GRONINGEN rose as a milling/wood-turning/lumber/and stave manufacturing place, in which agriculture originally played a secondary role. Founded in 1847, Jan Rabbers was a leading pioneer in the development of Groningen. He was from Noordbarge, Emmen, Drenthe. Rabbers recognized the necessity of establishing saw mills and determined to erect one. He noted a suitable spot on Frenchman's Creek, a north Branch of the Black River. It had many advantages at the time for the Black River which Rabber's believed was destined to become a central artery of trade because at this point it ceased to be navigable by scows or flatboats. It was here that a dock was hastily erected to receive the baggage, food, and other necessaries of the people of Drenthe, Vriesland and Zeeland. Here too stood latter "The Little House by the Water" where newly arrived immigrants paused before resuming the journey to their claims.
During the summer of 1847 Rabbers opened a smallstore in a log house situated on what is now Groningen Cemetery. A short distance to the North, opposite the present schoolhouse, at a spot in section 24 where the Creek flowed between sandbanks high enough to form a dam, he was determined to erect his sawmill.
All necessary materials for the early settlements were brought from the Kalamazoo River by way of Lake Michigan and up Black Lake and Black River.
Groningen was laid up south of Frenchman's Creek, about ¼ mile west of the West of Groningen Cemetery. Along the road northward from this Village and past the Cemetery for a distance of almost a mile, stretched farms, houses and a few stores and other buildings that indicated a town in the process of starting. Trade tended to concentrate on the new raod, about ¾ of a mile to the north near the site of Rabber's first Mill.
New Groningen The village of New Groningen, which prospered in this area from 1855 to 1865, was the second colony established by a group of Dutch immigrants led by Jan Rabbers. The first settlement, Groningen, was located about one mile southwest of here until 1856 when the road between Holland and Zeeland (present-day Paw Paw Drive) bypassed the community. Unlike the Dutch farming communities of Graafshap, Drenthe and Overisel, founded in 1847 and 1848, Groningen developed as an industrial town. Around 1847, Jan Rabbers built a log house and store on land now occupied by the New Gronigen Cemetery. He erected a sawmill nearby. Other ventures followed. The Veneklasen brickyard, opened in 1851, is the most enduring industry. Many Veneklasen brick buildings stand today.