Big Star Lake Chapel History

     Most of this Chapel History is taken from oral history as told to me from the 'sons' & 'daughters' of the original founders/organizers when services first met informally, and how things progressed over the next 60 years.

     I want to especially thank Mr. Harold Datema for contacting me and inviting me over so that I could ask him questions, for allowing me to listing to all the stories he had, giving me information, and allowing me to borrow his slides to make the pictures so I could scan them onto these pages.  Harold's Father-In-Law was Henry Huizingh, one of the original few men to organize the beginning of the Chapel we now have, and who's name the 'deed' was in.   Harold Datema married Judy Huizingh, the daughter of Henry Huizingh.  
     While I was at the Pathfinders Library in downtown Baldwin doing the research for these pages, I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Maria Wetzel who is the daughter of Rev. Arthur Hoogstrate, also one of the original men with the dream of a Chapel, and one of the first to preach here for several years.  Maria and her family still have cottages on the lake.  She also remembers the early days, and the stories she has heard her father, Rev. Arthur Hoogstrate tell over the years. I would like to say a thank you to her as well. 

 

     It all started along the ridge of ‘Minising Point’ and going west - that a few families of the Reformed, and Christian Reformed Churches (Protestant Denominations) started meeting for prayer and worship on their lawns back in the early 1940’s.  A few of the names of the early families were Henry Huizingh of the Huizingh’s Furniture a Grand Rapids family as I mentioned earlier, then his daughter Judy and son in law Harold Datema.  The Henry and Flora Ryskamp family, and their three sons, of whom one is Phil Ryskamp who also provided me with much information on both the history behind the Chapel and also stories of his childhood at the lake, along with his current home's mysterious history on the lake.   John and Katheryn Ryskamp and three daughters.  Clarence and Ella and three daughters.  Also Pearl Ryskamp who married the Rev. John Bouwsma, John  was also one of the early preachers volunteering his time  when he was up at the lake.  Also the  families of Mr. Albert Zuidema, Mr. Henry Holtvluwer, and Mr. Harvey Holwerda.  Other early family names of those worshiping and having services on their property, and when the weather was not as cooperating - packed their cottages full of people, were names such as the George and Henry Stob families of Grand Rapids.  

     A few of the early pastors would volunteer their time preaching when they were vacationing on the lake. The Rev. Simon Vroon from Holland, MI would rent a  cottage from a James family, and also the  Ressique family.  Rev. Leonard Hofman, as mentioned earlier Rev. Arthur Hoogstrate, and Rev. John Bouwsma.  I was told that Henry Ryskamp who was the Dean of Calvin College in Grand Rapids,  a College of the   Christian Reformed Church, would also take his turn presenting  the word of God.  

     Harold Datema tells me that in the early days before  the Chapel was built, it was a thrilling sight to see all the people walking with their lawn chairs under one arm, and Bibles under another coming from all sides.  It was a  time to look forward to - those scheduled services, but impromptu and spontaneous singing, and sharing sessions, and the Christian fellowship at those ‘open air’ services on “Holy Hill” as  it was jokingly called in the early beginning, and some still is referred to as the  ‘un-official’ name of the  area.

      –Also I would like to add a personal note here**: This may answer the long asked question of “why is so much of the lake   populated by families from the Holland and Grand Rapids area of West   Michigan, more specifically the Christian    Reformed and Reformed Churches?”.  The lake attracted those looking for a nice   family place to spend their vacations and the added attraction of religious services on site eliminating the need to find a place   of worship when Sunday came, and also spending time with familiar friends and family, so it must seem that friends attracted other friends and so on...  

      Have you ever heard about the game “Dutch Bingo”?  Just ask one of the many   Dutchmen around the lake, you might just be amused. ;-)  **END of my personal note.


 

    Around the year 1947 the group of 4 -5  men (cottage owners mentioned above) got together and decided that because of the growing number of people attending the outdoor services, they needed a more permanent and larger place to meet when the weather was not nice enough to meet out on the lawn, then they could invite more from around the lake to join them in Christian fellowship.  The original land that the Chapel is on was ‘sold’ for $1.00 and the deed was transferred to Mr. Henry Huizingh from the original owners Mr. and Mrs. McCallum of Hesperia, who also owned  property, and a group of cottages to the north point of 'Minising Point'.  The McCallum’s also specified that the only restriction would be that the property could only be used for ‘Religious Purposes’.

    The Chapel was built the summer of 1948.  The first of 4 board meetings were held on 18 April 1948 to form committees to obtain bids/estimates for building the desired 35ft. x 50ft. Chapel which would seat 300, and also to solicit donations.   At this time there was not enough money to purchase an organ, or any electronic equipment, so Bertha Grooters was the first pianist playing the upright piano for the services.

    The Chapel grew quickly.  I was told by Maria Wetzel (daughter of Rev. Arthur Hoogstrate) that many times when there was not enough room to seat every one, the pastor would ask the children to come to the front and sit on the raised platform around the pulpit, therefore opening up seating for the adults.  So in 1954 the Chapel was once again enlarged to seat 450.  

    The continued growth did not stop, so once again in 1957 the Board asked C.A. O’Bryon, an Architect, who has a summer home on the lake to redesign the Chapel to seat from 600-650 people, and to improve the appearance of the exterior.  Much material and lumber were donated for the new building, as was much of the labor.  Gerritt Folkersma supervised the concrete work and Henry VanLaar supervised the carpentry work.  Both of these men are from the Grand Rapids area, and also have homes on the lake.  

    As the Chapel continued to grow, and since the 1957 addition, instead of adding on again, it was decided to extend the services starting earlier in the season on Memorial Day weekend and going through Labor Day weekend in 1970.  In 1972 two A.M. services were held on the 4th of July weekend, and also the Labor Day weekend.  In 1978 two A.M. services were offered July through the Labor Day weekend.  

See pictures of the Chapel over the years.  


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