Holland Township

During the first years of trial, the colonists were held together by their strong religious sympathy. Van Raalte was their leader, spiritual and temporal. His preaching nerved them to do and endure. In 1848, they erected a church. The same year, Oswald Vanderhuis, a Hollander with property, put up a saw mill at the head of the lake. About the same time, Wm. Flietstra erected the famous windmill to carry a gang of saws. The fault with that was, it would not go; and it caused the Hollanders to be very much laughed at. In Vanderhuis’ mill, stone were put for grinding. Also a grist-mill was built between Holland and Zeeland.

During the first years, the troubles and trials were those depicted in speaking of the Zeeland colony. To particularize would be only repetition. During this time the colonists were under the highest obligations to Alfred Plugger, a noble-souled Hollander, who, having money, resigned his all in helping those in need; lending to the poor, to be repaid when they could; helping them to secure and improve their farms. He lived to realize the truth of the promise implied in the Scripture, often quoted by him, "Cast thy bread upon the waters," etc. He last nothing by it; but found his property all repaid to him; and he died Nov. 1st, 1864, with the love and benedictions of all.

In 1847, the settlement in North Holland was begun. Van Raalte told William Tongerin he had learned from the Indians that good land lay at the north, and that he had better go and look. He, with Jan Van Dyke, followed an Indian trail about five miles, found as represented, returned, and reported. In the winter if 1849-50, Jan Vantongeren, Gerrett Van Dyke, his sons-Jan Jacob, Albert and Otto-and his two daughters- all un married; Coenrad Smidt and family-Jan, Peter, Coenrad, William

And Arent; Jan Stag, Sr., and Cars Weener came in, and put up log houses. They brought in one stove, four men drawing it on a hand-sled. They took up government land. The next year, Jan Spykerman and Jan Veldheer followed. The cut a road to Holland the first winter.

Enough were together to form a little community by themselves. They established public worship, held meetings in private houses and barns-anywhere. They met for devotion, not display. The first church building was a small frame structure, now part of the parsonage. In the fall of 1856 they had their first school, with Herman Grebel as the teacher. He now lives in Grand Rapids.

Arent Smith says he first came through with a team from Holland. It took two days. The first night he left the wagon stuck in the mud, and returned.

In 1860, the first church was built. The church had been organized in 1851. The first pastor was the Rev. E.C. Oggel, who assumed charge in 1866. He left in 1869, and was succeeded by the present pastor, Rev. B. Van Ness, March, 1870. Then the number of families was 80. At present (1875) the number is 120.

On the whole, the settlement was a success; the land was good, and thrift has rewarded labor.

Holland Fire

At the same time that Chicago was in flames, the little city of Holland was made a desolation by the fire fiend. The night of terror, October 8-9th, 1871, left three-fourths of the people without houses-all went-swept by the besom of destruction.

The season had been remarkably without rain, everything was dry, the swamps without water, and fires were in the woods in all parts of Michigan and Wisconsin. A territory in Michigan larger than the State of Massachusetts was burned over; villages and houses were consumed. The gloom of night hung over all. The smoke of burning Chicago, and the fires in the villages and woods, filled the air with almost suffocating smoke. For some days a fire had been in a swamp a few miles from Holland. It was slowly approaching the city. Between it and the city was a piece of woods where the stand must be taken; for if it passed the woods, it came to a slashing, and the doom of the city was inevitable, as the wind was towards it. Sunday, the 8th, there was a rallying to meet the fire in the woods, and everything promised success. At the critical time some men deserted their post, and the fire got over-got into the slashings, and from that in a few minutes into the city.

The wind was high, and the fire leaped from one building to another; the air was filled with the burning boards and shingles, giving a perfect rain of fire. To escape with life was all that could be hoped for. Few saved any of their goods or animals, and many nothing but their night clothing. An hour did the work, and what a desolation did the morning exhibit! Houseless, homeless, half naked, the people were contemplating the scene, stupefied by the appalling desolation.

The persons lost their lives-one an old woman in the fire. The other a young woman in consequence of it.

But did the Hollanders despair? The same spirit that built it at the first, rebuilt it. A Hollander does not die until death calls for him. The city is now regenerated-"improved," they say, by the fire.


Two cities were laid out on the north side of the lake-the one in earnest, the other on paper.

A company of Eastern capitalists, called the Black River Company, with Capt. Macy at the head, in 1835, commenced in earnest to found a city on the north shore of Black Lake, at the spot known as the Hope College Lands. They laid out a town and called it "Superior." They began work in earnest; made a road to Grand Haven, and another to the mouth of the Kalamazoo River; put up a steam mill; had a ship-yard, and made other improvements. They built a schooner, and Henry Knox put up a tannery. There a son was born to James C. Hale-the first white birth in the region of Black Lake.

