Tax from the past

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:37 PM

Home values range from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand.

But that's ancient history.

Township resident John Bottema recently brought tax roll books from the 1800s and early 1900s to the Township Hall for the staff's perusal.

There was an initial misunderstanding — Bottema expected the books to be returned and township officials thought the tax rolls should be the property of the township. Bottema said he later decided to donate the books because he didn't have a good place to store them anyway.

Bottema's grandfather, Gerritt, served as Spring Lake Township supervisor for 30 years. Bottema ran across the books when he was cleaning out the home of his father, Marvin, who died several months ago.

The younger Bottema said he lived in his grandfather's Spring Lake Village home at the corner of Lake Avenue and James Street for a short time following a divorce. He discovered a 1913 book in a drawer there.

“I thought, 'I'm going to take this so renters don't grab it,'” he said. “I stuck it in my closet upstairs. I haven't seen it in 10 years, but I reached my hand in the closet and grabbed the darn thing out.

"I said, 'Oh look, it's 1913," he continued. "That's 100 years old. That's pretty cool.'”

Bottema also found 1934 and 1957 tax assessment books while cleaning out his dad's house. The 1934 volume had smaller surprises tucked inside — tax rolls from 1853 and 1859.

“Keep in mind that's pre-Civil War,” he said. “In the very back, the township supervisor signed his name — it's William Ferry Jr.”

William M. Ferry Jr. was born on Mackinac Island, the eldest son of William Montague Ferry. The latter founded both Grand Haven and Ferrysburg in the 1830s. The younger Ferry served as a Union Army officer in the Civil War.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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