From 1848 till 1960 a group of catholics from the province North-Brabant in the Netherlands (called Brabanders) immigrated to the village Little Chute (Wisconsin) in the United States. Most of them were from northeast-Brabant, from villages such as Uden, Zeeland, Nistelrode and Boekel.

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The Dutch emigrants from the province North-Brabant, called Brabanders, arrived in Little Chute, Wisconsin in 1848. This village did not have much to it yet. It still had to be built from scratch. Forests were cut down in order to make space for buildings and fields.

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Wim & Willem are doing research on the genealogy of the people that immigrated as of 1848 from the north of Brabant.

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The Hollandtown Schut is founded in 1849 by the establishers of the village Hollandtown. About eight Brabant families left Little Chute together with missionary Godthardt, to a hill about eight kilometers further up.

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St Norbert Abbey is in the town De Pere. This monastery was established by the Norbertine Bernard Pennings from Gemert. In 1879 Pennings joined the abbey Berne in Heeswijk.

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Piet Arts & Marie Arts-Dortmans

Residence: Little Chute
Origins: Volkel & Uden
Background: Piet Arts is from Volkel and Marie Dortmans is from Uden.

Piet and Marie got married on the 8th of June in 1960 in Uden, the Netherlands. A few weeks later, on the 29th of June 1960, they left together to go to Little Chute.

Piet and Marie were the last to immigrate from the province of North-Brabant to Little Chute.

Piet was the one who took the initiative to leave Brabant. At first, he considered Australia and New-Zealand since a lot of people from Volkel had gone there. But in the end, they decided to follow his brother Jan that immigrated to Little Chute earlier on. Jan convinced Piet to come over. Piet was a bricklayer who were much needed in Little Chute.

For the first few days in their new hometown Piet and Marie stayed with Piet’s brother and his family. Since they had small children, they decided to look for a different place to stay. They ended up by Johanna Sanders. She had immigrated to Little Chute as early as 1908 and also came from Uden which connected the three of them. Piet and Marie ended up living with Johanna Sanders for two years.

Soon after their arrival Piet could start as a bricklayer. The couple did well in their new hometown and had three daughters together. At first, they spoke Dutch at home but as soon as their kids started high school, they spoke more and more English. Piet and Marie are still speaking a mix of ‘Brabant’s’ (dutch dialect from the province of North-Brabant) and English together.

Piet and Marie keep many Dutch traditions alive in Little Chute and amongst other they organize a yearly Dutch fair. Piet was also one of the driving forces behind the Dutch windmill that was built in 2012.

They also kept in touch with a lot of other Brabanders that had immigrated to the Fox Valley in the 50’s and 60’s. They celebrated Sinterklaas together, had a Dutch dancing club and a card club. However, with old age it has become very difficult o keep in touch with the other Brabanders. A lot of them have passed away or becoming less mobile due to aging.

Piet and Marie have lived in Little Chute for 60 years now. In June 2020 they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. In the spring of 2020 Piet turned 90 years old and Marie is 85 years old.


Jo van den Acker

Residence: Kaukauna
Origins: Uden
Background: Jo is born in 1927 in Uden.

Jo grew up in poverty. He lived together with his parents, five older brothers and four sisters in a small house. He slept with his brothers in the attic where there was mice and rats. Jo went to Mulo, a school in Uden, but when he turned 15 his father took him out of school. Jo had to start working, as they needed money at home. Jo started working at a laundromat and earned a dime per hour.

In 1945 Jo started working for a former city and region transporter in the province of North-Brabant called the BBA. There he met his wife Tinie. Jo and Tinie got married in church on the 13th of October 1953. In the Netherlands they had two children, a boy and a girl. In 1958 they decided to leave The Netherlands. During this time there was a lot of poverty and they simply wanted to give their kids a better life. They immigrated to the Fox Valley because Jo’s brother was already living there.

Ten days after they arrived Jo had gotten a job as a car mechanic. Two years later he started to work at the paper factory in Kimberly. Jo did not like the work there but his income was higher than his previous job. Five years later Jo started to work as a maintenance mechanic at a beer brewery. He worked there for about 30 years.

In America they have another daughter. Jo, Tinie and their three kids made the best of the situation in their new home town.

Jo likes to keep his Dutch eating habits. He still eats ‘speculaas’ (a Dutch delicatesse) on his bread and in his kitchen cabinet he always keeps a package of ‘Hagelslag’, Dutch chocolate sprinkles.

