Steve VanderVeen: The story of Jacob Den Herder, Part II

·4 min read

This is the second half of the story of Jacob Den Herder.

In 1878, at age 44, Den Herder opened a bank in Zeeland.

In 1880, he was elected to the office of elder in his church, First Reformed Church in Zeeland. It wasn’t his first time. He also partnered with his son, Christian, then about 15, to purchase a shoe business from Roelof Veneklasen, son of brickmaker Berend Veneklasen.

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In 1882, he lost $1,000 because of forged bank notes. He recovered $500 and, in gratefulness, gave $100 to charity.

In 1883, burglars broke into his upstairs office at the bank. They drilled a hole through the top of his safe, dropped in a stick of gunpowder and exploded it with a fuse. Fortunately, they didn’t do enough damage to get any money. But in response, Den Herder decided to join a mutual insurance company.

Steve VanderVeen
Steve VanderVeen

In 1884, he partnered with his son-in-law, Albert LaHuis, married to Christine, to open a dry goods store. In 1887, fire destroyed the store but, thankfully, the contents were insured.

In 1886, Den Herder was elected as state senator. Even though he concluded the position negatively affected his financial position, he ran again. But he lost.

In 1891, Jacob recruited his son Christian, then 31, to join the bank as cashier. In 1898, the bank lost $4,000 when burglars successful blew the doors off Den Herder’s safe. But now he was insured.

In 1900, burglars again tried to rob his bank, but failed. By that time, the bank had over $1.5 million in deposits. Believing his bank was too big to operate as a family business, and given a change in state banking laws, Den Herder increased the capital in his bank by incorporating it and inviting in outside shareholders.

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In addition to son Christian and son-in-law Albert LaHuis, the new directors were Dr. T. Huizinga, Roelof Veneklasen, Henry DeKruif (a farm implement dealer) and Frank Boonstra (a men’s clothier). Den Herder’s bank was renamed Zeeland State Bank.

In 1904, Christian helped found the Second Reformed Church, the first English-speaking church in Zeeland. Meanwhile, Jacob continued to invest time at First Reformed Church, including serving as a Sunday School teacher.

Jacob Den Herder passed away in 1916. In his place Frank Boonstra, aged 66, became president of the bank.

In 1923, Dirk (D.J.) De Pree, manager at the Michigan Star Furniture Company, persuaded his father-in-law, Herman Miller, and his banker, Christian Den Herder, to purchase the bedroom furniture company.

At the time, Miller was managing the Colonial Clock Company, formed in 1909 and owned by Christian Den Herder, Berend Veneklasen, Albert LaHuis, Thomas Huizenga and Henry DeKruif.

In 1923, Frank Boonstra passed away. In 1924, Christian became president of Zeeland State Bank. At the time, he not only had a significant ownership interest in the bank, but also the Colonial Clock Company, Herman Miller, a tile drain company and a piano retailer.

Zeeland State Bank
Zeeland State Bank

In 1927, he co-founded the Dr. Thomas G. Huizenga Memorial Hospital. That was also the year Herman Miller joined the board of Zeeland State Bank.

In 1932, Edward Den Herder, Christian’s son, aged 32, joined the board of Zeeland State Bank. In 1937, Christian passed away — in his place, Edward became president.

That year, in the midst of the Great Depression, Zeeland State Bank absorbed the State Commercial and Savings Bank, a bank founded by lumber company owner William Wichers in 1905.

In 1952, Edward passed away. In his place, Adrian Van Den Bosch became president. In 1967, Robert Den Herder, Edward’s son, aged 38, was elected president.

In 1973, Zeeland State Bank became First Michigan Bank Corporation (FMB), a holding company. Robert became chairman and Randall Dekker, who is credited with starting the trust department at the bank, became president.

By 1992, FMB “held” 12 banks from Boyne City to Zeeland and from Holland to Ionia. In 1997, Huntington National Bank acquired FMB. Immediately thereafter, two new banks emerged: Mercantile Bank and Macatawa Bank. Jacob’s great-great-grandson, Robert, became chairman of the board of Macatawa Bank in 2009.

On a personal note, before marrying my father, my mother worked for Zeeland State Bank as receptionist, switchboard operator and then assistant to the president, Adrian Van Den Bosch. Later, she helped me open a savings account there.

Information from this article comes from The Holland Sentinel, Zeeland Record, Jacob Den Herder’s own story through, and an interview with Robert Danhoff over 15 years ago.

— Community Columnist Steve VanderVeen is a business professor at Hope College. Contact him at

This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: Steve VanderVeen: The story of Jacob Den Herder, Part II