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Lecture of Dr. Robert P. Swierenga, Research Professor, A.C. Van Raalte Institute for Historical Studies, Hope College, to the Holland Historical Society, Holland, February 18, 1997

Decisions, Decisions: Turning Points in the Founding of Holland

The fact that we are celebrating Holland's 150th anniversary is due entirely to the remarkable decision of the Reverend A.C. Van Raalte in January of 1847 to locate his colony here. The choice was Van Raalte's alone. He made it without consulting even one of his one hundred followers who were wintering in Detroit and expecting to settle in the Spring near Milwaukee. His people so trusted their pastor and leader that they willingly accepted his abrupt change of plans.

I would like to review this and other key decisions of Van Raalte, which together led to the founding of Holland. In looking back on these months, Van Raalte saw God's hand of Providence at work. "Man proposes, but God disposes," he declared. But human agency is equally evident in the historical record.

I. The Decision to Secede from the Netherlands Reformed Church

A. Secession and official persecution

In the early 19th century leaders in the Netherlands Hervormde (Reformed) Church came increasingly under the influence of the spirit of unbelief and rationalism that had gained an upper hand in the French Enlightenment. The signs that the leaders "had fallen asleep" were everywhere. First, the Napoleonic regime (1795-1813) weakened traditional patterns by disestablishing the national church and replacing the teaching of Calvinist doctrine in the public schools with deistic religion (1795). The crowning blow came in 1816 when King Willem I, the restored monarch, decreed major revisions in the historic church order of Dordt that made the Reformed Church an arm of the state. The king's action undermined the religious independence of the church and placed in jeopardy the spiritual health of the church and nation.

As a result, in the early 1830s the more evangelical and pietistic members simply walked away from the church and began meeting for worship in their homes and barns where elders read sermons of the old fathers. In 1834-1835 the protest movement came to a head and gained a name, the Afscheiding or Secession, under the leadership of Hendrik de Cock in Groningen, Hendrik Scholte in Noord Brabant, Anthony Brummelkamp in Gelderland, Albertus Van Raalte in Overijssel, and Cornelius Van der Meulen in Zeeland, among others.

Government officials viewed the Separatist movement as an act of civil disobedience, and moved to quell it by expelling the rebel clerics and levying heavy fines and even jail terms. Despite fines totaling in the hundreds of thousands of guilders, the Seceder ministers and elders carried on, preaching to as many as a thousand spiritually thirsty people in open air worship services.

The official persecution was relatively short-lived, as one would expect in the generally tolerant Netherlands, but Seceders continued to suffer social ostracism, economic boycotts, and job blacklists. By 1850 3 percent of the Dutch population belonged to Seceder churches, and there were many more sympathizers still in the Reformed Church who could not face the family fights and public ridicule hurled at Seceders.

B. Van Raalte as preacher-teacher of Overijssel

Van Raalte joined the Seceders reluctantly, after leaders in the national church, in which his own father had served, refused to recommend him for candidacy. He then became the Seceder preacher of Overijssel. For eight years, from 1836 to 1844, he pastored ten congregations as an itinerant and began a theological school at Ommen to train young men to fill the posts. Seine Bolks, the founder of Overisel, Michigan, was one of his students. By 1844 almost every Seceder congregation in Overijssel had a pastor, thanks to Van Raalte's efforts.

II. Decision to emigrate

A. Arguments pro and con

In the next years, 1844-1846, several thousand Netherlanders emigrated to the United States, because economic conditions worsened due to the failure of the potato and rye crops, which were the mainstays of their diet. Widespread poverty, outright hunger, and perpetual unemployment drove people out. They also saw tens of thousands of Germans move through the province of Gelderland down the Rhine to Rotterdam headed for America. The Dutch followed the Germans, and soon the mails brought a steady flow of glowing letters from America about the good food, cheap farmland, low taxes, and social equality there.

