Frank H. Battjes

Pages 547-548-549 - Frank H. Battjes. The record of no Grand Rapids business man, perhaps, indicates more clearly what can be accomplished when energy, determination, and ambition lead the way than that of Frank H. Battjes, for nearly half a century a resident of this city. His career is typical of men who have been the architects of their own fortunes and is most interesting and significant, for never was a manís success due more to his own native ability and less to outward circumstances. Nothing came to him by chance. He worked his way up, from the bottom rung of the business ladder by sheer pluck and assiduity, and the story of his life cannot fail to interest and inspire the young man who has regard for honorable manhood and an appreciation for wise and intelligent use of opportunity. By nurture and achievement, Mr. Battjes is essentially a son of Grand Rapids, though his life began many hundreds of miles away, having been born in Holland in 1866. He was but fourteen years of age when he accompanied his parents, Henry and Bertha (Goossen) Battjes, to Grand Rapids, and thenceforward his life and activities have been blended with this city. His early education was obtained in the schools of his native land, and after coming to this country he was at quite a disadvantage for a time because he could not talk and read the English language. He became impressed with the idea that the American boys were making sport of him because he could not understand them, and to overcome this handicap he secured a Dutch-English dictionary and applied himself diligently to study until he acquired a fair knowledge of the language of his adopted country. He also broadened his education by attending night school and in due time became well versed in the English language. Having no false pride and placing a true valuation on honest toil and endeavor, of whose dignity he has ever continued deeply appreciative, he turned his attention to any honorable employment he could find to do. He earned his first salary, the remarkable sum of one dollar a week, by working as helper in a tailor shop, and after three months of service in this capacity he found employment in the Benjamin Clothing Store, where he remained one year, receiving a compensation of six dollars a week. He next took a position in a tailoring establishment, where he learned the cutterís trade. After he had worked two years at this trade the confinement made serious inroads on his health, and he was compelled to find other employment. He then became associated with his brother, Nicholas Battjes, in the coal and building material business on Fulton street, west, and the enterprise was successful from its inception. Eighteen months later the business had grown to such proportions that it was necessary to secure large and more centrally located quarters, and removal was made to south Division avenue. Here they occupied the property owned by the Hauser, Owen & Ames Company, which afforded adequate room for more extensive operation. Mr. Owen requested the two Battjes brothers to assume charge of the operations of the extensive gravel and sand pits on this property, and, as a means of protecting the interest of all concerned the Battjes Fuel & Building Material Company was organized, Edwin Owen becoming president of the company; George M. Ames, vice-president; Frank H. Battjes, treasurer, and Nicholas Battjes, manager. Nicholas Battjes later sold his interest in the business, and Henry F. Battjes, son of Frank H. Battjes, assumed the office of secretary and general manager. Daniel W. Kimball is also a vice-president of the company, and Gilbert A. Hanke is sales manager. The concern is one of the largest enterprises of its kind in the city of Grand Rapids, and its status has long been one of prominence in connection with the representative industrial activities of the country. For many years Frank H. Battjes devoted his time and energy to the building up of this enterprise, and its present prosperity may be attributed in no small degree to his quiet faithfulness and untiring efforts. Although he has virtually retired from active business he still continues to give general supervision and to act as counselor in matters of importance. Besides his business connections Mr. Battjes is also loyal and public spirited in his civic attitude and has never lost an opportunity to do what he could for the advancement of the best interests of his adopted city. He married Miss Dena Postema, daughter of Herman Postema, of Grand Rapids, and to this union were born six children: Henry F., Anna, Bertha, Herman, Louis, and Clarence. The son, Herman, served seventeen months in the United States navy in the World war.

Transcriber: Nancy Myer
Created: 11 December 2003