A portion of General Major von Le Coq‘s Grafschaft Bentheim map (1805) depicting the city of Emlichheim. Hendrikus Bouws was born here in in 1832.
Hendrikus Bouws (also known as Rieks or Riekus) was born on May 27, 1832 in Emlichheim to Harm Bouws and Evertje Schoemaker. Harm was a farmer in Klein Ringe near Emlichheim, Germany. Evertje died of tuberculosis on January 9, 1847.
Emigrating to Michigan
Riekus emigrated to Graafschap, Michigan in the spring of 1848 with his father Harm and younger brother Jan. Leaving Emlichheim on April 12, they departed Bremerhaven, Germany by sailboat on April 16, 1848 and arrived in Quebec, Canada. From Quebec they went by steamboat to Buffalo, New York and entered the United States. They traveled via Detroit and Chicago and sailboat to Black Lake (Lake Macatawa), arriving July 1, 1848.
Arrival in the Holland, Michigan Area
Life in the New World was not what they expected, even though Riekus’ uncle Gerrit Bouws had sent them a letter in 1847 telling them about the opportunities awaiting them:
“Oh friends, it is true, it is all work here, but you can quickly chop the trees down to three feet of the ground and then haul it away and burn it…. You can have ten or twenty pigs and they are not even given grain … they will get fat just roaming in the woods.”
But when Rieks and his family arrived in Holland, Michigan, Michigan, they expected to find a city:
“Here and there we saw a small house standing between the trees, among them also a store where something was for sale, near which, nailed fast to a tree, there was a coffee mill where coffee beans could be ground….”
When they finally found some acquaintances and could ask where the city of Holland was located, they replied, “Well, you are in the middle of it; here, here is Holland.'”
Shortly after arriving in Graafschap, Riekus, along with other young people, were sent toward Kalamazoo to look for work and to learn the English language.
Riekus became a farmer in the Graafschap area. At the urging of his pastor, Rev. R. T Kuiper, he wrote the “Recollections of Rieks Bouws.” In it he describes his journey to North America and the early struggles he and his brother, father, and other emigrants faced as they started a new life in West Michigan.
Hendrikus Bouws’ Family
Hendrikus Bouws married three times and fathered 15 children. Nine children grew to adulthood, married, and had children of their own.
Hendrikus first married Jennegje Poppen (1834-1870) before 1855, and they had eight children:
- Hanna—born on January 31, 1855, died December 20, 1856;
- Baby—born on April 30, 1856, died at birth;
- Hanna—born on April 30, 1858, died September 26, 1909. She married Henry Roek;
- Aaltje—born on August 14, 1860, died February 1, 1907. She married William Lubbers;
- Evertje—born on September 26, 1862, died August 4, 1903. She married Henry Scholten;
- Albert—born on March 22, 1865, died July 2, 1867;
- Anna—born on August 28, 1867, died November 5, 1920. She married John Mulder; and
- Jennegien—born on January 28, 1870, died August 12, 1870.
After Jennegje passed away in 1870, Hendrikus Bouws married Jacoba Meyer (born 1841), but she died in 1871. They had no children.
On July 28, 1873, he married yet a third time to Zwaantje Diekevers (born 1846). Zwaantje had emigrated from Grafschaft Bentheim earlier that year in April, and they were both members of the Graafschap Christian Reformed Church.
After their wedding, they lived in a red brick house on the Graafschap Road in Fillmore Township, Section 6, in Allegan County, about one-quarter mile north of the village of Graafschap. After their son John was born, they built a new house in Laketown Township, right across the road.
Hendrikus and Zwaantje had seven children:
- Baby—born July 19, 1874, died in August;
- John—born October 3, 1875, died August 19, 1949. He married Jenny Brower;
- Johannes—born June 10, 1877; died in August;
- Sena—born August 18, 1879, died August 14, 1928. She married William Streur;
- Jantje—born May 18, 1882, died March 9, 1919. She married Anthony Elve;
- Geertje—born June 15, 1885, died November 19, 1975. She married George Vander Laan; and
- Reka—born May 8, 1887, died December 7, 1969. She married Louis Por.
Hendrikus “Rieks” Bouws died February 23, 1909 and is buried in the Graafschap Cemetery. After his wife Zwaantje died in 1923, the house and farm in Laketown Township were sold to John Busscher.
The Bouws farm in Klein Ringe near Emlichheim.
Hendrikus Bouws with his third wife, Zwaantje Diekevers.
Partial plat maps of Laketown (left) and Fillmore townships. Graafschap lies in both townships. Dates of map currently not identified. Rieks lived in the house in Fillmore Township (the black dot in the middle property) in 1873, and then built a new house in 1898 across the road in Laketown Township.
Memorial card of Hendrikus Bouws.
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