Jan Van Hardeveld

Heroic Worker - Jan Van Hardeveld

Jan van Hardeveld (John Strongfield), a freshly minted American citizen, 30-year-old engineer from Wyoming, who had come to Panama in july 1905 in order to work, and who was born in the Netherlands, said: "In America, anything is possible." He wrote to his wife, Rose, from Panama: "the food is awful, and cooked in such a way that no civilized white man can stand it for more than a week or two ... I grew careless last week and before I realized it, I was one sick hombre — stomach out of order, and my blood full of malaria bugs... I'm taking no more chances than I can help of being sent home wrapped in a wooden overcoat.

Heroic Worker - Jan Van Hardeveld Family

House No 1

Nevertheless, he later told her: "the slowness of work would be discouraging, if I were not certain that our Government can and will accomplish whatever it sets out to do. That is why, since you have made no objection, I have made my decision to stay, and I am happy to be able to tell you that the quartermaster has at last assigned me to married quarters. The house is an old one at Las Cascadas, the village where I am now working. It was the first house built here by the French, and is marked 'House Number One.'"

Journey to Panama

In winter of 1906, Rose, a housewife, living in Wyoming, began her journey to Panama. She gathered her children, and told them: "This will be our chance to be among those who make history! Your Papa is helping to build the big canal, the waterway that has been in the minds of men for centuries. It will unite the two oceans, the Atlantic and the Pacific, and alter the course of the ships that sail upon them. This canal, when it is finished, will change the face of the earth."

On the Front Steps

Her life in Panama was hard and still lonely, as her husband worked impossible hours and she was left to deal with the daily chores of feeding and tending to her children, yet she never lost hope in the vision she shared with her husband. She took her children to see President Roosevelt, who for so many was the chief architect of this endeavor, saying: "We saw him once, on the end of a train. Jan got small flags for the children, and told us about when the train would pass, so we were standing on the front steps. Mr. Roosevelt flashed us one of his well-known toothy smiles and waved his hat at the children as though he wanted to come up the hill and say 'Hello!' I caught some of Jan's confidence in the man. Maybe this ditch will get dug after all, I thought."

My Faith

Jan van Hardeveld, said years later: "I couldn't help thinking of those who worked beside me who lost their lives. I thought of the many times when I nearly gave in to doubts that the Canal could ever be completed, that it was ever meant to be. But most of all, I was remembering how my answer to my own doubts, every time, was my faith in my country. I have always believed America could accomplish anything she set out to do."

Wath this amazing PBS documentary about
the construction of the Canal and our Heroic Worker
Jan Van Hardeveld.

PBS.Org

 

Jan Van Hardeveld Received The Roosevelt Medal of Honor For Serving the Longest Time At the Construction of the Canal and Beyond.

The Roosevelt Medal Of Honor

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