The Kloppenburg Family History
‘OUR’ KLOPPENBURG FAMILY
“I saw behind me those who had gone, and before me those who are to come, I looked back and saw my father, and all our fathers, and in front I saw my son, and his son, and the sons upon sons beyond. And their eyes were my eyes. As I felt, so they had felt and were to feel, as then, so now, as tomorrow and forever.
Then I was not afraid, for I was in a long line that had no beginning and no end, and the hand of his father grasped my father’s hand, and all, up and down the line that stretched from Time That Was to Time That Is, and is not yet, raised their hands to show the link, and we found that we were one, born of Woman, Son of Man, made in the Image, fashioned in the Womb by the Will of God, the Eternal Father.”
(From “How Green Was My Valley” by Richard Llewellyn)
Copyright Fred Kloppenburg 2001, 2002, 2005.
All rights reserved.
If there be a hint of a message in the title of this document, a much more profound one may be found in Llewellyn’s beautiful lines. This document is going to be about ‘our’ Kloppenburg family, with an understanding that there are thousands of Kloppenburgs all over the world, as there have been for a long, long time. They and their families have all left their mark, wherever they lived, on whatever they accomplished, each to the best of their ability. If many of them are or were related to us, many more are not, at least within the scope of our present knowledge. But those who are related are bound and bonded by our common genes.
One of the many fascinating aspects of putting together a family history is that there is neither beginning nor end to it. When we proudly say “Our family tree goes back to 1608” it is implied that presently we have information that goes back only to that particular point in time. Surely, however, there were innumerable Kloppenburgs who lived their lives well before 1608. We just do not know anything about them – at present. With a stroke of luck somebody just might, some day, miraculously turn up and generously share his or her data with us and we then may gain a few more names or even generations. This happens all the time; it has happened to me on several occasions. Even without outside help there is no closure. We just keep on adding names and dates as younger members of our extended family are getting married and have children and grandchildren, just as our forebears did. Merely collecting names and dates, however, becomes a meaningless exercise if we do not at least attempt to get a feeling for the human aspects connected to those names, seen in context with ever changing mores and conditions prevailing in the life span of each such person and certainly of each such generation.
In anyone’s life there surely will be an occasion when questions arise regarding one’s forebears, who they were, where they came from, what they did for a living and what their claim to fame, if any, had been. Such a moment may come as just another introspect step towards maturity with the sudden revelation that there is such a thing as mortality. Such a moment, triggered by a personal illness, a narrow escape or the passing away of a loved one is unavoidable in life. The latter may cause a sudden sense of confrontation with an unfinished business that never will be finished, with certain questions that never will be answered and with certain happenings that will never be explained or begged forgiveness for. Wherever possible, I shall attempt to present this human touch. I think I owe it to them as we are all related human beings and not mere statistics.
I started to get interested in genealogy when I found some old photographs showing my father as a child at his mother’s side. The realization that my Dad, whom I had known and idolized only as a grown man, had also once been a little boy and that he might have suffered the same growing pangs that I had to go through, rattled me profoundly. It raised a multitude of questions about his childhood, his schooling, adolescence, his interests and his feelings in general. And with it came questions about his parents and the rest of his relatives. Once started, it is difficult to know where to draw the line. One thing leads to another and, frankly speaking, I don’t want to draw that line anymore than I want to put down a well written and fascinating book before I have read and understood it to the very last word.
As luck would have it, my dear aunt Annetje Kortenhorst-Kloppenburg, my Dad’s youngest sister, visited us here in Welland around 1972. She could answer many of my questions and she had brought a box full of newspaper clippings concerning the Kloppenburg and Versteegh families. Many a name had an interesting or touching story to go with it. This was the starting point and this was how I got hooked on our family history.
This beginning was not easy. I was far away from archives and other reliable sources, many people had died, there were too many obviously romantic but incorrect assumptions concerning princesses, robber barons and castles and many unspecified place names. There seemed to be an incredible amount of guesswork and wishful thinking begging to be corrected. It was unavoidable that such a shaky foundation should lead to false trails, as I found out in the years to follow.
