EAST SAUGATUCK CHRISTIAN REFORMED CHURCH #172
History, 1869 - 1969
The East Saugatuck True Dutch Reformed Church was formed from the
Graafschap church. As early as February 17, 1868, a committee of the
Graafschap church, composed of Dominie Douwe J. Vander Werp, Jan
Garvelink, P. Boven, E. Fredricks and Schrotenboer, called a meeting for
February 25, 1868 with all who were interested in the organization of a
branch church in the general vicinity of Collendoorn. That name had
been transferred from the old country along with many of the people.
Many of these people had to journey too far for Sunday services.
It was decided to build a church on a piece of property providentially available, and for the present, to remain a branch church of Graafschap. Ready acceptance was found at the General Assembly meeting on April 1, 1868. Rev. Vander Werp was in charge of giving the necessary leadership and encouragement to this new church.
Those (fifty-four in all) who declared their willingness to be
affiliated with this new church were -
Alijda Ter Steeg
Jan Hendrik Lukas
Harm Hendrik Dobben
Berend Hendrik Raker
Johannes Ten Cate
Jan Albert Siebeling
Ds. Jan Stadt, Jr.
Maria Wilhelmina Garveling
Batje Van Loo
Jan Wolters Dekker
Jan Hendrik Stevens
Jan Harm Lummen
Gerrit Jan Wevers
The maiden names of the married women are used. In most instances,
the husband's name preceded that of his wife. For example, Gezina
Bonzelaar was Mrs. Hendrik Schrotenboer. The church was to be built on a four acre site. A canvass was made of the members of the mother church and over $400 was donated. By November, 1868, two elders and two deacons had been chosen to represent the Collendoorn branch church to the Graafschap consistory. On New Year's Day, 1869, Elders Hendrik Laarman and Jan Albert Siebeling, and Deacons Derk Lenters and Geert Broene were installed into office. The new church, 36 x 38 feet was completed and on January 24,1869, it was dedicated to the glory of God. By this time the group had grown in size to 80 souls. At the consistory meeting of March 1, 1869, a request came from the branch church for permission to extend a call to someone to be their pastor. Permission was granted. On March 8, 1869, it was decided to Call Candidate Jan Stadt, Jr. He accepted the Call and was duly examined at a meeting of Classis held on April 28, 1869. He was ordained into the ministry on May 2nd. As a parsonage was not completed as yet, the pastor and his family lived in a home about a quarter of a mile south of the church. The Collendoorn Church had delegates present at Classis for the first time on April 28, 1869. Whatever may have been contributing factors, the union of her first pastor and the church was not to last long. Money was not plentiful,although her needs were met. The consistory requested help in providing Christian instruction to both the Graafschap consistory and the Classis. But things did not develop as fast as desired. Rev. Stadt accepted a Call to serve in Zeeland and left in March of 1870. The parsonage was finished and after one unsuccessful Call, a Call
was extended to Rev. Jacob R. Schepers who accepted and was installed on
December 11, 1870. Due to the loyalty and effectiveness of this pastor,
the congregation began to grow. Deacon G. Broene was elected and
installed as an additional Elder, while H. H. Dobben became a Deacon in
his place. The parsonage was enlarged and both the home and the church
were painted. Everything seemed so bright when a fire, said to have started in
Chicago, spread rapidly though much of Michigan destroying everything in
its path. October 9, 1871, the fire destroyed over 300 homes and many
additional buildings. Many animals were simply released from their
stockades and allowed to run as the most humane thing to do. Amazingly,
there was no loss of human life. The church and parsonage were lost in
this fire. Deacon Dobben tried to save the church and when he saw it
was no use, he rescued the pulpit Bible and carried it to the TenCate
clearing a mile to the north. The Bible had been printed no less than two centuries before by a widow, Mrs. Elzevier at Leiden in the Netherlands. It was presented to the congregation when it organized and saw continued service until March 19, 1919 when the congregation celebrated its 50th anniversary. Through the devastation, the land around the church was cleared in one day where it would have taken many hands many weeks and months to accomplish the clearing of the land. An offer came of a home and an assured salary for the pastor, if he would serve a neighboring congregation throughout the winter months. It
is a matter of record that the Rev. Schepers refused to leave his flock in their hour of need. The congregation set itself to the task of rebuilding. In due
time, a new building measuring 40 x 50 feet was built. Other churches in the denomination donated in the amount of $1,116.56. A new parsonage was also built and by the year 1874, the congregation numbered 250 souls. Rev. J. R. Schepers received a Call to Cincinnati, Ohio and preached his farewell sermon on December 27, 1874. In May, 1875, Rev. Wilhelmus H. Van Leeuwen became their third pastor. Dominie Van Leeuwen was an older man who was to spend his last five years in the ministry here. He had been a school teacher in his earlier days and had entered the ministry later in life, while still in the Netherlands. Under his leadership a Choral Society was organized in 1876 and a Young Men's Society in 1879 and the congregation came to number 100 families as members. Rev. Van Leeuwen's wife, the mother of his ten children, died during this time. Eventually, Dominie Van Leeuwen remarried a Mrs. Jurienne Vork. Rev. Van Leeuwen had the courage to think for himself. It became increasingly difficult for him to be open-minded and to listen to other opinions. As a result, he was led to seek retirement in 1880 at the age of 73.
