Sunday, December 11, 2011

Disaster - the Flood of 1634

If you are looking for the event that brought Jan Fransse Van Husum and Volkje Juriens together than it is surely the flood of October 11, 1634. This flood was one for the history books. It struck the island of Nordstrand and the neighboring coastal town of Husum on the night. Thousands of lives were lost.

Hardest hit were the North Frisian Islands off the western coast of Schleswig. Among these was the island of Nordstrand where Volkje lived with her parents and sister Annetje. Jan live in the neighboring port city of Husum.

Much has been written by Joyce Lindstrom and others as to whether Jan and Volkje were Frisians, Dutch, German, or even Danish. I doubt there is a simple answer. Originally, the area was settled by the ancient Frisians who were know as far back as Roman times. Then again, by 1634, the area had been settled by numerous Dutch immigrants who were in the process of reclaiming land from the sea with the use of dykes and windmills. After the flood of 1634, hundreds, if not thousands, of survivors made their way to Amsterdam. A number of these emigrated to America.

The storm was intense. Dikes, which had held up for more than 100 years, were destroyed. Over 6,000 people died, dozens of towns were washed away. The island of Nordstand, where 16 year old Volkje lived with her parents and sister, was inundated and broken up into several smaller islands.The town of Husum, just to the east of Nordstrand, was likewise devastated. Farms were rendered useless by the salt water that covered the fields and saturated the ground.

Volkje parents did not survive the storm. Afterwards, she was taken to the neighboring town of Husum. There she met Jan Fransse Van Husum.

The map, dated 1652, to the left is by Johannes Blaeu. The large island of Nordstrand was submerged and broken up into several smaller islands. Blaeu's map shows the majority of the island still underwater in 1652. Those who survived went back to the ancient custom of building houses on a hillock as a defense against the floods.

A chilling eye-witness account of the storm exists. Cor Snabel's story of the Nordstrand flood of 1634.

There was nothing left in Husum and Nordstrand for Jan and Volkje. Later records would reveal that land reclaimed by the sea not recovered by owners reverted to the state. Other settlers were brought in in order to reclaim former lands.

At some point, Jan and Volkje would move to Corte Tuijnstraat in Amsterdam. The word "corte" is Spanish for court or section, and the street (straat) Tuijnstraat still can be found in Amsterdam. The street is just around the corner from the Anne Frank House. It is a little further to the house of  Rembrandt van Rijn, who was then an up and coming painter. Rembrandt married his bride Saskia in the same year as the flood.And in 1639, bride and groom purchased a house on the Jodenbreestraat. Unhappily, Saskia would die two years later.

Jan and Volkje's marriage fared better. In 1639, they would marry in the Nieuwe Kirk of the Dutch Reformed Church. Within months, Jan and Volkje were on their way to New Amsterdam, then to Upstate New York.

There are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people living in the United States who owe their lives to the flood of 1634. My father in law and wife are among the group. Interestingly, Gary Boyd Roberts in Ancestors of American Presidents, p. 13, 269, lists Jan Fransse Van Husum as the sixth great-grandfather of Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., 26th President of the United States of America.

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