Basic Info on Tuberculosis

People have forgotten just what a scourge the disease of tuberculosis was. In the farming communities of the 1800s and early 1900s entire families were afflicted by this disease and it was a common cause of death among the young as well as the old. TB has been around a long time – researchers have found evidence of the disease in prehistoric human remains and Egyptian mummies. I’m going to stay very non-technical in this post – if you want to know more just go Google the history of tuberculosis and prepare to be overwhelmed!

The two types of tuberculosis we dealt with in our family were known as pulmonary tuberculosis and “bone” or extrapulmonary tuberculosis. The primary cause of TB is a bacillus – in really lay terms “a bacterium” that can divide roughly every 16 to 20 hours. It’s not considered a fast grower, but it is a hearty little devil and can withstand weak disinfectants and survive in a dry state for several weeks.

Pulmonary tuberculosis is spread by the cough, sneeze, or spit of an infected person becoming airborne and someone else inhaling it. Think about the close living arrangements of families on farms and it’s easy to see how entire families were infected. Infection with TB did not always equate to the disease becoming active – I have seen numbers in my reading that show from 15-40% on the number of infected who became active.

Generally, the bone type of TB was acquired through the consumption of unpasteurized milk or consumption of meat from an in infected cow. On the Washington State Department of Agriculture website there is a compiled history concerning the State Veterinarian. There is an entry discussing tuberculosis testing of cattle and states, “Herds of up to 150 head were often found to be 100 percent reactive.”1 This was during a time when every farmer had from 4-10 dairy cows for production of, at least, the family milk, and usually sold the extra to the local dairy. The farmers also had a few young steers that they raised to butcher and almost all of these cattle carried the disease. “It would take until 1988 before Washington is declared Tuberculosis free by the Washington State Agricultural Department.”2

The real break-through with TB came in 1944 when a new antibiotic called Streptomycin was administered for the first time. It immediately stopped the progression of the disease and the bacteria disappeared from the sputum and the chance of recovery was excellent. All diseases mutate to survive and TB immediately did so, but combinations of drugs solved most of those problems. In developed countries TB has been significantly reduced. It remains a huge problem in undeveloped countries and new drug resistant strains are still being found. This development came after many in my Burgraff and Kortlever line died from the disease.

1. Washington State Dept. of Agriculture, Washington State Dept. of Agriculture – Animal Health ( : accessed 19 Jun 2009), 1929 entry.
2. Ibid.

Kortlever Family Portrait

The Kortlever Family:
Seated: Jan Kortlever, daughter, Maaike Bel Kortlever
Back: Hugo Kortlever, daughter, daughter, Mary Kortlever Burgraff, John Cornelis Kortlever
The three daughters are Maggie Pen, Nellie Van Diest, and Jennie Noteboom, but I don’t know which is which.

Kortlever Family Portrait

John Kortlever Dies

On 15 August 1922 Jan Kortlever died at the age of 73 of a heart attack.1 He was buried in Monumenta Cemetery.

Funeral services for the late John Kortlever will be held on Monday at 1 p.m. at the family home, and at 1:30 at the Reformed Church on Grover Street. Rev. H. K. Pasma will conduct the services.
Mr. Kortlever passed away suddenly Tuesday evening a few minutes after retiring. He had been in apparent good health and the news of his passing came as a shock to his many friends. He had resided in the Lynden district for twenty-two years, and was universally esteemed and respected.
Mr. Kortlever was 73 years, 6 months and 27 days old. He was born in The Netherlands. He was married to Maaike Flora Bell in 1873. He came to the United Sates in 1883, and lived in Iowa for 13 years. After being in Minnesota for four years, he moved to Lynden.
Besides his widow, he is survived by two sons, Hugo and John of Lynden; three daughters, Mrs. Mary Burgraff, Mrs. Rendit Van Diest of Lynden, and Mrs. H. Pen of Okanogan; two brothers in the The Netherlands, and on in Edgerton, Minn.; one sister in Pella, Iowa, and one in The Netherlands.”2

1. Whatcom County, Washington, death certificate no. 634 (15 Aug 1922), John Kortlever; Washington State Vital Records, Olympia, Washington.
2. “Will Hold Kortlever Services Next Monday,” (Lynden) Lynden Tribune, Thur., 17 Aug 1922, p. 2.

