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A town named Merkelbach
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Merckelbachs by other names
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From Merkelbeek to Märckelbach:
A Social History with Deep Roots

Revision: December 21, 2011; data from December 2010
Chapter 5.  Are we alone?  

Three decades or so ago, Merkelbach was a small farming community eking out an existence in Germany's Westerwald. Since that time, with well-placed financial support, it has developed into a viable community of senior citizens with an overall population of about 435. Merkelbach lies right on Bundesstraße 413, which connects Bendorf, near Koblenz, to Hachenburg. The nearest Autobahn interchanges are in Dierdorf and Neuwied, names we encountered along the way up towards the Merkelbach clan's Grenzhausen branch. Peter Merckelbach and Margaretha NN. and their children lived in Dierdorf. Peter's brother Johann George, tenant of Hof Merckenbergh (later known as Hof Merckelbach) lived in Neuwied.  3A

What else did we learn about this hamlet? That its existence was first documented in 1418 and that its origins were probably a stone's throw north-west from its present center, in the direction of Laad, wherever that is. And that its name derives from Markel and Bach; and that Markel is another word for Eichelhäher, a jay, presumably one that pecks away at acorns. And that it used to have another name, Merkelbeck—Jay's beak, I presume. And that meteorologists know its environs as the Merkelbach Regio which is full of web cameras used by hobbyists to track weather conditions.*  5

And, most endearingly, we noticed that Merkelbachers have a sense of humor, at any rate, those people who put up the community's website.  6

I just love maps. They help us by filling out vague notions, gluing them together into a well-ordered whole. Here is a modern map of the region where most Mer(c)kelbachs have lived for centuries. It includes most of The Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany; it stretches from Groningen in the north to Strasbourg in the south so as to accommodate all our clan's branches. Pointer A marks the Merkelbach we visited a moment ago.  8

Moving on to our next map, it shows a "Googled" tour of where the Dahlen/Soest/Badenweiler and Grenzhausen branches used to live. The entire tour is within the borders of today's Germany. Point of this exercise is to see if geography supports our current understanding of this part of the Merckelbach genealogy. We'll begin in C, Dahlen (now Rheindahlen) and follow Gottfried Merckelbach to B, Soest where he became a prominent citizen. That is a distance of 160 km and the quality of roads in those days were a far cry from that of our roads today. Well, for the rest of the tour, why not simply tabulate it in its entirety. For clarity we need two maps, of different scales.  10

   C Dahlen (now Rheindahlen) - B Soest (160 km): Gottfried Merckelbach × Agathe Deppe
   C Dahlen - D Alfter (88 km): Peter Merckelbach × Dinah NN.
   D Alfter - I Vielbach (81 km): same Peter
   I Vielbach - H Dierdorf (11 km): Peter M. × Margaretha NN.
   H Dierdorf - G Marienhausen (3 km): Johannes M. × Gertrude Christine NN.
   I Vielbach - R Neuwied (36 km): Johann Georg M. × NN.
   R Neuwied - M Selters (41 km)
   M Selters - L Oberdiebach (97 km)
   R Neuwied - O Merkelbach (40 km): a short side trip we made
   R Neuwied - V Grenzhausen (now Höhr-Grenzhausen) (25 km): Johannes Henricus M. × Maria Clauer
   V Grenzhausen - U Mehren (76 km): Johannes Wilhelm M., born 1700
   R Neuwied - S Bogel (46 km): Johann Wilhelm M., son of Johann George M.
   S Bogel - T Großalmerode (276 km): Peter M. x Anna Catharina NN.  

Considering the extraordinary long distance from Bogel to Großalmerode, one might be concerned about the place of Peter M., the one who married Anna Catherina, in our family tree. Not to worry, however: Großamerode church records refer to this Peter as hailing from Koblenz (ref.). Peter's spouse, Anna Catharina, is from there, a subject we already touched on in the previous chapter. Finally, coming back to the question posed a few paragraphs back, do all persons thus far recorded as members of the Dahlen/Soest and Grenzhausen branches really are the only Mer(c)kelbachs to have lived there?—we still do not have a satisfactory answer. Up to this point it appears plausible they all do.  14

Another matter worth considering here is the current spread of Mer(c)kelbachs around the world. I do not know of any way to get precise information, but we ought to get a fair idea from consulting telephone books. Here are two maps obtained from the website of the Gouden Gids, the Dutch telephone book:  15

Merckelbach in Nederland Merkelbach in Nederland
From the Dutch telephone book:
Merckelbachs on the left; Merkelbachs on the right. (The images shown were captured in Dec. 2010; the links are current.)  16

