Dear relatives,
Some time ago I sent you the book on the legendary Texel jutter Pagga and his wife Antje.
Of course, you will understand little of it, apart from the illustrations done by my sister Monica. But as I temporarily ran of out of work (my ceramics workplace needed a new floor and I couldn't go in), I had plenty of time to make a translation. I followed the original text closely so the combinations of text and illustrations will be easy to grasp. I did not translate original pieces of newspaper etc.
All the best, Irene Maas

Along the path of Pagga
Page 7 In our family, people always talked with respect of old Pagga, 'a very good jutter', who, long ago, lived somewhere at the foot of the dunes in a sod-walled cabin. His dune path was trodden regulary, often enough to keep it from getting overgrown.
Our father, Cor Maas, was born when Pagga had been dead for eight years. He had no personal memory of the man. Our grandmother, Trijn Mulder, knew him well. Growing up in a cabin south of the Common grounds, with Pagga living on the north side, they were close neighbours. And her father shared the West Beach with him, the beach between marking poles 14 and 18. They met there daily.
I wondered what kind of people they were, that man Pagga and his wife, and what life was like in that remote place by the end of the 19th century, how they managed in their house of sods, summer and winter, left by the Lord and all people.
Little by little I unravelled their lives. Descendants, the odd newspaper-clipping and abstracts from a diary of the Mennonist preacher Jakob Huizinga.
A hundred years later on, he dunes are now closed to the public, the path has grown over.
Wood was planted on the site of the house, it has grown, and been thinned and harvested.
There is a asphalt road, now, and a parking lot for cars. If Pagga and his wife could see it today, they would not believe their eyes.

Irene Maas
Translation done by myself, and a few pages read by professional translator Anja van Weeszenberg

A cabin in the Enchanted Land
Page 11 Between 1890 and 1892, the nature-lover Jac. P. Thijsse, was a young teacher on Texel. He thought of the Western-Common as a 'charmed land', a 'very remarkable landscape, part heather, part swamp, full off the most beautiful flowers and the nicest birds’. In those day, just one sod-walled cabin existed on the Common, a turf hut, a 'keet'. Thijsse must have walked along there, he may even have gone inside, visiting the elderly occupants Kees Gorter and Antje Dekker. Thijsse easily made contact with people, and they liked visitors.
Kees' and Antjes sod hut was the last occupied 'keet' on the Western Common. The Topographic Map of 1859 shows more cabins: on the Gerrit Leens Hok * near the Fountains Dune (torn down in 1876), at Woutershok, where, until 1873, Wouter Verweij lived with Aafje Teekes van Grouw, and on the Rough Land of the Mulder Family, where the keet was replaced by a little brick house around 1885.
As shown on the 1853 Tenants Card, there were 'keten' (huts) all along the coast, along the base of the dunes. All these inhabitants lived like the Gorter family.
* Hok: a piece of land surrounded by a 'tuin(fence)wal' (this is a wall of sods, about 1 m in highth).

Page 12 In the beginning of the 20e century, digging ditches and planting trees made the wuthering grounds of the Common much drier. It is hard to imagine what it must have looked like in the 19e century. But some nature-lovers, visiting the area at the time, give us an impression. F.W. van Eeden writes in his 'Botanic Wanderings' around Texel: 'The shallow, undulating grounds contrasts with the yellow-white dunes in the distance. Meadows give the landscape freshness, but also something familiar, but the physionomy of the heathland parts is tragic. The green of the heather Calluna vulgaris is brownish, as if scorched; the rose-red flowers are invisible because they are so small.
A path, half grown-over, winds among those miniature hills, painting bleached irregular stripes along the landscape. All is silent - only the sea is heard rushing far away’.
Jac. P. Thijsse, too, was deeply impressed by the Common. He wrote about it in his famous Verkade-album in 1927. [Long original text, not translated]

Page 14 Only one photograph of the hut is left. It shows old Mr. And Mrs. Gorter sitting by the window. The photo must be taken shortly before 1909. The gentleman on the left may be Jan Flens, the owner of the Bath-hotel, build in 1907. He allegedly visited the Gorters with a British jounalist. They came out at his request, they would not have done of their own accord.
On some copies of this picture, the face of Pagga has been touched up. At the back of the photo is written: 'In memory of Your old Neighbours C. Gorter and A. Gorter-Dekker’.

Page 16 Someone living in a village cannot imagine the life of the countryman: so remote, so lonely. And the real countrypeople would not think of living as close together as people are in a village.
Depending on one's nature, life on the Common was as poor as it was rich, they were at one with nature, the weather, the seasons. But did these people take in the beauty of the landscape they lived in? Did they enjoy the changing colours of the dunes, the light, the birds, people like Thijsse would describe so ornately? They may well have taken things for granted, without further thought. “These birdmen, they are quite a different kind of people”.
One would be really solitary there. Kees went off working as a farm hand, so he would meet other people. But Antje was at home most of her days. They were familiair with this way of life. They did not go to the Institution of Charity in Den Burg of their own volition. They had to, they could no longer manage, due to their age. Gorter died 3 months after they moved there - and not just because he was washed, as the story goes.
But even on the Common they were not all by themselves. Little houses and farms were scattered all over, and they kept a watchful eye on each other. The 'Smits of the farm Wrestlingplace' kept sheep on the Gorters' land. Every day, someone would come and look after the animals, and he also lookedin on Pagga to see if all was well with the 'old folks in the mud cabin'. The neighbours closer by, living at the farmlet 'The Enterprise' (nowadays 'Dune-rest') only 300 meters away, could actually see the cabin. They may not have been able to see the whole house, because of the dunes, but they would certainly notice a non-smoking chimney.

