2013 Heritage Matters-1: Folkert T. Folkers and Hilje Mulder

Parentage: Folkert Teunis Folkers was born 12 Jan 1859 in Groningen, Netherlands. He was the oldest of six children—four boys and two girls—born to Teunis Folkers and Foekje Severien. The father, Teunis, was a ship’s captain and his ship was lost in the North Sea of the Atlantic Ocean on 23 September 1870 just one month short of being 40 years of age. Foekje died just less than four years later, being only 40 years of age. This left the six children ranging in ages from almost 5 years old to 15 years old as orphans.

Hilje Mulder was born 6 May 1856 in the village of Aduard, Groningen, Netherlands. She was the second daughter of six children—four girls and two boys (two of whom died at the age of two years) –born to Hendrik Mulder and Foktje Kloosterman. Hendrik was a common laborer and he died on 5 February 1871 in Niebert, just two and one-half months before his youngest daughter was born. Foktje died in the seventy-fifth year of her age in Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands.

Occupations and Marriage: Sometime in the 1870s, Folkert went to live with Bentie Jans Mulder, a vegetable farmer in Groningen where he lived until his marriage on May 7, 1885. He may have visited his siblings at the “Groene” [Green] Orphanage as often as possible. Hilje was living with a “cow milker”, or dairy farmer in 1872, delivering milk by carrying it on a yoke over her shoulders, and later worked as a housekeeper for a well-to-do family in Groningen. Somehow, she and Folkert met, perhaps at the orphanage, and on 7 May 1885, they were married in Groningen City.

Hilje Mulder and Folkert T. Folkers - 7 May 1885

During the period of 1890 to around 1905, Folkert was a policeman for the City of Groningen. It has been said that he had little sympathy for intoxicated persons and would often throw them into the canals to sober them up. At the time he joined the police force, he had been a “cow milker” according to a record at the police department. Later in the first decade of 1900, Folkert and Hilje worked for the City of Groningen as caretakers of the homeless shelter on Peizerweg, some distance outside the city at that time.

During this time, their second daughter Henderika had moved to be with her Aunt Hendriktje and Uncle Hermanus Thiessens where she worked in the city. Here she met the LDS (Mormon) Missionaries. When she came home, she left tracts (pamphlets) where her mother would see them. She joined the church on 29 February 1908 and two weeks later, her mother and two sisters also joined.

Folkert received a pension from Groningen city police and with that and his earnings as custodian of the homeless shelter, he and Hilje were able to save sufficient (with the help of their daughters who had immigrated to the United States before them) that they could now emigrate from Holland.

Folkert T. Folkers Family ca. 1908:(L-R) Henderika, Foekje, Folkert T, Hilje, and Sara Folkers

Immigration and family: Their daughter, Henderika, was the first to come to Utah in August of 1909.  Her older sister, Foekje (Lena) was the next sibling to come to Utah.  Lena and Henderika were boarding together at 655 – 6th East in Salt Lake City, Utah and both were working at a laundry.  Since Henderika was a boarder at 10 Keyser Court the previous year, Lena probably immigrated about 1912 or 1913.   In 1914, Henderika was listed as Henrietta in the city directory as a seamstress for American Linen Supply Company.  She boarded at 925 Roberta Avenue.  Lena was boarding at 48 Menden Avenue in that year.  Lena had moved to 154 West 5th South by 1915 and was still listed as working at a laundry.  On 13 February 1915, she married William Isaac Moore in Salt Lake City, Utah and they later moved to Oakland, California.

A third sister, Sara, immigrated to Utah in August, 1916 from Groningen, Netherlands.  She married Sidney Thomas Key on May 11, 1921 in Salt Lake City.  She changed her name to Hemhla and listed that she was from France on some of her records.  She was a seamstress in San Francisco, California where she married her second husband, George Robert Whitney, June 30, 1927 and remained in the Bay area until her death in 1950.

On 5 May 1922, Folkert and Hilje officially notified the authorities there that they would be immigrating to the United States. They left from Rotterdam on SS Ryndam on 7 June 1922. After sailing across the Atlantic Ocean for eleven days, they arrived at Ellis Island on 18 June 1922.  Folkert listed his occupation as farmer and his nearest friend in Groningen as Mr. J.H. Wit on Peizerweg 20.  They listed their destination as son-in-law, Mr. H. Theesens [sic], 2916 S. 7th East, Salt Lake City, Utah.

They roomed with Herman and Henrietta Thiessens for almost three years with Folkert listing his occupation as either gardener or farmer until 1925 when he and Hilje moved into a cottage behind George Albert Smith on 1302 Yale Avenue.  Then in 1932 they moved to 581 Leland Avenue, not far from their son-in-law and daughter (a block south and 1 ½ blocks west of where they lived). Hilje raised chickens, rabbits, and vegetables for a number of years.

A main reason for immigrating to Utah for Folkert and Hilje was to be sealed in the Salt Lake temple and to perform temple ordinances for family members who had died.  Within a year of their arrival, they accomplished their sealing and in the following years were able to do temple work for many of their family.

Hilje and Folkert - 55th Wedding Anniversary

Wedding Anniversary and Deaths: On May 7, 1940 Folkert and Hilje celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary when this photo was made, just short of two years before Folkert’s death.  In late February or early March, 1942, Folkert slipped on ice between the house and the outdoor privy until he was found.  Due to the cold, he got pneumonia and passed away on March 15, 1942 at the age of 83 years.  Hilje moved to Bryan Avenue with her daughter and son-in-law.

She resided with their family now growing smaller as her grandchildren married or went out on their own.  With her health failing as she approached 90 years of age, she was admitted into the Salt Lake General Hospital, where she either fell or jumped from a third-story window meeting her death on February 5, 1948.

Epilogue: This tribute was paid to Folkert T. Folkers by President George Albert Smith in his LDS General Conference address, October 1947.

That reminds me of an incident that happened a long time ago.  A Holland brother by the name of Folkers was living with his wife at my place, and they could not speak or understand the English language.  He used to go to the fast meetings, and when the other people talked, he could not understand what they said.  When they finished, he would get up and talk, and we could not understand him.  On day I asked him, “Why do you go to the English-speaking services?  You cannot understand.”  It took me sometime to make him understand what I wanted to know.  Finally he smiled and said: “It is not what you hear that makes you happy; nor what you see that makes you happy; it is what you feel, and I can feel just as well as anybody.”  And that is the thing I wanted to impress upon you this morning.  In this house, dedicated to the worship of our Heavenly Father, we not only can hear and see, but we can also feel the inspiration of the hour and have our faith increased and our spiritual strength renewed, not as a great group of strangers but as real brothers and sisters, children of the Living God.  We can be here together and surely have thanksgiving in our hearts to our Heavenly Father for the many, many blessings extended to us and the opportunities and privileges that are ours.

2013 Heritage Matters-1: Joseph Hyrum Thiessens
Phyllis Porter Scott


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