Harm Hendrik Broene

By Patricia Gemmen

Hand-drawn map of Hocklenkamp, where Gesina Broene was born in 1862.

A portion of General Major von Le Coq‘s Grafschaft Bentheim map (1805) depicting the settlement of Höcklenkamp. Harm Hendrik Broene was born here in in 1817.

Harm (Harmen) Hendrik Broene was born March 31, 1817 on the family farm in Höcklenkamp. The farm had been in the Broene family for many generations, but the first ancestor we can identify for certain was Harmen Broene, born here in approximately 1717. He was Harm Hendrik’s great-great-grandfather.

Harm Hendrik’s great-grandparents Geerd (born around 1742) and Fenne Egbering owned the Broene farm next. Following them was their son Harmen Broene (born 1766) and his wife Hendrikjen Alfering, Harm Hendrik’s grandparents. Their son Geerd Broening (born April 12, 1798) and his wife Agnissa Rörik followed next. They were Harm Hendrik Broene’s parents.

The Harm Hendrik Broene Family in Grafschaft Bentheim

On April 7, 1839, Harm Hendrik married Kunnegien Nyboer, and she came to live with him on the Broene farm in Höcklenkamp. This young couple were the next inheritors of the farm. They had six children:

  1. Geert—born September 16, 1838 and named after his paternal grandfather;
  2. Egbert—born January 27, 1840 and named after his maternal grandfather;
  3. Andina—born September 30, 1841 and named after her grandmother;
  4. Fredrik—born February 1, 1845;
  5. Jan Hendrik—born June 18, 1849; and
  6. Geesjen—born February 15, 1855 and died May 9, 1858 in Höcklenkamp.

Around 1855–56 Harm Hendrik, Kunnegien, and three of their children fell victim to a tuberculosis epidemic that was ravaging Germany. Harm Hendrik and the children recovered, but Kunnegien did not. She died on January 16, 1856 at the age of forty. Harm Hendrik was now a widower with six children, the youngest less than one year old.

A Second Marriage

In October 1856, Harm Hendrik married Gese Detert, who had been working as the family’s housekeeper. The daughter of Jan Detert and Hindrikjen Toenhake of Getelo, Gese was about six years older than Harm Hendrik Broene. For reasons unknown to us today, Gese ended her own life on May 15, 1857 after only seven months of marriage.

Black and white portrait of Harm Hendrik Broene.

Harm Hendrik Broene.

Black and white portrait of Jennechien Dyke Broene.

Jennechien Dyke, the third wife of Harm Hendrik Broene.

A Third Marriage, and Making Some Plans

On June 6, 1858, Harm Hendrik married again. His third wife was Jennechien Dyke (Dijk, Dyk), the daughter of Gerrit Hendrik Dyk and Jenne DeGroot of Uelsen. Jennechien was thirteen years younger than Harm Hendrik Broene. Before their marriage, Jennechien worked as a milk maid on the Broene farm. Harm Hendrik and Jennechien had four children born in Germany:

  1. Kasper Hendrikborn March 14, 1859;
  2. Johannaborn January 20, 1861. Johanna emigrated with the family and died of scarlet fever in Graafschap, Michigan at the age of 13;
  3. Gesinaborn May 12, 1862; and
  4. Geesjen—born May 10, 1864. She died four and a half months after the family arrived in Graafschap.

At this point, Harm Hendrik, Jennechien, and nine children were making plans to emigrate to the U.S. In addition, eldest son Geert’s fiancée Andina Harmsen was going along with them, as was Harm Hendrik Broene’s father Geert, who lived with the family. However, a few days before leaving Grafschaft Bentheim, after preaching in Kloosterhaar, father Geert died.

Harm Hendrik’s Father Geert Broene

Although he never made it to America, Harm Hendrik’s father Geert Broene deserves an explanation of who he was. Besides being a farmer, Geert was also an “Oefenaar,” or lay preacher. He preached at meetings held by members of the Reformed Church who wanted to break with this church, which had become a State church, and establish a church of their own. These religious meetings were illegal and often resulted in fines and imprisonment.

Geert Broene was imprisoned at least once in the castle of Bentheim for preaching at these services held by conservative church members. He was one of the four men who signed the first document of secession from the Reformed Church. He was also a member of the first Synod in 1844, held by the group of seceders who called themselves “Altreformierte” in Germany and “Christian Reformed” in the U.S. Many of these seceders soon emigrated to the U.S. This religious unrest must have been the impetus for the Broene family leaving their beautiful farm in Höcklenkamp for an uncertain future in the U.S.

Leaving Grafschaft Bentheim, Germany for Michigan, U.S.A. 

The Broene family traveled on the S.S. New York, arriving in New York Harbor on July 31, 1865. They then traveled to Michigan to settle by some of their friends and neighbors who had already arrived. They purchased a farm just south of the village of Graafschap in Laketown Township (south of Holland, Michigan) and became members of the Graafschap Christian Reformed Church. Four more children were born to Harm Hendrik and Jennechien here in Graafschap:

  1. Geesje (Grace)—born January 7, 1868. She married Hendrik Lotterman and Jan Hendrik Gemmen;
  2. Hendrika—born April 9, 1871. She married Derk Van Farowe on April 10, 1888;
  3. Jantje—born September 21, 1873. She died of “fever,” perhaps scarlet fever, at around the age of ten in Graafschap; and,
  4. Johannes—born 1877. He died of pneumonia at around the age of three in Graafschap.

When the last child, Johannes, was born in 1877, Harm Hendrik was 60 years of age and Jennechien was 47. Harm Hendrik became a new father 14 times between 1838 and 1877, a span of nearly forty years.

The oldest sons of the family found work as hired men on farms in the area and were soon able to buy farms of their own. The eldest son, Geert, farmed for a few years and then began studying for the ministry. He was a member of the first graduating class of Calvin Seminary and was ordained in 1877. Egbert Broene became a pastor also.

From Laketown Township to Allendale

On May 1, 1885, Harm Hendrik and Jennechien sold their Laketown Township farm and moved to Allendale in Ottawa County, Michigan. They bought a piece of property along Lake Michigan Drive, or as it was called at the time, the River Road, just west of the original Christian Reformed Church in Allendale.

Harm Hendrik Broene died on July 30, 1890 and was buried in the Allendale Township Cemetery. Around October 1896, Jennechien married a widower named Berend Rorig, another emigrant from Grafschaft Bentheim. Berend moved from Grand Rapids to Allendale to live with her and changed his church membership from Grand Rapids Toll Gate church (might be a nickname for this church?) to the Allendale Christian Reformed Church. Jennechien died on December 14, 1908 and is buried next to Harm Hendrik in the Allendale Township Cemetery. Here, her tombstone reads “Jenne Roerik.”

Old photograph of the Harm Hendrik Broene house in Allendale.

This photograph of Harm Hendrik Broene’s house in Allendale was taken around 1930. Note the little boy in the lower left corner.

Photograph of Harm Hendrik Broene's house in Allendale.

The Harm Hendrik Broene house in Allendale as it looks today.

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