During the seven hundred year reign of the counts of Bentheim and during this long period of independence, the inhabitants of the county developed a high level of self confidence.

The Bentheim counts were not only protectors, but also role models for the people in their region, who in fact were of German nationality, but who spoke Dutch. They wanted neither to be Dutch, nor to be German. Although the people under the French emperor Napoleon had to perform military service and later under the king of Hannover, the German emperor and the dictator Hitler, they didn't care anything about these rulers. On the contrary, they wanted to be part of an independent county.

This trait showed itself again in 1838, when some of the Reformed Churches broke away, which in 1847 finally led to the immigration.

When the reformed heritage of the European settlers was threatened, this characteristic independence was also shown in the North American colonies. Ten years after settling in the forest of Michigan, almost the entire German settlement of the Graafschap and Polton (today Coopersville) Michigan villages together with two other communities established a new religious denomination in the USA : the Christian Reformed Church.

In 1995, many descendants of the immigrants from the county established the Messiah Independent Reformed Church of Overisel.

About 28% of the population of West Michigan today have, through their ancestry, a connection to Grafschaft Bentheim in Germany.

We would liked to thank all the dear people on each side of the ocean, for their stories and help with this book.

Loren Lemmen and Swenna Harger.

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