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Albertus C. Van Raalte Collection



Scope and Contents

Biographical Note

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Personal Papers


Lord's Day Sermons

Outgoing General Correspondence

Outgoing Family Correspondence

Civil War Letters

Business Papers

Publications by and about A.C. Van Raalte

Miscellaneous Papers, 1740-1996



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Albertus C. Van Raalte Collection, 1829-1997 | Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

By John Meyer

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Collection Overview

Title: Albertus C. Van Raalte Collection, 1829-1997

Predominant Dates:1834-1876

ID: COLL/300

Primary Creator: Van Raalte, Albertus C. (1811-1876)

Extent: 10.3 Cubic Feet. More info below.

Arrangement: Folder level description

Date Acquired: 00/00/1962

Subjects: Contracts for deeds, Dutch Americans - Correspondence, Dutch Americans - History - Sources, Dutch Americans - Personal narratives, Mortgages--United States, Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk - History - Secession, 1834, Netherlands - Emigration and immigration - Biography, Sermons, Dutch, Tax assessment, United States - Emigration and immigration - Biography, United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Personal narratives, Universities and colleges--Michigan--Hope College, Van Raalte, Albertus Christian, 1811-1876, Van Raalte, Benjamin, 1840-1917, Van Raalte, Christina Johanna DeMoen, 1815-1871, Van Raalte, Dirk Blikman Kikkert, 1844-1910

Forms of Material: Black-and-white photographs, Newspaper clippings, Postage stamps

Languages: English, Dutch;Flemish


Critical writer in the Afscheiding (church secessionist) movement in the Netherlands; founder and leader of the colony of Holland, Michigan; business entrepreneur; minister of the Reformed Church in America; and advocate for education, as founder of Hope College and Western Theological Seminary at Holland, Michigan. The collection includes correspondence, sermons, essays, speeches, articles, business papers, and personal memorabilia.

[See also the Campus Titles Database; Jacobson's book: A.C. Van Raalte: Dutch Leader and American Patriot [HERH F575 .D9 A6]; Dosker’s book: Levensschets van A.C. Van Raalte [HERH F575 .D9 D6]; Origins, vol. XIX no. 2, 2001]

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The Albertus C. Van Raalte Collection houses the personal, family, and business papers of A.C. Van Raalte, as well as publications related to him and his work. This collection, which dates from 1829–1997, consists of correspondence, sermons, essays, speeches, articles, business papers, and personal memorabilia, documenting the life and works of A.C. Van Raalte, including his social background as a studious academic and entrepreneur of a brick manufactory in Ommen, his active involvement in the secessionist movement from the Dutch Reformed Church, his encouragement and aid of Dutch immigration to the United States, and his passion for improving the economy and education of the Holland colony.

This collection fits into the broader narrative of immigration to the United States and is unique in focusing not only on the immigration experience of the Dutch, but in examining that experience through the lens of the Holland colony’s foremost leader. In fleeing from religious persecution, the search for freedom colors every page of this immigrant collection, from the most spiritual of sermons to the driest of business papers. Researchers interested in the history of the church Secessionist (Afscheiding) movement, the development of the Holland colony, the background of Hope College, the narrative of the Van Raalte family, and the Dutch immigrant experience—from overcoming colonial struggles to fighting in the Civil War—will all find something to value in this collection.

The collection is arranged into nine series: ‘Personal Papers --- 1829–1995’, ‘Sermons ---1836–1875’, ‘Lord's Day Sermons --- 1836-1844’, ‘Outgoing General Correspondence --- 1837-1876’, ‘Outgoing Family Correspondence --- 1836–1920’, ‘Civil War Letters --- 1862-1952’, ‘Business Papers --- 1840–1909’, ‘Publications by and about A.C. Van Raalte --- 1842-1997’, and ‘Miscellaneous Papers, 1740–1996’. Every series is arranged chronologically, excepting ‘Publications by and about A.C. Van Raalte --- 1842-1997’ and ‘Miscellaneous Papers, 1740–1996’. Neither series has any other perceptible arrangement.

The ‘Personal Papers --- 1829–1995’ series contains certificates, personal and academic papers, essays, notes, speeches, maps, treatises, records, poems, news clippings, articles, constitutions, event programs, photographs, a genealogy, an autobiography, a biography, beekeeping rules, an attendance record, and a passenger list. It covers much of the Van Raalte family’s personal history, from their lives in the Netherlands to traveling to the United States; from becoming American citizens, to the upbringing of Van Raalte’s students and children. Yet there are also extensive articles detailing the Dutch colony in Michigan and Reformed Church history, especially in relation to the Afscheiding movement.

The ‘Sermons ---1836–1875’ series contains sermons, sermon indexes, related writing, an advertisement, a letter, and envelopes. Many of the sermons have corresponding transcripts. For the most part, one folder corresponds to one year of Van Raalte’s sermons, but the folders start spanning periods of a few months at a time during the years 1841–1843: the critical, founding years of the Afscheiding movement. The folders also switch back to covering only a few months at a time in the years 1850–1855: the years comprising the difficult foundation of the Holland colony.

