USGenWeb Project



Tulips, Bronson Park, Kalamazoo, May 1963  

The Dutch in Kalamazoo

A Brief History of the Nineteenth Century Dutch in Kalamazoo


  (  Also see the History pages  and The Kalamazoo Dutch in Museography on line magazine)

Dutch immigration to Western Michigan began in 1847 when Dutch settlers arrived in what would become the city of Holland, Michigan. Encouragement of Dutch immigration was mentioned as early as 1846 in the Kalamazoo Telegraph - see A Glimpse of Kalamazoo.   Immigration to Kalamazoo followed in 1850 when Paulus den Bleyker, a wealthy businessman (sometimes called the "Dutch Governor"), led a party of twenty seven newcomers  .  The party arrived by rail on October 1, 1847.  Almost immediately several of the immigrants died.  Fearing an epidemic, the remaining party was quarantined.  The enforced delayed caused Paulus den Bleyker to become acquainted with Kalamazoo.  As a result, he purchased the estate of Michigan Governor and Kalamazoo pioneer, Epaphroditus Ransom.  The estate was immediately surveyed and subdivided for the immigrants.  Paulus den Bleyker remained a patron to the Kalamazoo Dutch, helping individuals and helping establish the Reformed Church ( the first pastor was Wynand Gardenier ).

See Wooden Shoes in the Wilderness , a history of the Dutch in Michigan


First Reformed Church Ketstone

The cornerstones  of the Dutch Community in Kalamazoo were the Reformed Churches and the related Christian Schools. The first Christian School was established in 1875.

See the Kalamazoo Public Library's on line article  First Reformed Church:  A Mirror of Immigration

First Reformed Church Banner   First Reformed Church

Dutch immigration began in earnest with the cultivation of a crop newly in demand in North America and Europe, celery.  The remains of old post glacial lakebeds in the form of "muck lands" widespread in Kalamazoo were the perfect media for celery growing - See the Celery pages.

Celery Field  Horses in Celery Field

George and James Taylor brought celery to Kalamazoo (see the Celery Page ) Cornelius De Bruin is credited with starting celery production in Kalamazoo.  As early as 1871, celery was shipped from Kalamazoo.  Hundreds of acres of muck lands were cleared for celery cultivation.  The earliest celery farms were established in what was, at the time, southern Kalamazoo.  Later, the center of celery cultivation moved to the north side of Kalamazoo where the Dutch flocked. 

The Dutch in Kalamazoo followed their national traditional of flower cultivation which accounts for the large numbers of greenhouses in the area.

Green houses

The Dutch became a significant portion of Kalamazoo's population, comprising at one time perhaps twenty percent of the city (including the second and third generations). 

Percent of Dutch Ancestry in Michigan by County from Historical and Human Geography

 A large portion of Dutch immigration to Kalamazoo originated in the provinces of Friesland and Groningen (arms below) .


A history of the Boven family from the Netherlands to United States ; a story about a family from Groningen who emigrated to Kalamazoo

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Researchers from the Netherlands have contacted this site about family members who came to the United States as follows:

  •     Roel De Mink - De Mink surname. 

  •     Marleen van der Weele - van der Weele surname

  •     Beent Klynsma - Klynsma family - e-mail:

  •     Gerrit de Groot is interested in the vanSomeren/vanZomeren families. E-mail:  

  • Arie van Holten writes on behalf of a friend who is researching MEYER/MEIJER (Hendrick and Gerardus Pieter) who arrived in Kalamazoo September 24, 1902.

  •     Freerk Boekelo  writes: 

In September 1995 I have published the "History and Genealogy of the Boekelo Family". The name Boekelo is also spelled as Boekeloo. The book is written in Dutch, an English edition is not available. It has 419 pages, including extensive source records. Most information has been found in the National Archives in Groningen, The Netherlands. Information concerning the American relatives has been collected from genealogical societies and family sources in the USA. The book mentions 603 Boekeloo relatives and related families in The Netherlands, Germany and the USA from the year 1705 till 1995.  Many old photos (also from American relatives) are printed in the book. The ancestors of the Boekeloo relatives in the USA lived in Kalamazoo (since 1854, others since 1914) and Chicago (since 1890). Freerk Boekelo  has a web page in English with other Dutch links : 

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Dutch Surname and Genealogy Links
Dutch Web
Herrick Public Library,  Holland, MI
Joint Archives of Holland - Hope College
Cyndi's List - the Netherlands
Netherlands National Archives
Friesland Registry

USGenWeb sites for other Michigan counties with Dutch immigration:
Ottawa County USGenWeb  (Holland, MI area) - many resources listed here
Kent Co USGenWeb (Grand Rapids)

Other Dutch Links

Netherlands Genealogy links
Wooden Shoes in the wilderness
Genealogical Research in the Netherlands
Netherlands Maps and Geography
Dutch - English Dictionary

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click on the images to enlarge them

Crest of the House of Orange-Nassau, traditional Dutch Monarchs

 Joan's Dutch Royal Genealogy

The House of Orange and Nassau

House of Orange

Provinces of the Netherlands

Province Population Area sq. mi. Capital
Drenthe 461,000 1,025 Assen
Flevoland 281,000 545 Lelystad
Friesland 615,000 1,297 Leeuwarden
Gelderland 1,887,000 1,936 Arnhem
Groningen 558,000 906 Groningen
Limburg 1,137,000 838 Maastricht
Noord-Brabant 2,307,000 1,908 's-Hertogenboschor or DEN BOSCH
Noord-Holland 2,475,000 1,028 Haarlem
Overijssel 1,058,000 1,289 Zwolle
Utrecht 1,081,000 526 Utrecht
Zeeland 369,000 692 Middelburg
Zuid-Holland 3,346,000 1,111 The Hague
Total 15,575,000 13,101 National Capital: The Hague

figures for 2000


Offsite Links
Celery Production in Michigan Celery Historical Marker

Pages On This Site
Celery Cultivation In Kalamazoo Celery Flats Interpretive Center Celery Growers and Shippers in Kalamazoo
Celery Image Gallery Dutch in Kalamazoo George Taylor's Recollection's
The man who started celery cultivation in Kalamazoo
  Portage Bicentennial Park  

Return to Kalamazoo Co. Michigan USGenWeb page

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