John Coatsworth and C.L. King migrated to Holland to take advantage of its successful fruit growing industry.
Coatsworth was born in 1815 in Quebec and moved to Mason, Michigan, in 1836, where he became a carpenter, then partner in a mill, a hardware store and a bank. In 1842, he married Lovina Abbot. From 1840 to 1844, he served as a county clerk — then postmaster. He moved to Holland in 1865 to start a fruit farm.
Before moving to Holland, Coatsworth had local hardware dealer Jan Kleyn design a modern-style dwelling, which was built in 1863 at 236 W. Ninth St. But his time in Holland was short-lived. In 1867, Coatsworth married Frances Lathrop of Ingham County and made his dwelling there.
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Even though Coatsworth was one of the largest shippers of peaches in Holland in 1874, he’d sold his grand house in Holland to Gerrit and Mary Van Raalte Kollen, daughter of Albertus Van Raalte, by 1880.
Coatsworth’s erratic behavior apparently led to a rumor that he had married C.L. King’s daughter (see below) and absconded with her money. But that story seems unlikely given that Mr. King wasn’t yet married or even living in Holland when Coatsworth was there.
John Coatsworth died in 1893.
Charles King was born in 1856 in Winona, Minnesota. As a young man, he went on a surveying expedition to Yellowstone Park and the surrounding areas. He lived in New York City for about six months; then Chicago for two years.
Then he went to Decatur, Michigan, and ran a wood packaging company for two years — and when the factory moved to Muskegon, he followed it there.
In 1881, with the support of the Hanchett Paper Company of Chicago, King started a food basket factory in Montague. In 1882, he married Mary Johnson. In 1890, he moved his company to Holland, purchasing land at the foot of 10th Street at Black Lake — which had been used by the city for a fairground. We know it today as Kollen Park.
In 1892, King built a three-story building made of Veneklasen Brick, warehouses, a drying kiln and an electric dynamo for heating and lighting. C.L. King and Co. made butter tubs, peach and grape baskets, wood plates and berry boxes, as well as barrel staves. It employed 200 men and boys, and was managed by W.W. Hanchet, who lived at 178 W. 11th Street behind John Cappon’s mansion.
The company also had an office on LaSalle Street in Chicago.
According to an account by Clarence Jalving, who worked at C.L. King as a teenager, the initial manufacturing process looked like this: logs were transported to the factory on Black Lake and lifted by a machine into large vats, which used steam to heat the bark.
Then the logs were removed from the vats and placed in a bark peeling machine. There, they were rotated against large knives. The skinned logs were then cut into smaller pieces, which were set outside to dry before re-entering the production process.
In 1908, Hanchett and another partner purchased the Holland Veneer Works on the corner of 16th Street and Van Raalte Avenue, where VanderBilt Academy is today.
Unfortunately, in 1913, King’s business ended abruptly when a large customer in Buffalo went bankrupt and couldn’t pay its bill. The city of Holland sought to turn the King property into a city park and a place for youth to swim, but didn’t have the funds.
In 1915, Henry Pelgim Sr. — secretary-treasurer and general manager of the Bay View Furniture Company (which was located just two blocks south) — took ownership of the buildings and machinery, and George Kollen, an attorney in the firm Diekema, Kollen and TenCate, purchased the land.
Kollen died in 1919 at the age of 48. In 1921, his widow, Martha Diekema Kollen, daughter of Gerrit Diekema of Diekema, Kollen and TenCate, donated the land to the city for a park. It was a very popular place to swim in the 1940s and 1950s, according to my father. From another source, I’m told the terraces are the covered remnants of the steam vats.
Information for this article came from Robert Swierenga, Randy VandeWater, The Ingham County News of November 23, 1893, a biographical sketch by Gerrit VanSchelven, and migenweb.
— Steve VanderVeen is a resident of Holland. You can reach him and see his stories at start-upacademeinc.com.