3rd Graders Explore Jenison History

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On Wednesday, May 21 you may have seen a parade of our third graders as they traversed Jenison in search of famous gravestones, mansions and history makers.

Bauerwood Third grade teacher, Tobi Hoeker, is part of a 30+ year tradition of teaching Jenison history from a book called Jenison at the Bend which is published by the Jenison Historical Association.  Prior to the field trip the classes go way back in our local history learning about the areas glaciers, Native Americans, European explorers and the first important families to settle in this area.  The next crucial step is to put this learning into action and become explorers themselves!

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We spend the day touring Jenison and seeing the areas we’ve studied.  We’ll stop at the Jenison Cemetary to do some gravestone rubbings as this is where the first family is buried.  We will point out the Jenison home where the first Jenison family lived, Bursley Elementary the first school here, Lowing Cemetary which is the reason why a road doesn’t continue through to the river, and other sites along the way.  We get to spend time touring the Tiffany House as well.” – Ms Tobi Hoeker

Founded as a lumber town the Jenison family arrived in 1834 from New York after a boat ride to Detroit and a nine day journey across the state. The family of nine built a cabin near their cousin’s sawmill on Buck Creek and began harvesting the white pine and hardwood trees.  In 1836, Jenison Patriarch Lemuel died while clearing land and four short years later the children also lost their mother, Sara.  The eldest son, Hiram, led the charge to continue lumbering their 1600 acres and eventually purchased additional land and two sawmills. The Grand River was a busy river highway between Grand Rapids and Grand Haven. Riverboats carried lumber, freight and passengers on the river from 1836 until 1910. By the 1870’s most of the lumber was gone and fields were cleared from stumps to be used for farming. The Jenisons and the Lowings were some of the first to turn to farming along with many Dutch immigrants.*  

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Ms Hoeker says, “It’s important for students to understand the history of our area and how it became the Jenison they know today.  Most kids LOVE learning about it and being able to point out things as they drive around with family members after the tour.

I love hearing kids come back and say they showed their family the cemetary near Hagar Park and explained why it is there.  Or some have looked around for fieldstones as foundations of houses.  It’s cool to see them become aware of things they never focused on before.”

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“Our kids have worked so hard to learn about their home.  They’ve taken it seriously and enjoyed sharing pieces of information with their families.  My favorite part of the learning time together is when they ask a million questions about where they live.  Awesome!”

What a great way to become more connected to our hometown and its place in Michigan history!

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*Information provided by Jenison Historical Association + Jenison by the Bend

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