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The Dutch on the Great Plains

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On this date in 1909, readers of the Hope Pioneer took note of a colony of Dutch immigrants who had settled near Dickinson. The first growing season for the Dutch had been wildly successful. So successful, in fact, that they were recruiting their countrymen to come join them. Large numbers of Dutch immigrants were expected to arrive within months. A Dutch syndicate planned to travel to the state to find suitable land. The syndicate would purchase the land and sell it to the new immigrants.

North Dakota is a land of many immigrants. The Germans from Russia are a well-known group, as are the Norwegians. And there’s the Icelandic immigrants, who annually hold a Deuce of August festival on August second.

While not as numerous as these other groups, the Dutch also made a contribution to North Dakota’s success.

Several factors prompted the Dutch to make the grueling ocean crossing and venture out to the Great Plains. Holland was land poor, making Dutch farmers unable to expand their holdings. They were also hampered by high taxes and low crop prices. The Dutch economy was stagnant and showed little sign of improvement. Whole families and even entire neighborhoods left their homes to start new lives in a new world. Many of them settled in Michigan, where vast acres of tulip fields still draw tourists every year. Others were drawn to the vast open plains of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa.

Perhaps the biggest attraction was the free land offered by the Homestead Act. The thought of owning one hundred sixty acres must have been enticing to farmers who for generations had subsisted on small plots of land. Bonanza farms had already proven that the Great Plains could be an agricultural paradise.

The Dutch farmers brought with them additions to American agriculture, including tulips and the Dutch belted cow. And perhaps they also brought financial skills – since one North Dakotan with Dutch ancestry is Senator John Hoeven, who had a very successful career in banking before his foray into politics.

Dakota Datebook by Carole Butcher

Sources:

Hope Pioneer. “In North Dakota. Hope ND. 8/26/1909. Page 2.

Madison Daily Leader. “Colony in North Dakota.” Madison SD. 2/26/1910. Page 1.

State Historical Society of North Dakota. “ND Studies: Other Ethnic Groups.” https://www.ndstudies.gov/gr4/early-settlement-north-dakota/section-11-other-ethnic-groups Accessed 7/20/2021.

Calvin University. “Dutch Imperialism? Little Empire on the Big Prairie.” https://origins.calvin.edu/2019/11/12/dutch-imperialism-little-empire-on-the-prairie/ Accessed 7/20/2021.

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