Page 17 There was little contact with the outside world. If necessary, they put a sign on the roof, a sheet or blanket. That was a well-known signal that something was wrong, and someone would come around to look what the problems were.

The children of the Gorters left home when they were quite young. Jan Keijzer, Antje's son from an earlier marriage, lived on the Opposite Shore,* like their daughter, also named Antje. They sent postcards to their parents from time to time. The stamp cost of half a cent, and for that half cent, the postman would walk all the way from Den Burg [6 km]. Sometimes he would save the cards until he also had some for the neighbours: the Families Krijnen, Witte, Maas or Koorn.
These people could not read; the postman would read the cards out to them, and, if necessary, correct the text. He always stayed for a cuppa, while giving them the latest news.
* To those on Texel, the Opposite Shore, 'overkant', is the rest of the world, it means the other side of the Marsdiep, the sea-arm between Texel and North Holland.

Page 18 So much beach combing to do

Much more flotsam was washed upon the shore those days. More ships were wrecked, more prize to comb the beaches for. A map drawn by the Texel notary Kikkert shows as many as 100 ships, wrecked in a short period of time. The Mennonist preacher Huizinga, too, wrote about it in his diary: 'Talks of three ships behind De Koog, one is lost with all crew’, he wrote on 15 November 1861.
The next day: 'Terrible are the disasters on the coast, at least eight ships actually beached and, at some distance, many more are lost in the waves.'
The winter of 1882/'83 was one with heavy storms and great losses, starting in October, getting even worse in January, and ending with the terrible storm of 5 and 6 March, which is remembered to this very day because of the loss off just about the entire fleet of the Friesian villages Paesens and Moddergat.

(Until here the text was corrected bij Anja, the rest is my own translation)

The coast was treacherous to seamen, but for the people living there, it was a way to make some extra earnings. Often they could help salvaging beached goods, paid salvage-charters. Thereby much was to be beachcombed.
Many things washed ashore. For instance a ship loaded with manufactures, but also ships containing loads of bricks, or barrels of butter or wine.
In December 1871 the vicar Huizinga made a note of a stranding: ”Barrels oil and Madeirawine washed on; the jutters are happy with it”.
And on Christmas Day 1877: “Great movements of people on the beach since many days. Surprisingly much wood is drifting on”.
Things the jutters could not use themselves were sold. Lost drifters of fishingnets were to be re-used, as also glass spheres and oil-blazes. Regularly professional traders came along, like Sam Vlessing and Jaap of Kasse Zegel. They bought anything, not only goods from the beach, but gulls-eggs, snared thrushes and poached rabbit-skins as well. With Vlessing often no money was used. One could buy goods on account, to receive for instance a sewing machine in return, or material for clothes.

page 20 Living in a sod-wall hut

The well-known sod-wall huts in the inland province of Drente were completely differently constructed thing those on the coast. On Texel one had driftwood to timber-off the inner side neatly. All the wood came from the beach. Only the glass needed for the windows had to be bought.
The picture of the cabin (pag. 14) only shows the side window. The rest has to be guessed. There will have been a brick chimney and at the right-hand side a door and a window. Oral stories tell us there was a “hossie” (small hall) in which the oil-stoves were standing. In the only room was also the cupboard-bedstead. There was an open stove with a kettle on a hook, a table with chairs at the side window, and a cupboard. More room to put things was under the bedstead. The wooden walls were painted grey with paint found on the beach. All together such a house was not much different from other Texel houses, but it was just build of sods instead of bricks.
Replacing a “sod-wall cabin” by a brick house, as happened on the “Rough Land” in 1885, was considered an improvement. But one wonders what was more comfortable: a half-brick wall or thick sod walls. A stone wall attracts less vermin, like insects, mice, rabbits and other digging beasts.

Outside the door was a small brick road. Next to it a wooden fence with flowers, a kitchen garden with strawberries, currants, pears and other fruit. Outside also was a “helmhok”(‘beachgrass-square’, a small square construction of “tuinwalls”). There the human excrements went and all other dung. Further on was a goat pen, but sometimes driftwood had to dry in there. If the pen was full, and it was raining, they let the goat into the house, tied to the table leg. Droppings were shifted in the fire.

