The story behind the most politically connected law firm in the Netherlands

Diekema, Kollen and Ten Cate – located on the second floor of First State Bank at 2 E. Eighth St. – was the most politically connected law firm in the Netherlands.

After:Henry and Anna Post ensured the economic viability of Holland

After:George Hummer and the creation of West Michigan Furniture

After:Arend Visscher and James Huntley lived on a hill

Gerrit John Diekema was born in Holland in 1859. He attended Hope College and received his law degree from the University of Michigan in 1883. Eloquence was his special gift. In 1885, while serving as city attorney, the people elected him to the state legislature.

In 1886 he co-founded – with John C. Post, George Hummer and others – Macatawa Boat Club. In 1889 he became Speaker of the Michigan House.

In 1892 Diekema invested in Alfred Huntley’s Wolverine Light and Power Company, along with John W. Beardsley, Isaac Marsilje, Jacob Van Putten and Germ Mokma. But this time Dutch citizens voted against him in favor of a municipal power plant.

Yet in 1895 local citizens elected Diekema mayor of Holland. That year Diekema and Henry Kremers, Isaac Cappon, John C. Post, Patrick McBride and Arend Visscher formed the Holland Improvement Company to develop Prospect Park – creating a house for industry, houses and a park in between .

The industrial park became the headquarters of the Bush and Lane Piano Company and the Holland Furnace Company. In 1896 Diekema was a delegate to the Republican National Convention.

From 1900 to 1910, Diekema was president of the Michigan Republican Party. In 1906, he was one of the founding directors of the DePree Chemical Company. In 1907, the people elected him to the United States House of Representatives.

In 1915 Diekema served as president of the First State Bank. In 1917 he served as president of the Ottawa County branch of the American Red Cross. In 1918, Diekema and his friends persuaded the HJ Heinz Company to build a factory in Holland, on land that his father, Wiepke, had purchased from the Odawa (Ottawa).

In 1923 Diekema served on the board of the Holland Maid Company and advocated for the construction of the Warm Friend Hotel. In 1925 he lobbied for the water treatment plant at River Avenue and First Street. He also supported Nellie Churchford.

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In 1927, Diekema again served as chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. In 1929, President Hoover appointed him United States Ambassador to the Netherlands. He died there in 1930.

Diekema’s brother-in-law was George Kollen. Kollen was born in Holland in 1871. He served as city prosecutor from 1895 to 1905.

In 1897, Kollen obtained rights of way from the Holland and Lake Michigan Railway Company to run his “intercity” power line from the east end of Eighth Street to River Avenue at 13th Street to Harrison Avenue at 16th street, to Ottawa Avenue, to 24th Street, to Jenison Park.

Steve VanderVeen

In 1908 Kollen invested in the recapitalized Thompson Manufacturing Company, a manufacturer of residential furniture, operated by Charles M. McLean and Cornelius Vershure. In 1915, Kollen and investors purchased land from CL King Company creditors. They then sold to the DePree company.

In 1916, Kollen served on the first hospital committee in the Netherlands. He also became the first president of the Superior Foundry Company located at the corner of Eighth Street and Fairbanks Avenue. The company received financial backing from the Holland Bonus Committee and political backing from the Holland City Council, which conveniently repealed – against protests from neighbors – an ordinance prohibiting harmful industries from building in residential areas.

George Kollen died in 1919. In 1921, his wife – Martha Diekema Kollen – purchased the former CL King property from the DePree Company and donated the land to the city, stipulating that it would become a public park named after after her husband.

Gerrit Diekema’s nephew was Daniel Ten Cate. Ten Cate was born in 1877. He attended Hope College and earned a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1902.

In his late teens and early 1920s, one of Ten Cate’s patrons was James Himebaugh, owner of Holland’s Strand Theatre, located at 9 W. Eighth St. Himebaugh frequently battled the Board of Motion Picture Sensors of Holland, who had the power to ban film scenes. .

Over the years, Ten Cate has served on the board of directors of the Home Furnace Company, the DePree Company, People’s State Bank, Holland State Bank and the Ottawa Savings and Loan Association.

After Gerrit Diekema became Minister of the Netherlands, Judge Orien Cross became a member of the law firm. When he retired, Ten Cate’s son Vernon joined the business, which father and son renamed Ten Cate and Ten Cate.

Information for this article comes from “Holland, Michigan” by Robert Swierenga, Randy VandeWater,, Wikipedia, and the City of Holland.

— Community columnist Steve VanderVeen is a resident of the Netherlands. Contact him via

Jon J. Epps