The first disappointment was a visit to a castle named ‘Burg Klopp’ in 1978, located on a rock high above the Rhine in Germany, overlooking the town of Bingen. We, Noortje and Peter Ginman, Gerdy and I, were lured by the possibility of finding a starting point by name association. We found nothing of interest but the spectacular view and the intriguing giggle of a Rhenish Lorelei in the kitchen.
Next came a rather wasteful trip to Mettingen, just west of Osnabrück. Somebody had told me that the Cloppenburgs of Peek & Cloppenburg had originated there. I talked to a few local people but our family name did not ring a bell with them and a quick look in a telephone book produced only one lonely Hans Kloppenburg, somewhere way out on a rural back road. Later on I found out that those Cloppenburgs (once owners of a large chain of clothing stores in Holland) hailed from Werlte, east of the town of Cloppenburg.
On a German road map I discovered a place named Kloppenheim, a suburb of Wies-baden, but I quickly discounted that because ‘Kloppenheim’ means ‘homestead of the Kloppens’. ‘Kloppen’ and’, Klopp’ are still fairly common names in Germany but they do not connect with our ‘Kloppenburg’.
A visit to the Mormon office in Ottawa, where the computer is linked up to the one in Salt Lake City in Utah produced not a single Kloppenburg.
Next we were approached by Henry Kloppenburg, a lawyer from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. At first it looked promising, but after Henry sent me whatever information he had, it turned out that his family members were descendants of Johann Heinrich Westerkamp who, around 1835, wanted to marry Elisabeth Müting, daughter of Margaretha Kloppenburg and Gerd Heinrich Müting, dirt farmer and cattle dealer. The farm was in Margaretha’s name since she had inherited it when it still was a Kloppenburg farm. Elisabeth’s parents consented to this marriage on condition that Johann Friedrich Joseph Westerkamp adopt the Kloppenburg surname since Elisabeth would inherit the farm and that had to remain in the Kloppenburg family.
Years later, all their descendants sold their farms and businesses due to prevailing hard times in Germany and left their area south of Cloppenburg. Quite a few migrated to Canada and others moved to Brazil where they cleared a sizable patch of jungle in order to establish an agricultural colony. Among those people there still is an Archbishop Bonaventure Kloppenburg, of the diocese of Nuovo Hamburgo. I mention the above because their old homesteads were fairly close to the small town of Cloppenburg, south of Oldenburg, and at that time I still assumed that direct forebears might be found in that area.
Of course, I did visit Cloppenburg (also spelled ‘Kloppenburg,), several times, in fact.
I found a very interesting book there, “Geschichte des Münsterschen Amtes Kloppenburg” but no Kloppenburg family name was anywhere mentioned in it. Again, it became very clear that name association is a perilous path to walk. Yet, I still suspected that somewhere in the far past, somebody must have adopted that surname because he wanted to indicate that he hailed from that area. In earlier centuries most common people did not have a surname. They identified themselves as son or daughter of their father who was also only known by his first name (hence surnames such as Peterson, Johnson, etc.) or by their trade (Miller, Smith, Cooper, etc.) or by the area or town of origin – even royalty did that!
The place name Colmar had been mentioned to me but nobody knew where it was located. Colmar in France could be eliminated right away, of course, but another fairly detailed map showed a Grosz- and Klein Kollmar just north of Hamburg on the far bank of the Elbe.
Joop ter Haar even sent some money to somebody to check things out for us. We never heard from the man and the money was probably converted into a few shots of Schnapps and a laugh at our expense.
