Geertje ‘Kate' vanDam 1856-1933

Written by Aunt Kate in first person just a few years before she died.

Kate vanDam Evans was born at Heukelum Holland on June 28, 1856 , the daughter of Jan Cornelius vanDam and Maarigje Exalto. She came to America with her parents on the sailing vessel Hudson and her parents were then about 33 years of age. They came as immigrants and converts of the Mormon faith. They left Holland in May 1864.

Arriving in America , they started their journey for Utah by train. The train was similar to present boxcars; the women and children rode on the inside and the men rode on top. The weather was very rainy and my father contracted a severe cold. After leaving the train, we joined the company of Captain Hyde. The Dutch immigrants had their own team miss but were invited to travel with Captain Hyde's company.

My father's occupation in Holland was that of a boatman which is similar to a freighter in America . My father never got over his cold and shortly after starting across the plains he died, possibly from pneumonia. A crude lumber box was made and he was buried on the plains. I do not know the name of the place. A few months later my mother gave birth to a baby girl, Cornelia. Mother also died from lack of proper care, and grief over the death of father. When she died it was impossible to get lumber, and she was wrapped in a blanket and buried at the place where she died.

My oldest brother, Herbert inquired about mother in the morning and was told that she was a little better. He was sent out for firewood, and when he returned at noon she was dead. The children were not permitted to see either father or mother after they died. We were put in a tent and told to stay there. I lifted the side of the tent and saw my mother carried to her grave on the plains. The baby lived and came to Utah with the rest of us orphans.

We arrived in Salt Lake City Utah in October 1864. I had one brother older than I, and three younger sisters. Bishop Hunter was in charge of the widows and orphans and without the formality of adoption, we were given out to whomever would take us. Myself and a younger sister Lottie were taken to Grantsville Tooele County , Utah . She going to the woolly family and me to the William Rydalch family. My brother Herbert and sister Nellie were taken by the Moses Thurston family in Salt Lake , City Utah . Mrs. Thurston later became Mrs. Kinney and lived in their house on Main Street between third and fourth South streets until her death. Our baby sister, Cornelia was taken by a family named Woods, who later went to Arizona . We did not see her again until she was about 14 years of age. Herbert and I were both married.

I was married to Edward Holding Evans on November 8, 1865 , and my brother Herbert married Mary Evans, my husband's sister, on the same day. From this union, I am the mother of 10 children, nine of whom are living. Seven boys and two girls. One girl died when a baby. All of my children are married and doing nicely. I am grandmother to 26 children and great-grandmother to six children.

When we as children were given away, I was chosen by the Rydalch family because I was the largest and could help with the work, and I was given plenty of work. I went barefooted for four years. On one occasion, the lady was doing some work for Mrs. Rydalch saw one of the boys skimming the milk and drinking the cream and called Mrs. Rydalch's attention to it, which made things a little easier for me. Another time Mrs. Rydalch put some candy in the cupboard and I was accused of taking it, but it was taken by one of the boys. His mother later asked him if he had taken the candy and he admitted that he had, but frequently I was blamed for this mischief. I begged Bishop Hunter to give me to someone else as life seemed almost unbearable at the Rydalch home. Bishop Hunter finally realized conditions and permitted me, after four years, to come and live with the Thurston's who were caring for my brother and one of my sisters. From that time on, I have had a good home.