Excerpt from the Flatiron Museum Exhibit- May 2016
First Dutch Immigrants to Lacombe
The first Dutch immigrants to Lacombe came in the mid to late 1920s. They were economic refugees and opportunists who were seeking adventure and a better future. Many started working for other farmers and soon owned their own quarters, cleared their own land, and built their own homes as they established themselves in their new homeland.
One of these families was the Bruinsma family who arrived in Lacombe from Holland on April 1, 1927 with their four children – one son and three daughters. That summer, Paul Bruinsma started working for Stuart Taylor of the Lakeside district and for Percy Switzer that same winter. In 1932, he bought a farm southeast of 12-28-40. Soon thereafter, the family was joined by John and Ben Tymstra from Holland – with John Tymstra becoming Paul’s son-in-law.
During the peak of the Great Depression in the mid-1930s, families that had originally settled from Holland in Saskatchewan began to move to the Lacombe area looking to escape severe drought conditions.
The drought was a natural disaster that began in some areas of Saskatchewan in 1930, and gradually spread within the province and into Alberta and Manitoba. By 1933 a quarter of all the arable land in Canada — 18 million acres (44 million hectares) — was stricken by drought. Dust storms, grasshopper infestations and plant diseases made conditions even worse.
Farmers in the Lacombe area fared better than many others because the drought was less severe, people relied on their own produce and livestock, and fresh standing water was available. For example, slough water was carried in pails to sustain gardens and provide for families when crops were poor.
The pre-WWII Dutch community in Alberta acculturated to Canadian Society rather slowly. Use of the Dutch language remained strong among families, and especially in the church through the thirties and early forties. Before WWII, growth among the Dutch community in the region was slow.
Until the end of WWII, the following 14 Dutch families lived in the Lacombe area:
- Nienhuis – arrived in 1925
- Weeninks – arrived in 1926
- Bruinsmas – arrived in 1927
- Ten Hoves – arrived in 1928
- Meindersmas – arrived in 1928
- Hoeves – arrived in 1928
- Bajemas – arrived in 1930
- Siebengas – arrived in 1933
- Martena – arrived in 1934
- Salomons – arrived in 1934
- Brouwers – arrived in 1936
- Prins – arrived in 1936
- Tymstras – arrived sometime between 1927 and 1938
- Wierengas – arrived in 1945
Establishment of the Christian Reformed Church of Lacombe
For the Dutch immigrants, leaving their former homeland never meant leaving their faith.
The first worship services were held 80 years ago, in the home of the Bruinsma family who lived near Gull Lake by the present Camp Rehoboth. As the numbers grew, the congregation increasingly felt the need and desire to become an officially organized congregation. On October 26, 1935, the First Christian Reformed Church of Lacombe was born. In 1936 the first building was built on land given by Mr. J. Bajema.
After WWII, many more immigrants came to the area and joined the congregation of the Christian Reformed Church of Lacombe. Parishioners soon became too many and too spread out for one congregation. New congregations at Rocky Mountain, Red Deer, and Bethel were formed.
For more information and to view the full exhibit please stop by the Flatiron Museum, open 7 days per week from 9-5pm.
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