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Aron Liesveldt Sleyster (1856-1902)
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"HISTORY OF THE SLEYSTER FAMILY"
   From Shirley Sleyster's book: "The descendants of Thomas Sleyster":

as written by Aaron Sleyster


Aaron Sleyster and Elizabeth Graham
on their weddingday - Nov. 1 1883

My great Grandfather, Roelof Sleyster was born about the middle of the 1700's at Zutphen, a fortified town in the Netherlands, beautifully situated on the right bank of the IJsel in the province of Gelderland. He was married early in life to Johanna Van Oudekerk* the daughter of a nobleman by that name. The marriage was very much against the wishes of her family, for although the young son-in-law was well to do, his family was without a title, hence considered inferior.

It however connected their offspring with the nobility, according to the custom of the country it entitled them to the title "Van Oudekerk" to their name, thereby showing the mothers blood in their veins. He was a gunsmith by profession and by careful management gained in wealth very rapidly during the peaceful reign of the Prince of Orange and reared a family of thirteen children, of which my Grandfather Jan Willem, born December 3, 1792 was the fifth child.

The following year 1793 France declared war against Holland, whereupon my great grandfather signed a contract to manufacture a large number of guns for the government.

A year later 1794, the French armies overran the country and the feeble resistance of the Netherland force was of no avail with the great Napoleon armies and the Royal family fled to England for safety until the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo in 1815. During this period my great grandfather's family with hundreds of others were reduced to utmost proverty. He, having invested his all in the manufacture of war implements and not receiving any pay, was left utterly destitute. The French troops which invaded the country for twenty years had completely destroyed its prosperity and kept its populace in a deplorable condition of destitution.

In 1815 after the dismemberment of the French Empire the Orange Family returned to Holland and once more united altho peace was not fully restored until many years afterwards. My ancestor never recovered the losses sustained during the war, however, he was given a position as Aanspreaker (Town Beadle) which he held until his death.
 

On this place Aron added some notes about photographs he does have. I received the next text from Beverly Wylie who does have the original of this document. Aron wrote here:

    "The accompaning illustration is a photograph taken from a painting of my Great Grandfathers last home in the suburbs Zutphen. The painting was executed by Van Poekeran, an Amsterdam Artist of considerable skill but whose low morals kept him from attaining the fame he merited. J. Sleyster, a photograph taken from life when he was beyond the four score period of life. Jacoba Anderson Sleyster, Photo taken from an old water color. The painting was executed about 1820 when she was past forty (40) years old."

Then on the side is written "I have these picturs"
and then on the bottom is written "to be continued"

Some lines were crossed out, probably because the pictures of the painting and Roelof's parents were no longer around. So someone else may have crossed them out.

On the first day of February 1814, my Grandfather Jan Willem Sleyster married Jacoba Anderson, born April 1, 1786 at Dieren. She was the daughter of Arent Anderson and his wife Grada Van Dijke. Arent Anderson was an Englishman (altho his given name Arent is of Dutch origin). He came to Holland in his boyhood, became infatuated with a farmer's daughter, who he afterward married, and still on a farm at Dieren where they resided until death. Shortly after my grandfathers marriage they moved to the Village of Velp where he followed his trade as painter with considerable success. At the time of his marriage he was scarcely worth a dollar.

While at the death of his wife about a quarter of a century afterwards he had amassed several thousand. They had five children of which my Father, Roelof Sleyster born December 25, 1815 was the second son. He was removed from school at a very early age to assist Grandfather in his profession and was taught to wield the paint brush before he was ten years of age and followed it without intermission until he was 27 years old and when grandmother departed and as the law of that country demands, that upon a mother's death, one-third of the property be equally divided among the children as soon as they became of age.

My Father fell heir to a small sum of money which he expended for an education, applying himself day and night with such energy that at the end of four years he nearly passed the Arnhem College. One more year there he would have finished his courses but lack or funds compelled him to abandon the idea of further schooling, so he reluctantly withdrew and immigrated to Milwaukee, Winconsin in 1846, where he followed his trade as painter during the day time and pursued his studies evenings for the period of one year at the close of which he could read the English language admirably.

Before my Father bid farewell to his native shore, he had formed the acquaintance of Johanna Liesveld. She was the daughter of Hendrik J. Liesveld who was born at Arnhem January 1, 1791 and his wife Evadina Nes Ouck born April 12, 1794 at Arnhem. They were united in marriage on the 13th day of November, 1816, from which union issued five children of which Johanna was the third, born April 6, 1822. Losing both parents before she was five years old she was reared in the "Niuwe Wess Huis" at Arnhem which is a burger (middle class) orphan home, one of the best in the country, where she received a better education than her parents possibly could have given her had they lived. Besides her education she received thorough training in housekeeping, cooking, vocal music and all kinds of fancy needle work then known to the art.

In 1847 she forsook the home of her childhood, the beautiful city of Arnhem on the Rhine and departed for America. She was married at Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Roelof Sleyster on the 26th day of July, 1847 and shortly thereafter they settled on a farm in Fondulac County, Wisconsin where my Father was attracted by the glowing reports of Land Agents. Though in reality it was nothing but a wilderness among the Indians away from the market and communication of the world.

He induced a few of his country men to join him and it resulted in the immense Dutch settlement of that section today. The first years of their married life on the frontier were full of hardship and difficulty. Neither of my parents being accustomed to agriculture made their labors doubly annoying. But they bore their vexations and trials with fortitude until year by year they became more familiar with their new vocation and the duties of rural life became less burdensome as the advantages of civilization came within reach.

At this point in the history Aaron took ill and died.

*) My records indicate spelling Van Ouwerkerk