How the Van Koevering brothers thrived with a disability

The Van Koeverings have a heritage.

In 1847, after Albert Van Raalte, Jan Rabbers, and Jannes Van de Luyster led their followers from the Netherlands, Izaak and Adriana Sonke Van Koevering and the family arrived with Jacob Wabeke, who financed the trip.

More story:Holland’s founder was a ‘social entrepreneur’

More story:The Ambitions and Troubles of Jan Rabbers

More story:Van de Luyster and Hendrik Scholte

Izaak and Adriana’s son, Anthoni (a builder) married Cornelia De Jonge, daughter of Jan De Jonge and Jannetje Den Herder De Jonge. Two of their children were Adrian and William, who at a very young age contracted polio.

The disease weakened Adrian’s left arm and right leg and weakened both of William’s legs. On the recommendation of Zeeland’s first doctor, Dr Daniel Baert, Adrian was taken to a specialist in Cincinnati who strapped six leaches to his arm in an attempt to remove the “toxic blood”. The treatment did not work.

As they grew older, it became clear that due to their disabilities, the boys could not join their father in the construction business. So in 1893, the boys’ mother, Cornelia, approached her uncle, Jacob Den Herder, for a loan to help Adrian open a printing business.

After Jacob obliged, Adrian spent $50 on a benchtop printer from the Kelsey Printing Press Company of Meriden, Connecticut. He then opened his shop in his parents’ apartment building at 149 E. Main Ave. One of his clients was Dr. Baert, who ordered 100 business cards.

That same year, at the request of a local politician and temperance supporter, Cornelius Van Loo, Hiram Potts of Grand Haven rented a storefront at 207 E. Main Ave. to print a newspaper called The Zeeland Expositor. The man hired to run the store and do the printing was Lewis Hartwick of Hart, Michigan. By 1894 Hartwick owned the business and took on a new partner, Evert Prium.

They moved their operation to Prium’s vacant storefront at 50 E. Main Ave. and renamed their newspaper The Zeeland Record. Then Alfred Ringe and his wife opened a print shop at 122 E. Main Ave. and started a newspaper called The Zeeland Enterprise.

After only three months, The Zeeland Enterprise failed. Ringe tried to sell his printing equipment to Adrian for $300, then agreed to $150. A few weeks later, Adrian began publishing a newspaper called The Weekly News.

Also in 1893, Adrian’s brother William purchased a photography business from EJ McDermand, who returned to Tennessee. The business was then located at 211 E Main Ave., where Don’s Flowers is located today.

Van Koevering’s boys were a team. William would help Adrian for the first half of the week and Adrian would help William for the second half of the week.

In 1897, Adrian’s parents sold the building at 149 E. Main Ave. and purchased the house and lean-to at 211 E. Main Ave. Adrian’s diary and William’s photography business have been moved to this location.

In 1898 the Van Koeverings razed the lean-to and built a two-story building and moved the brothers’ businesses upstairs. Considering the physical conditions of the brothers, it must have been a challenge. Sometimes Adrian carried William, who held the camera; and, after an exhausting day’s work, Adrian would drive William home.

In 1899, Adrian bought The Zeeland Record.

In 1902, the VanKoeverings built a new residence and picture gallery at 52 E. Main Ave. – next to VanBree’s Drug Store.

Randall Dekker's VanBree Pharmacy

In 1908 Adrian hired Abe Van Hoven, who eventually started his own shop. Additionally, in 1908 McDermand returned to Zeeland and bought out his photography business, renaming it “Mac’s Art Studio”.

In 1909, VanBree of VanBree’s Drug Store constructed a new building at the corner of Main Avenue and Elm Street. The Van Koeverings then purchased and moved Van Bree’s old two-story brick-veneer building to the new S. Elm Street.

By 1925, the VanKoeverings were printing several Sunday School publications and The Modern Poultry Breeder. Needing more space, they built a one-story annex.

Subscribe:Learn more about our latest subscription offers!

In 1955 Adrian sold The Zeeland Record to his sons, George and Cornelius (“Corey”) Van Koevering. In 1958 George left the company to become a railroad lobbyist in Lansing. Corey’s sons Keith and Paul joined The Zeeland Record. A generation later, Paul’s sons, Kurt and Kraig, also joined the business.

In 1941 Nicholas deVries purchased McDermand’s photography business; it remained in the deVries family until 2016. It is now owned by Carmel Brown.

Information for this article comes from the DeVries Studio and Zeeland Record websites, the Zeeland Record archives, Randall Dekker’s “Main Street Memoir” and an interview with Kurt Van Koevering.

— Community columnist Steve VanderVeen is a resident of the Netherlands. Contact him via start-upacademeinc.com.

Comments are closed.