"HISTORY OF THE SLEYSTER
From Shirley Sleyster's book:
"The descendants of Thomas Sleyster":
as written by
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
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
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
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.
place Aäron added some notes about photographs he does have. I received
the next text from Beverly
Wylie who does have the original of this document. Aäron 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
Then on the side is written "I have these picturs"
and then on the bottom is written "to be continued"
were crossed out, probably because the pictures of the painting and
Roelof's parents were no longer around. So someone else may have crossed
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