At first, every Seceder cleric strongly opposed overseas emigration; they castigated emigrants as deserters of the fatherland, disobedient to government authority, and worshipers of Mammon. Van der Meulen, known as the Apostle of Zeeland, voiced the typical view of the Seceder leaders. "We pray that the Lord may spare his children from leaving the land of their birth because of worldly-mindedness and go to foreign lands to find a better living under the pretext, 'We can earn our daily bread honorably with our hands, something which we can't do here anymore.'" This was precisely the justification that Van Raalte later used when he came to favor emigration.

B. Van Raalte first considers emigration (August 1845)

It was the fall of 1845 before Van Raalte gave any thought to emigration as a solution for his suffering followers. The turning point in his thinking came when he read glowing letters from Seceders he knew personally who were prospering in America.

He could scarcely believe what he heard. A. Hallerdijk of Milwaukee boasted that food was cheap and he ate pork and beef three times a day. J. Beukenhorst of Decatur, Ilinois declared: "It was quite difficult for me to break away from Winterswijk; but now I do not ever want to return. The poor here are as good as the rich; no one needs to doff his hat to anyone, as in Holland." As Brummelkamp recounted:

I read, was amazed, and full of emotion, I sent for Van Raalte. We both knew the writers of these letters had been poor as church mice; but these lines spoke of an abundance such as was no longer imaginable in the Fatherland. We were speechless. A light dawned on us in the darkness of the diaconate's welfare program. God opened our eyes.... Now we saw that on God's earth there was plenty of room, one only had to move over a bit!.

During the winter of 1845-1846, Van Raalte and the other Seceder leaders struggled to discern God's will about emigrating. They seriously considered colonizing in Java in the Dutch East Indies, which would allow them to remain subjects of the House of Orange, but government officials dashed those hopes. In deep disappointment, Van Raalte and Brummelkamp then turned to America as the answer to their prayers.

C. Emigration Association at Arnhem (April 1846)

In April, 1846 Brummelkamp, Van Raalte, and others met at Brummelkamp's home in Arnhem to form an emigration society and adopt "Rules for the Society of Christians for Netherlandic Emigration to the United States of America." The purpose was clearly stated--to plant a Christian colony where the members could buy lands together and the wealthy would help the poor. Widows and orphans were welcome, but only men age 20 and over could vote and make decisions. The goal was to nurture the spiritual and social well-being of all. Brummelkamp donated f1000, Van Raalte f500, and others gave lesser amounts. The colony would be only for those willing "to follow Christian principles."

In the next months, the Society sent out two groups of about twenty families (100 persons), all elders or deacons in the Seceder church, with instructions to explore sites near Milwaukee and report back in two months. Milwaukee was readily accessible by lake steamer and several dozen Seceders families from Gelderland and Zeeland had already settled there in 1844 and 1845. Note that Milwaukee was the intended destination of the Society.

D. "Appeal to the Believers in the United States of North America" (May, 1846)

Van Raalte and Brummelkamp meanwhile wrote a letter introducing their movement and appealing for help from the Old Dutch Reformed folk in the United States, who were concentrated in New York and New Jersey. The Appeal explained the reasons for the Secession, and described the sufferings of the faithful and the harsh economic and social conditions in Holland:

Our heart's desire and prayer to God is, that in one of those uninhabited regions in America there may be a spot where our people...may find their temporal conditions secured.... We would desire that they, settling in the same villages and neighborhoods, may enjoy the privilege of seeing their little ones educated in Christian schools.

You can sense the emotional heartstrings that this letter aroused among members of the Protestant Dutch Reformed Church in America.

E. Landverhuizing pamphlet (June 1846)

After penning the Appeal, Van Raalte and Brummelkamp in June, 1846 wrote a lengthy pamphlet, entitled "Emigration, or Why do we Advocate Emigration to North America and Not to Java?", which spelled out the advantages America offered over Java and included copies of the letters of Hallerdijk and Beukenhorst. The pamphlet quickly went through three reprintings and prompted Seceders to depart for America in droves. Amsterdam newspapers (Courant and Handelsblad) reported on groups of Seceders sailing from Dutch ports throughout the fall of 1846.

