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History Lives Here Text

The Kleinheksel Legacy

GoldieKleinheksel was always interested in history. She lived her entire life in asmall farmhouse on 140' Avenue in Fillmore Township, but in 1986 when anadvertisement in Saugatuck's Commercial Record announced the formationof the Saugatuck-Douglas Historical Society she attended an early meeting andwas a charter member. She rarely missed a meeting and was a volunteer at themuseum when it was organized in 1994, enlivening the summer days by setting offthe alarm in her attempts to disarm it at the beginning of a shift.

 

When Goldiedied in the fall of 2006, she provided in her will that the contents of herhouse go to the Historical Society. This contributed to the Society in twoways. First, it helped preserve the history of her family, early settlers inOverisel and later Fillmore townships, and, second, the antiques and otheritems in the house which had no direct connection to area history could be soldby the Historical Society to raise money for the museum, the recently purchasedold schoolhouse in Douglas, and other Society projects. She even leftinstructions with the will's executor that the estate be responsible fortransporting the items wherever the Society wanted them moved.

 

From boxesof research here, and boxes of photos there, what follows is a brief,illustrated history of the Kleinheksel family.

 

According toan old family genealogy the name was originally Kenning, but by order of theKing of the Netherlands it was changed to Kleinheksel at some point before 1848when Mannes Kleinheksel, his wife, Jane, and son, William, joined the ReverendSeine Bolks and others from the province of Overijsel, 152 in all, for a tripto the new world with a view to settling in Michigan. Hendrik Kleinheksel,brother of Mannes, is not listed among the official passengers on the originaltrip. His family may have followed later. According to family tradition theytraveled by sailing ship and took nearly three months to cross the ocean. Theylanded in New York City and spent nearly a year in New York State beforetraveling up the Erie Canal to Buffalo, where they boarded a boat which tookthem around the Great Lakes to Grand Haven, and then by coastal steamer to themouth of the Black River near Holland, Michigan.

 

Although the Reverend A. C. Van Raalteand others in Holland, who had arrived the previous year, aided the newsettlers, the newcomers decided to move south and west in Allegan County. An 1880 history reports that the Hendrik Kleinheksel family was the first to settlein what would become Overisel. The men had built a rude structure to live induring the week, while they were building homes. On weekends they would rejointheir families boarding in Graafschap and Holland. Hendrik and family movedinto the rude structure, or "tavern" as it was called to assist withprovision for the workers, and became the first settlers. It was here theirson, William, was born.

Hendrik, andthe two oldest sons appear on the 1859 Fillmore Township poll list. An 1864 mapof Allegan County shows a large farm owned by H. Kleinheksel, on section 27with the land of J. Kleinheksel across 140' Street.

 

 

In 1864Hendrik drew up plans for a new Overisel Reformed Church building, the third in15 years. According to a church history: "Some in the congregation thoughtthat the church could be smaller and simpler. To this Elder Kleinhekselanswers, "Brothers, this is the house of God, and it must be of the verybest." The plans were accepted and Hendrik was appointed architect of thebuilding process, but his death October 11, 1865, delayed work. The structurewas finally completed in 1866. (Photo above was taken about 1900.) It was razedin the 1990s.

On the 1860census in Fillmore Township, Hendrik Kleinheksel is shown as a 51-year-oldfarmer, with wife, Deikje, 53, and sons, Hendrik, 25; John, 22; John H. 17;Gerrit J., 14; and William, l2.

Gerrit John,the last of Hendrik's sons to be born in the Netherlands (on October 19, 1845)was a farmer in Fillmore Township and had four children who grew to maturity:daughters, Dienna and Gertie (or Kate) and sons Hiram (or Harm) H., born in1872, and Herman, born in 1876.

 

Hiram H. was married in 1901 to JennieDeters, whose ancestors came from Lingen, Germany, near the Dutch border. Theyhad two children who grew to maturity, Gerrit John, born in 1908, and GoldieSarah, born in 1924.

 

 

(left) An 1869 deed from his father and brothers selling to Gerrit Jan Kleinheksel,Goldie's grandfather, a portion of the family land in section 27, Fillmoretownship. Right, Goldie's mother's grandparents, the Deters, from a Lingen,Germany, portrait.

 

 

On the porch of the 140` Avenue houseabout 1910 (from right) Hiram H., his wife, Jennie (Deters) and their son,young Gerrit J. Kleinheksel. Seated at left is Hiram's brother, Herman. Infront are Hiram's parents, Gerrit J. and Henrikje Kleinheksel.

In the 1930census (see page 242) Gerrit J., 84, and his second wife, Hendrijke, 85, andtheir 53-year-old son, Herman are living across the street from Hiram, 57;Jennie, 49; Gerrit J., 21, and Goldie, then six. The house on the south side of140' is no longer standing.

Hiram diedin 1940 and Gerrit and Goldie took over the farm which raised a variety ofcrops including chickens and eggs, and dairy cattle. At one time Gerrit and Goldiewere milking up to 10 cows, twice a day, by hand. In addition to helping withthe farm Goldie worked at various times at two different egg companies in thearea, at the newly-built Holiday Inn on U. S. 31 and 32nd Street,and at Dutch Village.

AfterGerrit's unexpected death in 1977 Goldie sold the cattle and retired fromfarming. In her spare time she worked on family and area history, amassingmaterials local and Michigan history materials which will be integrated intothe Society's planned research library.

(Above) Avery young Goldie with her big brother, Gerrit.

 

 

At right, (top) Goldie, mother Jennie, and Gerrit onthe farm about 1950. (Bottom)

Goldie in full Dutch regalia when she worked at DutchVillage with a young friend..