Some time ago I sent you the book on the legendary Texel jutter Pagga
and his wife Antje.
Of course, you will understand little of it, apart from the
illustrations done by my sister Monica. But as I temporarily ran of out
of work (my ceramics workplace needed a new floor and I couldn't go
in), I had plenty of time to make a translation. I followed the
original text closely so the combinations of text and illustrations
will be easy to grasp. I did not translate original pieces of newspaper
All the best, Irene Maas
Along the path of Pagga
Page 7 In our family, people always talked with respect of
old Pagga, 'a very good jutter', who, long ago, lived somewhere at the
foot of the dunes in a sod-walled cabin. His dune path was trodden
regulary, often enough to keep it from getting overgrown.
Our father, Cor Maas, was born when Pagga had been dead for eight
years. He had no personal memory of the man. Our grandmother, Trijn
Mulder, knew him well. Growing up in a cabin south of the Common
grounds, with Pagga living on the north side, they were close
neighbours. And her father shared the West Beach with him, the beach
between marking poles 14 and 18. They met there daily.
I wondered what kind of people they were, that man Pagga and his wife,
and what life was like in that remote place by the end of the 19th
century, how they managed in their house of sods, summer and winter,
left by the Lord and all people.
Little by little I unravelled their lives. Descendants, the odd
newspaper-clipping and abstracts from a diary of the Mennonist preacher
A hundred years later on, he dunes are now closed to the public, the
path has grown over.
Wood was planted on the site of the house, it has grown, and been
thinned and harvested.
There is a asphalt road, now, and a parking lot for cars. If Pagga and
his wife could see it today, they would not believe their eyes.
Translation done by myself, and a few pages read by professional
translator Anja van Weeszenberg
A cabin in the Enchanted Land
Page 11 Between 1890 and 1892, the nature-lover Jac. P.
Thijsse, was a young teacher on Texel. He thought of the Western-Common
as a 'charmed land', a 'very remarkable landscape, part heather, part
swamp, full off the most beautiful flowers and the nicest birds’. In
those day, just one sod-walled cabin existed on the Common, a turf hut,
a 'keet'. Thijsse must have walked along there, he may even have gone
inside, visiting the elderly occupants Kees Gorter and Antje Dekker.
Thijsse easily made contact with people, and they liked visitors.
Kees' and Antjes sod hut was the last occupied 'keet' on the Western
Common. The Topographic Map of 1859 shows more cabins: on the Gerrit
Leens Hok * near the Fountains Dune (torn down in 1876), at Woutershok,
where, until 1873, Wouter Verweij lived with Aafje Teekes van Grouw,
and on the Rough Land of the Mulder Family, where the keet was replaced
by a little brick house around 1885.
As shown on the 1853 Tenants Card, there were 'keten' (huts) all along
the coast, along the base of the dunes. All these inhabitants lived
like the Gorter family.
* Hok: a piece of land surrounded by a 'tuin(fence)wal' (this is a wall
of sods, about 1 m in highth).
Page 12 In the beginning of the 20e century, digging ditches and
planting trees made the wuthering grounds of the Common much drier. It
is hard to imagine what it must have looked like in the 19e century.
But some nature-lovers, visiting the area at the time, give us an
impression. F.W. van Eeden writes in his 'Botanic Wanderings' around
Texel: 'The shallow, undulating grounds contrasts with the yellow-white
dunes in the distance. Meadows give the landscape freshness, but also
something familiar, but the physionomy of the heathland parts is
tragic. The green of the heather Calluna vulgaris is brownish, as if
scorched; the rose-red flowers are invisible because they are so small.
A path, half grown-over, winds among those miniature hills, painting
bleached irregular stripes along the landscape. All is silent - only
the sea is heard rushing far away’.
Jac. P. Thijsse, too, was deeply impressed by the Common. He wrote
about it in his famous Verkade-album in 1927. [Long original text, not
Page 14 Only one photograph of the hut is left. It shows old Mr. And
Mrs. Gorter sitting by the window. The photo must be taken shortly
before 1909. The gentleman on the left may be Jan Flens, the owner of
the Bath-hotel, build in 1907. He allegedly visited the Gorters with a
British jounalist. They came out at his request, they would not have
done of their own accord.
On some copies of this picture, the face of Pagga has been touched up.
At the back of the photo is written: 'In memory of Your old Neighbours
C. Gorter and A. Gorter-Dekker’.
Page 16 Someone living in a village cannot imagine the life of the
countryman: so remote, so lonely. And the real countrypeople would not
think of living as close together as people are in a village.
Depending on one's nature, life on the Common was as poor as it was
rich, they were at one with nature, the weather, the seasons. But did
these people take in the beauty of the landscape they lived in? Did
they enjoy the changing colours of the dunes, the light, the birds,
people like Thijsse would describe so ornately? They may well have
taken things for granted, without further thought. “These birdmen, they
are quite a different kind of people”.
