STRANGE GH: 1897 column claimed our city was a haven for hunchbacks

Nov 21, 2011


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.



Am I really reading this in the Grand Haven Tribune?? "A colony of Quasimodos"!! Kevin, that is the most insensitive, ignorant and illegal comment I have ever read! Yes, illegal! We live in an age when we have discarded labels for people living with disabilities and I am ashamed of you! I would hope that the Grand Haven Tribune would, at the least, require you to take a class on discrimination. I would prefer that they would fire you, as you have opened them up to a barrage of lawsuits.


Hey Jacksprat- lighten up! This political correctness is getting out of hand. If you actually read the article the writer points out these earlier newspaper articles as "moronic" and that they woulld never find their way into media today. I find Kevin's articles interesting. He is able to dig out obscure parts of our history, even published stories from the past that would only find their way into a tabloid today. Calling for someone to be fired is ridiculous - you need to lighten up and enjoy life more, perhaps get out of the house once and awhile.


That is a very typical remark from a person not living with disabilities, and unfortunately it is a pervasive attitude in this community. The City of Grand Haven actually fought against making the Community Center auditorium barrier free. I cannot lighten up when I see people treated with such a lack of respect, be it race, religion, or physical disability.


I have known Kevin since High School he doesn't have any of those traits you accuse him of at all he just see's humor so lighten up,maybe some therapy at a local church

Jaques Strapp

I don't know this Kelvin Coulier, but he writes fasinating pieaces on local things. No ofence taken to this article and I think Coulier should keep his job. Save Kelvin!


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