III. Van Raalte decides to emigrate (July-Sept. 1846)

A. Push factors

During the summer of 1846 Scholte and Van Raalte made their final decisions to lead the Christian emigration, although Scholte was delayed until the spring of 1847 by his wife's serious illness. Several events pushed Van Raalte off the dime. Most important, the mass emigration of Seceders for America had already begun and the dominies had to go with them or risk having them scatter and be lost to the faith. In addition, the potato blight was causing such hardship that the church benevolent funds could not help all the needy. The deacons had to cut off assistance to able bodied men, even husbands with families who could not find work. This pained the pastors who believed that work was a blessing of God and a spiritual duty.

Also during the summer of 1846 Van Raalte suffered a serious bout with typhus that forced him to face his mortality and to reevaluate the purpose and goals of his life. At the same time he too became unemployed and financially stressed.

Van Raalte had spent the previous two years teaching at the Seceder Theological School in Arnhem, into which his Ommen Theological School had merged. Brummelkamp's congregation at Arnhem-Velp paid his salary of f1000 ($400). But so many members of the congregation were emigrating to America that in late August 1846 the body could no longer afford Van Raalte's salary, so they released him. The minutes of the church council read that Dominie Van Raalte was given the "freedom to look elsewhere." Obtaining a call to pastor a Seceder congregation in the Netherlands might have been possible, but Van Raalte had a wider vision. "Elsewhere" for him would be in America.

&#An additional factor was Van Raalte's straightened financial situation in 1846, although this is difficult to prove. As early as 1839 Van Raalte had taken an active interest in businesses that could hire unemployed Seceders. In 1840 and 1841 he invested funds, presumably inherited by his wife from her wealthy family, in several earthenware factories in Ommen and Lemele, a nearby village, to manufacture bricks, roof tiles, and fine porcelain. The properties were worth f50,000 ($20,000). Van Raalte bought the brick factory, which employed thirty men, women, and children, from his wife's brother, Carel de Moen, who had become a Seceder pastor and wanted to leave his manufacturing career. Van Raalte then enticed his sister's husband, Dirk Blikman Kikkert, a wealthy Amsterdam ship broker, to become a partner. Blikman Kikkert provided one-half of the capital, secured by a mortgage on the property, and took over the active management of the company.

But the tile business did not go well, possibly because of poor management and the fact that the wages were "exceptionally high." In any case, Van Raalte lost heavily and Brummelkamp in 1846 urged him to sell and cut his losses. We do not know for certain, but it is likely that he did so.

B. Farewells (September 20-24, 1846)

Van Raalte preached his final sermons on September 20th and then departed for Rotterdam with 110 followers to board The Southerner, a three-mast vessel. Scholte and Brummelkamp personally bade the group God-speed. Van Raalte carried f3000 of Society funds to buy lands for member families. He was 35 years of age and had the weight of the world on his shoulders.

&#The people traveled in steerage but Van Raalte, as befitting his high station, bought a first cabin ticket for his family, including Christina Johanna, five children, and a maid. Since the dominie had only a rudimentary reading knowledge of English, gained in his studies at Leiden, he spent much of the time on the 45-day ocean crossing studying English and trying to speak it, but it took several years for him to master the language.

C. Reception by Revs. Thomas De Witt and Isaac Wyckoff (Nov. 17-20).

&#When the Southerner docked on November 17, 1846, Van Raalte was much surprised and pleased by the warm welcome from Rev. Thomas De Witt of New York's Collegiate Reformed Church and Rev. Isaac Wyckoff of Second Albany Reformed Church. De Witt had visited the Netherlands only a few months earlier and meet with Scholte and thus was fully aware of the coming flood of Hollanders. On his return home he and Wyckoff formed Dutch emigrant aid societies in New York City and Albany to assist the newcomers. De Witt gave Van Raalte travel directions to Wisconsin by way of Albany, Buffalo, and the Great Lakes. He urged speed because the lake steamers were due to stop running for the winter.

