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Celebrating 175 Years of Zeeland

Celebrating 175 Years of Zeeland

Celebrating 175 Years of Zeeland

175 years ago, 457 people from the Netherlands, seeking religious freedom, arrived in West Michigan and eventually settled in, what is now known as Zeeland, and established their church. The First Reformed Church of Zeeland was actually formed before the city of Zeeland was even founded; it was organized in the Netherlands in the 1840s during the Separatist movement. This group met regularly in Jannes Vande Luyster's barn in Borssele, Province of Zeeland. The congregation was led by Rev. Cornelius Vander Meulen. Together, these two men organized the 457-person migration to Zeeland, Michigan USA, with Vande Luyster as the financier and Vander Meulen as the spiritual leader. It is thought that this was the only other group of people besides the Pilgrims that immigrated to the United States, as an organized church. They arrived in 1847 and this became Zeeland, Michigan.


On April 17, 1849 the village plat of Zeeland was recorded. The original town consisted of four quadrants. The village of Zeeland was originally governed by the “Volksvergadering” or the People's Assembly. By 1851 the citizens of Zeeland were eligible to vote, and the first official election was held at the Zeeland Church. This election resulted in the organization of Zeeland Township. In 1875 Zeeland was incorporated as a village and Doctor Daniel Baert was elected as its first president. In 1907, 60 years after the first settlers arrived, the village of Zeeland was incorporated as a city and P. H. De Pree was elected as the city’s first mayor.

From 1840-1850, 5,718 Dutch families immigrated to the U.S., with one-third of them settling in what is now Holland and Zeeland Townships. Subsequent waves of immigration from the Netherlands to the United States occurred in the following decades. The City of Zeeland was established by the labor of these immigrants. Of course, Zeeland now has a diverse population, but the Dutch influence can be seen in its architecture, in its churches, in its history, and in many of its people. This year we are celebrating that 175-year history by retelling their story.

To celebrate this significant milestone, the City of Zeeland and Zeeland Historical Society will be hosting a week-long celebration for the community.



Kick off Zeeland’s anniversary week with a chamber music recital and reception.

Great Lakes Duo

Rhonda Edgington, organist and Brian Reichenbach, trumpet

5:00 p.m.  Second Reformed Church



Stop by the Dekker Huis Museum and pick up a self-guided tour route.

Explore a one hour tour through some of Zeeland and Groningen’s most historic sites. Complimentary Dutch treats upon conclusion.

3:00-6:00 p.m.  Dekker Huis Museum





Enjoy an outdoor, family event and buffet-style meal, feeding 1500 fellow Zeelanders!

Experience heritage story-telling by Kit Karsten, live music by Michigan IO, face painting, kids crafts and limited edition commemorative anniversary merchandise, for purchase.


Event attendees are asked to please bring non perishable pantry items to donate on site.

4:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Vande Luyster Square, corner of Church Street & Central Avenue





Hop aboard a traditional trolley for a 45 minute tour to learn about Zeeland’s history, architecture, and local fun facts from a knowledgeable tour guide.

Every hour, on the hour between 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

First Reformed Church parking lot

*Reservations encouraged at WWW.FEELTHEZEEL.COM



Hop aboard a traditional trolley for a 45 minute tour to learn about Zeeland’s history, architecture, and local fun facts from a knowledgeable tour guide.

Every hour, on the hour between 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

First Reformed Church parking lot

*Reservations encouraged at WWW.FEELTHEZEEL.COM



This Celebration Tea promises social time, curated displays of Zeeland’s history, and time to share with friends-new and old. Tea, coffee, and light refreshments are provided.

10:30 a.m. & 1:30 p.m.

Historic New Groningen Schoolhouse

*Reservations required at WWW.FEELTHEZEEL.COM

All anniversary events are complimentary; however, the community is asked to generously stock the Harvest Stand Ministry Pantry with non perishable items, in lieu of event tickets or payment. When the 457 Zeeland-bound immigrants left the Netherlands in 1847 for the new world, they came debt free due to the generosity of Jannes VandeLuyster who paid their debts before they got on the ships to resettle in Zeeland and the surrounding area. After their arrival, settlers were helped with basic needs and resettlement through the assistance of indigenous people and earlier settlers who gave advice and support, food and housing. This spirit of helpfulness and generosity remains a high value in our community. There are still those who appreciate our support today.  Please come to the free community dinner on Tuesday, Oct. 4 with a can or box of non-perishable food for each person to give to His Harvest.

Ministries which will have representatives collecting your gifts. They share with food insecure neighbors in our community, and we share because much has been given to us. 

Anniversary activities will be concluded with Zeeland’s annual Pumpkinfest, the community’s largest and most cherished festival! Pumpkinfest will be packed with family-friendly activities and entertainment–and will recognize Zeeland’s 175th Anniversary through the Avenue of Art exhibit and parade theme. Additionally, the oldest living descendants of Zeeland’s settlers will be honored as the Grand Marshals of the Pumpkinfest Parade.

Limited edition commemorative anniversary merchandise, will be available for purchase on-site, at events, throughout the week. The collector’s items include, custom anniversary apparel, Zeeland landmark prints and notecards by local artist, Cindy Bender, locally adopted Fire Wing tulip bulbs, and more!

Zeeland’s anniversary celebration has been made possible through the generosity and support of many local sponsors.

Registration information can be found at WWW.FEELTHEZEEL.COM and follow along for event updates on Facebook at

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