Antje suffered of rheumatics when she was old. As a remedy she kept a turtle-dove in a cage in the room. She also had a horse-skin in her chair, a thing said to help. It will not have done her any wrong, but as well it did not prevent her from moving with more-and-more difficulties in time.

page 22 The household water came out a pool. This water was used for any means: the washing was rinsed in it, but even as easy a bucket-full was taken out for coffee. The dirt would sink, the water was sieved and boiled, and “ any beast in it brought its fat”. Someone who couldn’t stand this didn’t grow old. Country people lived for centuries this way, simple and poor, everywhere the same. But a heavy life it was.
Kees worked at farms and was away from dawn till dusk milking, scooping and digging trenches. Next to this he had his own yard and house to maintain. Moreover almost every day he had to go to the beach to beachcomb, before and after his daily duties.

The pool was a little well, not standing water. The Common those days was very wet, and the pool never ran dry. They held a pike in it, which came as Antje whistled. They gave him pieces bread, grandson Jacob remembers. It must have been a tench, as pikes don’t eat bread.

page 24 Firewood and droppings

Pagga always said: “If only we may survive the summer, wintertime brings plenty on the beach”. Such a quote is typical, but it will not have been easy in winter at all. Only west and north-west winds bring flotsam on the beach. With southerly winds nothing washes up, because the booty washes past the Texel beach. And easterlies make the flotsam drift away; moreover, easterlies in winter bring the cold. During long-lasting easterly wind the gathered firewood is burned quickly. Then they must provide with heather-sods. Heating quickly, but burned even quicker.

Jacob Huisman, the grandson of the Gorters, regularly went to stay with his grandparents on the Common between 1900 and 1908. He could walk there by himself from Den Burg. For a boy was there much to do, both near the hut and on the beach.
Jacob remembered most firewood was taken from the beach by his granny. He helped her carrying. Granddad collected bigger pieces. Jacob also remembered how he helped collecting cow-dung for the garden. They really could use anything.


The years round 1900 much happened on the Common. Ploughing and clearing and planting forest on the barren grounds had started.
Many men and boys of the Common worked on it, hired by the ”State”.
The part of the Common where the Gorters lived, was called by everyone “Gorters Common”. When a piece of meadow close by was cleared, this was self-evidently called “The New land at Gorters” or “Gortersland”.
Whether Kees and Antje had any thoughts about all this has not been noted. Their opinion did not count anyway.

Picture above: Clearing the Western Common with oxen in the summer of 1906. To the right the first Texel forester Klaas Min.
Picture left: labourers
The maintenance of the area also gave work to Gorter. Forester Min noted: “Clearing the “New Land” charged to C. Gorter at 5 guilder”. Pagga had the age of almost 71 by then.


In the final days of their living on the Common the old Pagga and his Antje were worn out. Their daughter Antje used to come for a day from Den Burg to keep the household. Arie Maas from De Koog did some work for them, but at last it was not just cutting wood and keeping the garden. They could no longer cope for their own, especially after the moving of their daughter away form the island, to Nieuwendam [near Amsterdam]. They had to leave the cabin at the Gorters Common and went to live in the Institution of Charity in Den Burg, in the new building just-opened in February 1909. They were lucky something like that existed, as they had no children left on Texel to take care of them.
Their goods were sold, but no one was interested in the sodden hut.

They had to pay 2,50 guilders per week for living in the Institution. Mr. Coninck Westenberg, a regular letter-writer to the New Texel Courant, wrote a piece about this, en passant giving a good view of the old couple [piece of newspaper to collect money for them].


There she is sitting, Antje Dekker, at the end of her life, back among the people at last. What is passing her mind? Does she think of her earlier life, her men and children? Her young years in Oudeschild, where she loved Lammert, the sailor who did not return, leaving her with a daughter, does she think of that?
Or does she think of her marriage to the Common-farmer Jacob Keijzer that urged her to move far away from the inhabited world, maybe not because of love, but to get a house for herself and her daughter? Or does she think of her husband Kees Gorter, to whom she was married then for 44 years?

Would she think of her children, all those children who did not survive? Only Jan and Antje were still alive. Does she think of autumn of 1867, when she gave birth to twins which had to be buried within a month, while at the same time she lost her first daughter Antje? Would one day pass without the thought of this?

Does she think of the hard, lonely life on the seamy side, along the dunes, the beach, far away from Oudeschild, from other people, from the church? First they had a small farm, and in later days just a sod-wall cabin. That did not earn much. With a goat, some potatoes, beans, strawberries and apples in the garden, one could not live through the year.
Kees Gorter did some jobs at “the farmers”, being off all day, while she had to cope all by herself in the loneliness of the Common.
Does she think of all that?
Or has she forgotten it all; is Antje happy to live in the Institution, finally back among people and at last having no more worries about household and obtaining food. Here is enough everyday and there is no need to do anything for it at all…….


Antje was the daughter of Jan Dekker and Antje Breker. As a young girl she kept company with a sailor, not unusual in a fishery village. His name was Lammert. They were engaged and she was pregnant and they would get married when he returned from his next voyage. But he never came back, he “stayed at sea”.
The baby born to her was called Aaftje Lammerts Dekker. Lammert may not be born in Oudeschild, as no one has remembered his last name.


