GRONINGEN rose as a milling/wood-turning/lumber/and stave manufacturing
which agriculture originally played a secondary role. Founded in 1847, Jan Rabbers was
a leading pioneer in the development of Groningen. He was from Noordbarge, Emmen,
Drenthe. Rabbers recognized the necessity of establishing saw mills and determined to
erect one. He noted a suitable spot on Frenchman's Creek, a north Branch of the Black
River. It had many advantages at the time for the Black River which Rabber's believed
was destined to become a central artery of trade because at this point it ceased to be
navigable by scows or flatboats. It was here that a dock was hastily erected to receive
the baggage, food, and other necessaries of the people of Drenthe, Vriesland and Zeeland.
Here too stood latter "The Little House by the Water" where newly arrived immigrants
paused before resuming the journey to their claims.
During the summer of 1847 Rabbers opened a smallstore in a log house
situated on what
is now Groningen Cemetery. A short distance to the North, opposite the present schoolhouse,
at a spot in section 24 where the Creek flowed between sandbanks high enough to form a
dam, he was determined to erect his sawmill.
All necessary materials for the early settlements were brought from
the Kalamazoo River by
way of Lake Michigan and up Black Lake and Black River.
Groningen was laid up south of Frenchman's Creek, about ¼ mile
west of the West of Groningen
Cemetery. Along the road northward from this Village and past the Cemetery for a distance of
almost a mile, stretched farms, houses and a few stores and other buildings that indicated a town
in the process of starting. Trade tended to concentrate on the new raod, about ¾ of a mile to the
north near the site of Rabber's first Mill.
Anesus J. Hillebrands, a Groningen pioneer and school master, persistently
worked for the
advancement of the new village. It was he who when the post office was established there, called
it "New Groningen". From then on the village by the Cemetery became known as "Old Groningen".
Rabbers died in 1860 and Old Groningen declined.
Hendrik Scholten and his success is attested by the stately house he
built of Veneklaasen brick,
which still stands on the knoll norh of the bridge, an eloquent mark of the prosperity of the first
generation of immigrant settlers in Groningen.
Cornelius Van Der Meulen on October 1, 1847 preached to the people of
Groningen, who had
come together near the bridge, southwest of the cemetery. Finally a chapel was erected for such
meetings, and also for funeral services. But in spite of their religious zeal, the people of Groningen
never had a church of their own.
The first school was kept in "Old Groningen" by Anesus J. Hillebrands.
The school house was a
simple log structure, at one end were the teacher's living quarters; the opposite end was used for
classes. No wall separated the two parts of the buildings.
The people who lived in "Old and New Groningen" had come from several
Provinces in the
Netherlands, and so this community had less homogeneity than settlements like Drenthe, Overisel,
Graafschap, Zeeland, and Vriesland. It was due to the energy and insistence of Anesus J. Hillebrands,
who arrived from the Province of Groningen in 1848 that the name Groningen was attached to this
community on Frenchman's Creek.
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