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For the first time (OK, maybe not the first), I bit off more than I could chew. The DeSmit family has been very time-consuming, and there were more children and grandchildren than I originally bargained for.  Therefore, this post is going to literally just scratch the surface. I’ve gone through the children of John DeSmit, Jr., and Mary DeKorn DeSmit previously, and I was careful to focus on baptism records, photos, and headstones. In this post, I am sharing what I know about John Jr’s half-siblings (children of John Sr and Jacoba Lamper) and their spouses and children. The farther I dug my shovel into the past, the more children popped up. It got to the point with the second batch (Francis DeSmit and her husband Renier Van Delester) that I saw that this is a big job, and that I shouldn’t be spending much more time on it (this group is not related to me as the John DeSmit, Jr. family is). I’m sorry to say I have too much other unfinished business (er, branches) to attend to, so I present to you very preliminary and flawed findings on this group of DeSmits. I’m sorry if I have missed individuals, but it is very likely that I have.

THE CHILDREN OF ADRIAN DESMIT AND ANNA VERSLUIS

This is my most fleshed out group. I was aided by a DeSmit family researcher, Timothy Morris.

On 4 November 1858, Adrian was born. Now be careful if you are researching Adrian DeSmit. There are many Adrian DeSmits who have lived in Kalamazoo–many who were even related to this Adrian. Our Adrian here is the son of John Sr. and Jacoba. So be sure. It gets VERY confusing!

Adrian lived until 25 March 1938 when he died in Banks Township in Antrim County, Michigan. But during his lifetime, he married more than one woman.

In 1885, Adrian married Anna Versluis. Photos of Adrian and Anna can be found here. The couple had one daughter, Cora Mary DeSmit on 4 October 1888. I could not find Cora’s birth or baptism record. A descendant could order the birth record from Kalamazoo County.

This is one of Grandpa’s photos.

 

Adrian’s daughter Cora DeSmit married Bert Reno Nyland (1885-1941).  Although it doesn’t sound like it, Bert’s family was Dutch-American, also. This beautiful photo of Cora and Bert was shared with me by Timothy Morris who colored it for his family tree.

When Anna died in 1916, Adrian was left alone, but four years later, on 8 April 1920, Adrian married his son-in-law Bert’s widowed mother, Alice Zeedijk Nyland (born 1859 in the Netherlands and died on 14 June 1937 in Kalamazoo). Note that she died about 10 months before Adrian did–on Adrian’s death certificate his spouse is indicated as Anna Versluis–there wasn’t room for more than one name and they went with his first wife).

Cora and Bert ended up having six children that lived to adulthood and beyond. Their first child, John, died at birth of “prolonged labor.” Bert died on 2 May 1941 of a stroke. They were in living in Banks, Michigan. That must be why Adrian died there in 1938–perhaps he was living with his daughter and son-in-law after Alice’s death.

Here is a more casual photograph of four generations: Adrian DeSmit, Cora (DeSmit) Nyland, Howard Nyland (one of Cora and Bert’s children), Joyce Nyland (4 months old). Joyce was born in 1935.

Four Generations

Cora passed away 1 November 1953 and her headstone is found at Riverside Cemetery.

THE CHILDREN OF FRANCINA DESMIT AND RENIER VAN DELESTER

On Halloween (October 31) 1862, Francina was born. She married Renier Van Delester (many spellings of both first and surnames) on 19 January 1882 in Kalamazoo. Francina died 21 September 1900, still a young woman. Her death certificate:

The cause of death for Frances is heart-breaking. Ovariectomy with resulting shock. It could have been something as simple as a harmless cyst on her ovary that resulted in surgery that led to her death.

At first, I thought that the couple had two sons born in Kalamazoo. Renier was born 3 September 1883. Jan was born 6 July 1885. But then I discovered children, William, born 18 February 1888 and died October 1957, and Cora, born 4 March 1890. She passed away in 1982. It is possible that Francis, or Frank, was born around 1896, but all the other Francis research led to someone else.

Renier Jr. (who went also by Rine) married Johanna W. Dunning (1883-1957) on 9 September 1908. Their son Francis was born about 1910, and there seems to be a lot of documentation out there about him. If a brother Francis of Renier Jr. existed (born about 1896), he has been confused by this nephew (who, I believe, served in WWII). Rine passed away 4 December 1958.

The next son, Jan, came to be known as John. Here is his baptism. Note that the original spelling of his father’s name was probably Reinier Van de Luister.

He lived in [Hammond] Indiana with wife Clara and children John (b 1914) and Leona (b 1917). Clara, born 17 December 1889 and died on 12 July 1966, is buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Hammond, Indiana.

You can see that Leona Jacobs, his daughter, is mentioned on John’s death certificate: 17 February 1974. According to this record, John was self-employed in the cigar industry. If you on his mother’s death record above, her occupation was “cigar maker.”

William, born 18 February 1888 and died October 1957, married Etta Florence Dunning on 28 July 1915. They had at least one child, Mary Louise, born about 1925. According to the marriage record, William was a farmer.

I saw that William is buried at Mountain Home Cemetery in Kalamazoo, so I requested a photo of his headstone. I did the same for his wife, Etta. Within a few hours, my Findagrave volunteer hero Jeff had responded with a link to the shared headstone (photo was taken by another volunteer).