The party left New York by steamboat for Albany where Wyckoff, who was fluent in Dutch, gave Van Raalte his complete attention. Wyckoff even offered to send three men to select a prime location in the Great Lakes states and purchase land for the Hollanders. But Van Raalte politely refused; he would scout out the land for himself. The enthusiastic welcome by the Old Dutch of the Young Dutch was a confirmation to Van Raalte and Scholte that God approved of their decision.

D. En route to Detroit (Nov. 21-28)

To save precious time, Van Raalte bought train tickets from Albany to Buffalo instead of the cheaper but slower Erie Canal boats. In a one-night stopover at Rochester, the midpoint of the journey, Van Raalte was surprised to find several hundred Hollanders living, mainly Zeelanders. Their worldliness strengthened his conviction that a colony exclusively of Reformed folk would best safeguard their spiritual life.

The party was delayed at Buffalo for three days by a winter storm, and on November 27 they sailed for Detroit, then the state capital, on the lake steamer Great Western. This turned out unexpectedly to be the ship's last voyage of the season, because winter came early that year. As Albert Hyma aptly put it, "Only the icy hand of winter prevented them from executing their plan." If the party had sailed even a week earlier, they would have gone directly from Detroit to Milwaukee.

Since Van Raalte could not reach Wisconsin over the Mackinaw straits by water, he wanted to proceed immediately by train to Kalamazoo (then the end of the line), and from there by stage coach to St. Joseph and across southern Lake Michigan by steamer to Chicago and Milwaukee. But the dominie feared running out of funds if he had to bring the entire group to Milwaukee by rail, stage, and ship. So the party wintered in Detroit, with some ten families going fifty miles north to St. Clair to work in a shipyard. The delay gave Van Raalte time to explore his options, which were also severely limited by the winter season.

E. Scholte rejects Michigan in favor of Iowa

Scholte, meanwhile, in August had founded a second emigration society at Utrecht, composed of 70 families mainly from Zuid-Holland and Utrecht. This group collected enough money to buy 11,000 acres and Scholte had his eye on Iowa prairie land that he had read about in German travel guides. Scholte urged his followers to meet the Van Raalte party and steer it to Iowa if not Wisconsin. The vanguard left Rotterdam on October 2, one month after Van Raalte departed, and headed for St. Louis via New Orleans.

When Scholte later learned that Van Raalte had chosen a site in western Michigan, he considered it an "unlucky choice." Michigan was unhealthy, isolated without good roads, and in the control of land speculators. "In Albany and New York people expect the outcome will be bad," Scholte lamented.

The breakdown in cooperation between the two men was due to their personalities and the differences of their followers. Both were strong-willed men, but Scholte was more independent and less irenic of spirit. Van Raalte's people were from the sandy, forested eastern Netherlands, while the Scholte group came from the flat, clay-soil western Netherlands. Van Raalte saw the advantage of exploiting forest resources while Scholte wanted productive farms ready for the plow.

V. Van Raalte chooses Michigan (January 1847)

Now we come to the crucial weeks of decision. Van Raalte could hardly speak English, he knew little about American geography and climate. Moreover, he had to act quickly or his followers would scatter. To make an informed decision, he had to learn about the flora and fauna of the region, judge soil quality and transportation routes, master the methods of buying lands at state and federal land offices, comprehend the rectangular land survey system that mapped them out, and assess prospects for economic growth. Clearly, he must rely on new friends he could trust.

A. Meeting new friends in Detroit

Van Raalte's plan was to seek out "the faithful believers in these parts, ... [and] through God's providence I found those believers," he wrote. By believers Van Raalte had in mind Calvinists, either Dutch or English. At Wyckoff's direction, Van Raalte received from a Presbyterian minister near Buffalo letters of recommendation to Presbyterian and Congregational clerics in Detroit, Milwaukee, and elsewhere. These became crucial points of contact. Both denominations were rooted in English Calvinism and Van Raalte felt comfortable with them because the Reformed Church in America worked closely with them in home mission projects in the West. In western Michigan Van Raalte also came to rely on Methodist and Baptist ministers and on several Christian laymen.

