Bentheim County from the Beginning to the Present : In 1804 Napoleon Bonaparte initially gives the county back its independence, but then incorporates it into the Great Duchy of Berg in 1806. 

During the Seven Year's War (1756 - 1763) under the protection of French troops, Count Karl succeeded in temporarily regaining possession of his lands.

Hannover thereupon stopped its payments to the county debt redemption and at the end of the war did not initially resume them. Instead, the counts' king granted them a loan. The king wrote to his finance minister about it : "The more indebted the count is to us, the less he can hope to make his county free again."

Against this backdrop it is not surprising that in the following decade all efforts by the Bentheim counts to redeem the mortgage fell through. Hannover interpreted the provisions of the mortgage contract unilaterally to its own advantage. The king managed to discourage, through political pressure and as a result of the contractually guaranteed option to purchase of potential lenders to the counts, with whose help the mortgage redemption amount would have had to be raised.

In May 1803, the French/English war suspended the mortgage with the invasion of French troops in Bentheim. The military phases of the conflict soon gripped all of Europe. Due to a convention of 1804, the house of Bentheim-Steinfurt under count Ludwig obtained possession of the county again for a period of two years.

But Napoleon Bonaparte again deprived the count of his rights in 1806 and incorporated the county into the Great Duchy of Berg. The Grand Duchy of Berg Provincial administration of Bentheim and Steinfurt governed the land. In the inner organization of the county lands innovations now occurred that would have far reaching consequences.

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Bentheim County from the Beginning to the Present : The Hanoverian Pledge 1752 and 1753 

When count Friedrich Karl came into his inheritance in 1746, the finances of the land were hopelessly in shambles; he decided to mortgage his territory. Negotiations with Prussia and the Dutch Republic, who as neighbors were interested in acquiring the county, disintegrated. In 1752, the count pledged his county to the king of England in whose capacity as Elector of Braunschweig-Lüneburg against the transfer of debts and a yearly amount in cash for 30 years with all sovereign and usage rights, except for the trade in stone. The Bentheim county, which up until then had been subordinate only to the Emperor, lost its independence.

The mortgage contract of May 22 1752 handed the county over to King George of Hannover "with all of its accessories ...". At the same time, the king pledged not to change anything in the makeup of the Bentheimer country - neither in religious nor in political aspects - but to keep everything in "status quo and according to local customs".

With the county, the king took over a political territory with an "estate constitution", whose statutes were the "Concordat" of 1680 between the respective counts and his status. The "Laudum Regium" of 1701 confirmed and completed this.

The king's proclamation of the acquisition of the county followed on May 24, 1753. For Hannover, this step meant a significant expansion of it's influence toward the west - across Osnabrück, Münster and Prussian territory to the Dutch border.

The "Royal British and Electoral Brunswick-Lüneburg government" began its administration of the mortgaged Bentheim county.
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Bentheim County from the Beginning to the Present by Hubert Titz and Heinrich Voort : Prehistory, Medieval, and early Modernity 

Grave artifacts lead one to conclude that a settlement existed at Vechteufer already three thousand years before Christ. In appointing the first Counts of Bentheim at the end of the 8th century, Charlemagne is considered the forefather of Bentheim county.

In the course of Christianization two dioceses controlled the region, Münster and Uetrecht. The region is documented as the dominion of the Bentheim counts since the 11th century. The earliest was a "Curtis" in Schüttorf, of the "Olde Hof". Bentheim has been a county since 1328, being previously a territory, and since 1486 through a feudal order of the Emperor, a free Imperial county.

In the year 1544, the Bentheim county was Evangelical Lutheran and became Evangelical Reformed in 1588. The religion of the reigning counts was also that of the county's inhabitants. During his reign, count Ernst Wilhelm converted back to the Catholic faith in 1668 because he became subjected to Bishop of Münster, Christoph Bernhard von Galen, from whom he could never free himself.

A Münster occupation of the noble castle residence meant that the county became entangled in the dispute between Münster and the Dutch provinces.

