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Parrega students establish contact with Texan town Nederland

First settler Rienstra still remembered

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

PARREGA, the Netherlands - Thanks to 19th century immigrant Gatze Rienstra, students at the Christian elementary school De Paadwizer in the Frisian village of Parrega are now exchanging e-mail with their peers at Highland Park Elementary in the former Dutch settlement of Nederland, Texas. The American town of Nederland is celebrating its centennial this year while the Netherlands is commemorating the 350th anniversary of the Peace Treaty of Munster which ended an 80-year conflict with Spain.

Parrega's students became aware of Nederland's centennial when municipal leaders were looking for local involvement to strengthen cross-Atlantic relations. Principal Piet van der Meer saw educational opportunities in the proposal for his grades seven and eight and developed a school project in response.

Texas' Nederland became a settlement after Parrega-born Gatze Rienstra for $800 purchased the first four plots of land of what was the most promising location of the area. Rienstra's arrival in 1898 was followed by that of other Dutch families.

The task to promote Nederland as a destination for Dutch immigrants fell to Mr. J.E. Kroes, a former official with the Netherlands-American Steamship Company. Kroes and his agents attracted Rienstra to the Texan site from Iowa but others arrived directly from the Netherlands.

Many of the early settlers on the homesteads - including those with the surnames Ballast, Muller, Teggelaar, Ernsting, Tynkema, Van Dalen, De la Bye, Koelemay, Jorritsma, Lans, Ruysenaars, Van Tyl, Brontsema, Tromp, Van der Hout, Koot, Ellings, Den Dekker, Westerterp and Van Heiningen - were seasonally employed by the railroad which connected Kansas City with Lake Sabine. Dutch financiers who supported railroad building plans were acknowledged in the name selection of proposed stops along the route.

Unlike many other 19th century settlements in the U.S.A., Nederland failed to grow into a strong Dutch community. A Christian Reformed Church was dissolved in 1905, seven years after it had been instituted. In 1969, Nederland's Chamber of Commerce built a windmill in recognition of its first settlers. Located in Jefferson County, Nederland now has a population of 17,000.

Gatze (George) Rienstra's son Dan long operated a vegetable farm in Nederland. His father died in 1939, at age 72.