 miles, that Stanley Totura, one of his father's customers, was selling for $600.  The Swierengas took this substantial car on several long-distance trips, first in 1948 to Uncle Anton and Aunt Ann Schermer in Passaic, NJ, where he pastored a Reformed church. They toured New York City and the Hudson Valley. They also went to Prinsburg, Minnesota, where Aunt Mary Swierenga (widow of Uncle Henry) and her married children lived. This was preparation for the ultimate trip, to California.


To Hanford, California

            In the days before interstate highways, California was a challenging six or seven day venture by car from Chicago. After Grandpa and Grandma Hoekstra moved to Hanford in 1940, regular visits were mandatory. During the war years and gasoline rationing, the train was the only way. In 1941 John and Marie and their three children took the Burlington Zephyr. John and Bobby returned after a week because John could not be away from his business any longer.  Marie, Ray, and Alyce stayed another few weeks. En route home John and Bobby spent a Sunday in Denver with Rev. Rens Hooker, a CRC pastor and friend, and they caught the famed Denver Zephyr to Chicago, which was the fastest passenger train in the nation, often running over 100 mph. In 1943 John and Marie returned with Alyce and baby Donald, but left Bob and Ray with the folks. This was in the slow winter season in February or March, when John could get away, and the boys were in school. In 1946 the family went again with the four youngest children, and Paul and Etta took care of Bob and Ray. 

            The first auto trip to Hanford was in the summer of 1950, following the purchase of a new 1950 Buick sedan with a "straight 8" engine and dynaflow automatic transmission. The dark green car, which cost $2,600 from Robertson Buick Co., came equipped with a metal sun visor but it steered like a tank because it had no power steering. Bob, aged 15 and boasting a just-issued driver's permit, "helped" with the driving. John first gave him the wheel and the responsibility for the safety of the family of eight in Iowa on the two-lane hilly state route 92. Of course, Dad sat in the passenger seat on the proverbial "pins and needles." The narrow 8 foot wide lanes had 6 inch rounded curbs at the edge of the pavement to prevent water from running off and eroding the shoulder. Trucks had to run with the outside tires on the curbs to pass one another. Bob's challenge was to hold steady at 50 mph and avoid going up the curb and risk losing control of the car. He succeeded and gained Dad's trust. Each day he drove several hours in the open country. But if the speedometer ever crept past 55 mph, Dad simply said "That's fast enough." Bob often wondered how Dad could read the speedometer even when dozing off. Ray, meanwhile, challenged his brother on the "q t" to "let her roll." Each morning Marie made fried egg sandwiches for the picnic lunch, which also included a liberal supply of plums. Several children cannot look a cold fried egg in the face to this day.

            Highlights of the California trips were the national parks and other famous sights along the way, all captured on 8mm colored film with a Kodak movie camera purchased in 1950. The trips also included a stay of several days at the Rehobeth Christian Hospital compound, where Marie's sister Winifred worked as a nurse for the Navaho Indians in the 1940s and 1950s. If no relatives or friends were on the route, the family stayed in tourist cabins; they never camped.  John routinely inspected each cabin for cleanliness, especially the bathroom for roaches, and the condition of the beds. It happened quite often that they failed the test and we drove on to try again.

            In December 1953 John bought another new car, a 1953 Buick Roadmaster sedan, two-toned green in color. Beside an improved dynaflow transmission, it featured power steering and air conditioning. This was the largest car made by Buick and commemorated the company's 50th year. The list price at Palmer Buick Co. was $3,700, but the 1950 Buick brought $1,700 in trade.  Within four days, however, John returned to the dealer and repurchased the '50 Buick for $1,020 for the use of Bob and Ray, after Grandma Swierenga interceded. They used the car to go back and forth to Calvin College and in 1956 Bob was given the car as part of his wedding present. The comfortable Roadmaster made two trips to California in the 1950s, usually by way of Minnesota, South Dakota, and New Mexico. In alternating years John and Marie took the train, preferably the Santa Fe. In 1957 they flew for the first time, on United Airlines.

