The Van Putten family — like the Harringtons, Keppels and Posts — was another family of early Holland business leaders.
Jacob Van Putten II was born in The Netherlands in 1820. He married Maria Hilleman and together they had six children: Tannetje (Van Putten) Ver Schure in 1852, Jacob J. Van Putten III in 1855 (known as “Black Jake” because of his hair and to distinguish him from his cousin), Adrianus Van Putten in 1857, Leendert Van Putten in 1860, Maria (Van Putten) Nyland in 1862 and Marinus Van Putten in 1864.
Jacob got his start when he purchased present day Waukazoo Woods and lumbered the trees at his mill near Maple Avenue and Eighth Street.
In 1860, he (along with E.J. Harrington and another partner) started the first steam-powered passenger and shipping service on Black Lake.
Nathan Kenyan and Jacob Van Putten opened their bank in 1878 in a small frame building at 30 W. Eighth St. — where Fris Supply Shop is today. Van Putten’s son, Marinus, and son-in-law, Cornelis Ver Schure, worked at the bank.
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Later, Kenyon sold his shares and the bank was renamed the Holland City Bank.
In 1877, “Black Jake” and Adrianus bought a wooden butter tub factory business in Montague and relocated the company to River Avenue and Fourth Street in Holland.
The wood staves for making the butter tubs and other containers came from Black Jake’s sawmill in New Richmond. One of the plant supervisors was James De Young, who would have a municipal power plant named after him.
By 1892, the meatpacking houses in Chicago were buying most of the output. But the tub factory didn’t survive the crisis following the panic on Wall Street in 1893.
In 1891, Black Jake and a group of investors bought the Werkman Manufacturing Company, also at River Avenue and Fourth Street. They renamed it the Ottawa Furniture Company. There, they made medium-priced dining room and bedroom sets.
At its peak, the company employed 20 traveling salesmen. In 1915, it instituted a profit-sharing system to benefit its workers. In 1928, it erected a three-story showroom next to its factory. But in 1933, the firm went bankrupt, a victim of The Great Depression.
Jacob Van Putten’s son-in-law, Cornelis Ver Schure, would also have an impact on Holland business, in addition to his banking interests. In 1889, he served as Fourth Ward Alderman. In 1891, he joined his brother-in-law, Black Jake, in ownership of the Ottawa Furniture Company.
In 1903, Ver Schure and another business contributed $300 toward establishing a Catholic congregation in Holland. In the early 1900s, he joined the board of the Ottawa County Building and Loan Association, which had been formed by unnamed citizens in 1889.
In 1905, Ver Schure and his brother-in-law, Leander Van Putten, helped establish People’s State Bank. In 1908, he joined Charles McLean at Thompson Manufacturing Company, a maker of water closets, as vice president.
In 1910, Ver Schure and Austin Harrington led the Holland Board of Trade, which recruited new businesses to Holland, including Chicago’s Dearborn Engraving Company, which built a plant at 24th Street and Ottawa Avenue.
In 1912, Ver Schure served as a police and fire commissioner; he later resigned in protest because one of the police and fire commissioners, William Orr, was trying to persuade the chief of police and a judge to withhold a warrant against saloon keeper Walter Sutton for selling alcohol to minors.
Cornelis Ver Schure died in 1917. The Ver Schure house still stands at 162 W. 12th Street.
Black Jake’s cousin, Jacob Van Putten — nicknamed “White Jake” for his blond hair — was born in 1859. In 1893, White Jake was manager of the Holland Furniture Company. In 1890, he married a granddaughter of Albertus Van Raalte, Christina Johanna.
From 1887 until 1891, he served as Holland’s postmaster. In 1892, he was an initial investor in Holland’s first power plant, before it was taken over by the city.
White Jake also served as alderman, mayor and investor in the Ottawa Furniture Company, West Michigan Furniture Company, Holland Sugar Company and Holland City State Bank.
White Jake and Christina lived at 36 E. 12th Street. The house still stands. White Jake died in 1909. Black Jake died in 1932.
Information from this article comes from Robert Swierenga’s “Holland, Michigan.”
— Community Columnist Steve VanderVeen is a business professor at Hope College. Contact him at email@example.com.