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Jan Wolters Boomker Family History

 

By Robert P. Swierenga

Last revised September 2013

 

The Jan Wolters Boomker family lived in the northern Netherlands province of Groningen (GR) in and around the village of  ‘t Zandt for many generations, before Jan Wolters Boomker immigrated with his wife and family to Chicago in 1865. The men worked the land as farm laborers for large “boeren” in this region of rich sea-clay soil. The soil was well suited for grains, but every family cultivated potatoes and vegetables in their garden behind the house.

The earliest known progenitors are Remt Wolters and Grietje Arends, who lived in the late eighteenth century in the village of Godlinze (Gr), where they raised three children: Wolter Rems (1774-1839), Jantje Rempts (1777-1848), and Arent Remts (1780-1831). The oldest son, Wolter Rems Boomker—the first to take the name Boomker, and his wife Nijske (Nieske) Jans had five children: Tijtje (1802-1875), Rem (1812-1874), Grietje (1814-1874), Geertruid (1819-1855), and Jan Wolters (1822-73), who immigrated to the United States. Hereafter Jan Wolters Boomker is called Jan/John Boomker.

Jan Boomker, the youngest son, married Grietje van der Molen (1828-??) of Loppersum (GR) on July 12, 1851 at ‘t Zandt (GR), and the couple had at least seven children, all born in 't Zandt, of whom four survived childhood.

Two children died in infancy: Wolter, born April 12, 1852, who died within a month, on May 4, 1852, and Johannes, born April 12, 1855, who died at 17 months, on September 30, 1856. Another two (and possibly three) children died in their teen years in Chicago, possibly of smallpox. These were Wolter, named after the deceased firstborn son, born 11 Dec. 1853, and died in Chicago as a teenager between 1865 and 1870; and Nieske, born 8 Nov. 1859, who also died in Chicago as a teenager between 1865 and 1870. Another possible son, Thomas, is recorded in the 1870 U.S. federal census as a son, age 6, born in the Netherlands. This birth about the year 1864 must yet be confirmed. Thomas likely died before 1880, since he is not listed in the 1880 census.

The three children reaching adulthood were: 

1. Einje/Annie, who was born 13 May 1857, married Jan/John Toren in Roseland, IL, and died in Roseland on Feb. 7, 1926.

2. Anje/Lizzie, who was born 26 May 1861, married John De Boer, and lived and died in Lincoln, NE.

3. Johannes/John, who was born 26 Sept. 1863, married Sara Borr, and died 11 Oct. 1922 in Chicago. He was named after the second son who died in infancy. The birth certificate of Johannes Jacobs Boomker (‘t Zandt, 1863, No. 81) states that his father Jan was a 41-year old day laborer [dagloner]. This confirms the lowly economic status of the Jan Boomker family in Groningen.

 

Immigration to Chicago

Jan Boomker and his family immigrated to the area of Grand Haven/Spring Lake, Michigan in October 1865, but quickly relocated to Chicago’s Near West Side. The Boomker immigrants were part of a large exodus from the Netherlands in the immediate aftermath of the American Civil War, when the return of peace released the pent up desire to go to America, the land of rising expectations.

In 1867, Jan (now called John) Boomker, according to the Chicago City Directory, in which his name is spelled John Bunker, was a laborer living at 21 (827 new numbering) John Place [John Place ran from 2234 S. Halsted St. west one block to the Chicago River]. This is a mile and a half south of the First Reformed Church on Foster Street [later Law Ave., at 650 West] between Polk and Harrison streets. John Bunker was next listed in the 1869 City Directory, a laborer, living at 23 John Pl (likely the same building as 21 John Pl).

Poverty stalked the family, as often happened with newcomers, and soon the dreaded disease of smallpox carried off their second son Wolter at thirteen or fourteen years, and second daughter Nieske, who was six or seven (dates of death are unknown, but before June 1870 census enumeration). Granddaughter Muriel Boomker Vander Woude recalls that Johannes J. Boomker's face was pocked, so this youngest son of John Wolters Boomker likely survived the smallpox that hit the family so hard.

The 1870 Federal manuscript census of Chicago (taken in June) enumerated the John Boomker family living in the 8th Ward [family number 2998 and household number 4556]. Ward 8 ran from 12th street south to 16th Street and includes John Place. John, age 45, was a laborer in a lumberyard, and his wife Rica [likely sounded like Grietje to the census marshal], age 46, was keeping house. The three children—John (10)—his actual age was just shy of 7 years since he was born in September 1863, Lizzie (9), and Thomas (6) were all in school. Thomas is an unknown child, who likely died in the 1870s. The family gave $1000 as the value of their real property, which indicates a rising economic status.

The lumberyard where John Boomker worked was very likely at the wharves of the Chicago South Branch Canal Company, which stretched one mile along the north bank of the South Branch of the Chicago River from Halsted Street to Ashland Avenue. The many slips or "canals" (see plat sketch) were a major lumber transshipping point between Lake Michigan and the inland regions to the west. The wharves were accessible to incoming sailing vessels from the entire northern Great Lakes region and also to outgoing barges on the Illinois and Michigan Canal, which ran west to the Mississippi River. South Street, which was the northern border of the Canal Company property, later became the site of the famed South Water Market, Chicago's Wholesale Produce Commission Market for many decades.

By 1873 John Boomker and family had moved from their rented home on John Place to another rented home off the alley at the rear in the 400 block of 18th St., between Canal (500 West) and Stewart (400 West) streets. This was within sight of his new employer, the Duffield Ham & Provision Company, a firm located at 51 (new numbering 425) W. 18th St. near Canal St. (500 West). This is documented in the 1873 Chicago City Directory, where John is again listed as John Bunker, a laborer. The provision company was located at one of Chicago's original stockyards, the Fort Wayne Stockyard, which covered 25 acres along the tracks of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Railroad (see map). The Fort Wayne Stockyard antedated the famous Union Stock Yards, which was established in 1865 and covered the square mile from Halsted St. to Ashland Ave. and from Egan Ave. (39th Street) to 47th Street.

John Boomker did not work very long for Duffield Ham. On Saturday, February 1, 1873, he was killed in a fall down an open hatch while on the job. We know this from the coroner's inquest, which is required by law in fatal industrial accidents.

Inquest No. 807 of the Cook County Coroner, dated February 2, 1873 (the day following the accident), reads as follows: Inquest on John Bunker held at 51 (425) W. 18th Str. Feb. 2nd 1873, verdict of jury that said John Bunker now lying dead at 51 W 18th street in the City of Chicago County of Cook and State of Ill. came to his death Feb. 1st 1873 from compression of the brain produced by an accidental [fall] down a hatchway at the establishment known as Duffield Ham and Provision Company on18th and Canal St. in said City and County.

Signed by the twelve jurors: F.A. Emmons (foreman), J.W. Kingirt, Ph. Baller, P.J. Pardo, L.B. Vaughn, Henry Stephens, Frank Smart, A.A. Groves, Horace Conkey, W.H. Conkey, Parker A. Sprage, Conrad Schwoier

   

John Boomker's death certificate, filed on 6 Feb. 1873 in the Cook County Clerk's Office, Department of Vital Statistics, lists his name as John Bunker, age 51, race white, occupation laborer, and cause of death "accident fall through hatch." Funeral director C.H.S. Camlott embalmed the body and he was buried Feb. 6 in unmarked grave 10C 1228 at Wunder's Cemetery at 3963 N. Clark St. (southeast corner at Irving Park Ave.) Presumably, the wake was held in the parlor of the Boomker family home, as was the custom at the time among the Dutch. Wunder's Cemetery, founded in 1859 and known originally as First German Lutheran or Evangelical Lutheran Cemetery, in 1919 was renamed in honor of Rev. Henry Wunder, long-time pastor of First St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church. It lies across a fence from the Graceland Hebrew Benevolent Cemetery. Wunder's is one of the oldest German Lutheran cemeteries in Chicago and many of the 19th century gravestones bear inscriptions in German.

That John Boomker died an untimely death at age 50, within eight years of his arrival in America, fits very well with the Boomker family oral tradition. A granddaughter-in-law reported that Grandpa Boomker "was killed in the stockyards shortly after coming here,” leaving his wife Grietje and three minor children, Annie (Einje) age 15, Lizzie (Anje) age 11, and John (Johannes) age 9. "The mother died of small pox and probably the two children, Wolter and Neeske," the grandson added.

Tracing the steps of the family after the tragedy is difficult. The city directories continue to list a John Bunker until 1876. Either there were several working men by that name or Widow Boomker continued to list the family under her late husband's name, but this theory is problematic given the occupations listed of switchman and laborer. For the record, the 1874 City Directory includes a John Bunker, switchman, living at 42 DePuyster St. [this street ran from 259 [new numbering 500] South Desplaines west to 246 S. Halsted St.]. This location was near Halsted and Harrrison streets, a few blocks from the First Chicago Reformed Church.  In 1876 a John Bunker, laborer, was listed as living at 611 [new numbering 1602] S. Halsted St.

Widow Grietje Boomker died a few years after her husband (ca. 1874-77), but not before a brief second marriage to a "Bookhout" (Boekhout/Boekhoudt). This is thought to have occurred in the Grand Haven/Spring Lake, Michigan area. Grietje's second marriage and death documents have not yet been found, nor has she been found in the 1880 federal manuscript census. The gravesites of Jan/John Boomker and Grietje Boomker Boekhout (?) and the two children who died as teens are also not yet known.

The minor Boomker children were "farmed out" after John's death. The oldest daughter, Annie (Einje), became a live-in maid for a Dutch family. This Dutch family, she discovered, put up a pious front but was rough and crude. Annie was very unhappy there. Very likely, this family also resided on the Old West Side. Annie quit and went to Roseland to find her next employer. She worked in Roseland until her marriage there to Jan Toren.

The second daughter, Anje, who took the name Elizabeth or “Lizzie,” definitely went into domestic service. The 1880 census marshal found Lizzie as a 20 year-old servant in the William Scott household. Scott, a railroad agent born in Scotland, lived at 485 (1356 new numbering) W. Madison Street with his wife, three children, and his wife's sister. Lizzie certainly remained on the Old West Side until her marriage to John De Boer (date and place yet unknown), after which the couple moved to the Lincoln, Nebraska area.

