Swenna Harger of Holland shares a manuscript written by Gerrard and B. Dobben concerningthe Heetderks family, especially Willem Heetderks, who left Germany in 1851 to join with thecongregation of Albertus C. Van Raalteat Holland. One of his early jobs was in the tannery of J. C. Wallin & Sons at Wallinville(sometimes called Dingleville), near the corner of 64thStreet and 135th Avenue (later renamed ClearbrookDrive) on Goshorn Creek.
... Landing in New York City, he took a boat for Albany,followed the Erie Canal to Buffalo, then crossed Lake Erie to Detroitand by train to Allegan and by foot to Holland.Here he found a home, first with the Rutgers and later with the Tinholt families who had migrated to America theyear before. Willing and eager to work he soon foundemployment clearing land, making roads and helping neighbors with their farmwork.
He was alsoemployed in those first months by a Mr. Wallin in atannery at Saugatuck, Michigan. Difficulties with the Englishlanguage were the source of many embarrassments although in later years whenthe Amerikansetaal was fairly well mastered, these earlierexperiences provided much mirth and enjoyment, whenever the old Colony dayswere recalled.
Away from his own people, thisfirst job was a real test for young Heetderks. Mr. Wallin, a kindly man, had to show the young immigrant, byexample, just what he wanted done. Heetderks worked long and hard that first day and hisemployer was impressed with his ambition and willingness. That night Wallin told him he could sleep upstairs in his home. Heetderks recognized the word sleep, but apparently thatwas all. He started for the outdoors, having interpreted "upstairs"as "under the stars." Wallinthen took him by the arm, accompanied him to tine second floor of his home and pointed to a bed. Tired and exhausted it iseasy to understand that a bed looked much more invitingto him than sleeping on the ground "under the stars."
These weeks ofwork in the tannery were undoubtedly a helpful experience, but Heetderks told his children its later years of the firstlonesome Sundays which were spent away from his own people. In fact thislonesomeness and the desire to be with God's people on the Sabbath day causedhim sometimes to walk to Holland - a distance of more than 10 miles. He wouldstart out early in the morning, axe in hand so, thathe could mark the trees to guarantee finding his way home. In Holland he would listen to the preaching ofDr. Van Raalte. The services were held under thetrees 1n those early days, with blocks of wood serving as pews. Them, followingthe afternoon service, he would start the long trek back to Saugatuck.
Frequently hewould tell his children of the joys of hearing a Holland sermon again and of the joys of beingwith his own people. Meanwhile as he became better acquainted; he began lookingfor unclaimed land where he might build his home. He finally locate awooded 80 acres four miles south and east of Graafschap.Then, at the earliest opportunity,young Heetderks, in company of a neighbor, startedfor the U. S. LandOffice at Allegan, Michigan, a distance of about 20 miles. Asthere were no roads, they took to the woods and with their axes marked thetrees, so that they could find their way back. Once in AlleganHeetderks soon took out a claim for the 80 acres.That same day he took the oath of allegiance to the United States and thus became acitizen.
When time would permit,particularly in winter, he started clearing his land. Later he built himself ashanty and started living on the place. Snow oftentimes kept him from getting the needed provisions. Unable at first tobuy a coffee mill, he resorted to tying the coffee beans in a handkerchief andpounding them fine with a stone. Then one day he came home with a small coffeemill and this not only solved his coffee problem, but it enabled him to grindhis corn from which he made corn bread or Johnny bakeas it was popularly called at that time.
The hard-working immigrant and theindustrious Wallin family made a hard-to-beat team inthe early days. Harkening back, Van A. Wallin, in afamily memoir entitled The Wallin Family which waspublished in 1930, tells the story of a time when the family was repaid fortheir kindnesses to immigrant farmers and laborers. The Wallincottage was built in 1900 at the southeast corner of Center Street and Lake Shore Drive. After it was destroyedby fire about 1912 two identical cottages were built. In the 1980s the twobuildings were joined to again create one residence. The cottage is across Center Street froma log cottage built in 1901 by William H. and Maraquita(Whittelsey) Simpson. Mrs. Simpson was the sister of Elizabeth (Whittelsey)Wallin, wife of Van A. Wallin.
ca 1920Simpson cabin on the corner of Center Street and Lakeshore Drive
Where therewas no pine the settler, clearing the land with no tools but file saw and axe, got very little income from his timberexcept that which he leeched from file sage of hemlock bark. The tannery oftensupplied the only cash possible for the pioneer. In manycases this opportunity to turn the product of his land and his labor into moneysaved the day for the struggling newcomer, paid his taxes, bought hisgroceries. The settlers appreciated the help that came from the tannery.
