Holland City News, Thursday, May 31, 1934

Van Raalte Post Is Fifty Years Old This 1934

First Commander Was The Late John Kramer; 23 Charter Members
Civil War Photo and Obituary of John Kramer

The A. C. Van Raalte Post in 1920 Had 16 Members; Today It Has Only 1

The "Boys in Blue" are rapidly answering taps, according to past history from the archives of the Michigan Grand Army of the Republic. This information was received from Mrs. Ida Davidson, who is the secretary and historian of all Michigan posts at Lansing. From the history we glean that on December 31, 1893, Michigan had 384 posts with a membership of 19, 016. On December 31, 1910, there were 309 posts with a membership of 9,372, the Van Raalte Post having 45 members. On December 31, 1920, there were 212 posts with a membership of 4,000 veterans. On December 31, 1933, there were only 77 posts remaining with a membership of 313. Many of the posts have only one or two members left. The A. C. Van Raalte Post of Holland is one of these posts with a lone member.

It is just fifty years ago that the A. C. Van Raalte Post at Holland was organized. The post was named after the founder of Holland, Dr. Van Raalte, since he had two sons go to the front, and he personally supervised the recruiting of the men. The local post was organized with a membership of 23, commanding officer of the Grand Haven Post, Edward P. Gibbs, being the installing officer. For a time, the post membership grew to considerable proportions. Often on Memorial Day there were 100 men in line, although not all members of the post. As time went on the Grim Reaper entered the ranks and took terrible toll.

In 1920, only 16 members of the 45 remained, and today, May 30, 1934, John Douma, at the age of 89 years, is the sole survivor of these brave heroes who said, "Father Abraham, I am coming."

Although the Grand Army of the Republic was organized in Decatur, Illinois on April 6, 1866, by Dr. B. F. Stephenson, the post in Holland did not have its inception until 1884, 18 years later. There was an organization called the "Soldiers Union," with James Fairbanks as a commander. The newly organized post absorbed that organization.

A man who for many years was closely identified with the A. C. Van Raalte Post was the late postmaster, Gerrit Van Schelvan, who was not only the historian, but for many years commander of the post. The first commander, according to the adjutant’s report, was John Kramer, who at that time was a mechanic, who in 1862 was sergeant of Company I and in 1863 was lieutenant of Company I, 25th Michigan Infantry, and stayed until the end of the war and was honorably discharged. Later Mr. Kramer entered the mercantile business in Holland, held many positions of trust and was a highly honored citizen. He was the father of Otto Kramer of the Holland City State Bank of this city.

Since the A. C. Van Raalte Post No. 262 was organized, a woman’s auxiliary, namely the Woman’s Relief Corps, became allied with the post. Most of these fine women of this corps have also passed on and their children and children’s children have been carrying on. The Junior League recently brought into being is the outgrowth of the first W. R. C.

The Sons of Veterans also functioned for many years, but these ranks too have been practically depleted, and military activities as this relates to Memorial Day, have been largely in charge of the Spanish-American War veterans and World War veterans, together with their respective auxiliaries. The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars have been the latest acquisitions to carry on where the Grand Army of the Republic left off.

According to the post history, the following are the first officers elected: post commander, John Kramer; senior vice commander, Benjamin Van Raalte; junior vice commander, John Grootenhuis; quartermaster, Peter H. Wilms; sergeant, Dr. William Van Putten; chaplain, John Van Lente; O. D., William Baumgartel; O. G., Samuel Smith; sergeant major, Martin De Boe; quartermaster, Peter De Feyter. Post meetings were held every second and fourth Wednesday in the Odd fellows Hall on Main Street.

The muster roll of the A. C. Van Raalte Post upon its organization was as follows:

John Kramer, mechanic; John Grootenhuis, painter; Benjamin Van Raalte, farmer; Peter De Feyter, sailor; William Blom, engineer; Darwin C. Huff, farmer; George W. Campbell, farmer; Richard Vanden Berg, teamster; Charles R. Nichols, farmer; George H. Nash, carpenter; Marcus D. L. Knowlton, farmer; John Van Anrooy, carpenter; George W. Frink, farmer; William H. Finch, carpenter; James L. Fairbanks, farmer; Samuel Smith, gardener; Peter H. Wilms, turner; William Van Putter, doctor; Nelson W. Ogden, farmer; Martin De Boe, carpenter; William Baumgartel, station agent; John Van Lente, farmer; P. H. McBride, attorney.

