Photo Courtsey of The Holland Museum Archives

The Keppel Family



The Keppels were a close-knit, loving, typical Holland, Michigan family. Their home on 85 East 10th Street was often filled with the sounds of music and laughter. Lifelong Holland residents, Albert and Kate Keppel raised their five daughters in their hometown, providing them with experiences that would enhance their lives. When they were togehter, the family was putting on concerts, playing games, or taking drives in the family car. Albert worked tirelessly to give his family everything that they could ever want.

By the time Albert took over the family business, the Keppels were a prominent, well-to-do Holland clan. Upon marrying Kate, Albert joined Hope Church, the English-speaking, elite congregation in Holland. The Keppels enjoyed their status as a generation Holland family and held their hertiage in high esteem.

The girls shared a deep affection for their parents, even into their adult lives. Daily, Albert and Kate would receive letters from at least one of their daughters. Kathryn, who upon graduating from Hope in 1926 moved to Iron Mountain in the Upper Pennisula, wrote a letter almost every day. Her letters would often detail her day teaching, how her debate team was doing and what she was working on at home, whether it be a gypsy costume or making curtains. Little drawings scatter the pages. Kathryn was especially encouraging when her parents were sick. In an undated letter to her mother she writes:

"Mama darling you can't imagine how happy I was to get a letter addressed in your own handwriting and written so well too. I'm sorry you felt blue the other day. I do hope you'll be well enough to come downstairs soon, but don't get impatient."

Though all the Keppel girls but Ruth moved away, it seems that they kept in close contact with their parents, always sending letters, making phone calls and visiting when possible. It is clear that the girls missed their home though moving away. They never wanted their parents alone on a holiday and if they were making the trip back, they were beyond excited.

When Evelyn died of childbirth in 1928, the family was devestated. They were not prepared for such a joyous event, the birth of the first grandchild, to turn tragic. Arthur Keppel Cloetingh, Evelyn's son, spent summers in Holland with his grandparents. Albert favored him immensely, as his mother was, according to Ruth, "the apple of my father's eye."

Once Albert died in 1939 of a heart attack, the evidence of letters and visits fades in the archive. Perhaps with changing technology and busier lives, the girls were writing less. However, after Kate died in 1956, correspondence completely dies. Once their parents were gone, it seems that the girls weren't as close, exempting perhaps Lois and Kathryn, who lived in the same city. Ruth, on the other hand, the only Keppel left in Holland, may not have heard from her sisters. If she did, she didn't save any of their letters as they do not appear in her collection.


  Contact: Madalyn Muncy

Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Scholars Program in the Arts and Humanities, Hope College

Madalyn Muncy, 2012