            In 1959 John made the "ultimate decision." He bought a Salmon colored 1958 Cadillac Sedan with only 6,597 miles for $4,125. This prestige auto was such a status symbol that John suffered a number of restless nights of sleep after the purchase before he felt comfortable with his decision. The Cadillac provided a smooth ride to California in 1959, but they took the Santa Fe four times in the 1960s. In 1965 John traded the Cadillac at VerHage Motors of Holland, Michigan for a pre-owned 1964 Chrysler Imperial hardtop. He paid $3,900, including $800 in trade, for the powder blue chariot. This classic auto was the finest car John and Marie ever owned and they put 150,000+ miles on it before selling it in perfect condition in 1978. This included several trips to California.

            In the 1970s and 1980s, after the children were grown and John had retired, he and Marie continued to ride the Santa Fe, but increasingly they took the plane as prices declined.  John preferred to drive and did so every second or third year, giving them the freedom to visit and sightsee along the way.  In any case, they went to Hanford annually. The last four cars were a 1975 and 1979 Chrysler, both bought from VerHage Motors, and a 1983 and 1990 Cadillac. Dad frequently drives the 1990 "Caddy" to Grand Rapids, Ohio, and Wisconsin to visit family, but it will be the only one not to see Hanford.


Family Picnics and Vacations

            On summer Saturdays and holidays, the clan attended annual family reunions of the Swierengas, Dykhuises, Clausings, and Hoekstras. They also picnicked and swam at lakes north of the city, especially Druce Lake, Bangs Lake, Gages Lake, Long Lake, and Grays Lake. Family ties were strong and outing always included Ralph and Ang and their children Linda, Janice, Butch, Jack, and Jim; Kay Davids and her children John, Jeralyn, Kathy, and Glenn; Paul and Etta Tuitman and their adopted children Bernard and Dorothy, Hank and his wife Ann and their adopted children David, Donna, and Mark; and Uncle Lambert and Aunt Rika Dykhuis, a childless couple and favorite of the children and grandchildren. The same clan gathered at Grandpa and Grandma Swierenga's home for the Thanksgiving Day feast, and weekly after Sunday morning church service for coffee and cookies while the children attended Sunday school.

            Many reels of film (now on videotape) chronicle the family travels to the West and to the children in Michigan, Iowa, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, California, and elsewhere. There is extensive coverage of each new grandchild, which eventually numbered twenty-three, and of historic and scenic places along the way.  John and Marie vacationed four times in Western Europe or Holland, twice to Hawaii and Mexico, and once to Alaska by way of the Inland Passage. They traveled in every one of the fifty states at one time or another. 


The First Television

            Before the days of TV, the children regularly went on Saturday mornings by streetcar (fare 5 cents) to the nature adventure films in the auditorium of the Field Natural History Museum on the Lakefront. This was the only "movie theater" the children were ever allowed to patronize, since the church condemned theaters, dancing, and card playing (except the game Rook).

            Grandma Swierenga and son Henry, who still lived at home, in 1949 were the first to make the controversial decision to buy a TV. The rational was that there were no children in the household to be morally corrupted or distracted from doing homework. Bob and Ray routinely went over to Grandma's house on Saturday nights to watch Big Ten basketball, which was a special treat. Don later went to watch Walt's Workshop, sponsored by the Edward G. Hines Lumber Company. In June 1951 John and Marie relented and purchased a 19' TV from Voss Radio and Appliance in Cicero for $464, including installation and a one-year service warranty.  But the set was closely monitored. Favorite shows were "Ozzie and Harriet," "I Love Lucy," the comics Sid Caesar and Jackie Gleason ("The Honeymooners"), and the polka musician Lawrence Welk. Popcorn was the favorite snack.