A Call was extended to Candidate Henry Douwstra and was accepted. He was ordained and began his ministry with us on August 15, 1880. He was a popular preacher and appealed to old and young alike. Before too long, the building could no longer accommodate all who worshipped here and had to be enlarged. An addition of 30 more feet of space was placed in use on July 17, 1881. The church experienced significant
growth in a rather unusual manner. The Fynaart Reformed Church at Collendoorn, one mile to the south, was having much discontent due to the question of Free Masonry which the church at large allowed. Most of this church asked to become affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church and was accepted. A church in Saugatuck with similar convictions contributed no less than 14 families to the growth of our church. By December of 1882, our membership had increased by 50 communicant and 8 baptized members. The giving for the Lord's work had increased so much that the parsonage could be enlarged, the church's debts retired and the pastor's salary increased. In 1889, a steeple was added to the church building and an entryway on which it could be supported. A bell was
installed in the steeple in 1891. At this time their was much talk of re-naming the community. Unionville and Union Center were two names brought up for consideration. Although nothing more seemed to be done about this, there was a new name given to the denomination. The church was orginally called "De
Hollandsche Gereformeerde Kerk" in 1859. Only two years later, the name
was amended to "De Ware Hollandsche Gereformeerde Kerk" (True Dutch Reformed Church). That name stayed until 1880, when it was re-named "De
Hollandsche Christelijke Gereformerrde Kerk" and so remained until 1890,
when its fourth name, still being used today, was given it. It became
"The Christian Reformed Church" when approval was voted on June 10,
1890. This new name was necessitated through the merger of the True
Protestant Dutch Reformed Church and the church of which we were a part.
After having served the church for nine years, Rev. Douwstra took
his leave on November 30, 1890 to go to Chicago. The congregation at
Collendoorn had become the largest of the rural congregations of that
day. The Rev. Andrew Keizer was the next pastor to serve this church.
He arrived in April of 1891 from Muskegon II. He was endowed with a
wonderful physical stamina and a hearty love for his work. He had unusual and valuable abilities and in 1894 was asked to assume the editorship of the church paper, "De Wachter." He served in this capacity during his pastorate and beyond. He also encouraged the development of the East Saugatuck Singing School. As the area lay east of Saugatuck, it became gradually known as this and in 1902 when the congregation was re-incorporated, they requested to be henceforth known as the "East Saugatuck Christian Reformed Church." Sunday School classes began to meet regularly. A basement was provided for additional space but due to dampness did not prove to be too satisfactory. A Consistory room was built in 1893 which alleviated some of the space problem. A Dutch School operated during the summer months for the benefit of children of the church. After serving the church for five years, the Rev. Keizer bade the
congregation farewell in April 19 1896, when he departed for Drenthe. The Rev. Johannes B. Hoekstra also came from the Second church of Muskegon. He labored with devotion and love and is said to have had a special interest in the youth. He was an excellent teacher as well as the pastor. When it appeared the Dutch Summer School would not be in operation because no teacher could be found, he volunteered to teach four days of the week if he could be relieved of some of his duties in the church. It must be observed that loyalty for the cause of Christian Education was not in strong evidence in those days. There were a great many young people in the church around the turn of the century, but they were not always so well-behaved in church. Many of the pews showed evidence in the initials and messages carved into their backs. The consistory passed laws to bring about improvement. Improvement came slowly with the passage of time and change of attitudes. Requests for baptism of infants of parents who were not themselves members in full communion also caused problems. The practice had been to allow the sacrament on the tenuous ground that no child ought to be
denied the sign and seal of God's covenant love. The membership came to realize the sacrament should be used only where parents were ready to assume the obligations of the covenant. After the turn of the century, the parsonage underwent extensive remodelling. By April of 1903, Rev. Hoekstra accepted the
responsibilities of serving the Dennis Avenue church in Grand Rapids. He was a pastor who "wore well", a practical preacher. A Call was extended to Rev. Jacob Manni from Muskegon and he was installed in October of 1903. He also possessed physical stamina and great spiritual zeal. He was a rather stern man, avoiding no issue no matter how unpleasant. One problem he solved was the chewing of tobacco in the sanctuary. Spitoons were provided but sometimes the floor was handier. Those who cleaned up were very unhappy. He spoke on the
matter, that the house of God was not the place for unclean practices.
