William Hake

 Page 182-184 - William Hake was one of the most venerable and honored of the pioneer citizens and representative business men of Grand Rapids at the time of his death, which here occurred January 18, 1921, after he had attained to the patriarchal age of ninety-three years. His life was one of earnest and honest endeavor. He won substantial prosperity through his own ability and efforts, and he was in every sense loyal and upright in all of the relations of life, so that his was inviolable esteem in the city that represented his home during a period of nearly three-quarters of a century. Mr. Hake was born in Duinsschede, Province of Westphalen, Germany, March 11, 1828, and was there reared to the sturdy discipline of his father's farm, his early educational advantages having been those of the schools of the locality and period. Mr. Hake was an ambitious youth of twenty years when in July, 1847, he arrived in the port of Baltimore, Maryland, after a voyage of ninety days on one of the old-time sailing vessels then in commission. He forthwith continued his journey to Michigan, which had become a state only ten years previously, and in later years he often referred to the fact that upon his arrival in Detroit he was not only without money but also without any knowledge of the English language. His was an indomitable spirit, however, and as work was essential to him in providing for his immediate needs, he put forth efforts to find employment, with the result that finally John Harmon, the editor and publisher of the Detroit Free Press, sent him to Lansing as a representative of the Free Press at the first session of the Michigan Legislature to be held in the new capital of the state, that of 1847. At the close of the session Mr Hake again was out of employment, but so well had he performed his assigned work at Lansing that Mr. Harmon presented him with an extra five dollars. From Lansing Mr. Hake made his way on foot to Grand Rapids, which was then a mere village in the midst of the surrounding forests. Here he immediately found employment in the harness shop of John Hanchett, a pioneer harnessmaker of the future second city of Michigan, and in the meanwhile he was rapidly acquiring knowledge of the English language. He soon found employment in the pioneer wholesale and retail grocery establishment of John Clancy, and in 1853, with no available funds, but with a reputation that gained him confidence and credit, he became associated with Frank Vogt in the purchase of the business of Mr. Clancy. The new firm of Hake and Vogt gave close attention to business, made a reputation for fair and honorable dealings and effective service, and the enterprise proved substantially successful. In 1858 the firm erected a brick building at 15 Canal street (now Monroe avenue), and it is interesting to note that on the site of the firm's store at that location is now the entrance to the magnificent Hotel Pantlind, one of the finest in Michigan. In 1858 the partnership alliance was dissolved, and in the following year Mr. Hake sold the business. In 1859 he here engaged in the wholesale liquor trade, with headquarters at 39-41 East Bridge street, where he built up a large and prosperous business that continued to be under his control for a long term of years. In 1880 Mr. Hake became president of the Grand Rapids Wheelbarrow Manufacturing Company, and in 1885 he associated himself with William Coach in extensive and successful lumbering operations near Baraga, in the county of that name, their partnership having been dissolved in 1893 and Mr. Hake having thereafter lived virtually retired until his death, save for his giving a general supervision to his varied and important real estate and capitalistic interests. He was the first Western Michigan agent for the Hamburg Steamship Company, and of this position he continued the incumbent until his death. Mr. Hake was a stalwart supporter of the principles of the Democratic party and as a citizen he was most liberal and public spirited. In 1891 he was made city treasured of Grand Rapids, an office that he retained one year, and in which he introduced various improvements in system that have continued to be used to the present time. Mr. Hake was a man of genial and companionable personality. His was a deep and abiding human sympathy and tolerance, and he was ever ready to aid those in need or distress, though his manifold benefactions were always so quietly extended as to be known only to himself and the recipients. His wife was a Lutheran and he a devote communicant of the Catholic church, and he was one of the charter members of the parish of St. Mary's church, to the erection of the church edifice of which he made generous contribution. Mr. Hake ever retained gracious memories of his old home in Germany, and twice made visits to his native land. Through his influence many sterling German citizens were gained by the United States, and especially to Grand Rapids, and it is now known that he gave substantial financial aid to many such citizens who eventually gained independence, prosperity and good repute. The integrity of Mr. Hake was never to be impaired by matters of business expediency or other personal interest. His word was his bond. At one period in his career in the grocery business he was overtaken by financial disaster and owed an appreciable amount of money to creditors. When success again came to him he paid back every dollar of this indebtedness, and for this purpose sought out all of his former creditors, one of whom he found in Chicago and in needy condition. He paid this man in full, with six per cent interest, and he followed the same policy in settling with all other creditors. As a young man Mr. Hake was united in marriage to Miss Anna Marie Shetler, who was at that time a resident of Grand Rapids, she having been born in Altensteig, Province of Wurtemberg, Germany, and their gracious companionship having been broken only when the devoted wife and mother passed to the life eternal, her death having occurred when she was 72 year of age. They became the parents of fifteen children, twelve of whom attained maturity and were afforded the advantages of Notre Dame University at South Bend, Indiana, and their names in order are as follows: Charles W. Hake, Detroit; Emelia McGraw, Grand Rapids; Dr. William F. Hake, Grand Rapids (deceased); Mary Gore, Detroit; Henry P. Hake, Chicago, Ill; Lousa Hake, Grand Rapids (infant, deceased); Anna Hake, Grand Rapids (infant, deceased); Theodore J. Hake, Grand Rapids; Albert W. Hake, Grand Rapids; Helen Jackoboice, Grand Rapids; Joseph Hake, Grand Rapids (infant, deceased); Paul J. Hake, Grand Rapids; Edward A. Hake, Philadelphia, Pa; Louis F. Hake, Grand Rapids, and Adolph J. Hake, Grand Rapids.


Transcriber: Terry Start
Created: 6 January 2003
URL: http://kent.migenweb.net/white1924/personal/hakew.html