Chicago's "Groninger Hoek": The origins and development of the Dutch colony on the Old West Side in the 19th century

Of the three original Dutch colonies in Chicago founded in the 1840s, the Old West Side community that became known as the Groninger Hoek or Quarter is the most interesting. It began without the group migration of a dominie and his congregation, it was culturally and religiously diverse, and economically disadvantaged. The earliest settlers hailed from allover the Netherlands. Its polyglot population included Dutch Calvinists, Catholics, Lutherans, Jews, Unitarians, liberal Socialists, and the nominally churched. All lived interspersed among other immigrant groups, notably Germans, Russian and Polish Jews, and Bohemians. Yet from such unpromising beginnings, under the leadership of Dominie Bernardus De Bey, pastor of the First Reformed Church of Chicago, the West Side community evolved into a socially homogeneous, religiously orthodox and economically prosperous settlement that has maintained an identity for more than one hundred years.

My paper describes the origins and development of the West Side Dutch community, noting particularly the change that occurred in the decade after the Civil War when the area became the Groninger Hoek. Out of cultural diversity came unity, out of spiritual indifference came Calvinist orthodoxy and intense loyalty to the Reformed churches, and out of poverty came middle class respectability and even prosperity for some. The West Side story will be placed within the broader context of the history of all of the Dutch in Chicago.

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