Simon Dekker’s book “History of Roseland and Vicinity” written in 1938 is a goldmine of information about Roseland and what some of its early inhabitants were doing. Simon arrived with his family (his sister is my paternal great grandmother Gertrude Dekker) in Roseland in 1865 when he was 11 years old, just sixteen years after the original founders arrived. He goes into detail about the founders, their lives, and also touches upon almost every aspect of early Roseland: businesses, schools, churches, stores, roads, railroads, and other aspects.
Some of his passages are an interesting look into what life was like for his their father, Arie Dekker. Talking about his father in the early days they were there after arriving in America, he mentioned they lived in a shack on Klaas Madderom’s land for nine months:
My father was a laboring man, working at whatever he could get. For quite a while he worked for an American, Mr. Murray by name….But when fall came father was laid off. Then he applied for a job on the Illinois Central Railroad, where he was taken temporarily, and when winter came he was again laid off, getting a job here and there. And when the spring came into the land he got a steady job on the railroad again. But the distance from his work, and from church and school was too great to remain in the shack in the woods, so we got the privilege to put up a little house, or call it a shack on Railroad company ground on ninety-five street, which he did and so in the early spring of 186(number cut off), we left the shack on the edge of the woods to go to our new home on company ground. Father had only five minutes to walk to his work. My father worked on the Illinois Central for five or six years straight not missing a day if he was well, and this was necessary for coming to this country, and the expenses all paid by an uncle of mine, there was some hard thinking to be done to get the debt paid.
I tried to find old photos of exactly where this “shack” may have been with no luck, and believe it to be in Burnside, which used to be part of Roseland. There is a triangle where all of the railroads meet and 95th Street is on the lower bottom end of the triangle, now near where Chicago State University is located.
My father confirmed that the “IC” ran north and south approximately somewhere around Cottage Grove Avenue on 95th Street, and that 95th Street is/was definitely part of Burnside. I did find this photo of the area, this is at 9500 S. Cottage Grove:
One summer he worked for the town of Hyde Park and he also worked in the brickyard at Burnside. The children grew up and earned something by working out or taking onions to share and so all our debts were paid…Our parents got new courage and went into debt again by buying five acres of land on Wallace Street at 106th for $1600.00 without a house on it. Our next door neighbor was building a new house and we bought his old one which had to be moved only a few feet.
The home he built no longer exists, but this is the area of the land that Simon described, at 10600 S. Wallace Street:
He did not have the money to pay for the land, only a small payment down, so there was a lot of debt to work for again. He rented the five acres next to it and started market gardening, and the children all doing their best to help along. The Lord blessing the labor of our hands, that debt was soon paid and at old age father had accumulated enough retire. He had learned gardening in the old country, a work to his liking. In that we differed. I never did like it. Our tastes were not alike. When father retired he built a small cottage nearer to church to spend the last years with mother there.
Simon’s mother, my great-great grandmother, Aaltje (Alice) (Schoon) Dekker, died in 1894. There is no 1890 census, but in the 1900 census, Arie is listed as living at 117 W. 110th Place, and by that time, he had remarried to Maartje (Mary) Hart, in 1897. I’m assuming this is probably the same place Simon is referring to since it is less than a mile from the church (if he’s referring to the First Reformed Church of Roseland, which I am assuming he is). There is no house left at this address, but here is where it would have been, I’m assuming there used to be a house there because of the sidewalk leading up from the street:
All of this helps to show some of the things Arie Dekker was doing after he came to this country, what kinds of jobs he had, etc. Information from records help to shape a story or a glimpse of someone’s life, but Simon Dekker told the entire story and I just added some pictures. I’m sure I’ll be including more of his pages in future posts.
Thanks for reading!