My great-grandfather, Arie Smouter, was born on August 10, 1862 in Ridderkerk, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands, according to Dutch archival records. He was the third child of 14 known children born to Bastiaan and Neeltje Smouter. However, he was the oldest living child of his siblings as his two older brothers died in infancy. I believe he grew up on a Dutch farm as his father’s occupation is noted as a “lokkenboer” (boer means a farmer in Dutch) in the Smouter genealogy prepared by Astrid Dijkgraaf, a distant cousin.
On October 22, 1885 Arie married Adriaantje Andeweg in Barendrecht, Zuid-Holland. I believe that Arie and Adriaantje lived in Barendrecht (a small municipality south of Rotterdam) before emigrating to the United States based on birth records located in the Dutch archives for their children. In 1890 Arie would bring his young family (Adrianntje and 2 small daughters, Neeltje and Lijntje) to the United States and settle briefly in Detroit, Michigan. He would be the only one among his siblings that would emigrate to the United States. Examination of Detroit City Directories indicate that Arie definitely resided in Detroit in 1890, 1891 and 1893. However, from 1894 through 1896, no entry for Arie can be located in the city’s directories. So far, I only have unsupported speculation that Arie may have moved his family (which now consisted of 2 more children born in Detroit – my Grandmother, Jennie, and her younger brother, John) to Grand Rapids, Michigan. By 1897, Arie returns once again to Detroit, making the city his permanent home for the remainder of his adult life. He and Adrianntje would complete their family once back in Detroit with the birth of one more daughter, bringing the total number of living children to five.
Like my paternal great-grandfather, John Cornelius Reyst, Sr., Arie was also classified as “an arbeider”, which means a manual laborer. Even the very first entry in the Detroit City Directories (in 1890) lists Arie’s occupation as laborer. During the first few years in Detroit, Arie apparently sought work in various manual labor jobs as he is also listed in these directories as a painter and gardener. After returning to Detroit in 1897, Arie was self-employed as a peddler or huckster (common name for a peddler in the early 1900s), primarily of fruit. By 1910, however, Arie would try a new profession as a commission merchant (a person who buys goods and earns a commission upon sale of those goods) – what he bought and sold I don’t have a clue. But I do know that he listed his business in the 1910 Detroit City Directory under two names: Arie Smouter & Co. and Arie & Co., which also lists a partner, Thomas H. Norman. So maybe my strong analytical skills can be attributed to my great-grandfather, Arie. Although I never owned my own business, I spent a lot of time analyzing businesses in my tenure as a CPA. By 1920, though, Arie is no longer self-employed, but working as a millwright in a tannery – a job he held until at least 1930, according to the 1930 U.S. Census. Also from these directories, I learned that Arie used the nickname of “Harry” during the 1910s – thereby solving the mystery of why my father, also named Arie, was known as Harry among family and close friends. How my great-grandfather starting using the nickname, Harry, is a mystery – but maybe throughout his years as a peddler a business associate tagged him with the name. But the name was significant enough for his younger daughter, Mamie, to also name her only son, Harry.
Arie must have been somewhat successful in his various occupational endeavors because by 1910 he no longer rented a home for his family but owned the house in which he lived. According to the 1910, 1920 and 1930 U.S. Censuses, Arie owned two homes near Elmwood Cemetery (located between E. Vernor Hwy, Mt. Elliott Street and E. Lafayette Street on Detroit’s east-side) – the first between the Detroit River and E. Lafayette Street (near what is now Martin Luther King High School) and the other one near E. Vernor Hwy. After Adrianntje passed away in 1934, he would sell the house at 1333 Elmwood and purchase a home for himself, his daughter, Mamie, and his grandson, Harry on Flanders, near Houston-Whittier Street., Chalmers Street, and E. Outer Drive (close to Detroit City Airport). That house he would eventually transfer to Mamie, who lived in the house until she passed away in 1988.
From the limited photos taken of my great-grandfather that I have seen, Arie appears to have been a man of average build (likely 5’8″ to 5’10” tall) with dark hair. My mother’s few recollections of my father’s grandfather recalls that Arie usually spoke Dutch when around older family members. However, as was typical of the male head of a Dutch immigrant household of the 1890s, Arie quickly learned to assimilate into his new American surroundings as the 1900 US Census indicates that he could already read, write and speak English.
Arie Smouter would pass away at 85 1/2 years old on February 3, 1948 from coronary thrombosis. He was interned next to Adrianntje in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Detroit. So you might say that although Arie struggled to provide for his family through various manual labor jobs throughout his life here in America, he was successful and proud of his accomplishments.
Sources: Nationaal Archief Civil Registers of Births and Marriages; New York Passenger Lists, 1820 – 1957 (The National Archives); US Census records from 1900, 1910, 1920. and 1930; various City of Detroit Directories from 1890 to 1920; State of Michigan Certificate of Death, online Smouter genealogy websites by the family and Astrid Dijkgraaf