The key people that Van Raalte came to trust in Michigan were: in Detroit, the prominent attorney Theodore Romeyn (of Dutch ancestry), Romeyn's pastor at the First Presbyterian Church, Rev. George Duffield, and Judge Shubael Conant. In Kalamazoo were the Presbyterian minister Ova P. Hoyt and Congressman Nathaniel Balch; in Grand Rapids the Reformed Church cleric Andrew B. Taylor and businessman John Ball; in Grand Haven Presbyterian minister William Ferry and county treasurer Henry Pennoyer; and most crucial of all, Judge John R. Kellogg of Allegan. All were Michigan boosters and promoters who served on the board of directors of state banks, canals, and railroads. When they learned that Van Raalte was the vanguard of a huge stream of devout Hollanders, they were determined to snare them for Michigan. This was no easy task, since Van Raalte confessed to harboring "many a bias against Michigan."

Michigan's reputation had suffered in the 1830s because of the activities of land speculators and the bankruptcy of several canal projects. The word among immigrants was to avoid Michigan. But Van Raalte already in New York had heard otherwise. A well-traveled Zeelander there advised him to consider Michigan because it had already passed the early stages of development and had railroads. This may have planted the seed. Van Raalte later wrote Brummelkamp, "I had many prejudices with regard to the state of Michigan, and in my heart I would have chosen another place to live, but in many respects I have received another view with regard to the state of affairs. From the first moment of my arrival in America I had distrust in my choice, that is to say: Wisconsin. And a few hints from friends, whom I met, made me think a lot about the geographical location of these states."

At a meeting in Judge Conant's office in Detroit, it was acknowledged that Van Raalte was "prepossessed" against Michigan and "inclined to go elsewhere." But the pledge of help by the booster's group, fellow Calvinists all, "disposed [him] to commence his colonization here." These men won the dominie's confidence and heart. They were "God-fearing, upright gentlemen," he wrote his wife.

B. Van Raalte's exploratory trip (ca. Dec. 21, 1846-Jan 19 1847)

In the third week of December Van Raalte left Detroit alone for a month-long scouting trip to Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Michigan still did not figure prominently in his plans. He carried letters of introduction from Rev. Duffield in Detroit to Presbyterian colleagues in Kalamazoo, Chicago, Lockport, Milwaukee, and St. Louis. His plan was to go first to southern Wisconsin via Chicago and then go west on horseback to La Crosse and down the Mississippi River to St. Louis to meet up with Scholte's advance party. "I urge you," Van Raalte wrote Brummelkamp, "to pray fervently and earnestly for the Lord's leading in this matter." The Lord answered his prayer before this letter reached the Netherlands. He never got further than Kalamazoo, the first stop, on his western trip.

In Kalamazoo Rev. Hoyt convinced Van Raalte first to investigate the area of western Michigan along the Grand River, where government land was still available in large blocks. Hoyt put him in contact with Judge Kellogg in Allegan, who recommended three potential sites: around Ada, Ionia, and Saugatuck. Kellogg himself owned large tracts in northern Allegan County. That Hoyt and Kellogg worked their magic is revealed in Van Raalte's letter to his wife, written on Christmas eve, in which he declared: "More and more I am coming to believe that Michigan will become the state in which we shall establish our home."

On Christmas Day Kellogg and Van Raalte, with an Indian guide, set out first to check the closest area, northern Allegan and southern Ottawa counties. On Old Year's Eve the three men arrived at the Old Wing Indian mission post of Rev. George N. Smith, a Congregational cleric, and his associate, Isaac Fairbanks, who taught the Indians to farm. Smith welcomed the party warmly and his home became their base. The next day, New Years day of 1847, the five men set off through two foot snow drifts on snow shoes to explore the Black Lake region. Van Raalte tired quickly from the unaccustomed shoes and at first needed help walking. But he soon hardened and for the next ten days they tramped throughout the future site of Holland.