For decades, dynastic disputes followed between the sons born out of the morganatic marriage of count Ernst Wilhelm with the Dutch Gertrud van Zelst and the Steinfurt faction, thumping on the stipulations of the inheritance union of 1487. Not before 1701 and the signing of the Treaty of the Hague was the conflict able to be resolved.

The adherence to the so called "Laudum Regium" guaranteed the king of England, in his capacity as the "Stadtholder" of the Netherlands and the king of Prussia, to whom belonged the town of Lingen. The treaty insured the sons of count Ernst Wilhelms the right of succession and safeguarded the free practice of religion both to the Reformed as well as - with certain local limitations - to the Catholics.

In the year 1704, Bentheim county came under a custodianship, then in 1723 due to the inability of the counts to rule, an administration ordered by the emperor followed.
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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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Forward and Thanks 

At the end of March 2002 while on a private visit to the US, Swenna Harger gave me a large package with documents for this book to give to Herrn Titz. I didn't know what was in it. In the middle of April Hubert Titz contacted me. He had a lot of materials from the US for a future book about emigrants. Whether we didn't ...

Within six weeks we had to translate all of the text from English and complete it with German information. Much of the text came only at the last minute. Often the names and dates could no longer be proofed and collated. Despite everything, it has been accomplished : Out of an unordered mass of material, a book has come into being. In the first part, various authors go into detail about history and emigration from the county to the US. Freimuth Schulze made available photos and articles he had written. All who assisted are thanked here. Swenna Harger and Loren Lemmen have already published a 1990 American and 1996 German precursor to this present volume. Swenna has asked many immigrants or their relatives to write up their family history or genealogy.

She had collected the information and gathered the photos.

Compared with 1996, the present volume includes approximately 500 more people in the list of emigrants in the mid section bringing the total to 4000 people. Gregor G. Santel had together with Loren Lemmen added to the number of the aforementioned emigrants and improved the quality of the information through countless additions and corrections. He gave the collection of data a new format for better readability. The information has in part been arranged in both German an English languages or a form understandable in both languages was found through simple expressions. Request additions or corrections to this part to Gregor G. Santel (Kaiser-Henrich-Str. 94, D-33104 Paderborn, or to Loren Lemmen (124 Roundtop Road, Lansing, MI 48917-9606, USA,

Swenna Harger has worked for over 30 years to compile this list. She may be considered to be the Mother of this work. Thanks go to her and Loren Lemmen for years of intensive preliminary work.

Descendents and researchers present the history of around 80 immigrant families and their ancestors in the third part of this book. All of this text is translated from English - it breaths a lot of American spirit. The dates and spelling of names are not always identical to the German data (one matches the data of a particular family with the middle part of the date). The outcome of this are some eighty original stories in English. Unfortunately, some families declined to participate. The eighty stories are neither representative nor expressly chosen. They were purely those who by chance, were on hand and available. They provide a good cross section of the experience of the emigrant and their descendents.

The first and third parts of this book is intended to be a completion of the above mentioned data from 1990 and 1996. The volume of text does not permit the originally planned accompanying bi-lingual German/English edition. The English texts are, however, can be obtained from the undersigned. An English language edition is contemplated in the USA. The entire translation of the English texts lead to significant problems. A translation office provided a good service. Some writers were not diligent: Names would often be written in two or three different ways in one story. Furthermore, many handwritten names were incorrectly registered in transcription and all umlauts were left out. I have correct obvious errors.

I would like to thank Hubert Titz, since 1996 Graftschaf Bentheim District museums coordinator. He helped in choosing the materials. "The conveyance (of ideas?) goes by pictures", is his phrase. He was also preoccupied with the translation and compilation of the texts. I would like to thank Frau Marion Lobbel and the translation office of Anthony van Scherpenzeel in Nordhorn for their work.

This book can perhaps also raise some awareness of others, who today - for whatever reasons - (must) leave their homeland and live as a stranger in our neighborhood. Hospitality and openness for foreignors are the symbols of Christian belief in practice and a sign of humanity.

Hoogstede, May 31, 2002
Pastor Dr. Gerrit Jan Beuker
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