The church continued to grow to 1,028 and the number of families climbed
to 200. The young people financially supported a scholar, Mattie Green,
in the Rehoboth School. On Sunday, October 28, 1906, a triple wedding was held in addition to the regular services. Mr. D. Bomers and Miss. R. Kolenbrander, Mr. A. Bonselaar and Miss R. Brinks and Mr. G. Deters and Miss B. Brinks
were married. In 1907, a new pulpit and three chairs were obtained for the church at a cost of $70.00, new pews were obtained, and a new organ was
acquired. It had to be pumped manually. The following agreed to pump
the organ gratis for a month at a time - J. Schrotenboer, G.
Schrotenboer, Henry Hilbink, Jacob Postma, Willem Postma, G. J. Lenters
and J. H. Meiste. Rev. Manni accepted a Call to serve the Douglas Park church in Chicago (later known as Warren Park, Cicero, Ill.). He preached his
farewell in July of 1910. The next pastor, Rev. William D. Vander Werp, the son of Ds. Douwe J. Vander Werp, became our eighth pastor in January of 1911 coming from the Zeeland church. He rejoiced with those who rejoiced and literally wept with those who wept. He especially encouraged the young people.
The young people asked to have the English language at their Society meetings and their request was allowed on September 4, 1919. It was five year later before English was used more extensively in the worship services. Rev. Vander Werp left to labor in what became known as the Maple Avenue Church in Holland, Michigan. He agreed to assist in catechism classes and funerals. The next pastor, Rev. L. J. Lamberts, was offered a salary of $1,100 annually and the horse that Rev. Vander Werp had used. He brought a more cosmopolitan background to his work. He was concerned to make an impact upon the world through personal example and pressure from whatever source. He did not like the Pere Marquette railroad operating on Sunday for what he termed unnecessary labor. He approached the Director of the station but to no avail. Mission services were begun in Fennville in the morning at Max Landing and in the afternoon in Gridley at schoolhouses. A young man by the name of Schrikema was ill and desired to make public profession of faith so the Consistory decided to assemble for
their next meeting at his house which was in Fennville. A $1.00 per family was requested to go for the Theological School. A Sunday School picnic was usually held on the 4th of July. Rev. Lamberts left the impression upon the membership that "missions is the life of the church." He preached his farewell in September, 1919 and left for Fremont, Michigan. A pastor was sought who could speak both Dutch and English and who would be willing to preach two English services a month. Rev. J. H. Geerlings accepted the Call and was installed before 1919 was over. It soon became apparent the transition to English would not be accomplished so easily. In September, 1919, it was proposed and approved that the young people could sing English psalms in the evening service. A motor was desired to provide adequate light. A new communion set was acquired and the new congregation at Burnips has asked and was given the old set if they will come and get it. During the early hours of December 19, 1922, the parsonage was burned to the ground. The congregation's records and Minute books prior to the turn of the century and the pastor's library were lost in this fire. By January 18, 1923, a decision was made to rebuild at a location determined by the Building Committee. It was decided to insure the physical properties of the church from now on. A Building Committee was appointed consisting of J. Zoerhoff, J. H., J. Slenk, G. Jaarda, B. Tucker and J. Lubbers, Sr. A committee to solicit funds was appointed which included G. Tucker, A. Schrotenboer, G. F. Meiste, B. Siebelink, William H. J.
