The startThe colony of Van Raalte was much smaller than Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids had many jobs available in 1870. There was already a Reformed Church in Grand Rapids before Van Raalte founded his colony, but it was the church of the American Dutch whose families had emigrated many years ago, so sermons were all in English. That wasn't very pleasant for the Dutch, who knew little English. However, because they had the same ancestors, the newly-arrived Dutch and the Dutch of Grand Rapids began to cooperate very soon. The American Dutch offered to let the new Dutch use their church for free in 1849, and in 1850 the Dutch got their own church. In 1875 another parish was formed. There also was founded another religious community of immigrants in Grand Rapids.
Because of how fast there came new churches, also we can declare the increase of the jobs.
WorkwomenMany unmarried girls went to work in Grand Rapids for rich people in order to help their struggling families around Holland. In 1848 there were more than 100 Dutch girls who were doing housework for the rich people. The colony always received the news about the jobs and the Netherlands got the news about Grand Rapids from letters written to them by their family and friends in Michigan.
There already was a Zealander, H. van Driel, who took care of religion for the Dutch immigrants in Grand Rapids. He gave Dutch sermons for the 100 young woman. By 1851, 400 Dutch people lived in Grand Rapids.
CommunityThe immigrants became better aquatinted with their new home with much help from Dutch descendants living in the USA. Things that made the immigrants more comfortable:
Some people were really pleased about the community in Grand Rapids. An example of this was Evert Wonnink. He came with his family for the first time in Grand Rapids. They just survived a shipwreck during their journey. They lost their luggage, and the only things they had were the clothes they wore. Friends were waiting for them and were taking care of transport and food. One friend had even rented a house with furniture and took care of food for the first few weeks. The family Wonnink had found work at a paper factory in the village Rockford, near Grand Rapids. They went as soon as possible back to Grand Rapids, because they couldn't go to church and Sunday school, because they were too far away from the church by the paper factory, he wrote.
Great country / cityAfter the first half year that Wonnink was in Michigan, he wrote:
"Like many people wrote, the US is a good country for the worker who wants to get a being by his work, it's true. But you may not invite people! Because we know it wasn't sometimes the way of God, then here are people who don't want to. As far as we are concerned, from the moment we settled here we felt as much at home as in the Netherlands."He wrote more about Grand Rapids in 1873:
"Our work is still the same and we are obvious blessed with that. Our city is going better each year and not less then 600 new buildings will be build this summer. At Sunday the whole city is quiet: all inns and shops are closed for the whole day, only the pharmacies aren't and if an innkeeper tries to open his inn at Sunday, and the police will remark that, then he has to go to the pay-office and pay 30 dollars if it was for the first time. That's law and order. It's full-blown summer here, which is all to the good. In spring we had much rain and now warm sunshine. The fruit is growing faster than at yours, so that with favourable weather one should even be surprised. The plan is to build another Dutch church, because our church, which was build two years ago, is already too small."
Less great country / cityNot all shared the success of Wonnick. He had much luck because he arrived in Grand Rapids during a time of economic prosperity. Others had less luck, sometimes coming during times when Grand Rapids went through a slight relapse. In 1876, for example, wrote Jacobus Pietersen:
"For a home, it looks bad, because of the money you make. Daily wages have dropped to a Dollar and there are many people looking for a job. The prospects are very unfavourable."He didn't know whether to go back to the Netherlands or stay in Michigan. He had left the Netherlands to get a better life, but that wouldn't be any better if there was an economic crisis.
But, being unmarried, he had a much easier time than men with a family. He was light-hearted about his circumstances. He was fired from the factory where he worked, so then got work as farmhand 25 miles outside Grand Rapids. He did not seen the farmer, but he declared:
"It depands on a belief, but if I don't like it, then I will say goodbye immediately. They are Jankees. Jankees is how the Americans call her."You see here the name Jankees (what is now Yankees).
Not everybody had problems during the economic crisis, so wrote S. Timmerman in 1884, during another period of economic trouble:
"Here are houndreds of people idle, but we don't have any trouble (..), I am working for three years at the vaberijk and I still don't have any loss of time, so it's a big bless that we can eat our own bread."