Only daughter Cora was born 4 March 1890. On 4 September 1948, in Kalamazoo, she married Orie A. Curtiss. Note that she was 58 and he was 48. Needless to say, they had no children.

Orie was born 9 August 1900 in Cleveland, Ohio. He died in Galesburg, Michigan, on 12 December 1985. When Orie was 20 he was a teamster in the ice industry in Flint, Michigan. In the 1953 city directory, Orie was a “Hd Loader” in Kalamazoo. What do you think that means? He was married before, in 1937, to Eliza V. Smith in Indiana. She was also almost 10 years older than Orie (Orrin?). I doubt they had children since she was already 46 when they married. But the question is: did Cora, Orie, or Eliza have children from earlier marriages? Obviously this is a very complicated history that would take a lot of work to rebuild. You can see from the headstone that the Curtiss’ grew old together.

THE CHILDREN OF ELIZABETH DESMIT AND JACOB HYCOOP

On 23 April 1866, Elizabeth was born. She married Jacob Hycoop (born abt 1865 in the Netherlands), and they had at least 2 daughters, Mamie (born 1889) and Cora (born 1892). Elizabeth lived until 18 May 1946. In fact, in one of the newspaper articles I’ve posted, it was her yard where John, Sr., hoed the celery on his birthday.

Mamie married Rene Bowers. They had at least one son, John.

Daughter Cora married Herbert Brink (1890-1947). I found a baptismal record for a daughter, Helen Elizabeth, for 20 April 1930. Helen was born 5 November 1930. Haha, that does not make sense. So am I reading this document incorrectly?

Cora died on 14 May 1986.

THE CHILDREN OF MARTIN DESMIT AND ADRIANA SCHIERECK

Finally, Martin was born 17 November 1870, and grew up to marry Adriana Schiereck. They had a son called Clarence Wynoble, so it is probable that Clarence was Martin’s stepson. Martin died 6 November 1942 in Plainwell, Michigan.

You can see that my research has been whatever has been the easiest pickens. There is no rhyme or reason here on what I am showcasing. This family needs a good year spent on it. But I hope I’ve given a headstart and that any one or more branches can be picked up and followed and filled in with more and more facts.

If you have DeSmit photos you wish to share, I might like to post them on this blog, so please email them to me.

 

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I’ll try to finish up John DeSmit Sr.’s other grandchildren next week. Pioneer Cemetery turned out to be a bust, though, for his first wife Jennie, as well as for two of the babies of John and Jacoba that passed away. There are not too many places they could have been buried in those early days if the cemetery was in the City of Kalamazoo. There are other cemeteries in areas around Kalamazoo, but not in the city. I might be too stubborn, but I can’t imagine them using a cemetery that wasn’t in town when they lived next to downtown.

This week I wanted to share a newspaper article from Joel Reeves. I have photos of Mary DeKorn DeSmit, but I had never seen a photo of her husband, John DeSmit, Jr. But here he is in the newspaper! The photo is from 1915, although the article is from 1981.

The boy in the photo, Edwin Reeves, is John’s grandson. I love seeing actual work with the celery that Kalamazoo was known for. What a fabulous photo. Notice that written on it says that the Model A capacity was 750 pounds loaded with 150 lb of celery. According to the writing, that put the weight at over 1,125 pounds!

I hope too many heavy people didn’t get into those Model As at one time . . . .

 

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John DeSmit, Sr., had one child with his first wife, Jennie, and the rest with his second wife, Jacoba. I have only scraped the surface of researching the DeSmit family, especially this generation of John Sr’s children. So much more can be done. I will not be doing it; however, if you are related to the DeSmits and need help researching your own branch more in-depth, please contact me, and I will be happy to give you ideas of where and how to search. I am also happy to help  if you would like to write more about the family for posting on this blog.

I’d also like to mention some stellar sleuthing on the part of Joel Reeves. He discovered that Riverside Cemetery, the cemetery of choice by the DeSmits (and also of my great grandparents, etc.) did not open until 1862. When Jennie DeSmit died in 1854 or 1855, she must have been buried some place. Here are some articles that Joel discovered about the possible site of her grave. I feel that the first article gives one big clue about the site of Jennie’s grave. This Pioneer Cemetery that is in the articles was in existence until Riverside opened. It was “bulldozed” later for a park. But the very last person buried at Pioneer was Rev. H. G. Klyn, who was the second pastor of First Reformed Church. I feel it’s very likely that the family belonged to First Reformed Church.

http://www.kpl.gov/local-history/cemeteries/pioneer.aspx

http://www.encorekalamazoo.com/dead-and-buried

https://www.kalamazoocity.org/cemeteries

This relates to two of John and Jacoba’s children, too. The first Adriaan and the first Francena died as infants in 1856 and 1857. They were possiby also buried in Pioneer Cemetery.

Today’s post will cover the children of John Sr.’s first born son, the son of first wife Jennie. The other children will be in next week’s post.

THE CHILDREN OF JOHN DESMIT, JR. AND MARY DEKORN

My great-great-grandfather’s sister, Maria Catharina “Mary” DeKorn, married John DeSmit, Jr., and they had far more children than any of John’s siblings.