What he saw around the mouth of Black Lake convinced him that this was the place for a colony, even though the area was low-lying, sandy, swampy, and dense with a primeval forest. Van Raalte even dug under the snow to check the soil quality, which might seem a bit ludicrous for a dominie with no experience in farming. But he was knowledgeable about soils and farming, as well as medicine, law, and business. Above all, Van Raalte appreciated the fact that his chosen area was on the lake and near cities, and yet was sufficiently out of the way so as not to be overrun by Americans. And many townships in a block were still available at cheap government prices.

Van Raalte next traveled to Grand Rapids to meet Rev. Taylor, after which he returned to Allegan, and then went to Grand Haven to consult the land records. Ferry hosted him for several days and he worshiped in his Presbyterian Church.

By January 20th Van Raalte was back in Detroit, accompanied by his new friends, Hoyt, Kellogg, and Taylor, who at the dominie's request traveled the considerable distance across the state to support his decision. Here they met in Judge Conant's office, together with Romeyn, Duffield, and others, to draft resolutions to be presented to a mass meeting at Duffield's church on January 22. Many colonists attended the meeting, of course, as did the American friends, including several members of the state legislature then in session in Detroit. Snaring the Dutch colony for Michigan would be a real coup.

Romeyn explained the character and goals of the Dutch Calvinists and presented Van Raalte as "the agent and pioneer of this movement, and whom we cheerfully recommend as a gentleman of energy, talent, piety, and disinterested zeal." The assembly ratified Van Raalte's site selection and appointed a seven-man committee in Detroit, including Romeyn, Duffield, and Conant, to assist the Dutch immigrants, as well as smaller committees in Marshall, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, Allegan, and Saugatuck. Romeyn sent a detailed report of the decisions to his friend Wyckoff in Albany, and requested him to direct new arrivals to Michigan where helpful committees awaited. Van Raalte's followers attended the meetings but they could not speak a word of English and did not know enough to contribute; so he made the decisions.

On January 26, Van Raalte bought some 1,600 acres from the State of Michigan and selected the site for de stad. "People have asked me what name I wish to give to our township.... I could think of no better name than HOLLAND," Van Raalte replied." The whirlwind pace of January 1847 shows Van Raalte at his best; his stamina, determination, and decisiveness were remarkable.

D. Van Raalte's rationale for choosing Holland

What convinced Van Raalte to chose Holland, without first exploring eastern Wisconsin, eastern Iowa, or northern Illinois? Indeed, he did not even go to Ada and Ionia. This was hardly an informed decision. But remember, time and money were running out and the distances and travel difficulties in America were much greater than any Hollander could imagine. Van Raalte was ready to be persuaded that it was unnecessary to investigate any place else. His new Michigan friends, Duffield, Hoyt, and Kellogg clinched the deal. Kellogg deserves most of the credit, but Duffield boasted in a letter to Governor Epaphradotis Ransom: "I may say I was particularly instrumental in directing & determining their choice to settle in Michigan."

When Van Raalte later faced criticism for selecting Michigan, he insisted that he had correctly discerned God's will in the matter. "Amid sincere wrestling before God, I was led, by reasonable reasons gathered from the geographical location, from the earlier settlements, from the advice of unselfish ministers and Christians and from farmers during my roaming of prairies and forests."

What were the "reasonable reasons" that convinced Van Raalte to select Holland? In his mind, the harbor was the key. Holland had an outlet to the Great Lakes waterway, whereas available lands in Wisconsin and Iowa were too far inland. Little could Van Raalte anticipate the silting problem at the mouth of Black Lake. And his picture of Wisconsin seemed to overlook the Sheboygan area, which had a harbor.

