Dutch immigration to Iowa began with the arrival of a group of several hundred Dutch settlers under the leadership of Dominie (Reverend) H. P. Scholte in 1847. Scholte and his followers were separatists who had rebelled against the state church in Holland (today known as the Netherlands) and were coming to American to find religious freedom. Eventually, Scholte located a tract of land in Marion County where he and his followers settled and founded the city of Pella, named for a city of refuge mentioned in the Bible.
Scholte wrote many letters to friends and family back in Holland as did other settlers at Pella. Their glowing reports of life in Iowa led many other people to emigrate. So many people came to settle around Pella that soon most of the available land was taken. So a second group, under the leadership of Henry Hospers, began another settlement at Orange City in northwestern Iowa. Dutch settlers in both communities founded colleges: Central College in Pella and Northwestern College in Orange City.
Today both Pella and Orange City honor their Dutch heritage with Tulip Festivals held each spring. Both communities have a large number of Dutch windmills, and many buildings in Pella’s downtown district have been remodeled to resemble buildings in the Netherlands.
Written for Iowa Pathways by Peter Hoehnle.