Why did Antje depart from Oudeschild with her little Aaftje?
At a certain moment it was clear that Lammert wouldn’t come back. There might even have been definite messages of his death. Anyway she was an unmarried mother in a small harbour village. For sure, she was not the first one, but it still was regarded a shame. She had no good prospects at all.
In 1853 Antje choose to marry an elder man, a dune-farmer. He was Jacob Maartensz Keijzer, of the small farm “De Onderneming (The Enterprise)”, close to the Old Bleachery in the dunes. Nowadays the farmhouse is called “Duinrust (Dune-rest)”.
“The Enterprise” was in 1848 owned by Cornelis Jansz Zutphen, who rented some pieces of Common ground close-by. Zutphen inherited the farm “Buitenlust (Country-joy)” near Den Burg and decided to go on farming there. The little farm on the Common he let to Jacob Keijzer in 1851.

How did Antje meet a farmer of the Common and how did she get all the way from Oudeschild to the Western Common?
Perhaps this was done by Aafje Teekes. Aafje lived with her husband Wouter on the Common, not far from Jacob Keijzer. They knew each other because she was the mother of Kors Eelman, married to Antjes sister Dirkje. Maybe she heard her neighbour needed a wife. She might have talked about this with the mother of Antje, for instance after church service in the “Admonishing”, for both families were Mennonites. Anyway, they got married. We do not know whether this was a marriage for convenience or for love, but Antje did have not much choice having a fatherless child.
With Jacob she had two children: Frouwtje and Jan. And though Jacob wasn’t a rich man, they did quite well together. They lived in a small but good stone farmhouse, with a thatched roof.

After ten years this marriage ended suddenly with the death of Jacob in 1863.
In the same year “The Enterprise” was let to Kors Eelman, Antjes brother-in-law. The take-over of the farm by him and his wife Dirkje meant there was no place left for Antje and her children……..


Kees Gorter grew up in De Koog, where his parents had a small farm and some land. Kees was a real Koger boy, a real jutter. He lived all his life on the west coast of the island, always near the beach.
His father IJsbrand died when Kees had the age of twelve. Without means of subsistence he and his mother will not have had a wealthy life, but in this they were no exception in De Koog, as everyone was poor there. After the death of his mother the parental house was sold.
Kees started a life of his own when aged 26. He built a little sod-walled house at the north side of a lot of ground fenced in by Cornelis Zutphen in 1848, shown on the Topographic Card of 1859, near the bend of the present-day Randweg.
He had enough beachwood for the inside covering and used oars for the frame.
Gorter chose a livingplace far away from people, but close to the beach. In this way he became the nearest neighbour of Antje and Jacob Keijzer. Other neighbours were the Krijnen family in a sod-cabin on the site of the small present-day farm “Windy Ridge*”, and to the north at “The New Lay-out” was the cabin of Gerrit Mulder, which then was probably abandoned, as Mulder had moved to a dwelling on the Sand-dam towards Eierland.

[* This house-name is no translation, as about 1950 the inhabitants found a board with this ship-name on the beach and put it on the nameless house. My aunt Riek and uncle Willem Maas, who then lived there, knew the meaning of Windy Ridge: “ritselend windje”, wind rustle.]


As vicar Huizinga once made his round along his herd on the Common he wrote on Wednesday the 7 of august 1867 in his diary: “Had coffee with Kors Eelman and Dirkje Dekker….The wife tells of the bitter poverty her sister Antje had during the last winter, without food and firewood. Once she had in two times 24 hours nothing but a cup of coffee, and when she again felt weak of hunger she had taken some salt as the only food she had. The little she had to eat was for the children. The man earned little. It seemed that domestic peace was very imperfect over there”.

This note shows how dramatically bad life was for Antje, but it also shows something of the relation between the two sisters. They lived near each other, but Dirkje does not tell about the way she helped her sister in this tough period. It even seems as if she heard of it later on. When Dirkje and her husband came to live on “The Enterprise” directly after the death of Jacob Keijzer this may have caused some friction: live had turned to the dark side for Antje. One wonders what had happened in that time.

Jacob Keijzer died on the 15th of March, while the rent expired on the 20th. Maybe the rent for the next year was already paid. “The Enterprise” might have given higher yields than “Het Plaatsje (The little Place)” where Kors and Dirkje came from, so they would gain by taking over the rent. A woman like Antje, having no husband and only small children could impossible manage the farmwork without help.
Maybe Kors Eelman took over the rent to help his poor sister-in-law. Kors Eelman and Dirkje Dekker moved to “The Enterprise” in 1863. The first time they may have lived together with the widow and the three children, but that did not last long. One and a half-year later Antje married neighbour Kees Gorter. She was pregnant for 4 months at that moment.
They might have loved each other and nothing might have been wrong, apart from being married when the first child already was underway. Vicar Huizinga wrote that in such a case he could not explain to those involved what was wrong about that. Sexual intercourse before marriage was common practice on Texel.
Antjes pregnancy may have been an accident forcing her to move to her neighbour’s house. But living together with her sister and brother-in-law may have not been easy. The sisters were in a complete different position. Dirkje and Kors had no children, while Antje as a widow had three children and moreover was pregnant. These circumstances make it understandable that she moved to Kees Gorter, even though she had to live there in a much smaller house.

