Site No.23: Dutch Heritage Farms and Homes - A Drive-By

Audio: Site No.23
Audio: Geological History

The northern section of the tour will take you through mile after mile of beautiful rolling farmland, dotted with picturesque historic barns and homes. But when the Dutch settlers first came here in the mid-1800’s, this land was densely forested with beech and maple trees. These early farmers had to clear the land of all the trees, and their stumps, before they could start farming.

Dutch Heritage Farm house

As you are driving, be on the lookout for the different looking Veneklasen brick farmhouses. Veneklasen was a Dutch brick maker. Because of the different types of soil he worked with, he produced both a red and a yellow color brick. Typically, the yellow brick was used for decorative work around the windows and under the eaves. An especially beautiful example of this type of brickwork is pictured above.

The Dutch immigrants who settled the northwest corner of Allegan County were different from the other early settlers of the county in two ways. They were immigrants from a foreign country, not merely resettling from somewhere else in the United States. More importantly, they came as part of religious communities.  

In 1847, seventy Dutch-speaking German Calvinists from a small village on the Netherlands/German border left their home village and migrated to the United States, settling the town of Graafschap. And in 1848, an entire religious community left the Village of Hellendoorn, in the province of Overijsel in the Netherlands and settled the town of Overisel. Other groups followed. These settlers were conservative religious Separatists who were fleeing persecution, much like the Puritans who founded  Massachusetts, as well as seeking a better economic life. They were drawn here by the Dutch religious community in Holland as well as the fertile clay soil in this part of the county and an ample and cheap supply of lumber for shelter and fuel.

Driving along this part of the tour route, you will pass several good examples of Dutch barns, one of which is shown below. The long sloping roofs are very distinctive.

Dutch Heritage barn


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