The ‘Lord's Day Sermons --- 1836–1844’ series contains sermons, transcriptions, a sermon ‘logbook’, and related theological writings. Almost every sermon in this series has been transcribed, though none of them are translated. Each sermon preaches about one or more questions from the Heidelberg Catechism.

The ‘Outgoing General Correspondence --- 1837–1876’ series contains letters, transcriptions, translations, photocopies, and envelopes. Most of the letters have accompanying transcriptions and translations. The letters reveal some of the early struggles that the Holland colony faced, as well as the people involved in making it a success.

The ‘Outgoing Family Correspondence --- 1836–1920’ series holds two other, as yet unlabeled, series, titled “Incoming General Correspondence,” and “Incoming Family Correspondence.” It contains personal and business letters, notes, photocopies, transcriptions, translations, archival notes, receipts, and envelopes. Together, this box allows a more comprehensive view of relations between the Van Raalte family and others.

The ‘Civil War Letters --- 1862–1952’ series contains letters, transcriptions, translations, envelopes, thank you notes, archival resources, and the back of a society form. Almost every letter in this series has been transcribed and translated. The letters follow the Van Raalte brothers—Benjamin and Dirk—throughout the war, tracking them from Kentucky to Tennessee, and finally to Virginia. Dirk lost an arm in battle. These letters also show the experience of 2nd generation immigrants fighting in the American Civil War, as well as the ways the war affected their families and values.

The ‘Business Papers --- 1840–1909’ series contains tax receipts, business receipts, business orders, annual newspaper subscription renewals, note scraps, letters, funding support from the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, land purchase papers, a land title document, tax land deeds, land certificates (complete with six presidential signatures), land contracts, stamps, mortgage documents, warranty deeds, quit claim deeds, redemption certificates, title abstracts, tax rolls, a post office receipt, a statement of account, a dog license, news clippings, logbooks of the city of Holland (1847–1852), Van Raalte’s personal account books, the Land Office’s Graduation Act of 1854, and catalogs of Hope College. The folders have preserved much of the economy of the Holland colony in their pages. From this series, one can see what the colony and the Van Raalte family was purchasing and selling in the years listed above. It also covers all of the land-related transactions that occurred for the colony on the federal, state, and private levels.

The ‘Publications by and about A.C. Van Raalte --- 1842–1997’ series contains a ledger, an inventory of Van Raalte’s library, letters, pamphlets, articles, addresses, a marriage ledger, a fire insurance company advertisement, and transcriptions and translations for many of these items. It focuses specifically on writings and publications by Van Raalte, exploring critical, underlying documents of the Afscheiding movement, as well as those encouraging Dutch immigration to the United States.

The ‘Miscellaneous Papers, 1740–1996’ series contains the land deed for the Dutch colony in Michigan, the programs for the quarterly and centennial celebrations of 1872 and 1947, newspaper clippings, obituaries, a blotter given as a gift to A.C. Van Raalte, maps, A.C. Van Raalte’s pocketbook New Testament, an Autographs book titled “In Memoriam van Rev. A.C. Van Raalte…”, a sketch, two pictures, advertisements, and geographic coordinate tables, presumably for plots of land. As the name suggests, it covers materials related to the Dutch colony and the Van Raalte family that do not fall under the category of any of the other series.

Biographical Note

Albertus Christian Van Raalte was born in the small village of Wanneperveen in the Netherlands on October 17, 1811.  When Van Raalte was a junior at the University of Leiden, he changed his course of study from medicine to theology. During this time Van Raalte joined a small circle known as the "Scholte Club," who were considered religious revolutionaries. Among its members were his friend H.P. Scholte, and his brothers-in-law, A. Brummelkamp and S. Van Velzen. When the time came to take his final exam in 1834, he was asked if he knew and agreed with all the Regulations of the Reformed Church.  When he was unsure of his answer, he was sent away to research this question in further detail. Upon concluding his research, he told the Reformed Church Board that the Regulations were in contradiction with the word of God. The Board denied his admittance to the Reformed Church.

Van Raalte decided to join the followers of the Afscheiding. He was examined by the Christian Reformed Church synod and was ordained. In 1836, he married Christina Johanna DeMoen. He began to preach throughout the province of Overijssel, primarily in Genemuiden, and Ommen. In 1841, Van Raalte helped industrialize Ommen by founding a brick factory through his family connections. He was able to provide employment to a number of the Ommen poor in this way, but poverty remained dire throughout the province. Aside from poor social conditions, Van Raalte and the other secessionists also encountered persecution and oppression from the liberal government. Van Raalte wanted a place of religious freedom, and so he decided to leave the Netherlands.

