The Western Michigan Dutch
“Dutch in Michigan”
Michigan has always attracted more Dutch than any other state. Most Dutch immigrants in the 19th century headed for Michigan. By 1900 Michigan counted one-third of the Dutch-born in the USA. Most Dutch lived in five counties—Allegan,Kent, Kalamazoo, Muskegon, and Ottawa. Southwestern Michigan was truly the Dutch center, centered in Grand Rapids. One-third of the Dutch in Michigan in 1900 lived in that city, where they totaled 40 percent of the population.
In 1990, nearly 300,000 residents of Dutch ancestry lived in the five-county region, making it the largest Dutch settlement area in the United States. The breakdown was 35 percent in OttawaCounty, 22 percent in Allegan County, 19 percent in Kent County, 12 percent in KalamazooCounty, and 10 percent in Muskegon County. In brief, the Dutch like West Michigan.
The Dutchness of Michigan raises a number of questions. First, why was West Michigan the favored Dutch destination for more than one hundred years? Second, what accounts for the Dutch clustering in this region? And third, what are the implications of this “Dutchness” for the region?