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Gerrit Jan Walvoord (1826-1856)

A native of Aalten, Gelderland, Holland, Gerrit Jan was born January 22, 1826. Gerrit Jan was pretty spry, a smart man, a man of quick action. He was tall and slender, had black hair and was good looking. Gerrit Jan Walvoord was the only son of Hendrik Walvoord. Gerrit Jan’s Aunt Jane, (father Hendrik`s youngest sister) was about his same age. Both of them were rocked in the same cradle.

As a young man he left his native land to seek fortune in the New World. He immigrated at the age of twenty before his father, Hendrik, came to America. Gerrit may have sailed on the ship Garrone from Rotterdam to Baltimore. He first located at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he farmed and also worked in the coal mines. While there he married a German girl, Miss Anna Maria Engel Nolten, who had immigrated to America with her brother.

Their oldest son, Henry, was born in Pittsburgh in 1847. When Henry was about two-years old, in the fall of 1849, the Walvoord family moved to Sheboygan County, Wisconsin and lived at the small settlement of Amsterdam on Lake Michigan in the Township of Holland. It lies southeast of the village of Cedar Grove.

There the Walvoords had a general store and shipped cord-wood from the pier. Boats came for the wood and instead of money people got their supplies from the store.

Scott Walvoord at the site of the old Amsterdam Pier in 2003. The original pier is gone but the pilings from the original can still be seen.

Gerrit Jan Walvoord was not permitted to enjoy his new home for long. While measuring cord-wood at the above named pier, he accidentally drowned at only thirty-years-old. No one saw the accident. He was found in the water. Apparently, (according to one account) Gerrit Jan, heard a ship coming while he was eating. He jumped from the table, ran to the harbor, climbed over the wood on the pier and lost his balance. He fell in the water, which was very cold, and although he was a good swimmer, the wood that also had glided in the water, kept him down and he drowned. Gerrit Jan died in Lake Michigan on July 11, 1856 and was buried in the Walvoord Family Cemetery plot on section 26, in Holland Township.

When he died Gerrit Jan left a family of five children of which, Henry was the oldest. Henry was eight at the time of the accident. The daughters of Gerrit Jan were Jane, Mary, Tonia and Delia. Delia, the youngest, was only three-months-old at the time of her father’s death.

Soon afterwards the business at the pier was destined to bring still more sorrow to the Walvoord family. In January of 1857, the store and dwelling burned and the family lost most of their belongings and nearly everything they had invested there.

The elder Hendrik Walvoord had money and purchased some land. Both his family and Gerrit Jan’s family moved to a farm near Amsterdam. The house was built for the two families and they lived there together for some time. Henry Walvoord (son of Gerrit Jan) was married there.

Updated: September 5, 2011 — 9:33 PM
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