One would be really solitary there. Kees went off working as a farm
hand, so he would meet other people. But Antje was at home most of her
days. They were familiair with this way of life. They did not go to the
Institution of Charity in Den Burg of their own volition. They had to,
they could no longer manage, due to their age. Gorter died 3 months
after they moved there - and not just because he was washed, as the
But even on the Common they were not all by themselves. Little houses
and farms were scattered all over, and they kept a watchful eye on each
other. The 'Smits of the farm Wrestlingplace' kept sheep on the
Gorters' land. Every day, someone would come and look after the
animals, and he also lookedin on Pagga to see if all was well with the
'old folks in the mud cabin'. The neighbours closer by, living at the
farmlet 'The Enterprise' (nowadays 'Dune-rest') only 300 meters away,
could actually see the cabin. They may not have been able to see the
whole house, because of the dunes, but they would certainly notice a
Page 17 There was little contact with the outside world. If necessary,
they put a sign on the roof, a sheet or blanket. That was a well-known
signal that something was wrong, and someone would come around to look
what the problems were.
The children of the Gorters left home when they were quite young. Jan
Keijzer, Antje's son from an earlier marriage, lived on the Opposite
Shore,* like their daughter, also named Antje. They sent postcards to
their parents from time to time. The stamp cost of half a cent, and for
that half cent, the postman would walk all the way from Den Burg [6
km]. Sometimes he would save the cards until he also had some for the
neighbours: the Families Krijnen, Witte, Maas or Koorn.
These people could not read; the postman would read the cards out to
them, and, if necessary, correct the text. He always stayed for a
cuppa, while giving them the latest news.
* To those on Texel, the Opposite Shore, 'overkant', is the rest of the
world, it means the other side of the Marsdiep, the sea-arm between
Texel and North Holland.
Page 18 So much beach combing to do
Much more flotsam was washed upon the shore those days. More ships were
wrecked, more prize to comb the beaches for. A map drawn by the Texel
notary Kikkert shows as many as 100 ships, wrecked in a short period of
time. The Mennonist preacher Huizinga, too, wrote about it in his
diary: 'Talks of three ships behind De Koog, one is lost with all
crew’, he wrote on 15 November 1861.
The next day: 'Terrible are the disasters on the coast, at least eight
ships actually beached and, at some distance, many more are lost in the
The winter of 1882/'83 was one with heavy storms and great losses,
starting in October, getting even worse in January, and ending with the
terrible storm of 5 and 6 March, which is remembered to this very day
because of the loss off just about the entire fleet of the Friesian
villages Paesens and Moddergat.
(Until here the text was corrected bij Anja, the rest is my own
The coast was treacherous to seamen, but for the people living there,
it was a way to make some extra earnings. Often they could help
salvaging beached goods, paid salvage-charters. Thereby much was to be
Many things washed ashore. For instance a ship loaded with
manufactures, but also ships containing loads of bricks, or barrels of
butter or wine.
In December 1871 the vicar Huizinga made a note of a stranding:
”Barrels oil and Madeirawine washed on; the jutters are happy with it”.
And on Christmas Day 1877: “Great movements of people on the beach
since many days. Surprisingly much wood is drifting on”.
Things the jutters could not use themselves were sold. Lost drifters of
fishingnets were to be re-used, as also glass spheres and oil-blazes.
Regularly professional traders came along, like Sam Vlessing and Jaap
of Kasse Zegel. They bought anything, not only goods from the beach,
but gulls-eggs, snared thrushes and poached rabbit-skins as well. With
Vlessing often no money was used. One could buy goods on account, to
receive for instance a sewing machine in return, or material for
page 20 Living in a sod-wall hut
The well-known sod-wall huts in the inland province of Drente were
completely differently constructed thing those on the coast. On Texel
one had driftwood to timber-off the inner side neatly. All the wood
came from the beach. Only the glass needed for the windows had to be
The picture of the cabin (pag. 14) only shows the side window. The rest
has to be guessed. There will have been a brick chimney and at the
right-hand side a door and a window. Oral stories tell us there was a
“hossie” (small hall) in which the oil-stoves were standing. In the
only room was also the cupboard-bedstead. There was an open stove with
a kettle on a hook, a table with chairs at the side window, and a
cupboard. More room to put things was under the bedstead. The wooden
walls were painted grey with paint found on the beach. All together
such a house was not much different from other Texel houses, but it was
just build of sods instead of bricks.
Replacing a “sod-wall cabin” by a brick house, as happened on the
“Rough Land” in 1885, was considered an improvement. But one wonders
what was more comfortable: a half-brick wall or thick sod walls. A
stone wall attracts less vermin, like insects, mice, rabbits and other
Outside the door was a small brick road. Next to it a wooden fence with
flowers, a kitchen garden with strawberries, currants, pears and other
fruit. Outside also was a “helmhok”(‘beachgrass-square’, a small square
construction of “tuinwalls”). There the human excrements went and all
other dung. Further on was a goat pen, but sometimes driftwood had to
dry in there. If the pen was full, and it was raining, they let the
goat into the house, tied to the table leg. Droppings were shifted in
Antje suffered of rheumatics when she was old. As a remedy she kept a
turtle-dove in a cage in the room. She also had a horse-skin in her
chair, a thing said to help. It will not have done her any wrong, but
as well it did not prevent her from moving with more-and-more
difficulties in time.
page 22 The household water came out a pool. This water was used for
any means: the washing was rinsed in it, but even as easy a bucket-full
was taken out for coffee. The dirt would sink, the water was sieved and
boiled, and “ any beast in it brought its fat”. Someone who couldn’t
stand this didn’t grow old. Country people lived for centuries this
way, simple and poor, everywhere the same. But a heavy life it was.
Kees worked at farms and was away from dawn till dusk milking, scooping
and digging trenches. Next to this he had his own yard and house to
maintain. Moreover almost every day he had to go to the beach to
beachcomb, before and after his daily duties.
