The ‘Groenies’

Celebrating 75 years (1947-2022)

There are many stories of immigrants who have found blessings and success in Canada, (the True North Strong and Free). THIS IS ONE OF THEM.

20 Limeridge Road East

The Cor & Sjaan Groenewegen family lived in a big house (actually it was a barn with massive limestone walls – there used to be a limestone kiln on the property) owned originally by the Dr. Bethune family, at Upper James and Limeridge Road. The barn and property was bought by Cor and Sjaan in 1951 for about $5,000.


‘De Hoop’ windmill (1887) in Rozenburg

The Groenies were a large family, orignally from the island of Rozenburg, just southwest and across the river from (Maassluis) near Rotterdam. Teunis Zent Groenewegen was a farmer, who it was told, never had a good farming year. He was always changing his crop growing plans but then the weather would turn bad again, so his success at farming was modest. He was married to Jaapje Kleiwegt, daughter of Piet Kleijwegt. (one of the builders of the windmill ‘De Hoop’)

Together they had 14 children. (6 sons and 8 daughters) Their son Cornelis born March 7, 1914 (7th child)  helped out on the farm but seeing his dad struggles in making a living decided to strike out on his own. He courted the local shoemaker’s daughter Sjaan (Adriana) Voorberg, born April 5, 1913, and they were married in February 1939 while Cor was already busy setting up a wholesale/retail produce business in De Hague. Cor had wanted to go to America already before the war but Sjaan had said, ‘if that is what you want to do, I will not marry you’. She wanted to stay close to her family in Rozenburg (4 sisters and 3 brothers).

All during the war years, Sjaan and Cor – after being discharged just before the War from the Dutch army – (he had earned a citation as ‘sharpshooter’) lived at 86 Bilthovenselaan [2] in De Hague running and growing his produce business, eager to better his sales [3].

But the urge to go to America stayed fresh in his mind. So at the first opportunity to leave, Cor applied in early 1947, for immigration to Canada [7] which gave the family only weeks to get ready. As Sjaan was now married her final response was ‘Cor, je doet maar wat je wilt’. (Cor, if this is what you want, then go do it!) and then resigned herself to going wherever he was going. (By this time they had 5 children from 6 years old down, the youngest Marian, was a couple of months old.)

Cor waving ‘goodbye’ Arrival in Montreal

The family arrived in Montreal [4] on June 26, 1947 on the SS Waterman [5] (the 2nd immigrant ship after the War) and at first settled in as farmer’s help in Bradford [6] then on to Queenston Heights and eventually settled in Hamilton. They were Article 31 (Vrijgemaakt) (Canadian Reformed) people and at first attended the Christian Reformed Church in St. Catharines, ON under the pastoral care of Rev. Persenaire. Eventually the family grew to 7 children, 3 boys and 4 girls of which my future wife Nellie was the oldest girl. (Ted, Nellie, Jackie, Marian, John, Louisa and Earl)

Cor Groenewegen having had experience with produce wholesale/retail in Holland, noticed, while driving to attend the Canadian Reformed Church on Catharine Street in Hamilton, ON, via Upper James, an empty stone barn at Limeridge Road, and made inquiries. It was perfect for what he had in mind, potato storage. He made an offer and purchased the old barn on the Bethune property at 20 Limeridge Road.

The family moved into the empty barn and Cor set up his retail/wholesale potato business which he had started while still at the Queenston Heights Larkin farm. [8] The Limeridge Road barn had a natural storage space ideal for potato storage during the winter. So Cor would buy in the fall in Leamington, Ancaster and Orangeville areas and store all winter. For over 20 years, he would run as a ‘huckster’, a Saturday morning operation from the Welland market to supply individuals and restaurants with potatoes and other seasonal produce.

The family prospered as the barn was transformed into their living quarters by Mr. Boot who was a carpenter. They became a well-respected family in the community, often the receivers of new immigrants as they landed in Hamilton from the Netherlands. Cor Groenewegen served his community well as member of local Church council and was a foundational supporter of the (Calvin) Christian School on West 5th starting in 1951 and serving as it chair for a number of years in the 1950s and 60s. Many times he would act as bus driver taking time off from his work to transport kids to and from school. Sjaan as ever was his loving wife and faithful helper in all things.

The Groenie’s place was a great gathering place for young people on Sunday nights. The family was popular with the boys of the Dutch immigrant community, as after all, they had four daughters.

Cor’s business expanded from potatoes, apples and vegetables, to the gathering of used produce crates and fruit baskets and reselling them to farmers and other produce marketers. He also got involved in the transportation of produce and fruits with tractor trailer units through connections with a transport firm in the Niagara area.

