Clymer is a predominantly Dutch village in the western part of New York State. Because it was relatively close to New York City, it became a popular destination for Dutch emigrants in the nineteenth century. Most of the early settlers came from the eastern part of Gelderland.
Chautauqua County, the southwestern county of New York State, was founded in 1808. The village of Clymer was founded in this county in 1821. The town was named after George Clymer, an eminent Pennsylvanian and one of the signers of the declaration of independence.
The land in Chautauqua county was purchased by the Holland Land Company, that sold the land to immigrants. Many immigrants arrived in New York City and then travelled on to Albany with the intent to cross the Great Lakes. In Albany, they were approached by people from the Holland Land Company and interested in buying land in Chautauqua.
Landscape in Clymer
The Dutch settled in many villages in Chautauqua County, but most of them settled in Clymer. The first Dutch immigrants arrived there in 1844: the Lomans and Navis families from Winterswijk. In 1845, several more Winterswijk families followed. By 1851, about 25 Dutch families were living in Clymer. Most of them settled in the Northwestern part of the town. They settled on the old and the new "plank" roads, the "pork" road, and the town line road between Clymer and Sherman west from the plank road. The pork road was presumably called that because many of the Dutch kept pigs.
Over the next several decades, many more Dutch immigrants settled in Clymer or neighboring villages such as French Creek, Mina and Harmony. Most of them came from Winterswijk and Aalten in Gelderland, although some came from Overijssel, Groningen, Friesland and Zeeland.
In 1845, the Congregational denomination started working among the Dutch. As early as 1846, the church had its own Dutch minister (dominee), Adolph Hesselink from Aalten. He was known as a good preacher. He stayed in Clymer until 1850, when he moved to Muscatine, Iowa.
After his departure, the people in Clymer found Jan Willem Dunnewold from Winterswijk willing to come to them and study to be a minister. It was under his leadership that the church was received into the Reformed Church of America in 1853. Although he was not a great preacher as far as preaching from the pulpit went, he was an excellent pastor to his people. In 1868, he acceped a summons from Gibbsville, WI.
Rev. Dunnewold suggested another man from Winterswijk, Gerrit Jan Renskers, as his successor. The two men knew each other back in Winterswijk and had often had heated arguments about the Secession. Renskers had come to the US in 1846 and was a minister in Zeeland, MI, before coming to Clymer.
It is said that when two Dutchmen get together, they form a church but when three get together, the church is split. This was also true in Clymer. In 1869, eighteen members were given letters of dismissal from the Clymer Hill Church (the motherchurch). The Reformed Church of Clymer was founded.
As early as 1853, a schoolhouse was established to teach the young. It was in use for 86 years. Remarkably, this 'little red schoolhouse' still exists today. It has been designated as a historic place in 1994.
Little red schoolhouse
The Dutch origins of Clymer can still be seen today. Many people in the telephone book have Dutch surnames.
Dutch village restaurant in Clymer
Dutch families that emigrated to Clymer and continue to live there include: Van Albeslo (Armslow), Arnink, Bekerink (Beckering), Bemers, Bensink, Blekkink (Blekking), Boland, Damkot (Damcott), Deunk (Duenk), Dunnewold (Dunnawold), Van Eerden (VanEerden), Einink, Grevink (Gravink), ten Haken (TenHaken), Harmelink, Hesselink, Hoitink/Hoijtink, Holthuis (Holthouse), Te Kempel (TeKempel), Te Kolste (TeKolste, TaKolste), Konings (King), Kortschot (Croscutt), Te Kronnie (TaKronnie), Lammers, Legters, Luikenhuis (Lookenhouse), Meerdink, Mensink, Navis, Nekkers (Neckers), Nijenhuis (Newhouse), Oonk, Priester, Reusselink (Reslink), Rikkers (Rickers), Rospas (Raspas), Schreurs (Schruers, Schruis), Slotboom, Vardink (Fardink), Warnshuis, Wiggers, Wilterdink, Te Winkel (TeWinkle, Te Winkle), Wubbels.
This site has stories about some of these Dutch families who settled in Clymer:
Sources and further information