Page 242 - John Kotvis has been a resident of Grand Rapids during a period of more than half a century, has been long and actively identified with local business interests, and is now living virtually retired, in the merited enjoyment of the rewards of former years of earnest endeavor. He is a venerable and honored pioneer citizen who is well entitled to a tribute of recognition in this publication. Mr. Kotvis was born in Zeeland, one of the prosperous and picturesque districts of the fine old Netherlands, and the year of his nativity was 1841. Thus he was about eight years old when, in 1849, he accompanied his parents on their immigration to the United States. The voyage was made on a sailing vessel of the type common to that period, and cholera, which was widely epidemic in that year, attacked many of those on shipboard, one of the children of the Kotvis family having died on the vessel and having been buried at sea, and another child of the family likewise having contracted the dread disease and having died after the family had arrived at Buffalo, New York. The parents, John and Mary (Leenhouts) Kotvis, continued the westward journey until they arrived at their destination, in Milwaukee county, Wisconsin, where the father purchased a tract of wild land and instituted the development of the fine old homestead farm that was to continue his place of residence until his death. In his native land he had not been engaged in manual labor, but in his sturdy resourcefulness he proved equal to the arduous work that devolved upon him in reclaiming and improving a pioneer farm in the land of his adoption. There he reared his children to lives of honor and usefulness, and there he and his noble wife remained until death wrote the final chapter in their worth life history. John Kotvis, Sr. was one of the prosperous and highly esteemed citizens of Milwaukee county, Wisconsin, at the time of his death. The subject of this sketch was eight years old when he began his experience as a worker on the pioneer farm in Wisconsin, and he profited duly by the advantages offered by the district schools of the locality and period. He continued to be associated with the work and management of the home farm until he had attained to his legal majority, but in the meanwhile he had been able to serve a practical apprenticeship that made him a skilled workman at the carpenterís trade. In 1865 he came to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where his brother, William, had preceded him, and here he obtained employment in the retail flour and feed store of the late Frank Van Driele, who likewise was of the fine old Netherlands stock and who was one of the well-known and highly-esteemed pioneer business men of Grand Rapids. With this line of enterprise Mr. Kotvis continued his association during the entire period of his active career in Grand Rapids, and for fully sixty years he has been an exponent of the flour and feed business in this city, though the active management of the old established business is now vested in this son John H. Mr. Kotvis is well known throughout this section of Michigan, has made a record of worthy and successful achievement, and he is held in unqualified esteem in the community that has so long represented his home. He has been a loyal and liberal citizen, his political allegiance is given to the Republican party, and the religious faith to which he holds is that of the Reformed church, of which he and his family are zealous communicants. Mr. Kotvis married Miss Carrie DeRuiter in 1870, who was born in Holland, and their devoted companionship continued until her death in 18756. Of their three daughters, one, Mary is now living. He was married a second time in 1877 to Minnie Vrieling, who was born in Holland and died July 27, 1919. Of their four children, three are living: Minnie (now Mrs. Leonard Appledorn), John H. and Sarah C., at home. The son John H, who was born in 1880, continued his studies in the public school until his graduation from high school, and in the meanwhile he worked in his fatherís establishment and gained intimate knowledge of the business, with which he has continued to be closely associated since he completed his high school course. He has had the active management of the business since 1919, when he and his father acquired the interest of his uncle, William Kotvis, who had long been associated with the enterprise and who is made the subject of individual mention on other pages of this work, he being a younger brother of the subject of this sketch.
Transcriber: Pat Frey
Created: 27 February 2003