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History of Laketown Township, MI.
FROM History of Allegan and Berry Counties, Michigan
With Illistrations and Biographical Sketches
of Their Men and Pioneers.
D. W. Ensign & Co., Philadelphia 1880
Press of J. B. Lippincoff & Co., Philadelphia.



Laketown Township

TOWN 4 north, range 16 west, is a fractional township of eighteen full and six fractional sections. It lies upon Lake Michigan, and has upon the north the Ottawa county-line, on the south Saugatuek township, on the east Fillmore, and on the west Lake Michigan. Although settlements were made in the northeast by the Dutch as early as 1847, there were few, if any, attempts at settlement in other portions of the township until 1859, and even after that period they progressed slowly. There was considerable swamp-land in the township at an early day, but the march of civilization has brought this land to the uses of agriculture.

Laketown is just beginning to assume a place as a fruitgrowing town, and in the matter of peach-growing has set forward with a fair promise of acquiring valuable importance. Carefully-compiled statistics in the spring of 1879 showed the following report touching agricultural products:

Acres, improved..... 4,574
Acres wheat..... 1,015
Bushels Wheat..... 17,805
Acres corn..... 602
Bushels Corn..... 18,870
Acres oats..... 156
Bushels oats..... 3,855
Potatoes acres..... 47

Potatoes, bushelo 2,356
Hay acres..... 851
Hay tons..... 964
Horses..... 192
Milch cows..... 375
Other cattle..... 313
Apples acres..... 83
Peaches acres..... 103


Estimating 100 peach-trees to the acre, the number of trees set out In the spring of 1879 was 10,300, and that number was likely to be doubled by the spring of 1880.

Laketown is largely peopled by Hollanders, who prevail chiefly along the line between Laketown and Fillmore, and at Graafschap village, which is the point of the first settlement, and which occupies territory in both townships. Although there is no railway, nor yet a mill, within the township limits, both market and mill conveniences are easy of access, from the north to Holland, and from the south to Saugatuck.

SETTLED BY THE DUTCH.

In June, 1847, several members of the Dutch colony then gathering at the village of Holland were desirous of seeking locations elsewhere, but near at hand, and were advised by dominie Van Raalte to settle in township 4, range 16, then a part of Newark, and now called Laketown, that township being then unoccupied by white settlers. The people thus advised to make their first permanent homes in the New World had come in company across the ocean from Holland to America, and naturally desired to continue their fraternity as settlers. They were Aaron J. Neerken (a bachelor), Jans Rutgers and family, Lukas Tinholt (a bachelor), Lampert Tinholt and family, Henry Brinkman and family, Geert Henevelt (a bachelor), Stephen Lucas and family Henry Kleeman and family. As befbre observed, all came West together and made Holland village their destination, where they found temporary accotnmodations in the log cabins of those already located there. In accordance with Dominic Van Raalte’s suggestion, they agreed to settle in the township now called Laketown, and so he entered lands for them according to their means and his judgment.

When the members of the colony had completed their land-purchases and were ready to begin the work of settlement, one John Robbus, a Hollander, who professed to know all about that region of country, volunteered to pilot the pilgrims to their new possessions, but by some mischance he located some of them upon the Fillmore side of the town-line, the lands they had bought lying close to the line in Laketown. Kleeman had 40 acres in the north-eastern corner of the town Neerken and Rutgers were also on section 1, and the rest on section 12. The mistake in location was not discovered until Tinholt, Lucas, and Neerken had built their cabins on the Fillmore side, and then, to avoid the annoyance of moving, they made fresh purchases of the land they occupied in Fillmore. In the erection of cabins each assisted the other, and so in a brief time they were all comfortably domiciled and ready for tile business of wrestling with the forest for the possession of fruitful farms and the privileges of civilization.

In tile midst of a densely-timbered country this little band of hardy pioneers were shut in by themselves and a dreary stretch of wilderness, but they were, after all, within easy reach of neighboring settlements. There were people east of them, in Fillmore, north, in Holland, and south at Saugatuck, where the advanced stage of the settlements gave many advantages to those of the surrounding country.

The pioneers named in the foregoing as members of tile Dutch colony were, therefore, the advance-guard of Laketown’s settlers. Of their number those living in February, 1880, were A. J. Neerken, Lukas Tinholt. Henry Kleeman. and Geert Henevelt, all of whom reside in Laketown, near Graafschap.

