NEDERLAND, Texas – Down in the Golden Triangle of southeast Texas, you’ll find Nederland.
Just like any town in Texas, this small Dutch community is proud of their heritage. That’s why you’ll find a giant windmill proudly pushing again the winds of the gulf coast.
Carol Culp is the curator of the crazy looking Nederland Texas Windmill Museum that was built back in 1969.
“It’s 40 feet tall,” said Culp. “It’s in recognition of the Hollanders who established the town.”
In 1897, Nederland was settled by a group Dutch settlers who felt the low-lying lands of southeast Texas reminded them of their home in the Netherland, so they named their town after their European country.
The museum pays tribute to the 51 original settlers who came to the Lone Star State for a new life, but once they got a taste of the tropical heat of Texas, some weren’t so Amsterdam thrilled to be there. The Dutch that were determined and had what it took to be Texans, built rice farms and dairies.
Glen Koelemay is kin to some of the original settlers.
“When they got here they found a little bit different climate,” Koelemay said.
Koelemay’s family operated the Orange Hotel for a time, sort of a staging area for Dutch families new to the area. The hotel had a library full of Dutch books, dancing, a lot of polka.
“The family would gather on Friday night and they’d have card games and play pinochle, and I loved to hear their Dutch brogue as they spoke,” said Koelemay.
Glen fondly remembers his boyhood, helping his father run the family dairy.
“I did help put caps on the bottles, and we had a special hand-held machine that had all the bottle caps stacked in it and you’d place it on the bottle and dispense the cap,” Koelemay said. “When I think about it, I thought, boy this was modern stuff at one time.”
He remembers his dad slipping on the old school wooden shoes to go out into the field and the reason his father swore by these not-so-flexible shoes. Of course here at the museum, you can try on a pair for yourself and surprisingly their not too bad but I’ll stick with my boots.
“It wasn’t that it, they were so comfortable, it was that you could slip them off easy when you came into the house, and when you were working around the cows and in the fields, they didn’t wear out,” said Koelemay. “Your feet may have wore out, but they didn’t wear out.”
The Dutch windmill museum is more than just a funny looking building with a few native novelties; it’s a repository of the original settlers who were as strong and stubborn as any Texan to make their way of life in a world much different than which they came, even if they happened to have the same name.
“We need to remember our heritage, all of us need to remember our roots, you know, where we came from, our mom, dad, grandma, well, you know who they were,” Culp said. “We have a lot of Europeans that come. They’re very excited about seeing our museum.”
Considering Texans don’t have to fly over the ocean to learn about this curious collection, it’s truly worth whisking in to hear about the Hollanders who made starting a life in Texas the very first item on the 1897 version of The Texas Bucket List.
“They, they came here, they did their best, they didn’t know what they were doing, but they were doing something and it contributed to their welfare,” said Koelemay. “I’m proud of it. Proud of it.”