In the summer of 2020 Jo will celebrate his 93rd birthday. He still lives on his own. His wife Tinie lives in a nursing home. Jo visits his wife every day.

Jo calls his family in the Netherlands daily. He still has three sisters and four brothers whom live there. He is Dutch by blood but slowly but surely, he has started to feel like an American.

Nellie Broeksteeg

Residence: Kimberly
Origins: Nistelrode
Background: Nellie Broeksteeg is born in 1949 in Nistelrode.

Nelly immigrated in 1950 to Kimberly. She was a year and a half old at the time.

This immigration story starts with her mother’s family, family Van Der Wielen, who immigrated to the Fox Valley in 1923 from Lithoijen. Nellie’s mother was ten years old at the time. Nellie’s grandfather just could not get used to The Fox Valley and was homesick. Therefore he went back to Holland in the 1930's, together with his wife and two kids, including Nellie’s mom.

When Nellie’s mom got married, she and her husband moved to Nistelrode, where Nellie was born. When Nellie was a year and a half old her parents decided to leave Brabant. Nellie’s grandparents had passed away and all of her mom’s brothers and sisters where living in America. Her parents decided it was a good time to move back to the States. Nellie’s mom was also terrified of a new war breaking out in Holland. This was another reason for her to move back to the States.

Nellie’s dad started to work as a bricklayer in his new home town. Amongst other houses he built the house where Nellie grew up and where she still lives up till this day.

The first few years Nellie spoke Dutch but after a while it became more of a mix and then fully English. She still understands Dutch just fine and still speaks a little

Nellie feels more Dutch than she feels American. She has considered moving to back to The Netherlands but has decided to stay in Fox Valley.

Trish van Lith

Residence: Hollandtown
Origins: Maren en Hedel
Background: Trish is born in Wisconsin in 1962.

Her parents, Albert van Lith and Annie Michels, immigrated in 1956 from The Netherlands to Kimberly (The Fox Valley).

Her dad was from Maren (province of North-Brabant) and her Mom was from Hedel (province of Gelderland). Hedel was bombed in the second world war and the entire village was destroyed. Trish’ granddad was captured by the Germans and didn’t return to his family. The war left a big mark on Trish’ mom and that is why she wanted to leave the Netherlands. They already had a family member living in Fox Valley, which made the decision to go to America quite easy.

They left with their two kids by boat to travel to the United States. There they had six more children which Trish was one of. She was born in 1962 in Wisconsin.

Within the family the spoke English. Dutch was her parent’s secret language. Which caused Trish to be confused if something was a Dutch or English word. When she was 12 years old, she traveled to Holland for the first time. Slowly but surely, she has learned more of the Dutch language.

Trish travels to Holland quite frequently. She has by now been there over 25 times. She loves mardigrass (Carnaval) and celebrates this frequently in Den Bosch. She also tries to honor some of the Dutch traditions. In her own café in Little Chute: Trish Pop’s In Again she celebrates Queens day and at every birthday they sing ‘Lang zal ze leven’ (the Dutch version of happy birthday) Trish is an American but she feels Dutch.

Arnold Verstegen

Residence: Little Chute
Origins: Zeeland (dorp)
Background: Arnold Verstegen was born in 1820 in the Dutch village Zeeland in the province North-Brabant.

Arnold and his brother Johannes are some of the first people from the province North-Brabant to have immigrated to Little Chute. In 1850 he and his first wife, Anna Maria Biemans, and their four kids left for the United States.

Arnold grew up being a farmer. Together with his brother he was very productive in Little Chute. They built a watermill along the Fox river, which they named it after their birthplace, the Zeeland Mills. In 1930 when the mill no longer belonged to the family Verstegen but by family Hietpas (another Dutch family) it burnt down and sadly was not rebuilt.

In Little Chute Arnold and Anna Maria had seven more kids. A few of their children passed away at a young age. Shortly after the birth of their youngest child his wife Anna Maria also passed away. Hence Arnold went back to the Netherlands to look for a new wife. He found a new wife and after the wedding ceremony they went back to Little Chute. Together they had twelve more kids. Arnold Verstegen passed away in 1900.

