The Next Generation: John Jans Sjoeks

John Shooks was the fifth child of Jan Pieters Shooks and Wytske Roelofs Hoogland Sjoeks. He was born November 15, 1882 in Driesum, Friesland, Netherlands. At the age of two, he came to the United States with his parents and brothers: Pieter Jans, Roelof Jans, Antoni Jans, Watse Jans, and sister Doetje Jans. They settled on a farm near Borculo.

When Jan Pieter Shooks heard of all the money to be made in Antrim County, probably at the beginning of 1900, he bought a farm north of Central Lake, Michigan. The farm contained much standing timber. John, Tony, and Walter all came together, along with Vester, who was a young boy at the time.

The boys were promised a gold watch if they produced a certain number of feet of timber from the farmland. Logging was mostly done in the winter in deep snow and very cold temperatures. John wore Sioux wool pants, which his daughter still has. Wytske (Winifred), the boys’ mother, would sit by the big stove, drying those heavy wet pants, socks, and mittens. She did this into the wee hours of the morning to get the clothes dry for the next day.

When the job of cutting trees was finished, and the wood hauled to the lumber company in Central Lake, the boys received their gold watches. Their father, Jan, said he was sorry he had ever made the promise, but John said he made the promise so they received them. Grandson Dan Vander Ark has John’s watch now. Walter said he would give up his watch if Grandpa didn’t want to give the watch. John always said Walter was a saint and too good for this earth. He died shortly afterward of pneumonia*. I wonder if he ever received his watch.

After this winter, John met Kate Postmus, who had arrived from Grand Rapids and lived with her family about a mile from the Shooks farm. When Grandma Winifred broke her arm, Kate was hired to help in the Shooks house. She and John were going to be married in the spring, but decided to marry sooner as long as Kate was helping out at the Shooks home. They were married September 14, 1903. In the spring of 1904, John and Kate bought a farm on a hill near Grandpa Shooks’s farm.

John and Kate were a team on the new farm, pulling weeds from the crops and milking 7 or 8 cows. John was a good farmer, and Kate was frugal. They paid for the farm in seven years. They were married 16 years before their only child, Mina June, was born on November 16, 1919. What a surprise that must have been! Kate’s twin sister was married to John’s brother, Tony, and they had 11 children together.

John and Kate sold their farm to their daughter, Mina June, and her husband, Willard Vander Ark. John and Kate then moved to a small house in Ellsworth on June 25, 1947. They only lived in that house four years before both passed away within 16 months of each other. Before they died, they were happy to have seen their four grandchildren: Dan, Ron, Diane, and Mary. John died of cancer on March 29, 1952; Kate died on June 19, 1953 from heart disease. They are buried in Banks Township Cemetery outside Ellsworth.

Willard and Mina June sold the farm and moved to the same small house in Ellsworth. Willard passed away on June 15, 1997. Mina June still lives in the house. She recalls that her parents, John and Kate Shooks, were loyal to the Ellsworth Christian Reformed Church and served the Lord in many special ways.

This story was submitted by Mina June Vander Ark, the only daughter of John Jans Shooks.

*Note: It was later discovered that, according to Antrim County records, Walter (Watse) Shooks died of scarlet fever.