An interview in 1940
of Jacoba Rijniera Sleyster, daughter of Roelof Sleyster
This is an interview of John Ditmar (a friend of J.J.M. van den Burgh) in 1940, held with Jacoba Sleyster, which was then 81 years old, and lived in East Franklinstreet 100, Waupun, Wisconsin, U.S.A.
The interview was spoken and was written down in English and later translated by W. Jezeer, who was probably the son of the spouse(?) of Reinira, the cousin of Jacoba Rijniera:
My great-grandfather was born in the middle of the 18th century at Zutphen, a city located to the right bank of the IJssel, a river in Gelderland.
Early in his life he married Johanna van Ouwerkerk. She was the daughter of a nobelman [note 1]. This marriage was against the wish of her family, because although Roelof Sleyster was a well-to-do man, her family could have no pleasure with it, according to the insights of those days. Roelof Sleyster was a weapon blacksmith or gun maker. He acquired himself rapidly a large fortune; his marriage was blessed with fifteen children. The fifth child, Jan Willem Sleyster, my grandfather, was born on 3 December 1792 [note 2]. The Prince of Oranje was then still in the Netherlands.
France proclaimed in 1793 the war to the Netherlands, on which my great-grandfather signed a contract for the supply of a large number of guns to the state. One year later, 1794, the Netherlands was trampled under the foot by the French army. The weak resistance of the Dutch army useless compared with the large Napoleon and its army.
The princely family escaped to United Kingdom untill the fall of Napoleon at Waterlo in 1815, [note 3]. During this period my great-grandfather's family reached, with hundreds others, the largest poverty. All capital he had have been put in war material, guns and armaments. He lost everything what he had, because there was no money in the country. To him was never paid back. The country was too poor. Everything he had lost. Some what he could get was the position of gravedigger and city announcer. On the first day of January 1814 [note 4] Jan Willem Sleyster married with Jacoba Anderson. She was born 1 April 1786 at Dieren [city between Zutphen and Arnhem], daughter of Arend Anderson and his wife Grada van Dijke. This Arend Anderson was an Englishman, although his first name is Dutch. He came in his youth to the Netherlands, got courtship with a farmers daughter which he married afterwards. Untill his dead he lived on a farm near Dieren.
Concerning their son-in-law, my father; he moved shortly after its marriage with Jacoba Anderson to Velp [village near Arnhem]. This Jan Willem Sleyster was very poor at his marriage, but he had a considerable capital at the death of his wife. She died in 1839. They had high-minded children, of which my father, Roelof Sleyster, born 25 December 1825 [note 5], was the second son. He was early taken from, in order to help his father with painting. This he did up to he was 27 years old. Then he got the him belonging part of his mothers heritage. This money he spend on his own further development. He worked day and night and in 4 years he had completed its study almost. But lack of money prevented him of completing the study. He left to America and established himself now in the state Wisconsin, in the city Milwaukee. There he worked and completed its study.
Before my father went to America, he had came in acquaintance with Johanna Liesveld. She was the daughter of Hendrik J. Liesveld, born 1-1-1794 at Arnhem, and his wife Evadina Zuck, born 12 April 1794 in Arnhem. They were married on 13 November 1816 in Arnhem. From this marriage five children were born, of which Johanna was the third, born 6 April 1822. Becauseshe lost her both parents before she became 5 years, she was raised in the "Nieuwe Weeshuis" ["New Orphanage"] at Arnhem, one of the best orphanages in the Netherlands. She received an education, improves then her parents could have given her. She was a good housekeeper, also a good singer and a music lover. In 1847 she also went to America and married 26 July 1847 at Milwaukee with Roelof Sleyster.
They bought a farm, but he proved to be a miserable farmer. That was not wondrous because his actual profession was that of painter. But an always increasing number of Dutch friends of him established themselves in the state Wisconsin as emigrants, so he progressed shortly. As a pioneer in this Dutch settlement he did much good, by offering aid to each that was in difficulties.
At Sunday he did also preach. In later years he became a rich landowner. So this family belonged to the founders of the Dutch settlement in Wisconsin. The farm where Roelof Sleyster and his wife lived and where 10 children were born, remained to Ms Sleyster up to the time of her dead.
Some observations at the interview:
A remark on the copy of this interview mentions: "Jacoba is therefore a full cousin of all the children of Jacobus Gerardus Sleyster and Gerarda de Vries."
Some notes at the text of the interview:
note 1: This is incorrect, probably as a result of a permutation with another Ouwerkerk
note 2: Birth date J.W. Sleyster must be: 1-12-1792
note 3: Date Battle of Waterloo was before 1813
note 4: Mariage date of Jan Willem Sleyster must be: 1-2-1815
note 5: Birth date of Roelof Sleyster must be: 25-12-1815
Reinira died in 1950