A friend of mine went on the Internet for me and came up with the lattitude and longitude of a small place called Colmar, just East of Oldenburg in Lower Saxony. I drove up there one Sunday morning but not one person I talked to seemed to have heard of the family name Kloppenburg. I spotted a woman sweeping the front steps of the local pub and told her that I was looking for information regarding my forebears who lived there since 1608. She just giggled and told me that those folks had all died a long time ago. The size of Colmar explains why it appears only on very detailed maps. In order to get there one bypasses the town of Oldenburg. Take the 211 in a north- easterly direction towards Brake. At Coldewey the main road makes a rather sharp turn to the right. Turn left there. Colmar is not even mentioned on the road sign, but Strückhausen Altendorff is. Follow that road, past a small church on the left and through Strückhausen, admiring the beautiful Saxon homesteads until you see the Colmar sign. Only much later did I realize that many of my Lutheran forebears had worshipped at that small but beautiful Lutheran church, that there are Kloppenburg tombstones in that cemetery and that those prosperous looking home-steads were the much touted ‘Twelve Apostles’.
But then I did get a big break. An aunt and uncle of my daughter-in-law Lianne had found some tombstones or mausolea in an old cemetery in New Orleans bearing the name Kloppenburg. Right behind them they also found a stone with their family name ‘Lamothe’ on it. Of course they took some pictures and sent one to Lianne with the question “Who are these people?”. That, in turn, sent me to the Welland library to look for a Mormon address in New Orleans and in that outdated, beat-up old telephone directory I found the names and addresses of three live Kloppenburgs! I picked one at random (George Peter Kloppenburg) sent that person a letter with a short outline of my then known ancestry .Two weeks later I received two large paper sheets filled with hundreds of Kloppenburg names and dates. Scanning through its ten generations, starting at 1608, I found the name of the first known Kloppenburg to migrate from Germany to Holland. It checked out beautifully with the data I already had in my earlier collection. These charts had been compiled and written by Mrs. Elmer Gaudet née Loretta Dorothy Kloppenburg, sister of George Peter Kloppenburg, my very distantly related cousin.
Nobody else in Canada or Holland or even Germany ever had so much detailed information. An extra bonus was that I came into contact with several people with the same interests and with whom I am still corresponding, by letter or by e-mail, in Dutch, in English or in German. One of them, Hans Francksen in Oldenburg is even related to me, seven generations back. The niece of our first Kloppenburg to migrate to Holland was the greatgreatgrandmother of Hans. A small world indeed! Also, Frans Jacobs in Losser is married to a sister of my cousin August Kloppenburg in Burlington and Cecil Versteegh in Gorinchem is a descendant of an uncle of my paternal grandmother. One way or another we all got in touch, spurred on by the same desire to dig into the past and find our ancestors. After all, without them we would not be here!
Origin and History of the name KLOPPENBURG
The name Kloppenburg is of German origin. It is a well known name that goes way back in time. The name was, and still is, quite common in Germany around Osnabrück, Cloppenburg, Oldenburg and Butjadingen in NiederSachsen.(Lower Saxony). But one can also find Kloppenburgs in Holland, for a long time in the Dutch East Indies, in an entire colony of Kloppenburgs in Brazil as I mentioned earlier and one can find them in Australia, Canada, the United States, Denmark, Poland and even Russia. So much for any notions of exclusivity. The name may sound ‘foreign’ here in Canada but as I shall show later on, our background is truly very Anglo-Saxon and/or Friesian. As a matter of fact, the Kloppenburgs I have found and whom we hail from, lived in the area where the Angles and the Saxons lived before they crossed the North Sea around the middle of the fifth century and settled in Scotland and England.
Friesians and their descendants still live in a territory that runs from the Province of Friesland in the Netherlands along the coastline of the North Sea eastwards to the river Ems and even further to the Weser and the Elbe.