The pool was a little well, not standing water. The Common those days
was very wet, and the pool never ran dry. They held a pike in it, which
came as Antje whistled. They gave him pieces bread, grandson Jacob
remembers. It must have been a tench, as pikes don’t eat bread.
page 24 Firewood and droppings
Pagga always said: “If only we may survive the summer, wintertime
brings plenty on the beach”. Such a quote is typical, but it will not
have been easy in winter at all. Only west and north-west winds bring
flotsam on the beach. With southerly winds nothing washes up, because
the booty washes past the Texel beach. And easterlies make the flotsam
drift away; moreover, easterlies in winter bring the cold. During
long-lasting easterly wind the gathered firewood is burned quickly.
Then they must provide with heather-sods. Heating quickly, but burned
Jacob Huisman, the grandson of the Gorters, regularly went to stay with
his grandparents on the Common between 1900 and 1908. He could walk
there by himself from Den Burg. For a boy was there much to do, both
near the hut and on the beach.
Jacob remembered most firewood was taken from the beach by his granny.
He helped her carrying. Granddad collected bigger pieces. Jacob also
remembered how he helped collecting cow-dung for the garden. They
really could use anything.
CLEARING THE COMMON
The years round 1900 much happened on the Common. Ploughing and
clearing and planting forest on the barren grounds had started.
Many men and boys of the Common worked on it, hired by the ”State”.
The part of the Common where the Gorters lived, was called by everyone
“Gorters Common”. When a piece of meadow close by was cleared, this was
self-evidently called “The New land at Gorters” or “Gortersland”.
Whether Kees and Antje had any thoughts about all this has not been
noted. Their opinion did not count anyway.
Picture above: Clearing the Western Common with oxen in the summer of
1906. To the right the first Texel forester Klaas Min.
Picture left: labourers
The maintenance of the area also gave work to Gorter. Forester Min
noted: “Clearing the “New Land” charged to C. Gorter at 5 guilder”.
Pagga had the age of almost 71 by then.
THE DAYS OF OLD AGE
In the final days of their living on the Common the old Pagga and his
Antje were worn out. Their daughter Antje used to come for a day from
Den Burg to keep the household. Arie Maas from De Koog did some work
for them, but at last it was not just cutting wood and keeping the
garden. They could no longer cope for their own, especially after the
moving of their daughter away form the island, to Nieuwendam [near
Amsterdam]. They had to leave the cabin at the Gorters Common and went
to live in the Institution of Charity in Den Burg, in the new building
just-opened in February 1909. They were lucky something like that
existed, as they had no children left on Texel to take care of them.
Their goods were sold, but no one was interested in the sodden hut.
They had to pay 2,50 guilders per week for living in the Institution.
Mr. Coninck Westenberg, a regular letter-writer to the New Texel
Courant, wrote a piece about this, en passant giving a good view of the
old couple [piece of newspaper to collect money for them].
page 30 THE LIFE OF ANTJE
There she is sitting, Antje Dekker, at the end of her life, back among
the people at last. What is passing her mind? Does she think of her
earlier life, her men and children? Her young years in Oudeschild,
where she loved Lammert, the sailor who did not return, leaving her
with a daughter, does she think of that?
Or does she think of her marriage to the Common-farmer Jacob Keijzer
that urged her to move far away from the inhabited world, maybe not
because of love, but to get a house for herself and her daughter? Or
does she think of her husband Kees Gorter, to whom she was married then
for 44 years?
Would she think of her children, all those children who did not
survive? Only Jan and Antje were still alive. Does she think of autumn
of 1867, when she gave birth to twins which had to be buried within a
month, while at the same time she lost her first daughter Antje? Would
one day pass without the thought of this?
Does she think of the hard, lonely life on the seamy side, along the
dunes, the beach, far away from Oudeschild, from other people, from the
church? First they had a small farm, and in later days just a sod-wall
cabin. That did not earn much. With a goat, some potatoes, beans,
strawberries and apples in the garden, one could not live through the
Kees Gorter did some jobs at “the farmers”, being off all day, while
she had to cope all by herself in the loneliness of the Common.
Does she think of all that?
Or has she forgotten it all; is Antje happy to live in the Institution,
finally back among people and at last having no more worries about
household and obtaining food. Here is enough everyday and there is no
need to do anything for it at all…….
LAMMERT, ANTJES FIRST MAN
Antje was the daughter of Jan Dekker and Antje Breker. As a young girl
she kept company with a sailor, not unusual in a fishery village. His
name was Lammert. They were engaged and she was pregnant and they would
get married when he returned from his next voyage. But he never came
back, he “stayed at sea”.
The baby born to her was called Aaftje Lammerts Dekker. Lammert may not
be born in Oudeschild, as no one has remembered his last name.
page 32 JACOB KEIJZER, A FARMER OF THE COMMON
Why did Antje depart from Oudeschild with her little Aaftje?
At a certain moment it was clear that Lammert wouldn’t come back. There
might even have been definite messages of his death. Anyway she was an
unmarried mother in a small harbour village. For sure, she was not the
first one, but it still was regarded a shame. She had no good prospects
In 1853 Antje choose to marry an elder man, a dune-farmer. He was Jacob
Maartensz Keijzer, of the small farm “De Onderneming (The Enterprise)”,
close to the Old Bleachery in the dunes. Nowadays the farmhouse is
called “Duinrust (Dune-rest)”.