Aunt Dirkje and Uncle Kors are not remembered in the family Gorter, though they have been the nearest neighbours for years. Was it a rupture between the sisters Dekker, or did the men not go on well? Gorter and Eelman both do not seem to have been easy people. Or had it to do with the faith? Kees Gorter was a non practising roman-catholic, Antje, Dirkje and Kors were Mennonites. We will never know how they went on together.


Antje must have lived through hard times on the Common. Poverty and loneliness, far away from the crowded world. As nearest neighbours her own sister and brother-in-law, with she did not hit it off very well. The sorrow for the children of her and Kees, of which only one stayed alive. Even “domestic peace” was apparent not given to her, seeing the diary of the vicar.
But Antje could not go anywhere else.
Those years Antje and Kees were not able to work themselves out of poverty.
The diary of Huizinga shows she came to ask for charity several times, also in the time she was married to Jacob Keijzer. “Antje Dekker here to ask for relieve” it is said on 3 December 1855.
Huizinga visited her at home several times. On 14 September 1875 for instance he wrote: “Home visits, walking to Driehuizen and De Westen, from there with a carriage of J.C. Bakker to the Common at two o’clock in the afternoon. Last at Antje Wuis. Here and by others, Albert Kooiman and Antje Dekker, I heard Vicar Bakels has annoyed many preaching: “To the Lord anything is possible”.
Antje also came to visit him. He notes on 26 October 1876: “Yesterday evening Antje Dekker of the Common with me, deeply mourning that the Elders and Deacons refused her request for 100 guilders to buy a cow”.
The vicar does not write if he could help her some way.


Antje wanted a cow. Of course, with a cow one had milk. One could make butter and cheese, one had food. Maybe she dreamed: a calf, next year two cows, the year following 4 cows, a herd in the meanwhile. A small trade. One could sell the products, one could redeem the loan, break through a prospectless situation.
The refusing of the Elders and Deacon did not only break a beautiful dream, it will also not have done any good to the domestic peace. She had to return home disappointedly. Her husband would have reacted sarcastically. He never expected anyway that she could manage to obtain this.


They had of course no means of conveyance. They always went walking, like all poor people did those days. It was a long way to go, to and from the church in Den Burg, but the Sunday-service was seldom non-attended. Church-service only was missed by illness or when the roads were completely impassable. It was the only outing she had.
In those days there were countless footpaths right through the fields, one could take the shortest way. Everywhere in the fence walls were gates.



Huizinga wrote in his diary about the end of the life of Antje Breker, the mother of Antje Dekker, still living in Oudeschild. She one day “was about choked to death in a peace of bread containing a pin”. Afterwards in her throat grew a swelling, causing her death in the end of January 1871, while she was in company of her son Pieter Dekker. After the funeral Huizinga walked on with the daughters Dirkje and Tetje. He does not write about Antje. Was she not there, or did he not notice her? She was highly pregnant those time and in such circumstances it is a long walk to Oudeschild [10 km and back], may be too far, even for attending her mother’s funeral.


With a mixed marriage as the one of Antje and Kees it was usual girls following the religion of the mother and the boys that of the father. To the parish priest the marriage was not a blessing, as five of the six children born between 1866 and 1874 in the “sod house” were girls.
But more dramatically was that in the end only one of all the children survived.
In the late autumn of 1867, within one and a half-month, Antje lost all three children she had of Kees Gorter at that time. First the newborn daughter Dirkje, then the oldest child Antje, and not much later Dirkje’s twin brother.
The little girl they got next year they called “Antje” again. Happily this child stayed alive, but the sister following her only lived for five months. Also the last child, Trijntje, born in 1873, died within a year: she did not grow older than nine months. How did Antje cope with such sorrow…..? By day she was home alone with all worries, the babies, the pregnancies. Kees was working at the farmers, pottering around at the beach before and after working time.
Times must have been very hard to them.

It shows Antje and Kees were all-alone in life with their problems. The story Dirkje told to vicar Huizinga does not say if they got any relief, or if Dirkje herself helped her sister with anything. Dirkje and Kors were not rich at all, but fared much better than the Gorters.

Antje and Kees might have thought of emigrating. Many people did so those days. Trijntje, a sister of Kees, married to Jacob Eelman, moved in 1866 with her husband and children to Michigan in America. It was a chance, a possibility to make a new start somewhere else.
But where could Antje and Kees get the money to pay the passage?


As Huizinga’s diary says Antje must have lived through hard times in the winter of 1866/67. Autumn started “quite soft”, but with much rain-showers in late autumn. In the second half of January, frost arrived, with terrible snowstorms “as like the newspapers would say, the oldest people did not remember”. The hard wind drifted the snow to heights of several meters. Luckily this type of weather did not last long. It is a pity vicar Huizinga, who wrote about the weather regularly, did not make any notations on the effect of this winter.

