The Trunk Well-Traveled

During the spring of 1884, Jan Pieters Sjoeks busied himself building a wooden shipping trunk in preparation for the trip to the "U.S. of Amerika." He gathered one-by-ten inch boards, casters, nails, metal braces and copper tacks and assembled a 21-inch wide by 40-inch long by 21-inch deep wooden box. He signed his name in pencil on an 11-inch wide bottom board and added the name of his town, Driesum. The trunk was then lined with Dutch newspaper, which was covered with a tapestry that was held in place by copper tacks. Finally, a wooden lid was put on the top and eventually nailed to the box portion before shipping.

Sjoeks trunk

The trunk, filled with the family's belongings, made the journey to the United States with them in May of 1884. After the family was settled on the farm in North Blendon, Michigan, they used the trunk for storage space in their home. In 1900, the trunk was packed along with other household goods onto a boxcar and shipped via train to Central Lake Township, Antrim County, Michigan. For the next fourteen years it remained a permanent part of the "furniture" of Jan and Wytske Sjoeks.

In 1914, Jan's son, Sylvester (Vet) and his wife, Katherine (Tena) Aardema, moved to their "cheese factory" house and took the trunk with them. Once again, it served as an item for storage and was placed in the living room of their home. After Vet and Tena completed the new house on their property, the trunk was put upstairs in an attic area. Eventually, Vet's son, Marvin, and his family moved into that home, but the trunk remained in the attic. It was said that there was writing on one side, but it was so faded it could not be deciphered. On August 9, 2002, the wooden trunk was removed from the attic and brought out into the bright morning sunlight. Lo and behold, the writing was legible!! The inscription reads as follows:

Jan Sjoeks Grand Haven Ottawa Michigan
U.S. of Amerika per S.S. P. Calland Mei 1884

Now the name of the ship that took the family to America is no longer a mystery! Notice that the ship's name is spelled with two "Ls" on the trunk. In fact, shipping records of that time indicate that the correct spelling included only one "L." It also appears that Jan was planning to go to Grand Haven, but ended up at Georgetown Township, North Blendon area, instead.

Information about the S. S. P. Caland can be found at the following website:

The above account was submitted by Janet Shooks Dean. Thanks to Doris Shooks and her sons along with Janet's daughter, Tamara, for their contributions to this story.