“The Enterprise” was in 1848 owned by Cornelis Jansz Zutphen, who
rented some pieces of Common ground close-by. Zutphen inherited the
farm “Buitenlust (Country-joy)” near Den Burg and decided to go on
farming there. The little farm on the Common he let to Jacob Keijzer in
How did Antje meet a farmer of the Common and how did she get all the
way from Oudeschild to the Western Common?
Perhaps this was done by Aafje Teekes. Aafje lived with her husband
Wouter on the Common, not far from Jacob Keijzer. They knew each other
because she was the mother of Kors Eelman, married to Antjes sister
Dirkje. Maybe she heard her neighbour needed a wife. She might have
talked about this with the mother of Antje, for instance after church
service in the “Admonishing”, for both families were Mennonites.
Anyway, they got married. We do not know whether this was a marriage
for convenience or for love, but Antje did have not much choice having
a fatherless child.
With Jacob she had two children: Frouwtje and Jan. And though Jacob
wasn’t a rich man, they did quite well together. They lived in a small
but good stone farmhouse, with a thatched roof.
After ten years this marriage ended suddenly with the death of Jacob in
In the same year “The Enterprise” was let to Kors Eelman, Antjes
brother-in-law. The take-over of the farm by him and his wife Dirkje
meant there was no place left for Antje and her children……..
page 35 KEES GORTER, A JUTTER FROM DE KOOG
Kees Gorter grew up in De Koog, where his parents had a small farm and
some land. Kees was a real Koger boy, a real jutter. He lived all his
life on the west coast of the island, always near the beach.
His father IJsbrand died when Kees had the age of twelve. Without means
of subsistence he and his mother will not have had a wealthy life, but
in this they were no exception in De Koog, as everyone was poor there.
After the death of his mother the parental house was sold.
Kees started a life of his own when aged 26. He built a little
sod-walled house at the north side of a lot of ground fenced in by
Cornelis Zutphen in 1848, shown on the Topographic Card of 1859, near
the bend of the present-day Randweg.
He had enough beachwood for the inside covering and used oars for the
Gorter chose a livingplace far away from people, but close to the
beach. In this way he became the nearest neighbour of Antje and Jacob
Keijzer. Other neighbours were the Krijnen family in a sod-cabin on the
site of the small present-day farm “Windy Ridge*”, and to the north at
“The New Lay-out” was the cabin of Gerrit Mulder, which then was
probably abandoned, as Mulder had moved to a dwelling on the Sand-dam
[* This house-name is no translation, as about 1950 the inhabitants
found a board with this ship-name on the beach and put it on the
nameless house. My aunt Riek and uncle Willem Maas, who then lived
there, knew the meaning of Windy Ridge: “ritselend windje”, wind
page 36 ABOUT ANTJE AND HER SISTER DIRKJE
As vicar Huizinga once made his round along his herd on the Common he
wrote on Wednesday the 7 of august 1867 in his diary: “Had coffee with
Kors Eelman and Dirkje Dekker….The wife tells of the bitter poverty her
sister Antje had during the last winter, without food and firewood.
Once she had in two times 24 hours nothing but a cup of coffee, and
when she again felt weak of hunger she had taken some salt as the only
food she had. The little she had to eat was for the children. The man
earned little. It seemed that domestic peace was very imperfect over
This note shows how dramatically bad life was for Antje, but it also
shows something of the relation between the two sisters. They lived
near each other, but Dirkje does not tell about the way she helped her
sister in this tough period. It even seems as if she heard of it later
on. When Dirkje and her husband came to live on “The Enterprise”
directly after the death of Jacob Keijzer this may have caused some
friction: live had turned to the dark side for Antje. One wonders what
had happened in that time.
Jacob Keijzer died on the 15th of March, while the rent
expired on the 20th. Maybe the rent for the next year was
already paid. “The Enterprise” might have given higher yields than “Het
Plaatsje (The little Place)” where Kors and Dirkje came from, so they
would gain by taking over the rent. A woman like Antje, having no
husband and only small children could impossible manage the farmwork
Maybe Kors Eelman took over the rent to help his poor sister-in-law.
Kors Eelman and Dirkje Dekker moved to “The Enterprise” in 1863. The
first time they may have lived together with the widow and the three
children, but that did not last long. One and a half-year later Antje
married neighbour Kees Gorter. She was pregnant for 4 months at that
They might have loved each other and nothing might have been wrong,
apart from being married when the first child already was underway.
Vicar Huizinga wrote that in such a case he could not explain to those
involved what was wrong about that. Sexual intercourse before marriage
was common practice on Texel.
Antjes pregnancy may have been an accident forcing her to move to her
neighbour’s house. But living together with her sister and
brother-in-law may have not been easy. The sisters were in a complete
different position. Dirkje and Kors had no children, while Antje as a
widow had three children and moreover was pregnant. These circumstances
make it understandable that she moved to Kees Gorter, even though she
had to live there in a much smaller house.
Aunt Dirkje and Uncle Kors are not remembered in the family Gorter,
though they have been the nearest neighbours for years. Was it a
rupture between the sisters Dekker, or did the men not go on well?
