Monday, June 23, 2008

Johannes Laurentius DeGroot

Johannes Laurentius DeGroot, also known as “John DeGroot,” was born around 1829 in Groningen, the Netherlands, the son of Dirk and Alida (Jacoba).

John was married to Ebeltje Boetes (b. 1836) on April 29, 1857, in the Netherlands and they had at least one child, a son Henry (b. September of 1857). While his family remained behind in the Netherlands, John and his brother Dirk (or Durich) immigrated to the United States sometime before 1860 when John was probably living with the Huburtus family in Polkton, Ottawa County, Michigan, where he was working as a miller with his brother Dirk.

Unfortunately 1860 turned out to be a bad year for John, as he made clear in at least two letters home to his family back in the Netherlands. He was living in Eastmanville, Ottawa County when he wrote on August 23 to his “Dear wife and little son”

I received a letter on the 20th of Aug. with great pleasure. I have tried to obtain employment in a mill and I succeeded at last. But after a few days I was taken sick, very seriously, and confined to bed. My employer sent for the doctor. I bled from the nose fort 5 hours. The doctor advised me to return to the place from whence I came, because the climate and water would not agree with me and I would die if I should stay any longer. I am now recovering. I had saved $23 and all of that was . . . during my sickness. I feel assured that with the help of the Great Lord I will completely recover. Give my best love to our old mother.

He was still in Eastmanville and when he wrote home on November 22.

Dear wife and little son, with great pleasure I received a letter from [you] and hasten to write a few lines in answer. I have been very sick for 10 weeks. It has cost me over 100 guilders (1 guilder = 42 cents, translator) and that is the reason that I have not come home in the fall although I had a great desire to do so. But it cannot be helped now, as the distance which now separates us is too great; even if I should try it, it is not so easy. Be patient and trust in God; what He does is well done and for a good purpose – to make man better. Everything will come out straight.

John stood 5’9” with blue eyes, light hair and a light complexion, and was 32 years old and probably living in Kent County with his brother’ family or perhaps in Georgetown, Ottawa County when he enlisted in Company C on May 13, 1861. (Company C was made up largely of German and Dutch immigrants, many of whom lived on the west side of the Grand River in Grand Rapids. This company was the descendant of the old Grand Rapids Rifles, also known as the “German Rifles”, a prewar local militia company composed solely of German troopers.)

John reenlisted on December 21, 1863, at Brandy Station, Virginia, crediting Polkton or Ada, Kent County, was presumably absent on veteran’s furlough in January of 1864, possibly in Michigan, and probably returned to the Regiment on or about the first of February. He was transferred to Company I, Fifth Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the Third and Fifth Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864, and was reported absent sick in February of 1865.

In fact he had apparently been admitted to the 3rd division hospital II Corps on January 20, 1865, suffering from chronic diarrhea and was transferred on February 1 to the 2nd division hospital at city Point, Virginia. Although he was returned to duty February 10 he entered the general hospital at Point Lookout, Maryland on February 12.

On February 25, 1865, while a patient at Point Lookout hospital in Maryland, John wrote to Dr. Van Camp, the surgeon in charge of the hospital requesting a furlough. “Dear Sir: I am a patient in your hospital [ward 3], suffering from chronic diarrhea. I have been three years and eight months in my country's service and have had but one furlough. My sickness is of near four months’ standing and I believe that a visit home enjoying the climate and advantages that would thus surround me would aid materially toward my recovery and restoration to the service. I therefore would most respectfully ask a furlough at your hands. . . .”

DeGroot’s request was approved and on March 16 he returned to western Michigan recover his strength. On March 25 the Grand Rapids Eagle reported “John DeGrote [sic], one of the bravest and best of soldier boys, who went out with the glorious ‘Old Third’, after four years of service has just returned to his home in this vicinity. He has just been compelled to leave his comrades in arms for a time, by that army scourge, chronic diarrhea. Young DeGrote left here, the picture of good health, robust and strong, and now, though he has been sick but a few weeks, he is a complete skeleton, so emaciated that his most intimate friends scarcely knew him at first sight. We hope he will soon recover and be able to exclaim, ‘Richard’s himself again.’”

John was reported as a deserter as of April 30. In fact, his health had deteriorated significantly while at home on leave and he died of chronic diarrhea at his brother Dirk’s home in Grandville, Kent County, on Saturday, April 7, 1865. He was buried in Grandville cemetery.

By 1878 Ebeltje was living in Grootegast, province of Groningen when she applied for and received a pension (no. 185320).

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