Sunday, February 1, 2009


My forebears came from The Netherlands and I have compiled information for posterity regarding our family name click this link

Also is available an interesting history of Dirk Van Doodewaard who fought for Napoleon in Russia in 1810 (click here)

Read the story written by my father about his father in the period around 1925 (click here)

Read the story about the vessel of Dirk Van Doodewaard in 1906 (click here)

Read the story about Lukiena's Centennial Celebration, the vessel of David and Roelof Hukema (click here)

Read the history for the period 1939 to 1950 (click here)

Google the area and compare with a map of 1868. (click here).

Read up on the ancient history of the area of Dodewaard , Echteld , Eldik, IJzendoorn, Kesteren , Ochten, Opheusden from 2100 BC to 2000 AD (see below)

Chris Van Doodewaard


Small settlements were found in this area long before the beginning of the era of the Neoliticum (the new stone age). East of Opheusden and near Dodewaard traces of habitation are found. Around 2100 BC the relatively dry climate made living in the river area possible.

During the subsequent Bronze Age (circa 1800 BC to circa 800 BC) there was continuity of occupation. In several instances small settlements arose on the banks of the many rivers crossing the area. It is known that these people lived on small-scale cultivation, hunting and fishing. This was in the 1970s further confirmed by the discovery of two bronze scythes in Tolsestraat in Opheusden. With the construction of the Betuwelijn railroad trajectory, in many places settlements from the Bronze Age came to light. Often they were in unexpected places. This shows that the low river deltas were once dissected by higher levees which were suitable for habitation. In the early Iron Age, it seems as if the occupants have moved away because discoveries from that time are extremely rare.

In the late Iron Age this changes dramatically and the number of settlements increase enormously. In the whole area of the Lower Betuwe the remains of this civilization are recovered. The residents settled on the relatively high levees along the river. Compared to the Bronze Age these places are characterized by large quantities of sherds, utensils and offal from pigs, cattle and sheep. Apparently, the climatic conditions during this period were very pleasant, creating an environment in which a relatively dense population could arise and there is, in addition to farming, also evidence of small-scale animal husbandry.

Even before the beginning of the era (1AD), the Romans invade this area. They make the Rhine the Northern border of the Roman empire. At fixed distances Castra and Castella (watchtowers and fortresses) are erected on the banks of the river to protect against Germanic tribes who wanted to invade from the North. The name of the city Kesteren in the area is derived from Castra. It is very likely that the towns of Opheusden and Kesteren also had a Castra, but the foundations have not yet been discovered. However, it was not until the seventies of the twentieth century that the Roman burial ground (BC 10 – AD 270) in the Prinsenhof in Kesteren was finally located. That the Roman domination in this area was a major influence is evident from the great quantities of sherds that have been found at the places of the old settlements. There was a lively trade between the occupiers and the residents of the area. Around the year 270 the Romans withdrew to the South. One reason for this were the deteriorating weather conditions, it was becoming much wetter. Another reason was that with regularity hostile tribes from the North attacked the area. In the wake of the withdrawing Romans also many Batavians left the area.


During the ensuing centuries, the Betuwe area almost entirely depopulated. Only in the tenth century, the population grew a little. On the high levees villages emerge. The earliest entries, which are supported by archaeological finds can be traced back to Echteld, Hien and Kesteren. Christian churches were founded in those villages and the residents settled around them. They were tiny societies of several dozen residents who with the help of remote monasteries brought the barren surrounding area (still uncultivated) into culture. Living in those days was only possible on the highest ridges because the rivers in that time were still ungoverned (no dykes) and with regularity the low lying areas were under water. In particular the South facade of the Echteld church gives a beautiful picture of how the earliest churches would have looked. Within the rural communities noble families emerge who would play a prominent role in the communities and later also in the region. In the vicinity they founded their fortified houses such as those may still be seen in Echteld.

At the end of the thirteenth century construction of dikes began. From the west of the Netherlands dike builders increasingly moved eastwards and in the thirties of the fourteenth century the dike system ringing the Gelderse rivers was completely closed increasing the safety of the residents enormously. The Rhine and Waal rivers were forced to remain within their bed improving the navigability of these rivers. On the old wadeable places ferries were created allowing the trade contacts with the other side to flourish.

