But few can equal the assertion that a colony of Quasimodos once roamed our city.
The topic became national news in July 1897 when John S. Evans wrote a column first published in the Chicago Times-Herald newspaper.
According to Evans, inbreeding of the “Dutch” in our city had caused the deformity. More outlandish than the legend of the “Hunchback of Notre Dame” was the report of the “Hunchbacks of Grand Haven.”
Evans was the author of several articles concerning deformities and social behavior, and his works had been published in several scientific journals.
In the column — which mainly focused on areas of the country that were essentially lawless — Evans mentioned Schoharie, N.Y., and reported that a “curious feature” about Schoharie was that “nearly one-tenth of its population are hunchbacks.”
“This deformity is supposed to be caused by the fact that the ‘Dutch’ have quite a penchant for marrying among themselves — of their own flesh and blood,” Evans wrote. “The same character of men may be seen around Grand Haven, Mich., where the ‘Dutch’ are to be found by the hundreds.”
Evans then trashed the Dutch in general.
“They are of the low order of mankind, and it is not an uncommon thing for a man there to marry his niece or a nephew to wed his aunt,” he wrote.
While the column was presented as fact, there was little evidence immigrants from the Netherlands who settled in Grand Haven were marring nieces, nephews or aunts. But for those who read the column, which was reprinted in many out-of-state newspapers at the time, they must have imagined our city was a haven for hunchbacks.
The moronic “Quasimodo” report certainly would not find its way into mainstream media today.
The Dutch had an enormous historical role in the establishment of our county. It is reported up to 45 percent of the population of Ottawa County claim Dutch ancestry.
What I found most amusing in connection with the outlandish 1897 report is the astonishing number of chiropractors that exist in Ottawa County today. There are several dozen, and at least 10 in the city of Grand Haven alone.
However, to date, no one resembling Lon Chaney or Charles Laughton has been said to have entered any of the establishments complaining of back trouble.