Sketches of Early Families From St. John Lutheran Church
48th Avenue and Fillmore Street
Ottawa County, Michigan

Claus and Katharina (Boesch) Behrens – Claus and Katharina were married in Hanover, Germany. They lived there until after the birth of their first son. Then, hearing about the opportunities for work in America, decided to migrate to the new world.
They did not have enough money for both of them and their son, Heinrich, so Claus came by alone. He traveled by steerage. When he arrived he went to Northern Michigan and worked in the lumber woods for one dollar a day and his room and board. When he had saved enough money, he came to Blendon Township and bought forty acres of land on what is now Stanton Street, where Ruth Behrens lives today. The first tax receipts for this land was dated 1866.
He cut down trees on his land and built a log cabin. Soon he sent for his wife and son. They came to America and lived on this farm all their lives. Gradually they prospered and bought more land until they had over 200 acres. They later built a large frame house. Ruth and Jerry Behrens now live in this house.

Claus was very active in the organizing and building of St. John Church. He was on the building committee for the first church. He served as secretary of the church from 1888-1904, recording all the minutes in beautiful German script.

Katharina was a sister of Metta (Boesch) Tambke

Claus and Metta (Boesch) Tambke – came to America when their first child, Claus, was about two years old. Heinrich, their second child, was born in America in 1869. They bought a farm a quarter of a mile north of Bauer and spent their life there. They had two daughters and four sons. They were always active in St. John Lutheran Church. Claus acted as secretary of the church from 1905-1907.

Adolphus Schmidt – Wilhelm Schilling Families – In searching through the abstract of Harold Schilling’s farm we found Adolphus Schmidt, father of this family, sold 60 acres of land to Wilhelm and Dorothea (Schmidt) Schilling in 1864. This land was on what is now Luce Street, between 42nd and 48th Avenues, across from where Harold and Dorothy Schilling live today. Adolphus had purchased this land from Lucus and Looman Jenison, who had bought it from the government as timber land. Wilhelm later bought the 40 acres where Harold and Dorothy live today. This should be a "Centennial Farm".

Johann Topp and Elisabeth Schmidt – Another daughter of Adolphus Schmidt, Elisabeth, married Johann Topp, who was a coachman for wealthy people in Germany. They were married in Germany and came to the United States on their honeymoon. Elisabeth brought a feather bed and some furniture with her. They had some money but decided to come as steerage passengers and save some of their money. Elisabeth was a very clean and neat person. The steerage compartment, where many people were in one big room, was filthy. The odor was obnoxious. Elisabeth was very upset, so Johann took some of their money and bought first class passage for himself and his bride.
When they reached America. Johann bought a farm just south of M-45 on 52nd Avenue. Here the family lived for many years. They built a large frame house. They had four daughters and one son. All the family were active church members.

Johann Brandt and Maria Schmidt were lovers in Germany. Johann wanted to come to America. He came alone and found employment in New Fane, New York. He soon sent for Maria. She brought a feather bed and a copper kettle. It took her 90 days to cross the Atlantic. The young couple were married in New York and lived there for several years. Their children, Louise, Johann and Maria were born there.
The Brandts corresponded with Wilhelm and Dorothea Schilling in Michigan. Wilhelm wrote of the good land in Michigan. Johann Brandt came to Michigan and bought 60 acres on 42nd Avenue, but there was no house to live in so he returned to New Fane. Later they came back to Michigan and built a log cabin on their land and lived in it. When they could afford it, they built a new frame house. This place remained in the Brandt family until John Brandt the third, sold it to Grand Valley State College. Their family helped start St. John Lutheran Church and always supported it.

Frederick Schmidt married Dorothea Mueller. In 1889 they bought land from Isaac Taylor at the top of the Clay Hills on Fillmore Street. Here they raised a family of Christian boys and girls. Their daughters, Maria, Sarah, Elisabeth, and son, Frederick, sang in the choir for many years. Their son, Carl, was the church secretary from 1907-1921. We are proud of, and thankful for, the Schmidt family. They have been good Lutherans Christians for over 100 years. After living there for sometime they changed their name to Smith. The people in our church today who are descendants of this family are: Mrs. Helen Reister, the Kenneth Hansens, the William Kennedys, the Neumans and the Harold Schilling family.