The 50th Wedding Anniversary

            A highlight of John and Marie's marriage was the very special 50th anniversary dinner in 1984 at the Holland Home retirement center in Crete. All the married children, grandchildren, siblings and spouses, and favored cousins, more than a hundred in number, came for the celebration. The children prepared a program that began with a litany of praise composed from Psalms 136, 128, and 34, all sang their wedding hymn, "Blest the Man that fears Jehovah" (Blue Psalter #270), the dedication hymn, "Happy the Home When God is There," concluding with "Blest be the Tie that Binds our Hearts in Christian Love." Marie's sister Evelyn HetJonk read a poem of Helen Steiner Rice, "The Meaning of True Love."

            Appropriately, the night was full of instrumental music. A trumpet trio played John's favorite, "Bugler's Holiday" by Leroy Anderson. But the big surprise was the impromptu "Swierenga ensemble" of 28 children and grandchildren playing their instruments--wind, strings, and percussion, under the direction of son-in-law Gary Nyland, a school music teacher. They played Hyfrydol (John's favorite), "Like a River Glorious (Marie's favorite), the Knickerbocker Male chorus theme song "My God How Wonderful Thou Art" and classic "The Love of God," closing with "Now Thank We All Our God" and "Blest Be the tie." After thanking Grandpa and Grandma for their selfless love and devotion, and telling them of our appreciation for modeling a Christian home, they were given an engraved clock as a remembrance. As the oldest son and oldest daughter in their respective families, they sent an example for many.          


Marie's Victorious Death

            On one of the vacations to visit family and friends in Florida and attend the wedding of brother Ralph's son James over Christmas 1988, Marie encountered difficulties breathing. She had long suffered from bronchitis and colds, but this was worse. On returning to Chicago she immediately went to the family doctor, Philip Van Reken, who found much fluid around the lungs. Several quarts of fluid was drained by Dr. Marvin Tiesenga, a family friend and her surgeon, at the West Suburban Hospital, but the diagnosis was a fatal cancerous tumor on the lining of the lungs, known as mesothelioma. There was no effective treatment for this disease, although Marie was selected for an experimental drug regimen at the University of Chicago Hospitals, which was administered by Dr. Nicholas Vogelsang, a first cousin of Don's wife Mary. The treatments proved futile. Marie accepted her illness with fortitude and was only bedridden the final two days.

            Six weeks before the end, she mustered the will to travel by car to Grand Rapids to celebrate her 55th wedding anniversary with all the children and grandchildren at the University Club.  This was a bittersweet moment of saying goodbyes and reminiscing with a Godly mother who had lived for her family and trained all of her children "in the way they should go."  Sister Win and daughter Grace, both nurses, came to be with Marie the last weeks and sister Evelyn joined them the last week.  Hospice nurses were also on hand to provide drugs to ease the breathing difficulties. On Sunday, 36 hours before she died at midnight on September 26, 1989, the children and their spouses all came home. They gathered around the bed and sang favorite hymns, prayed, hugged Mom, and talked with her about seeing Jesus and loved ones in heaven.  Hers was a Christian life and death.

            John Swierenga made the difficult adjustment of living without his helpmeet. He learned to cook, wash clothes, and do all the necessary chores of housekeeping. He continued to love to drive and regularly visited the children and relatives, going to Michigan at least monthly and flying to California and Ohio. After seven years of living alone, in July 1996, John sold his spacious Elmhurst home for $200,000 and moved into a two-bedroom apartment at Sunset Village, a retirement complex in Jenison, Michigan. He made the adjustment quickly and enjoyed the fellowship and being close to five of his children and their families. But his health declined, primarily due to a heart weakened by the earlier attacks.

            On February 9, 1999, John passed away peacefully while sitting at his kitchen table after finishing a light lunch. Son Robert tried to call him all day without success and in the evening he was found at perfect rest still in the chair. Undertaker Robert Van Staalduinen of Lombard, Illinois arranged with Zaagman Funeral Homes of Grand Rapids for an evening visitation with the family in Grand Rapids, and then Dad's body was transported by car to Lombard for another full day of visitation by family and friends. The funeral was held in John and Marie's church, Faith Christian Reformed Church of Elmhurst, of which John had been a member for his full 88 years. John's friends and pastors, Lee Koning and Joel Scheeres, conducted the service. Several family members reminisced and Mrs. Pat Koning sang several of John's favorite hymns in her melodious soprano voice. The children and grandchildren concluded the service on a triumphal note by singing the benediction, "The Lord Bless You and Keep You." Internment was alongside Marie in the family plot at Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park.