Gorter and Eelman both do not seem to have been easy people. Or had it
to do with the faith? Kees Gorter was a non practising roman-catholic,
Antje, Dirkje and Kors were Mennonites. We will never know how they
went on together.
page 38 ALONE ON THE COMMON
Antje must have lived through hard times on the Common. Poverty and
loneliness, far away from the crowded world. As nearest neighbours her
own sister and brother-in-law, with she did not hit it off very well.
The sorrow for the children of her and Kees, of which only one stayed
alive. Even “domestic peace” was apparent not given to her, seeing the
diary of the vicar.
But Antje could not go anywhere else.
Those years Antje and Kees were not able to work themselves out of
The diary of Huizinga shows she came to ask for charity several times,
also in the time she was married to Jacob Keijzer. “Antje Dekker here
to ask for relieve” it is said on 3 December 1855.
Huizinga visited her at home several times. On 14 September 1875 for
instance he wrote: “Home visits, walking to Driehuizen and De Westen,
from there with a carriage of J.C. Bakker to the Common at two o’clock
in the afternoon. Last at Antje Wuis. Here and by others, Albert
Kooiman and Antje Dekker, I heard Vicar Bakels has annoyed many
preaching: “To the Lord anything is possible”.
Antje also came to visit him. He notes on 26 October 1876: “Yesterday
evening Antje Dekker of the Common with me, deeply mourning that the
Elders and Deacons refused her request for 100 guilders to buy a cow”.
The vicar does not write if he could help her some way.
Antje wanted a cow. Of course, with a cow one had milk. One could make
butter and cheese, one had food. Maybe she dreamed: a calf, next year
two cows, the year following 4 cows, a herd in the meanwhile. A small
trade. One could sell the products, one could redeem the loan, break
through a prospectless situation.
The refusing of the Elders and Deacon did not only break a beautiful
dream, it will also not have done any good to the domestic peace. She
had to return home disappointedly. Her husband would have reacted
sarcastically. He never expected anyway that she could manage to obtain
TO THE CHURCH
They had of course no means of conveyance. They always went walking,
like all poor people did those days. It was a long way to go, to and
from the church in Den Burg, but the Sunday-service was seldom
non-attended. Church-service only was missed by illness or when the
roads were completely impassable. It was the only outing she had.
In those days there were countless footpaths right through the fields,
one could take the shortest way. Everywhere in the fence walls were
page 40 WORRIES AND SORROW
THE DEATH OF ANTJES MOTHER
Huizinga wrote in his diary about the end of the life of Antje Breker,
the mother of Antje Dekker, still living in Oudeschild. She one day
“was about choked to death in a peace of bread containing a pin”.
Afterwards in her throat grew a swelling, causing her death in the end
of January 1871, while she was in company of her son Pieter Dekker.
After the funeral Huizinga walked on with the daughters Dirkje and
Tetje. He does not write about Antje. Was she not there, or did he not
notice her? She was highly pregnant those time and in such
circumstances it is a long walk to Oudeschild [10 km and back], may be
too far, even for attending her mother’s funeral.
CHILDREN OF ANTJE AND KEES
With a mixed marriage as the one of Antje and Kees it was usual girls
following the religion of the mother and the boys that of the father.
To the parish priest the marriage was not a blessing, as five of the
six children born between 1866 and 1874 in the “sod house” were girls.
But more dramatically was that in the end only one of all the children
In the late autumn of 1867, within one and a half-month, Antje lost all
three children she had of Kees Gorter at that time. First the newborn
daughter Dirkje, then the oldest child Antje, and not much later
Dirkje’s twin brother.
The little girl they got next year they called “Antje” again. Happily
this child stayed alive, but the sister following her only lived for
five months. Also the last child, Trijntje, born in 1873, died within a
year: she did not grow older than nine months. How did Antje cope with
such sorrow…..? By day she was home alone with all worries, the babies,
the pregnancies. Kees was working at the farmers, pottering around at
the beach before and after working time.
Times must have been very hard to them.
It shows Antje and Kees were all-alone in life with their problems. The
story Dirkje told to vicar Huizinga does not say if they got any
relief, or if Dirkje herself helped her sister with anything. Dirkje
and Kors were not rich at all, but fared much better than the Gorters.
Antje and Kees might have thought of emigrating. Many people did so
those days. Trijntje, a sister of Kees, married to Jacob Eelman, moved
in 1866 with her husband and children to Michigan in America. It was a
chance, a possibility to make a new start somewhere else.
But where could Antje and Kees get the money to pay the passage?
page 42 IN WEATHER AND WIND
As Huizinga’s diary says Antje must have lived through hard times in
the winter of 1866/67. Autumn started “quite soft”, but with much
rain-showers in late autumn. In the second half of January, frost
arrived, with terrible snowstorms “as like the newspapers would say,
the oldest people did not remember”. The hard wind drifted the snow to
heights of several meters. Luckily this type of weather did not last
long. It is a pity vicar Huizinga, who wrote about the weather
regularly, did not make any notations on the effect of this winter.
Those days Antje had a little baby, and often suffered from cold. Also
they had too little food for many days. On top of it all she got
pregnant of twins at the end of the winter. It shows she was a very
A JUTTER WITH NO FIRE?