Those days Antje had a little baby, and often suffered from cold. Also they had too little food for many days. On top of it all she got pregnant of twins at the end of the winter. It shows she was a very strong woman.


Huizinga’s notes call on more questions. How could a jutter’s wife in winter be “without fire”? It seems strange at first sight, but with long-lasting easterlies nothing washes on the shore and nothing is to become beachcombed anyway. If such a situation lasts long enough, wood-supply halts.
In this hard times for Antje in 1867 there was no long period of frost, but heavy snow-storms lasting several days, and hence one could not go outdoor– maybe even literally, when a dune of snow was swept against the door.
These kinds of songs were sung by the nature-lovers from town. They had easy singing, as they had not to walk out in such bad weather in reality.


Life on the Common was life with seasons and all circumstances of weather. In winter by snow the paths were impassable due to snow, and the same happened with enduring rains. Then it was hard to dry the wet clothes. With long-lasting frost firewood got exhausted, the pool was frozen and defrozen ice had to serve as water. Sometimes one could not wash clothes for months because of lack of water, and at other times one could not dry the washing because of the wetness.
Soaked nappies are not wealthy for little children, and living all days under such circumstances should harm a person, one would think. But Kees and Antje became very old themselves.

The book ”Rough and severe, seven centuries of winter weather” by the author Jan Buisman, shows what they had to endure these times. Of the 56 winters Antje lived through on the Common, 20 were mild, 14 normal, 16 cold, 3 severe, and 2 very severe.
The winter of 1854/55 brought severe frost with snow from mid-January until the end of March. In 1857/58 there was no snow but the whole month of February endured severe frost with a roaring easterly winds under a cloudless sky. 1864/65 brought a heavy storm-depression in early January and winter-thunder, followed by ice and snow until March. In 1866/67, when little Antje was just half a year old, a wet autumn was followed by a period of continuous frost from early to late January:
“On the 16th of January a terrible snowstorms bursts out with decimetres of snow, swept up to meter-high dunes with 2-4 degrees frost”.
February 1880 was the first “too warm” month after 15 “too cold” months.

The eruption of the Krakatau (26 august 1883) gave glowy red morning- and evening-colours for months, caused by the dust in the atmosphere. What should Antje and Kees have thought of that?
Afterwards the climate was too cold for at least 10 years, especially in 1887/88 and in the notorious winter of 1890/91, which went on till the end of March, followed by a cool, wet summer. A too cold summer caused bad growth of crops and caused food-shortage for the winter to follow. Moreover, bad weather made working impossible, so little could be earned then.
How Kees and Antje survived we don’t know. Would they have got any support of the church?



Antjes first daughter Aaftje was two years old when she moved with her mother to the little farm of Jacob Keijzer. Within a few years she got there a half-sister and a half-brother: Frouwtje in 1855 and Jan in 1856. Aaftje never went to school. No education was compulsory in those days, and the school in Den Burg was too far away. She could look after the smaller children when father and mother were working. She learned a little writing later, when she was in the vicar’s inductory class.
Like most poor girls Aaftje left home young to work at farmers until she got married. We do not know at what age, but perhaps she left when her mother with Frouwtje and Jan went to live with Kees Gorter. She was twelve by then. The sod-hut only had one bedstead-cupboard, so they had little room. From the diary of Huizinga we know that Aaftje served at Sijbrand Keijsers when she was 20, and for Verberne on Spang when she was 25.
On 18 October 1871 Huizinga writes about Keijser: “He agrees with us to give a sleeping place to Aaftje Dekker, when I then put the inductory class on Wednesday evening to please the other pupils”.
At a home-visit on Spang the vicar met her on the farm of Piet Verberne, nowadays ‘Margrietplace’. Later on, in May 1881, he talked with her once again. Huizinga had retired since July 1879, living in Groningen, but was back on Texel for a few weeks.
In his diary he wrote about it: “In the meantime a visit of Aaftje Dekker. She was very interested, showed all heartiness. With her brother Jan Keijser it was sad. He disappointed in all good expectations. She herself will be mother to seven children, but that I heard of others. Lives near De Koog”.
Aaftje was thirty when she married Klaas Borgman, widower of Petronella de Wijn. He already had nine children of whom at the time of the marriage with Aafje one had died and one had left the home.
Aaftje lived with her husband in the Kogerveld along the Ruigedijk (Rough-dike), in a rented farm. In 1888 it burned down, and everything was lost. Happily the house was well assured and could be rebuild. In 1893 Klaas Borgman became the owner.
Aaftje reached the age of 53 years. She was a diabetic. She had sugar in her coffee all day, while the others of the family had it only on Sunday morning, but always only one spoonful of sugar and only in the first cup. Her death was announced in the newspaper. The family says thanks to Dr. Over for his good concerns.


