Harry Koch was the father of Fred C. Koch [1900-1967], and the grandfather of the two well-known Koch brothers, wealthy industrialists, Charles Koch  and David Koch . Not so well known are his other two grandsons, Frederick Koch  and William Koch . Two of the grandsons, David and William are twins.
Harry Koch was a Dutch immigrant who arrived in the United States in 1888, on the first New Amsterdam, the flagship of the well-known Holland America Line. The line is still very active today as a cruise operator especially catering to the Alaska cruises from the West Coast.
When Harry came over the New Amsterdam was relatively new just having been put into service on the North Atlantic route from Rotterdam to New York City. A ship by the name of New Amsterdam is still in service but it is probably the fourth or fifth version of the original New Amsterdam.
Immigrants, upon arrival in the United States, usually went to four established Dutch immigrant communities consisting of the New Jersey community near New York City, the Grand Rapids community in Western Michigan, the Iowa community near Pella, Iowa or the Chicago community. It appears that Harry went to Grand Rapids.
While still in the Netherlands, Harry had been trained as a printer, probably through the apprentice method and since he was in his early twenties had had several years of printing experience. Upon arrival in the United States, he took advantage of his trade and went to work in a printing shop which produced a Dutch language newspaper. In those days printers also did a lot of the writing, especially if the printing presses were part of a newspaper. After all, articles were always needed. Apparently Harry did his share.
After some time in Grand Rapids he apparently became tired of the Grand Rapids area and decided he wanted to explore the big city. The nearest one with a Dutch immigrant community was Chicago. He went there and found a job as printer/writer in another Dutch language newspaper.
Harry did not stay long in either location. He either got bored quickly or wanted to explore more of the United States. In 1890, only two years since his arrival in the United States, he left Chicago and headed for Eastern Texas. Why Texas? Dutch banking interests had been involved in the development of a new railroad in Eastern Texas. Where ever railroads went people were needed to populate the area served by the railroad.
As a result the new Dutch-backed railroad in Eastern Texas had been advertising in the Netherlands but probably also in Dutch communities in the United States for people to move to Eastern Texas. In other words Harry knew of Eastern Texas and decided to check it out.
Eastern Texas has heat and high humidity, then and now. Harry discovered that very quickly and decided to move farther north and west. He ended up in a new railroad town, named Quanah, in Northern Texas near the Oklahoma border. What may have attracted him was the fact that Quanah already had three newspapers, and of course needed printers to print them and writers to fill them. Harry was good at both. The three newspapers were the Quanah Eagle, the Quanah Chief and the Quanah Tribune.
Harry’s Quanah job had one new twist to it. The language used was no longer Dutch. He had to function in English, a language he probably could get along in verbally but probably not in terms of becoming a writer. So he probably worked as a printer for a while before he could contribute with his writing.
Publishing three newspapers in a small town is clearly overcrowding, and the papers probably had difficulty staying alive. That provided an opportunity for Harry. After just a few years in Quanah he managed to buy one of the papers, the Quanah Tribune. In 1897 he also was able to acquire the Quanah Chief, and then merged the two newspapers and named the new paper the Quanah Tribune-Chief.
As one of Quanah’s businessmen, Harry also became a founding shareholder in a new railroad serving Quanah, the Quanah, Acme and Pacific Railway. He used his newspaper to promote the railway, an understandable response as any growth in the community would benefit his newspaper as well as the new railway.
In 1898, at age 31 Harry met his life mate Margaret [Mattie] Mixson [1874-1941]. She was born in Quanah and her parents were John Baptist Mixson [1851-1927] and Hester Blessingame.
Harry and Mattie married and soon thereafter their first child arrived. He was named John Anton Koch [1898-1956], clearly a Dutch name. Fokker the Dutch aircraft builder was also named Anton. Anton would work in his father’s printing and publishing business and would take over and run the business after Harry passed away.
Their second child arrived soon thereafter in 1900. His name was Fred Chase Koch [1900-1967], the founder of the Koch industrial empire and the father of the four Koch brothers.
Harry’s political leanings ranged from conservative to libertarian, a trait continued by his grandchildren. Harry in his paper’s editorials was opposed to Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his New Deal proposals. He was especially opposed to the Social Security proposals, bank regulation, and was strongly opposed to the workers’ rights to form unions to improve their working conditions.
Harry was not his birth name. He was born as Hotze Koch in the northern province of Friesland, the Netherlands. There is no good translation of that name so he adopted the name Harry, which probably was his legal name after he became naturalized as a United States citizen.
Harry’s parents were Johan Anthon Koch [1836-1910], a physician, and Gatske Hotses Joritsma [1837-1876]. Note that Harry’s mother died when he was only 9 years old. His father remarried and as a result he had five siblings and five half siblings. As far as is known none of the siblings followed him to the United States.
Harry’s grandfather was shipwrecked in the Zuiderzee near the town of Workum, which is located near Bolsward in Friesland. He managed to survive the shipwreck and washed ashore. At that time the Zuiderzee was an open sea with frequent violent storms. At the present time the Zuiderzee is dammed in, and it has become a large lake named the Ijsselmeer.
Harry’s grandfather decided to stay in Workum instead of going back to his home in East Friesland which was then part of Germany. It is in Workum that he met Harry’s grandmother, married and remained. The above explained the somewhat German sounding name of Koch.
Harry Koch was born on October 22, 1867 in Workum, Friesland, the Netherlands and passed away on June 21, 1942 at age 74 in Quanah, Texas, United States.
Various web sources including Genealogy.net and Wikipedia.org
Yasha Levine, “The Birth of the Koch Clan: It all Started in a Little Town called Quanah”, The Exiled, Reprinted from the Texas Observer, November 7, 2011
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THE SECOND WORLD WAR IN THE NETHERLANDS: MEMOIRS, 2017
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