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Exhibit at Dutch Spring Market commemmorates city centennial and Dutch pioneers

Scarlet fever tragedy brought people together

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

EDMONTON, Alberta - A centennial exhibit at the Dutch Spring Market will explore the history of the Dutch community in the province’s capital. The city of Edmonton, which was incorporated in 1904, pretty well from the beginning was home to people of Dutch ancestry.

In search for cheap land, some of the early settlers with Dutch roots had arrived from the U.S. It also is very likely that others migrated ‘deeper’ into the midwest from Winnipeg or had come up north from Nobleford. Both places had a growing Dutch immigrant community. Others arrived straight from the Netherlands. In both places, Dutch immigrant presence already had given rise to the institution of a local Christian Reformed church (CRC).

Editor Jenny Smits of The Dutch Touch, the publication of Edmonton’s Dutch Canadian Club, started gathering information in 1999 for a club history project. The five-panel exhibit however has a community-wide scope and is a visual presentation.

Soccer origins

Her group which owns the city’s Dutch Canadian Club building, came about through a 1960s merger between two area Dutch soccer clubs, Excelsior (Ed-monton) and Ajax (Jasper Place, then a separate community). The continuing group, Edmonton United Sports and Social Club was renamed Dutch Canadian Club in 1982. Its building was erected in the 1960s. The site earlier had been purchased to create a soccer field.

The earliest information for the exhibit is from 1910 and was gleaned from such sources as the 75th anniversary book of Edmonton’s First CRC and one on the Dutch community of Neerlandia, northwest of the city. The news of a tragedy - published in the Edmonton Journal - which struck the family of Hendrik and Jennigje Kippers (nee Bruins, from Nijverdal) a week after their arrival in the city in April 1910, brought people together. Other Dutch pioneers sought out the grieving Kippers’ who within a week lost two of their four children to scarlet fever. The third child recovered. In order to contain the outbreak, the children had been hospitalized while the parents were kept from going to the hospital and from attending the funerals. They did not know English and had no one to translate the ongoings for them.

Housing shortage

The subsequent contacts between Kampen-born Kippers and others, specifically mentioned are a Mr. M.C. Quist, F. Baron, G. Roozeboom and bachelor G. Gotzen, was followed by a letter requesting help from the CRC and was sent to Rev. J. Van der Mey at Man-hattan, Montana. Within six months, nineteen adults, representing nine families and one bachelor, instituted the First CRC. The congregation also included 23 children of which three Baron children (Elizabeth, Wybe and Barend) and one Ingwersen son (Gerard) were baptized by Rev. Van der Mey on Sunday, October 23, 1910. The Barons had come up from the U.S. in 1905.

It may be strange by today’s standards to read that the congregation met for church services in a tent which had been pitched on the corner of 109th St. and Jasper Ave. The frontier town, since 1905 Alberta’s capital when the province was created, faced a severe and chronic housing shortage. Many people then lived in tents.

By the 1930s, newcomers could initially be sheltered at an Immigration Hall, space permitting. Many Dutch immigrants as well spent one or more nights at this temporary home near the railway station, some as long as several weeks. Edmonton’s “Ellis Island” was phased out in the early 1970s. The building still exists and is waiting for a new lease on life. Although privately owned, a designation as a heritage museum would be fine with Jenny Smits, “...perhaps the memories then would be kept longer alive.”