‘The Dealmaker’ from Holland, Part II


This is the continuation of last week’s story: The Deal Maker.

In 1886, Werkman was preparing his largest business to date: a large factory to produce Vindicator Fanning Mills.

When Werkman received an order for 2,000 mills from an Allegan man, he used the money to buy 100 feet of property on Black Lake at River Avenue and Fourth Street from Ed Harrington, where he planned to build his factory.

More history: ‘The Dealmaker’ from Holland

More history: The Harrington family made Dutch history

More history: Enterprising neighbors Steketee, Scholten and Boone

Steve vander veen

But he needed more money: $ 15,000, plus $ 16,000 more for the machines. So in 1887 Werkman demanded a 10% premium on the cost of the building from the newly formed Holland Business Men’s Association. He received $ 1,000. It also got Holland City Council approval for a rail line, giving it both rail and water access.

To get the lumber for the building and the product he hoped to produce there, Werkman bought a mill and 400 acres of woodland in Kalkaska, a tug and a barge. He then built a wharf and sawmill on the land just west of his new factory, naming the company Werkman Lumber Company. His partners were Heber and Walter Walsh, Jan De Vries and Gerrit Boone.

Werkman also bought a hat shop at 50 E. Eighth St. in Holland, where Frances Jaye is today, at EF Metz. He renamed it Werkman Millinery Emporium, then handed the business over to his sisters, Hattie and Jennie, who cut and sold first-class hats and beanies as the Werkman Sisters.

In October 1887, the new factory at River Avenue and Fourth Street, called the Werkman Agricultural Works, was completed. Still strapped for cash, Werkman sold the Phoenix Planer Mill for $ 13,000 to Benjamin Scott of Bad Ax, Michigan.

In December 1887 Werkman went to Abel H. Brink of Graafschap for a loan, and Brink agreed to loan him $ 11,000 for two years at 10% interest.

In February 1888, Werkman sold his Phoenix Cheap Cash store to his cousin HD Werkman.

However, Werkman’s financial empire fell apart when another loan he was waiting for failed to materialize. Here’s another fictional tale of what might have happened from “Reinder Edward Werkman: The Gilded Hollander” by Donald Van Reken and Fritz Kliphuis.

“When I thought about building my new factory, I bought the land and received a summary of the title. I had my summary reviewed by two of the city’s most prominent lawyers at the time and they made it clear to me that the title to the property was clear.

The Werkman factory, by Donald Van Reken and Fritz Kliphuis'

The Werkman Factory, after Donald Van Reken and Fritz Kliphuis “Reinder Edward Werkman: The Gilded Hollander”.

“I had the plans for building the plant drawn up, took them to Grand Rapids, and made arrangements with the Grand Rapids Insurance Company for a loan of $ 10,000 as soon as I was finished. ‘factory…

“After I finished the factory and started it up, I needed money to pay off my debt in order to keep my credit … Mr. Kleinhans, the insurance company’s lawyer, the examined and then came to me with the information that I had no clear title to the property. With those words he practically said that all my fortune, which I had accumulated, was wasted. “

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Yet amid his financial troubles, Werkman married Mary Clock of Otsego. After only a few months of marriage, Mary fell ill and died.

In 1889, Werkman also lost his new factory. The new owner was Abel Brink, who sold to J. Metz, Gradus Van Ark, “Black Jake” Van Putten and his brother-in-law (Cornelius VerSchure), James Huntley and Bert Slag. They renamed the company the Ottawa Furniture Company.

In 1890 Werkman left for Benton Harbor, where he received a bonus of $ 15,000 to build a factory. He sent $ 5,000 to Abel Brink.

But in 1893, on his return from the World’s Fair in Chicago, Werkman again lost everything. Then he left for the Netherlands. Upon his return, he moved to Washington State and sold real estate on Whidbey Island to Dutch people.

In 1896 Werkman married Martha Fredika Rankins of Coopersville and got a job with the Great Northern Railway. In 1898, they moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where he continued to work for the railroad as an immigration officer.

In 1901, his daughter Reona was born. In 1910, his wife, “Fanny” died while visiting their family in Grand Rapids.

In 1916, Werkman and his daughter moved to Crookston, Minnesota. Reinder Werkman died there in 1931.

The information for this story comes from “Reinder Edward Werkman: The Gilded Hollander” by Donald Van Reken and Fritz Kliphuis.

– Community columnist Steve VanderVeen is a business professor at Hope College. Contact him at vanderveen@hope.edu.

This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: Steve VanderVeen: ‘The Dealmaker’ of Holland, Part II


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