Capt. Macy was killed at Kalamazoo, and the soul of Superior having departed, the town collapsed and died. The machinery was taken out of the mill, the residents departed, and Superior became a matter of recollection only.

This much may be said: the site was well chosen, and the enterprise ought to have succeeded.

What Yankees with capital and brains failed to do, the Dutchmen, without capital and without the credit of an over-plus of the other article, accomplished on the other side of the lake a few years after. Religious unity and plodding perseverance did what talent and capital failed to do.

The other "city" deserves but a passing mention. It was laid out on the north side at the mouth, and called Portsmouth. Nothing was done to develop it.

The City

Holland was organized as a city in 1867, with Dr. Bernardus Leedboer as Mayor, and H. D. Post, Recorder. Second Mayor, Isaac Cappen; third, Edward I. Harrington; fourth, Isaac Cappen; fifth, John Vanlandigham. The first Marshal was Tennis Keppel.


Plow factory agricultural implements, planing mill, sash and blind, small carriage shops, stave factory and flour barrels-large concern; two large tanneries.
The Establishment of Capon & Rertsch’s Leather Company.
It commenced operation in 1857 on small scale. At the time of the fire its capacity was 15,000 hides. It now employs fifty men; uses 33,000 hides, and 3,000 cords of bark annually; and makes all kinds of leather.
Smith’s Tannery, across the bay; employs twenty-five men; capacity, 20,000 hides. At this establishment finishing is not done.

Newspapers at Holland

De Hope

This is a religious paper, in the interest of the Reformed Church; printed in the Holland language; and is the organ of that church. It was established in 1866 by the council of Hope College; at first edited by Prof. C. Doesburg as managing editor. Its circulation is about 2,000.

The Hollander

The publication of this paper was began in the fall of 1850. H. D. Post was editor of the English part, and G. Vander Wall of the Dutch. It was published by Hawkes and Bassett. In 1851, Hermanns Doesburg bought the office and the paper was edited; by Doesburg and Vander Wall. Two years afterward Doesburg became sole editor; Vander Wallleft, went to Kalamazoo, and published the "Nederlander"; afterwards finished his studies at Brunswick College, became a preacher and Professor in Hope College. He is now a preacher in South Africa. He is a man of talent.

Mr. Doesburg still continues proprietor of the paper. It is edited by William, Benjaminse.

Holland City News

Started in the spring of 1872, by Dr. S. L. Morris, as editor and proprietor, who rrun it for a year as a Republican paper. It then fell into the hands of Van Schelven, who has kept it up as independent. Circulation, 600.
De Groundweet (Dutch)
Established in 1859, by Roost & Hoogesteger. Republican in politics. Circulation, 1,500. Now published by Hoogesteger & Mulder.
The Ottawa Register was published five years by H. D. Post, "De Wachter" was begun at Holland, and removed to Grand Rapids. "De Paul" also had a transient existence at Holland.

Methodist Episcopal Church

The first class was organized in 1866. The full list of the members cannot be given, as the records were destroyed by the fire that burned the city. The names of some of them were:  Isaac Fairbanks, John Roost, John Bakker, Jacob Fluieman, Francis Hall, Martin Clark, James L. Fairbanks, Robert Symonds, Andrew Anderson and Richard K. Heald.
The persons most prominent in starting the church were Michael J. Clappen, Isaac Fairbanks and Richard K. Heald.
Three churches have been built First, about the year 1868; size 22 by 30, cost about $700. Second, in 1871; size 33 by 60; cost $1,500; was not complete when destroyed by the fire in 1871. Third, built in 1872, size 33 by 70, cost $2,200; now used.
The pastors have been; 1st, Rev. P. Gilbert; 2nd, Daniel S. Bacon; 3rd, G. E. Hollister; 4th, J. R. Wilkinson, 5th, Wm. A. Bronson, 6th, B. F. Doughty; 7th, Francis Glass; 8th, Wm. M. Coplin.
Present number about 60. Congregation from 50 to 100.

Episcopal Church

Organized in the fall of 1867, with few communicants. Those who originated it are M. D. Howard and Heber Walsh.

The first Episcopal services at Holland were by the Rev. Robert Wood, who in 1866 officiated twice, and baptized eight or ten persons, part of them adults. Occasional; services were held until 1868 by J. R. Taylor, in the school house built by American residents. This building became the property of the church at the time of its organization. It was destroyed in the great fire.
In 1868, Mr. Taylor was called from Grand Haven. He remained pastor until 1874, when he resigned, and went to New York. After a year, Mr. Taylor returned, and still remains.
New church built in 1872, cost $5,500. Communicants, 26; congregation, 75.