Soon there came to that locality other Hollanders, who effected locations near the eastern town-line southward. Among the earliest were Berend J. Brinkman, J. H. Hatger, G. B. Speet, B. H. Scholte, H. J. Brinkman, J. H. Slenk, and J. H. Lemmen. Among those who settled early near the north town-line were the brothers Hopkins, —Henry, Elizur, William L., and James,—who located on section 2, where James and William L. are now living. The latter was among the early government contractors in the building of the piers at Holland, and has for years been interested in the improvements made at that point.

THE SOUTHERN PORTION OF THE TOWN.

This did not begin to receive settlers until 1859, and the same statement may also be made as to the lake-shore region. In the year named Nathan Kendall, Eli Knowlton, and John Hogeboom made settlements upon section 22, and to the close of that year were the only residents in the southwestern portion of Laketown, although east of them, on the town-line, there were a few Hollanders. In 1859, Laketown contained 69 resident tax-payers, and had an assessed valuation of $31,123. In 1879 the assessed valuation was $114,780. In 1861 the tax-payers in the south included also W. H. Rose, James Delvin, and George Amesbury, and, in 1862, J. H. Tidd and Nathaniel Stratton. The first saw-mill Laketown boasted was built on section 35 by John and Nicholas Sutton. The town has never had a grist-mill, and has now no mills of any kind. The first death in the Dutch settlement was that of Garrit Salmink, in 1847, and the first birth that of a daughter of H. Schroetenbocr, now the wife of Henry Lubbers, of Fillmore. The first couple married were Geert Henevelt and Gracia Kropscott, who were united in 1847 by Elder Dunnewind.

SCHOOLS, CHURCHES, ETC.

The first school at which tile children of Laketown’s pioneers imbibed learning was in school district No. 2, in Fillmore. In 1859 district No. 1, in Laketown, was organized, and from the first annual report it is learned that out of an enrollment of 67 school children in the district but 36 attended the school. From the school records it is further learned that the first school-teacher employed was Harriet H. Hudson, and the second Ann E. Leonard. District No. 2 was organized November, 1860, district No. 3 in 1870, and district No. 4 in 1873. From the annual school report for 1879 have been obtained the subjoined statistics

Number of districts....... 4
Enrollment....... 322
Average attendance....... 255
Value of property....... $1900
Teachers’ wages....... $913

The school directors for 1879 were Gerrit Rutgers, Wm. Corvor, Wm. Van Hoef, and J. C. Hock.

As to churches, Laketown is singularly destitute. There is at present no church edifice in the town, and but one church organization. That is a Wesleyan Methodist Church Society, worshiping in a school-house on section 27. They erected near there, in 1873, a church frame, but before it could be inclosed a wind-storm leveled it to the ground, and no attempt at its restoration was made. Two churches in Graafschap, on the Fillmore side, provide ample conveniences in the way of religious worship to the Hollanders of that neighborhood, in both Fillmore and Laketown.

When the first settlements were made, there were no roads save such as each incoming settler made in reaching the place of his location. Presently, however, there was a road between Holland and Graafschap, for between those points there was considerable communication. There was a much-used Indian trail between Holland and Saugatuck, and upon that trail was shortly laid what was from the first known as the Colony road, and which is now a much-used thoroughfare.

Early interments were made near the Dutch Reformed church, but in 1861 Laketown and Fillmore purchased and laid out in common a cemetery just north of the line between the two towns, and since then it has been used by both towns.

GRAAFSCHAP VILLAGE.

Graafschap lies upon both sides of the line between Fillmore and Laketown, and belongs equally to both, but, in view of its having been founded by the early settlers of Laketown, that township has a special claim on it.

These early settlers came from the region lying between the kingdoms of Hanover and the Netherlands, and in recollection of the system prevalent in that country of giving small principalities to the rulership of graafs (or counts), whose districts were known as graafschaps, they gave that familiar appellation to their new home in the Western world.

Geert Henevelt owned 81 acres just over the line in Fillmore, and in 1848 he sold the property to the Dutch Reformed Church Society. The latter erected a log church upon the tract, which was laid out as Graafschap village. Trade was inaugurated in 1849 by Mathias Naaye, who opened a store, which was, however, a trivial affair, and endured but a year or so. After that there was no pronouneed effort towards a revival of the enterprise until 1857, when a Mr. Boer undertook to prosecute it, and after a year’s trial abandoned it. In 1860, A. H. Brink took hold, and made it a success; continuing it for some years, much to his own profit and the convenience of the village. A post-office was established at Graafschap in 1867, when A. H. Brink was appointed postmaster. Brink disposed of his store to G. W. Mokma in 1874, when the latter received also the appointment as postmaster, and still retains the office.