John (Johannes), the "baby of the family," according to family lore became an orphan “at an early age” and was raised by sister Annie and her husband John Toren, also a Groninger. Yet, the 1880 federal census report for the John and Annie Toren household includes an infant son but not Annie's brother John. Where John was living and working remains a mystery.

The Johannes Boomker family oral history comes down to us in part through a 1968 memoir of their granddaughter-in-law, Mamie Dekker Toren (ca. 1866-1969), wife of John Toren's nephew Anthony "Tony" Toren. Mamie Toren, a amateur genealogist and historian at heart, heard the family lore at first hand from her grandmother, Annie Boomker Toren, who with her husband lived for many years until death with their youngest daughter Sarah Toren (Mrs. Thomas) Van Dahm (1897-1955). Mamie meticulously gathered vital statistics on every family member, recording the information with dates on 3x5 cards.

 

Wolter Boomker family—Michigan cousins

Between 1901 and 1905, seven of Jan Boomker’s cousins, all children of his first cousin Wolter Boomker and Aaltje Mendelts, also immigrated to America and settled in Grand Rapids, Michigan. These included Pieter/Peter Boomker (1876-1923), Rikkert/Richard Boomker (1879-1958), and Reinje/Reinard/Rhine (1881-1952), all in 1902; and Korneliske/Knelske (1885-??), Grietje/Gertrude (1890-1912), Kornelis/Cornelis (1893-1915), and Wolter/Walter (1895-1972), all in 1905. Peter married Alice Hollander and they had three children; Richard never married, Reinard/Rhine married first Mable Spencer and then Pearl ??? (1886-1966) and remained childless, Wolter married Elizabeth De Bruin and they had four children. Thus, Chicago and later Grand Rapids received a number of Boomker cousins. Descendents of Jan and Grietje Boomker are now in the seventh generation in America.

 

Jan/John and Annie Toren, nee Boomker

Jan/John Toren, a fellow immigrant from Groningen (born in Kantens in 1854), come to Chicago in 1872 at 17 years of age. Like the Boomkers, he went first to the Old West Side, where Toren relatives were living. Here Toren likely became acquainted with the Boomker family at the First Reformed Church of Chicago on Harrison and May streets, were the Torens and Boomkers both worshipped.

John Toren soon found work as a hired hand of Hubert Vander Meyde, who farmed in Auburn Park between 75th and 85th streets along Ashland Avenue. This took him to the First Reformed Church of Roseland on Sundays, where he again met Annie Boomker. The much-loved pastor Henry Koopman married the couple on April 6, 1875. John was 21 years, Annie was "almost 18."

 The newlyweds returned to the Old West Side and John Toren found a job at the Chicago Stockyards on the "killing floor." The work was strenuous and very distasteful, but he held on at least to 1880. In the federal manuscript census record of April 1880, his occupation is given as "trip dresser," which might well be a job dressing meat at a stockyards provision company. The family resided since at least 1876 at 690 [new numbering 1747] W. 15th Street (near Wood Street). They had a one-month old one child, Jacob, born 8 April 1879, and named after John's father.

By 1890, according to the City Directory that year, John Toren, had become a peddler. Whether Johannes Boomker, then about seventeen, continued to board with the Torens is not known. The October 1892 Chicago Voter Registration lists recorded John Toren as having lived at the 15th Street address for the past 16 years, and in Cook County for 20 years. This jibs with his immigration date of 1872. He reported being naturalized in the Superior Court of Cook County in 1880, which is the minimum period of five years after reaching age eighteen in 1875. Anna Boomker Toren was naturalized after her eighteenth birthday in 1878 (according to the 1920 federal census listing). John Toren likely cast his vote for the Republican candidate for president in 1892, Benjamin Harrison, who lost to Grover Cleveland, the Democrat.

John Toren's next job was a big step up--as the secretary of the Dutch-American mutual burial society, Zelf Hulp {Self Hulp]. The parlor of the home served as his office. John had excellent penmanship and a talent for bookkeeping.

The couple has not yet been found in the 1900 federal manuscript census. But they likely remained on West 15th Street until 1904. That year John Toren made a seemingly rash decision--to go into farming, even though he had never lived on a farm. Nevertheless, he rented a farm in Thornton from a Dr. Oliver, and with Annie's knowledge—she did know farming, and the labor of his growing boys, they raised cabbages. "Life on the farm had its ups and downs," recalled Annie's daughter-in-law, but "they all enjoyed living in the country, and it always seemed like the farm work was quite happily done." Interestingly, one of Dr. Oliver's office assistants, the equivalent today of a "practical nurse," was Wilhelmina Wognum Blink, who later became Joseph Johannes "Joe" Boomker's mother-in-law, when he married her daughter Mabelle Cora (see below). While living in Thornton, the Toren family belonged to the First Reformed Church of Lansing.

In the fall of 1911 John and Annie left the farm and went to Englewood for a few months, residing on Aberdeen Street near 63rd. Then they moved to Roseland, living at 132 W. 111th Street, where he and his boys began peddling fruits and vegetables by truck for a time. The decision to move from Thornton to Roseland prompted two daughters, Angie and Grace, to marry boy friends left behind in Lansing. Long distance romance was not for them. Angie married Oliver Kraay in January 1912 and Grace married Peter Eenigenburg that September. The next March Anthony, the third son, married Mamie Dekker of Roseland. 

Shortly after this, in 1913 or 1914, John Toren was induced by a friend to buy a plot of land west of Englewood near Chicago Lawn at 5749 South Sacramento Avenue (3000 West). John Toren returned to the Self Help Burial Fund Society as a collector/agent, servicing a "route" of policy holders by going door to door monthly to collect premiums. "This he did for a fair amount of time."   In April 1915 Anthony and Mamie bought a house down the street at 5737 S. Sacramento, and soon brothers Joseph and John Jr. and their families moved into adjacent homes on the same street. With John and Annie living within shouting distance of their three sons and their wives, they could see them and the grandchildren every day. It was "gezellig," a cozy life.

The 1920 federal census lists John, age 65, as a collector for a "cemetery company." The family then consisted of his wife Anna, age 62, and daughter Anting, age 23, a stenographer. John Toren Jr., age 34, lived directly next door with his wife Kate and two children at 5747 S. Sacramento. Younger brother Joseph "Joe" Toren and his wife Nellie and infant son Harold lived in Roseland in 1920, but later they moved next door to John Jr. Oldest son Jacob, age 40, was living in Lansing in 1920 with his wife and eight children. John Jr., Anthony, and Joe all worked as salesmen in their jointly owned business, Toren Bros. Tire and Repair shop, which was located "south of the yards" on 47th St. and Elizabeth (1250 West) just west of Racine Ave.

Father John Toren later became the bookkeeper in his sons' business, after he and Sarah returned to Englewood and moved in with their youngest daughter Sarah and husband Tom Van Dahm. The Van Dahms had recently married and lived on Aberdeen near 76th Street. Later, when Tom and Sarah moved to the Bellevue section of Roseland, Grandpa and Grandma Toren went along. Sarah was faithful in fulfilling her obligation to take care of her aged parents for many years until their deaths. Annie Toren died on Feb. 7, 1926 and is buried in Fairmount Cemetery, Willow Springs. John Toren died on July 20, 1928 and is buried alongside his wife.

 

John J. Boomker

Johannes/John J. Boomker, the youngest son of Jan Boomker, took the name John J. in America (The initial J--after his father’s given name--was added, according to the American custom, because he had no middle name). John J., after completing his schooling at Van Vlissingen Public School, worked as grocery clerk in a store on Michigan Avenue near 110th Street. That John Boomker completed his schooling and worked in Roseland indicates that he either accompanied or followed his sister Annie Toren there in 1874-75. She married in Roseland in 1875. The Torens then moved back to the Old West Side, but John Boomker remained on the far south side. 

In Roseland John Boomker met Sara Borr, who had come from Holland, Michigan around 1885 to work for a family that lived near the store. In Holland, according to the 1880 federal census, Sara, then age 17, was a live-in maid for Dr. Roelof  Schouten. John and Sara married in 1888 and joined the Bethany Reformed Church of Roseland. They were “good church-going Christian people,”’ according to their niece Sarah Toren Van Dahm. The Toren families also belonged to Bethany Church. What John Boomker did in the decade before his marriage is not yet known, but he likely remained in the grocery store, which was to be his life-long career.

 

Sara Bor(r) Boomker and her father Hendrik Bor

John J. Boomker married Sara Borr in Chicago in 1888 (note: the 1900 federal manuscript census gives 10 as the number of years married. The date of marriage must still be determined). Sara Borr Boomker was the only member of the Borr family to “fly the coop” and leave the Holland, Michigan area for Roseland, but she continued to maintain close contact with her West Michigan relatives for many years. The name Sara stretches back at least seven generations from the present day in the Bor(r)/Leenheer/Boomker/Swierenga line (letter of Joyce Anker, 20 Jan. 1985). The name also is common in the Toren line, as we have seen.

Sara Borr has a scandalous lineage. She is the daughter of the immigrant couple, Hendrik Bor (in America Hendrik's son Peter Borr first used the double rr) and Bastiaantje Leenheer, whose parents settled in the Holland colony of Rev. Albertus C. Van Raalte around 1850—the Bors in Fillmore Township (Allegan County) and the Leenheers of Holland (Ottawa County). They were married in the Fillmore Township clerk's office on 18 July 1855 by justice of the peace Isaac Fairbanks. Witnesses were two neighbors, Nicholas Ashley and Hendrika Timmerman. Hendrik gave his age as 39 and Bastiaantje age 31 (marriage records, Allegan County). Hendrik was actually 47 years of age, since he was born 10 May 1808 and baptized on 5 June 1808 in the Dutch Reformed Church in Ochten, a village in the municipality of Echteld astride the River Waal near Arnhem in the province of Gelderland (see Bor/Borr Family Genealogy by Gurth Bor). Hendrik's parents were Albert Bor and Johanna Van Hemert.