As the children grew older, the younger ones from Nellie down all went to college (Calvin College, Grand Rapids & Trinity College in Chicago) Ted worked for the business (he loved driving those tractor trailers) and Nellie stayed at home to help out and then took a Practical Nursing Course at St. Joseph Hospital in Hamilton. In 1966 Cor and Sjaan took a trip to Florida and from then on spent quite a (every) few winters in Florida or Arizona. Eventually by the early 70s they purchased a home in St. Petersburg, Florida and stayed all year around. Having obtained ‘Green Cards’ they worked part-time, Cor driving a delivery truck and later a small bus for senior citizens and Sjaan worked mending and adjusting clothing at the local dry cleaner.

Cor & Sjaan’s garden on Blind Line

In 1977 the 20 Limeridge Road property was expropriated [9] by the City of Hamilton and a new residence was bought on Blind Line in North Burlington. Cor took up hobby gardening on the property and they continued to spent winters in Florida.

By 1992 the Florida property was sold. Cor passed away (at Mount Nemo Nursing Home) in August 1994 from cancer which had lodged in his face and jaw.

Oma Sjaan (her family now totaled over 45 children & grandchildren) sold the Blind Line property in the Fall of 1994 and lived with daughter Nellie and her husband John in Burlington till her death in December 2002.

JS March 2, 2022


[2] During the war years Cor continued to increase his business but the German occupation caused numerous problems and instabilities. One which has been recited often is the time a ‘Razzia’ (round up of men for labour in Germany) took place and Cor hid under the floor in a hiding space in a cupboard; and while there for some time, left behind a spoon (no matter what; he had to have his dinner) which was returned to him sometime after his immigration while on a trip to Holland, by the then occupants of the house.

[3] He had a special sales promotion deal: 1 pound of potatoes for 5 cents and a kilo for 10 cents (a pound is ½ a kilo) as told to us in 1992 at DeSoto beach (St. Petersburg, Florida) with a chuckle and a smile.

[4] In the history of the national Dutch-American and Dutch-Canadian communities there are a number of dates and occasions important for everyone to know. High on the list ought to be June 17, 1947, when the Dutch troop transport ship Waterman made a special trip to Canada with the first party of 1,100 post-WWII Dutch immigrants. On June 26, 1947 newspapers across the country echoed the Montreal Star headline “1,100 Happy, Cheering Hollanders Arrive Enroute To New Canadian Farm Homes.” Note from the  Windmill Newspaper. (godutch.com)

[5] The Waterman was a ‘Military Troop Transport’ ship, freshly returned from the Dutch conflict with Indonesia and had not been renovated for transporting families. So the men and the women with children were housed in separate parts of the ship. Not easy for the wives with large families. Sjaan’s youngest daughter was just 6 weeks old.

[6] This farmer was an earlier Dutch immigrant but did not treat Cor fairly, so Cor travelled to St. Catherines to get his immigration contact (Mr. John vander Vliet) to find him another employer. There is a picture that shows the family on front page of the Hamilton Spectator (June 27, 1947) having been routed by train to Brantford instead of Bradford. This was probably due to Cor’s poor enunciation of the name ‘Bradford’.

[7] After the war was over, pre-war Dutch immigrants living in Canada (ON) encouraged the Canadian government to set up a program to sponsor farm-workers. Canada sent an immigration officer to the Netherlands in late 1946 to prepare for its immigration program – and cope with the immediate issue of resettling the fiancees and dependents of Canadian soldiers. So Canada passed new immigration regulations for the admission of sponsored farm workers on January 30, 1947. On April 30, 1947 the Christian Reformed Church congregations in Sarnia & Hamilton created a Committee to lay the groundwork for an anticipated Dutch immigrant influx into Ontario. (info from godutch.com) Cor no doubt knew this and seized his chance.

[8] John D. Larkin, a successful industrialist from Buffalo, started buying land in Niagara in 1900. He purchased Glencairn near Queenston and developed three farming communities in the township with over 1,700 acres of land. One group was built on “Upper” or “Mountain farm”, these were all flooded after the hydro dam was constructed in 1948. Another grouping was called “Middle Farm” about a mile north of Queenston heights. The third group or “Lower Farm” was later owned by Harry Larkin and became famous as a fruit and cattle farm.

[9] The planning of the Red Hill/Lincoln Expressway, already in the works in the late 1950’s created a long drawn-out legal battle with the City of Hamilton to ensure that the Limeridge Road property was being fairly evaluated for expropriation. Eventually this resulted in a settlement in 1977 of approx. half a million. The barn and the stately home on the property (which were unique in design including the square limestone (rounded inside) silo) were quickly torn down after the sale and is now the location of the Linc’s off-ramp to Upper James North. The Red Hill Creek eastern portion of this planned roadway became a long battle with property owners, Indigenous natives and Environmental groups and was finally opened in 2007.

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Opa JanS

Retired; Octogenarian; Opa and husband; interested in celebrating/contributing to the blessings we have as Christians in Canada's fair land.