Haverdink and L. Vos. The funds had to amount to $8,000 before plans could be set in motion. The pastor was requested to undertake the construction of a new membership record book. During Rev. Geerlings pastorate, the Sunday School changed almost exclusively to English. He left in 1923 to go to Rock Valley, Iowa. Rev. Herman M. Vander Ploeg from Second Church of Muskegon was
installed in 1923 and labored for ten years. The problems facing the
church during this time, were the perennial ones involving the language,
the horse stables and incidental matters. Rev. Vander Ploeg's health
began to fail him. His last sermon was delivered on October 29, 1933.
He was unable to attend subsequent meetings and under a doctor's advice,
submitted his letter of resignation on December 28, 1933 and requested
honorable emeritation due to his ill health. On March 2, 1934, Rev.
Vander Ploeg passed away. Dr. Henry Beets, a brother-in-law of Rev. Vander Ploeg, conducted several services to fill in for him. The twelfth pastor came in 1934 as a Candidate, Sidney P. Miersma, and served longer that any pastors before. The church roof was damaged by fire in March of 1934. In 1935, the Minutes of the Consistory became the official language. The horse stables were no longer in use due to the coming of the automobile. The stables were not easy to get rid of and it took some time to sell them. In August, 1937, they were sold to Jacob Meinema for $300. In 1938, a Christian School Committee was organized and, in 1939, all special services were to be in English. A booklet was printed in 1943 with a membership list. Total English language services were approved January 27, 1949. Rev. Miersma preached his farewell on June 6, 1948 and moved to Parkersburg, Iowa. A movement for organization of a Christian School was taking place at this time. The Rev. Peter De Jong became pastor a year later in June of 1949. During his brief pastorate, the mission at Hamilton became a church in 1950. Rev. De Jong accepted a call in the Spring of 1952 to serve the church in Seattle, Washington. Rev. Simon Vroon was installed as the 14th pastor in August, 1952. The afternoon services were replaced by evening services on a trial basis. The organ caused excessive trouble and was replaced by a Schantz Organ with chimes at the cost of $16,530. The ministry of Rev. Vroon reflected that church discipline was exercised but not always with the desired effect, calls on members were made but not always with the
looked-for responses. Candidate Edward Meyer was admitted into the ministry and ordained September 12, 1958 as a missionary to South America. He and his family were supported by our church. By the end of 1957, Dutch services were discontinued for lack of audience and pastors who could conduct these services. New hymnbooks were purchased in 1959. Rev. Vroon announced his acceptance of a Call to serve I Englewood, Chicago, Illinois and in November of 1959 he bade his farewell. Rev. John H. Bergsma of Volga, South Dakota accepted the call and
was installed on April 20, 1960. Near the end of 1962, a Building Committee was formed to investigate the possibilities for a new church. A decision was taken at a congregational meeting on August 31, 1965 to proceed. It was decided
that there must be $100,000 in the Building Fund before proceeding. Within three months the amount was obtained through cash and pledges. The final meeting of the Consistory was held on February 22, 1966 and the last worship service was a communion service held on February 27, 1966. The Hamilton High School Auditorium served as the gathering place for the congregation. On June 11, 1966, the cornerstone was laid and on November 9 and 10 of 1966 dedication services were held. During the time for arrangements for dedication were taking place, Rev. Bergsma felt compelled to accept a Call from the Alpine Avenue church in Grand Rapids and on November 13 he preached his farewell. Rev. John Leugs from the Bethel Church in Edgerton, Minnesota was installed on February 3, 1967. The church in 1969 has 156 families, 401 communicants and 681 souls. Those who are affiliated with the church and entered the gospel ministry are - Geert Broene (1838-1919) ordained in 1877
Egbert Broene (1840-1936) ordained in 1883
William Kole (1861-1941) ordained in 1898
Leonard P. Brink (1876-1936) ordained in 1900, spending 35 years among the Indians in New Mexico.
John Haveman (1877-1928) ordained in 1910
John E. Brink - ordained in 1938 (retired)
Andrew Baker - ordained in 1939 (retired)
Paul G. Schrotenboer - ordained in 1955 (active)
Hugh A. Koops - ordained in 1956 (active)
Marvin J. Vander Werp - ordained in 1928 (retired)
Donald Vander Werp - (1900-1968) served many Congregational churches.
Those members who entered evangelistic work without ordination are - Margaret Datema
Transcriber: Evelyn Sawyer
Created: 16 July 2005