Gurth Bor has aptly described Hendrik Bor as "the most interesting, intriguing and amazing person of my whole Bor collection." According to Gurth Bor, and he has documentation to prove it, Hendrik Bor was a bigamist who abandoned his wife and six children in the Netherlands and began a second family in Michigan and fathered six more children. Amazingly, no subsequent immigrants in the Holland area or in Bor's church, the First Reformed Church of Holland, served by the colony's founder, the Rev. Albertus C. Van Raalte, reported on his former life. The fabled Dutch Reformed "grapevine" failed in this instance. Whether Hendrik ever told his American wife, Bastiaantje Leenheer, the truth about Hendrikje Houtman is doubtful, although his oldest son, Peter, who was thirteen years old when his father died, did recall some misinformation, as we shall see, that could only have come from his father. While only half-truths, the story was sufficiently damaging that Peter later in life, after returning to Holland, Michigan from a failed homestead venture in South Dakota in 1927, changed his family name to Borr, and all his siblings followed suite, thereby breaking a ready genealogical link to their step-family in the Netherlands.

There are other discrepancies in Hendrik's life story before and after immigrating. Most important, he told his wife and family that he served in the Dutch military from about 18 years of age (about 1826) until age 38 (about 1846). This is highly unlikely for two reasons. First, according to Hendrik's military conscription certificate of 1827, after drawing a low lottery number (44) and going to Arnhem for the required physical examination, the military board ruled that he was "totally set free from duty." Why? Because the board found that Hendrik's elder brother, Jan Cornelis Bor, had served his full term in the Dutch army, and according to Dutch law, this automatically exempted from conscription Jan's two younger brothers, Hendrik and Cornelis. (Jan, a policeman, and his wife and family about 1855 immigrated from Lienden, province of Gelderland, to Pittsford, Monroe County, New York.) Second, Hendrik was exempted from the military because his father had died suddenly three years earlier, in 1824, leaving Hendrik, age 14 and the oldest son still living at home, as the breadwinner to run the farm for his mother Johanna van Hemert and younger siblings. In 1831, when Hendrik left Ochten at about age 23, his brother Cornelis, a clogmaker, became the breadwinner for the family. For Hendrik to leave his widowed mother and siblings was an unusual act in the strongly familial and tightly bound village society of the time.

Hendrik Bor went west to the historic fortress town of Naarden (province of Noord Holland) along the Zuider Zee twelve miles southeast of Amsterdam. Here he found work and met Hendrikje Houtman (1812-90), an illiterate gardener's daughter, with whom he fathered six children, two of whom were born to the couple before their marriage on 20 Nov. 1836 at Naarden’s Townhall. This legitimized Johanna Hendrika (born 28 Dec. 1833) and Albertus Adrianus (5 Nov. 1836). Wilhelmina was born on 15 Nov. 1838 and Jan on 5 Dec. 1844.

The birth certificates of the last two children in Naarden, twins Hendrik and Rudolph (born on 8 Oct. 1849), of whom only the second survived the birth, had to be signed by the midwife and Hendrikje's brother, Hendrik, a postman. Hendrik Bor did not acknowledge paternity for the twins, but he was their legal father, thus making the number of his children six. In 1843, fully a year before Jan’s birth in December 1844, Bor had abandoned his family and returned to his mother’s farm. From then until March 1851, he lived with his mother, brother Cornelis, and sister Alberdina and her husband Albert van Beem. Hendrik then “headed for Rotterdam” to immigrate to West Michigan (Ochten Bevolkingsregisters, book 858, 1849-1859).

Why Hendrik deserted his Dutch family is unknown. According to the eldest son, Peter (1858-1943), Hendrik told the children of his American family that his first wife had "betrayed her pledge of honor under the conditions" while he was fulfilling his military duties. Since Hendrik never served in the Dutch military, this story is doubtful, but Hendrikje nevertheless became pregnant with the twins by someone other than her husband. Certainly, this marriage with Hendrikje Houtman was not a good one. Their relationship began "in sin" and ended the same way. Hendrikje might even have taken up living with the father of her illegitimate children, and this may have shamed Hendrik into leaving her.

            That Hendrik Bor truly deserted his family is proven by the later marriage certificates of two of his sons in Naarden that Gurth Bor uncovered by diligent research. In 1867, when Hendrik's son Jan (John) (1844-??) made application to marry at the Naarden town hall, he required his father's consent under Dutch law. Since his father had disappeared nearly twenty years earlier, the Naarden magistrate ordered a judge and registrar from Amsterdam to come and sit in judgement on Hendrik Bor. The officers of the court summoned Hendrik Bos' wife Hendrikje and four former friends to testify under oath. Separately and in turn, they each said that Bor had talked about going to America to make a living, and they had not seen him since 1849. The judge then gave John Bor permission to marry on "his own consent," rather than his fathers' consent. Ten years later, in 1877, Hendrik’s youngest son, Rudolph (1849-1930), had to use the same protocol in order to marry. His oldest son Albertus, a sailor, drowned at sea in 1866 at nearly 30 years of age, according to Amsterdam archival records, found by Gurth Bor.

            No official record can be found in the Netherlands or in the United States concerning Hendrik Bor’s immigration, but this is not remarkable. Hendrik's nationality may have been recorded incorrectly as German, since he resided in Germany for a time, and he traveled as a single male, a demographic that most often emigrated clandestinely. The Netherlands government did not require a passport to emigrate; so one could simply buy a steamship ticket and depart. There was a requirement that one notify the clerk of the municipality of last residence prior to departure, but no enforcement mechanism existed. Further, the United States Department of the Interior and its Bureau of Immigration did not systematically preserve the ship passenger manifests. As a result, an undetermined number have been lost, including perhaps the one on which Bor was recorded. So, for whatever reasons, Hendrik Bor slipped through official nets on both side of the Atlantic.

            The American Borr family history offers more puzzling facts. It says that Hendrik worked as a hand (knecht) on the farm of Berend/Bernhard and Magdelina Zeeman/Seeman in Bentheim, Germany, and that he immigrated with the Zeemans. This is unlikely, since the Zeemans were among the first settlers in Fillmore Township, Allegan County, Michigan in 1847-48, according to the History of Allegan County, Michigan (1880). Hendrik Bor likely immigrated to Overisel, a Dutch immigrant village in Fillmore Township, in early 1851, and here it was that Berend Zeeman, a Prussian by birth, employed him as a farm laborer. Here also on 29 Dec. 1954, Zeeman sold him 19 acres of land in Section 26 for $50. Zeeman had purchased 160 acres (the northeast quarter) of this section in Feb. 1852, and Bor was likely set to work felling trees to clear the tract for farming. On 7 Dec. 1859, Bor sold the 19 acres back to Zeeman for $200.

The land was on the "Bee Line Road" [present-day state highway M-40] where the old Jellema and Hoffman Mill stood, about ten miles southeast of the city of Holland.

Berend Zeeman and John G. Kronemeyer were the first Dutchmen to settle in Fillmore Township. This area also attracted many Calvinistic Bentheimers, who were Seceders from the state church and followed Rev. A.C. Van Raalte to the Holland Colony. Most joined the Graafschap Reformed Church in 1848 and in 1857 the new Graafschap Christian Reformed Church. Zeeman for some reason is not listed in the 1850 federal population census of Fillmore Township, which was taken in mid-June.

During the winter of 1853-54, Borr secured a job cutting timber at $6 per acre on the Hessel O. Yntema estate near Vriesland (present day state highway M-21. He boarded with the Hendrik Verwey family. At this time he met Bastiaantje Leenheer, who was visiting the Jacob Buursma family next door. Bastiaantje was born Aug. 4, 1824 in Dirksland, a village in the Overflakkee region of the province of Zuid Holland. She had immigrated to Michigan in 1854 as a single young woman, along with her brother Cornelis, and likely worked for room and board as a maid.

Before he could marry, Hendrik built a log cabin on his land and began farming it. Hendrik (age 47) and Bastiaantje (age 31) were married by Justice of the Peace Isaac Fairbanks on 18 July 1855 in Fillmore Township, Allegan County. Witnesses were two neighbors, Nicholas Ashley and Hendrika Timmerman. Hendrik understated his age on the marriage certificate as 39 years, rather than 47. Why he falsified his age is another mystery. Was it to cover his tracks, or to woo Bastiaantje, who might have rejected a suitor sixteen years her senior. Fairbanks had been the agricultural instructor for the Ottawa Indian band at the Old Wing Mission in 1844-45. On 21 May 1856 the same Judge Fairbanks naturalized Hendrik Bor, after he met the five-year residency requirement.

That Hendrik and Bastiaantje were married in a civil ceremony in the office of a county official, rather than to arrange a church wedding with a Dutch Reformed minister, is remarkable. Church weddings were normative in the Dutch Reformed colony, as they are today in Reformed circles. It is true that the nearby Overisel Reformed Church, where the couple worshiped, was without a pastor in 1856, as was the next nearest congregation, the Vriesland Reformed Church. But the Rev. Albertus Van Raalte of the First Reformed Church of Holland, or the Rev. Cornelius Vander Meulen of the First Reformed Church of Zeeland, would certainly have come to the Overisel church to marry the couple. Van Raalte solemnized hundreds of marriages throughout the Colony. Very likely, Hendrik Bor could not make his vows before the Lord with a clear conscience, because he knew he was committing bigamy, so he had a private civil ceremony, with only two unmarried friends as witnesses.

Nevertheless, the couple joined the Overisel Reformed Church, where their first two children were baptized, Johanna in 1856 and Pieter (Peter) in 1858. Note that the oldest daughter in this second family was not named after the mother's mother, according to Dutch custom, nor was the oldest son named after the father's father. Rev. Gerrit J. Nykerk, who began his pastorate in Overisel in 1858, baptized Pieter. Who baptized Johanna is unknown. In 1860 Hendrik Bor sold his 19 acres back to Zeeman and moved his family to Vriesland in Zeeland Township, where he bought land in the “sink hole” and built a second log cabin. Here two more children were born and baptized in the Vriesland Reformed Church by the Rev. Adrian Zwemer. According to the church membership records, Hendrik Bor and Bastiaantje Leenheer joined the Vriesland congregation on 20 May 1860, "met attestatie van Overisel." Rev. Zwemer baptized their son Hendrik on 9 Nov. 1860 and their daughter Sara on 3 May 1863.