Their first child, Janna (Jennie) DeSmit, was born 7 March 1873 in Richland, which is in Kalamazoo County, Michigan. She was baptized 3 August 1873 at First Reformed Church in Kalamazoo. (Oh, do I wish I could see a photo of that church in those days).

Notice what it says about her father on the baptism record. Keep in mind I don’t know her father’s baptism information.

On 14 June 1905, Jennie married Abraham Grofoert (1873-1926) in Kalamazoo.  Unfortunately, Jennie passed away three years later, on 14 June 1908 in Kalamazoo. She was buried at Riverside Cemetery on 17 June 1908. This was only one month after her uncle, Richard DeKorn’s, wife Alice passed away on 5 May 1908. Here is Jennie’s death certificate.

 

The spelling on Jennie’s headstone (and that of her husband was Grofvert).

The next child was Boudewyn (Benjamin) De Smit, named for Mary’s father, my 3x great-grandfather. He was born 10 February 1875 and baptized 4 April 1875 in Kalamazoo at First Reformed Church. His father was “off the hook” for this baptism record.

Ben was a mason like his father and grandfather before him. He had brown hair and blue eyes, according to his WWI draft registration. The year after his older sister died, Ben married Jennie Alphreta White (1869-1930) on 5 July 1999 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Their son, Benny DeSmit, was born 10 December 1909 in Kalamazoo. Wow, that was a short pregnancy. Jennie passed away on 10 December 1930 in Kalamazoo at age 55. Ben died on 28 April 1958 in Mattawan, which is in Van Buren County, Michigan. He was buried on May 1 at Riverside Cemetery in Kalamazoo. I do not have his death certificate.

Next up was Jan or John DeSmit III. He was born on 16 July 1877 in Kalamazoo. John, with brown hair and blue eyes, was a brick layer like his brother, father, and grandfather. On 20 July 1899 he married Pieternella Paulina (Nellie) Schrier (1879-1900) in Kalamazoo.

You can see their wedding invitation with questions that arose in this post What About the DeSmits?

Their daughter Nellie D. DeSmit was born on 30 April 1900 in Kalamazoo. Sadly, John’s wife Nellie died 10 days later, on 9 May 1900. I had more answers to this story of John and Nellie in the post Another Mystery Solved.

John married again, on 15 December 1926 in Goshen, Elkhart, Indiana. His wife was Grietje (Margaret) Riepma (1873-1933). Margaret died on 31 July 1933 in Kalamazoo. John died in April 1964 and was buried at Riverside Cemetery on 30 April 1964. I do not have his death certificate either. I have not found the baptism record for John.

I would be willing to bet that I own photographs of one or more of the older boys of John Jr.; however, they are not marked (sadly).

UPDATE: As it happens, I just received a beautiful photo of John DeSmit III. The year might be 1955, and he is with three of Edwin Reeves’ cute-as-a-bug’s-ear grandchildren.

The next DeSmit child was Jacoba, known as Cora. She was born on 12 October 1880 and baptized on 6 February 1881 in Kalamazoo.

On 7 June 1899, Cora married Charles Howard Pierce (1877-1971) in Kalamazoo.

This is Cora.

Their daughter, Eleanor Ruth Pierce was born on 2 September 1907 in Kalamazoo.

Cora passed away on 26 July 1954. She was buried at Riverside Cemetery on July 29.

After Cora, Franciena Geertruida, or Frances Gertrude, was born on 22 November 1882 in Kalamazoo.  She was baptized 11 February 1884 at First Reformed Church. This was a longer time period before her baptism, but since the baptisms were done in clusters, she could have been ill and had to wait for the next time the baptisms were performed.

On 26 November 1902, Frances married Charles Reeves (1876-1938). Their son, Edwin R. Reeves, was born on 19 March 1904. (DOD 1978). In 1911, the couple divorced, and on 17 September 1914, Frances married Jacob Flipse Jr. (1868-1940), who was forty-six years old and had been married to Frances’ Aunt Christina DeSmit who had passed away without leaving any living children.

On 29 May 1916, the couples’ son Richard Jacob Flipse (DOD 2001) was born. His father, Frances’ husband, was 47. He waited a long time to have a son! On 11 August 1940, Jacob passed away.

If you want to read more about the Flipse family, check out these posts:

The Mystery of Mrs. Jacob Flipse (about Frances Flipse)

 

Do You Remember the Mystery of Mrs. Jacob Flipse (this one gives a lineage of the Flipse family)

 

Frances’ older son, Edwin, passed away in Pasco, Florida, on 28 May 1978. Right around that time is when I met her at her home. Here is a photo of her from Joel Reeves from the 1970s.

 

Four years later, Frances passed away at age 96 on 15 January 1980 in Kalamazoo. She was still living in the Burdick and Balch neighborhood as of the time I met her in the late 1970s. She was buried on 18 January 1980 at Riverside Cemetery. I put in a request for a photo of her headstone, and less than ten minutes later I got an email letting me know it had been accomplished! I have to give a shout out to Findagrave volunteer Jeff Phillips who then went on to make sure all branches of the DeSmit family in that section were photographed and loaded onto Findagrave! Jeff is a real credit to Findagrave!

The next DeSmit child lived to adulthood, but died quite young. Dirk (Richard) was born 12 June 1887 in Kalamazoo and passed away on 29 April 1913, at the age of 25 in Detroit. He was buried on 2 May 1913 at Riverside Cemetery.

