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Staphorst reunion organizers eager to welcome former residents

For April 2011 municipal bicentennial

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

STAPHORST - A Dutch municipality, created through a decree by French emperor Napoleon who merged four smaller entities into a much larger one, wants its former residents to return home for its April 2011 bicentennial birthday celebrations. The 1811 decree merged the villages of Rouveen, Staphorst and IJhorst along with nearby sparsely populated Hasselter schoutambt (a judicial entity) into a municipality, known since 1818 as Staphorst. Except for a few minor changes, Staphorst's borders have remained unchanged, making it an anomaly in Dutch municipal history.

A committee has been struck to organize a grand Staphorst reunion to coincide with the bicentennial celebrations. The municipality is very fortunate to be able to draw on the research of Staphorst-born distant Nijkerk-resident Willem Kappe, whose family history hobby focused on tracing Staphorst expatriates all over the globe. Unfortunately, Kappe's genealogical information on the 200 families that departed over the years often does not include the names and addresses of their descendents.

The invitation is also for those who used to live in the municipality but, who like Willem Kappe, now live elsewhere in the country. They too are invited to join the April 14, 15 and 16 celebrations. The committee will try to arrange host families for reunion participants from far away.

The municipality says it is delighted to welcome descendents of Staphorstians and see them reconnect with their roots in the former peat colony, located between the cities of Meppel and Zwolle. Known for its very traditional ways and culture, Staphorst has won some hard-fought battles to protect its identity. The most recent one involved the municipal realignment in the northern part of Overijssel. Which neighbouring municipality was best suited as a match for Staphorst: Hasselt, Nieuwleusen or even Avereest? In the end Hasselt became part of Zwartewaterland, Nieuwleusen joined Dalfsen and Avereest merged into an expanded Hardenberg. The provincial and national authorities (tacitly) agreed that a forged merger could overwhelm a very unique area of the Netherlands.

The committee is not certain how many people to expect, but it does know that the descendents of Staphorstians must number into the thousands, with many of them in Michigan and beyond. The first documented wave of U.S.-bound Staphorstians belonged to the Secession of 1834, which gained a significant following in the neighbouring village of Rouveen. When Secession leader Rev. A.C. Van Raalte headed to the U.S. in 1846, a party from Rouveen and Staphorst followed, led by farmer Jan Huls. The Staphorstians (Huls and three families Mast) landed in Baltimore and indications are they headed for Michigan with an oxen-drawn wagon. Huls became one of the founders of the villages of Drenthe (first called Staphorst), North Holland, Overijssel, Bentheim and Borculo. Kappe, who checked out local cemeteries in the Holland, Michigan area, says it feels like being at a Staphorst cemetery with plenty of Huls, Mast and Dozeman surnames.

Following World War II, dozens of other families left Staphorst, mostly for Canada and Brazil. People are asked to register via e-mail: emigranten200”at”