This gavel belonged to my great-grandfather Charles Mulder of Caledonia, Michigan.
He was my maternal grandmother‘s father and his name at birth, in 1885 in Goes, Zeeland, the Netherlands, was Karel Pieter Phillipus Mulder. His great-great-grandfather was Carel Mulder, born March 8, 1780 in Goes, the Netherlands. His occupation was a jailor’s hand.
This same Carel Mulder is also an ancestor of my maternal grandfather. I wrote about the discovery of this coincidence in an earlier post.
Great Grandpa was a working farmer for many years. I remember his farm with great affection because it had a rope swing from an apple tree, a barn, a chicken coop, outhouse, and fields where we once went on a hayride. Across the country road, a the thick woods nurtured a colorful assortment of wild flowers.
In the above photo, Great Grandpa is with the only “great-grandmother” I knew, his second wife, Margaret, a very sweet lady. My great-grandmother Clara passed away from uterine cancer two years before I was born.
My father told me that Great Grandpa held the position of Township Supervisor years ago and that is where he used this gavel.
On pages 252-256 of Ernest B. Fisher’s 1918 book, Grand Rapids and Kent County, Michigan: historical account of …, Volume 1, I discovered more specific information about Great Grandpa and Caledonia.
Fisher explains that Caledonia was a “wilderness” with narrow trails by the local Native Americans (“red men,” according to Fisher) when Europeans first arrived there. He states:
At the mouth of Coldwater river was a great Indian camping ground and burial place. The Indians did not leave there entirely until a comparatively recent date. One of them, old Soh-na-go, or “Squirrel,” was seen at quite a late day visiting the burial place and the hunting grounds of his fathers, but the “white man’s axe” had been there and it was no longer a home for him.
He goes on to say:
Caledonia, situated on Section 29, is a prosperous village of 600 people. It was settled in 1850, the first plat was made in 1870, and it reached the dignity of an incorporated municipality in 1888. It is situated on the Michigan Central railroad and hence has good shipping facilities which make it the center of trade for a wide extent of fertile country. It has one Methodist and two United Brethren churches, a bank, and a weekly newspaper, the News, and the requisite number of mercantile establishments and general industries.
The township of Caledonia is one of the best agricultural districts in Kent county, and the thrifty farmers are profitably engaged in all classes of diversified farming.
What interested me is that I saw that inside one of Great Grandpa’s books he went to a (Dutch) Reformed Church in 1903. He was so ensconced in life in Caledonia by 1915 that he was Township Supervisor (and Grandma was born in 1912 in Caledonia). The quote above says that there was one Methodist and two United Brethren churches, and I do know that my grandmother was a Methodist and that we used to have family reunions in the basement of the Methodist Church in Caledonia when I was a kid. So where did he go to the Reformed Church?
According to records I found through ancestry.com, he immigrated to the United States with his family when he was two or three and grew up in Grand Rapids, not out in the country on a farm, after all.
Back to what Mr. Fisher had to tell me about my great-grandfather:
Below is given a list of the supervisors of the township from its organization down to the present time: 1840, John P. McNaughton; 1842, Norman Foster; 1844, Roswell F. Tyler and William Gibson; 1845, John A. Cornell; 1846, Justus G. Beach; 1848, Reuben H. Smith; 1849, William H. Brown; 1854, Lyman Gerould; 1857, Zabin Williams; 1858, William H. Brown; 1860, Warren S. Hale; 1861, William H. Brown; 1863, William J. Wood; 1865, Adam B. Sherk; 1868, William J. Wood; 1869, Marcus Buell; 1870, Adam B. Sherk; 1871, Robert S. Jackson; 1872, William J. Wood; 1873, Martin Whitney; 1877, Austin W. Hill; 1878, Marcus Buell; 1879, Sherman T. Colson; 1889, Alfred W. Stow; 1891, Sherman T. Colson; 1895, Eugene Ward; 1900, Joseph E. Kennedy; 1901, Alfred Newman; 1904, EugeneWard; 1906, Alfred Newman; 1907, Frederick W. Ruehs; 1912, Merrill M. Kriger; 1914, John J. Luneke; 1915, Charles R. Mulder, present incumbent.
Great Grandpa was the Supervisor of the Township of Caledonia. He used this gavel to call the meetings to order. Maybe this desire for order comes to him from his great-great-grandfather, the jailor’s hand.