Geertruida, or Gertrude, was born on 3 September 1889. She died at age 13 on 29 July 1903. Or was she? She was buried on 23 July 1903 at Riverside Cemetery.

Look carefully at the dates on the death certificate. What do you think about the date of death?

Cause of death: Acute rheumatism with endocarditis.

I have this photo of three of the DeSmit sisters.

Note that the middle woman (in age) is clearly Cora who has a very distinctive look. Jennie was 1873 to 1908, married in 1905. Cora was 1880-1954, married in 1899. Frances was 1882-1980, first married in 1902. Gertrude was 1889-1903.

I have posted this photo in the past, and I couldn’t decide the date of the photo and why there are three sisters instead of four. The truth is that if the photo was taken after Gertrude’s 1903 death, Frances would have been married and not the little girl she appears in this photo. So what if the photo was taken much earlier. What if the youngest in the photo was Frances and she was 14? Then Cora would be 16 and Jennie would be 23. Those are plausible ages for this photo, I think. That would date the image to about 1896, and Gertrude would have been 7 and not in the photo.

Maybe Gertrude wasn’t in that photo because she as in another photo. What if the previous photo was meant to be the “young ladies” of the household, and this photo was meant to be the children? This would be about right to be Gertrude, Richard, and the youngest child Adrian (who I haven’t yet introduced). The date on the photograph is 1895 and WAS IDENTIFIED BY GRANDPA AS GERTRUDE, RICHARD, AND ADRIAN DESMIT!

Because both Richard and Gertrude died so young, Adrian was the only remaining sibling of this photo throughout much of the 20th century.

Lastly, Adriaan, or Adrian, was born on 9 December 1891 and baptized on 7 February 1892 in Kalamazoo.

Adrian was a sailor with the U.S. Navy at the time of WWI and after. He enlisted 12 June 1918 and was released 30 September 1921.

On 6 June 1923, he married Minnie Brondyk (born Groefsema) (1896-?). Minnie had been married to Jacob Brondyk and divorced him.

I see Adrian had a daughter born years before his marriage, on 30 March 1917–Dorothy Marie DeSmit. So was he Dorothy’s stepfather or did he adopt her?

Adrian died on 5 September 1988 in Gardena, Los Angeles County, at age 96. He was buried a week later, on 12 September, in Kalamazoo at Riverside Cemetery.

 

To sum up: I only looked for certain documents: photos, death certificates, baptism records, and headstones.

I am missing these items:

  • Death certificates for Ben, John, Cora, Richard, Frances, and Adrian (these can be ordered from Kalamazoo County, if DeSmit family would like to do so)
  • Baptism records for John, Richard, and Gertrude (more searching of Reformed records needs to happen)
  • Photos for Ben and John (gosh, I wish)
  • Graves for Jennie, John Sr.’s first wife–as well as the graves of the babies of Jacoba and John who passed away.  If they were buried at Pioneer, this will not happen, most likely.

There are many other records which can be search for, including records for spouses and children.

Here is a special photo from around 1950 from Joel of my great-great-grandfather’s sister, Mary DeKorn, and the mother of all the children I’ve written about in this post. She lived to be 98 years old.

 

This is the same woman:


And now for a super special photo from Joel. Five generations!

From left to right: Mary DeKorn DeSmit, Donald Reeves, David Reeves, Edwin Reeves, and Frances Flipse.

Mary DeKorn was John Sr.’s DIL, who was gone decades before this photo was taken around 1950. Frances Flipse was Mary’s daughter. Edwin was the son of Frances. Donald was the son of Edwin. And David was the oldest son of Donald. Joel, who gave me the photos, is the brother of David.

Next time I will write about the other grandchildren of John DeSmit, Sr.

 

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Two weeks ago I wrote about a pioneer of Kalamazoo, Michigan, John DeSmit, Sr., and last week I wrote more about his family.

I mentioned that it appears that his first wife was Jennie (perhaps Van Sluis) and she was the mother of John’s oldest child, John Jr. Then he married Jacoba Lamper. But I really didn’t have too much information sorting out the wives.

I know I said I would write about the next generation next, but before I do that, I want to clarify a little more about Jacoba and Jennie.

Adri Van Gessel has been very helpful in this matter. According to Adri:

Jacoba Lamper emigrated to the USA in 1855, together with her mother Christina de Bart and her brothers Marinus, Adriaan (Adrian) and Lauris (Louis). Her father died in 1840.

Marinus was never married. Adrian married on May 31, 1860 at Kalamazoo to Hermania (Minnie) Reidsma (in the presence of a.o. Jan Smith). Louneres (Louis) married on September 9, 1858 at Kalamazoo to Gertrude Elizabeth VanEst (in the presence of a.o. Jan Smit).

In the book “Emigranten naar Amerika……” all emigrants are listed in alphabetical order.

So there’s no Jennie listed on the page of Jannis.

Only Jannis is listed as emigrating. No wife and no four other couples are listed with Jannis, although his newspaper interview account states that five couples traveled together. Adri then did more painstaking work on this to try to locate Jennie’s emigration information by scanning an entire 200 page book. No luck. He also considered other first names. For instance, Jennie is a common nickname for Adriana in the Netherlands.

