Among the men of Sheboygan county whose life's labors have been crowned with success, enabling them now to live retired, is Abraham Van Akkeren. In his youth he experienced great hardships, trials and privations, but these served to call forth the true worth of his character, developing self-reliance and a spirit of industry and determination which have carried him forward to the goal of prosperity. As one of the honored, self-made men of the county, therefore, we present him to the readers of this volume. He is, moreover, entitled to mention as a veteran of the Civil war for he loyally espoused the cause of the Union in the darkest hour of his country's history.
He was born in Oostburg, Holland, June 18, 1838, and has therefore passed the seventy-fourth milestone on life's journey. His father, Jacob Van Akkeren came to America in 1851 with his family, consisting of a wife and two children. He was taken ill, however, and died four days after his arrival, being then fifty-eight years of age. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Susanna De Munk, was a daughter of Jacob De Munk. Her condition was indeed a deplorable one at the time of her husband's death. She was left with no means of support and the care of the two fatherless little children and was unacquainted with the language of the country to which she had come. A stranger, learning of her circumstances on meeting her on the streets of New York, secured her transportation to Sheboygan. This was indeed a case where a friend in need proved a friend indeed, for broad humanitarian principles prompted assistance to an unknown woman whose need was indeed urgent.
On reaching Sheboygan Mrs. Van Akkeren at once began to work and her son Abraham also sought employment. She lived to see her son well established in a comfortable home and from him receive loving and filial devotion, making her home with him in Holland township to the time of her death, which occurred December 31, 1895, when she was over ninety-two years of age. A brother of our subject is stiII living, Jacob who makes his home in Holland township.
Abraham Van Akkeren was a lad of about thirteen years when he arrived in Wisconsin. He worked on a farm which included a part of the present site of Sheboygan. It was then a wilderness of native timber and in the arduous task of clearing and developing the land Mr. Van Akkeren was soon engaged. He worked upon that place for his board and clothing until seventeen years of age, but his clothing was but little more than rags. He was also ill fed and he of ten ate the stale bread with which he was sent to feed the cattle. He indeed suffered many hardships and privations during this period but he bore all as uncomplainingly as possible and under such conditions developed a self-reliant and independent spirit which has constituted the basis of his success in later life.
At the age of seventeen he left his first employer and secured a position elsewhere at thirty dollars per year with the privilege of attending school for two months in the year. He was continuously employed as a farm hand until 1862, when his patriotic spirit was aroused by the continued attempt of the south to over-throw the Union, and he enlisted as a member of Company I, Twenty-seventh Regiment of Wisconsin Infantry, with which he served for two years and ten months. This regiment was attached to the western army under General Steele. With it he marched through Arkansas, participating in five hotly contested battles, but was never wounded. After the close of the war, on the 29th of August, 1865, he was mustered out at Brownsville, Texas, and following his return home he purchased a small farm, was married and then started out upon an independent career. He thus continuously followed farming until 1905, when he removed to Sheboygan and retired. He had brought his fields under a high state of cultivation and the care and labor which he bestowed upon them led to the production of large crops. He added to his place many modern equipments and accessories and divided his farm into fields of convenient size by well kept fences. His methods were practical and his unremitting industry constituted the basis of his success.
On March 5, 1866, occurred the marriage of Mr. Van Akkeren and Miss Elizabeth Pattist, who was born in Rochester, New York, December 25, 1847, a daughter of John and Sarah (Van De Vere) Pattist, who in 1843 came to America. The father-worked as a laborer in New York for a number of years and in 1856 came to Sheboygan, where he invested his savings in land. This was covered with heavy timber so that it was necessary for him to clear his land from trees and brush before he could cultivate his fields. In the midst of the forest he erected a little log cabin and in that pioneer home began lif e in Wisconsin, contributing to the development and general progress of this part of the county as well as attaining individual success. There were nine children in the Pattist family, a brother of Mrs. Van Akkeren being killed while on his way to Sheboygan, and another meeting death by a tree falling upon him. Another brother is still alive.
To Mr. and Mrs. Van Akkeren twelve children have been born, all of whom but one are living: Sarah, who married Henry Heiden; John, who married Elizabeth Eernisse; Jacob, who married Clara Polk; Susan, the wife of Louis Oppeneer; Elizabeth, the wife of Henry John TeRonde; Edward, who married Ella Orlebeck; Anna, the wife of William Leneness; Abraham, who married Alma Sperling; Cora, the wife of Isaac Kleinhessling; and George and Louis, who are both unmarried.
Mr. Van Akkeren is a member of the Reformed Christian church and his has been an upright, honorable life. He certainly deserves much credit for what he has accomplished for his childhood was devoid of many comforts and opportunities which most boys enjoy. When in the employ of the farmer previously mentioned he was furnished wooden shoes which he wore without stockings until his mother came to see him, and, seeing his condition, took off her own stockings and gave them to him, walking to her place of work barefooted. Other conditions equally hard made life a struggle for him in his youth. He learned the value of money and when he was able to earn more he carefully saved what he could until he was enabled to start in life independently. All that he now possesses has come to him as the reward of his earnest, persistent labor and indicates what may be accomplished when industry, sound judgment and ambition are combined.
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