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Evert & Cato Natte April 1907 was a busy time for officials at Ellis Island. During this historic month of American immigration, the Port of New York received 197 ships and more than a quarter-million passengers from around the world. Most of these arrivals were immigrants intent on establishing a new life in America.

The busiest day ever recorded at the Ellis Island Immigrant Processing Station was April 17, 1907.
On that day, officials processed 11,747 arrivals — a typical day saw just 5,000.

While most immigrant family stories include sacrifice and hardship, few compare with the journey endured by the Natte family of Ermelo, province of Gelderland, Holland. Evert Jan Natte and his wife Cato had arrived at Ellis Island in March 1907, but would become temporary residents of the island for the entire month of April 1907, finally departing for Minnesota on Friday, May 3rd.

Potsdam (Holland-America Line, Dutch Flag) The Natte family journey to America began on February 23, 1907 as their ship, the S.S. Potsdam, departed Rotterdam for America. Parents Evert Jan Natte and Cato, both in their 30s, were traveling with their eight surviving children – one infant son had died the previous year. The two boys and six girls traveling with their parents ranged in age from 12 to 3. Sons Willem and Barend were the eldest and youngest, respectively.

After just a few days at sea, 8 year old daughter Marie fell ill and died of diphtheria two days later. To prevent risk to the more than 2,000 passengers on board, the parents were forced to bury their daughter at sea. Sadly, a second daughter, 6 year old Klazina, was also infected, died, and buried at sea within days of her sister.

Upon their arrival in New York harbor, officials decided it was in the best interest of the many immigrants being housed at Ellis Island to send the Natte children to St. Mary’s Hospital in nearby Hoboken, New Jersey. The children were separated from their parents – the mother was pregnant and due to give birth. The parents appear on a “Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry” and noted as a “Likely Public Charge”, citing the specific cause of detention as “PGT” or pregnant.

Notes on the original manifest, record of special inquiry, and two entries in the New York Times allow us to further piece together the events as they likely occurred.

Passenger Record   •   Ship Manifest   •   Ship Image

While the children were in St. Mary’s Hospital, Hoboken, the father was with his wife as she gave birth to their tenth child. Fearing deportation, the father asked for and was able to obtain a personal meeting with Port Commission Robert Watchorn. The Commissioner granted permission for Mr. Natte to meet with a Lutheran Pastor (Pastor Deering of the Lutheran Immigrants Home) so their child could be baptized. At the request of Mr. Natte, the Commissioner also agreed to serve as Godfather and the child was therefore given the name Robert Ellis Natte.

Careful examination of the documents from 1907 seem to indicate the parents were held on Ellis Island for more than 45 days (possibly as many as 57 days), ultimately leaving New York by train for Minnesota on Friday, May 3, 1907. The Holland America line would later be required to reimburse the U.S. government for the 279 meals (92 breakfasts, 95 dinners, and 92 suppers) provided during the Natte’s detention on Ellis Island.

The couple would eventually settle in Minnesota and have five more children. Sadly, Robert Ellis Natte would die as an infant before the family appeared in their first U.S. Federal Census in 1910. The census schedule notes that Mrs. Natte had given birth to 12 children, with just 7 still living. Three children would be born after the 1910 census was taken.

The Natte children who were passengers on board the S.S. Potsdam in 1907 are no longer surviving. Conversations with a daughter of then 4 year old Cato recall details of the loss suffered by this family. Today, there are more than 100 direct descendants that share a common tie through the sacrifice of Evert Jan & Cato Natte and their 1907 voyage. A special thanks to their granddaughter, Marion Bernice (Reitsma) Bose — daughter of Cato Natte and Fred Reitsma — for sharing her family photos and memories of her grandparents.

Evert Jan & Cato Natte, son Willem, daughters Grace, Minnie, and Marie (circa 1928)
Evert Jan & Cato Natte with children
Willem, Grace, Minnie, and Maria

Evert Jan (right) & Cato Natte

Natte children
Nine of the fifteen Natte children as adults living in the Midwest.




New York Times, Jan. 1, 1892


New York Times, April 17, 1907



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