Second, although he acknowledged that "forests cause problems," yet his penniless followers could earn their way by exploiting the forest resources for wood shingles, tar, pitch, potash, tannin, maple sugar, etc., which were marketable in Chicago for cash. The woods also furnished free firewood and building materials for houses and barns, and pigs could root among the acorns. Moreover, forest work required many hands, so there would always be work for newcomers. Van Raalte chose to ignore the fact that Wisconsin also had immense stands of virgin timber. Nor did his picture of vast prairies without trees describe eastern and central Iowa, which had many stands of trees along the numerous streams.

Third, Van Raalte stated that Wisconsin was full of German Catholics while Lower Michigan mainly had Protestant Yankees, descendants of the Old Dutch from New York. In his words, Michigan was "less inhabited by strangers.... Here lives a more scientific and religious and enterprising core, which is bound to the old states by many cords. Over against this the mixed multitude from Europe do not have many things to recommend Wisconsin. These American people in Michigan look at this Holland immigration with entirely different eyes and heart attitude than the mixed multitude in Wisconsin." This quote suggests that the Michigan boosters played on the traditional Dutch Reformed prejudice against Catholics and Van Raalte accepted their stereotypic view of Wisconsin.

&#Fourth, Van Raalte stated that the Lake Winnebago region of Wisconsin and eastern Iowa were far from neighboring settlements and transportation outlets. In western Michigan "the ice was already somewhat broken" and markets were accessible even all the way to New York by navigable water. Van Raalte also stated that Wisconsin ports were closed in winter by ice. He did not acknowledge that Lake Michigan froze just as hard on the east shore as the west shore, and that one could reach New York by water from Sheboygan or Milwaukee as easily as from Holland.

VI. Conclusion

Several decades passed before the wisdom of Van Raalte's choice was confirmed. Pella and Sheboygan prospered more quickly than Holland, but after the first quarter century Holland clearly surpassed them. This was divine providence at work, Van Raalte believed. Holland was preordained. But God required its leader often to walk by faith rather than by sight in making the key decisions. Faith and deeds always go together, right? One can see the hand of men at work as the Michigan boosters worked their magic on a willing immigrant leader. Van Raalte's American friends deserve the credit for persuading him to set aside his predilections against Michigan. We celebrate here today because they succeeded.

Lecture of Dr. Robert P. Swierenga, Research Professor, A.C. Van Raalte Institute for Historical Studies, Hope College, to the Holland Historical Society, Holland, February 18, 1997


Decisions, Decisions: Turning Points in Van Raalte's Founding of Holland


I. Decision to secede from the Netherlands Reformed Church

A. Secession and official persecution

B. Van Raalte as preacher-teacher of Overijssel

II. Decision to emigrate

A. Arguments pro and con

B. Van Raalte first considers emigration (August 1845)

C. Emigration Association at Arnhem (April 1846)

D. "Appeal to the Believers in the United States of North America" (May 1846)

E. Landverhuizing pamphlet (June 1846)

III. Van Raalte decides to emigrate (July-Sept. 1846)

A. Push factors

B. Farewells (Sept. 20-24)

C. New York and Albany receptions of Revs. Thomas De Witt and Isaac Wyckoff (Nov. 17-20)

D. En route to Detroit (then the State capital)

E. Scholte rejects Michigan in favor of Iowa

IV. Van Raalte chooses Michigan (January 1847)

A. Meeting new friends in Detroit--Attorney Theodore Romeyn, Rev. George Duffield of First Presbyterian Church

B. Van Raalte's exploratory trip (Dec. 21, 1846-Jan 19, 1847) 1. Rev. Ova P. Hoyt of First Presbyterian Church Kalamazoo

2. Judge John R. Kellogg at Allegan

3. Scouting Black Lake region (Christmas day 1846-Jan. 19, 1847) with Kellogg, Rev. George N. Smith, Isaac Fairbanks, and Indian guide

4. Decision time in Detroit

C. Van Raalte's rationale for choosing Holland

V. Conclusion