Western Michigan and the Dutch Immigrants – H.Brinks

write-back-soon-hbrinks-1986From chapter two of Herbert J. Brinks’ book Write Back Soon: Letters from Immigrants in America (CRC Publications, 1986), about the Dutch immigrants who settled in West Michigan:

By the 1870s Dutch communities in Michigan, Chicago,and Wisconsin boasted ethnic churches and schools supported by a constituency of artisans and farmers. Arriving in these neighborhoods between 1870 and 1920, new immigrants found their own people, language, and institutions. By the mid-twentieth century, when urban blight spoiled the attractions of city life, many urban Dutch-Americans joined their country cousins who had established agricultural communities on the metropolitan fringes. These new suburbanites were again able to enjoy familiar social patterns, including the churches, schools, and general mores they had previously supported in their urban neighborhoods.

This conveniently pleasant arrangement of urban-rural mobility occurred first in western Michigan. Albertus C.. Van Raalte, who founded his colony on the shores of Lake Michigan, had neither planned nor encouraged this arrangement. But economic necessity forced his followers to send their children off among the Americans as hired hands, housemaids, and factory workers. They scattered in all directions; Allegan, Grand Haven, and Grand Rapids. Among these, Grand Rapids offered the best opportunities for employment. In addition, a pious Zeelander named H. Van Driel had already organized a Dutch-language worship service there in 1848. Thus, only one year after Van Raalte’s people occupied the wooded shore of Black Lake, Van Driel was reading Dutch sermons to an audience which included over one hundred young women who were providing domestic service among the American families of Grand Rapids. By 1851, it is estimated that a total of four hundred Hollanders were living in Grand Rapids.

“Michigan: A Model for Ethnic Solidarity” (pp.25-26)

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  1. […] up the thread from our last post on the Dutch in West Michigan, we find this next from chapter two of Herbert J. Brinks’ book Write Back Soon: Letters from […]

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