Huizinga’s notes call on more questions. How could a jutter’s wife in
winter be “without fire”? It seems strange at first sight, but with
long-lasting easterlies nothing washes on the shore and nothing is to
become beachcombed anyway. If such a situation lasts long enough,
In this hard times for Antje in 1867 there was no long period of frost,
but heavy snow-storms lasting several days, and hence one could not go
outdoor– maybe even literally, when a dune of snow was swept against
HAIL AND SNOW
THUNDER, STORM AND RAIN
DON’T HURT US
WE CAN STAND IT
These kinds of songs were sung by the nature-lovers from town. They had
easy singing, as they had not to walk out in such bad weather in
page 44 WINTERS IN THE 19TH CENTURY
Life on the Common was life with seasons and all circumstances of
weather. In winter by snow the paths were impassable due to snow, and
the same happened with enduring rains. Then it was hard to dry the wet
clothes. With long-lasting frost firewood got exhausted, the pool was
frozen and defrozen ice had to serve as water. Sometimes one could not
wash clothes for months because of lack of water, and at other times
one could not dry the washing because of the wetness.
Soaked nappies are not wealthy for little children, and living all days
under such circumstances should harm a person, one would think. But
Kees and Antje became very old themselves.
The book ”Rough and severe, seven centuries of winter weather” by the
author Jan Buisman, shows what they had to endure these times. Of the
56 winters Antje lived through on the Common, 20 were mild, 14 normal,
16 cold, 3 severe, and 2 very severe.
The winter of 1854/55 brought severe frost with snow from mid-January
until the end of March. In 1857/58 there was no snow but the whole
month of February endured severe frost with a roaring easterly winds
under a cloudless sky. 1864/65 brought a heavy storm-depression in
early January and winter-thunder, followed by ice and snow until March.
In 1866/67, when little Antje was just half a year old, a wet autumn
was followed by a period of continuous frost from early to late January:
“On the 16th of January a terrible snowstorms bursts out with
decimetres of snow, swept up to meter-high dunes with 2-4 degrees
February 1880 was the first “too warm” month after 15 “too cold” months.
The eruption of the Krakatau (26 august 1883) gave glowy red morning-
and evening-colours for months, caused by the dust in the atmosphere.
What should Antje and Kees have thought of that?
Afterwards the climate was too cold for at least 10 years, especially
in 1887/88 and in the notorious winter of 1890/91, which went on till
the end of March, followed by a cool, wet summer. A too cold summer
caused bad growth of crops and caused food-shortage for the winter to
follow. Moreover, bad weather made working impossible, so little could
be earned then.
How Kees and Antje survived we don’t know. Would they have got any
support of the church?
AAFTJE DEKKER, OF LAMMERT
Antjes first daughter Aaftje was two years old when she moved with her
mother to the little farm of Jacob Keijzer. Within a few years she got
there a half-sister and a half-brother: Frouwtje in 1855 and Jan in
1856. Aaftje never went to school. No education was compulsory in those
days, and the school in Den Burg was too far away. She could look after
the smaller children when father and mother were working. She learned a
little writing later, when she was in the vicar’s inductory class.
Like most poor girls Aaftje left home young to work at farmers until
she got married. We do not know at what age, but perhaps she left when
her mother with Frouwtje and Jan went to live with Kees Gorter. She was
twelve by then. The sod-hut only had one bedstead-cupboard, so they had
little room. From the diary of Huizinga we know that Aaftje served at
Sijbrand Keijsers when she was 20, and for Verberne on Spang when she
On 18 October 1871 Huizinga writes about Keijser: “He agrees with us to
give a sleeping place to Aaftje Dekker, when I then put the inductory
class on Wednesday evening to please the other pupils”.
At a home-visit on Spang the vicar met her on the farm of Piet
Verberne, nowadays ‘Margrietplace’. Later on, in May 1881, he talked
with her once again. Huizinga had retired since July 1879, living in
Groningen, but was back on Texel for a few weeks.
In his diary he wrote about it: “In the meantime a visit of Aaftje
Dekker. She was very interested, showed all heartiness. With her
brother Jan Keijser it was sad. He disappointed in all good
expectations. She herself will be mother to seven children, but that I
heard of others. Lives near De Koog”.
Aaftje was thirty when she married Klaas Borgman, widower of Petronella
de Wijn. He already had nine children of whom at the time of the
marriage with Aafje one had died and one had left the home.
Aaftje lived with her husband in the Kogerveld along the Ruigedijk
(Rough-dike), in a rented farm. In 1888 it burned down, and everything
was lost. Happily the house was well assured and could be rebuild. In
1893 Klaas Borgman became the owner.
Aaftje reached the age of 53 years. She was a diabetic. She had sugar
in her coffee all day, while the others of the family had it only on
Sunday morning, but always only one spoonful of sugar and only in the
first cup. Her death was announced in the newspaper. The family says
thanks to Dr. Over for his good concerns.
FROUWTJE AND JAN, OF JACOB KEIJZER
We know little of the children of Antje born from the marriage with
Jacob Keijzer. They moved with their mother to the sod-hut of Kees
Gorter, where they saw the birth and death of a row of little children.
Only their half-sister Antje, who was born when they were already 12
and 13 years of age, stayed alive. Frouwtje Keijzer herself died in
1872, aged only seventeen. Her brother Jan went to serve in the Navy.
He married in 1880 to Catharina List. Deducted from the note Huizinga
made about him (“With Jan Keijzer it is sad”) they did not have a happy
marriage. Jan may have been addicted to alcohol. In those days there
was much excessive drinking, Huizinga complainted frequently about it
in his diary. The marriage ended in a divorce.
