William Kapteyn
(1903-1986)

We were born in the Netherlands. So were all our children. Married in 1929, the lord blessed our marriage with 9 children, but He took from us 2 boys who died at the age of 5 and 11 years of age.

Soon after we were married, the depression started. Living on the farm we shared the financial hardship when the mild price dropped to 3 ½ cents per gallon. But somehow we survived.

This was also the time when Hitler came to power which resulted in the 2nd World War. For us that meant 5 years of German occupation. Now, of course, there are millions of Americans who know what war is since many have been fighting in the world ward, in Korea and Vietnam. But not many know what it means when your house and property are involved in the fighting.

In the early morning hours of May 10, 1940, we woke up by the roar of hundreds of German airplanes flying over and the explosions of many bridges blown up by our own troops. Since we lived only 20 miles from the German border, at 7:00 in the morning the first German soldiers arrived in our area. Five years of German tyranny! How we longed for the end of the war! One of my brothers worked along with the "underground", was captured and shot to death. After 10:00 in the evening we had to stay inside the house or be shot.

When the years passed, food was more and more scarce, especially in the west of the country in the big cities. People came traveling 100 miles on bicycles and handcarts to get some food. As a farmer we had no trouble, baked our own bread, made our own butter from the products of the farm. Besides we could help many people who came every day to our door for food, although this was, of course, not allowed by the Germans.

In the gall of 1944, American and British bombers flew over every night to bomb out the industrial zoning of Germany. In the early spring of 1945 the end of the war was in sight when the Canadians moved up from the south. The first week of April brought us in the war-zone for 5 days. Grenades shooting back and forth over our house. What a release when we saw the German soldiers backing out!

Many people have asked us why we immigrated to the United States. We had only a small farm, too small for our big family. The future of our country looked dark. Germany has always been very important to us economically. Now it lay in ruins. Indonesia was lost. What future was there for our 7 children? Farms and land were scarce, competition murderous.

We had cousins living in Michigan, born here, writing letters, asking how we managed during the war time. We wrote them about our difficulties. They promptly wrote back, Come to the States! Here there is plenty of room, land, farms, work and houses. It was then in May, 1946 that the thought became lively in us – "Immigration to the United States!"

It took 15 months before everything was settled and 4 more months to get passage on the boat. In January, 1948 we left the harbor of Rotterdam. After a few days on the ocean we had some other experiences. Three days in a terrible storm! It is hard to explain how you feel being sea-sick. 90% of the people on board were sick. There is one strange thing about it. Little children of 5 years and under are immune. So are old people of 70 and older! When we were sitting at the dinner table, not able to eat anything, an old man was teasing us telling us the food was so delicious.

After 11 days, we reached the harbor of New York. We set foot on American soil. The train was to bring us to Grand Rapids. The wrong train, seven children, and baggage was a mother’s nightmare. Each of the children had their own suitcase and on duffel bag. Hilda kept track of her brood by making a constant head count. After 6 days and nights of travel on train, they arrived in Grand Rapids. After working on the Voetberg dairy farm for 2 years of scrimping and saving, the Kapteyns settled down on 76th Street in Carlisle.

And now what have been our experiences in the New World? We were impressed by the warm welcome we received in the Christian Reformed Church. The communion of the saints is really exercised in our churches here. We are thankful that we brought our children to this richly blessed country.

(Taken from the family history files at the Byron Center Historical Society)

The inscription on the bronze marker reads, "Together Forever". They are buried in the Boynton Cemetery. Hilda (1907-1998).


Transcriber: Evelyn Sawyer
Created:21 January 2003
URL: http://kent.migenweb.net/townships/byron/pioneers/kapteynw.html