He and his followers first wanted to establish a settlement in Java, but the Dutch government refused to permit it. This refusal led Van Raalte in 1846 to journey across the Atlantic Ocean and discover a sanctuary in the United States. After much debate and investigation, Van Raalte and his group decided to settle down in present day Holland, Michigan to begin their colonization. Settlement in the Michigan wilderness proved to be a difficult task for the group. Van Raalte remained a pillar of strength for the immigrants and continued to inspire them. Van Raalte ultimately wanted his people to experience religious freedom, develop their economy, and gain a higher education. In 1849, he organized a census of the colony as part of a petition to the federal government for a wharf on Black River. In 1851 Van Raalte began the groundwork for Hope College.  In his family, 7 out of 10 of his children reached maturity. Two of his sons, Dirk and Benjamin, served the Union in the Civil War. Shortly after the war, Van Raalte attempted to found a new Dutch settlement in Amelia County, Virginia. Though this settlement failed after a few years, Van Raalte continued to strive tirelessly for the betterment of the Dutch settlers, through his ministry or his civic projects. Only a few short years after celebrating Holland's 25th anniversary, Van Raalte passed away on November 7, 1876.

Subject/Index Terms

Contracts for deeds
Dutch Americans - Correspondence
Dutch Americans - History - Sources
Dutch Americans - Personal narratives
Mortgages--United States
Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk - History - Secession, 1834
Netherlands - Emigration and immigration - Biography
Sermons, Dutch
Tax assessment
United States - Emigration and immigration - Biography
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Personal narratives
Universities and colleges--Michigan--Hope College
Van Raalte, Albertus Christian, 1811-1876
Van Raalte, Benjamin, 1840-1917
Van Raalte, Christina Johanna DeMoen, 1815-1871
Van Raalte, Dirk Blikman Kikkert, 1844-1910

Administrative Information

Repository: Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

Alternate Extent Statement: 20 boxes

Access Restrictions: Collection held in Heritage Hall; materials are not available for circulation.

Acquisition Source: Gift of William B. Eerdmans Sr.

Related Materials: COLL301: Dirk B.K. Van Raalte Collection

Preferred Citation: [item], folder, box, Albertus C. Van Raalte, Heritage Hall (Hekman Library), Calvin University

Finding Aid Revision History: Finding aid updated in 2021.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Personal Papers, 1829-1995],
[Series 2: Sermons, 1836-1875],
[Series 3: Lord's Day Sermons, 1836-1844],
[Series 4: Outgoing General Correspondence, 1837-1876],
[Series 5: Outgoing Family Correspondence, 1836-1920],
[Series 6: Civil War Letters, 1862-1952],
[Series 7: Business Papers, 1840-1952],
[Series 8: Publications by and about A.C. Van Raalte, 1842-1997],
[Series 9: Miscellaneous Papers, 1740-1996],
[Series 10: Items],
[Series 11: Photographs],

Series 4: Outgoing General Correspondence --- 1837-1876
Box 9
Folder 1: Letters to H.J. Budding [photocopy, translation] --- 1837
Folder 2: Letters to H.J. Budding [photocopy, translation] --- 1838
Folder 3: Letters to H.J. Budding [photocopy, translation] --- 1839
Folder 4: Letters to Rev. Oggel [photocopy, partial transcription] --- 1844-1845
Folder 5: Letters to Mr. John Ball, 1847-1850, and Ball biography [photocopy] --- 1891
Folder 6: Letter to J.A. Wormser, Amsterdam [photocopy, translation] --- 1848
Folder 7: Letters to Hon. A. Felch [photocopy, translation] --- 1850
Folder 8: Letter to Rev. J. Gerritson, RCA Board of Missions [photocopy, translation] --- 1850s
Folder 9: Letter to Helenius de Cock's Hertogenbosch [photocopy, translation] --- 1851
Folder 10: Letters to Rev. C. VanderVeen, Grand Haven, Mich. [translation] --- 1855-1862
Folder 11: Letters to Rev. C. VanderVeen, Grand Haven, Mich. [translation] --- 1872-1875
Folder 12: Letter to the Theological School at Kampen [photocopy, translation] --- 1856
Folder 13: Two letters to John Roost [photocopy, translation] --- 1859
Folder 14: Letters to Sam Shieffelin and Sam Pruyn, New York --- 1858
Folder 15: Letter to Rev. Donner of Leyden, the Netherlands --- 1859
Folder 16: Letter to G. Van de Wall, South Africa, 1862 [photocopy, translation, transcription] --- 1862
Folder 17: Letters to Rev. Dirk Broek [photocopy, transcription] --- 1863-1874
Folder 18: Letter to Gen. Bowen, Washington, DC [photocopy, transcription] --- 1864
Folder 19: Letters to Rev. Phelps [photocopy] --- 1864 and 1869
Folder 20: Letters to J.S. Wilson, Washington, DC --- 1876
Folder 21: Letters to Dr. Abraham Kuyper, the Netherlands [photocopy, translation] --- 1872
Folder 22: Letter to T. Keppel, Holland, Mich., and Letter to Editor of de Hope [translation] --- 1872

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Personal Papers, 1829-1995],
[Series 2: Sermons, 1836-1875],
[Series 3: Lord's Day Sermons, 1836-1844],
[Series 4: Outgoing General Correspondence, 1837-1876],
[Series 5: Outgoing Family Correspondence, 1836-1920],
[Series 6: Civil War Letters, 1862-1952],
[Series 7: Business Papers, 1840-1952],
[Series 8: Publications by and about A.C. Van Raalte, 1842-1997],
[Series 9: Miscellaneous Papers, 1740-1996],
[Series 10: Items],
[Series 11: Photographs],

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