A Love Story from More than 100 Years Ago . . .

It was 50 years in the making, too!

As a new Greek member in 1986, I became mesmerized by the history of the oldest fraternity on Hope’s campus. I spent countless hours researching various stories, events and legends.

Then, one night, I came across something rather odd. I discovered a female Hope grad with the same last names as two alumni members. What the heck was going on here?

I was able to track down the daughter of the woman in question. Being young and naive at the time, I wrote her a letter and asked.

She wrote back and shared the story. I had planned to write a book about the fraternity’s history. I thought it would make a great chapter. (Life got in the way. I never got around to it. Now, another alumni member has beat me to it.) Subsequently, the letter was lost during several moves to cities around the lower peninsula of Michigan. I forgot about it until one day when I moved last year to Muskegon.

Well, the letter disappeared. And my memory isn’t what it used to be. But the details eventually came back to me. Here’s what I remember:

It was the early 1910s, and Harris Meyer from Holland and George Pelgrim from Grand Haven met at Hope College. They pledged the same fraternity and by all accounts became best friends.

Both men also met a beautiful young woman, Eve Leenhouts, from Holland. She was one class behind the men.

Who were these people during their time at Hope College?

Eva (Eve) Wilhemina Leenhouts
Born in 1885 to Dr. Abram and Elizabeth Leenhouts in South Holland, Ill., she graduated from Hope Preparatory School before enrolling at Hope. Eve was a YWCA member during college (the groups were separate at the time, one for men and one for women). She was the campus editor for The Anchor. (I was also an editor at The Anchor). Eve was also president of the Sorosis Society (Sigma Sigma Sorority). Perhaps because she was female, Eve was older than most of her classmates.

Harris Martinus Meyer
Born in 1893, music was his passion. He was the composer and director of music for the senior production called, “The Pageant of Hope.” Sponsored by the Class of 1916, this celebrated the college’s Semi-Centennial (50 years). His senior year favorite quote:

“Wilt thou have music? hark! Apollo plays, And twenty caged nightingales do sing.”

George Arthur Pelgrim
Born in 1894, he was the basketball team manager. He may have managed the track team, too. A member of Dramatics (limited to the seniors) the Class of 1916 produced Booth Tarkington’s “The Man From Home.” George played The Hon. Almeric St. Aubyn.
His senior year favorite quote:

“But till all graces be in one woman, One woman shall not come into my
graces.” (What a romantic quote.)

Piecing It All Together

It’s known that Harris registered for the draft and served in World War I. He may have trained as a pilot at Naval Station Great Lakes in Illinois.

It’s also known that George registered for the draft, too. He was in the military as he later wore his service uniform at a funeral service in Winants Chapel. But I wonder if he ever deployed.

In any case, both men survived the war, and Eve married George in 1919. Eve and George had three children: Phyllis Pelgrim White (the daughter who responded to my letter); a son, George Jr.; and a son, Willard, who died in 1945.

Harris would eventually marry, too. The years and their lives moved on. George would subsequently pass, leaving Eve a widow. And Harris’s wife passed, too. And that’s when the Hope College magic happened.

Harris and Eve reconnected at their 55th collegiate reunion. I don’t know if it was planned or not. They married a few years later in 1972 (after George’s death in 1971) and lived out the rest of their lives. Harris died on February 26, 1988, at age 95. Eve followed him in death on June 23, 1992, at age 96. She’s buried at the Pilgrim Home Cemetery east of campus in Holland.

I don’t know much about George’s early career. But he was president of the Bay View Furniture Co. According to an article in the Holland Sentinel from July 1, 1948, George and Eve started the Mac Bay Speedboat Corp. that same year. George was the president and treasurer; Eve was vice president.

The company manufactured 16-foot speedboats at a rate of one per day that first year. They had 20 employees and the company was located in the basement of the Bay View Furniture Co. It operated until 1964, closing down because the Mac Bay wooden boats couldn’t compete with the new fiberglass hull models.

According to her obituary in News from Hope College, Eve taught at Holland High School and at the Reformed Church in America’s (RCA) National Laboratory Schools. A former Sunday School teacher, she served on the board of education of the General Synod of the RCA and many committees.

Eve also served on the Hope College Board of Trustees and as president of the Woman’s Literary Club, which is still located at 235 Central Ave. in downtown Holland.

The Meyer name is well-established in West Michigan.

Harris’ grandfather, Albert, started the Meyer Music Store in 1872. It was one of the oldest, family-run businesses still operating in Holland. (It was sold in 1984 to Richard Vande Bunte).

A story from the June 19, 1972, Holland Sentinel states that Harris joined his father, Frederick, at the store in 1917, presumably after returning from the war. In 1923, Harris moved to Kalamazoo and started his own music business.

According to the Meyer Music House website, “in 1953 a Christian School music teacher began providing quality, value and service to parents in the Christian Schools. Known as “Christian Music Center,” the store soon serviced many public schools who also valued our specialized educational focus. A Muskegon location was added in 1971.” The two companies (Kalamazoo and Holland) merged in 1989. There’s now a Grand Rapids location, too

That’s the end. It’s a tremendous tale of friendship, love and truth. How apropos, those words are the fraternity motto to which these two men pledged so many years ago.

Brian M. Breen ’89 is a member of The Fraternal Society. He is the Senior Communications Specialist for Trinity Health Michigan in Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Grand Haven and Shelby (where he went to high school).

Join the Conversation


  1. Eve and George Pelgrim were my grandparents. There is more to the story! Eve and Harris were engaged before she was engaged to George. He broke it off with her because of an indiscretion that involved breaking curfew. Eve was just too wild for Harris.

  2. Thank you Brian for a delightful glimps into the past lives of my Grandparents Eve and George Pelgrim. I knew most of the story except for the company name, “Mac Bay Boats”. I had understood that they had a model called the “PlayBuoy” did you run into that model name in your research? I would be interested to know.
    All the best,
    Susann Pelgrim Carter

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *