Albert van Raalte was born in Holland. He was an opponent of the Dutch Reformed Church and was imprisoned several times for holding unauthorized church services. Van Raalte eventually decided to emigrate to America.
In 1846 van Raalte and fifty of his followers settled along the Black River in western Michigan (modern Grand Rapids). Within two years there were over 4,000 people living in New Holland. Other religious figures who opposed the State Church such as Cornelius Van der Meulen, Martin Ypma and Jannes Van De Luyster also joined the New Holland community.
Von Raalte established schools, colleges and a theological seminary in the area. He also worked with Gerrit Van Schelven in establishing newspapers such as De Hollander, Holland City News and De Hope. Van Raalte also published Dutch-language books.