Dijkstra ancestry and the Doopsgezinde (Mennonite) church in Joure

(Sources: De Doopsgezinden te Joure by F.M. Ringnalda(http://www.rinkes.nl/genealogie/doopsgezind.php);  Dijkstra Genealogy (http://kbylsma.bravehost.com/DIJKSTRA.html)

In Fryslan, a significant proportion of the population were 'doopsgezinden' or Mennonites during the early stages of the Protestant Reformation. These followers of the Frisian ex-priest, Menno Simons, formed themselves into informal communities in various locations in Fryslan in the middle of the sixteenth century. They were deeply pious, strongly pacifistic, rejected infant baptism as well as state religions. Initially illegal during the time that the Netherlands was still under Spanish Catholic control, these communities were however tolerated by sympathetic local authorities.

There is evidence that one of these early Mennonite communities was formed in the rural village of Broek, outside of Joure, by about 1570. By the time of early seventeenth century, there were a number of Mennonite informal communities in Joure, composed of both native Frisians as well as exiles from Flanders.

By the middle of the seventeenth century, with the success of Dutch independence and the establishment of the Hervormde (Reformed) church, the Mennonites in Joure received a level of unofficial tolerance; as a result, they were able to finally develop a formal church community. However, Dutch tolerance had its limits; marriages in the Mennonite church were not considered legal; thus Mennonites had to also be married in the Hervormde church or receive civil marriage. This endured until the Napoleonic reforms under French occupation in the early 19th century, when everyone was obliged to undergo civil marriages (in addition to church marriage as option). In addition, non-Hervormde churces were not allowed on main thoroughfares until after 1800.

Ancestors of our grandfather, Durk Dijkstra, were significant members of the Mennonite church in Joure from its beginnings. The earliest known direct paternal ancestor, Ruurd Watzes (Durk's 6X great-grandfather), who was a brewer by profession, was known to be a deacon in the Mennonite church; he lived from about 1605 to about 1677.

Ruurd's son, Sjouke Ruurds Brouwer (brewer) succeeded his father in this position and acted as one of the church wardens. In this role, he and his associate Sytse Martens Timmermans, bought in 1675, on behalf of the community, a house on 'de Flecke' in Joure for 500 guilders, which was destined to be the location of the community church; this is where the Mennonite church on the Midstraat in Joure still stands today. In 1696, the Mennonite church purchased a 34 hectare farm located in North Broek belonging to Sjouke Ruurds Brouwer as a continuing source of funding for the church; this farm remained the property of the church until 1971. Sjouke was married in 1657 and died in 1697.

Ruurd's grandson, Watze Sjoukes, continued in the family tradition as deacon and warden of the church. Like his father and grandfather, he also continued the family tradition as brewer. He was married in 1688 and died in 1706.

During much of its history, Mennonite communities were not sufficiently wealthy to pay for the services of a minister. As a result, preaching in church services was performed by laymen, also known as 'liefdepredikanten' or charity ministers. In the church in Joure, this role was played over the years by a number of Durk Dijkstra's ancestors. One of these preachers was Hylke Watzes, a great-grandson of Ruurd Watzes and the son of Watze Sjoukes; Hylke was a farmer and merchant who became quite rich, paying the highest taxes in the grietenij (municipality) of Haskerland, which included Joure; he lived from 1692 to 1772. One of Hylke's sons, Gjalt Hylkes also was a charity minister.

Another son of Hylke Watzes, Watze Hijlkes, (Durk's 2X great-grandfather) continued as church member but does not appear to have held an official role. For a while, he was a groatsmaker (miller) in nearby Heerenveen, but later was a wealthy farmer in Scharren just to the south-west of Joure. Watze lived from 1720 to 1779.

Mennonites have historically undergone many splits for minor doctrinal differences. In Joure, this happened in the mid 18th century when the majority kept the church on Midstraat, known as the 'Oude Huis' (old house), and the minority maintained a new church on Boterstraat. Durk's ancestors remained with the 'Oude Huis'. In 1783, a major renovation took place of the Midstraat church; 28 members paid a total of 690 guilders for this purpose. Gjalt Hylkes paid 50 guilders as his contribution.

This split remained until 1817 when the two churches re-united in the Midstraat church. At a meeting to discuss the healing of the split, held in August, 1817, two representatives of the 'Oude Huis' were ancestors of Durk Dijkstra. One was Durk Sjoerds de Vries, a wealthy farmer in Broek, who was the grandfather of Durk's mother, Akke Pieters de Vries. It is from this forefather that the name Durk derives. A sister of Durk Sjoerds de Vries, Baukje, was the first wife of Durk Dijkstra's great-grandfather, Tjebbe Durks Dijkstra; they were married in the Mennonite church in 1787; it was this ancestor who chose the family name of Dijkstra in 1811. The other was Klaas Jans de Vries (not related to Durk Sjoerds de Vries), a farmer in Snikzwaag to the northwest of Joure, who was a maternal great-grandparent of Durk Dijkstra (via the wife of his grandfather Fokke Tjebbes Dijkstra).

In 1824, a further re-building of the church building occurred. Until 1800, only the Hervormde church had the right to build churches on main thoroughfares and other churches were not supposed to be visible from such roads. As a result, the Mennonite church was built back from the Midstraat with another building fronting it. After the Napoleonic period, such rules no longer applied and the front building was removed; a more imposing classical front was built facing the Midstraat; however, there is still a setback from the street which reflects the earlier rules.

On the church consistory at the time of re-building in 1824 was Durk Sjoerds de Vries; because insufficient monies had been raised for the re-building, seven church members, including Durk Sjoerds de Vries, consented to granting interest-free loans to the church. It was not until 1834 that the church finally freed itself from its debt.

The Dijkstra family remained connected to the Joure Mennonite church until the latter part of the 19th century. Durk Dijkstra's grandfather Fokke Tjebbes Dijkstra, also a farmer in Broek, acted as charity minister in the church. By the late 19th century, as a result of marriages with people who were members of the Hervormde church, the family eventually lost its connection to the Mennonite church. Durk Dijkstra was born in Broek; his father Tjebbe Fokkes Dijkstra still farmed there until the mid 1880's. However because of bad economic times, the family had to sell the farm in Broek and rented land elsewhere for two decades before finally buying a farm in Oudehaske.

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