In his book “Holland, Michigan”, Robert Swierenga writes “the first [white] The Americans who lived among the Dutch were the families of George Smith, Isaac Fairbanks, George Harrington, Henry Woodruff, Anton Schorno and Gilbert Cranmer.
George Smith and his wife, Arvilla, were missionaries to the Odawa at the Old Wing Mission. In 1844, George hired Fairbanks to build a frame house for his family and teach the Odawa how to farm like the Yankees.
Smith also hired Woodruff, Fairbanks’ brother-in-law, to be a performer. Shono, a German immigrant, operated a farm south of the Old Wing Mission and operated a store in Hamilton. Cranmer cultivated in the north.
George Harrington was born in New York in 1807. In 1845 he moved to the Plainwell area, then to Allegan with his wife, Margaret Van Alstyne, and five sons – EJ, George S, Wilson, Millard and Wilburt. When Justice Kellogg discovered that Harrington had been exploited by a land speculator, he hired him and put him in touch with George Smith.
In early 1847, Harrington transported Dutch families by oxcart from Allegan to Old Wing Mission, and from Old Wing Mission directly north on what would become Waverly Road, up the hill on the east side of Holland.
Harrington briefly taught at school, then moved to Holland – purchasing a large plot of land near present-day Lincoln Avenue and US 31. There he farmed. He also invested in business ventures, including a sawmill on Fourth Street in Black Lake.
George Harrington’s son, Edward Jerome (EJ), was born in 1832. Because he grew up knowing how to read Dutch and English, he served as an interpreter. But as a lumberjack, he earned enough to buy 240 acres of land.
In 1852, EJ opened a store near the corner of present-day Eighth Street and College Avenue selling lumber products, sometimes in exchange for food. In 1854, he married Louisa Metz.
In 1860, EJ and two partners started the first passenger transport and steamship service on Black Lake. In 1864, he erected a 400-foot wharf at the foot of Fifth Street and built a local wood products storage and shipping business. In 1866, he bought a schooner to transport these products.
In 1869 EJ was mayor of Holland. In 1872, he was again mayor. In the meantime, EJ has also been involved in spatial planning. Swierenga estimates that he has bought and sold over 20,000 acres of land.
In 1873, EJ recruited other business leaders to form the Citizens Association of Holland to “invite immigration, promote manufacturing, and encourage all worthy businesses,” Swierenga wrote.
This makes sense for real estate developers. It’s also notable because the Harringtons were Freemasons and Methodists, which rubbed some of the Dutch the wrong way. In 1880, disagreements over lodge membership would quantitatively weaken the Reformed Church (which tolerated lodge membership) and strengthen the recently formed Reformed Christian Church (which opposed lodge membership) .
In the 1880s, EJ developed a large tract of land west of Virginia Park which became home to many cabins. To serve this development, he also built a wharf at the foot of a street named Harrington.
In 1904 he built a brick building at 74 E. Eighth St. – probably the same location as his first store. The name and date remain on the building today.
EJ died in 1912.
Austin Harrington, born in 1863, was the nephew of EJ – the son of George S. He attended Hope College preparatory school, then Swinberg Business College in Grand Rapids. He first taught at West Olive and Fillmore.
After his marriage to Lucy Garvelink in 1887, Austin worked briefly as a salesperson in Chicago. He returned to Holland in 1888 and opened a lumber and coal yard at Eighth Street and Washington Avenue, where the Boatwerks annex is now located. From there he commanded a ship, carrying passengers to and from the resorts of Black Lake.
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Lucy and Austin make their home at 231 Washington Ave. – next to Cappon House.
In 1917, Austin opened a branch and 10-acre coal yard on N. River Avenue near the railroad tracks, where an unoccupied Burger King now stands. Austin’s sons Carl and Harry joined the company (Harrington Coal) in the 1920s.
Austin Harrington died in 1939.
In 1953, when Harrington Coal celebrated his 65th birthday, Harry was mayor of Holland. But by that time, coal was disappearing as a source of home heating.
– Community columnist Steve VanderVeen is a business professor at Hope College. Contact him at [email protected].