At strategic places castles were built. In the Marspolder the Utrechse (Stichtse) bishops built the mighty castle The Tollenburg and the Geldersen built the castle Ter Leede. In Wely the castle De Toren and at IJzendoorn the Lords of Isendoorn built the castle Het Slot. The Lower Betuwe was a kind of patchwork of small independent jurisdictions also known as delights, such as IJzendoorn, Echteld, Ochten and Leeds and Oudewaard. In between these jurisdictions were the settlements and villages (called kerspels) under Gelders administration. It was the aristocracy and the ambtman / dijkgraaf on behalf of the Earl of Gelre, who held the administrative power. They maintained the law and judged respecting life and death. The churches were also at that time a major power. Much property was in their possession and they governed the spiritual life of the inhabitants. In the late Middle Ages, these areas were frequently plagued by natural disasters and infectious diseases that felled both the people and their livestock.

In the sixteenth century the Reformation slowly penetrated into the Lower Betuwe. Under the influence of the city of Tiel very slowly the Roman Catholic churches become Reformed; Echteld as first and Opheusden (then Heusden) as one of the later. The priests became Reformed pastors although it was not always easy to completely shed the familiar Roman Catholic ways. It took generations before the Reformation was on really solid ground among the population. The 1620s sees the passing away of the last nun in the monastery Mariƫnwaard in Opheusden. The religious rule ends and the properties were divided among the nobles. All villages in the region seemingly embrace the new churchorder and therefore there is peace in these areas.


In the seventeenth century, the area of the Lower Betuwe continues to prosper. The farming community is gradually developing. The drainage of the delta area is improved and through the Great Wetering canal (Linge) more and more water is diverted to the west. In the final years of the eighty-year war (which lasted from 1568 - 1648), the area still, a number of times, suffered from travelling soldiers but by the firm action of the authorities damage is limited. In 1672 the Netherlands become entangled in a fierce war with almost all neighbouring countries.

The French troops enter looting and killing on a large scale and the castle house Ter Leede is confiscated, plundered and set on fire so that this once so mighty castle becomes a ruin. During the two years of French occupation all churches are taken from the Reformed and the Roman Catholic worship restored. During that period of occupation the local population greatly suffered and it took many years to recover.

The social unrest in many places in the Netherlands in the first quarter of the 18th century did not affect the rural population. The rural population heard rumours of what was happening in the cities Tiel and Wageningen, and how unsafe they had become. The farmers and planters fortified their homes by the use of brick. Also for housing in the rural areas the use of brick was reluctantly begun. To fabricate bricks clay was abundantly available in the floodplains and everywhere field ovens were started to be used.
It was especially the planters (small farmers) who increasingly concentrate on the cultivation of tobacco; labour intensive, but with a good harvest very lucrative.

In the 18th century the region was with devastating regularity hit by dike breaks in the dikes of the Waal and the Rhine rivers. Also during a long period, there were particularly severe winters and the rivers were full of ice. At the onset of thaw the ice started moving with often catastrophic consequences for the still relatively low dikes. Among others in the years 1761, 1771, 1772, 1776, 1784 and 1796 things went really wrong.
The dikes broke through, often at several places at once, flooding the whole of the Lower Betuwe and time and again the residents had to flee for shelter to the higher areas in the immediate vicinity of the dikes. The number of victims among the population was limited, but most damage was suffered by the loss of livestock and the destruction of homes. What was built up over many years of hard work was often all lost and it took years before the damage to arable land, orchards, nurseries and homes was restored.

In 1783 this region was badly hit by a red runs epidemic and nearly 25% of the population died in some villages. With the arrival of the French in the year 1795 many people thought that everything would now go well. Unfortunately, their arrival was ominous. First the French mercenaries (in state service) pillaged the area thoroughly and then the "poor Frenchmen” arrived who demanded a huge tax from the population.
In the years 1799 / 1800 a line of defense ‘Ochten - De Spees’ was constructed between Ochten and Opheusden. On both ends of this South-North engineered linedike strong fortifications are built to prevent a potential enemy access through the rivers or on the dikes to penetrate this area. The presently still existing fort, known as “Hoornwerk”, at De Spees between Opheusden and Kesteren, is a remnant of this project.

