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Gerrett Stronks, Page 487
GERRETT STRONKS, who has been longer engaged in merchandising than any other man now living in Cedar Grove, is a native of Holland Township, his birth having occurred March 21, 1852. His parents, John W. and Grace (Schnoyenbos) Stronks, were natives of Guelderland, Holland. In early life they came to the United States. For a time the father worked in the railroad shops at Schenectady, N. Y., but later emigrated to Milwaukee, where he married Miss Schnoyenbos. Among the earliest settlers they came to the town of Holland and purchased twenty acres of wooded land, upon which not an improvement had been made. When the father came to this country he was very poor, his stay at Schenectady being made necessary by a lack of sufficient funds to bring him on to Wisconsin. By hard work and careful husbanding of his resources, he became well-to-do. He died at the age of sixty-four, his days being greatly shortened, no doubt, by the hard work he did. A member of the Dutch Reformed Church, he always sought to practice the faith he professed. His widow, who survives at the age of sixty-six, is a member of the same church. Of the nine children born to them, three died in early life. The living are: Gerrett, of whom further mention will be made; Herman E., a merchant of Baldwin, Wis.; William, who follows merchandising in Alton, Iowa; Edward, who is in the same business at Baldwin; Caroline, wife of Henry Meengs, a merchant of Cedar Grove; and Hannah, who married Henry Ramaker, of the same place.
Gerrett Stronks was reared on his father's farm, and as soon as old enough to help he was put to work. His educational advantages were very meagre, and all told, the time he attended school would not amount to more than a year. His father being broken down in health, young Gerrett took charge of the farm at the early age of fourteen, and for seven years operated it successfully. Though he knew nothing of any other kind of business, he then decided to try something else than farming. Going into the timber, he hewed out material to build a store, and erected the same at Oostburg. The dimensions of his store when completed were 18x28 feet. Having but little means of his own, he borrowed $700 from his father, with which to purchase his first stock. Image the intrepidity of this young man, who had not been in a city since six years of age! Of merchandising he knew nothing, his ideas as to what and how much to buy being quite vague; but notwithstanding these drawbacks he determined to push forward and make the attempt. Having purchased twice as many goods as he had money to pay for, he started on the return trip from Milwaukee. All at once the situation dawned upon him--heavily in debt, no customers, inexperienced, and bills coming due. On reviewing the state of affairs he became so despondent that he vowed that he would never buy another dollar's worth, if he could only sell what he had. But from the start his business prospered; the people had confidence in him and gave him a liberal patronage. Inside of two weeks he was again back at the city buying goods. In 1875, Mr. Stronks erected a store in Cedar Grove, that being the second one built in the village. Thither he moved his stock of goods from Oostburg, and for seventeen years did a large and lucrative business. For the last fifteen years he has also been dealing in grain, to which business he has given his entire attention since retiring from merchandising in 1892. In addition to his warehouse and other property, Mr. Stronks owns thirty acres of farming land adjoining Cedar Grove.
On the 21st of October, 1884, was celebrated in Holland Township the marriage of Mr. Stronks and Miss Jessie B. Smith. The lady is a daughter of Gilbert H. Smith, deceased, a sketch of whom is given on another page. Unto our subject and wife have been born four children: Elmer, who died in infancy; William G., Ellis O. and Blanche.
Politically, Mr. Stronks is a Republican, and during Harrison's administration served as Postmaster at Cedar Grove. Financially and other-wise, Mr. Stronks is a self-made man, for, beginning a poor boy, he has by indomitable energy and perseverance worked his way upward to a place among the most substantial men of his township.
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