Arnold Verstegen is well known because of letters he wrote describing his new life in a new home country. These letters were written to the family members of his first wife. The original letters are now to be found in the St. Norbert Abbey, a monastery in De Pere. All existing letters have been translated to English.

There are many descendants of Arnold Verstegen in Little Chute one of them being Patricia Murphy.

Patricia Murphy

Residence: Appleton
Origins: Zeeland
Background: Patricia is a descendant of Arnold Verstegen.

Arnold was her great great grandfather. Her great grandfather was Hermanus Verstegen. He was son of Arnold and his first wife Anna Maria and born 1858.

Patricia does the upkeep of Arnold’s grave at the cemetery in Little Chute. This is a tradition that she has taken over from her mom and grandmother. Patricia traveled to the Netherlands in 2018 to find her Dutch roots. One of the places she traveled to was Zeeland, birthplace to Arnold Verstegen before he immigrated to Little Chute.

Patricia has no children. She is considering starting a fund so the grave of Arnold Verstegen will be taken care of after she passes away.

Tom vande Wettering

Residence: Hollandtown
Origins: Uden
Background: The ancestors of Tom immigrated in 1853 from Uden to Hollandtown.

The ancestors of Tom, Franciscus Van de Wetering and Hendrina van de Burgt immigrated in 1853 with three kids from Uden to Hollandtown.

They started a farm with dairy cows. In 1858 their son Peter was born, great grandfather to Tom.

Tom and his family still live at the original farm which his ancestors started and it is still a dairy farm today. Tom is now the fifth generation to run this farm. The next generation Van de Wetering is already good to go to take over the farm.

The Hollandtown Schut’ is an important tradition to his family. Family Van de Wetering has been a part of the shooting club since 1853. Tom’s sons have also continued this Dutch tradition. At the moment Tom is the treasurer. In 1994 he even was the king. Tom is proud of his Dutch roots.

Pat Feldkamp-Van Boxtel & Dave Feldkamp

Residence: Wrightstown
Origins: Uden & Winterswijk
Background: Pat’s great grandfather, Peter van Boxtel was born in Uden 1870.

In May of 1893 he got on to the boat departing from Antwerp to New York. He travelled from New York to Little Chute. In 1895 in Appleton he married his first wife Johanna Maria Heesakkers.

After his first wife passed away, he returned to Brabant to find a new partner. In April of 1920 he got married to his second wife in Uden. A week after they got married, they made the journey back to the United States and settled in Little Chute.

Peter van Boxtel had 22 kids and by now hundreds of descendants.

Dave’s ancestors left to travel to the other side of the ocean earlier on. His great grandfather, Lambertus Feldkamp, who was born in Winterswijk left together with his mom and his stepdad in 1847 to go to the United States. In 1894 their son bought the farm on which Dave and Pat still live to this day.

Dave and Pat are proud of their Dutch roots.

The idea for this movie came from a newspaper article in 2013. This article described a ‘Brabantse’ windmill that was built in Little Chute. A ‘Brabant’s windmill in a small village in The United States, that caught our interest.

We did research and ended up by Wim Rovers and Willem Keeris from the village Zeeland. They told wonderful stories about the migration from Brabant to Little Chute and Fox Valley that spanned over many years. Beautiful stories that had to be told.

For the past few years we have been working day and night on this subject, the end result being this documentary.





Johanna Sanders

Johanna Sanders immigrated in 1908 from Uden to America. She welcomed many families that immigrated to Little Chute. Amongst others Piet & Marie Arts.


Nellie's mother

Nellie’s mother immigrated twice to The United Sates. She immigrated for the first time in 1913 and then again in 1950.

A Visit to North-Brabant

In 2018 a group of Americans visited Brabant from The Fox Valley. They were looking to discover their roots.


In 2012 a Dutch windmill was built in Little Chute. Gene Janssen gives a guided tour and tells us the history of Little Chute becoming a Dutch colony.

Join us!

There are still many family ties between North-Brabant and the Fox Valley. Not all of them are well known because they go back generations. With our project we would like to bring the current generations in North-Brabant and Fox Valley together. People do not only share their Dutch last names, but they form pieces of the same history and share important roots. Our background and names gives us a sense of belonging and help shape you as a person. Wherever you might be and wherever you grow up in the world: you always carry your roots with you.

Do you want to reach out to family in the Fox Valley or in North-Brabant? Visit our Facebookpage and get in contact with one other!



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