Jan Hendrik Gemmen

By Patricia, Heather, and Garald L. Gemmen, Sr.

Hand-drawn map of Veldhausen, where Wilhelmina Meyer was born.

A portion of General Major von Le Coq‘s Grafschaft Bentheim map (1805) depicting the city of Veldhausen. Jan Hendrik Gemmen was born here in in 1853.

Jan Hendrik Gemmen was born on August 16, 1853, in Veldhausen to Hendrik Gemmen and Engel Ten Brink. His father earned a living as a baker. At the age of five, Jan Hendrik moved to Adorf with his parents and younger brother Jan Albert. In Adorf his parents opened a bakery, and they had two more sons—one dying on the day of his birth, and the other being Gerhard. Jan Hendrik served in the German Army from December 12, 1874 to September 1877.

Emigrating to Michigan

Jan Hendrik emigrated with his brother Jan Albert on March 7, 1885, arriving in New York City on March 26. It appears from his brother’s letters that Jan Hendrik worked for a while in Holland, Michigan. By 1887 he appeared in the “tractement” records of the Christian Reformed Church in Allendale, and in 1899, he made profession of faith here.

Farming in Allendale

In 1888, he and his brother purchased property along what is now 60th Avenue in Allendale. They farmed together for a time, and Jan Hendrik Gemmen also worked as a hired hand on the Hendrik Lotterman farm. After Hendrik Lotterman died in a farming accident in July 1899, leaving his wife Grace Broene Lotterman with four small children, Jan Hendrik  married her and ran the farm.

Still living here was Hendrik Lotterman’s mother, Hendrickien Scheerhorn Lotterman. She apparently had some doubts about her place in this household, now that Grace had re–married. She spoke to Jan Hendrik about it. He replied, “As long as I am able to put a crust of bread on the table, this is your home.” Now that her dilemma was solved, Hendrickien lived with them for the rest of her life.

Jan Hendrik continued to work the farm until he retired. Afterwards, he built a new home in Allendale, and his son Cornelius Gemmen took over the farm.

The Jan Hendrik Gemmen Family

After marrying Grace Broene Lotterman in 1899, Jan Hendrik became the stepfather to the four Lotterman children: Berend Jan (Benjamin J.), Harm Hendrik (Herman), Hendrickien (Hattie), and Jennechien (Jennie). He and Grace had seven children:

  1. Engelina—born August 11, 1900, Lena was named after her paternal grandmother, Engel TenBrink;
  2. Hendrik—born May 5, 1902, Henry was named for his paternal grandfather, Hendrik Gemmen.
  3. Cornelius—born October 21, 1904, Case took over the farm after Jan Hendrik retired;
  4. Alice—born March 30, 1906;
  5. Sena—born July 21, 1907;
  6. Henrietta—born July 27, 1909; and,
  7. Rena Johanna—born September 26, 1912.

Jan Hendrik died on December 14, 1935 and was buried in the Allendale Township Cemetery.  His wife Grace Broene Lotterman Gemmen passed away on March 29, 1946.

Black and white photograph of Jan Hendrik Gemmen in military dress.

Jan Hendrik Gemmen in his German Army uniform.

Photograph of the Jan Hendrik Gemmen farm house on 52nd Avenue.

The Jan Hendrik and Grace Gemmen farm house on 52nd Avenue. The house was taken down around 1941. Left to right: Herm Lotterman (with horse), Jan Hendrik (seated), Case, Jennie, and Hattie Lotterman; Alice, Grace (seated), and Sena Gemmen. Photographed around 1910.

Black and white family photograph of Jan Hendrik Gemmen, Grace Broene Lotterman Gemmen, and their blended family.

Thirtieth wedding anniversary of Jan Hendrik and Grace Broene Lotterman Gemmen. Back row: Rena Gemmen, Hendrickien (Hattie) Lotterman, Hendrik (Henry) Gemmen, Berend Jan (Ben) Lotterman, Cornelius (Case) Gemmen, Engelina (Lena) Gemmen, and Sena (Gemmen). Front row: Alice Gemmen, Herm Lotterman, Grace, Jan Hendrik, Jennie Lotterman.

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