Teunis Keppel





Teunis Keppel and his second wife, Mina Van Raalte

(Photo Courtesy of Joint Archives of Holland)

Below: Teunis Keppel's home at 177 College Ave.


177 college

Teunis Keppel was born in the Netherlands on June 9, 1823. In 1845, he was sent by his family to inspect the United States. He arrived in New Orleans where he worked in a brickyard until January 1846. From there, he traveled to St. Louis where he again found work. In St. Louis, he met Gertrude Bloemers, his future wife. He had made up his mind to join Rev. Scholte's colony in Pella, Iowa; however, upon learning of Rev. Van Raalte's colony from the Bloemers, he decided to inspect Van Raalte's Michigan colony first.

After walking the entire distance with two other young men, Teunis arrived in Holland on March 17, 1847, almost one month after Van Raalte. He described the first night and days in a personal reflection published in De Grondwet, a local Dutch newspaper:


"As you know, on the night of our arrival the Colony consisted of only 43 people, adults and children. That was the size of our Colony, which was located in Ottawa County, in section 28 of Holland. How easy it is to picture our house: it had a small glass window, a low door that barely closed and had a big cleft through which the north-east wind blew into our house. We had our beds on planks, with small crosswise planks to divide them. We cooked and baked in that house, we served three meals a day, we slept there at night, and prayed, read, sand between those walls. It is incredible to remember all that we did, how crowded we were and how we had to improvise that house."

Despite the conditions, Teunis elected to stay in Holland. He walked to Ionia and back, a distance of 120 miles to purchase forty acres of land from the government at $1.25 per acre. Here he built a log cabin, which he welcomed his new bride Gertrude Bloemers into on May 7, 1848. He was 25; she was 17.

A well-respected businessman and citizen, Teunis was very active in the building of the Holland community. He was a staunch conservative that helped raise funds to build Pillar Church. The leader of the movement to break away from the Dutch Reformed Church over the issue of free masonry, Teunis once locked the doors of Pillar Church, shutting out classes that were held there.

Teunis was one of Holland's most prominent citizens. He was appointed the city's first marshal in 1867 and served on many local boards. He began his lumber, lath, and fuel business in 1872, which became very successful. Albert would take over this business after Teunis retired.

After his first wife died, Teunis married a widower, Mina Van Raalte Oggel, the daughter of Rev. Van Raalte. They never had any children together; however, he did have five children that lived to adulthood with his first wife, Gertrude. Albert was the youngest of these, born in 1869.

Ruth never knew her grandfather, as he passed away on June 27, 1896, three months after she was born. Everything she knew of him she learned from her father and other sources, such as his obituary. He is remembered as one of Van Raalte's most loyal followers, and a great asset to the early Holland community.

  Contact: Madalyn Muncy

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

Madalyn Muncy, 2012