Viersen, Miss Sibrigje H.

Miss Sibrigje H. Viersen

Sibrigje H. Viersen wanted to build a library to honor her father. She achieved her goal On December 17th, 1907, when the Carnegie-Viersen Library of Pella, Iowa was formally opened.[1]

Miss Viersen, who was born in Dantumadeel, a rural municipality in Friesland, on January, 8th, 1830.[2] She was the eldest child of Heerke Ypes and Hiltje Aukes,[3] both followers of Reverend Henry Peter Scholte. In April of 1847, the Viersen family left Amsterdam on the Good Ship Pieter Floris in route to Baltimore.[4] Like the nearly 900 other members of Scholte’s flock, they left their home in The Netherlands to escape religious persecution.

The Pieter Floris landed in Baltimore on June 12th, 1847.[5] Sibrigje traveled overland with her family to St. Louis, where they stayed for some months before finally moving to Pella.[6]

Heerke, who died in 1864 , was a strong proponent of education and desired to build a library in Pella.[7] Sibirgje remained unmarried throughout her life and worked as a merchant in Pella.[8] She was known through the community for her thrift and monetary skill. By the end of the 19th Century she had acquired substantial land holdings within Pella, which she offered to donate for the construction of a new library.[9]

To facilitate this goal, she travelled to New York City, where she attempted to meet Andrew Carnegie in person. To facilitate this meeting, she sought out Bertha G. Crozier, the daughter of a prominent Knoxville politician.[10] Crozier wrote a letter for Viersen requesting a meeting with Carnegie to discuss the library. Her letter describes Viersen as:

“Miss Viersen is extremely anxious to give a library in memory of her father, who was one of the pioneers of the Middle West. She is prepared to furnish the ground space, the books, and to endow the library, but she has not enough money for the building, which she estimates will cost about five or six thousand dollars…. This library has been for many years been Miss Viersen’s dearest wish. She will put practically her entire means into it, and the sum represents years of economy. She is an old lady, and is pathetically anxious that the library be built during her lifetime.”[11]

Unfortunately for Viersen, Carnegie’s personal secretary rejected this offer of a meeting. Viersen followed up with one more letter, which also received a negative response, before returning to Iowa.[12]

Four months letter, she deeded her land on the Church Square to Robert Rose Beard and David Singer Huber for the purposes of building a library.[13] In exchange for the land, Viersen received $6,000 which was placed in a trust to fund the purchase of books for the new library.[14] In exchange for the land and monetary grant, Beard and Huber agreed to hang a plaque in honor of Heerke Ypes Viersen.[15] Viersen was selected to serve on the library board for six years, from 1905-1911.[16] Despite her appointment, she does not appear as present at any meeting minutes after the initial one on 27 July 1905. Viersen was honored at the opening of the library on 17 December 1907, by Pierre Henri Bousquet,[17] a local lawyer who had housed Pella’s previous library.[18]

Sibrigje H. Viersen on 18 August 1910, at the age of 70.[91] She is buried in the Oak Wood Cemetery, next to her parents and two of her brothers.[20]

-Russell Buchanan


[1]“Report of the Pella City Library Trustees of the Pella City Council”, 10 December 1907.

[2] Netherlands, Birth Index, 1784-1917 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2016.

[3] U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.

[4] G.A. Stout, Souvenir History of Pella, Iowa, (Pella, Iowa, The Booster Press, 1922), 39, 41

[5] Swierenga, Robert P. Dutch Immigrants to America, 1820-1880 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004.

[6] G.A. Stout, Souvenir History, 8-10

[7] Iowa, Select Marriages Index, 1758-1996 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.

[8] Year: 1800; Census Place: Pella, Marion, Iowa; Roll: 354; Page: 711A; Enumeration District: 126.

[9] Marion County, Iowa, Deed Book 28: 276.

[10] Crozier, Bertha G. “Letter on Behalf of S.H. Viersen.” Received by Mr. Andrew Carnegie, Brooklyn Public Library, 1 Dec. 1904, Brooklyn, New York City, New York.

[11] Crozier, Bertha G. “Letter on Behalf of S.H. Viersen.”

[12] Bertram, James. “Yours of December 9th Received.” Received by Miss S.H. Viersen, 12 Dec. 1904, New York City, New York.

[13] Marion County, Iowa, Deed Book F, 519.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] First Meeting of the Board of Trustees of the Free Public Library, Pella, Iowa, 27 July 1905.

[17] Pella Chronicle, 19 December 1907

[18] City of Pella, “History of the Pella Public Library”, Pella Iowa – Official Website, Pella, IA.,, (accessed 14 March 2019)

[19] U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.

[20] Ibid.