Column: Here's a column that's a Dutch treat
WORTHINGTON -- It is not a huge coincidence, but it is notable:
The year the first Dutch homesteaders came to Nobles County -- 1890 -- is the last year the Dutch people had a king. Willem III died on Nov. 23, 1890. From that date on, through the next 123 years during which people from the Netherlands have been a part of local history, Holland has been ruled by a queen, first Wilhelmina, then Beatrix. There was a one-day flurry of U.S. news coverage this month when Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange, became king of the Dutch people.
This will be only an interlude -- Willem-Alexander has three daughters, three princesses. The Netherlands is destined to have a queen once again but, for now, there is a King of Holland.
On Thursday, Orange City will begin its 73rd annual Tulip Festival, the premier Dutch celebration of our area. You think there will be tulips? Oh ---probably. A few, at least. This has not been an ideal tulip spring. The Tulip Festival serves to remind once again how much people of Dutch ancestry are a part of the history of northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota.
Sioux County is the county of Orange City, Alden, Sioux Center, Rock Valley, Hull. Two colleges, Northwestern College at Orange City and Dordt College at Sioux Center. Sioux County has our region's only symphony orchestra, the Northwest Iowa Symphony Orchestra,which performs in the concert hall at Dordt.
Sioux County has the greatest percentage of people of Dutch ancestry -- 76 percent -- of any county in all of America. Leota has the greatest percentage of people of Dutch ancestry of any community in all of Minnesota, also 76 percent. Sioux County is among the most Republican of all U.S. counties. The last time the people of Sioux County voted for a Democratic candidate was for Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936.
Dutch people crowded into northwest Iowa until there scarcely was room for more. This is when Nobles County, Murray County, Pipestone County came into the picture -- once again, 1890, the first blooms of Leota, Edgerton, Chandler. The spirit (and faith) of these people is seen in the dented and battered, rusted water tower on the ground since the Great Chandler Tornado of 1992. The twisted letters painted on the tank proclaim: "Chandler, in God We Trust." Beside that tornado remnant soars a shiny new tower with the same message: "Chandler, in God We Trust."
Among many people I have worked with through years were people of Dutch heritage. Oh, Owen Van Essen, native of Edgerton, who once was a partial owner of the Daily Globe. Doug Wolter. Bill Brower, who also was a Daily Globe sports editor. "You make sure you get more news of the Dutchmen," Bill would chide.
Bill was from Alden. He never got the work completed but he was going to write a memoir, "Boyhood on the Floyd River."
I said, "Bill, what will you write about?"
"Oh," he said, "I will tell how there was a leak in a dam across the Floyd River and I stuck my finger in the leak and saved the town."
Bill liked to tell of the origins of Alden. The Sioux City & St. Paul railroad refused to bend its tracks to service the emerging new town of Orange City. So it was that the Dutch settlers began a second town beside the railroad. They called the new town East Orange. When someone from Orange City wanted to board a train they traveled along the short, tree-shaded road to East Orange, which eventually became Alden.
As the Dutch monarchy has come full circle through the passing of 123 years, from a king to a king, so the Dutch experience has come full circle. Holland remains a land of windmills. There is a notable, model windmill at the entrance to Orange City. In recent years windmills have again become a familiar feature of the Dutch communities. Leota is in the heartland of the wind turbine forest that has grown up along Buffalo Ridge. You can view wind turbines at several communities through the region, but at Leota it is possible to drive nearly to the base of the whirring blades. It is worth a visit.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.