Because the land was swampy, Hendrik bought 20 acres nearby and built a third and then a fourth log cabin, where a fifth child, daughter Alberdina (Delia), was baptized on 6 Apr. 1865, again by Rev. Zwemer. In 1866 Bor sold this tract and bought 60 acres in Vriesland, and built a fifth log cabin. Hendrik must have been an expert at erecting log cabins by this time! Here a sixth child was born and baptized at the Vriesland church by Rev. Zwemer.

Although Hendrik Bor lived in West Michigan for 21 years, neither he nor his large family is recorded in the 1860 and 1870 decennial federal censuses. This is passing strange. One must assume that he and his family deliberately avoided the U.S. census marshals when they made their appointed rounds in June.

Hendrik Bor became ill with a "diseased prostate" and died on 31 Oct. 1871. Rev. Henry Utterwick, then the Vriesland church pastor, conducted the funeral. Bor was buried in the Old Vriesland Cemetery (Row 14, Lot 7). In 1872 Bastiaantje transferred with her children to the Ebenezer Reformed Church (corner of 32nd Street and Country Club Road in Holland Township) and remarried in 1874 to Jacob Van Louten, a widower from Groningen who belonged to that church. Bor(r)s have been part of the Ebenezer congregation for several generations. Bastiaantje died on Apr. 14, 1889 in Holland Township and was buried in Pilgrim Home Cemetery in the city of Holland. Why Bastiaantje was not buried with her first husband in Vriesland is another mystery. Although Hendrik Bor was the father of twelve children, he only acknowledged the six born in Michigan birthed by Bastiaantje Leenheer in Michigan.

 

John and Sara Boomker in Roseland

John and Sara Boomker settled in Roseland, a far south division of the city annexed by Chicago in 1890, which had been settled by the Dutch in 1849. Roseland, formerly called Low Prairie [Lage Prairie] was the largest Dutch community in the Chicago area, and counted 10,000 Hollanders in 1900. Here the John Boomker family and their married children entered fully into the life of the community and businessmen and members of the first English-speaking congregation, Bethany Reformed Church.

John and Sara raised seven children in Roseland over a period of fourteen years, from 1890 to 1904, five boys and two girls. All of them lived to adulthood and married, but two sons did not have any children. They are Walter (Dec. 12, 1890-June 6, 1943), Henry J. (Nov. 24, 1893-?? 1965), Andrew D. (Feb. 1, 1895-Mar. 3, 1963), Johannes J. (Jan. 25, 1897-Aug. 7, 1974), Grace E. (Apr. 26, 1899-1979), Theodore S. (Aug. 18, 1901-July 15, 1979), and Sarah (Sept. 7, 1904-1984).

The name of son Johannes J. Boomker is confusing. Official records, newspaper reports, etc. in Chicago give his name variously as Joseph "Joe" Boomker, Jr., John J[oseph] Boomker, and J.J. Boomker. But he signed his name Jo (short for Johannes) J. Boomker, which means he used the abbreviated form of his Dutch baptized name. Friends assumed his name was "Joe," and so he was called and is named here.

The newlyweds, John and Sara Boomker, resided after their marriage on 111th Street near Michigan Avenue. John gave this as his address in October 1888, when he registered to vote in Chicago (Chicago Voting Registration lists for 1888). He reported having lived at this address for two years and in Cook County and the state of Illinois for 24 years. He received his naturalization papers from the Cook County Court in October 1883, following his 20th birthday (he was born in September 1863). Thus, John could cast his vote for the Republican presidential candidate in 1888, Benjamin Harrison, the winning candidate. John Boomker is incorrectly listed in the poll registry as John Bunker. Americans clearly had trouble with the Dutch name Boomker, and this problem plagued John for years.

According to the 1890 Chicago City Directory, John Boomker was operating a grocery, under the name Madderom and Boomker, located at 10959 South Michigan Avenue (northeast corner of Michigan at 110th Place). This choice location was on Roseland's main thoroughfare only one block from the busiest commercial corner of town—111th and Michigan. The Boomker family lived above the store. The name of the firm suggests that Boomker ran the store, with Gerrit Madderom as his financial backer. The next year, 1891, the name had changed to Boomker & [John] Huyser Grocers, which indicated that Huyser had replaced Madderom as a partner. In 1892 the store location remained the same, but the Boomker family resided at 149 West 110th Street. In 1893 the store address was 11000 S. Michigan, which was directly across the street from the previous location. The 1894 City Directory showed that the store (but not the family) had moved yet again, to 11735 S. Michigan Ave., some seven blocks to the south in the Bunker Hills section. Here the store remained for more than a decade, until at least 1905. The family, however, moved in 1898 to 2610 W. 118th Place, which was out in the country along the east border of Mt. Hope Cemetery. The 1900 federal census states that the home was owned free and clear of a mortgage, which indicates that John was thriving as a businessman. The Boomkers lived here until 1909.

In 1909 John and Sara Boomker moved with their seven children to Holland, Michigan, where they joined First Reformed Church and John opened a grocery store on the northeast corner of 16th St. and Central Avenue. The family lived in the house next door. Both buildings are still standing. The next year, 1910, homesickness overtook them and John packed all their belongings on a flatbed truck and returned to Roseland.

The Boomkers bought a home at 232 W. 109th Place near Princeton, five houses east of the manse of the First Christian Reformed Church, which stood on the northwest corner of 109th Place and Princeton. Here the Rev. Frank Doezema family resided from 1914 to 1944, and Ted Boomker married daughter Annette "Ann" Doezema. The John Boomker home phone number listed in the 1914-1915 telephone book was Pullman 1356; the grocery number was Pullman 0290.

 

The Boomker groceries

After returning to Chicago in 1910, John J. Boomker resumed the retail grocery business, opening a store at 147 W. 111th Street. By 1917, his oldest son Walter, age 27, had joined the firm under the new rubric, J.J. Boomker & Son (sometimes the word Meats was added or substituted for Grocery). The location on the northeast corner of Wentworth Ave. (200 west) and “Hundred leventh” was choice, at the intersection of two major commercial thoroughfares and near the Roseland Community Hospital, Monarch Laundry Company, and Bethany Reformed Church. Walter was married by this time and lived with his wife at 10501 S. Wentworth Ave. Henry, the second son, worked behind the meat counter as the butcher, and the third son, Johannes Joseph "Joe," clerked, stocked shelves, and made deliveries to customers. Henry and Joe lived at home at this time (1917).

When John J. Boomker died in 1922 from a brain tumor at the relatively young age of 58, his sons had to take hold of the business and provide for their widowed mother and younger siblings. It was agreed that Joe, age 25, who had married three year earlier, would buy the business from his parents' estate, which he did in 1923. At the time, five siblings remained at home: Henry, age 27, Andrew, age 24, Grace, age 20, Theodore, age 18, and Sarah, age 15. Andrew worked as a jeweler and Theodore attended college.

By 1925 Joe, with his brothers Walt and Henry, expanded to a second store, Boomker Bros. Meat Market (telephone Pullman 9885), at 415 W. 107th Street--the southwest corner of Perry and 107th. Walt and Henry ran the store. Regular customers like Mrs. Chester Toren tried to have Henry wait on them, because his cuts of meat seemed to be better than Walt's (letter of Chester Toren to author, 13 Apr. 2004). Joe Boomker moved his family to 10724 Eggleston Ave. to be nearer the store. The value of the home in 1930 was $9,000, according to the 1930 census. The brothers lost the store and the property in the Great Depression. According to Joe's oldest daughter Ruth, the Boomkers sold the store to cousin Tom Van Dahm, husband of Sarah Toren.

The flagship Boomker grocery remained at 147 W. 111th Street. In 1936, Joe bought out his partner and brother Henry and carried on as sole proprietor, although Henry stayed on as an employee. In 1947 Joe purchased the building at 101 West 111th Street and relocated his store there until retiring in 1958. It was on the southwest corner of 111th and Perry streets, at the east end of the same block as the original store at 142 W. 111th (southeast corner of Wentworth Ave.). Henry continued to work for his brother Joe, as did other family members and long-time employee Thomas Koesema. When Joe retired in 1958, he sold the building to a physician for an office. The physician, in turn, sold the property to the adjacent Roseland Community Hospital, which razed the building, along with several other buildings west of the hospital, in order to build emergency room facilities. So the J.J. Boomker & Sons Grocery operated continuously for forty-eight years, from 1910 to 1958, in the 100 block of West 111th Street.

 

The Boomker siblings' families

Walter Boomker married Wilhelmina “Minnie” Madderom (Aug. 23, 1893-Oct. 11, 1933), a member of one of Roseland’s first families, and they had two children: Muriel (1920-2002), married in 1943 to Robert Vander Woude of Harvey, IL (two children); and Shirley (1925-, married to Louis Van Drie of Sibley, IA (seven children). In 1917, according to the Chicago City directory, the family lived at 10501 S. Wentworth Ave., but by 1922 the Chicago telephone directory listed them at 46 W. 111th Place, one block east of the store. By 1925, they had moved to a nicer neighborhood at 11115 S. Parnell Ave., west of the railroad tracks (City Directory).

Minnie died of a tubal pregnancy at 40 years of age in the midst of the Depression in April 1933. So Walt, then age 43, and his two daughters, Muriel and Shirley, moved in with his widowed mother Sara on 109th Place. Walt was an outgoing man and this made him a good salesman in his father’s grocery. But when his father set he and Henry up in their own grocery at 107th and Perry, they went bankrupt during the Depression. In his late 30s, Walt suffered a stroke that caused difficulty in walking and talking. He was the first sibling to die, in 1943, at age 52.

Henry Boomker married Dorothy Ross (May 19, 1898-??, 1999); they had no children. Before marrying, he served in the U.S. Army in France and experienced the trench warfare with the feared German poison gas and the newfangled tanks. In 1911 Henry worked as a porter at 2nd and Elm St. (this was likely in Blue Island). Soon he clerked in his father’s grocery, learned the butcher trade, and established his own grocery. Dorothy was the executive secretary for a firm in the Chicago Loop. She managed the money for the family. Henry and Dorothy later bought a three-flat north of 103rd and Wentworth. Henry died in 1965 at age 72; Dorothy died in 1999 at age 101.

