The Settlement of Walvoords in Wisconsin (1849)
Sheboygan County, Wisconsin is divided into a grid of 15 townships. About 6 miles south of the city of Sheboygan, the township of Holland was organized in the spring of 1849 and given the name it retains today.
Holland Township is located in the southeastern corner of the county and is bordered on the east by Lake Michigan, on the north by Wilson and Lima townships, on the west by Sherman township and on the south by Ozaukee county. The first election was held at the house of Sweezy Burr. Edwin Palmer was elected chairman; William Mitchell and Peter Souffrouw, supervisors; Joseph Palmer, clerk; David Cook, assessor; John Pool, treasurer; and William Mitchell, superintendent of Schools. There were sixty-five votes cast.
Before the settlements there was a overabundance of timber consisting of beech, maple, oak, elm, hickory, ash and basswood on the uplands, black ash, swamp elm, tamarack, cedar and butternut on the lowlands and hemlock near the lake. The area is well supplied with streams and springs, the principal stream being Onion river. Since the soil was very productive and the inhabitants principally Hollanders, intensely industrious, the farms yielded bountifully and were among the best in the county. Stock raising was quite an industry as was the cultivation of fruit.
A village was platted out near the mouth of Bark Creek by G. H. Smith and named “Amsterdam” by Hendrik Walvoord.
The three other villages in Holland Township are Oostburg, Cedar Grove and Dacada.
In 1927, seventy-five years after the founding of Amsterdam, a celebration was held on the location of the village to honor the people who built it and share memories. At that time many of the old-timers were still around and their thoughts were reported for several days in the Sheboygan Press. Some excerpts of those articles follow:
“Nearly 75 years ago, on the shores of Lake Michigan just one mile east of the present village of Cedar Grove, stood the thriving village of Amsterdam. It had four stores (Van Tilberg, Walvoord, Stokdyk and Hoyt), three saloons and a blacksmith shop. It also had a rough factory where old-fashioned hogshead barrels were made, and the familiar little red school house (painted the same color used for barns). At the opposite end of the main street were the residences.”
“Amsterdam was a cord-wood town. As the settlers cut down timber, they sawed the trees into cord-wood length. One street running the length of the town served as the main thoroughfare and also as the road over which the logs were hauled to the nearby pier.”
“Hendrik Walvoord was credited for founding the settlement of Amsterdam and although there was no definite reason for naming the town “Amsterdam” it is believed that he wished to give it a name which made the village appear as if the Hollanders settling there had been mainly responsible for its founding. This is true, because most of the early settlers were from the Netherlands, but people of other nationalities soon settled in the thriving and prosperous little village until it was difficult to say which nationality was in the majority.” For some years Amsterdam saw considerable activity and trading but its decline was inevitable when a new railroad was built through the area. This railroad, the Milwaukee, Lake Shore and Western, built a line parallel to the lake shore and about a mile-and-a-half inland. The first train between Milwaukee and Sheboygan passed through Cedar Grove on November 21, 1872. From then on Cedar Grove gradually replaced Amsterdam as a trading place for the settlers and a similar shift of businesses and residences took place a few miles to the north in Oostburg.