In 1892 Jan married again with Willemijntje Bicker of Den Helder. They
got no children [they dir get one son, who died soon and was not
With Mijntje Jan lived in Amsterdam.
It is known Antje Gorter thought her sister-in-law to be a frivolous
lady, with her beautiful dresses and her curled hair.
Jan Keijzer, it is said, had prophecy-gifts. He got this from his
mother. If someone lost a thing, he could tell where it was. Jan always
said De Koog would disappear in the sea. Without the actions of the
Governmental Waterworks he would have been right. His prophecy still
may become true in the future.
ANTJE, A GIRL OF THE COMMON
Antje was the only of the six Gorter children to survive the hard times
on the Common. She had no children of her own age nearby. On “The
Enterprise” by then the Witte family lived, nicer people than her aunt
Dirkje and uncle Kors, but their children were much younger than she
was. The same applies to the Maas family at “Windy Ridge”. Antje did
not go to school, and she had no contact with children of her own age.
When she grew older she had friends in Marretje Kok and Antje Vlaming
of Gerritsland. Antje learned to write by practising on a slate until
she could manage.
An exercise book is kept with verses copied by her. She also wrote
verses herself. In the book are verses for the feasts in Oudeschild at
the 70th birthday of King Willem III in 1887. It shows that
she still had a strong bond with her mother’s birth-village.
Antje Gorter went to serve several times. She worked a period in some
others household. She also went out sewing when she was not yet
married. For a quarter a day she had to walk all the way to De Koog and
back, carrying the sewing machine under her arm. In De Koog she met
Jacob Huisman, the man she married at the age of 25.
ANTJE AND JACOB HUISMAN
Jacob and Antje went to live in Den Burg. She lived among people for
the first time of her life, in a village. Together they got two
children: Jacob Cornelis in 1893 and Antje Cornelia in 1896. Both
children were named after their grandparents, both had their second
name after granddad Kees.
Huisman was a sailor and worked at the Holland Steamship Company. In
between his travels he came home to his family on Texel as much as
possible, but often time was too short and then he did not see them for
months. For that reason a girl of the Common moved to the Opposite
Shore in 1908. They went to Nieuwendam, north of the IJ River, where
more HSC families lived. One of Antjes new neighbours was her old
friend Marretje Kok, also married to a sailor. After retiring, in 1934,
Jacob and Antje went back to Texel and lived in De Koog. Jacob died
four years later. Antje went back to Nieuwendam for some time, where
her son lived with his family. She lies buried with her husband on the
churchyard in Den Burg, because on Texel they belonged.
page 53 WITH AUNT PIETERNEL
Next to the “Vergulde Kikkert” in Den Burg near the Gasthuisstreet
where Antje and Jacob lived, stood the house of cigar-maker Levi Polak
who was married to “aunt” Pieternel Borgman. Pieternel was a nurse. She
helped Antje with her first delivery.
She did not like children herself at all, but she was fond of little
Jacob. When he got very dirty while playing- as happened once when he,
coming home from the Common, fell in the pool near the High Tuinwall at
the Koger road and was all covered with rusty-brown mud- he went to
Pieternel on his way home to let her clean him. He was such a neat boy
then that his mother said: “You must have been to Pieternel”.
Antje disliked dirty kids. She was perfect in her household, and kept
to precise times for anything to be done. Her character was stern, just
like her father Pagga. “Angry-Antje again” they said in the family,
when she had a mood again.
She only wrote verses with anniversaries.
page 55 AN ABANDONED SOD-HUT
Kees Gorter was a remarkable person, someone who is not easily
forgotten, but the neighbours remembered him and his wife so well most
because the sod-hut kept standing on the Common for a long period to
follow. When in 1909 the goods of the old couple were sold, there was
nobody who wanted to give a penny for the old “keet”. The empty hut was
kept standing and was used for years as a canteen and hiding place for
the workers of the State Forestry. Such a room, still with the old
beach wood on the walls, keeps its stories tight. For sure the old
Pagga came along as an object of stories. Being a “very good jutter”
and the last Texel inhabitant of a sod-wall cabin made him
The workers of the State Forestry agreed that Texel cabins were less
poor than those in Drente. The thick sod walls were cheap to built, and
highly comfortable: they kept it warm in winter and cool in summer.
Arie Maas, in later years proudly telling he had been the servant of
the well-known Pagga, knew it was no real poverty in the hut. They even
had brass things, hanging on the wall. These might have been inherited
from family. Real poor people should have sold such things. But what
would they have got for it? And it might be good to keep things for
later, for the olden days.
A few years after the abandoning of the hut, Willem Bakker of the
Grensweg got the idea to re-use the yellow bricks of the path by the
door. He could very well harden the floor of his pigpen with them, as
the pig used to dig itself free, and it caused much trouble to catch
the beast again. The oldest boys could collect the stones after school
time. So the little brothers Cor and Henk went, with the wheelbarrow,
all the way from the Grensweg along sandpaths to the Gortersmient. To
will not have been too difficult, but back? How many bricks schoolboys
could transport without the barrow tumbling over? But father had
decided, and so they went, no matter how many times they had to go up
At last the “sod-house” was broken down in 1917 [later on I saw this
must be later, 1925 or so]. Forester Epe considered this way of living
not worthy of a human being. A few men have “knocked it down”, digged
and spread the sods. Rabbits were the last to live there, underdigging
the walls badly. The workers where said to have managed to knock some
to death with a spade, so they could go home with a rabbit to eat after
the work had been done.
