Skip to main content

Walter Teeuwissen papers

Identifier: Y.USA.113

Content Description

The collection includes a photo album, photos, correspondence, and other materials documenting the life of Walter Teeuwissen and his family. The bulk of the material is related to Walter Teeuwissen's experiences as a YMCA secretary working with prisoners of war (POWs) in Siberia from 1919 to 1920. Highlights of the collection include a photo album with images of the prisoner of war camp near Nikolsk-Ussuriysky and artwork created by people imprisoned in the camp.


  • 1908 - 2018

Language of Materials

The majority of the material is in English. Materials in Hungarian are noted at the file level.

Conditions Governing Access

The digital files are available upon request for use in the Elmer L. Andersen Library reading room and may be made available for remote use. Please contact the Kautz Family YMCA Archives to arrange access to these materials.

Conditions Governing Use

This collection may be protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright ownership and to obtain all necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials. Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provision of the copyright law.

Biographical / Historical

Walter Teeuwissen was born Wouter Teeuwissen on October 1, 1886, in Huizen in the Netherlands. As a child, he wanted to become a preacher. However, at the age of 18, he received money from his father to open up a cigar shop in Huizen.

When he was 20, Teeuwissen decided to emigrate to the States and he sold his shop. He sailed from Rotterdam on the SS Nieuw Amsterdam and arrived in New York in 1908 with $80 in cash. Once in the United States, he changed his first name from Wouter to Walter and moved to Michigan.

While selling cigars in Grand Rapids, Michigan Teeuwissen met Susanna Drescher (born August 31, 1884) who was working as a housemaid. Teeuwissen and Susanna married on April 30, 1913. They went on to have three children; Walter Jacob born in 1914, Raymond Woodrow born in 1918, and Esther Maria born in 1924.

Teeuwissen worked for some time as a nurse for a wealthy family, but he wanted to become a pastor. While continuing to work nights as a nurse, he attended the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. He graduated from the Institute's two-year missionary course in April 1916. He completed additional training at a Presbyterian Seminary.

In 1917, Teeuwissen began working for the YMCA as a chaplain at Camp Grant in Rockford, Illinois.

In 1919, Teeuwissen went to Siberia with the YMCA. He served as a religious work secretary for the Austrian-Hungarian prisoners in a Russian Prisoner of War Camp. He returned home to Chicago in 1920. His YMCA service ended in the fall of 1920.

In 1923, Teeuwissen was asked to move to Bruges, Belgium with his family. When the Germans invaded Belgium, in June 1940, Walter and his family fled. After a harrowing journey, they arrived back in the United States in November 1940 and settled in Michigan.

Susanna, Teeuwissen’s first wife, died in May 1958. Teeuwissen married Petronella La Grange in December 1962.

Teeuwissen died in Grand Rapids, Michigan on October 7, 1967.

Information taken from:

Walter Teeuwissen Biography. Accessed October 4, 2022.

Walter Teeuwissen’s United States YMCA World War I Service Card. Accessed October 4, 2022.


1.2 Cubic Feet

3.9 Gigabytes


Photographs, correspondence, and other materials documenting Walter Teeuwissen and his experiences as a YMCA secretary working with prisoners of war in Siberia in 1919 to 1920.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was donated to the archives by Suzanne Teeuwissen, Walter Teeuwissen's granddaughter, in 2020.

Processing Information

Processed by Madeline Alft

Includes accession number Y20200205.

An Inventory of his Papers
Madeline Alft and Alex Bentley
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area