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History Lives Here Text

Van LeeuwenFamily


Sylvia Randolph sends in someresearch done on the Van Leeuwen family by a niece.It is interesting to area historians because of the Singapore connections, and itdocuments the presence of the Hollanders in the Saugatuck area. It also demonstrateshow some pioneers saw Michigannot as finaldestination, but as a jumping-off place to new homes furtherwest.

Myinterest in tracing my father'sancestors began after his death in 1969. I have never lived in Michigan. My father wasan entomologist for the U. S. Department of Agriculture. We moved from New Jersey, where I was born, to Yakima, Washington,and then to Washington, D. C. During my teen-age years I spent a few summervacations with my aunts in Hollandand Saugatuck.

In1969 I visited my cousin Beatrice Bekken Shashaguay in Grand Rapids. Bea knew more family stories than did I, and she willingly took me to libraries and cemeteries inthe Holland/Saugatuck area.

In 1856 two Van Leeuwen brothers, Cornelis (b. 1804) and Martinus(b. 1810) departed from Mijdrecht, Province of Utrecht,the Netherlands,with their wives and children. The brothers were the sons of Jan Van Leeuwn and Maria Horsteeg of Midrecht. They traveled on the ship ArnoldBoninger of Prussia,bound for the port of New York, travelingsecond class. The majority of the passengers traveled third class. They arrivedin New Yorkon June 26, 1856. I have no further information about Cornelis,but Martinus and his second wife, Cornelia Zaal, arrived in the Graffschap/Hollandarea with four children, Cornelius, born 1832; Martinus,1844; Jan, 1848; and Marie, 1853. The family settled on a farm in Graafschap and the parents lived there until their deathsin 1875 and are buried in the Graafschap cemetery.

Below, the Van Leeuwen house at 996 Holland Street, drawing by Sylvia Randolph.

The right hand section was movedfrom Singapore.


SylviaRandolph home on Holland Street. Photo ca 2007


Cornelius married Gerritje Van Diest in 1867. They remained in Graafschapand raised a family of 14 children.

Marie married Jan Van Diest in 1875 and movedto Holland, Nebraska, where they remained until 1888 when they moved to North Dakota and later Montana. Marie died in1942 while living with her daughter in Lynden, Washington.

Martinus, my grandfather, did not stay on the farm in Graafschap.He went to work in a sawmill owned by Otis R. Johnsonin Singapore, Michigan, a town nearSaugatuck. Singapore was a company town at the mouth of the Kalamazoo Riverwith stores, a bank, and house owned by the company. The family story is that Martinus achieved the position of a head sawyer. In 1868 Martinus, age 24, married Grietje(Margareta) Bos, age 15.They were married in Graafschap and went to live in acompany-owned house in Singapore.There their first child, Martinus, was born in 1869.

With Holland and Chicagocrying for lumber to rebuild their cities after the devastating fires of 1871,the remaining stands of good pine lumber in Allegan Countywere quickly cut and the mill days were numbered. In September of 1872, Martinus purchased a parcel of land on Holland Street in Saugatuck. Not longthereafter, the sawmill went out of business. Martinus was permitted to move his two-story frame house toSaugatuck, just upstream of Singaporeon the Kalamazoo River. The family story relates that thehouse was moved in the winter on the ice. Today,with an added wing, it is owned by descendants of Pieternella"Hell" Van Leeuwen, thefourth child of Martinus and MargaretaBos Van Leeuwen.

Martinus purchased fruit farms in the Saugatuck area. His daughters rememberthat they lived well until his death in 1895. He had been kicked by a horse anddied of an infection. Apparently he had signed notes for other people, andthose notes were called in when he died. The four oldest children were married,but Margareta was left with five children to support.The youngest, my father Earl, was just under two years old.

As adults, all of my father'ssiblings eventually married and, with the exception of my father and Nellremained in Michigan.Nell and her husband, Loris Randolph, lived in Elkhart,Indiana, butspent their summers in the Saugatuck home.

Earl was the only child to be able to go to college. He had to workduring his first two years at Michigan State. Jobs included pickingbeans and washing dishes. Margareta Bos died in 1916. She had been living with her daughterAnna, and her latter years were spent in relative comfort. My father enlistedin the Army during World War I, was sent to Officers' Candidate School graduating a Second Lieutenant, and saved enoughmoney to finish his last two years of college when the war ended. He neverlived in Michiganthereafter, but he made trips "home" as often as possible and made sure that Inever forgot my Dutch heritage. Aunt Nell's son, Frederick Randolph, died in 1975, but his wife, Sylvia, anartist, lives in the old Van Leeuwen house inSaugatuck at 996 Holland Street.

I enjoy sharing my research with members of the Van Leeuwenfamily. Our ancestors who crossed the ocean made it possible for many of theirdescendants to have a prosperous and happy life in America. They deserve to beremembered.

Jean Lee (Van Leeuwen)Eareckson Annapolis, Maryland

A copy of an "indenture"included by the writer shows that Martinus Van Leeuwen purchased Lot 4 of the Mooreaddition to the Village of Saugatuck from HoraceD. Moore and his wife on May 25, 1872. The purchase price was $400.



For future pieces we are seeking location and stories about the fillingstations and service stations of Saugatuck. There used to be a difference,remember?

In Douglas we have tentativelyidentified: 1. The Shell station still operating 2. BrawnBrothers Texaco on the east side of Blue Star, 3. Johnson's Standard Station 4. Barnhill/SowersMarathon or Mobil on east side of Blue Star S. Sowers Marathonnear Exit 36 (these last two sincerazed) 6. The small green station where Village hall is now7. The station that operated where Arnett's is now 8. One at the northeast corner of Ferry andCenter Streets 9. Crystal Flash at the Y near the Kalico Kitchen.

In Saugatuck: l. Snug Harbor Shell downtown 2. A station at the Y 3. the earlystop that there is a picture of on Francis Street just east of Butler Street 4. One onthe Blue Star that was later a welding shop and is about to open as arestaurant 5. Wright'sService Station on Lake Streetwhere Handled with Care is located now. It also seemsthat there was a gas pump in front of the Bird'sDrug Store.

Then, a little farther afield there was Reiser's ServiceStation, with the big white bowling balls on top, about half way north on theBlue Star to 64th Street, and the Sunoco station at Exit 41 thatopened when Interstate 196 came through in 1967.

Obviously this is a very sketchy start. Help if you can. It wouldprobably be worth adding car dealerships that also serviced cars. Maps on theback of napkins, and other impromptu discussions cheerfully accepted.