Advance Notice: Briefs

On this day in 1847: Legislature creates Holland Twp. where Ottawa tribe members lived

By: - March 16, 2023 3:16 am

Holland tulip festival. | Devon Mahieu photo

On March 16, 1847, the Michigan Legislature created Holland Township. The action occurred only 10 years after the state was admitted in the United States.

The general area had traditionally been inhabited by Indigenous people of the Ottawa tribe. The township was named Holland at the request of the Rev. Albertus Van Raalte. Earlier in the year, Van Raalte led to the area the first of what would become many groups of immigrants from the Netherlands, according to the Holland Charter Township official government website.

The first township meeting, according to the website. was held at Van Raalte’s house on April 2, 1849. He and others also founded the independent city of Holland in 1847, which is immediately south of Holland Charter Township, as well as Hope College in 1851. 

“Most of the Dutch settlers were not yet American citizens, so just 10 voters participated in the first election that saw Henry D. Post selected as supervisor,” the Holland Twp website reads. “The newly-elected Township board established its first tax to be raised to cover the year’s expenses – a whopping $25.00!”

Located about 30 miles southwest of Grand Rapids, the township sits in Ottawa County. The geographical boundaries of Holland Township changed throughout the 19th century. Originally included within its boundaries were all of present-day Park and Zeeland townships The community has 38,276 residents, according to 2020 U.S. Census numbers. 

Van Raalte died on July 27, 1876, in the city of Holland. He was 64. 

Several Michiganders from Holland Township are of Dutch ancestry and have been active in business and GOP politics, including, but not limited to, the DeVos, Meijer and Van Andel families. Jay Van Andel and Richard DeVos Sr. are co-founders of the Amway Corp.

Dick DeVos was the GOP nominee for Michigan governor in 2006 and lost to Gov. Jennifer Granholm. His wife, Betsy DeVos, is a former Michigan Republican Party chair and U.S. Secretary of Education during the Trump administration. 

Former U.S. Rep.Peter Meijer (R-Grand Rapids) served from 2021 to 2023.

Other prominent West Michigan politicians of Dutch descent include GOP former U.S. Rep. Guy Vander Jagt from 1967 to 1993. Former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Holland), who was born in the Netherlands and moved to the U.S. at age 3, ousted Vander Jagt. He retired in 2010 for an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid and went on to serve as ambassador to the Netherlands during the Trump administration. 

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland) currently represents the Holland area and co-chairs the congressional caucus on the Kingdom of the Netherlands. 

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit.