John P. Platte

 Page 633-634 - John P. Platte, who is now living in Grand Rapids, which city has been his home for many years, has become a successful manufacturer of high grade umbrellas, and his interest in the now large and important business is still continued. He is likewise vice-president of the Gast Motor Sales Company, of which progressive concern specific record is given elsewhere in this publication. Mr. Platte is a native son of Michigan and a representative of one of the sterling pioneer families of this state. In 1834 Eberhardt and Theresa Platte left their old home in the province of Westphalia, Germany, and set forth to establish a new home in the United States. They found transportation on a sailing vessel of the type commonly in commission in that period, and after a stormy sea voyage of sixty days they finally arrived in the port of New York City. It was theirs to endure still further trials and fatigue ere they arrived at their destination in the wilds of Michigan Territory, for they made the long and weary overland journey from the east to the territory that did not become a state until several years after their arrival within its borders. Finally they arrived in the little pioneer village of Lyons, Ionia county, and thence they proceeded in their quest for a desirable location in the midst of the surrounding forests. Mr. Platte finally selected a home site in Clinton county, where he became one of the founders of the fine little German settlement now represented in the prosperous and attractive village of Westphalia, named in honor of the old home province in Germany. On the site of this village Mr. Platte made a clearing in the forest and there erected the little log house that served as the first home of the family in Michigan. He reclaimed and developed the tract of land that he obtained form the government, and the passing years brought to him independence and prosperity, at which time he erected the first frame house in the village. He and his wife were honored pioneer citizens of Michigan at the time of their death. In this frame house at Westphalia Clinton county, John P. Platte was born in the year 1852, and is next to the youngest of eleven children. He was nine years of age at the outbreak of the Civil war. Two of his brothers enlisted as volunteer soldiers of the Union army, and within six months after they had left home his father died. Mr. Platte attended the little log cabin school whenever opportunity was afforded, but his broader education was that gained through self-discipline and through the lessons of practical experience. In 1869, as a youth of about seventeen years, Mr. Platte came to Grand Rapids and entered upon an apprenticeship to the tinnerís trade, in the Gunn hardware store, his compensation during his first year of apprenticeship being seventy-five dollars, and during the second year he received one hundred and twenty-five dollars. He became a skilled artisan at the tinnerís trade, and as a journeyman he followed his trade in Detroit and also in several cities in the East. During these years of industrial application he carefully saved as much as possible of his earnings, and eventually he became identified with the manufacturing and repairing of umbrellas. He became convinced that along this line lay an opportunity for success, and he finally went to New York City to learn the business with thoroughness. In 1877 Mr. Platte returned to Grand Rapids, and there he opened a small shop in which he initiated business in the covering and repairing of umbrellas and parasols. Correct methods and effective service caused his enterprise to expand to such an extent that in 1878 he obtained larger and better quarters in the Porter building. Later he removed to the Sheppard building, and for a time he occupied quarters in the Putnam building. Eventually he returned to the Porter building, and there the substantial business has been continued during the past thirty years, the enterprise having grown to one of large success and volume in the manufacturing and sale of the best grades of umbrellas. Mr. Platte has been extremely fortunate in not having met with any business reverses during his long career in the business world. Mr. Platte has made judicious investments in Grand Rapids real estate, having a rare vision which enabled him to select choice lots, and is one of the substantial citizens who have here found ample opportunity for the achieving of worthy success and stable prosperity. His advancement has been won through his own industry and ability, and in the community that has so long represented his home he has an enviable place in popular confidence and esteem. Mr. Platte married, and has three sons who are in the fullest sense upholding the honors of a family that has been worthily linked with the history of Michigan since the early pioneer era. Frederick M. eldest of the sons, is engaged in the automobile industry, being connected with Gast Motor Sales Company, and served in the United States Navy during the World war; Henry W., the second son, is in the real estate business, and served in the Eighty-fifth Division, United States Army, during the great conflict, and was overseas for two years with the American Expeditionary Force in France; Edward, youngest of the sons, has the active management of the umbrella manufacturing business established by his father.

Transcriber: Nancy Myers
Created: 6 January 2003