Hendrik Scholte is the other leader of the large scale immigration of the Dutch into the United States during the middle of the nineteenth century. The more famous, and generally considered the primary leader, is Van Raalte, who took the first group of Dutch immigrants to the U. S. in 1846. Scholte followed a year later, and whereas Van Raalte traveled with the group on a slow sailing ship, Scholte, with his family traveled in style on a steamship while his fellow immigrants were forced to travel on four much slower and less comfortable sailing ships. Van Raalte initially decided to take his group to Wisconsin, but the group later decided to change their destination to Western Michigan, a decision made during the time they had to spend the winter in Detroit, Michigan. Scholte’s group decided to go to northwestern Iowa, and settled in a town now called Pella, Iowa.
Hendrik Scholte was born in Amsterdam in 1805. His father’s family was involved in the refining of sugar from sugar beets, and his father was a manufacturer of boxes for the shipment of the sugar. So clearly Scholte’s family was well off during his childhood. When he was only 16 years old, in 1821, his father passed away. Then only a year later his grandfather also passed away. Then only five years later, in 1827, Hendrik’s mother passed away and in the same year his only brother also died. So at age 23, he was the only one left in his family, and inherited all of the family’s wealth.
Although he had worked in his father’s factory, the business did not interest him. So he sold the family business, and as a result became a wealthy man. He decided to utilize his wealth to finance his studies and enrolled at the University of Leiden to study philosophy, theology and political science. He studied at the university for several years and earned his theology degree in 1832, whereupon he became an ordained minister in the Dutch Reformed Church.
In 1832, the year he graduated from the University of Leiden with his theology degree, he married Sara Maria Brandt, the daughter of a wealthy Amsterdam sugar refiner. The couple had five daughters, but only three, Sara, Maria and Johanna, survived infancy. Scholte’s wife, Sara Maria, died on January 23, 1844 shortly following the birth of their youngest daughter, when she was only 38 years old.
During his first marriage, Scholte served churches in the provinces of Noord Brabant and Utrecht. It was during the period from 1832 to 1846 that Scholte became interested in emigrating to the U. S. with his followers. Apparently, considerable planning had been done by the group, because they firmly established Iowa as their destination, while they were still in their native land. And they even decided on the name, Pella, for the place where they would settle. Clearly, the financial resources available to Scholte must have been an important determinant in all of the advance planning.
On June 23, 1845, Scholte married his second wife, Maria Krantz. Early in the following year their first son was born, and shortly thereafter the family booked passage on the steamer “Calidonia”, voyaging from Rotterdam to Boston. The ship departed in early April 1847, and after only 13 days arrived in Boston, an amazingly rapid voyage, especially considering that most sailing ships took as long as 60 days to make the trans-Atlantic journey.
Scholte’s followers were not as fortunate and left on four chartered masted sailing vessels, also in early April 1847. The four ships were the ‘Nagasaki’, ‘Pieter Floris’, ‘Catherina Jackson’, and ‘Maasstroom’. The group consisted of about 850 people, both families and individuals. The four ships encountered a violent Atlantic storm and arrived in Baltimore in late May and early June.
The entire group then traveled by road, railway and Ohio River steamer to St. Louis where they settled temporarily. The leaders led by Scholte then traveled to northwest Iowa, where they purchased 18,000 acres of farm land for $1.25 per acre, and then contracted to have log cabins built on the land for the settlers. The entire group arrived in what is now Pella, Iowa on August 26, 1847, and found that, not surprisingly, the log cabins had not been built. So they built temporary shelters by digging depressions in the soil and building temporary walls and roofs from whatever material they could find. In any event the log cabins were eventually built, and the group prospered, after the initial difficult years.
Upon their arrival in Pella, Scholte and his family were able to acquire an existing log cabin, and lived there until their rather large family quarters were constructed. Their house is now a Historic House Museum in Pella, Iowa. It is owned and cared for by the Pella Historical Society and Museums.
Hendrik Scholte and his second wife Maria had eight children, but only three of the eight children survived infancy. The children were, Henry, David and Dora. Scholte provided leadership to the colony in its early years. He not only was its minister, but also served as the overall leader of the colony. He laid out the town of Pella, helped built a church, assisted the settlers with legal affairs, and started two businesses, a brick kiln and a saw mill. He became the postmaster, the notary public and the land agent. With all these positions he could not avoid getting into politics and he did. He even attended the inauguration of President Lincoln in Chicago.
Scholte passed away in 1868. He died of a heart attack at the rather young age of 63. His widow Maria remarried to a much younger man, Robert Beard, several years after Scholte died. Maria passed away in 1892 at the age of 71. Her husband outlived her by 28 years and passed away in 1920.
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