We know little of the children of Antje born from the marriage with Jacob Keijzer. They moved with their mother to the sod-hut of Kees Gorter, where they saw the birth and death of a row of little children. Only their half-sister Antje, who was born when they were already 12 and 13 years of age, stayed alive. Frouwtje Keijzer herself died in 1872, aged only seventeen. Her brother Jan went to serve in the Navy. He married in 1880 to Catharina List. Deducted from the note Huizinga made about him (“With Jan Keijzer it is sad”) they did not have a happy marriage. Jan may have been addicted to alcohol. In those days there was much excessive drinking, Huizinga complainted frequently about it in his diary. The marriage ended in a divorce.
In 1892 Jan married again with Willemijntje Bicker of Den Helder. They got no children [they dir get one son, who died soon and was not remembered].
With Mijntje Jan lived in Amsterdam.
It is known Antje Gorter thought her sister-in-law to be a frivolous lady, with her beautiful dresses and her curled hair.
Jan Keijzer, it is said, had prophecy-gifts. He got this from his mother. If someone lost a thing, he could tell where it was. Jan always said De Koog would disappear in the sea. Without the actions of the Governmental Waterworks he would have been right. His prophecy still may become true in the future.


Antje was the only of the six Gorter children to survive the hard times on the Common. She had no children of her own age nearby. On “The Enterprise” by then the Witte family lived, nicer people than her aunt Dirkje and uncle Kors, but their children were much younger than she was. The same applies to the Maas family at “Windy Ridge”. Antje did not go to school, and she had no contact with children of her own age. When she grew older she had friends in Marretje Kok and Antje Vlaming of Gerritsland. Antje learned to write by practising on a slate until she could manage.
An exercise book is kept with verses copied by her. She also wrote verses herself. In the book are verses for the feasts in Oudeschild at the 70th birthday of King Willem III in 1887. It shows that she still had a strong bond with her mother’s birth-village.
Antje Gorter went to serve several times. She worked a period in some others household. She also went out sewing when she was not yet married. For a quarter a day she had to walk all the way to De Koog and back, carrying the sewing machine under her arm. In De Koog she met Jacob Huisman, the man she married at the age of 25.


Jacob and Antje went to live in Den Burg. She lived among people for the first time of her life, in a village. Together they got two children: Jacob Cornelis in 1893 and Antje Cornelia in 1896. Both children were named after their grandparents, both had their second name after granddad Kees.
Huisman was a sailor and worked at the Holland Steamship Company. In between his travels he came home to his family on Texel as much as possible, but often time was too short and then he did not see them for months. For that reason a girl of the Common moved to the Opposite Shore in 1908. They went to Nieuwendam, north of the IJ River, where more HSC families lived. One of Antjes new neighbours was her old friend Marretje Kok, also married to a sailor. After retiring, in 1934, Jacob and Antje went back to Texel and lived in De Koog. Jacob died four years later. Antje went back to Nieuwendam for some time, where her son lived with his family. She lies buried with her husband on the churchyard in Den Burg, because on Texel they belonged.


Next to the “Vergulde Kikkert” in Den Burg near the Gasthuisstreet where Antje and Jacob lived, stood the house of cigar-maker Levi Polak who was married to “aunt” Pieternel Borgman. Pieternel was a nurse. She helped Antje with her first delivery.
She did not like children herself at all, but she was fond of little Jacob. When he got very dirty while playing- as happened once when he, coming home from the Common, fell in the pool near the High Tuinwall at the Koger road and was all covered with rusty-brown mud- he went to Pieternel on his way home to let her clean him. He was such a neat boy then that his mother said: “You must have been to Pieternel”.

Antje disliked dirty kids. She was perfect in her household, and kept to precise times for anything to be done. Her character was stern, just like her father Pagga. “Angry-Antje again” they said in the family, when she had a mood again.
She only wrote verses with anniversaries.


Kees Gorter was a remarkable person, someone who is not easily forgotten, but the neighbours remembered him and his wife so well most because the sod-hut kept standing on the Common for a long period to follow. When in 1909 the goods of the old couple were sold, there was nobody who wanted to give a penny for the old “keet”. The empty hut was kept standing and was used for years as a canteen and hiding place for the workers of the State Forestry. Such a room, still with the old beach wood on the walls, keeps its stories tight. For sure the old Pagga came along as an object of stories. Being a “very good jutter” and the last Texel inhabitant of a sod-wall cabin made him extra-special.
The workers of the State Forestry agreed that Texel cabins were less poor than those in Drente. The thick sod walls were cheap to built, and highly comfortable: they kept it warm in winter and cool in summer.

Arie Maas, in later years proudly telling he had been the servant of the well-known Pagga, knew it was no real poverty in the hut. They even had brass things, hanging on the wall. These might have been inherited from family. Real poor people should have sold such things. But what would they have got for it? And it might be good to keep things for later, for the olden days.


A few years after the abandoning of the hut, Willem Bakker of the Grensweg got the idea to re-use the yellow bricks of the path by the door. He could very well harden the floor of his pigpen with them, as the pig used to dig itself free, and it caused much trouble to catch the beast again. The oldest boys could collect the stones after school time. So the little brothers Cor and Henk went, with the wheelbarrow, all the way from the Grensweg along sandpaths to the Gortersmient. To will not have been too difficult, but back? How many bricks schoolboys could transport without the barrow tumbling over? But father had decided, and so they went, no matter how many times they had to go up and down.