Originally the Friesians had taken over the land between Ems and Elbe, then occupied by the Chauci (or ‘Chauken’ in German). The latter were described by the Roman historian Tacitus as being peace-loving and noble but also as very poor. Their huts were built on terps which twice a day were surrounded by high tide. For that reason they could not own cattle or work the land but had to survive by fishing. They depended on fuel by drying soil, scooped up with their bare hands. The Romans obviously were not familiar with peat! We do not know what happened to the Chauci; did they migrate or where they absorbed by other, more militant Germanic tribes? Their customs and art of building terps and later of dikes was taken over by the Friesians and are still practiced at the present for the sheer necessity of survival, to keep out the treacherous North Sea.
A bit further inland was the home of the Saxons and the Angles. What started out as truly Viking style raiding parties, along with the Jutes from the northern part of Denmark, almost all of the Angles but only part of the Saxons settled in what is now England. Some names have survived to remind us of the past, such as Essex (East Saxon), Sussex (South Saxon), Wessex (West Saxon) and East Anglia.
The German region we are interested in remained predominantly Friesian and Saxon until, after several bloody uprisings and battles, they were finally subdued in 785 AD at Bocholt on the river Aa by Charles the Great, better known as Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Emperor (‘Kaiser Karl der Grosze’ in German).
It was Charlemagne who, rather forcefully, started to convert the Saxons and the Friesians to Christianity, probably as a means to better control them and thus, hopefully, take some of the seemingly innate wildness and unruliness out of them.
Their original religion was a pantheistic form of nature worship. Their first humans were not an Adam and Eve but two trees. Among their great gods (Ases) were Woden (Odin in the North) the ‘all-father’, Donar (Thor) his son, at once storm-god and god of agriculture; Zio or Thiu (Tyr), also a son of Woden, god of war; Fro (Freyr) god of love; Paltar (Baldur) god of Justice; Nerthus or Hertha (Frau Bertha) the earth; Frauwa (Freya) sister of Fro; and Friga (Fria) wife of Woden; Helia (Hel) goddess of the lower regions. Below the Ases ranked the Giants, the Nornes or Fates and the Walkyres or messengers of the gods. In the realm of the lower mythology the German imagination was remarkably fertile. Fairies, cobolds, elves and nixen abounded and still survive in children’s tales. The Germans had no hierarchy of priests as did the Celtic Druids, though the priests and priestesses of certain divinities stood in high regard. Their worship consisted in repetition of formal invocations and in sacrificial offerings, prisoners of war often being immolated to appease the gods. Woods and trees were held in special reverence and were often devoted to in the performance of worship beneath their branches. Certain days were set apart for the worship of certain deities. Those names have come down to us as the names of the days of the week. Tuesday (Thiu’s dag), Wednesday (Woden’s dag), Thursday (Thor’s dag, Donner’s dag), Friday (Freya’s Dag). Some of the customs of these recurring festivities were afterwards pressed into service by Christianity. Such was the decoration of trees with flower-wreaths and candles, now part of our Christmas rites, as well as the colored eggs in a ‘hare’s nest’, now an Easter custom (our Easter Bunny), originally an offering to some heathen fertility divinity. They used divination in the flight of birds, the neighing of horses, the throwing of sticks, etc.to set their course of action.
Converting the German tribes to Christianity was not an easy task. Bonifacius (the Anglo-Saxon Benedictine monk Winfried, later renamed Bonifacius by Pope Gregory II), was called the apostle of the Germans (ca. 680-754), and he preached Christianity in the country of the East Franks, in Thuringia, Hesse, and Friesland. Bishop since 722, archbishop without a fixed bishopric since 732, he brought all newly-founded bishoprics and monasteries under strict jurisdiction of the Papal Chair. In 742, at the Concilium Germanicum, recognition of the Pope as head of the Church was proclaimed. In 748 Bonifacius became the first archbishop of Mainz. In 754 he was killed by the yet heathen Friesians in Dokkum, Friesland, Holland.