Buikema, Karen, "History of the Hoekstra Family," typescript, Dec. 8, 1971


Chicago City Directories, 1880-1920.


"Chicago," Origins I (Number 2 1983), 10-14.


Cook County Death Records, Courthouse, Chicago


De Boer, M.G., The Holland-America Line, 1873-1923 (Rotterdam, 1923).


Dekker, Simon, "History of Roseland," (Chicago, 1938), typescript.


Duis, Perry, Chicago: Creating New Traditions (Chicago, 1976).


Douglas Park Chr. Geref. Gemeente, Chicago, 1899-1924, Vijf en   Twintig-Jarig Bestaan (Chicago, 1924).


Dykhuis Family recollections.


First Christian Reformed Church of Chicago, 1867-1942, Seventy-  Fifth Anniversary Booklet (Chicago, 1942).


Forest Home Cemetery Company of Chicago, Grave Lot Records and "Forest Home Facts" mimeo.


Genealogy of the Clausing-Kiel Family, typescript by Marie Swierenga.


Interviews, John R. and Marie Swierenga, Paul Tuitman, and Henrietta Vos.


Jan Swierenga Genealogy, compiled by Robert P. Swierenga and Judy Swieringa Hoffman.


"The Life of Rev. P. A. Hoekstra," typescript, ca. late 1930s.


Mayer, Harold M. and Wade, Richard C., Chicago: Growth of a Metropolis (Chicago, 1969).


"Netherlanders in the Chicago Area," Origins, I (Number 1 1983).


Netherlands Emigration Records, The Hague.


Pullman Collection, South Suburban Genealogical & Historical Society, South Holland, MI.


"The Story of Alice J. Clausing Hoekstra," typescript, ca. 1975, as dictated to Evelyn HetJonk.


Swierenga Family history and recollections.


Swierenga, John R., business and financial records, 1939-1970


Swierenga, Robert P., Dutch Chicago: A History of the Hollanders in the Windy City (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B. Eerdmans, 2002).


U. S. Population Census Schedules, Chicago, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910.


U. S. Ship Passenger Manifests, 1893, National Archives.


Vanden Bosch, Amry, The Dutch Communities of Chicago (Chicago, 1927).


Warren Park Christian Reformed Church, Golden Anniversary, 1899-1949 (Chicago, 1949).