A tabulation, made in Dec. 2010, that shows more detail may be in order:

N. Holland416612
Z. Holland-211311
N. Brabant1-6313-

For an instant we wondered about the relatively large number of Merkelbach telephone numbers in the province of North Branbant—63. Might that point to the origin of some other, distinct Merkelbach family? A closer look, however, revealed that 20 of them are found in the industrial city Eindhoven (think Philips!) and another 30 within a dozen km around Eindhoven. No reason, therefore, for suspecting there exists such a distinct family of Merkelbachs with origins in North Brabant. Their large concentration is purely a matter of jobs in an industrialized society.  17

As a next step, let's have a peek at adjoining Belgium and, especially, Germany. Belgium's telephone book lists 18 numbers for Marckelbach, 8 for Merkelbach, and 7 for Merckelbagh. And in Germany we find 232 numbers for Merkelbach but a surprisingly low 5 for Merckelbach, plus a solitary Merckelbagh. Here are two maps from 2008 that show the distribution of Merckelbach and Merkelbach numbers in Germany:  18

Merckelbach in Germany Merkelbach in Germany
From Verwandt.de:
Merckelbachs on the left; Merkelbachs on the right. (The images shown were captured in Dec. 2010; the links are current.)  19

In 1925, a Friedrich Wilhelm Merkelbach, who referred to himself as "Rektor, Essen-Altessen," prepared an extensive genealogy of the Grenzhausen branch. He credits a Prof. Dr. W. Merkelbach for his cooperation. With two such solid citizens, we should have in hand a reliable piece of work, a representation of which is found here in tree format. Progenitors of the branch are Johannes (or Johannes Henricus) Merkelbach and Maria Clauer. Johannes was born around 1630 and earned his living as an Eulermeister, a specialized potter, and who also served as a Kirchmeister (a person who took care of the local church, I guess). According to a genealogy prepared about 50 years later by a Wilmar Merkelbach, Johannes was the father of three sons and a daughter, although that older genealogy lists only one son, Peter. Going by that older, the rector's document, Peter fathered four sons over the period 1688 - 1700. The number of sons in subsequent generations were 11, 12, 19, 28, 36 and 41. Years of birth of those 41 descendants range from 1823 to 1922. The point I wish to make is that, considering that the numbers of offspring becoming more accurate with better retrieval of genealogical information over time, the growth of the Grenzhausen branch alone may well account for today's entire 232 telephone listings of the name Merkelbach. This then leaves a measly five Merckelbachs with a ck. Upon checking I found that they are living members of the Dutch Patriciate, a branch made up with many people who have greatly contributed to society and to whom a chapter is in the offing.  20

Where then are all those other Merckelbachs, the scions of the Dahlen/Soester/Badenweiler and Grenzhausen branches, the offspring of the Thimister/Frankenthal branches, the descendants of the Hottorf branch? As far as the ladies are concerned, they may have married and lived happily ever after under their husbands' names. But what about the men? Quite a few Marckelbachs, etc. live now not too far away from Thimister, but as for the other branches, their male lineages appear to have died out. Or they decided not to have telephones. Putting two and two together, all this accounting hardly leaves room for a distinct clan of Merkelbachs with its origin in Merkelbach!  21

There are some Merckelbachs scattered in other countries, notably in the United States, but also in Switzerland (tel. nos: 2 Merckelbach, 16 Merkelbach), Italy (?), and Korea (1?). Some other Marckelbachs used to live in Indonesia, before WW-II; there still may be some children of an Annie Marckelbach. Here is a record of Merkelbachs who arrived at Ellis Island, a small island in New York harbor, where from 1892 to 1954 over twelve million immigrants entered the United States:**  22