In the above list you find the names of Darwin C. Huff and Nelson W. Ogden. Older citizens will recall that Dr. Huff helped to organize Holland’s large martial band, which your editor joined at the age of 15, 48 years ago. Nelson Ogdon, who was a drummer in the war, also aided this band, teaching them the "two four," the "flam," and the "double drag," soldier style. Grant Scott, however, was the principal teacher. Your editor has not missed a Decoration Day parade with some sort of drum corps during these 48 years.

Benjamin Van Raalte and D. B. K. Van Raalte were the sons of Holland’s founder, the latter having his arm shot away during a skirmish.

Captain Martin De Boe was quite a character in the city for a number of years after the war and was Holland’s official cannon shooter on Fourth of July.

William H. Finch was the tallest man in the company and was a mover of houses.

Dr. William Van Putten built and conducted a drug store in what is now the Banner Bakery, and was a raiser of racehorses.

Peter Wilms was a pump manufacturer and made farm implements. The old wooden factory is still on the Wilms property on River Avenue near Eleventh Street. Mrs Wilms is still living and is one of the oldest members of the W. R. C. in Holland.

William Baumgartel was a pillar in the Democratic Party and at one time freight superintendent of the C. & W. M. Railroad. For many years he conducted a barbershop in a one story building on the site of the J. C. Penny store.

John Kramer, in the early days, conducted a grocery store with Peter Boot, the last location being the ground floor of the building in which the Holland City News is located

Richard Vanden Berg for many years was town marshal and William Blom was engineer at the Cappon Bertsch Leather Company.

John Grootenhuis was an expert painter in those days, and his daughters are still living in this city.

James P. Fairbanks was from Fillmore. His father was the late Isaac Fairbanks, who was here before Dr. Van Raalte, and sent by the government as an interpreter between the Indians and the Dutch when Dr. Van Raalte arrived. He conducted an Indian trading post in Fillmore; the building is still standing.

Peter De Feyter was a sailor on most of the "windjammers" out of Holland Harbor in the earlier days.

John Van Lente was the head of the Van Lente family of which there are many in this city. Alderman Van Lente belongs to this family tree

P. H. McBride was the father of Charles McBride, former city attorney.

John Van Anrooy was the father of the late Bill Van Anrooy, well remembered as a dock and pier builder. The others in the list were largely farmers, well known is this vicinity. Thirteen served in Company I, 25th Michigan Infantry.

Undoubtedly, the names of many soldiers will not be found on this list. For instance, Matt Notier, the Wilterdinks, George Edgeler, John Wise, and there are scores of others we might mention whose names do not immediately come to mind. But there are a large number of them who later joined the A. C. Van Raalte Post but who were not charter members. That there were many more is evident from the fact that 122 lie buried in our local cemeteries. Thirty-three of these men are buried in the soldiers’ plot with 65 in Pilgrim Home Cemetery and 24 in South Side Cemetery. Many more lay buried in neighboring cemeteries and not a few at Lake Shore, West Olive, North Holland, Park Townships and other churchyards in this vicinity.

Incident to the story is that the News has several letters and pictures from the battlefront from the son of Nelson Ogden. Nels was the drummer of Company I, 25th Michigan Infantry, and Dar Huff was the fifer, also of that company. They marched through the thick of the strife.

According to notes in the Ogden collection, Otto Boot was the first to be killed by "guerillas" on November 1864. Peter Ver Schure was killed in the Battle of Tebbs Bend, a battle in which many of the Holland soldiers fought. This battle was fought on the Green River in Kentucky between John Morgan and his entire division of Confederates, and Col. Moore, of the 25th Michigan Infantry, who fought this large southern army with but 200 men. The story is most interesting. The Michigan soldiers lost 6 killed, 23 wounded and Morgan lost 75 killed and 200 wounded. The 6 men killed, some from Holland, were buried in southern soil. Colonel Morgan was deceived as to the number of the well-fortified 25th Michigan Infantry. While the Southern General had thousands at his command, the 200 brave Michiganders, with a rapid fire, gave the impression that the Morgan men were out numbered. Many years later, Colonel O. H. Moore visited Holland and it was a pathetic scene, and at the same time one of great pleasure, when the Holland "Boys in Blue’ surrounded their commanding officer who led them to many a victory in the Southland.

We could go on indefinitely with this story, as there is so much of interest in the data at hand. But space forbids us to give more at this time. This, in a large measure, tells the story of the organization, the functioning, and the depletion of the A. C. Van Raalte Post. To John Douma, the only surviving member, "We salute you!" and may you tarry some time longer before the "taps" are sounded.

Transcriber: Joan Van Spronsen
Created: 3 May 2007
URL: http://ottawa.migenweb.net/organizations/vanraaltepost.html