Dr. Louis A. Van Altena, Sr., well known in Cedar Grove and the entire surrounding community, where he has practiced medicine for over forty years and perhaps the oldest inhabitant of early pioneer times residing in the village, was born in The Netherlands, September 20, 1829. His father, Dr. Cornelius Van Altena, was also a native of Holland, his birth having occurred on August 24, 1802. He remained in the country in which he was born until 1849, when he crossed the Atlantic to America, bringing his wife and family and settling in Cleveland, Ohio, where he resided for three years. In June, 1852, he came west and located his future home where the village of Cedar Grove now stands. He was a practicing physician and was attracted to this new and unsettled country in a very ordinary way. While a resident of Cleveland he noticed news in the daily paper from the new Holland colony in Wisconsin and the fact that there was pressing need of a physician in that section. He made a journey of investigation and after one week returned to Cleveland, where he prepared for the long trip, having determined to try his fortune in the newly opened colony. He and his oldest son, Louis, started ahead, going by boat to Fond du Lac.
Here they obtained passage on a small steamer bound for Manitowoc, from whence they proceeded on foot through dense forests to Sheboygan. Upon this journey they met with many thrilling experiences incident to pioneer travel, which, if they could be related, would be of stirring interest to the few survivors of the early days of settlement in Wisconsin. The family followed a short time later, coming to Milwaukee in charge of one of the older sons. When they arrived in the city they purchased one hundred and fifty dollars worth of groceries, part of which they later sold to their needy neighbors. They rented a log house in the Holland settlement for a short time and then purchased ten acres of land for one hundred dollars and upon this property built their home. Dr. Cornelius Van Altena practiced his profession for five years in the section in which he settled and then moved to Milwaukee, where he continued his activities untiJ his death, which occurred on the 14th of December, 1875, when he was seventy-three years of age. His wife, who was in her maidenhood Miss Mary Pauline Vialars, was born in France, near the city of Paris, November 1, 18o6. She was a daughter of M. Vialars, who was head physician at Ostend, where Cornelius Van Altena was a student. It was there that the romance was begun which terminated abruptly in the elopement of the head physician's daughter with the young student. They were married by Dr. Van Altena's father, who was a Presbyterian minister in the city of Utrecht. The grandmother of our subject died in Milwaukee at the age of sixty-six years.
Dr. Louis A. Van Altena was one of a family of seven children. He received his primary education in the public schools of the province of Zeeland, Holland. and later pursued the study of medicine in Utrecht, finishing his course in Cleveland, Ohio. He came to America with his parents in 1849 and three years after their arrival in Sheboygan county, Wisconsin, he engaged in the general practice of medicine with his father, two years later taking full charge of the increasing business. He remained active for forty-one years, keeping steadily abreast of the advancement of his profession a1ong systematic and scientific lines. He united personal experience, knowledge, expert ability, industry and intelligence as factors in his success and is rewarded by the respect and confidence of his fellow citizens, who esteem him as a competent physician and honor him as an upright and worthy man. He is one of the pioneer physicians in Sheboygan county and for many years was the only doctor nearer than those located in the city of Sheboygan. At first he carried on general farming in connection with his profession but as his practice increased he gave his entire attention to his profession. He has lived retired since 1899, his only labors being those incident to the cultivation of his fine garden, which is the most beautiful in Cedar Grove. He is a member of the state and county medical Societies and well known and prominent among his fellow practitioners.
On November 25, 186o, Dr. Van Altena was united in marriage to Miss Siebke Balkerna, a native of Groningen, The Netherlands. Her death occurred in Cedar Grove in 1893, when she was fifty-four years of age. She and her husband became the parents of two children: Cornelius, who died at the age of seventeen; and Louis A., of whom more extended mention is made elsewhere in this work. Dr. Van Altena is now in the eighty-third year of his age. His life has been connected with an important period of development and upbuilding and his earnest labors have been a factor in lessening the hardships of early pioneer times. He has worked sincerely, diligently and capably, being actuated by high, ethical and humanitarian standards, and has gained his reward in widespread respect and esteem.
Information gathered and adapted from History of Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, Past and Present
Carl Zillier, Editor
Pubished by The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912, Chicago, IL