Jan Willem (John William) te Kolstee was born on August 3, 1830 in Winterswijk, Gelderland, Netherlands to Gerrit Hendrik te Kolstee and Engelina Nijenhuis. Before they immigrated to the United States, they were living at the Landewer farm in Huppel, Netherlands. He and his parents and sister immigrated to the United States in 1848. On August 10, 1848, the family left from Huppel and traveled across the Netherlands until they reached the port at Rotterdam. They traveled across the Atlantic and arrived in New York City on October 9, 1848. They took a steamship up the Hudson river and merged onto the Erie Canal. They proceeded to Buffalo, New York and arrived there on October 19.
The family settled in Clymer, Chautauqua County, New York where William worked as a farmer. He married Johanna "Kate" Geertruida Theodora Hesselink, daughter of Gradus Hesselink and Harmina Klomps, between 1849 and 1856 in the United States. Together, they had a total of 14 children. They appear in the 1860, 1870, and 1880 census in Clymer. William died on April 2, 1895 in Clymer, New York. William and Kate are buried in Holland Cemetery in Clymer, New York.