The Next Generation: Watse Jans Sjoeks
On 21 November 1883, Watse Jan Sjoeks was born in Driesum, Friesland, Netherlands, the sixth child and fifth son of Jan Pieter and Wytske Hoogland Sjoeks (Shooks). At the age of six months, Watse along with his family sailed to America to join other Dutch families in Ottawa County, Michigan.
Farming was the source of income for the Sjoeks family in Ottawa County. Watse and his brothers, Antoni, Jan and Sylvester helped to make this a successful endeavor for Jan and Wytske. But, at the age of seven, Watse and his little brother, Sylvester (Vet), gave the family farm a step backward when they burned down the barn on the farm. It has never been clear exactly how the fire began but Vet often related the story in general to his children and grandchildren!
Watse moved with his parents and Antoni, Jan and Sylvester to Antrim County to settle on their new homestead in Central Lake Township. All the boys helped clear the land, selling logs as a source of income.
In his sixth year of living in Antrim County, Watse contracted scarlet fever and died on 25 February 1904. He was laid to rest in the family plot in Atwood Cemetery, Banks Township, Antrim County. Although his life was short, his contributions were many. As his brother John said upon Watse's death, "Walter was a saint and too good for this earth."
This account of Watse Jan Sjoeks was written by Janet Shooks Dean, great-granddaughter of Jan Pieter and Wytske Hoogland Sjoeks. Thanks to Winifred Shooks Green and Mina June Shooks Vander Ark for their help in writing this story. Actual cause of death was obtained from the Death Records of Antrim County, Antrim County Courthouse, Bellaire, Michigan.