Page 336 - William Kotvis is now one of the venerable and honored pioneer citizens and business men of Grand Rapids, has been closely associated with the development and progress of the city, and has here maintained his home during a period of sixty years. In his long and active business career he was here associated with his older brother, John, who likewise still resides in Grand Rapids and who is represented in a personal sketch on other pages of this publication. To the biography of John Kotvis reference thus be made foe further details concerning the family history and the business career of the two brothers. In the fine Zeeland district of the Netherlands William Kotvis was born August 1, 1884, and he was about five years old at the time the family came to the United States and gained pioneer honors in Wisconsin. His father, John Kotvis, obtained land in Milwaukee county, that state, in 1849, and reclaimed the same from the wilds into a productive farm. He was one of the sterling, broad-minded and industrious citizens of the Badger state, was prospered in his industrial activities and business affairs, and both he and his wife, whose maiden name was Mary Leenhouts, remained on the old homestead farm until their death, the remains of both being laid to rest in the little family cemetery on the home farm. John Kotvis was influential in inducing many of his friends and kinsfolk to come from the Netherlands and establish homes in the United States, and a number of them settled in the same section of Wisconsin as had he himself. The sturdy discipline of the pioneer farm came to William Kotvis in the period of his boyhood and youth, and his mental growth kept pace with his increase in physical stature, as he profited by the advantages of the little district school, three miles distant from his home—a distance that he traversed twice daily, no matter how inclement the weather might be. He applied himself actively to the arduous work of the home farm until he was twenty years of age, when he came to Grand Rapids, he having recently stated that the magnet that irresistibly drew him to this city, then but little more than a village, was the gracious young woman who here became his wife and who has remained his loved and devoted companion during the long intervening years. Upon his arrival in Grand Rapids Mr. Kotvis entered the employ of Frank Van Driele, who soon became his father-in-law, and who was long one of the prominent and influential citizens and business men of this city, he having been a pioneer here in the conducting of a flour and feed store in a building that stood on the site of the present Morton Hotel. Mr. Kotvis took a position in this store, and within a short time was here joined by his brother John. The two young men worked indefatigably and loyally in the upbuilding of a prosperous business, and their fraternal and business alliance continued for the long period of more than a half century. The original building on the Morton Hotel site was destroyed by fire, and the Kotvis brothers then were associated with Mr. Van Driele in purchasing the property at what is now the southwest corner of Ionia street and Monroe avenue, where Mr. Van Driele erected the building that has just been wrecked to make way for the Grand Rapids Trust building. In this building the business was continued ten years, and then was purchased the building of the Second Reformed Church, at what is now 115 Bostwick street. This was the first Dutch Reformed church edifice erected in Grand Rapids, and it was remodeled for the use of Mr. Van Driele and his associates, William and John Kotvis, these two brothers having become the owners of the business after the death of their former employer and honored friend, Mr. Van Driele. They expanded the scope of the enterprise by engaging in the manufacture of high grade flour and feed, and the business is still continued , under the active management of John H. Kotvis, a son of John Kotvis, who has virtually retired, as has also his brother William, who severed his executive association therewith in the year 1923 and who then, in company with his wife, made a visit to their old home district in the Netherlands. It was in 1864 that William Kotvis was united in marriage to Miss Margarita Postma, step-daughter of Frank Van Driele, she likewise having been born in the Netherlands. Mr. And Mrs. Kotvis have a pleasant home in Grand Rapids, the same being known for its gracious hospitality, and they pass the summer months in their attractive cottage on Black Lake, where Mr. Kotvis can indulge his propensity for fishing. Mr. And Mrs. Kotvis became the parents of two sons and two daughters. One son Frank died at the age of twenty-one years, and the other son, John, died at the age of nine years. The younger daughter, Margaret, is the wife of William DeYoung, of Grand Rapids, and the elder daughter, Sara, is the wife of William H. Lippencott, of this city. The last named has two sons, William K. and Phillip J.
Transcriber: John Miller
Created: 22 March 2003