Nijenhuis, Gerharda Aleida (Dorcas)

This article is about Dorcas A. Newhouse, originally Gerharda Aleida Nijenhuis, who came to America in 1847 on a sailboat that was shipwrecked. Dorcas survived and wrote a short memoir about her life when she was about 80 years old.


Dorcas A. Newhouse was born in Winterswijk, Holland, January 2nd 1830 and came to this country at the age of seventeen. Father died when I was only nine months old.  Mother lived a widow five years and then married G.W. Hesselink, by whom she had four children, two boys and two girls. Little Mary, (half sister) almost six years old died on board and was buried in the sea the night before we shipwrecked. The Pilot, going to sleep, let the vessel drift onto rocks, from which we were taken in rowboats as no larger ones could get to us. We were taken to the Island Cuby [Cuba] where we had to stay about a week before a vessel came along to take us to New Orleans. We got off there from the vessel onto a boat and landed in St. Louis in January, where in March my blest mother died a devoted Christian mother – think of so soon in a strange country being left without a mother.

A few days before she left us she told me she would not live long. I cried and said, ‘Mother, what would I do?’ She said, ‘My child, God will take care of you.’ He has. Glory be to His name. But the family are all gone but one brother and myself and I expect eer long to meet them.

(I wrote this March 1st 1910, age 80 years.)

Background information

Gerharda/Dorcas said she was born January 2, 1830, but the emigration list says is was January 2, 1831 and that date corresponds better with the date of her parents’ marriage.

She was the daughter of Jan Hendrik Nijenhuis, b. ca 1806 Winterswijk, son of Gradus Nijenhuis and Aleida Geertruid Kappers, and Hilleken Sieverdink, b.4 Sep 1808, daughter of Gerrit Jan Sieverdink and Marrieja/Maria Elisabeth Kaspers. 

Jan Hendrik and Hilleken married 28 April 1830 Winterswijk. Hilleken’s second husband was Gerrit Willem Hesselink, b.13 Jan 1808 Aalten, d.19 Apr 1867 Westfield, Chautauqua Co, NY, son of Gerrit Hendrik Hesselink and Janna Rademaker. Gerrit Willem later married Janna Geertruid Rooks, b.30 Apr 1823 Winterswijk, d.3 Jan 1892 Amsterdam, NY, daughter of Jan Rooks and Janna Berendina Hesselink.

Dorcas herself married a non-Dutch man caled Sanford Fox. She died 3-9-1910 in Panama, Chautauqua Co, NY, and is buried in Union Cemetery there.

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