Andrew Boomker was a jeweler who by 1925 owned a jewelry store at 10947 S. Michigan Ave. By 1930 the store had relocated to 11024 S. Michigan Ave. Andrew later married a schoolteacher, Adriana Hammekool (May 21, 1892 Amsterdam, Neth.-1992); they also had no children. Andrew as a youngster lost one eye from an exploding bottle cap of homemade root beer. He also suffered from scoliosis and became a “hunchback.” His older brother Joe pulled him to school every day in a wagon. Andrew died in 1963 at age 68. Adriana lived to celebrate her 100th birthday in the Holland Home, South Holland, Illinois. She taught at Chicago Christian High School in Englewood and the Van Vlissingen (known as “VV”) Public School in Roseland.

John J. “Joe” Boomker served during World War I in the U.S. Navy on board the U.S. Delaware. So two of the four Boomker boys served their country; and Andrew was unable to do so because of his physical condition. Following the Armistice in 1918, Jo was discharged and had a joyous homecoming with his fiancé, Mabelle Cora Blink (Aug. 14, 1898-Jan. 12, 1990). The couple was married on October 23, 1919 at their home church, Bethany Reformed Church, with Rev. John Lamar officiating.

Melodramatic events following the church ceremony are described in a humorous style in the Chicago Tribune. The headline above the photo of the bride read: "Comic Tragedy--Bride Bumps Head Through Limousine Window but, Bandaged, Essays Honeymoon." The article gave the sordid details:

Nuptial couple glide smoothsome in big limousine to photographer. Joyful guests flow fastly behind with thought to kidnap new husband. Limousine bumps harshly at lofty speed over railroad tracks at One Hundred and Eighth street. Blushful bride bumps head through limousine window of plately glass and collapses unconscious.

Swiftful trip is made to shop of Hon. Dr. Robert Swindle, 11408 S. Prairie Avenue, who sews four times the scalp of blushful bride who suffers intense from cut. 'All rightee,' smiles new wife, who aft sits with bandaged head at wedding supper. 'Tomorrow we go for Michigan to search for moon of honey.'"So ends the tale of the Boomker wedding, another victim of the pranks that friends typically played after Dutch Reformed church wedding ceremonies involving the auto"escape" (undated news clipping by one Sato in the Chicago Tribune.) 

Jo and Mabelle purchased a new house west of the railroad tracks at 10724 S. Eggleston Ave. Here they raised three children: Ruthe (1920-  ) married to Louis Modder, who grew up on the Old West Side (two children); Joyce (1923-97) married to Willard Anker of Leota, Minnesota (two children); and Esthermae (1933-  ) married to Thornton Rodney "Rod" Jegen of Roseland, IL on June 12, 1954 (three children). Rod was born in Centralia, Illinois and at two weeks of age his parents moved to Roseland, where his father became vice president of the A.J. Canfield Beverage Company. Rod, a veteran of the Korean War, was a businessman and aviator. The marriage of Ruthe and Joyce was a "double wedding" at Bethany Reformed Church on September 7, 1944. Cousins Wayne Fieldhouse and Celia Boomker joined the wedding party.

The parents encouraged their daughters to lives of service in church and community. Ruthe took business courses at De Paul University, Joyce earned a nursing degree at the Roseland Community Hospital, and Esthermae studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and later took business courses at McCormack Institute. Esthermae was employed for twenty years in the office of the Reformed Church of Palos Heights, with the title of Congregational Life Assistant. She also served as deacon, elder, and member of the administrative committee. 

Their father Joe was a man of few words and a good listener. His thoughtfulness and sincerity of heart was apparent to all. During the Depression, he carried many needy families on credit at the grocery; some never could "square up." Mabelle was a gregarious and talented woman with boundless energy. She and Joe had a wide circle of close friends at their church, and they enjoyed socializing together, especially picnicking at city parks and Lake Michigan beaches.

According to Joe’s daughter Esthermae and son-in-law Rodney Jegen, Joe Boomker was “spiritually deep. He walked the walk, and talked the talk.” Joe always served as an elder in the Bethany Reformed Church of Roseland and later at the Beechwood Reformed Church of Holland, Michigan. Mabelle was equally active in church and community affairs. She was president of various ladies’ groups at Bethany Church, a member of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement, past president of both the American Legion Auxiliary Post #49 in Chicago and in Holland, Michigan. She helped survivors of the Eastland disaster in Chicago in 1915 (the vessel capsized at its birth on the Chicago River downtown and more than one thousand persons drowned), and she prepared canned goods for the poor during the Great Depression (obituary in Chicago Tribune, 12 Jan. 1990). These affiliations and activities speak to Mabelle Boomker’s assimilation in the American Protestant culture. Women’s suffrage and temperance were the quintessential Protestant political causes.

Joe's avocation was gardening, while Mabelle painted at the easel. He raised prize dahlias and won ribbons at the county fair, and she painted flowers in oils and pastels and also garnered many ribbons in competitions. Joe spent some months in a sanitarium after contracting tuberculosis (TB), but he recovered fully.

Grace Boomker married Bruce Strain (1898-1992) of Chicago in 1923, and they had three children, Effie, born in 1924 and died as a youngster, Sandra (adopted), and Bruce. The family lived at 250 W. 108th Street for many years. The house was valued in the 1930 census at $8,000. Bruce Strain, of Scotch-Irish parentage, was a roofer for some time and then worked for many years at the Sherwin Williams Paint Company in Calumet. He was a man of few words, like Joe Boomker. Grace was “born to shop” and spent money as fast as her husband earned it. She died in 1978 and Bruce in 1992.

Theodore “Ted” Boomker, the youngest son, contracted typhoid fever as a youngster and almost died. It was thought that the well at their home was contaminated. Ted graduated from the Pullman Technical High School, which was just "down the hill" from Roseland at 111th and South Park Avenue. The school, which had been endowed by George M. Pullman, the founder of the nearby Pullman Palace Car Works, stressed the sciences and was perfectly suited to Ted's natural skills and interests. Ted worked his way through high school with a variety of odd jobs. He bussed tables at the nearby Florence Hotel, Pullman's watering hole and guest house, which contained the only bar in the "company town" of 12,000 residents. George himself maintained an upstairs office in the hotel and Ted certainly saw him from time to time. Ted also lit the furnace every day before classes began at Pullman Tech, and in the summer he was the grounds keeper for a wealthy family in Lake Forest. The pattern continued at the Armour [now Illinois] Institute of Technology, where Ted earned a degree in electrical engineering. He commuted by streetcar with a sandwich lunch in his briefcase, and to earn a little extra money he took water samples in Lake Michigan for the Chicago city water company.

Ted was a prankster and jokester as a young man, and retained a life-long sense of humor. While attending Armour Tech, Ted dated Annette “Ann” Doezema (July 13, 1904-July 19, 1987), a daughter of the Rev. Frank and Celia Top Doezema, whose family lived on 109th Place just five houses down from the Boomkers. For their first date Ted asked Annette to go with him on an outing of the Bethany Church young people's society, Christian Endeavor. Ann agreed and "the rest is history," as they say. After Ted graduated, the couple was wed by the bride’s father in the First Christian Reformed Church of Roseland. Ann had five sisters and no brothers: Pearl (who married John Zwart), Agnes (who married Gerald Wesselius), Bernice (who married Frank Boersma), Bertha (who married Leslie Larson), and Charlotte (who married Peter Boelens). The Frank Doezema Family History recounts the story of this prominent clan.

Sarah Boomker, named after her mother, married Herman "Ray" Fieldhouse (1903-67) in 1929 and they had two children: Wayne Jay (a surviving twin) married to Patricia Kennedy (no children); and Warren Jon (adopted), married twice, with a daughter by the second marriage. Warren, it was said, was found wandering the streets at 4 years of age and Ray and Sarah took him in and raised him. A handsome child, Warren was likely named after the twin who died. He had an older brother who was adopted by close friends of Ray and Sarah and became a minister in the Reformed Church. The family name of his mother Mary Ann is not known. In his twenties, Warren served time in prison for stealing cars, but he straightened himself out after that and is currently living in California.

In the early years of their marriage, Ray and Sarah Fieldhouse and son Wayne lived in with her widowed mother Sara Boomker and brother Andrew, who did not marry his late 30s. Widow Sara lived in the family homestead at 232 W. 109th Place, which in the 1930 census was valued at $12,000. Ray Fieldhouse, a chemist, died at age 64 of a heart attack on an Arizona golf course. Sarah, who niece Celia Boomker De Boer recalled as an intelligent woman, died in 1984 in her 80th year.

 

Boomker family life

The John J. Boomker family had a fine sense of humor. A photo survives of a family portrait about 1911, in which the Grace sports a hug bow in her hair, and Walter and Henry don ladies' hats, Henry with a cigar hanging from his mouth. The setting is a studio “living room,” complete with a plaque on the wall reading “Home Blessings.” Theodore, the youngest son, remarkably was dressed “normally.” He was known later in life as a card, a cutup, who loved to pull pranks on his five sisters-in-laws.

Sara Boomker was a much-loved grandma who willingly shared her home with family. Granddaughter Shirley Boomker Van Drie, who as a child lived with her, describes her as a "lot of fun." Shirley recalls "going into Grandma's room, climbing up on the bed and snuggling in the featherbed ad generally having a pleasant time."

In terms of reproduction, the Jan Boomker family did not measure up to their Michigan cousins.

Although all seven married, two had no children and the other five had only eleven children of their own, 4 boys and 7 girls, a ratio strongly in favor of girls. Two more children were adopted, to give an average family size of 2.6, but only 1.9 if one counts all seven couples and 1.6 if one excludes the adoptions. These 13 children, however, had a respectable number of 33 grandchildren.

The average age at death of the Boomker children was 72; the youngest died at age 52, the oldest at age 80. John and Sara had also died fairly young, at age 59 and 74 respectively.

