Verboort: A Priest & His People photo
Theodore and Mary Van Dyke with their children, Henry, John, Anna, Walter, William, Mary Ann, Theodora, Petronella and Theodore.
Verboort: A Priest & His People photo
Theodore and Mary Van Dyke with their children, Henry, John, Anna, Walter, William, Mary Ann, Theodora, Petronella and Theodore.
For the children of Edward and Sharon Van Dyke, running into friends at church with their own Dutch last name is perfectly normal. At St. Anthony Church alone, there are eight registered Van Dyke families, a small sampling of dozens of distant (and not so distant) relatives peppered around Washington County. Those relatives have also intermarried with the ancestors of other founding families who settled there — Vandeheys, Vanderzandens, Meeuwsens and Herinckxes — creating a concentration of Dutch community in the area.

For the Van Dykes, this countywide genealogical phenomenon started with one man — Theodore Van Dyke.

Born in 1847 in Reek, Holland, Theodore spent his boyhood in an almost-completely Catholic community. Mostly farmers, the Dutch immigrants followed the Irish, after the blight that caused the potato famine in Ireland spread across the English Chanel and Irish Sea to crops in Holland.

Theodore’s mother died when he was 9; his father died three years later. All of the orphaned Van Dyke children, except one, decided to take the long journey to America. Theodore was almost 19 years old when they left.

When they arrived, they joined other families from their homeland in Wisconsin. It was there that Theodore met and married Mary Bernards, and together they traveled to Oregon in 1880, following rumors of temperate weather and ample farmlands. They bought acreage in Verboort.

It was there that Theodore and Mary’s children were born. Theodore and his oldest sons planted giant Sequoia trees near the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Verboort. The cones were gleaned from a trip to Northern California. Those trees today reach higher than 150 feet.

Theodore’s family was also the first in the area to own a car – a 1911 Buick. Son Henry Van Dyke established a successful seed-cleaning business in Verboort. Son Walter married Margaret Joosten and worked as a farmer and ran a dairy. For many years he directed the Visitation choir and his eldest son, Joseph, served for several years as county commissioner. Son William married Alagonda Evers. She was known as “Auntie Allie” and for her beautiful flower arrangements for the church and singing voice.

Said a book marking the Verboort Quadricentennial: “Each weekend, as she lovingly arranged the beautiful bouquets – with flowers, more often than not, from her own garden – she would burst forth in joyous song, and the church would resound with the lovely sacred melodies. Sometimes the pastor, overhearing, would steal in from outside, unnoticed, just to listen and enjoy.”

Other members of the family were brothers Theodore and Henry, sisters Anna, Mary Ann, Theodora and Petronella, as well as two children who died at birth and two who died as infants.

Edward’s grandfather, Joseph, was born to John Van Dyke, husband of Constance Hermens. John was a farmer, brick-maker and carpenter. He taught Joseph and two other sons (out of a family of 11) carpentry skills and many of the homes they built still stand in Washington County.In a personal account of his life, Joseph noted some of the houses he built with his brothers and dad: Among them were homes for Elmer Verboort, Art Verboort, Clem Vanderzanden, and Mickie and Franklin McCoy. Joseph’s dad helped him build his own house where he would live with his wife, Marjorie Porter.

Marjorie and Joseph dated at Verboort High, but had known of each other all through grade school.

“When I was 16 and Joe 18, we became steadies,” Marjorie wrote in a collection of stories about her family. Their first date was to a Hillsboro theater, where they saw a silent comedy starring Buster Keaton. She remembered Joe laughing “outrageously loud,” and being a little embarrassed. Nevertheless, the couple married in 1931 at Visitation church, a ceremony officiated by Father Hugh McDevitt.

Joseph remembered the birth of his first child, Pat, in 1931. His memoirs include stories about his children growing up, including one of Pat as a baby.

“[She] was a pretty baby and was walking at 8 months. Sometimes she would crawl under the table and then stand up and walk around under there, and then bump her head when she tried to come out from under,” he wrote.

The matriarch of the family, Mary, died in 1922, due to complications of influenza. When patriarch Theodore died in 1934, he left behind 54 grandchildren and 34 great-grandchildren. 

Another Van Dyke legacy: Margaret Van Dyke, known to most as Maggie, suggested a sausage and sauerkraut dinner for the annual parish meal in 1938.  Regarding that first parish dinner, the Verboort Centennial said, “the community served 150 dinners, 198 pounds of sausage and 10 gallons of kraut, and it was not enough.”

Joseph was instrumental in helping rebuild Visitation church after it burned down in 1941. The parish couldn’t rebuild immediately because resources were scarce in wartime, but Joseph spent 22 years on the parish committee, which eventually oversaw the rebuilding of the church.

In reflecting on his life (when he penned his memoirs in 1982), Joseph wrote: “As I look back over my 72 years to when we used coal oil lamps and lanterns for light, wood for cooking and heating the house, horses for farming and traveling; the country roads were just dirt, the main street of Forest Grove was planked with boards…We used slates and slate pencils to write with when I started school … Although we had none of the modern conveniences of today, people were more content then than they are now.”

History compiled from the Verboort Quadricentennial, Verboort: A Priest and his People, by Father Scott Vandehey, and the memoirs of Joseph Van Dyke (My Life and Memories) and Marjorie Porter Van Dyke (Dust and Raindrops: Life on a Willamette Valley Farm Fifty Years After the Covered Wagons).