Interesting that Jacoba married 7 August 1855. She must have married the minute she stepped off the boat! Also intriguing is her mother immigrating to the United States with her children, although her husband had been gone for fifteen years. It makes me wonder if there was some connection between the Lampers and either the DeSmits or another Kalamazoo family. Since Jacoba married so soon after arriving, I wonder if the wedding was planned ahead of time. Of course, John would have been eager to remarry with a baby to take care of.

What I need to do is to try to get more information about the family from Holland, Erie County, New York. Or Long Island. Because therein lies a big problem. While Jannis/John talked about working on Long Island to the newspaper and his son’s death certificate says he was born there, there is another record, the marriage record of John DeSmit, Jr. and Mary DeKorn that indicates he was actually born in Holland, which is the far western part of New York State, about 400 miles from Long Island! Holland is 30 miles SE of Buffalo. Must be pretty cold there in the winter . . . .

Death Certificate of John DeSmit, Jr.

Marriage Record of John DeSmit Jr. and Mary DeKorn

(Yes, you read that right. Mary’s brother, my great-great-grandfather Richard DeKorn’s marriage record is right above John and Mary’s!)

According to Wikipedia:

HOLLAND, NY

The town of Holland was established in 1818 from part of the (now defunct) town of Willink, which once included all the southern part of Erie County. The name was derived from Willem Willink, one of the original investors of the Holland Land Company, which owned most of the land in western New York and sold it off to cities and townships that exist today. The name “Holland” is one of many surviving remnants of the Dutch investors who once owned this region. As with the town of Willink, the locations named after these investors have been given new names. Many of the original town buildings met their fate due to fire. Today the Holland Historical Society resides in the original fire hall on Main Street.

LONG ISLAND, NY

In the 19th century, Long Island was still mainly rural and agricultural. Suburbanization started modestly on Long Island when reliable steam ferry service allowed prosperous Wall Streeters to get to new Brooklyn Heights homes in time for dinner. Rural traffic was served by the new Brooklyn and Jamaica Plank road through Jamaica Pass, among others. After the American Civil War, streetcar suburbs sprawled out onto the outwash plain of central and southern Kings County. Trolleys also brought workers from other parts of western Queens to Long Island City jobs.

The Long Island Rail Road was begun as a combined ferry-rail route to Boston via Greenport. The predecessor to the Long Island Rail Road began service in 1836 from the ferry terminal (t o Manhattan) through Brooklyn to Jamaica in Queens, and completed the line to the east end of Long Island in 1844. Other rail lines to Coney Island, the Rockaways and Long Beach serviced the beach resort towns. The growing and merging railroads opened up more than 50 stations in (present-day) Nassau County and over 40 in Suffolk Country, laying the foundation for the future suburbanization of the island.[9]

From 1830 until 1930, population roughly doubled every twenty years, and several cities were incorporated, such as the City of Brooklyn in Kings County, and Long Island City in Queens.

I am not used to researching the mid-19th century in the United States because most of my ancestors were not here that early. I’ve learned that birth records were not required before 1880 in New York State, so the hope of finding that record for John, Jr., died a swift death. That is no excuse for not finding his baptism in the Reformed records, though. It seems that everything that has to do with the DeSmits between arrival in the United States and John, Sr., marrying Jacoba Lamper is missing. Where is Jennie buried, for instance?

Missing (or what I wish I could find)

  • Ship manifest
  • Emigration records of Jennie and the other four couples
  • Any Dutch records on Jennie at all
  • Birth record and/or baptism of John, Jr.
  • Jennie’s death record
  • Kalamazoo record of John’s marriage to Jacoba Lamper (what we have is a church record only)

Well, this brick wall isn’t even truly one of mine since Mary DeKorn married into the DeSmit family. I’ll continue my tangent, though, by writing about the next generation of DeSmits (I hope).

I really was trying to imagine what Kalamazoo was like when John DeSmit, Sr. brought his family to the town. A population of 1,200. What were the streets and houses like? When I tried to research 1854, this is what I found: the Kalamazoo State Hospital (asylum) began being built in 1854!

My own earliest relatives in Kalamazoo were the DeKorns–Mary DeKorn’s family. Her father, Boudewin, and mother, Johanna, arrived in the United States in 1855 or 56, right when Jacoba arrived and married John. The DeKorns, however, first settled in Zeeland, Michigan. Within a few years they moved to Kalamazoo with their three young children. Johanna was unfortunately gone by 1864 and Boudewin by 1873. They were my 3rd great-grandparents.

Therefore, Boudewin and Johanna were the same generation as John and Jacoba DeSmit. John’s oldest child, John Jr., would marry Boudewin’s middle child, Mary.

In my first post about the DeSmits there is a newspaper article about how John, Sr., worked on Bronson Park. Here is a great article with photos that show the history of Bronson Park.

I requested photos of John and Jacoba’s headstones for their Findagrave memorials a couple of weeks ago, but no response yet.

Speaking of Findagrave, the person who has my OWN FATHER’S memorial page has not responded to my two demands for management of it. We’ll see about that . . . .

UPDATE ON FINDAGRAVE: Findagrave responded to my request immediately and transferred my father’s memorial page to me. They were very accommodating even if the original site creator was not.