The Jan Kortlever Family

Mary Kortlever’s parents came from the Netherlands in one of the later wave of immigrants in the 1880s. Jan Kortleever was born 18 January 1849 in Leerdam, Zuid, Netherlands, to Cornelis Kortleever and Maaike den Besten.1 He was married to Maaike Flora Bel on 6 March 1873 in Kedichem, Zuid, Netherlands.2 Maaike was born 5 February 1853 in Leerdam, and was the daughter of Hugo Bel and Maria de Leeuw.3

Jan left the Netherlands aboard the Waesland, landed in New York on 15 May 1882,4 and proceded to Sioux County, Iowa. Maaike made the trip on the W. A. Scholten and arrived in New York on 15 September 1882.5 She travelled with her children; Cornelis age 11, Maria age 8, Hugo age 6, Bastian age 4, and John age 4 months.

The Kortlever family appears on the 1885 Iowa State Census and at that time is: Jan age 36, Magie Flora age 31, Maria age 10, Hugo age 9, Jan age 3, Cornelis age 1.6 There is some confusion about oldest son Cornelis who would be 13 or 14 at the time of this census. He is not with the family on that 1885 census and a baby boy has been given the name. Baby Cornelis (born about 1884) and the older Cornelis are never heard of again in this family group. An unsourced family group sheet lists only the older Cornelis with no death date.

A Cornelis of the right age (23) appears on the 1895 Iowa State Census, and then again on the census records in Lynden Washington. After further research I have conclude that this Cornelis is the son of Jan’s older brother Bastiaan Cornelis Kortleever (1847 – 1920).7 Bastiaan also immigrated from the Netherlands in the early 1880s with his wife Jannigje van Klei and his son Cornelis and daughter Maaike. Once again the repeating names makes searching a challenge. However, Bastiaan Cornelis and his family would take the same journey as his brother – first to Iowa, then to Minnesota, and finally to Lynden.

Jan and Maaike had three other children born in Iowa; Maaike (Maggie) in 1885, Cornelia (Nellie) in 1890, and Jantje (Jennie) in 1892.

1. Genlias database, Genlias ( : accessed 11 Aug 2009), Birth, Jan Kortleever, 18 Jan 1849; Nationaal Archief (Rijksarchief Zuid-Holland).
2. Genlias database, Genlias ( : accessed 11 Aug 2009), Marriage, Jan Kortleever age 24 & Maaike Flora Bel age 20, 6 Mar 1873; Nationaal Archief (Rijksarchief Zuid-Holland).
3. Whatcom County, Washington, death certificate no. 90 (15 Aug 1931), Maaike Kortlever; Washington State Vital Records, Olympia, Washington.
4. “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” online images, Ancestry ( : accessed 10 Feb 2010), manifest, Waesland, 15 May 1882, Line 14, Jan Kortlever.
5. “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” online images, Ancestry ( : accessed 10 Feb 2010), manifest, W.A. Scholten, 15 Sep 1882, Line 31, Maaike Kortlever.
6. 1885 Iowa State Census, Sioux County, Iowa, population schedule, Alton, p. 6 handwritten, 266 stamped, dwelling 32, family 37, line 26, Jan Kortlever; digital images, The Generations Network, Ancestry ( : accessed 28 Jun 2009); citing Iowa State Census Collection, 1836-1925.
7. Washington State Digital Archives, “Death Records,” database, Washington State Digital Archives ( : accessed 20 Feb 2010), Bartiaam C. Kortuver, died 29 Aug 1920.