Rural to Rural: Sand-Soil Emigrants
The four immigrants whose letters are reproduced in this part left sand‐ soil regions in Holland where there was little prospect of acquiring additional land or attaining economic independence. They represent about 30 percent of the Dutch immigration. Two of them, Arnold Verstegen and Jacob Dunnink, had farmed small holdings in the Netherlands, but the other correspondents, Frederik Diemer, a field hand, and the weaver Harm Avink, acquired their first farms in Michigan. Although their rural backgrounds certainly familiarized all of them with farming, success in the frontier woodlands demanded the adoption of new methods for the management of soil, crops, and livestock. Although the newcomers adapted quite readily, they did not become wealthy farmers. Arnold Verstegen, in Little Chute, Wisconsin, was the most successful of the four, but he began his career with more assets than the others and he inherited his brother's grain mill in Little Chute. All of them, however, reached goals that had been beyond their expectations in the Netherlands. They became independent farmers and passed debt-free estates on to their children.
The letters in this part encompass the chronological scope of the book. They include reports of tillage with oxen and hand tools as well as mechanized implements powered by steam and gasoline. Perhaps, because these settlers were relatively poor and lacked managerial power in the Netherlands, they were not committed to Old World methods. Instead, they embraced novel technology with enthusiasm, often reveling in their labor-saving cultivators and steam-driven harvesters.
Despite their quick adoption of new technology, these families remained rigorously loyal to their inherited religions. Dunnink, Avink, and Diemer, like the vast majority of Dutch Protestants, were Reformed and Calvinist, but they also supported particular versions of that faith both before and after immigrating. In Beaverdam, Michigan, for example,