In the area that concerns our genealogy, the first churches were built in Meppen in order to serve the northwest part of the diocese of Osnabrück and others in Visbeck for its northeastern part. These mission posts were served by Benedictine monks from the great monastery in Corvey, located on the east bank of the Weser, just downstream from Höxtel in Westfalen. This monastery was founded by Kaiser Ludwig der Fromme (Emperor Louis the Pious) in the year 819. Gradually and at suitable locations, small daughter churches were erected, often just simple temporary framework and wattle edifices until such time when the number of converts justified a larger and more permanent building as well as a home for a resident religious. As conversion spread, these small parishes were in turn upgraded to ‘mother churches’ whose duty it was to establish new ‘daughter churches’ as required for the propagation of the Faith. It is interesting to note that during this period of growth the newly founded ‘mother churches’ were quite independent in their enterprises, thereby gradually diminishing the authority and guidance of Corvey. Apart from the aspect of conversion, many happenings also tied in with more secular affairs, as it suited the occasion.
Charlemagne was a Frank and the Franks had conquered the Friesians, the Saxons and the Angles. In 782 a Saxon rebellion had to be suppressed and in 803 Charlemagne still could not trust the Friesians to manage their own Gau (county or district). Consequently the first ‘Gaugrafen’ (counts or earls) were all Franks. This secular aspect explains why the Grafschaft (county) Kloppenburg had been first under Amt (jurisdiction of) Osnabrück and later under Amt Münster. Those counts had the stature of royalty and consequently the fate of a Gau depended on the outcome of internal strife and intrigue, of marriages, inheritances and successions, not to mention the open warfare for power between Church and State in later centuries.
A typical example of this situation concerns Count Otto III (ruled 1284-1303), the founder of ‘the Kloppenburg‘ (note the italics and bold letters!). In his younger years, he acted as representative and protector of his maternal grandfather, the brave Eberhard von der Mark of the House of Tekenenburg (over the years also written as Titkelenborg, Tychelborg, Teckenborch and Tecklenburg). Eberhard was not amused that his son-in-law had leased his Tekeneburg castle to Bishop Conrad of Osnabrück. Thus, Otto III impetuously invaded the bishopry during Lent of the year 1291, causing enough trouble to force the Bishop and his cohorts to take refuge behind the walls of Osnabrück for eight frantic days.
Yet, the Tekeneburg remained in the hands of the Bishop and Otto III realized that the chances of ever reclaiming this castle were meager indeed. And so he sat moping for a while in his Burg in Friesoyte, pondering how to extend his present sphere of influence and protect his recently acquired (read ‘conquered’) holdings of Schwaneburg, Hartebrügge, Lohe and Barszel. Granted, his Burg in Friesoyte had been greatly extended and reinforced, but it would take eight hours to reach his property in Essen which laid under threat of the Count of Tekeneburg ever since Quakenbrück had grown into quite an important place. According to the terms of the Peace Accord of 1236 no fortifications were allowed to be built near Essen. He, therefore, had no choice but to choose a suitable location in Crapendorf which could also serve to back up his fortress in Friesoyte. Crapendorf was central to the prosperous trading centers and annual fairs of Oldenburg, Wildehausen, Vechta, Quakenbrück, Haselünne and Friesoyte. It was located at the crossroads of the above locations (a marvelous spot to start charging tolls!) and was already well established as one of the oldest parishes in this area.
He bought a large farm with a water mill on the river Soest in Hemesbühren and there he built his fortress, which on January 5, 1296, in an official charter, was named the Kloppen Burg.
Based on the above information, we can now be sure that the location of the ‘Kloppen Burg’ indeed coincides with the location of the present town of Cloppenburg. However the illustrations of the ‘Kloppenburger Schlosz’ that comes with most Kloppenburg tourism literature does NOT represent the old Kloppen Burg that was destroyed in 1393. The drawing of the ‘Kloppen-burger Sclosz’ was made by a travelling physician in 1647. A ‘Burg’ is a fortress, a ‘Schlosz’ is more of a palace, even when it is built to resemble a Burg.
The question now arises, whence the name? This issue has never been brought to a satisfactory conclusion. There are historical facts but there are dissenting linguistic arguments as well.