The Boomker family also illustrates how quickly a family name can disappear. John Boomker had five sons, sufficient, one would think, to continue his family name. Yet two of the boys did not have any children, two more had only girls, and the youngest had just one boy and two girls. Thus after only two generations there was just one male Boomker left to carry on the family name.

[Quoted extensively from Warren Van Egmond, “The Second Generation: Twentieth-century Americans--The Grandchildren of Hendrik Bor and Bastiaantje Leenheer”]

After two more generations, the Jan Boomker family still awaits a male heir, but the prospects have improved. Theodore Boomker, John and Sara’s youngest son, had two girls and one boy. The boy, John Theodore or “Ted,” married after completing a full term of service in the U.S. Air Force, and had three sons and no daughters. Ted’s oldest and youngest sons, Richard and David, remain unmarried. David is just completing his college education. The middle son, James, has been married for three years and has no children as of 1994.

 

Cemetery plot of John J. and Sara Boomker

John J. Boomker died at age 59 on 11 October 1922 (see printed sympathy thank you card) of an inoperable tumor deep in his brain. He became sick while son Theodore, a student at the Illinois Institute of Technology, was courting Annette Doezema. We know this because Annette’s father, Rev. Doezema, wrote a long series of letters to his brother Albert Doezema in Grand Rapids, which Albert saved and donated to the Calvin College Archives.

Frank’s letter of ?? October 1922 reads:

Yet one more thing. Boomker, the father of the young man courting Annette, and who lives close by us, is very sick. A tumor in the brain. It is so deep that there is absolutely nothing to be done. The doctor thinks that he has only a few days to live. He is a man of 58 years. O, what a tragedy and awful business for the entire family.

John and his wife Sara had purchased a family burial plot in the Old Thornton Cemetery (now Homewood Memorial Gardens), in Homewood, Illinois, and erected a large stone marker. Here they and six of their seven children and spouses are buried. In the center of the gravesite stands a rectangular granite stone approximately five feet long, four feet high, and one foot thick. It is inscribed as follows:

Boomker

In Memory

Odd Fellows

Harvey Lodge

No 80

Independent Order of Odd Fellows

 

Surrounding this family stone are eight head stones, four on each side, with the names and dates (years only) of the parents and the seven children and spouses. They read as follows:

 

Theodore S.   Annette   Andrew   Adriana   John J      Sara

1901-77      1904-87   1895-1963 1892-1992  1863-1922  1863-1931

 

Walter J       Minnie E        Henry J   Dorothy R  

1890-1940    1893-1933         1892-1968    1898-

 

Bruce H Strain   Grace E Strain    Raymond  J   Sarah B      

1898-1992        1899-1978         1903-67      1904-84

 

The gravesite lies nestled on the crest of a small hill under a sheltering tree. The tree died and had to be removed in the early 1990s, because the roots were irreparably damaged when the grave of Annette Boomker was dug in 1987.

The prominent acknowledgement of the Masonic Lodge on the family gravestone is very significant. That John J. Boomker, a second generation Dutch American, had affiliated with the Harvey Lodge 80 of the Odd Fellows is a sign of his Americanization and his business success as a grocery/meat merchant. Many Dutch Reformed Christians in the Netherlands and the United States strongly condemned freemasonry because of its anti-Christian origins in Scottish free thought, and for its oath-bound initiation, rites, and obligations, which were said to be antithetical to serving the Lord Jesus Christ. In the United States, however, many Protestant Christians since the colonial times were freemasons. This included many leading clerics and business and profession men of the Reformed Church in America, the oldest Protestant denomination in America and a daughter of the national Netherlands Reformed Church [Hervormde Kerk Nederland].

Beginning in the 1830s, evangelical Christians in the United States condemned freemasonry and most Dutch Reformed immigrant congregations in the Midwest refused to accept freemasons as members and placed freemasons in their ranks under church discipline. In 1882 some 10,000 members of midwestern Reformed church congregations left the denomination because the synodical leadership refused to make a blanket condemnation and instead allowed each congregation to decide for itself. In Roseland, the first English-speaking congregation, Bethany Reformed Church, allowed freemasons to be members. Here the Boomker had affiliated. [For more on the freemasonry conflict in the Reformed church, see Robert P. Swierenga and Elton Bruins, Family Quarrels in the Dutch Reformed Churches in the Nineteenth Century (New York: Wm B. Eerdmans, 1997).]

Sara Borr Boomker outlived her husband by many years and died at age 73 in October ??, 1936 in her own bedroom. All her children and grandchildren came to say goodbye. “I’ll see you in heaven,” Ted’s daughter Celia told her. The casket was set up in the family parlor (living room), as was the custom in those days. But the funeral was always in church, with the casket placed front and center under the pulpit.

The only son of John J. and Sara Boomker not to be buried in the family plot was J[ohannes] J. “Joe” Boomker and wife Mabelle Blink, who was born in Dolton, Illinois. After Joe’s retirement from the family store in 1958, the couple moved to Holland, Michigan, where they bought a white frame house on the north shore of Lake Macatawa near Dutton Park 568 Lake Street). Mabel's brother Albert Blink had built the home for himself in 1930 and lived in it until his death. Joe died in Holland of a “cardio vascular accident” on August 7, 1974 at age 77, and Mabelle lived until age 91, in 1990. She died in Greenville, SC, near her oldest daughter Ruthe and Louis Modder. Both Joe and Mabelle are buried in the Old Holland Section of Homewood Memorial Gardens, which is west of Thornton in Homewood, Illinois. Both the Old Holland and Old Thornton cemeteries are close together on Ridge Road just east of Halsted Street. The sites are just off the southwest corner of the huge limestone quarry that is bisected by Illinois Tollway I-294.

 

Theodore and Annette Boomker

Ted (1901-1979) and Annette, also known as Ann (1904-1987), were married on July 19, 1927 at the First Christian Reformed Church of Roseland by Annette’s father, the Rev. Frank Doezema. Ted was 25 years old and Annette 22. The local newspaper reported on forthcoming Tuesday evening wedding.

The bride, who is very popular in the South End, …will wear a white satin lace gown trimmed with orange blossoms and will carry a bouquet of white rosebuds and lillies of the valley. Miss Bertha Doezema, sister of the bride, will wear a peach taffeta frock and carry tea roses. Miss Sarah Boomker will serve as bridesmaid and will wear green taffeta. The flower girls will be Muriel and Ruth Boomker, nieces of the groom. They will wear pink and yellow taffeta frocks and carry baskets of sweet peas. Mr. Bruce Strain will act as best man, while Mr. Raymond Fieldhouse will serve as usher. [These were Ted's brothers-in-law.]

A wedding reception at the parsonage for the immediate family and a few friends will follow the ceremony. The bridal couple intend to spend their honeymoon in the east and will be at home to their friends after August 1 at 314 West 107th street [undated and unnamed newspaper clipping].

Ted worked for the Western Electric Company following his graduation from Armour Institute with a degree in electrical engineering. Annette graduated from Chicago Christian High School and followed a teacher’s training course for two years at the Illinois Normal School, the predecessor of Chicago State University. She taught high school English literature and grammar for several years at Fenger High School(?) before her marriage. For the rest of her life, she could quote American and English poets and writers in her letters and conversation, and always insisted that her children correctly use the King’s English. When they did not, they stood corrected.

Ted and Annette had three children. Celia (26 Sept. 1929-  ) married James De Boer (Feb. 17, 1927-     ) in Oak Park, IL on Aug. 21, 1953, and the couple had five children: Andrew Thomas (June 20, 1954-  ), married Louise ?? (two children), later divorced; Annette (Mar. 17, 1956-  ) married divorcee Alan De Jong (three children, two step and one natural); Theodore Samuel (May 28, 1958-  ) married divorcee Lisa ?? (three children, two step and one natural); Frederick John (Oct. 10, 1961-  ) married Sherri ?? (three children); and William Alexander (May 19, 1965-  ) married Becky ?? (two children).

Joan  (Apr. 15, 1935-  ) married Robert P. Swierenga (June 10, 1935-  ) on June 16, 1956 in Oak Park, IL (six children); and the couple had six children: John Robert (Mar. 2, 1957- Mar. 4, 1957), who was born six weeks prematurely at Blodget Hospital, Grand Rapids, MI and died at three days of age due to undeveloped lungs (hylaine membrane); Robert Peter Jr (Feb. 11, 1958 in Evanston, IL-  ), Sarah Jane (Nov. 21, 1960-  ) in Oskaloosa, IA; Celia Jonette (July 16, 1962-  ) in Grand Rapids, MI; Daniel James (Mar. 23, 1967) in Grand Rapids, MI, and Suzanna Joy (Oct. 23, 1969) in Ravenna, OH. Robert and Daniel are mentally handicapped and are not married. Sarah married Robert Osgood on Aug. ??, 1985 at Grand Rapids, MI and was divorced after two years. She has a daughter Sydney Marie (Aug. 4, 1991). Celia married Mark Groenhout on Mar. 10, 1984 at Grand Rapids, MI and they have three children—Jacob Mark (Aug. 17, 1990), Trent Allan (Dec. 5, 1994), and Jillanne (July 10, 1997).

John Theodore (May 7, 1942-  ), married Ruth Wattez (Feb. 2, 1944-  ) on June 26, 1971 in Clifton, NJ. They have three children: Richard John (Nov. 10, 1973) unmarried, James Theodore (Mar. 10, 1977-  ), married to Amelia "Amy" Hurlock on June 2, 2001; and David Neal (Jan. 6, 1981-  ), unmarried.

Immediately after Ted and Annette married in 1927, the newlyweds moved to Passaic, New Jersey, because Ted had landed his first job at the Western Electric Company's Bell Telephone laboratory. This was the beginning of a life long career in the “Bell system.”  After one year, the couple returned to Chicago because Annette very lonely for family and friends in Roseland. They drove back during the winter in a Ford coupe that had no heater. Annette wrapped herself in a wool blanket to keep warm.

