Nederland marker notes start of Dutch town
Published 10:53 am Friday, November 11, 2016
NEDERLAND — A historical marker along Boston Avenue in front of a replica of a windmill pays homage to the early Dutch settlers in the town of Nederland.
The town, settled by Dutch immigrants in 1897, was named for the settlers’ native Netherlands, which in the 1890s suffered overcrowding, worn out soil and scant hope for prosperity, according to the marker.
Their hope for prosperity came in the form of an abundance of land in America promised by Port Arthur Land Company and Dutch businessmen.
Carol Culp, hostess at the Dutch Windmill Museum, 1515 Boston Ave., said the new colony thrived through the hot summers, mud and mosquitoes of southeast Texas.
Railroad entrepreneur Arthur Stilwell had a dream of Nederland as a thriving community with Dutch rice farmers. The city at one time dominated the rice industry.
“He enticed the rich Hollanders to come over,” Culp said.
The city’s first settler was Gatze Jan “George” Rienstra, and his sister Feikje “Fannie” Rienstra was the first female settler of the town.
The city grew through the decades. At one time there were more than 20 dairies in Nederland. One of those was the Koelemay Dairy at the corner of 27th Street and Canal.
“Doctors in Beaumont sent new mothers here to Koelemay dairy for milk for their babies,” she said. “It was the only place they would send them, as it was noted as the cleanest dairy.”
Helen Tunnell, another host at the museum, said the early Dutch dairy farmers were also cheese makers but due to the high humidity of the area were forced to change up their recipe.
The three-story museum has artifacts from the city’s early days, a small gift shop of items imported from Holland, wooden shoes, mementos of the late Tex Ritter, who once called Nederland home, and much more.
The Windmill Museum is also a favorite spot for visitors from The Netherlands.
“They are fascinated with the museum and so proud that we’re showing their heritage,” Tunnell said.
Mary Meaux: 409-721-2429