The historian Niederding is of the opinion that ‘Kloppen’ should be interpreted as ‘Nonnen’, i.e. nuns. He claims that the fortification, the original ‘Burg’, that was built near Essen and was destroyed in 1231, was alternatively named Nonnenburg and Kloppenburg in connection with the nun’s cloister at that very same location. Niederding now reasons that the new ‘Burg’ near Crapenburg had the same obligation to protect the properties near Essen and that for that reason Count Otto III had simply transferred the names Nonnenburg (or Kloppenburg) from the old to the new Burg. These statements may not stand the test, say the linguists, as they question whether ‘Kloppe’ in the custom of speech of those days really meant “Nonne’, nun. They even go one step further and are of the opinion that that interpretation came into use quite a bit later and was adopted from the Dutch language and that it then was the rather condescending description of a ‘Betschwester’, an overly-pious woman, forever mumbling prayers and beating her breast. Interestingly, there used to be a word ‘klopjes’ in Dutch that my wife Gerdy remembers. A ‘Klopje’ then was a rather fond description of ‘a little nun that came knocking (kloppen) at one’s door, asking for food and clothes for the poor’.
Linguists claim that:
- The meaning of the verb ‘kloppen’ at the time of Count Otto II was restricted to ‘fighting’, beating, defeating, thrashing or raising hell. ‘Kloppen’ or ‘Klopfen’ is derived from the Old High German word “clöphon” which later changed to the Middle Low German and Dutch word ‘kloppen’. It was a sound-associated word.
- Not ever has the name “Kloppenburg” been found in association to the old Burg near Essen, not in any charter or document.
Therefore, the linguists reason, we have no choice but to interpret that word ‘kloppen’ as ‘to fight’. They ended their argument with: “Und wirklich – wurde nicht die Kloppenburg angelegt, um von da aus nach allen Seiten hin loszuschlagen, zu ‘kloppen’? (And truly, was not the (Kloppen-) Burg built for the purpose of raising hell from there in every direction, to ‘klopp’?).
In fact, its reputation was held up throughout the 14th century and this is well documented.
Dr.G.L.Niemann writes about Count Otto V (1360-1388): “If the predecessors were difficult neighbours, this was nothing compared to Count Otto V”. Apart from the major feuds in which he was constantly entangled, his lust for plunder made him a true terror throughout the region as well for the bishoprics of Münster and Osnabrück.
The Drost (Bailiff) of Meppen issued a report on the damage inflicted within just one year (either 1364 or 1365) and he said: “Let it be known, ye gentlemen of Münster, that in this year the Graf of Tekeneburg has taken from you and from your subjects in this parish of Meppen, the following loot:
- In the parish of Meppen: 105 cows worth more than 90 Mark; 500 sheep worth 60 Mark.
- From the village of Nödike: 154 cows worth 120 Mark.
- From the village of Schwenighen: 124 cows worth 100 Mark.
- From the village of Barlo: 30 cows, worth 27 Mark.
- From Gehse: 60 cows, worth 50 Mark. Furthermore, arson in this village had caused damage estimated at 40 Mark.
- In the parish of Hesepe zu Dalhem: 138 Mark worth of geese, 24 heads of cattle worth 18 Mark and 1005 sheep worth 120 Mark.
- From Lünne: 92 cows worth 93 Mark, over 80 horses worth at least 98 Mark.
- From Lerte: 92 cows and 140 sheep, worth 100 Mark as well as plunder valued at 10 Mark.
- In Büchelte: 105 cows worth over 90 Mark, 200 sheep worth about 24 Mark, 10 horses worth 14 Mark, ‘VIII marc reder penninghe to Dinghetale”(what it cost the owners to buy back what was stolen from them), and 14 fat swine worth about 7 Mark and further, plunder and the value of a home that burned to the ground, valued at about 60 Mark.
- Damage in Haverbeck about 24 Mark.