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Last week I wrote about a pioneer of Kalamazoo, Michigan, John DeSmit, Sr. I had learned that he was actually at least John DeSmit III because his father and grandfather who lived and died in the Netherlands, were also Jan or Jannis.

Now I want to give you an idea of John’s wives and their children.  This post was almost published without some very important information sent me by Adri Van Gessel indicating that John DeSmit, Sr. actually had two wives and that the first wife is the mother of only his oldest child, John DeSmit, Jr. Also, I was helped by Hubert Theuns. An enormous thank you for their help!

John Sr. must have married his first wife in the Netherlands. I have not yet found the marriage record, but according to the newspaper, it was probably between 1848 and 1851, when they emigrated. Her name is listed on the death certificate of her one child, John Jr.

The certificate says his mother was Jennie Van S…… Could be Sluice or Sluis or Sh something. I do believe she was still alive when John moved to Kalamazoo with her and their son.

According to one of the newspaper articles published on my last post, the family came to Kalamazoo on 2 May 1854.

The next time we find the family “on paper,” is a marriage record between John Senior and Jacoba Lamper. Jennie must have died between 2 May 1854 and the date of the new marriage, 7 August 1855.

Jacoba was born 18 November 1827 in ‘s-Gravenpolder. Her parents were Adriaan Lamper and Christina de Bart (Lamper). This name is also elsewhere seen as de Bat and de Bath.

Note for DeSmit and Lamper family members: Hubert found documents for other Lamper family members, as well as for John DeSmit’s parents, etc. If you are interested in these documents, please email about them as I am not going to post them all on here.

IMMIGRATION

Regarding their immigration, Hubert also found the following emigration information in http://www.zeeuwengezocht.nl/. Remember that this is emigration, not immigration, so it has to do with John leaving the Netherlands, not actually entering the United States.

Genealogische Afschriften 810/2 Emigrant Jannis de Smit
Woonplaats:
Zuidzande
Rol:
Emigrant
Leeftijd:
26
Beroep:
Landmansknecht (profession: farmer’s apprentice)
Kerkelijke gezindte:
Nederlands-hervormd (religion: Dutch Reformed)
Toegangsnummer:
164 Verzameling Genealogische Afschriften (GA), 1600-2017
Reden:
Verbetering van bestaan (reason for emigration: Amelioration of existence)
Datum vertrek:
1851
Bestemming land:
Noord-Amerika
Betreft:
Staten van landverhuizingen (archief Provinciaal Bestuur Zeeland)
Nummer:
Genealogische Afschriften 810/2
Pagina:
27
Inventarisnummer:
Prijs fotokopie:
€ 5,00

Organisatie: Zeeuws Archief

Although it doesn’t give much more information than the newspaper accounts did, it confirms that the couple immigrated to the United States in 1851 (and not 1850). We know they left from Rotterdam, so now it remains to be seen if I can find them through ship manifest/immigration records.

According to the newspaper article, John and Jennie traveled with four other young married couples. Perhaps that will help locate them.

JOHN DESMIT, JR.

Once John and Jennie arrived in the United States (John in wooden shoes and corduroys, as the newspaper affirmed), he sought work on Long Island, New York, where their first child, John, Jr. was born on 18 July 1853. He would live a full life and die 30 October 1928 in Kalamazoo. He was married to Mary DeKorn (the sister of Richard DeKorn, my great-great-grandfather). Mary was born 4 January 1855 in Kapelle, Zeeland, Netherlands. She died 28 March 1953 in Kalamazoo. They had eight children who lived past infancy.

 

I am not sure if I have a photo of John, Jr. But the motivation for beginning this series on the DeSmits was because I found a little newpaper article in the Telegraph dated 11 March 1892 that mentioned John, Jr., and Richard DeKorn, my great-great-grandfather. They apparently were in partnership together until this date. Since they were both brick masons, did they work together? Or was it a realty partnership? I do not know. But it’s fitting that the brothers-in-law were partners.

In 1854, John, Sr., Jennie, and John, Jr. moved to Kalamazoo. Soon after, Jennie must have died, but I can find no proof of this as of yet. I cannot find her death record, a grave record, nothing. Keep in mind that until I do all this information about the two wives is as yet unverified.

As with Johns Sr. and Jr. I will mainly use the American version of the names for the rest of the children in this post. These are the children John had with Jacoba Lamper.

TWO BABES TAKEN TOO SOON

Adrian was born 17 May 1856 and, sadly, died 9 November 1856.

Francena was born 4 July 1857 and, though the couple might have celebrated the birth of a baby born on Independence Day, she died over a month later, on 27 August 1857. The death of these two children early on must have been real “dog’s weather” and “black snow” for the DeSmits. (Those are expressions he used to refer to hard times in a newspaper interview.

ADRIAN DESMIT

On 4 November 1858, Adrian was born. This baby survived, living until 25 March 1938 when he died in Banks Township in Antrim County, Michigan. Adrian married Anna Versluis, and they had one daughter. Eventually, Adrian would marry Alice Nyland.

 

The photo of Adrian is from Tim Morris.

This photo was from my grandfather, Adrian Zuidweg.

FRANCINA DESMIT

Halloween (October 31) 1862, Francina was born. She died 21 September 1900, still a young woman. She married Renier Van Delester (many spellings of both first and surnames). They had two sons.

