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Michigan settlement destroyed in 1871

History lessons theme of Holland's Fire Prevention Week

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

HOLLAND, Michigan - The western Michigan community of Holland received a series of solid yet playful history lessons recently as part of its Fire Prevention Week. The kick-off of the event coincided with the anniversary of the two-day disaster of October 1871 when the 24-year old settlement, locally in Dutch then called the "kolonie," was destroyed by fire.

Holland Historical Trust volunteers in cooperation with the Fire Prevention Council on five days told stories of the families affected by the fire. Among the stories was one which had been recorded in an interview with Barney Kieft in 1938. Kieft was 11 years old when the fire occurred. Visitors to the Cappon House and the Settlers House also were able to view artifacts that had survived the great fire.

The local archives also gave access to old maps with 1871 family addressess and lists of the losses per household which had taken a lot of research, according to Trust officials.

With the generous help Holland received from all sides, the Dutch immigrant settlement recovered quickly from the disaster.

A far greater fire occurred the same October week in Chicago, dubbed the Great Fire, which overshadowed the Holland disaster in the national news and history books. Hot and dry conditions in the Midwest that summer had created dangerous conditions in which fires spread easily.