After the installation in 1814 of William I as sovereign ruler rest is restored. 1818 sees the introduction of proper legislation and the emergence of municipalities. Dodewaard, Hien and Opheusden become one municipality, and Kesteren, Lienden, Echteld and Ochten are also merged into one new municipality.
Leede, Oudewaard and IJzendoorn continue to exist as independent municipalities. In the forties of the 19th century large parts of our country experience substantial crop failures in the potato harvest, a very important crop for the future of this region. At that time the potato was already the primary staple in Holland and this caused a true famine in the country. Many left the Lower Betuwe to find their fortunes elsewhere. A group of residents of Dodewaard departed to North Holland and another group to Suriname.
Also, there were quite a few families who departed to 'foreign' countries, they were looking for a better future in North America. In a period of approximately 25 years hundreds of people departed from this area in search of economic prosperity. When civil war breaks out in the USA the imports from that country almost completely cease. For the Betuwe this had extremely beneficial consequences. The prices of agricultural products increased substantially and farmers were receiving a well deserved profit, compared to their previous meager existence. This course had a positive impact on the overall economic situation.
There was a lot of work, the industrialization in the West grew and many large-scale building projects were accomplished. Along the river dozens of brick ovens are built, and steady is work provided for many residents in the Lower Betuwe in particular. Medical care developed and improved, with as result a drastic drop in the infant mortality, and a significant population growth.
see Dodewaard map of 1868 (click here)

In the twenties of the 20th century, there is still much activity in the brick factories, but demand gradually diminishes under the influence of the international recession at that time. Many Betuwe men find employment in the German Rohr area where there still is abundant work. They commute weekly across the German border in order to make a living. At that time we also see an end to the river fisheries which had been of great importance to Dodewaard and Ochten for many centuries. Due to pollution the quality of the river water was so poor, that fish was barely edible.

In 1939 the Dutch army mobilizes, expecting a German invasion. The old Ochten- The Spees line is as much as is possible, again restored to a state of defense. The social life in the villages flourishes on the arrival of thousands of Dutch soldiers. In those winter months preceding the German invasion there is much activity in the villages and also the shops do brisk business. But on May 10, 1940, the Netherlands is at war and must evacuate the residents. With coal barges the residents of the Lower Betuwe are transported to the Western part of the country. The war in the Lower Betuwe lasts only briefly and by the end of the month most people are back again.

In 1944, there are the airdrops of a division of parachutists near Arnhem. An all out battle is fought for the possession of the Rijnbridge and the aftermath of this creates a front in the Betuwe: in the East are the liberators and in the West the German occupiers. Clamped between the two lie Ochten, Opheusden and Dodewaard, as a dangerous no mans land. Months on end fierce battles rage and when they are finally forced to retreat in December of 1944 the Germans blow up the the Rijndike at Elden, flooding the whole area to the canal dike in Tiel. The residents could not remain in this area and were evacuated for a part in the direction of Ingen and Maurik and another part to the Gelderse Valley and Friesland. The inhabitants of the Eastern front went to the South, many people were moved to Brabant and a number of families were moved to the vicinity of Geraardsbergen in Belgium. Only in May 1945 were the inhabitants allowed to return. What they found was terrible. Ochten, IJzendoorn and Opheusden were very badly damaged. In those villages there was almost no house to be found that had not been severely damaged.
The Lower Betuwe was included among the areas that had suffered most from the ravages of war in the Netherlands. In the years after the war rebuilding was aggressively pursued. The old major city centres were rebuilt and in the adjacent spaces, new homes built for the many (postwar) newly married couples.

The population grew so fast that in just three decades the populations of some villages doubled.
This influx caused major changes in the small villages. Many people from outside the area were attracted and settled in the area, some temporarily, others permanently.
Growth changed the character of the area a lot, the old values changed or disappeared, there were new churches, new schools, etc. Were there earlier the village shops, they have all gradually disappeared.
In some villages there is not much more for sale any longer, the entire region of the new town Lower Betuwe (April 2003) has been controlled by the supermarkets in Opheusden, Ochten and Kesteren and for larger purchases the population now travels to the cities of Tiel , Veenendaal or Arnhem.

translated by Chris Van Doodewaard from the Dutch source at