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Pilgrims Participate in "Salute to the Netherlands" Tour


Edited by Mrs. Paul H. Walker

During the banquet on the night of his election as President General of the Sons of the American Revolution last year in Louisville, Kentucky, Dr. William C. Gist, Jr., announced that he would like to have a tour arranged during the year of his administration to visit the Netherlands.

One purpose was to officially thank their country for helping Americans in our War for Independence. To his knowledge, this had never been done. The Netherlands aided us financially, sent supplies and was the first European country to recognize us as an independent nation. The other purpose was to Leiden where our Pilgrim forefathers sojourned for ten years before coming to America

He appointed S.A.R. and Pilgrim Donald J. Pennell to arrange the tour, and the happy event took place this past spring, with a journey on to Switzerland afterwards.

Twenty-one S.A.R.'s wives and widows went on the tour. Of the group, the following three are Pilgrims: Dr. William C. Gist, Jr., Donald J. Pennell, and Larry L. Blackett.

The tour was suprisingly well received at the Hague. They were met by high dignitaries who were given a plaque of official thanks by the S.A.R., for aiding us in our fight for freedom. It now hangs in that building.

As another part of the Netherlands leg of the journey, they toured Leiden on May 6, 1996, in honor of the 37-th anniversary of the Pilgrim's voyage to settle in America in 1620. They were delighted to find that Leiden, like most of the Netherlands, had retained many of its original buildings. Because of this they could visualize well what the town looked like during the Pilgrim's stay.

From the canal Vliet the first group of Pilgrims, the Mayflower group, left for Delfshaven in 1620. Then from this nearby harbor they sailed for North America.

The church Lodewijkskerk is a catholic church, named after St. Louis. Originally it was a hostel for pilgrims to Santiago-de-Compostella in Spain. After the Reformation (1572) it served as a hall for the sergeguild of the wool industry. William Bradford, later governor of New Plymouth, was a member of this guild, which held its meetings at Lodewijkskerk.

On the canal Rapenburg is the house of Professor Jean Luzac (1746-1807) who published the principles of the American Revolution in his newspaper Gazette de Leyde. Some of the guests who stayed in his house were John and John Quincy Adams (2ns and 6th presidents of the USA). John Adams was a descendant of John Alden of the Mayflower.

Near Rapenburg is the alley Begijnhof. Behind the gate (at the end) is a white building--the former chapel of the Beguinage. Here the Pilgrims held their services in the years after 1617. Permission was given to them by Leiden University, the owner of the building since the Reformation.

On the Kloksteeg canal, Jean Pesijnhofje built in 1683 an almshouse on the site where the Rev. John Robinson lived from 1622 until his death in 1625. His house was built by the Pilgrim William Jepson. Other members of the Pilgrim church lived in small houses in the garden behind John Robinson's house. The place was known as "the English Close."

Pieterskerk is a monumental church and already existed in 1121, although parts of the present church were built in the 14th and 15th centuries. In the southwest corner is a memorial palque for the Rev. John Robinson. He was buried in or near the baptistry. The exact spot was not registered. Other members of the Pilgrim Congregation are also buried here. In 1809 friends of Professor Jean Luzac had a monument placed for him in this church.

On the street Pieterskerkchoorsteeg, between the numbers 17 and 19, is a small alley, William Brewersteeg. Halfway down this alley on the right can be seen William Brewster's house. Here was his printing office.

On the Breestratt is the Waloon Church which was formerly Catharina Hospital where Myles Standish was nursed when wounded in 1602.

The church Hooglandse Kerk was first built in 1325 as a wooden chapel. The present church dates from 1400-1500 and some members of the Pilgrim church are buried there. In the present time it is a museum of geology and minerology.

On the street Vrouwenkerkkoorstraat are the remnants of a church, Vrouwenkerk. Phillipe de Lannoy, and an ancestor of the Delano family (Delano-Roosevelt) born of Waloon parents, was baptized here in 1603. In 1621 he went to Plymouth, New England, aboard the Fortune.

Pilgrim Donald Pennell's account of Leiden now follows the above description of places important to our forefathers.

We didn't have enough time to leisurely stroll through the town as we had left Maastricht that morning, and visited the nearby Netherlands--American Cemetry where over 8,000 American soldiers are buried and the names of another 1,722 missing in action are listed. All were lost liberating the Netherlands from the Germans in WWII. We then drove a hundred miles north to Delft to visit Delft-ware factory, and had lunch before proceeding to Leiden (after which we visited Amsterdam).

The weather was perfect. In fact it was a bit too warm, making our tour of Leiden somewhat arduous. Though we were tired, still suffering from the six-hour time difference, the tour guide kept up a brisk pace which sometimes made stopping for plhotos a challenge. If you dallied too long, you had to almost run to catch up. In addition, as in all of the older parts of any town in the Netherlands, the pavement is of old uneven and sometimes widely spaced bricks. Heavy soled shoes are a must on these tours. However, we did have a good time and were all in good spirits, enjoying ourselves.

The biggest suprise was the number of bicycles. While we did see great numbers of them in the country, we were absolutely overwhelmed by their numbers in Leiden--which is, of course, a university town. All the students ride bikes, along with most of the population. It seemed like there were thousands of them. Some of the bicycle stands hold fifty or more bicycles. The cost of living in the Netherlands is extremely high, and owning an automobile is reserved for the wealthy. Students, inculding grade school, all ride bikes to school, to the libraries, to lunch etc. There are no school busses. Some ride as many as ten miles each way. When it snows (not too common) they either stay home or find someone with a car to take them.

In any event, on our walk through Leiden we were constantly on guard for the multitude of bikes that whizzed by, often within a foot or two of a walker. They do ntot slow down at all but just find some way to go around a pedestrian. it certainly kept us alert.

Another interesting observation. On most buildings there is a cupola or small appearing window at the peak of the roofs. These can be seen in some of the pictures. They contain large pulleys for hoisting their furniture and other heavy items up into their houses, or from one floor to another. All of this part of the Netherlands (Holland) was originally under water, and is an average of 15 feet below sea level. But thanks to the dikes and canals they are all nice and dry. Every-thing is built on pilings--about three feet apart, as there is no bedrock. Many of the older buildings have settled "off-level." Land is very expensive and always has been. All the houses are very narrow. There are no basements nor stairways of any size that you could move furniture up and down from one flight to another. You need all the living space possible. Therefore, everything is hoisted up and down by these pulleys. The size of your windows determines the size of the furniture you can purchase. This condition applies to all residences and apartments except those built since WWII.

We all became close friends as we experiences these origins of our common heritage in the Netherlands. Much hilarity along the way overcame our tiredness and our memories of the tour are bright and beautiful.

[From materials submitted by Pilgrim Donald Pennell and Past President General Paul H. Walker]



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