CHRISTINA DESMIT

Christina was born, most likely, in September 1864. The date has not yet been discovered, other than in the Dutch Reformed Church records, where it states she was born 31 September 1864. Unless, the calendar has changed since the 1860s, there is no September 31. Christina married Jacob Flipse, Jr. They did not have children. She passed away 15 February 1914.

ELIZABETH DESMIT

On 23 April 1866, Elizabeth was born. She married Jacob Hycoop, and they had 2 daughters. She lived until 18 May 1946. In fact, in one of the newspaper articles, it was her yard where John, Sr., hoed the celery on his birthday.

ANOTHER BABE GONE TOO SOON

Baby Catharina was born 2 July 1869, but passed away on 16 January 1870.

MARTIN DESMIT

Finally, Martin was born 17 November 1870, and grew up to marry Adriana Schiereck. They had a son called Clarence Wynoble, so it is probable that Clarence was Martin’s stepson. Martin died 6 November 1942 in Plainwell, Michigan.

 

All except John, Jr. were born in Kalamazoo, and they all died in Michigan–most of them in Kalamazoo. In a future post I will discuss the next generation of DeSmits–the children of John, Jr., Adrian, Francina, Elizabeth, and Martin.

 

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I realized that it was far past time that I research the DeSmit family. To give you an idea of how they fit into my family, let me give you a little overview. My great-great grandfather, Richard DeKorn, had two siblings: his sister Jennie Culver and his sister Mary DeSmit. Well, they were born DeKorns, but took on their  husband’s surnames, of course.

Because of the beautiful gift of the “found” photograph album sent to me by a kind stranger I have posted quite a bit about Jennie Culver, her divorce, and her two girls, Rhea and Lela. Jennie is featured in one of the poems in my chapbook Kin Types“What Came Between a Woman and Her Duties.” This poem was first published in the literary magazine Copper Nickel.

Richard’s sister Mary DeKorn married John DeSmit, Jr., and that is my connection with the DeSmit family, so I will begin the story of the DeSmits with that of Mary’s father-in-law, John DeSmit, Sr., a pioneer of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

On 2 July 1912, the Kalamazoo Gazette published this article about John. Because it was his birthday celebration and not an obituary, I believe it has a good chance of being an accurate history of his life. There is even a photo!

John DeSmit, one of Kalamazoo’s oldest pioneer residents, celebrated his 87th birthday anniversary yesterday by industriously laboring all day in a celery patch in the rear of the home of his daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Hycoop on South Burdick Street.

For a man of his advanced years Mr. DeSmit is remarkably hearty and spry. Age has not dimmed the sparkle in his eye and at times they twinkle with merriment, as he laughingly comments on events of early-day or present-day Kalamazoo. To a reporter for The Gazette who asked him if he was enjoying himself on his 87th birthday he laughingly replied:

“Yes, this is my 87th birthday. I am feeling fine and having a lot of fun all by myself.”

Mr. DeSmit, accompanied by his wife and a baby boy, arrived in Kalamazoo on May 2, 1854. There were only about 1,200 inhabitants in the village then and money was not as plentiful as it is today.

ARRIVED HERE WITH EMPTY PURSE

“When I first came here,” said Mr. DeSmit, “I did anything I could get to do. I got my first job on the afternoon of the day I arrived. It was tending a mason. I was so near flat busted that I went to work without eating dinner. I was paid ten shillings a day to start. I picked up the trade by degrees and most of the time since then I have worked as a mason. I finally began to do contracting in a small way and some of the jobs I did were the building of the spring works in ’78 and the old Kalamazoo house in ’79. I also built the old part of the American house.

“In ’76 my friends induced me to make the race for alderman from the Fourth ward and I was elected. I served that year and ’77. In ’79 I was re-elected and served two years. In ’88 I was appointed to street commissioner.

It was Mr. DeSmit who dug Axtell creek in ’77-’78, draining a large section of marsh land, much of which is now included in the most valuable tract of celery land in Kalamazoo. In ’72 he built the sewer from the jail through the courthouse yard to Arcadia Creek. This was when little was known of the sewer building in Kalamazoo and when few would bid on a sewer job.

HELPED IMPROVE BRONSON PARK

In ’77 Mr. DeSmit raised $1,000 by subscription to fill in and improve Bronson park and the council–then the board of trustees–voted another $1,000 for the work. It was then late in the fall and as he left the council the following spring, being succeeded by George Kidder, it fell to the lot of the latter to complete the park work begun by Mr. DeSmit.

Mr. DeSmit came to America in 1850, arriving in New York on October 1 of that year with his bride and four other young married couples. They sailed from Rotterdam and were 113 days in crossing the ocean. None of the five couples had any money upon arriving in America, but the men of the party secured work in the woods of Long Island and after many hard struggles saved enough of their meagre wages to emigrate west to the land of promise. As far as he knows Mr. DeSmit is the only one of the five couples now living.

HE’S HAPPY AND CONTENTED AS ANY

“I’ve worked hard all my life,” said Mr. DeSmith, “and I’ve seen a lot of happiness. I’ve also seen some dog’s weather and some black snow, but it’s what we all get in this life some time or other. I guess for a man of my years I’m about as happy and contented as any.

Mr. DeSmit has five children living, all of whom reside in Kalamazoo. They are John, Adrian, and Martin DeSmit and Mrs. Elizabeth Hycoop and Mrs. Christine Flipse.

