Hendrik Veeneman Farm
Observer Observations by Lill & Jim Budzynski
The Coopersville Observer – February 9, 2015
The Hendrik Veeneman Farm – Gone but Not Forgotten
The column this time is based on an account put together by Shirley Cunningham, whose grandfather was Hendrik (Henry, Sr.) Veeneman. It includes contributions and recollections of other Veeneman relatives. Information also came from a family history written in 1985 by Bonnie Jo Laarman. Some wording comes from both sources.
This picturesque rural setting was once a view a short distance west of Coopersville on State Road, which was part of the system of the old two lane Dixie Highway (U.S. 19) that connected Grand Rapids to the lakeshore. (This busy roadway was sometimes referred to as the “Heartbreak Highway” because of its fatal crashes.) The route of the Dixie Highway in and west of Coopersville was on Randall Street to State Road to Cleveland.
When it came through in 1958, the I-96 Expressway brought improvements and took much of the traffic away from the Dixie Highway. The old highway began fading into the past, although much of the network of streets and roads remained.
As it cut through the farmland, I-96 also brought changes to the landscape. The neat, well-kept farm buildings in the photo were among the victims of these changes. The Expressway came through where most of the buildings stood and split the farm into two sections. The buildings, which no longer are there, were west of town on the south side of State Road near I-96 mile marker #14.
The farm had been home to three generations of the Veeneman family who, for a period, all lived together in the large farmhouse. The first generation was Hendrik (Henry, Sr.) Veeneman and his wife Mina. In 1881, Hendrik came to America by ship from the Netherlands, taking 21 days. He went by train from New York to Grand Rapids and then lived with the Kraker family in Allendale before moving to Coopersville, a small village active with grist mills, general stores, harness shops, blacksmith shops, a sawmill and other business services.
During this time, Hendrik sent for his sweetheart Mina TenBusch to come to America. They had become engaged before he left the Netherlands. Mina sold her wedding dress for money towards traveling expenses. The couple was married in 1884. Hendrik was 22 years old, Mina was 24.
The nine children born to Hendrik and Mina were: Harm, Reka, Sena, Gert, Minnie, John, Henry, Jr., Jennie and Fannie.
At first, Hendrik rented farms. Eventually, in the early 1900’s, the family was happy to acquire their own farmland by what is now State Road and the Expressway. The 80 acre farm, which was purchased for $2,500.00 was covered with pine trees and swamps, except for two acres of cleared land. There were nights when the family could hear wolves howling in the woods. The log house and log barns on the property were eventually replaced by some of the buildings in the photograph. A large house with white siding was built. A barn building party took place when a new barn, lettered with “H Veeneman 1904” was constructed. The barn stood proudly in place for a long time after the Expressway was completed. In another location, one building does still exist – the chicken coop. It was moved a distance north of the road, behind the brick home at 7531 State Road.
Hendrik and Mina, with their family, worked very hard to build up the farm. The farm produced the usual corn, oats, wheat and hey. A garden filled with vegetables and fruit trees kept the family healthy The couple’s son, Henry, Jr., later took over the farm’s operation. After Henry and his wife Gertrude (VanderVeen) married, they lived on the farm with Hendrik (Henry Sr.) and Mina and raised their own children there, as well. Henry, Jr., and Gertrude had seven children: Harold, George, Minnie, Celia, Nellie, Frank and Gerrit (Who died soon after birth).
Although the days were filled with much labor, there are many wonderful memories of life on the farm. Veeneman descendants remember “the home always had the wonderful aroma of freshly baked bread, cake or cookies. Coffee time came twice a day with many tall tales echoing throughout the house. Anniversaries parties (and other gatherings) were enjoyed by Henry and Gertrude, their family, his siblings and their families. An especially memorable occasion was the birthday party for Grandfather Hendrik on October third.” The home seemed to be a place of warmth and love.
With fondness, Frank Veeneman (grandson of Hendrik and son of Henry, Jr.) also observes, “Hundreds of vehicles drive through the kitchen every day”. Frank’s sister, Nellie Veeneman Walt adds: “The passing lane in the eastbound side of I-96 now goes through my mother’s bedroom.”