Illustrating this is an experienceof my own. It occurred years ago in the early days of the automobile. I wasdriving a red, "one lung" Cadillac, the single cylinder engine underthe seat, the entrance to the tonneau in the rear.Not often did we take chances and drive far away from town and pavements, buton occasions we would put in a day driving forty miles [from Jenison, nearGrand Rapids] to the cottage which we owned on the Lake Shore at Douglas, As Ineared Saugatuck, about two miles from the old tannery site, I found thatsomething had gone wrong with the gear shift. The car thumped along all righton high, but I could not throw out into low. I knew that a short distance aheadwas a hill which I could not negotiate in high. Obviously the only solution ofthe difficulty was to stop at the farmhouse nearest the bottom of the hill, getout a team and tow to the top. Once over the hill I knew I could get through tothe cottage, as it was level or down grade all the way. So I pulled up near thefoot of the hill, at a neat looking farmhouse. A large barn was in the rear. Icould hear voices back of the barn and knew the men were in from the fields,getting ready to do the evening chores. So with considerable confidence I wentto the back of the house and stated my errand to the elderly Holland woman who came to the door.Immediately I perceived that I wasall wet. I had no welcome at all. This farmer's wife wasn't in favor ofautomobiles. They scared the horses; they crowded the teams off the road; theymade dust and noise; they were just a large nuisance; a menace to thecountryside. Absolutely any man who drove one of these "Red Devils"could get no sympathy from her nor her family, andbesides: "My man, he is in town anyway; mit deteam."
Well, this wasa serious proposition, night was coming on and there was no automobile servicenearer than Grand Rapids,thirty-five miles away. I must convert the good woman. I asked how long she hadlived on that farm and learned she had been there about thirty years. There wasmy opportunity, she had come in Dinglevilledays. I asked if the land was cleared when she came and she said, "No, itwas all woods."
"Isuppose hemlock and hardwood?"
"Beechand maple and hemlock, hemlock the most."
"Burnedthe logs, I guess?"
"Ja, just safed the stovewood for the kitchen, that's all, all the rest burntup."
"Didn't burn the bark?"
"Oh no, saved de bark; ve sold debark."
"Yes,sold the barn and where did you sell it?"
"By Wallin's tannery,"
"Well, my name is Wallin, you sold that barkto my Father, F. B. Wallin."
ca 1880 Wallin tannery in Wallinville –note large piles of hemlock bark
A change cameover her countenance like a flash. All antagonism vanished. Eager interest wasevident as she exclaimed, "Be you boy from Wallin?"She ran toward the barn and called to her son (her husband was away), "John, get de team, here is a boy from Wallin, get de team, he got to haffhis automobile pulled de hill up," and John got the team and pulled us thehill up. Before dark we were at the cottage at Douglas.
AREA LION MAKES GOOD IN THEWINDY CITY
By Helen Gage DeSoto
He was themost magnificent lion the Lincoln ParkZoo ever owned. His name was Ri-Ri and he was bornnot far from Saugatuck in a private zoo owned by a family named Getz.
During the 1920s, the Getz familycollected a large and diverse menagerie, operating their zoo as a demanding butsatisfying hobby. The public was welcome, and it is possible that no admissionwas charged for the privilege of visiting the animals. By the time that ourfamily came to explore the back road marked "Getz Farm and Zoo", theopulent twenties had passed, however, and Mrs. Getz explained to my mother thatthe difficulties and mounting expense of providing so much feed and maintenancehad become a burden. They were thinking of giving up a hobby that was no longerpleasurable and perhaps moving to Florida.Although many of the cages had already been emptied, the occupants sent to newhomes wherever and however they could be found, we still found quite a lot tolook and wonder at. There were also some animals that were used to beingpetted.
Among thesewas a playful lion cub. At that time he was about the size of a medium breed ofdog, a beautiful golden color, with oversized clumsy feet. He was the largestof a litter of three, and we were told that he was almost old enough to be sentto Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo where he had been especiallyrequested. His siblings and his mother were still together in a cage, and Idon't know what happened to them, but he had been brought out on his own to getused to other kinds of company. He did not seem to be pining for his family andwas happy to play with us. He was awkward, and perhaps a bit rough, but wascheerfully at ease and allowed my cousin to hold him on her lap. What a thrillthat afternoon was for us!
In later yearsI saw him several times at the Lincoln Park Zoo where he developed into a most impressivespecimen of lionhood. He ruled his small domain witharrogance, voicing any displeasure with a loud and dramatic roar. He was alwaysknown as Ri-Ri, his name in gold letters on his cage.
One had tokeep one's distance while admiring him for the King he was, but I was surelythe only one among the visitors who had known him as a baby and nativeMichigander, when he had been approachable.
George F. Getz, a wealthyindustrialist, founded the Lakewood Farm, north of Holland in 1910, turning asterile plot of lakefront property into fertile gardens and orchards. In the1920s he began his zoo with camels brought back from the Holy Lands. By 1933most of the menagerie had been sent to area zoos,
and Getzdied in 1938. The land has since been subdivided. A group of Allegan Countysportsmen purchased the Getz deer herd and the animals were the start ofrestocking program in the Allegan Forest.