The aged man lives at 1017 South Burdick Street.

He lived on South Burdick. Of course, he did! That area of Burdick must have been quite the “Holland” or Dutch enclave.

Is this article not a windfall for a family researcher? Look at some of the facts I found.

  • He arrived in the United States on 1 October 1850  This will prove to be a bit off.
  • He left approximately 113 days before that  This will be contradicted in another article.
  • He lived on Long Island for awhile before coming to Michigan
  • When he came to Kalamazoo, only 1,200 people lived there
  • He was instrumental in getting Bronson Park off to a good start (Bronson Park is the town square of Kalamazoo)
  • They left Netherlands through Rotterdam; however, no info about where in Holland they came from
  • How he got started as a mason
  • How he happened to be in New York (because this is where John Jr. was born)
  • I am not the only person who persistent types DeSmith instead of DeSmit (ugh)
  • I learned some new expressions: “dog’s weather” and “black snow”–“dog’s weather” or hondeweer is a common Dutch expression meaning bad weather, such as rain or a storm. I was given help for this through a kind Facebook group. The answer to “black snow” can be found here. It means: “misery, experiencing poverty” and is better known in Belgium. This in interesting because one of my helpers with the DeSmit family believes they came from an area very close to Belgium.

There are several newspaper articles about John DeSmit gifting celery to the Gazette, particularly at the time of Thanksgiving and Christmas–so much so, that they expected it. This one is 30 November 1893:

This theme is repeated over several years. Here is one from Christmas day 1896.

Although the year 1851 is probably incorrect (1854 fits with the chronology better), you have to love the details: “clothed in wooden shoes and corduroy.”

Three years later, the paper commemorates John DeSmit’s 90th birthday.

Here we learn that he came to Kalamazoo in 1854 and that he served in the Dutch army in 1845. And that his birthdate is 1 July 1825. We also get an overview that tells how important his construction work was to the formation of Kalamazoo’s streets and sewers. John belonged to the Reformed church.  Best yet, the photo is better in this clipping than in the first.

John DeSmit was still going strong for his 91st birthday party.

 

Even back in 1899, the paper was celebrating John DeSmit’s 74th birthday. Some of the details here are different than in the other articles. I can’t help but wonder if the paper made mistakes or if John’s memory altered things as he got older. For instance, here it is 135 days on the ocean from Rotterdam to NYC, whereas it was 113 days in 1912 (13 years later). Also, the address of his house is slightly off here, but I do appreciate that the info is shared here that he owned his house since 1858. Notice that in 1899 he had six living children, whereas later he had five and then four. Also in the following article, one of his children is living outside of Kalamazoo.

Eventually, John DeSmit succumbed to old age.

John DeSmit passed away on 10 March 1919 at the Burdick Street house he had lived at for decades. According to his obituary’s omission of daughter Christine Flipse, she appears to have passed away. But more on that later when I write about John’s wife wives and their children and grandchildren.

Alas, even with all these newspaper clues I can not find a trace of John DeSmit in wiewaswie records. His Dutch name was Jan, but although I have his birthdate and an approximate time period for his marriage date, I cannot find his birth or marriage records.

That all changed a few hours ago when Hubert Theuns discovered John Sr.’s birth record. He found it in the Zeeuws archives, which is where I should have looked to begin with. The date was correct: John was born 1 July 1825!! in Zuidzande, Netherlands, which is not far from Belgium.

John’s birth name was Jannis, and his father was also Jannis, so rather than being senior, he was at least III because “Senior’s” grandfather and father were Jan! Thank you Hubert.

Thank you so much for all the help of Adri Van Gessel, Adriaan Leeuwenhoek, and Joel Reeves!

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Because my mother’s grandmother, Clara Waldeck Mulder, died less than two years before I was born, I always felt that I had missed out by not knowing her. It seemed as if our paths had almost crossed, but missed. By the time I knew what was what, Great-Grandpa was married to Margaret, a sweet lady who was a good great-grandmother. But I knew I had missed out on meeting the mother of my grandmother, the woman who once managed that scary and fascinating stove in the old farmhouse in Caledonia, Michigan. I knew Mom thought she was a good cook.

So it was really fun that as I was scanning the photo album my mother had made documenting her teen years I found a photo of Great-Grandma a year before she died.

How well I remember those aprons! When you cook, they are the smart thing to wear, although the tummy area always gets the worst of it because it’s convenient to wipe your hands there. They were a style of the past when I was young and newly married, but I still prefer an apron that really covers me up like that to one that ties at the waist.

Jeanne mentioned at the top of the photo is my mother’s cousin Jeanne who in a lineup of cousins is #2 to my mother, my mother being the oldest.

Their Grandma was photographed by Jeanne in the summer of 1952, and she would die 6 September 1953, at the age of 69 years old of uterine cancer. (Yes, her death certificate is posted here).

Great-Grandma Clara is pictured here as a young bride with her husband, Charles Mulder, my great-grandfather.

You know that lineup I was mentioning? Here is one!

That’s Mom there on our left with the big bow and Jeanne right next to her.

The littlest ones aren’t in the photo and probably not yet born, but this is a good start on all the cousins, the grandchildren of Clara Mulder!

 

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