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Van Raalte, Albertus C. (1811-1876) | Heritage Hall, Hekman Library

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

Historical 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.

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