The Eikelberg - Maas - Otto Families

The Eikelberg family and Frederick Maas came from Germany at the same time. After they reached America Friederick Maas and Wilhelmine Eikelberg were married. At first they lived in Paris Township in Kent County. Later they bought a farm on 66th Avenue, half a mile south of Bauer Road. The Eikelbergs and their son, Ernst, lived with Friederick and Wilhelmine Maas for many years.

Augusta Eikelberg married Friederick Schulmeister. For a time they lived in a house on the Friederick Maas farm. Later they bought an eighty acre farm on the corner of Polk and 56th Avenue, and built a house.

Wilhelm Otto married Fredericka Eikelberg. They bought a farm on 56th Avenue and lived there. They had a son and three daughters.

Ernst Eikelberg married Dorothea Friedericka Dehn and also lived on 56th Avenue. When the mother was widowed she spent her last years with her son, Ernst, and his wife.

Johann Otto, a brother of Wilhelm, married Sophia Klassen. They had four boys and three girls. Johann bought land on 56th Avenue near Stanton Street. Johann was a member of the first building committee of St. John’s Church. He served his church for many years. Many of them moved to Grand Rapids. Elisabeth Otto married George Lowing, and remained an active member of our church all her life.

Johann Bohl Family
The family lived in South Blendon, as did the Wilhelm Abel family. It was a long distance to travel through dust, mud, and snow to church in those days, but these folks were diligent members of St. John. Johann Bohl had known Barbara Orf in Germany. He came to America with Simon Orf, Barbara’s brother. Johann lived with an aunt in Batavia, New York and worked as a stone mason until he came to Michigan. He traveled on Lake Erie, Lake Huron, and Lake Michigan to Grand Haven, where he boarded a river boat and came to Blendon Landing. He followed the railroad tracks to South Blendon where the Orf’s lived. He and Barbara were soon married, and lived all their lives in South Blendon. The Charles Snyder, Jr. family, the Clarence Reister family, the Fred Blair family and the Sheridan families are descendants of Johann and Barbara (Orf) Bohl.

Wilhelm Abel Family
Wilhelm Able was married to Ida Steinschen. They had two children, a boy and a girl. Ida died very young. The daughter, who also was named Ida, married Heinrich Behrens. The Marvin Behrens family are their descendants. Wilhelm later married Anna Lutz, and they had eight children. The Garry Scholten family are descendants of this branch of the Abel family.

Conrad Bing Family
Conrad Bing and his wife, Maria Tollmer, bought land on the corner of 48th Avenue and Fillmore Street. They lived there all their life after coming to America. They gave some of their land to be used for the church building. When the congregation outgrew the church building and wanted to expand, permission was sought from the heirs of the Bing family to purchase additional land adjacent to the church site. This permission was refused, and the land reverted to the heirs of the Bing family. Conrad Bing’s daughter, Anna, was our church organist for many years.

Friederick Boldt and his wife, Betsie Snyder and Friederick’s brother, Carl Boldt, and his wife, Friedericka Dehn, settled in Hudsonville. It was a long distance to drive horses from there to Blendon, but they were faithful members of the church. Leonard Koons, who married Patty Smead, is a descendant of Friederick and Betsie Boldt.

After the church was organized, other German families came to live here. The Schonwalds and the Reisters (Reusters) came about 1880.

Friederick and Louise Schonwald bought land on 42nd Avenue south of where the Brandts lived and east of the Wilhelm Schilling’s farm. The Schonwalds lived there the rest of their lives. Louise died when their twin daughters, Louise and Bertha, were born. Friederick continued to live there until his death. He was always a willing and cheerful worker for his church.

The Andreas Reuster (Reister) - the family moved here in 1880. Andreas came to America from Brotzingen, Baden, Germany, when he was a baby. The family lived in Buffalo, New York until 1865. They came to Michigan and bought land near Conklin. Andreas bought some timber land near Grand Haven, where he built a log cabin. He married Maria Holzheimer Cornelius, whose husband had died in Buffalo. Andreas and Maria and their family lived in Grand Haven until the lumber was cut. The land was not very good for farming so they sold it and bought a farm in Allendale Township. By this time they had a family of eight children. Andreas cut the timber on the new farm, made it into lumber, and build a large frame house. Mary, their youngest child, was born after they came to Allendale. Andreas was a member of the first building committee of the church. Many of his descendants are still member of St. John, and now go by the name of Reister.

Other families who were active and faithful members of St. John down through the years were the DuBois family, the Ponitz family, the Jacobitz family and the Schmidt families of Allendale.

Transcriber: ES
Created: 9 February 2007