John Steketee.--The Steketee family, consisting of father, mother, seven sons and three daughters, formed a valuable part of the remarkable colony of Dutch emigrants, conducted to this country by Rev. Dr. Van der Meulen in 1847, that settled in the southwestern part of Ottawa and northwestern part of Allegan counties, where the Rev. Dr. Van Raalte, had established a colony in 1846.
John Steketee, one of the stalwart sons alluded to above, was born in the province of Zeeland in the kingdom of the Netherlands, January 13, 1833. His father was an employee of the Netherlands government in the capacity of constructor of dykes and canals, as had been his ancestors before him for many generations, for which important employment a special education and training had to be obtained. A great part of that low country was redeemed from the ocean by the construction of canals and dykes, and to maintain them effectually against one of the greatest forces of nature was the first and most constant care of the public officials; therefore no more honorable, trustworthy and useful position could be conferred on a citizen than that given the elder Steketee. The loving father, who joined the pious Van Raalte with his large family of sons and daughters, in seeking a new home in the wilds of Ottawa county, did so entirely for the advantages such a removal would confer upon his children, and not with any expectation that it would improve his own condition.
The Steketees settled at Zeeland, Ottawa county, Mich., and were the first of the colony who made choice of that locality for a home. John Steketee was, at the time of that settlement, fourteen years of age. Three years afterwards he became a clerk in the store of James P. Scott, at Grandville, remained thus employed until 1852, and then removed to a farm near Reedís lake. That same year he was married in Grand Rapids to Miss Catherine Van der Boegh. After a residence of this farm for eight years, he sold it and established his home in Grand Rapids, on Goodrich street, which home Mr. Steketee still retains. Its twenty-six years of happy family associations and neighborly acquaintances form the largest figure in the good round sum of his earthly pleasures.
In the memorable and eventful presidential contest of 1860, Mr. Steketee was a supporter of the great Senator Douglas, of Illinois. Through the war he followed that distinguished patriot in becoming a war democrat, but immediately after the assassination of President Lincoln he joined the republicans, and had the honor of being the first republican chosen supervisor from the First ward, which office he held continuously for eleven years. On the 12th of July, 1889, he was appointed collector of internal revenue at Grand Rapids, by President Harrison. He held this highly responsible office four years and discharged its complicated duties with honor to himself and satisfaction to the public. Whatever credit is due that office during that term is to the place with characteristic interest and mastered its details.
In April, 1884, Mr. Steketee was selected by the government of the Netherlands for the position of its vice-consul for Michigan. This office imposed upon him many matters of a confidential nature in behalf of his former countrymen, who had located in great numbers in western Michigan, and especially in Grand Rapids. In the execution of these various duties, always of a more or less delicacy and interest. Mr. Steketee displayed such good judgment, sincerity and generosity, that it endeared him greatly to all those who required his advice and official aid. This office he now holds, and will probably continue to do so to the end of his life. In recognition of his wise and valuable aid. During his consulship, to the men and women of Dutch birth, the loved and beautiful Wilhelmina, upon attaining sixteenth birthday, conferred upon Mr. Steketee the Knighthood of Orange-Nassau, one of the Netherlands. Two years later, orders the young queen attained her majority and ascended the throne under so many promising auspices for the Dutch nation, Vice-consul Steketee sent the following hearty cablegram to her.
To Her Majesty, Wilhelmina, Queen of the Netherland, The Hague. Congratulations from one hundred thousand Hollanders residing in the state of Michigan. May Godís blessing rest upon your Majesty and people. John Steketee,Vice-consul of the Netherlands, at Grand Rapids, Mich., U. S. A., and Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassua.
The Steketee family is one of the most distinguished both in politics and business of all the Van Raalte colony. It can be said of John Steketee that he has had the highest office ever conferred upon a Hollander in this state by the Federal government. He has won his successes by a quiet, modest, upright life, and strict devotion to his own household and his own affairs. He is not one of those who have climbed up by the footholds of injustice. No man has fallen because he has risen. His sons, worthy of the sire, have already succeeded to his business, and he is devoting the sunset of age to recreation and leisure, spending his summers in a handsome cottage on the shore of Black lake, where the colony, which settled at Zeeland and Holland, Mich., landed in the spring of 1847, when this region was in its primitive condition. He is at ease in his professions and at peace with his fellow-men.
John M. Steketee, son of John and Catherine Steketee, mentioned above, was born in Grand Rapids, June 29, 1855, and there attended the public schools until thirteen years of age; he was then employed as clerk in a grocery store until seventeen years old, and next was given employment for two years in the carpet department of Spring & Averyís dry-goods store, and thus acquired a practical knowledge of mercantile affairs. In March, 1877, he was employed by the City National (later the National City) bank as janitor, and held the position until July, 1889, being perfectly reliable and trustworthy in the performance of his duties. He was then called to his fatherís office as an assistant, and later succeeded to the business, with his brother, Jacob, as a partner, and the two now deal extensively in real estate and manage all the details pertaining to that line, such as notaries work, etc. John M. Steketee married in Grand Rapids, November 19, 1890, Miss Jennie Ypna, and he and wife are members of the Congregational church, with their pleasant home at No. 96 Goodrich street. In politic Mr. Steketee is a republican..
Jacob Steketee, also a son of John and Catherine Steketee, was born in Grand Rapids, February 22, 1873, and at the age of seventeen years graduated from the public school--in 1891. He then began the study of law in the office of Smiley & Earle, continued it under Smiley, Smith Stevens until September, 1893, and then entered the law department of the university of Michigan at Ann Arbor, from which he graduated with the class of 1895, and also took a course in literary studies. He was admitted to the Kent county bar, by local examination, April 20, 1895, prior in active practice, every day adding to his success and remuneration. Jacob Steketee married in Grand Rapids, November 3, 1895, Miss Frances Walder, a native of the city, born November 7, 1874, and a daughter of Frank and Anna Walder, natives of Germany, and this marriage has been crowned by the birth of one son, John. Mr. and Mrs. Steketee are members of the Congregational church, and own a handsome residence at No. 49 James Street.
Transcriber: Barb Jones
Created: 16 Feb 2009