DUTCH. Only 161 Dutch-born people lived in Cuyahoga County in 1850, but the Dutch community reached 603 in 1870, with the peak reached in 1910 with 1,076, plus an estimated 5,000 persons of Dutch parentage or ancestry. The 1980 census reported 4,211 persons of single Dutch ancestry in greater Cleveland; adding those with multiple Dutch ancestry and those no longer aware of their Dutch ancestry brings the total today to an estimated 20,000. This comparatively small Dutch population reflects minimal overall Dutch immigration, for the Netherlands never experienced mass emigration.
Dutch emigration to North America had 3 major phases: the expansion of the Dutch West India Co. in Colonial New York (1614-64); the free migration of 1815-1915; and the planned, largely refugee migration after WORLD WAR II. The earliest Dutch in Cleveland were descendants of the Colonial "Old Dutch" and were thoroughly Americanized. The "Young Dutch" came directly from the Netherlands. Finally, after World War II, several hundred more Dutch arrived, including refugees from newly independent Indonesia (formerly the Dutch East Indies). The postwar immigrants revived the lagging awareness of Dutch culture and language among the Young Dutch. Even the Dutch Indonesians, while bringing an Asian cultural blend that set them apart, were Dutch-speaking and very loyal to their Dutch tradition.
The first permanent Young Dutch in Cleveland were a group of ROMAN CATHOLICS from an area known as the Achterhoek, led by Harmanus Bernardus Wamelink and Joannes Gerhardus Jansen, with their families, and Bernard Breugelman. They settled near the southern city limits bordering Woodland Ave. The next major group, Protestants of Reformed (Calvinist) background, arrived in 1847, mainly from Zeeland Province, with more following in the next decade. More Dutch from the Achterhoek, both Catholics and Calvinists, settled in Cleveland, with the largest group arriving in 1870-71. By then, about half the Cleveland Dutch were from the Achterhoek, while a third were from Zeeland. The connection of Cleveland Dutch to only 2 small regions of the Netherlands conforms to the general pattern of chain migration, resulting in transplanted communities from specific European villages.
The Cleveland Dutch settled in a segregated pattern according to their place of origin and religion. The Zeelanders and some from Overijssel Province lived in 3 east side neighborhoods: along Central Ave. between E. 33rd and E. 39th streets, where the True Holland Reformed Church (later East Side Christian Reformed Church) was built in 1872; along Lexington Ave. and E. 55th St., where the First Holland Reformed Church was built in 1864; and at E. 75th St. and Woodland Ave. in "Dutch Alley." Those from the Achterhoek mainly chose 3 west side areas: alongside the City Infirmary between W. 14th St. and W. 25th St.; farther south along Holmden Ave., popularly known as "Dutch Hill"; and along Lorain Ave., from W. 54th to W. 65th streets in "Wooden Shoe Alley." The Catholics centered around St. Stephen's Church (1870), while the Calvinists built True Holland Reformed Church (later West Side Christian Reformed Church) in 1872. In 1881 Calvary (Second) Reformed Church began meeting at W. 73rd St. and Lawn Ave., moving in 1910 to their present location on W. 65th St. After World War II, as members moved to the suburbsmembers, of whom fewer than 10% are of Dutch ancestry. The junior denomination, t, Calvary mothered 5 new Reformed churches in the western suburbs. In 1950 West Side also moved to Triskett Rd. Today there are 6 Reformed churches in Greater Cleveland totaling 1,300 he Christian Reformed church, more Dutch and resistant to Americanization, today has 3 churches with 650 members, of whom more than half are of Dutch birth or ancestry.
Occupationally, the censuses of the 19th century reveal that one-half of the Cleveland-area Dutch were skilled craftsmen (primarily carpenters, coopers, and tailors), one-third were factory workers and unskilled laborers, and the remainder were retail merchants, clerks, and professionals (clerics, teachers, doctors, and nurses). In the 20th century, as the city industrialized and newer immigrants filled the lower ranks of the labor force, the Dutch moved increasingly into white-collar positions and professional careers, and became self-employed craftsmen and small businessmen.
By WORLD WAR I, the Dutch in Cleveland were rapidly assimilating. At its founding in 1890, the Second Dutch Reformed Church instituted the first English-language worship service. By 1930 even the 2 more conservative Christian Reformed churches had shifted to English, with the last Dutch service held in 1940. Dutch Catholics lost their mother tongue by the second generation because of the multinational nature of the Roman Catholic church. Since the 1930s, social clubs have sought to preserve cultural identity. The Hollandia Club was active until the early 1950s, when it was supplanted by the Netherlands American Society of Ohio, which successfully integrated Dutch Indonesians and included both Catholics and the unchurched. But the Calvinist Dutch remain aloof, preferring the fellowship of their churches. These, and the Netherlands American Society, preserve what little remains of Dutch group life and culture.
Robert P. Swierenga
Kent State Univ.