- In Huden 112 cows, 10 swine, plus plunder totalling over 110 Mark.
- In Lare 111 oxen, 5 horses, 6 swine, one house burned down and plunder over 98 Mark.
- In the parish of Holte: 111 cows, 50 swine,15 horses were taken, two people were beaten to death and there was plunder, for a total of 250 Mark.
- In the parish of Herzlake in the village of Helminghausen: 1000 sheep and a large amount of oats were paid as a bribe to prevent further theft, worth at least 100 Mark.
- On Christmas Day, 1364, from the village of Werlte and its local parish: 94 cows, 993 sheep, one person killed, 300 fat swine, 33 horses and 98 Mark in pay-off and a similar amount in plunder, so that the total damage was about 2000 Mark.
He added: “The truth of the above statements in the Bailiff’s report has been verified under oath by practicing parishioners”.
This was quite a performance and it becomes quite clear that those counts did not exactly rule their domain for the benefit of its people, quite the contrary. Consider also the cost of defenses such as walls, moats, towers and gates that had to be erected around the towns of Münster and Osnabrück as protection against the raids of the counts of the Kloppenburg.
The Kloppenburg must have been quite a fortification in order to provide immunity for those Counts (Gaugrafen), evident from data pertaining to Crapendorf around 1873, supplied by Dr. G.L.Niemann.
The center of the Burg used to be where presently the Lower Courthouse (previously the County Court) now stands. Most of these buildings rest on ancient Burg foundations. The actual Burg was surrounded by a wall with a very solid tower. All around ran a deep moat, which in turn was surrounded by another strong wall and around that wall flowed the river Soest, which also provided water for the moat. The east and south sides of the Burg were perfectly protected against attack by a swampy meadow which could be inundated. Normally it served as the courtyard. The north and west sides were surrounded by the housing provided for the servants and that stretched from the windmill to the Friesenoyte- and Bether gates. This area, too, was surrounded by strong walls and a moat. The corner south of the windmill was especially fortified and had, where later the Court would be, a particularly strong forward fortification, known as the Borgfreede, the ‘first line of defense’. Three gates gave access to the inner fortress:
In the southwest, where presently the merchant Leiber lives, was the location of the Crapendorfer Thor (i.e.gate to the road to Crapendorf). In the northwest, roughly at the spot of townsman Heidgerken’s home, stood the Friesenoyter Thor. Finally, in an easterly direction, where Lückmann’s house stands, stood the Bether Thor.
The tower must indeed have been quite solidly structured; it had to be blown up as late as 1803.
After the rule Of Otto III (1284-1303), builder of the Kloppenburg, the rule of his son Otto IV (ruled 1302-1328) is described as ‘almost’ peaceful, at least by the norm of the times.
Since Graf Otto IV did not have a son to succeed him, another ruling family took over. Not much is known about the antecedents of Nicolaus I from the house of Suerin (Schwerin), who ruled from 1329-1360. Nicolaus I was more of a wheeler-dealer type, buying and selling properties, making deals rather than by brute force. His son Otto V, however, reverted to old traditions as indicated earlier in this manuscript. We may safely assume that Otto V did not have a nice personality. The relationship between him and his son Nicolaus (who ultimately succeeded him as Nicolaus II) was so bad that the latter banded together with the Noble Baldwin von Steinfurt and his son Ludolph and several others for mutual protection. Otto V managed to get himself captured in Tekenenburg and died soon after that humiliation (or maybe because of it?)
Nicolaus II ruled from 1388 till 1400 (died in 1426). Unfortunately, having been raised in such a rough and warlike environment, Nicolaus II considered such a disposition as par for the course, something expected of him and this, in turn, may explain the animosity between him and his father. After a period of roughhousing, especially in the Ems Land, the ruling powers in Münster and Osnabrück decided that enough was enough. The Kloppenburg was declared to be ‘castrum, praedonum perfugium’, a stronghold that was the refuge of robbers.
