Dirk Hoornstra, the Immigrant

visit-with-dirk-hoornstra.jpg That’s him on the far right, the one with the shades and the goatee.  Dirk Hoornstra, the Dutch Immigrant.  His migration was not a romantic adventure to the New World.  He went to sea as a boy and impulsively decided to jump ship at the Soo Locks contruction site somewhere in his young adulthood.  And there he was.  He worked, saved, and sent for his first cousin, Maggie DeGroot, back in Holland.  He proposed marriage in the letter, she answered yes, if she could bring a brother or two, I assume as escorts.

Starting from left to right, back row, granddaughter Doris Smart Murphy, daughter Johanna Hoornstra, Joseph Henry Smart, son-in-law twice over, and Dirk.  Standing in front are Mary Lois and Ralph, Mom’s first two.  Dirk is the patriarch.

Johanna was known as Honey from childhood.  Dirk never totally mastered the ebb and flow of the English language through his heavy Dutch accent and “Johanna” came out sounding like “Honey”.   Honey she was for life.  She and her sister Mary, my grandmother, married two brothers, Will and J.Henry Smart.  The short version is that Mary died and Will died and Honey and JH married at sixty-something.  My uncle Lester never ceased to tease them about their elopement to Detroit and was a shotgun involved?

As he grew older and more dependent on others, Dirk lived with them in their small house in town.  His white goatee and his pipe characterized him.  Like clockwork, he would retire to his upstairs room after breakfast, read the paper, light his pipe and methodically pace the floor, holding his pipe in place with his hand rather than bother with his miserable dentures.  Mom said it was a comfort to relax over her tea in that little kitchen below and hear his slippered footsteps move slowly back and forth, back and forth, the floor boards gently squeaking.

Mom was probably the cuddliest and huggiest member of the Hoornstra-Smart clan.  Their origins were Holland and Scotland, chilly climates, a conservative people, Presbyterian and proud of it, too.   Their faith and their bonds were solid, sealed, and water tight.  Dirk was the respected leader, the founder of the American family branch, and honored.  He was a leader in the community, well known, distinctive.  I’ll bet his eyes sparkled.  I think he was a good man.  Mom spoke highly and fondly of him and made sure that the very old patriarch spent time with his great-grandchildren.

She kept good track of her dad and aunt Honey.  She visited often and being the depression, I imagine they generously filled out her budget with regular meals.  Sometime around 1934 or 1935, Dirk quietly passed away.  It might be “time to go” but for those left holding the reins, it’s never good timing.  This only drew the three of them closer.

Mom and Aunt Honey told me that after Dirk was gone, there were many mornings in that little kitchen that they smelled pipe smoke and heard the upstairs floor creak under soft foot steps pacing back and forth, back and forth.  Comforting.

6 thoughts on “Dirk Hoornstra, the Immigrant

  1. my name is joel smart, i do beleive the picture shows my great grandfather joeseph henry smart. The story of two brothers marrying two sisters was told to me by my mother after my father died. To actually see a picture of my great grandfather is amazing. THANKS! Whoever wrote this article could you please send more information or copies of pictures to me, I would greatly appreciate it.


    • Joel, I just saw your comment this morning. I have been away from my blog for over two years writing a novel incorporating family stories and characteristics into a fictional family. What information do you have on the Smart ancestors? I have quite a bit but can’t get past J.Henry’s grandfather, Sam, who migrated from Ireland. I would be extremely interested in the descendants and where you fit in. You can reach me here but maybe email is more practical. nanabrock@gmail.com I look forward to hearing from you. Jane Murphy Brock, granddaughter of Joseph Henry Smart, daughter of Doris Smart Murphy.


  2. I enjoyed reading your blog. It brought many memories of my childhood and also reminded me of how lucky I was to have all of the aunts and uncles around almost on a daily, weekly basis. I enjoyed your families visits each summer. It was a wonderful childhood.



    • Jim!!! How are you? I don’t seem to save enough vacation days for the reunion what with one kid and family in Minnesota and the other kid and grandkids in Seattle. I have 3 grandsons and 1 granddaughter. I just recently saw your comment as I have been away from blogging for over two years, maybe more. Instead I have been networking on Facebook (talk about shallow!) and writing a novel incorporating memories and characteristics from family in it. A better communication link is nanabrock@gmail.com I would love any further information you have on Smarts on the tree both backward and current cousin charting and news of what you’re up to. Perhaps a trip to TN? Take care and let’s keep in touch. Jane


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