Dutch American Voices: Letters from the United States, 1850-1930

By Herbert J. Brinks | Go to book overview

II
Rural to Rural: Clay-Soil Emigrants

Introduction

The correspondents included in this part shared Old World agricultural experiences as hired hands serving large-scale farmers of grain, livestock, and milk products. Teunis and Dirkje van den Hoek, Ulbe and Maaike Eringa, and Onno and Klaaske Heller immigrated from clay-soil regions where large landholders form the social and economic elite of the village. Big farmers of this sort (grote boeren) employed a majority of the regional labor force and dominated both civil and religious affairs. They were, in some cases, the descendants of a petty noble class that maintained the glimmerings of economic feudalism well in to the nineteenth century.

Farmhands were employed under various arrangements. Some, such as Van den Hoek, occupied one-room cottages on small plots of land, just large enough to stake out a few animals and raise garden crops for family use. The customarily large number of children who crowded these cottages usually worked with their parents until they could be hired out at about twelve years of age. At that time they frequently moved into one of the large farmsteads where, in return for long days of labor, they received food, shelter, and a small wage. Despite being quartered in barns, both farmhands and housemaids with fixed terms of employment ( Ulbe Eringa and his wife, Maaike Rypstra, for example) enjoyed more privileges and economic security than those without contracts. Yet, the well-being of the whole agricultural work force depended on the labor supply and the employer's general character. Some were relatively generous, and others were meanly parsimonious. In any case conventional class distinctions structured every social routine. The villagers' church pew locations, residential sites, menus, wardrobes, and social relationships—each and all announced their status.

It is hardly surprising, then, that the Eringas, Van den Hoeks, and Hellers reveled in the relatively classless social structure of the United States. Nor is it strange that they measured their success in America with

-103-

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Dutch American Voices: Letters from the United States, 1850-1930
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Dutch American Voices - Letters from the United States, 1850-1930 *
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Introduction i
  • I - Rural to Rural: Sand-Soil Emigrants 23
  • II - Rural to Rural: Clay-Soil Emigrants 103
  • III - Rural to Urban 221
  • IV - Urban to Urban 337
  • V - Detached Immigrants 421
  • Appendixes 455
  • Selected Bibliography 457
  • Index of Personal Names 461
  • Index of Place-Names 468
  • Topical Index 472
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