In 1867 the Laketown portion of Graafschap was laid out upon land belonging to A. J. Neerken.

The first physician to locate in the village was Dr. William Reus, who came in 1869 and remained until 1872. The present village doctor is Dr. Mantingh. Graafschaap is now a small but active village, containing three general stores, a furniture- and hardware-store, and two churches, and gives promise of steady growth, now that the neighboring country is developing its resources as a “fruit-belt.”

THE FOREST FIRES OF 1871.

The wide-spread forest fires which raged through Western Allegan in the autumn of 1871 were especially disastrous in Laketown, and consumed vast quantities of standing timber. Remembrancers of that fiery epoch are still to be seen upon every hand in charred trees and blackened stumps, which blur the face of nature and inflict upon the prospect a dreary and desolate presence.

TOWNSHIP ORGANIZATION.

Laketown was a portion of Newark township until 1859, when it was set off with a jurisdiction of its own. At the first town meeting, held April 4, 1859, A. J. Neerken and Gerrit Rutgers were inspectors of election, John Lucas was the moderator, and Gerrit Rutgers and John Rouse clerks. The poll-list on that occasion included the following persons: Harmon Bouws, Gabriel Rosbach, Hendrick Brinkman, J. H. Arens, M. Van Bie, Harm Klomparens, B. J. Brinkman, William Schelling, Hendrik Tuurlink, Jan Wolbert, G. H. Lubbers, R. Voorenkamp, John Hogeboom, Jan Knol, Lukas Tinholt, H. J. Brinkman, Arend Arens, Jan Klomparens, Berend Steginck, J. D. S. Heeringa, Geert Meyer, J. H. Lampers, John Lucas, Albert Klomparens, John Rutgers, Geert Henevelt, Berend Lugers, Hendrik Bakker, Geert Heerspink, Derk Ten Cate, A. J. Neerkcn, Hendrik Lucas, Steven Lucas, Hendrik Lubbers, J. H. Slenk, Jan Raterink, John Brouse, B. H. Scholte, Gerrit Rutgers, J. H. Hartger, Jan T. Yippink, Markus Yippink, Lukus Haltger, A. J. Klomparens, Cornelius Zweemcr, G. J. Speet, Jans Rutgers, Hendrik Kleiman.

The officers elected at tllat meeting were: Supervisor, John Rouse; Clerk, Gerrit Rutgers; Treasurer, A. J. Neerken; School Inspectors, A. J. Neerken, John Rouse, Harm Rouse, Albert Klomparens; Commissioners of Highways, Reinderd Voorenkamp, Gerrit Rutgers, John Lucas; Justices of the Peace, A. J. Neerken, H. J. Brinkman, John Rutgers, and Harm Klomparens; Constable, Geert Heneveld, B. J. Brinkman, Dark Ten Cate, Hendrik Bakker; Overseers of Uighways, G. H. Lubbers in District No. 1, Gabriel Rosbach in District No. 2, Harm Bouws in District No. 3. At the same meeting $75 were appropriated for the incidental expenses of the township, and $75 for roads.

Herewith is presented a list of tile persons chosen annually from 1860 to 1880 to serve as supervisors, clerks, treasurers, and justices of the peace:

SUPERVISORS.
1860—61, John Bouws; 1862—74, A. J. Neerken; 1875—79, Benjamin Neerken.

CLERK.
1860—79, Gerrit Rutgers.

TREASURERS.
1860—77, John Rutgers; 1878—79, H. Brinkman.

JUSTICES OF THE PEACE.
1860, John Bouws; 1861, John Rutgers; 1S62, W. H. Rose; 1863, G. Rutgers; 1864, J. Bouws; 865, J. Rutgers; 1866, S. M. Convor; 1867, W. Simpel; 1868, F. Von Dewerp; 1869, J. Rutgers; 1870, C. W. Holmes; 1871, A. J. Neerken; 1872, F. N. Van Dewerp; 1873, J. Rutgers; 1874, C. W. Holmes; 1875, A. J. Neerken; 1876, E. Von Balem; 1877, Irvine Bell; 1878, Lucas Lugers; 1879, J. S. Holmes.

It is interesting to observe that since its organization in 1859 the township has had but four different supervisors (A. J. Neerken serving in that office thirteen consecutive years); but one clerk (Gerrit Rutgers); and but three different treasurers,—John Rutgers filling the place 18 years in succession and being yet in the office (February, 1880).

By David Schwartz.
.

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