Temporarily putting aside their own long-standing differences, Bishop Dietrich of Osnabrück, Bishop Otto of Münster, together with the townships of Osnabrück and Münster, banded together and, gathering reinforcements from victims of the Grafs of the Kloppenburg, they laid siege to the Burg.
As they knew each other and their own foibles all too well, they had signed a pact in advance, agreeing on how to divide the Kloppenburg realm in four equal parts, more or less based on what had been taken from them in the past. An ombudsman with the mandate to settle any differences that might arise within fourteen days was designated.
The siege, which started on June 29, 1393, lasted 54 days. The fighting was fierce and bloody and the occupants of the Kloppenburg defended themselves valiantly, but by August 22, 1393.it was all over. The allies then marched up to the Burg at Friesoyte, which had always been considered to be impregnable. In spite of an even stronger defense than in Essen, it fell as well. After the capture of the Burg Schnappe near Barszel, this campaign was successfully concluded on March 21, 1394. The bishops of Münster and Osnabrück each designated a resident Drost (bailiff) at the Kloppenburg site. However, the area had suffered so severely and for such a long time under the Tekeneburger Counts as well as from a pestilence that had raged there for forty years, that the Osnabrücker occupiers found it almost impossible to sustain themselves.
The Münster forces could be better provisioned from Vechta which earlier had been under Münster jurisdiction. For a payment of 1100 Rheinische Goldgulden this area was permanently assigned to Münster and from then on it has been designated as ‘das Münstersche Amt Kloppenburg’. And thus it came about that the long war came to an end and that the power of the Teckelenburger Counts, under whom the Grafschaft (County) of Kloppenburg had become a distinct entity, was finally broken.
A point of interest – I visited the the St. Andreas Church in Cloppenburg twice. It shows its age with a very old base surmounted by obviously much later tower restorations, while the interior is decorated in white and gold, either baroque or rococo style. What is interesting, though, is a slab on the grounds behind the church with the inscription “Seit Pfarrgründung im Jahre 800 bis zum 1876 haben die Bürger von Crapendorf-Cloppenburg in diesem Innenhof der St.Andreas Kirche ihre letzte Ruhe gefunden. Sie mögen ruhen in Frieden”. (“Since the establishment of this parish in the year 800 and until 1876, the burgers from Crapendorf-Cloppenburg have found their final resting place in this inner court of the St. Andreas Church. May they rest in peace”). Quite a bit of history in just a few words! Yes, indeed!
The above presents a background of the Kloppenburg and of the name Kloppenburg. It does not establish how and when our people adopted that surname but it is almost a given that our family name in one way or another is connected with or derived from the Kloppenburg and its raucous history. Of course, there were people in earlier times that were related to us one way or the other, but there were not named Kloppenburg prior to the founding and the existence of the Kloppen Burg. If we may paraphrase Jack Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner”, could it be that the people from that area, by way of identification, have claimed “Ich bin ein Kloppenburger” or “Ich bin von Kloppenburg”and that gradually the ‘von’ has been dropped? Doesn’t that leave us with a simple “Ich bin Kloppenburg”? (I am, or my name is, Kloppenburg).
And by the way, there still is a small town or village of Tecklenburg, about ten kilometers southwest of Osnabrück as the crow flies. Any takers?
According to data received from Hans Francksen the name Kloppenburg (with all its variations) was already widespread in the Oldenburg County in the 15th and 16th century. Records of people with our name have been found between 1428 and 1520 as merchants in Westerstede, in 1580 as dairy farmers in Seefelder Aussendeich, around 1550-1600 as farmers in Wüstenland, Hammelwarden, Moorriem and around Oldenburg. That very few official statistics were kept before 1650 makes it very difficult to find complete records of one’s forebears, here or anywhere in Europe.
Whatever information has survived the passage and the ravages of time and wars must be patiently extracted from rare, brittle and often incomplete and difficult to access old church records.