Investigations with a metal-detector on the place revealed one old
square nail, and some pieces of wrought iron old enough for having been
in the hands of Pagga. Also 30 centimetres of iron fence-thread from
the time the area was a meadow, a bullet of the Second World War and
some hunter’s cartridges. A sink in the soil may be the place of the
pool. The wood will have been taken by the demolishers to be burned in
their own furnaces.
Guurtje van Swinderen-Bakker, a sister of Willem Bakker of the
Grens[border]way, was given a song at her 85th birthday,
remembering people of the Common. Also a part about the sod-hut of
Gorter. Guurtje had been there as a child. Antje had said, we have
pears growing in the bedstead.
HER REMEMBERING IS EXCELLENT
YES, THAT IS OF QUALITY
SHE CAN TALK OF PAST TIMES
OF THAT GOOD OLD TIME
GERRIT, ARIE, JANTJE LELY
MUMMY MIN AND AUNTIE KNEELIE
ONCE SHE WENT OUT MILKING
WALKING ON WITH ‘THE MOTEN’
WENT TO HAVE COFFEE AT PAGGA’S PLACE
“DID SHE LIKE PEARS”
ANTJE WENT SOME PEARS TO PLOCK
IN THE BED-STEAD, ON HER SOCKS
Mummy Min was Trijntje Blankendaal, the wife of forester Klaas Min.
Auntie Kneelie was Cornelia Maas, wife of Willem of Keessie Bakker,
living on the Grensway. Jannetje Lely was Guurtje’s granny. The “Moten”
were the brothers De Porto of the Ploegelander[lands of Van der
Ploeg]way [their ancestor, the first Mr. De Porto on Texel was
Timotheus [= de Moot] de Porto, he was from Portugal].
page 59 THE LEGENDARY PAGGA
Klaas Min had known Pagga personally, but to later foresters he became
a story: the name of a dune-path and a little road in the forest.
Forester Mantje was astonished when at a time a woman, filling in a
form after an excursion, answered the question: “who was Pagga?” with:
“my great-grandfather”. Just then he realised the man of the story had
not been a peculiar savage, but a normal family man, a land worker with
wife and children. Gorter was not the only man to live in a sod-hut,
but he was the last.
THE DARK SPRUCE-FIR WOOD
When clearing the meadows near the sod-hut, ditches were made on the
borders of the lots to drain the land. When the lots were forested in
1913 and 1933 these ditches stayed. The sod-hut stood near the square
angle the ditch makes near the Pachaway. Nowadays it is an open spot
covered with blackberries scrub. For a long period this place has been
called “the dark spruce-wood”. After repeated thinning and much storms
it is not dark there anymore, but still unrecognisable to those who had
lived there long before.
page 60 ABOUT THE NICK-NAME PAGGA
Kees Gorter was known as a man with a stern, dour character. He could
curse and scold badly. A comrade of his step-son Jan Keijzer was said
to have given the nickname “Pagga”. Some of those friends had came with
him to the Western Common to visit, and met with the old grumbler.
“Pagga” meant something like “angry fellow”. Later on this name is most
written as “Pacha”. As said the pronouncing was like ch in ‘lachen’ and
An old edition of Van Dale’s Dictionary says by pacha; “Turkish State
functionary, ruling in name of the High Lord in the provinces, so a
Turkish stadtholder, a Privy Councellor, an eminent Warlord”.
Kees Gorter was of course a ruler in his surrounding, but if the boys
meant this is the question. Moreover Pacha should not be pronounced as
‘ch’ but as ‘sh’ or ‘sj’, so like “pasja”. To the nowadays
writing-rules it must be written as ‘sj’. Funny in this we how can see
the relation to the word “shah”.
But anyway the nickname of Gorter had to be pronounced as “Pagga”. This
is natural, as written with ‘ch’ it looks the same as the dutch ‘ach’
and ‘hachelijk’. They were just simple boys, those sailor friends. No
radio, so they never heard the right pronouncing.
Knowing the word “pacha” that time is not so strange. They might have
read it. In the 19th century Turkish rulers were warfaring
regulary, and the Ottoman State fell to pieces. Many newspaper stories
have been written about that. Also books are written those days about
the lives of Turkish rulers, like the cruel pacha Ali of Janina.
But maybe the nickname comes from a word we nowadays do not recognise
anymore. Pagga for instant could have cohesion with the French pagan,
meaning: heathen, heathen character or difficult, hard person. The
etymology of “heathen” is the same as of the Latin ‘paganus’: an
inhabitant of the heather, backward, uncultivated, not christened yet,
malicious. With some fantasy one could translate Pagga as “bad man on
Kees Gorter’s nickname might have come from Pacha in the meaning of
“bad ruler”. It must be pronounced with a ‘g’. Because many people tend
to pronounce Pacha as “Pasja”, we have chosen to write “Pagga”.
[All this discussion would not have been necessary in English, as I saw
“heiden” means not only heathen but pagan as well. My own opinion is
Pagga means Pagan. Coninck Westenberg, who did not know the meaning (a
notary did not talk with people those times, but only to them),
introduced the writing “Pacha”. Only one person made any fuzz about
this, having not read the book. Most others were neutral, and some were
happy that the name was “correctly” spelled, as they always had
considered Pacha as wrongly spelled]