Saturday, May 18, 2019

Pieter and Maria: Part III

(Part I and Part II)

In mid-to-late 1872, Pieter and Maria (Van Klinken) Ton moved from Cincinnati to Grand Rapids, Michigan with their three daughters, Nellie, Mary, and Jennie (my ancestor), who were about 11, 8, and 5 years old, respectively.

Left behind in the area were Maria's oldest daughter, Cornelia "Kate" Van Klinken and her husband Joseph Meyers, who settled across the Ohio River in Newport, Campbell Co., Kentucky. They eventually had two children, neither of whom married or had children themselves.

Also left behind were Maria's sister, Adriana Van Klinken and her husband Leendert "Leonard" Klinke, who lived in Cincinnati. They eventually had four children, none of whom married or had children, either.

Finally, Pieter's widowed brother-in-law, Izak Pape, and his son Jacob also remained in Cincinnati. It's unknown at this time if Jacob had any descendants. It's likely Pieter and Maria never saw these family members again.

In Grand Rapids, they were joined by Maria's brother, Johannes "John" Van Klinken, who apparently immigrated about 10 years after they did. It's not clear where he lived, or with whom, until he appears in the same neighborhood as them in the 1873 Grand Rapids city directory. That year, John married Barendina "Dena" Lendering. They had two boys who did not survive infancy.

Pieter continued to work as a laborer in Grand Rapids. He and his family attended First Christian Reformed Church, located then at 58 Commerce Ave., SW. On 17 June 1874, he died of consumption. While that term was used most frequently to describe tuberculosis, "an infectious bacterial disease characterized by the growth of nodules (tubercles) in the tissues, especially the lungs" (Wikipedia), it's quite possible it may have been lung cancer caused by his exposure to white lead. We do not have a burial location for him, as the city did not start recording burials until about three months after he died.

Without a husband, Maria had no means to support herself and her three young daughters. A year later, she married a widower who lived down the street, Dirk Bijl (Byle), who had a ten year-old son, and a five-year-old daughter. Sadly, Maria herself died 22 April 1878 of dropsy, an old term for edema, "a condition characterized by an excess of watery fluid collecting in the cavities or tissues of the body."

Maria was buried in the Potter's Field of Valley City Cemetery, now a part of Oakhill Cemetery. It's very likely that Pieter had been buried there, too. There are no plot maps for this area, and few tombstones. Across a path from Potter's Field, Maria's brother John Van Klinken is buried in a identified plot. When I planned my trip to Western Michigan for early May 2019, I put Oakhill on my list of places to see. (Update: here is my post about the visit to the cemetery.)

Potter's Field, Southeast Corner of Oakhill Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Kent Co., Michigan
Taken for me by Chris Korstange, 2007

Dirk Bijl remarried shortly after. Not wanted in their step-father and step-mother's home, the older girls, Nellie and Mary, worked as maids, living at those homes or in boarding houses. Nellie eventually married Martin Huisman (Houseman) and had six children. Mary married Charles Jerome Cleveland and lived in Muskegon, Michigan. They had one daughter.

Jennie went to live with her Uncle John and Aunt Dina Van Klinken. She had no more than a third-grade education. For a time, she lived with Mary and Charles in Muskegon. Eventually, she became a laundress, and that is probably how she met my ancestor, Martin Jans Hoekstra, who was a teamster, driving a delivery wagon for the American Steam Laundry Company in Grand Rapids.  A laundress' life was hard, hot, dirty, muggy, and dangerous work in commercial laundries.  Google has a historic book about what it was like:  She was probably glad to give up the life of a laundress and start her life as a housewife.

Martin and Jennie married in 1886 and had four children, including my great-grandfather, John Martin Hoekstra. His daughter, my grandmother Ruth, had many fond memories of Jennie, who died when Grandma was 24.

I have a precious scrap of paper written by Jennie, with a few short memories of her parents scribbled on it: "I, remember when my mother was kind to me, and took the long walk, with her. Sundays after-noon. and her Love. I, remember the walk, my Father and I, took one evening. in Cincinnati Ohio: the Father's day. and mother's days are a blessing. Sunday Feb 14 - 1943."

I get emotional every time I read Jennie's note. She was not quite 7 when her father died, and almost 11 when her mother died. You can tell by her writing she was not well educated, but I'm so glad she took the time to share the few memories she had of her parents.

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