Appendix I: Descendants of Jan and Katrijn Swierenga


1. Nicholas Tillema and Kate (Cornelia) Swierenga (1876-1948), 24 grandchildren

            John Tillema and Marie Boltjes (Gerrit's sister), 2 children

            Cornelius Bierma and Effie Tillema, 6 children

            Gerrit Boltjes (Marie's brother) and Susie Tillema, 6 children

            Hank Tillema and Lottie Ferrell (died 2010), 2 children

            John Hubbeling and Catherine Tillema, no children

            Art Tillema and Marie De Boer (Nellie's sister), 2 children

            Edward Tillema and Nellie De Boer (Marie's sister), 5 children

            Robert Tillema and Esther Schreiner, 1 child


2. John Nienhuis and Catherine (Trientje) Swierenga (1878-1903)

            no children


3.  Henry (Hendrik) Swierenga (1879-1923) and Mary Wiersum De Vries (second marriage to Otto De Vries, 1928,

            John H. Swierenga and Henrietta Bakker, 3 children

            Sam Breems and Henrietta Swierenga, 3 children

            William Breems and Catherine Swierenga, 2 children

            Edward H. Swierenga and Helena Breems, 5 children

            Les Swierenga and Johanna Wieberdink, 6 children


4. Keimpe Miedema and Alice (Hillechien) Swierenga (1881-1967), 22 grandchildren

            Abe Bos and Florence Miedema, 3 children

            Sam Miedema and Bertha Brouwer, 2 children

            Bert Keizer and Catherine Miedema, 3 children

            Steve De Haan and Nellie Miedema, 6 children

            Hank Miedema, unmarried

            John Miedema and Coba De Boer, 3 children

            William Hoeks and Susie Miedema, 2 children

            Bill Miedema and Dorothy Pearson, 3 children


5. Edward (Eppe) Swierenga (1883-1959) and Effie Wiersum, 24 grandchildren

            Dick Rispens and Catherine Swierenga, 4 children

            Edward Buurma and Henrietta Swierenga, 1 child (first husband ?? Pope)

            John E. Swierenga and Marie ??, no children

            Joe Swierenga and Myrtle ??, 1 child

            Henry Swierenga and Marge ??, 3 children

            Edward E. Swierenga Jr. and Tillie Wiersema, 4 children

            Thomas Van Vossen and Alice Swierenga, 6 children

            Robert Swierenga, unmarried

            George Hiskes and Connie Swierenga, 3 children


6. Hendrikus (1886-1889)


7.  Robert (Bouwko) Swierenga (1888-1949) and Grace Dykhuis, 20 grandchildren

            John R. Swierenga and Marie Hoekstra, 6 children

            Paul Tuitman and Henrietta Swierenga, 2 children

            John Davids and Catherine Swierenga, 4 children

            Ralph Swierenga and Angeline Ter Maat, 5 children

            Henry R. Swierenga and Anne Dykstra, 3 children


8. Frank Fokkens and Catherine (Hendrika) "Reka" Swierenga (1890-1969), 12 grandchildren

            Theodore Rozendal and Bernice Fokkens, 5 children

            John Folgers and Jeanette Fokkens, 2 children

            Jacob Heerdt and Ruth Fokkens, 5 children


9.  John Tameling and Tillie (Bartelda) Swierenga (1893-1961), 2 grandchildren

            Henry Tameling and Grace Dykstra, no children

            Catherine Tameling, unmarried

            Celia Tameling, unmarried

            John Tameling and Ruth Postma, 2 children


Total descendants: 43 grandchildren and 123 great grandchildren                                                   


Appendix II Descendants of Ralph Dykhuis and Henrietta Groot


1.  John Dykhuis and Dean Bere, 7 grandchildren

            Elko Van Dyke and Henrietta Dykhuis, 1 child

            George Slater and Marion Dykhuis, 3 children

            Andrew De Boer and Bernice Dykhuis, 4 children


2.  Lambert Dykhuis and Rika Bond

            no children


3.  Ben Buikema and Mary Dykhuis, 40 grandchildren

            Nicholas Sturwold and Stella Buikema, 10 children (1 adopted

            John Rusthoven and Henrietta Buikema, 1 child

            William Dousma and Jeanette Buikema, 4 children

            John Overset and Rolphina Buikema, 3 children

            Peter Stob and Grace Buikema, 2 children

            Neil Dryfhout and Jennie Buikema, 4 children

            Richard Blankenstein and Alice Buikema, 6 children

            Ralph Buikema and Effie Van Stedum, 4 children

            Robert Buikema and Anna De Vries, 4 children

            Ralph Evenhuis and Marie Buikema, 2 children


4.  Nicholas Youngsma and Dean Dykhuis, 17 grandchildren

            Eugene Garman and Clara Yongsma, 4 children

            Ralph Yongsma and Grace VanderVliet, 2 children

            Sidney Yongsma and Ardele Klipp, 2 children

            William Brouwer and Henrietta Yongsma, 2 adopted children

            Edward Metz and Bernice Yongsma, 2 children

            Theodore Yongsma and Gertrude VanderVliet, 5 children


5.  Jake Nauta and Kate Dykhuis, 5 grandchildren

            Ben Vander Molen and Dorothy Nauta, 1 child

            Ralph Nauta and Cora Vander Laan, 2 children

            Ralph Clinton and Henrietta Nauta, 2 children


6.  Frank Clinton and Jennie Dykhuis, 6 grandchildren

             (second marriage to Charles Scholten)