At last the “sod-house” was broken down in 1917 [later on I saw this must be later, 1925 or so]. Forester Epe considered this way of living not worthy of a human being. A few men have “knocked it down”, digged and spread the sods. Rabbits were the last to live there, underdigging the walls badly. The workers where said to have managed to knock some to death with a spade, so they could go home with a rabbit to eat after the work had been done.

Investigations with a metal-detector on the place revealed one old square nail, and some pieces of wrought iron old enough for having been in the hands of Pagga. Also 30 centimetres of iron fence-thread from the time the area was a meadow, a bullet of the Second World War and some hunter’s cartridges. A sink in the soil may be the place of the pool. The wood will have been taken by the demolishers to be burned in their own furnaces.


Guurtje van Swinderen-Bakker, a sister of Willem Bakker of the Grens[border]way, was given a song at her 85th birthday, remembering people of the Common. Also a part about the sod-hut of Gorter. Guurtje had been there as a child. Antje had said, we have pears growing in the bedstead.



Mummy Min was Trijntje Blankendaal, the wife of forester Klaas Min. Auntie Kneelie was Cornelia Maas, wife of Willem of Keessie Bakker, living on the Grensway. Jannetje Lely was Guurtje’s granny. The “Moten” were the brothers De Porto of the Ploegelander[lands of Van der Ploeg]way [their ancestor, the first Mr. De Porto on Texel was Timotheus [= de Moot] de Porto, he was from Portugal].


Klaas Min had known Pagga personally, but to later foresters he became a story: the name of a dune-path and a little road in the forest.
Forester Mantje was astonished when at a time a woman, filling in a form after an excursion, answered the question: “who was Pagga?” with: “my great-grandfather”. Just then he realised the man of the story had not been a peculiar savage, but a normal family man, a land worker with wife and children. Gorter was not the only man to live in a sod-hut, but he was the last.


When clearing the meadows near the sod-hut, ditches were made on the borders of the lots to drain the land. When the lots were forested in 1913 and 1933 these ditches stayed. The sod-hut stood near the square angle the ditch makes near the Pachaway. Nowadays it is an open spot covered with blackberries scrub. For a long period this place has been called “the dark spruce-wood”. After repeated thinning and much storms it is not dark there anymore, but still unrecognisable to those who had lived there long before.


Kees Gorter was known as a man with a stern, dour character. He could curse and scold badly. A comrade of his step-son Jan Keijzer was said to have given the nickname “Pagga”. Some of those friends had came with him to the Western Common to visit, and met with the old grumbler. “Pagga” meant something like “angry fellow”. Later on this name is most written as “Pacha”. As said the pronouncing was like ch in ‘lachen’ and ‘kachel’.

An old edition of Van Dale’s Dictionary says by pacha; “Turkish State functionary, ruling in name of the High Lord in the provinces, so a Turkish stadtholder, a Privy Councellor, an eminent Warlord”.
Kees Gorter was of course a ruler in his surrounding, but if the boys meant this is the question. Moreover Pacha should not be pronounced as ‘ch’ but as ‘sh’ or ‘sj’, so like “pasja”. To the nowadays writing-rules it must be written as ‘sj’. Funny in this we how can see the relation to the word “shah”.

But anyway the nickname of Gorter had to be pronounced as “Pagga”. This is natural, as written with ‘ch’ it looks the same as the dutch ‘ach’ and ‘hachelijk’. They were just simple boys, those sailor friends. No radio, so they never heard the right pronouncing.
Knowing the word “pacha” that time is not so strange. They might have read it. In the 19th century Turkish rulers were warfaring regulary, and the Ottoman State fell to pieces. Many newspaper stories have been written about that. Also books are written those days about the lives of Turkish rulers, like the cruel pacha Ali of Janina.

But maybe the nickname comes from a word we nowadays do not recognise anymore. Pagga for instant could have cohesion with the French pagan, meaning: heathen, heathen character or difficult, hard person. The etymology of “heathen” is the same as of the Latin ‘paganus’: an inhabitant of the heather, backward, uncultivated, not christened yet, malicious. With some fantasy one could translate Pagga as “bad man on the heath”.

Kees Gorter’s nickname might have come from Pacha in the meaning of “bad ruler”. It must be pronounced with a ‘g’. Because many people tend to pronounce Pacha as “Pasja”, we have chosen to write “Pagga”.

[All this discussion would not have been necessary in English, as I saw “heiden” means not only heathen but pagan as well. My own opinion is Pagga means Pagan. Coninck Westenberg, who did not know the meaning (a notary did not talk with people those times, but only to them), introduced the writing “Pacha”. Only one person made any fuzz about this, having not read the book. Most others were neutral, and some were happy that the name was “correctly” spelled, as they always had considered Pacha as wrongly spelled]

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