John Martin Spoolstra (Jan Martens Spoelstra) was born December 11, 1852 in the Netherlands. At age 23 he married Sjieuwke Aukes Bennema age 21, November 11, 1876. In the later part of 1880 he emigrated with his family through the Port of Rotterdam. Dutch emigration records list his Religious Affiliation as Christian Reformed (Christelijk Gereformeerd) and his Economic Class as Indigent (Behoeftigen). Other sources indicate the Dutch emigrated during that time period because more room was needed for their growing families. Their farms were too small to support them and land was too expensive to purchase. They wanted a place where they could worship God unhindered. They had heard glowing reports about the Dutch colony established in South Holland, Illinois. And surely, America was the land of opportunity.
John and family sailed to America aboard the ship W. A. Scholten (Netherlands - American Steam Navigation Company) a combination sail and steam powered ship. On December 29, 1880 the ship docked at the Port of New York, District of New York. The Ships Passenger List has Jan Spoelstra, age 28, male, farmer; Sjouke Spoelstra, age 26, female, wife; Aaltje Spoelstra, age 3, female, daughter, and Maarten Spoelstra, age 11months, Male, son, among its passengers.
From New York they traveled to Ridgewood, New Jersey, where on August 12, 1881, August Spoelstra was the first American born descendant. Their migration ended with their settling in Roseland south of Chicago, Illinois about 1884.
John sought his fortune in the grocery business and by 1886 was a partner in VAN MEERTON & SPOELSTRA GROCERS in Fernwood, Illinois. His hard work and good fortune continued and around the early 1900s he had his own store. The records I have found so far do not indicate when or why the spelling of Spoelstra was changed to Spoolstra. But it appears that the change took place with John's lineage or just the Spoelstra families within the Roseland area of Chicago.
The 1900 Census shows John Spoelstra (age 48) owner of a residence at 247 West 103rd Street and Sjooke (age 46) with five children, August age 19, Martin 15, Peter (my Grandfather) 13, Gerrit 11, and Alice 10. The children who came from Holland, Aalye and Maarten are not listed. The census records indicate Sjouke had given birth to eight children and five were still alive. Because the Dutch were known to give the next child of the same gender the name of the one that had died, I think that Aalye (Alice) Spoelstra died before 1890 when Alice was born. And Maarten Spoelstra died before 1884 when Martin was born. Sjooke had another child born about 1882 based upon the other children's births. Susie (Sjieuwke) died January 18th 1921 and John Martin Spoolstra died on January 28th of 1922. Both are buried at Mt. Greenwood Cemetery, 2900 W 111th Street, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA.
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