Scholte was born on September 25, 1805 in Amsterdam during the time of Napoleon. His family was part of a colony of German sugar industrialists who had settled in Amsterdam many years before. Hendrik’s grandfather was an Amsterdam sugar refiner and his father was involved manufacturing boxes for the sugar refiners. His parents were members of the Restored Evangelical Lutheran Church, an orthodox secession of the Evangelical Lutheran Church
As a young man, Hendrik studied art in Amsterdam. He also served as an apprentice in his father’s box factory. During this time Hendrik experienced a sad series of deaths. His father died late in 1821 (when Hendrik was 16), his grandfather in 1822, his mother and his brother in 1827. At the age of 23, he became the sole survivor of his family, the inheritor of great wealth, a business, and a house.
Although he had worked in his father’s factory, the business did not interest him, so he sold the family business and studied theology, philosophy, and political subjects at the University of Leiden. He became a member of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1827 or 1828, and after graduation, he became an ordained minister in that denomination.
Scholte married Sara Maria Brandt, daughter of a wealthy Amsterdam sugar refiner, only a month after finishing his ministerial training at Leyden in 1832. The young pastor and his wife began their ministry in Noord Brabant. Later in their marriage, they moved to the city of Utrecht.
Five daughter were born to Hendrik and Sara Maria. Only three - Sara, Maria and Johanna - survived infancy.
The young mother died a year-and-a-half after the birth of Johanna and was buried in Utrecht only days before her 38th birthday.
Under Dutch law, the Reformed Church had been the only recognized Protestant denomination since the 1814 Constitution, which allowed for religious freedom - but only when applied to existing denomination. Under the Napoleanic Code, Seceeders were not allowed to hold meetings with more than 20 people without state permission.
Scholte was the leader of a small group of orthodox Calvinist clergy, including Albertus van Raalte and Anthonie van Brummelkamp, that refused to compromise with the liberal Reformed Church. Issues came to a head when Hendrik de Cock and his Ulrum congregation publicly seceded from the Reformed Church in 1834, bringing about the Afscheiding (Secession) of 1834
The Seceders' initial efforts to gain recognition met strong state opposition. Scholte's civil disobedience had earned him fines as well as an 18-month prison sentence, although he was released on bond. Scholte wanted a Reformed church independent of government oversight and was the first to adopt the name Christelijk Afgescheiden Gemeente (Seceeded Christian Church), which was given to his Utrech congregation in 1838. Even though persecution eventually gave way to reluctant tolerance by the Dutch government, Seceders continued to struggle under social ostracism, economic boycotts, and job discrimination.
After much deliberation, Scholte concluded In the spring of 1846 that emigration to the United States offered Seceders the only meaningful chance for religious liberty and economic opportunity. The group did considerable planning and chose Iowa as their destination. They also decided to name their “City of Refuge” Pella.
Scholte married Maria Kranz (AKA Mareah) in 1846. Shortly after the birth and death of their first son, Scholte, his wife, his three daughters, and his congregation emigrated to America in 1847. Scholte and his family traveled in style on the steamship Calidonia, reaching Boston after a 13 day journey. Their 900 fellow immigrants travelled on four much slower, less comfortable sailing ships that took about 2 months to cross the ocean, reaching Baltimore in late May and early June 1847.
The entire group then traveled by road, railway, and riverboat to St. Louis, where they settled temporarily. Led by Scholte, the leaders traveled to south central Iowa, where they purchased 18,000 acres of farm land for $1.25 per acre and contracted to have log cabins built on this land for the settlers. The majority of the group, about 600, arrived to settle Pella, Iowa, on August 26, 1847, and found that, not surprisingly, the log cabins had not been built. They built temporary shelters by digging depressions in the soil and building temporary walls and roofs from whatever material they could find, often using sod. The remainder of the group arrived in spring of 1848. The immigrants lost about 150 members between leaving the Netherlands and finally reaching Pella.
Hendrik and Maria had nine children (one died in infancy in the Netherlands), but only four - Henry, David, Dora, and another daughter - survived infancy. Only Henry and these two daughters married and had children, continuing the family tree to the present day.
Scholte provided leadership in the colony's early years. He not only was the pastor of its nondenominational Calvinist congregation, but also served as the overall leader of the colony. Scholte laid out a plat of the town, chose names for the streets and avenues, and built up the Christian Church of Pella. He took care of legal affairs and started a lime and brick kiln as well as a sawmill. Scholte opened a bank and established a newspaper. He became the postmaster, the notary, and the land agent. In addition, he served on the college board, was a school inspector, and became active in local and national politics, even attending the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln.
However, everything did not go smoothly in Pella, and Scholte was suspended from preaching in 1854. He thus founded the Second Christian Church of Pella, where he preached until he died. The new congregation lasted about one year after that. (A third Pella congregation, called the Dutch Reformed Church was formed in 1856, and soon united with the Reformed Church in America. A second Dutch Reformed congregation was organized in 1862, this one worshiping in English instead of Dutch.)
First and foremost, Scholte was a dynamic preacher. He continued to preach in his little white church until his death in August 1868, days shy of his sixty-third birthday.
- Hendrik Pieter Scholte, Pella Tulip Time
- Scholte, Hendrik Pieter [1805-1868], The New Netherland Institute (via Internet Archive)
- Scholte, Hendrik Pieter (1806–August 25, 1868), The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa
- Hollanders of Iowa , Jacob Van Der Zee, esp. chapters 36 and 37
- Hendrik Scholte, Wikipedia.nl (Dutch)
- Background: Atlantic World - Emigration to North America