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H88-0130.10. Riepma, Sears Frederick (1878-1977). Papers, 1812-1991 (bulk, 1882-1977). 7.00 linear ft. PARTIALLY RESTRICTED

Identifier: H88-0130.10

Scope and Contents

The Sears Frederick Riepma papers consist of materials from 1812 to 1991 (bulk, 1882-1977), which document the life and activities of the Riepma and Van Zwaluwenburg families. This record group consists of folders divided into 13 subgroups: Riepma Family Records; Riepma Family Memorabilia; Van Zwaluwenburg Family Records; Sears Frederick Riepma (SFR) Autobiography; SFR and Family; SFR Marriages; SFR Children; SFR Personal Papers and Photographs; SFR Ministerial Activities; Correspondence from Radio Listeners; Oversize Certificates; Last Years and Death; and Family Books.

One of the greatest strengths of this collection is its abundance of visual materials. There are well over one thousand photographs, ten photo buttons, four slides, and eight photo albums. These materials document the Riepma and Van Zwaluwenburg family members, life at Hope College during the turn of the century, Sears’ ministries, and trips to Europe. Many of the older photographs are especially interesting due to their "natural" composition instead of the stiff posed nature so prevalent in images from that time period. For example, there are photos of picnics, parties, students relaxing and studying, and fishing. These give researchers a more realistic idea of activities of that era.

The primary focus of the collection is on the life and activities of Sears Frederick Riepma. The most thoroughly documented aspects of his life are his ministerial activities, excursions to Europe, and his autobiography, Rev. Sears F. Riepma 1878-1977: My Ancestry, Life and Ministry. These materials shed light on the personal side of Riepma. They reveal a very giving, spiritual man whose sense of humor and positive outlook on life was a benefit to all who came in contact with him.

Documents relating to family records primarily consist of genealogies and autobiographies. Most of the later material in the collection, 1978-1986, is newspaper clippings and correspondence relating to family members. The grade records of Riepma's children are RESTRICTED. These items were collected by Mary Riepma Ross while she was the caretaker of the family archive. Collection is organized alphabetically.


  • 1812 - 1995
  • Majority of material found within 1882 - 1977



Sears Frederick Riepma was born in 1878 in Delfzijl, The Netherlands. He entered the United States through Ellis Island in 1894, en route to Holland, Michigan. In 1900, Riepma became a U.S. citizen and received his B.A. from Hope College. He was awarded a Professorial Certificate from the Western Theological Seminary in 1903. In 1904, he married Mary Elizabeth Van Zwaluwenburg in Holland. They had five children together.

During his career, Riepma served three denominations. Initially, he served the Reformed Church in America from 1903 to 1913, and had ministries in Detroit, Hospers (Iowa), Oklahoma City, and Grand Rapids. He then moved to the Presbyterian Church, serving from 1913 to 1930 in Olathe (Kansas), Rockford (Illinois), Independence (Missouri), and Lincoln (Nebraska). In 1931, Riepma was ordained into the Episcopal Church. He became a deacon in 1931 and a priest in 1932. Riepma served the Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Independence, and Springfield (Missouri). He retired from the Christ Episcopal Church in Springfield in 1950, but continued to lead services on many occasions.

Sears Riepma was a staunch supporter of the ecumenical movement and preached at churches of more than a dozen denominations in Springfield and the Ozarks area. He also actively utilized the radio to spread his ideas. In 1934, he began a series of Saturday afternoon Sunday School lessons and Sunday morning sermons. After about ten years of these programs, Riepma switched to Sunday evening altar talks, which continued until 1957. From 1959 to 1965, he had another radio program entitled "Weekend Meditations." Riepma delivered the opening prayer of the 92nd Congress in November of 1971.

In 1947, Riepma established a systematic program of assistance, which helped more than 30 Dutch families immigrate to the United States in the wake of World War II. Riepma was held in high esteem by his community, as shown by the memorial presented by his friends at the Springfield News and Leader and the fact that the Empire Bank named one of its rooms after him.

Riepma's wife Mary Elizabeth died in 1938, and he married Maie Vail Smith the following year in Springfield, Missouri. Maie passed away in 1954. In 1956, Riepma married again, this time to Dorothy May Wing Cribbs. Dorothy died in 1967, and Riepma passed away in 1977. He was buried in Springfield next to his first wife and his first born, Freda, who had died of an illness in 1929.


7.00 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



Personal papers of Sears Frederick Riepma, minister in the Reformed Church in America (1903-1913), the Presbyterian Church (1913-1930), and the Episcopalian Church (1930-1950). The collection also contains materials on the Riepma and Van Zwaluwenburg families. The latter was the family of Riepma's first wife, Mary Elizabeth Van Zwaluwenburg (1880-1938). Included are photographs, scrapbooks, genealogies, autobiographies, photo albums, books, and correspondence. Detailed Collection Register available.


Riepma and Van Zwaluwenburg Families


Boxes 1-5, 7-11, 14



Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Joint Archives of Holland Repository

Theil Research Center
9 East 10th Street
Holland Michigan 49423 United States