Clio Logo

Pella owes its existence to Dutch immigrant and ordained minister, Hendrik P. Scholte (1805-1868), who founded the city in 1847. The next year, he built the original portion of this historic home, which is now a museum operated by the Pella Historical Society, whose mission is to preserve and promote the city's Dutch heritage. The Society also operates the nearby Historical Village, which features a number of historic buildings including the Vermeer Windmill (the tallest working windmill in North America) and the boyhood home of famous figure of the American West, Wyatt Earp. Permanent and temporary exhibits are located in the Heritage Hall at the village. The Society also operates a Klokkenspel clock and a historic school building called the Amsterdam School, which, like the Scholte House, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Scholte House Museum is operated by the Pella Historical Society, which also operates the nearby Historical Village. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Plant, Sky, Window, Tree

The Historical Village contains several historic buildings including the Vermeer Windmill, which was built in the Netherlands and shipped to Pella in 2002. It is an authentic recreation of 1850s grain mill.

Sky, Cloud, Windmill, Window

Scholte and other Dutch immigrants relocated to America to flee religious persecution back home in the Netherlands. In the 1830s, the Netherlands was no longer the religiously tolerant country it had been historically, where people of various faiths could seek refuge. However, the government, which was a monarchy, had gradually taken over the Dutch Reformed Church, which is a Protestant denomination. Scholte and many other members of the church opposed this development, firmly believing in the separation of the church and state. In 1834, a congregation in the town of Ulrum decided to secede from the church and several others followed suit. Over the course of the next several years, the monarchy responded by imprisoning or fining people, banning large group gatherings, and prohibiting people from owning public or church buildings.

Scholte was born to a prosperous family (on his father's side), which earned its wealth by refining sugar from sugar beets. When he was 23, he inherited his family's wealth (his father, mother, and only brother died by then). Uninterested in the family business, he sold it and used the money to enroll in the University of Leiden where he studied theology, science, and philosophy. He graduated in 1832 and was also ordained a minister. He married his wife, Sara Maria, that year as well; they had five children but only three survived infancy. Between 1832 and 1846, Scholte served as a minister at state-sponsored churches to two provinces. Like many of his followers, he disregarded the ritualism and authority espoused by the monarchy, which saw Scholte as a threat. As a result, he was suspended and eventually imprisoned for three weeks. Seeing no recourse but to move out of the Netherlands, Scholte organized the plan to immigrate to America. In 1845, he married his second wife, Maria.

The first group of Dutch immigrants arrived in America in 1846. They were led by church minister Van Raalte and settled in western Michigan. Scholte and his group followed the next year and chose Iowa northwestern Iowa as their final destination. The name "Pella" refers to a biblical city of refuge. Scholte and his family lived in a "claim cabin," which officially staked his claim on the land. From that point forward, the town of Pella grew steadily. Scholte continued to be a prominent figure in the community. He invested in a number of ventures including founding the first newspaper and the first bank in Pella. He became involved in politics as well and delivered a speech in support of Abraham Lincoln at the 1860 Republican Convention. By 1868, when Scholte died, Pella had developed into an established town thanks in large part to his efforts.

"Hendrik ScholteĀ [1805-1868]." New Netherland Institute. Accessed January 12, 2022.

"History of Pella." Pella Historical Society & Museum. Accessed January 12, 2022.

Jacobsen, James E. "Dominie Henry P. Scholte House." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. December 10, 1982.

Schouls, Rev. C.A. "The Dutch Church Splits - Two Secession Movements." Free Reformed Churches of North America. Accessed January 12, 2022.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Scholte House: Wikimedia Commons,

Vermeer Windmill: Pella Historical Society & Museums