Back in Chicago Ted worked at the downtown switching office of Illinois Bell Telephone Company, commuting every day on the Rock Island Railroad from the 107th Street Station in Roseland. This was convenient to their rented upstairs flat on the corner of 110th and Wentworth, behind the Wentworth Tire Company. The address was 214 W. 110th Place. By April 1930, the family with six-month-old daughter Celia, had moved to the first floor of a two-flat at 301 W. 109th Place, on the corner of Princeton Ave. Here the federal census marshal found them. Very likely, Celia was born in this flat, with Dr. Waalkes as the attending physician. The home was kiddy-corner to the parsonage where Annette had grown up and where her parents lived. A Lithuanian family lived upstairs. Both paid rent of $50 a month.

Within a year or two, Ted and Annette bought their first home, a two-flat a block north at 308 W. 109th Street. It was the former home of Annette’s sister Agnes and her husband Gerald Wesselius, who had to sell because Gerald’s income plummeted in the Great Depression. Here Joan and John Theodore were born. William and Helen Brink, fellow members of the First Christian Reformed Church, rented the upstairs flat for many years and remained childless. The Boomker children affectionately called them Uncle Bill and Aunt Helen.

The growing family enjoyed “good years” in Roseland living in and around the Doezema and Boomker clans. Social life revolved around the family and the church. According to Celia De Boer, 98 percent of the time Ted and Annette visited her sisters’ families and only 2 percent of the time her husband’s siblings. The Doezema "girls" were more fun too, while the Boomker “boys” were introverts.

More importantly, the Doezemas all attended Annette’s home church, First CRC of Roseland, while the Boomkers were considered “religious outsiders” because they attended the Bethany Reformed Church. Although the two churches were the same in doctrine, they sorted the cousins into two camps because most Reformed Church youngsters, including all the Boomkers, attended public schools, while Christian Reformed Church youngsters, including all of the Doezemas, attended one of the two Christian schools, mostly the Roseland (108th Street) Christian School and after 1918 Chicago Christian High School in Englewood. The schooling difference had other implications for social life. Public school children learned to dance and they attended motion picture theaters, circuses, and the like. Christian school youngsters in the 1940s and 1950s still lived under the rules of the 1928 denominational synod, which had proscribed dancing, movies, and playing with “devil” cards, although Rook was permitted.

The church difference also had implications for group activities. Boys and girls in the Reformed Church participated in the Boy and Girl Scouts, and Reformed teenagers were active in Christian Endeavor, an interdenominational and evangelistic youth program in mainline Protestant churches nationwide. But Christian Reformed boys went to Boys Brigade, girls to Calvinettes, and senior high age teens to the Young Calvinists (earlier Young Men’s and Young Women’s societies). Thus, Ted and Annette’s three children fell right in with their Doezema cousins but often felt at odds with their Boomker cousins. Since the 1960s these denominational differences have narrowed considerably.  

Ted and Annette’s middle child, Joan (she was not given a middle name) was born April 15, 1935 at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park with Dr. Langdon. Grandpa Doezema baptized his granddaughter at the First Christian Reformed Church. Joan began kindergarten in 1940 at the 108th Street Christian School along with her cousin Cynthia Larson.

The family sedans consisted of a black Packard, a 1934 Chrysler Airflow, a 1957 Cadillac Seville with big tail fins, and lastly a 1963 Buick Riviera. This sleek and powerful V-8 auto was Ted’s pride and joy. He drove it until he and Annette were no longer able to drive. They sold the car to grandson Theodore De Boer in the 1970s. Ted did not like to drive long distances although he was an excellent driver in city traffic, and he frequently took the family for short drives in and around Roseland, to see the steel mills of South Chicago, etc. So the family took very few vacations by car. One was to Tennessee and Kentucky around 1955, and one was to Washington, DC in 1965 with daughter Joan and her husband Bob. Bob had to testify in an Indian Claims Case involving the Sac & Fox Indian tribes of Iowa, in connection with his doctoral studies. In the 1940s, the family traveled by train to St. Louis to visit sister Agnes and Gerald Wesselius, who were stationed there with the Red Cross. Once in the 1960s, when son John Theodore was serving in the Air Force at Camp Pendleton, California, Ted and Annette flew to southern California to join him for a vacation leave and they toured California together.

Except for these rare “trips,” the family vacationed every year without fail at the Frank Doezema cottage on Fisher Lake five miles southeast of Three Rivers, Michigan, (fifteen miles south of Kalamazoo). Frank and Celia Doezema bought the cottage in 1929, when he was serving the West Leonard Christian Reformed Church of Grand Rapids. The cottage was then miles from the main highway on a gravel road and finally a set of car tracks in the grass, and it was inaccessible without detailed directions. Frank and Celia liked it that way. The cottage, which they named Shelter Well (the children called it Swelter Well), was a true hideaway for a busy pastor of a large congregation who needed his private space.

Ted and Annette took their infant daughter Celia to the cottage in 1930, as they later did with Joan and Teddy. The Boomker family at first shared their two-week time slot with sister Bertha, known as “Bert,” and husband Leslie Larson and their children. After the Larson’s bought their own cottage on Paw Paw Lake in Coloma, Michigan, the Boomkers shared the cramped space with sister Agnes and Gerald Wesselius and their children, Louis (Celia’s age), Celia Yvonne (who died at age 6?), and Frank (Joan’s age). Later the Boomkers were paired with Bernice and husband Frank Boersma and their daughters Shirley (Celia’s age) and Barbara (Joan’s age). Grandpa and Grandma Doezema usually were joined by their oldest daughter Pearl and John Zwart and family and their youngest daughter Charlotte and Peter Boelens and family. So every year, the six Doezema sisters paired off with their families for the treasured two-weeks at the “cottie.”

After the Larsons bought the cottage on Paw Paw Lake, Bertha and the children spent the entire summer there, and the Boomkers joined them for another two to three weeks following their time at Fisher Lake. Ted brought the family to Coloma and returned to Chicago to resume working. The Boomker children could then play with their Larson cousins, Sanford (Celia’s age), Cynthia (Joan’s age), and Foster (two years older than John Theodore "Teddy"), while sisters Annette and Bertha enjoyed every minute together socializing amidst a minimum of housekeeping. Annette and Bert were close, as were Agnes and Pearl.

As an engineer, Ted Boomker remained employed during the entire Depression, although Illinois Bell reduced his hours periodically. Brothers-in-laws John Zwart and Gerald Wesselius lost their jobs, and the families suffered extreme poverty. Ted and Annette and Leslie and Bertha Larson had to help them out. Larson sold Sears Roebuck “package” homes and he hired Ted to wire them in his spare time. Ted also repaired radios on the side. The family’s bank was the Pullman National Bank branch in Roseland.

The Saturday night ritual when the children were small was to bath and then walk to 111th and Michigan Avenue to shop at Kresge’s 5 & 10 Cent Store, the Peoples Department Store, the Woolworth Store, etc. But everyone had to be home in time to watch Liberacci on TV. Ted enjoyed ice-skating at Palmer Park and often took the girls there.

Annette was a ”lady.” She and her mother Celia went to Joanne Tiemersma’s hairdressers shop on 107th and Wentworth for cutting and setting their hair and manicuring of the nails. Later Annette shopped at Marshall Fields Store on State Street in Downtown Chicago. This was Chicago’s flagship department store.

Personal hygiene and stylish clothing were necessary to look “sharp” in church on Sunday. The six daughters of Rev. Doezema, single or married, all sat together with their families in a reserved pew (later two pews) in the middle section of the sanctuary. This allowed them to arrive at the last minute in the overflowing sanctuary and take their choice seats. The downside of this public spectacle was that everyone knew if and when they attended and what their clothes and hair looked like. Mother Celia demanded that the children and grandchildren be dressed to the “T,” with ribbons and dresses washed, starched, and ironed. This was done on Monday already so that everything was in order well before the next service.

During the week, Annette Boomker kept her radio tuned all day to the Moody Bible Institute station WMBI. Annette enjoyed the sermons and Bible studies of her favorite preachers and frequently recommended the station to friends. “Moody pep talks,” quipped daughter Celia. Annette knew her Bible and Reformed doctrine well. Once when she heard a seminarian opine in a Sunday school class that the Old Testament Book of Jonah is an allegory, she responded immediately with an innocent question. "Then what about Jesus' prediction to the Jewish leaders, that 'as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a whale, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth'" (Matt. 12:40). To which Annette added, before the young man could answer], "Didn't Jesus believe that Jonah existed?" The seminary graduate remained silent; he had no better answer to the "Sign of Jonah" than did the "scribes and Pharisees in Jesus' day."

Ted Boomker was a very modest man. He did not like his wife and two daughters to walk around the house in bras and panties. When Ann had to go the OB/Gynecologist during her pregnancy with Teddy, and Joan (age nine) asked why, Ted replied: “To see a man about a dog.” Ted was a firm disciplinarian. “When I say come, don’t ask why; come.” When he tucked the children in bed at night, he quipped: “If you get cold in the night, call mommy and daddy will come.” And he did, recalled Celia.

In 1947 the Boomkers moved twenty miles across the city, from Roseland in the far south, to Oak Park on the far west, because Illinois Bell had transferred Ted to their Hawthorne manufacturing plant in Cicero. The long commute wore him down. The family bought a beautiful yellow brick home in south Oak Park, the middle class section, at 1010 South Clarence Avenue. It was sited on a double lot and had a large lawn and flower garden on the north side. A double car garage opened to the alley in back. The home had a fake drinking well with an arbor of vines and a trellis of vines off the enclosed back porch. It was considered to be the nicest home on the block.

The family transferred their church membership from First Roseland CRC to the Oak Park CRC on Jackson Boulevard and Wesley Avenue. The congregation, the former Fourth Chicago CRC that had recently relocated from the Near West Side of Chicago, bought this stately stone edifice from the Lutherans. It boasted a high vaulted ceiling, stained glass windows, and double pulpits, one for reading the Scriptures and one for preaching. Here the family worshipped and became totally involved in the life and ministry of the church. Ted served several terms as an elder in the consistory and Annette was a Bible teacher of the Ladies Society. Ted also ran the sound system and maintained the electrical components of the organ.