            Luwella Clinton, no children

             (five husbands: Cliff Kent and Paul Gibson are recalled)

            Victor Olsen and Florence Clinton, 3 children

            Ralph Clinton and Henrietta Nauta, 2 children

      (Ralph had one son before marrying Henrietta)


7.  Robert Swierenga and Grace Dykhuis, 20 grandchildren

            John R. Swierenga and Marie Hoekstra, 6 children

            Paul Tuitman and Henrietta Swierenga, 2 adopted children

            John Davids and Catherine Swierenga, 4 children

            Ralph Swierenga and Angeline TerMaat, 5 children

            Henry R. Swierenga and Anne Dykstra, 3 adopted children


8.  Anton Schermer and Anne Dykhuis, 1 grandchild

            Ruth Onstadt (adopted) 1 child


9.  Peter Dykhuis and Elizabeth Scholtens, 6 grandchildren

            Ralph Dykhuis and Minnie Wyma, 2 children

            Henry Dykhuis and Lorraine Van Bysum, 4 children


10. Jacob Van Der Schaaf and Gertrude Dykhuis, 4 grandchildren

            John Van Der Schaaf and Mae ??, 2 children

            Lawrence Van Der Schaaf and Marg ??, 2 children


11. Jacob Dykstra and Emily Dykhuis, 7 grandchildren

            Luke Dykstra and Elaine Green, 2 children twins

            Chester De Graff and Henrietta Dykstra, 2 children

            John Van Der Molen and Pearl Dykstra, 3 children


12. Art Vos and Henrietta Dykhuis, 11 grandchildren

            Art Vos Jr. and Joanne Groenboom, 4 children

            Donald Vos and Mildred Vanhowe, 3 children

            Henry Buis and Shirley Vos, 4 children


Total descendants: 41 grandchildren, 125 great grandchildren




[1]. This information on the Swierenga name was kindly provided by Dr. Rob Rentenaar, an expert at the P.J. Meertens Institute of Dialects, Culture, and Names at Amsterdam, who also has Swierenga blood in his veins. Letter of July 17, 1991 to author.

[2]. The "Swierenga Family Genealogy" currently traces the family completely to the late 1600s. The author can supply this 30+ page document.

[3]. Alice's recollection was reported by Paul Tuitman to the author in an interview on July 26, 1994. Tuitman, husband of Robert's daughter Henrietta and niece of Alice, after emigrating from Kantens, Groningen. worked in the early 1930s for Alice's husband Keimpe Meidema on his truck farm in Des Plaines, IL. 

[4]. Friedus Swierenga is known to have visited Groningen because his name appears on the New York Ship Passenger manifests in 1892. He took return passage from Groningen via Rotterdam on the Spaarndam, traveling in 2nd class, arriving in New York on September 22, 1892. See National Archives Microfilm Series M-237, reel 597, list number 1536. In the listing, Friedus's sex is stated as "female." Either this is a mistake or Mrs. Friedus Swierenga was the traveler. But the word Mrs. is not stated.

[5]. Quoted in Christian Intelligencer, April 5, 1893, p. 10. 

[6]. Blocker (1881-1967) was born in Amsterdam, earned the BA degree from Rutgers University in 1905, the BD degree from New Brunswick Theological Seminary in 1908, and the Doctor of Divinity degree from Central University in 1934.  He was professor of theology at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, MI from 1936 to 1952.

[7]. Ninetieth Anniversary Historical Booklet and Directory, The First Reformed Church of Roseland, 1849-1939 (Roseland, 1939), p. 10, states that a "minority group of members claiming to hold different opinions concerning matters of doctrine and discipline, and finding it impossible to bring themselves into agreement with the majority, seceded...."