Holland Harbor is located in the western Lower Peninsula of the State of Michigan in the United States. Near Lake Michigan's eastern shore on Lake Macatawa, Holland Harbor is about 32 nautical miles (51 kilometers or 32 miles by air) south-southeast of Muskegon Harbor, Michigan. It is also about 92 nautical miles (165 kilometers or 102 miles by air) northeast of Chicago across Lake Michigan.
The 2010 US Census reported that just over 33 thousand people lived in Holland Harbor, while the urban area totaled over 95 thousand souls. Holland Harbor is the largest city in the Holland-Grand Haven metropolitan area that is home to almost 265 thousand people. Holland Harbor was founded by Dutch Americans, and it is still a stronghold for Dutch American heritage and culture.
Before Europeans arrived in the Holland Harbor area, the Potawatomi people inhabited this region of the upper Mississippi River. Part of the Algonquian family of tribes, the Potawatomi Nation calls themselves the Bodewadmi, or "keepers of the fire." They were the "youngest brother" of the long-term Council of Three Fires alliance of the Ojibwe, Ottawa, and Potawatomi peoples.
French explorers noted the Potawatomi people in southwestern Michigan in the early 17th Century. However, they escaped to the Green Bay area during the Beaver Wars in the middle 17th Century. The Potawatomi fought in Tecumseh's War, the War of 1812, and the Peoria War, their allegiance shifting from Americans to British depending on the political climate of the day.
Removal of the Potawatomi from the Holland Harbor area and Michigan began with treaties signed in the late 1820s when the United States was creating reservations. Fur trader Billy Caldwell and Potawatomi Chief Che-Che-Pinqua (also called Alexander Robinson) negotiated a treaty that ceded most of the people's land to the States of Wisconsin and Michigan. Over time, reservation lands continued to shrink as Europeans continued to migrate into the territory.
Caldwell and Robinson negotiated the final Treaty of Chicago in 1833 that started the forced removal of the Potawatomi west of the Mississippi River. Despite the forced removal, many Potawatomi were able to stay in Michigan while others fled to Canada or to hide with their Odawa neighbors.
Today, several active bands of the Potawatomi Nation live in the United States and Canada. In Michigan, the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi (also called the Gun Lake Tribe) are based about 36 kilometers (23 miles) east-southeast of Holland Harbor. The Pokagon Band is based about 86 kilometers (54 miles) south of Holland Harbor. The Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi is based in Calhoun County some 113 kilometers (70 miles) southeast of Holland Harbor.
In 1847, Dr. Albertus van Raalte led Dutch Calvinist separatists to Holland Harbor as they escaped persecution in the Netherlands and sought a better life in the New World. Van Raalte established what would become the First Reformed Church of Holland Harbor.
Holland Harbor has been called the "City of Churches." Today, Holland Harbor boasts some 170 churches, many of which are aligned with Reformed Church in North America. One of those churches was the creator of the "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelets that were popular in the late 20th Century.
Best known for its Dutch heritage, Holland Harbor is home to the annual Tulip Time Festival as well as several Dutch-themed attractions that bring thousands of tourists to the area each year.
Holland Harbor is also home to the biggest pickle factory in the world. H.J. Heinz Company has run the pickle factory since 1897. It produces more than one million pounds of pickles a day during Holland Harbor's green season.