 

James and Celia “Cele” Boomker De Boer

Celia, the first-born, attended Van Vlissingen Public School for kindergarten (the Christian school has no program then), Roseland (108th Street) Christian School (1935-43), and Chicago Christian High School (1943-47). She then enrolled in nursing school (under the auspices of Wheaton College) at the West Suburban Hospital in Oak Park (1947-50). She lived in the student nurses dormitory behind the hospital and graduated in 1950. Had the family not recently moved to Oak Park, she would have enrolled in Roseland Community Hospital’s nursing program, where cousin Francis Zwart later trained.

While in nurses training, Celia met and dated James “Jim” De Boer, son of Andrew James and Minnie Tazelaar De Boer, who were fellow members of the Oak Park CRC. Jim had grown up in the Dutch ghetto on the rough and tumble Old West Side and he worked for his dad on the garbage truck during high school summer vacations. After graduating from Chicago Christian High School, a school founded by his grandfather and namesake, James De Boer, Jim enlisted in the Marines during Second World War and served in the Pacific theater. When he was mustered out after the war in 1945, Jim attended the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana under the G.I Bill. He graduated with a degree in agriculture and then became a salesman, first for Darling & Company, a meat-rendering firm, then for Roseman Tractor & Equipment, and finally Howard Rotovator, both agricultural machinery dealers located in Evanston.

Jim’s dad, a private scavenger in Chicago, co-owned (with John Van Tholen—a fellow Oak Park CRC member) two large farms south of the city, in Kankakee and on Sauk Trail in Frankfurt. Here they slopped the hogs with food waste and other “wet garbage” collected from city restaurants. Inexplicably, Jim’s father put his older brother George on the farm in Frankfurt, even though Jim had a degree in agriculture. Jim had worked for his father on the garbage truck during high school summer vacations but not after his stint in the Marines. He aspired to something better. 

Celia’s folks kept a tight rein on their adult daughter during her courtship, reminding her of the shame of a pre-nuptial pregnancy and breaking up their “necking” sessions on the living room couch at 1010 Clarence by coming from her second-floor bedroom dressed in a white night to announce “Time to go home now.” When the couple heard the movement at the top of the stairs, they quipped: “Here comes the ghost.”

Jim and Celia de Boer were married on August 21, 1953 in a small wedding ceremony for immediate family only in the front room of the family home at 1010 S. Clarence Ave. Joan was the maid of honor. The couple rented a basement apartment in Berwyn from a Bohemian family. When the one-year lease expired they moved to a larger apartment on Grove Avenue that could accommodate their first-born, Andrew “Andy,” who was born at West Suburban Hospital on Father’s Day, June 20, 1954. Andy suffered from pyloric stenosis, projectile vomiting, after eating. He gained weight slowly and Celia was drained providing the constant care he needed.

The family then moved to Roseland in an upstairs flat of a two-flat owned by Uncle Peter and Aunt Charlotte Boelens; Cele’s cousin Shirley Boersma and husband Freeman Visser lived downstairs. Here Annette, named after Cele’s mother, according to the Dutch naming custom, joined the family. She was born on March 17, 1956 at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Roseland

In 1954 Jim De Boer went into the asphalt business in Chicago with his first cousin James “Jim” C. De Boer, under the name De Boer Asphalt Paving. The office was located on Southwest Highway in the far southwestern part of Cook County. This is what prompted the move, first to Roseland, and later to Tinley Park, which was very near the office.

In January 1958, with the third child on the way, Jim and Cele bought their first home, a single-family Cape Cod with three bedrooms upstairs, at 16926 S. New England Avenue. They transferred their church membership to the nearby Tinley Park Reformed Church. Theodore “Theo” was born at home at 3am! May 28, 1958. The birth at home in the middle of the night was unplanned; Theo simply “came too fast.” Jim called his sister Ellen to assist in the birth, while he began boiling sheets to prepare for the birth, under instructions from Cele, who now had to be both nurse and mother. Ellen broke every traffic law driving south on Harlem Avenue in the middle of the night. Thankfully, a Tinley Park police officer spotted her speeding and followed her to the house. When he learned of the situation, he radioed to the town doctor, Dr. Feldman, who came and completed the delivery. Cele was then transported by ambulance to Hazel Crest Hospital, where at 4:30 am she underwent an hour of surgery to make birthing repairs. This was truly “a night to remember.”

The fourth child, another son, Frederick, named after Uncle Frederick Wezeman, the former principal of Chicago Christian High School, was born Oct. 10, 1961 at Hazel Crest Hospital, with Dr. Feldman again assisting in the delivery. This was the first summer pregnancy for Cele and she suffered from the heat; there were no special maternity clothes at that time. Fred suffered from colic and Cele lost considerable weight from the stress of getting up at all hours to hold him and try to stop his crying.

William “Will”, the last child and fourth son, was born May 19, 1965 at Hazel Crest Hospital, again with Dr. Feldman. Dr. Feldman was a Holocaust survivor with a number tattooed on his arm by the Nazis. He had a nervous condition that made him blink his eyes all the time, so the family dubbed him the “blinking doctor.” They very much appreciated his competence and kindly manner.

Jim and Cele vacationed every summer at Fisher Lake in Three Rivers, as did many of Frank Doezema children and grandchildren. In July 1965 they purchased a cottage next door to the Doezema cottage when it came up for sale, and this allowed Cele and the children to spend the entire summer at the lake. Jim came every weekend. Six years later, in June 1972, they sold their home and business in Tinley Park after relocated to Three Rivers permanently. They bought one of the historic home homes in town, the former Kellogg Home, a majestic, three-story brick building on a large corner lot at Hoffman Street and Buckhorn Road. The house had a tower or hawk’s nest room on top, a wrap around stone porch, and a carriage house out back. The home had suffered from neglect; it had been subdivided into apartments and then left abandoned after a major fire. Jim and Cele restored it to a semblance of its former glory. In April 2002, three years after Jim’s death, Cele sold the home. It was too large, too expensive to heat, and the upkeep was more than she could handle. The family enjoyed this spacious home for thirty years.

Jim bought a gravel pit just west of town and began an asphalt, sand, and gravel business in the area, under the name De Boer Materials. As his sons completed their education at Three Rivers High School and Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo (Theo and Will), they joined the business. Jim solicited work, collected bills, and oversaw the entire operation. Theo ran the asphalt operation and handled major equipment repairs, Will ran the asphalt crew, and Fred drove the loaders, dump trucks, and the other big machines. Daughter Annette graduated from Hope College in Holland, Michigan and went to work for a company that designed office interiors for the furniture manufacturers that dotted western Michigan.  She married Allert De Jong, the divorced father of two sons, and the couple had one child, James, named after Annette’s father.

In Michigan, the De Boer family joined the First Presbyterian Church of Three Rivers, where Jim was elected elder and his sons served as deacons and ushers. In politics, Jim and Cele were staunch Democrats, following the tradition of the De Boer clan in Chicago since the era of Franklin Roosevelt. In his rare leisure moments, Jim enjoyed reading political biographies and Louis Lemore mystery novels, all with western themes. He bought a farm near Three Rivers, together with cousin James C. De Boer, his business partner in Chicago, and boarded a riding horse, Charlie, that the children enjoyed for a few years, until the farm was sold.

Jim De Boer contracted cancer of the liver and, following major surgery to remove the diseased organ, died of complications and infections after seven weeks in the intensive care unit. He was hooked up to many instruments, endured countless tests and x-rays, was heavily sedated, and drifted in and out of consciousness during much of that time. Still he continued to weaken and died on May 18, 1999 at 73 years of age. The funeral was held three days later in the First Presbyterian Church, with interment in Riverside Cemetery in Three Rivers, along the banks of the St. Joseph River.

 

Joan Boomker Swierenga 

Joan, the middle child, was born on April 15, 1935. Six-year-old Cele was very happy to have a little sister. Joan had a dark complexion and was a hearty eater, so her Dad called her his “little papoose.” Joan began kindergarten in 1940 at Roseland Christian School, in the same class as cousin Cynthia Larson. After completing the sixth grade, her family moved across the city to Oak Park, and Joan was enrolled in Christ Lutheran School, Missouri Synod school at the far end of the alley. It was a short walk but a difficult transition. Joan completed the seventh grade and then her parents transferred her to Timothy Christian School in Cicero for the eighth grade. She commuted one mile by bicycle and again had to make new friends. She graduated in 1949 and began the freshman year at Chicago Christian High School in Englewood, the third school in as many years. She rode one of the three busses from the western suburbs that brought “covenant youth” to the Dutch Reformed school. (Later, in 1951, Timothy Christian High School was founded in Cicero.)


 

Sources

Joyce Boomker Anker, "The History of the Boomker Family in the Netherlands," 27 Dec. 1990, manuscript.

 

Reinder Boomker, et. al., "De zocktocht naar onze voorouders," a genealogy of the Boomker family. 

 

Gurth Bor, e-mails to author of 26 Nov. 2005 and 3 Mar. 2009. Bor is the Netherlands expert on the Bor family. Hans Bauer assisted in tracking Hendrik Bor in the Population Registers of Echteld/Ochten and Naarden.

 

Chicago City Directories, 1865-1920

 

Cook County and Chicago Federal manuscript censuses, 1870, 1880, 1900

 

Esthermae Boomker Jegen, "The Descendents of Hendrik Bor and Bastiaantje Leenheer," 5 May 2001, manuscript. Also a photo and document collection.

 

Robert P. Swierenga, Dutch Households in U.S. Population Censuses: 1850, 1860, 1870:An Alphabetical Listing by Family Heads and Singles (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1987).

_________________, Dutch Immigrants in U.S. Ship Passenger Manifests, 1820-1880: An Alphabetical Listing by Household Heads and Independent Persons (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1983).

 

_________________, Dutch Emigrants to the United States, South Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia, 1835-1880: An Alphabetical Listing by Household Heads and Independent Persons (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1983).

 

Mamie Dekker Toren, "Recollections of John and Annie Toren," 14 August 1968, manuscript.

 

__________, Genealogy of the Toren families, 29 Feb. 1992, manuscript.

 

Chester J. Toren, "A History of John and Annie (Boomker) Toren," January 2002, manuscript.

 

_____________, Letters to author of 13 April and 17 June 2004.

 

Warren Van Egmond, "The Second Generation: Twentieth-century Americans--The Grandchildren of Hendrik Bor and Bastiaantje Leenheer." Undated manuscript.