Hope College

The incipient movement which has resulted in the establishment of this college, was the starting of a Latin class in the public school at Holland, then under the charge of Walter T. Taylor. At the same time there was a manifest desire on the part of the Dutch Reformed church at the East to bring about close relations with the Holland emigrants, and found an academic school at the West, should be a feeder of Rutgers’ College. Prof. Taylor began the classical department of the public school. This school was developed, in 1855, into what became known as the Holland Academy. In 1862 the first Freshman class of the new college was found out of the Academy. Previous to that the students had gone to Rutgers’ College. The General Synod, in 1863, approved the collegiate department and appointed a board of superintendents. In 1865, the four classes were complete. The college was incorporated May 14th, 1866; the first president inaugurated on the 14th of the following July. The first class graduated the 17th of the same month.

Resuming-Professor Taylor resigned his position in the preliminary school in 1854, and was temporarily followed by Rev. P. P. Biehler. The Academy was in 1855, placed under the charge of Rev. John Van Vleck, who, in 1859 was succeeded by Rev. Philip Phelps, Jr. Assisting them were Abraham Thompson, A. B., and Giles Vander Wall, A. M. The catalogue of the graduates from the Academy, 1857-62, inclusive, shows that 25 became clergymen, being a great majority of the whole.

In 1859, the principal building was erected; five acres were given by Dr. Van Raalte, and 11 more purchased. The premises are owned by the General Synod.

Hope College, as now developed, consists of three schools-an academy and general school, the college, and the theological school, each with its particular head or president. Over the whole Philip Phelps, D.D., is president. The classes in the college and theological departments still small. The patrons of the institution gave it the name of "Hope," realizing that for a long time it must be a creature of hope, rather than a present reality. It is their hope to develop it into "Hope Haven University." This idea is dear to the church, under which it arose, and "Dutch perseverance" is proverbial.

The following is a list of teachers. The star denotes that, they are now dead:

Walter T. Taylor* 1851-4 Pioneer School
Rev. F.P. Bielder, pro tem 1854-5 Pioneer School
Hugh W. Taylor 1851-4 Assistant Pioneer School
Miss Margaret W. Taylor * 1851-2 Assistant Pioneer School
Miss Anna B. Taylor 1851-4 Assistant Pioneer School
Rev. John VanVleek, A.M.* 1855-9 Holland School
Rev. Philip Phelps, Jr 1859-62 Holland School
Pro Abraha Thompson A.B. 1857-8 Holland School
Pro Rev Giles Vander Wall A.M. 1858-61 Holland School
Rev. Philip Phelps, Jr. D.D. Since 1862 Hope College
Rev Peter Oggell, A.M.* 1865-9 Hope College
Rev T. Romeyn Beck, A.M. Since 1863 Hope College
Rev I. M. Ferris, D.D. 1864-5 Hope College
Rev Charles Scott, D.D. Since 1866 Hope College
Rev Cornelius Crispel, D.D. Since 1866 Hope College
Cornelious Doesburg, A.M. Since 1866 Hope College
William A. Shields, D.D. 1870-3 Hope College


Rev Abel Stewart, D.D. 1870-3 Hope College
Rev Peter Moerdyk, A.M. 1871-3 Hope College
Rev Garritt I. Kollen, AM Since 1871 Hope College
Rev Henry Uiterwigh, A.M. 1874-5 Hope College

The college is the chief attraction of Holland. Though an infant institution, it is enshrined in the hearts of the people for whom it was intended; and we cannot but wish it God speed. What is here given is condensed from the circular of Hope College, issued in1876.In that is a full expose of its history, trials and present status. To that the particular friends of the institution will look for more full information.

ODD Fellows

Organized Feb. 14th, 1866. The constituent members were Geo. Lander, Geo. G. Stickatee. O. Breyman, J. A. Grey, J. O. Doesburg. G. Nilson Smith, G. Van Schelven, Wm. L. Hopkins, I. Myrick, Wm. K. Jocelyn and B. R. Plutt.  Lander was Master. Present number, 67. Four deaths have occurred.
The lodge was prospered in the face of very strong opposition, the religious prejudices of the people of Holland being strong against secret societies.

Holland City Lodge, 192 I.O.O.F.

In the summer of 1871, there were three brothers of the Scarlet Degree residing in Holland, viz: A. J. Clark, S. F. Morris and M. Harrington. They determined to have a Lodge. They called a meeting of all Odd Fellows, and found several more. However, the great fire rendered starting a Lodge at that time impracticable.
Afterwards, in the winter of 1872, a charter was obtained, and the Lodge instituted.
First officers; S. T. Morris, N. G.; A. J. Clark, V. G.; M. Harrington, R. S.; I. Bramer, K.; C. Vanlandegand, C.; R. K. Heald, W. Present number, 33.
The Lodge has had to contend with much opposition.

Transcriber: Barb Jones
Created: 21 May 2010
URL: http://ottawa.migenweb.net/holland/history/early.html