   Berthe Merkelbach, single, age 25, from Liege, Belgium, arrived with the "Lapland" from Antwerp on Oct. 2, 1911.
   Johannes Merkelbach, married, age 43, from Gestel, The Netherlands, arrived with the "Lapland" from Antwerp on Nov. 13, 1911.
   Carl Merkelbach, married, age 39, from Hohscheid, Germany, arrived with the "President Grant" from Cuxhaven on Dec. 24, 1913.
   Clasina M. Merkelbach, married, age 52, from Rotterdam, arrived with the "Nieuw Amsterdam" from Rotterdam on Dec. 5, 1914.
   Johannes W. Merkelbach, age 20, from Rotterdam, arrived with the "Noordam" from Rotterdam on Aug. 21, 1919.
   Walter Merkelbach, single, age 22, from Bale, Switzerland, arrived with the "Nieuw Amsterdam" from Boulogne-sur-Mer on Feb. 13, 1921.
   Jean G. Marckelbach, married, age 29, from Rijswijk, The Netherlands, arrived with the "Nieuw Amsterdam" from Boulogne-sur-Mer on Oct. 14, 1922.
   Johanna E. Marckelbach, married, age 30, from Rijswijk, The Netherlands, arrived with the "Nieuw Amsterdam" from Boulogne-sur-Mer on Oct. 14, 1922.
   Wanda Merckelbach, married, age 47, ...., arrived with the "Reliance" from Hamburg on Aug. 17, 1923.
   Karl Merkelbach, married, age 49, from Leichlingen, Germany, arrived with the "Reliance" from Hamburg on Oct. 12, 1923.
   Willy Merkelbach, single, age 20, from Leichlingen, Germany, arrived with the "Reliance" from Hamburg on Oct. 12, 1923.
   Helene Merkelbach, married, age 52, from Leichlingen, arrived with the "Resolute" from Hamburg on Oct. 26, 1924.
   Paula Merkelbach, single, age 20, from Leichlingen, arrived with the "Resolute" from Hamburg on Oct. 26, 1924.
   Walter Merkelbach, single, age 19, from Coblenz, arrived with the "Albert Ballin" from Hamburg on Jan. 27, 1925. The vessel's manifest gives his father's name as Hugo Merkelbach, who, accoding to the genealogy prepared by Friedrich Wilhelm Merkelbach was a merchant living in Koblenz. Walter was born in Pfaffendorf, near Coblenz.  

The U.S. telephone book lists 69 numbers for Merkelbach and 5 numbers for Marckelbach. Wikipedia tells us that the first major emigration of Germans to America resulted in the founding of the Borough of Germantown in northwest Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania in 1683–1685. Mass emigration of Palatines began out of Germany in the early 18th century. In the spring of 1709, England's Queen Anne had granted refuge to about 7,000 Palatines who had sailed the Rhine to Rotterdam. From here about 3,000 were sent to America either directly, or through England, bound for William Penn's colony (Pennsylvania). The remaining refugees were sent to Ireland to strengthen the Protestant presence in the country. By 1710, large groups of Palatines had sailed from London, the last group of which was bound for New York. There were 3,200 Palatines on twelve ships that sailed for New York and approximately 470 died en route to America. In New York, under the new Governor, Robert Hunter, Palatines lived in camps and worked for British authorities to produce tar and pitch for the Royal Navy in return for their safe passage. They also served as a buffer on the frontier separating the French and Native Americans from the English colonies. In 1723, some 33 Palatine families, dissatisfied under Governor Hunter's rule, migrated from Schoharie, New York, along the Susquehanna River to Tulpehocken, Berks County, Pennsylvania, where other Palatines had settled. Another wave came during the Nine-Year War when French troopa devasted much of the Palatinate, a region East of the Rhine river.  24

A number of the Merkelbachs in the U.S. may well have descended from Hessian mercenaries who fought in the War of Independence (1775-1783) and decided to desert there rather than being shipped back to a rather unheimliche Heimat. Can't blame them, considering what we learned from the previous chapter's appendix.  25

Where are the descendants of those German refugees and deserters now? Let's consult the U.S. telephone directory again: about one-third of those 69 telephone numbers are in California; twenty in the New Jersey/New York area (remember, a large group of 17th-century migrants went to New York); a dozen in the states surrounding Pennsylvania, the remaining ones all over. I don't know how carefully American telephone books are put together, but four numbers are situated in the Canadian provinces Ontario and British Columbia! So, what about the so-called Pennsylvania Dutch (who are of German, not Dutch descend)? Not too many Merkelbachs among them, it appears. But then, the first wave of German migrants mentioned two paragraphs ago included Amish and Menonites (the "Plains People") from the Palatinate—probably not many Merkelbachs among them.  26


... and so, going by the numbers, the evidence tends to indicate that this scribe married into one big, happy family. Except for an unexpected, itsy-bitsy, teenie-weenie detail. A Merkelbach living in North Brabant and a descendant of our Soldier of Orange had their DNAs compared. They were found to be not related.

That could be significant.  27

Principal literature of which original copies consulted:
    Some international telephone books
Passenger Search The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation
Backups of external webpages  28

Temper of the times  29

To make up for the paucity of dates in this chapter, I shall pick years of birth of a member of each generation in the Grenzhausen branch. Here goes:  29A

• February 22: Native American Quadequine introduces popcorn to English colonists.
• March 3: A Dutch fleet, sent by the Dutch West India Company, captures Recife from the Portuguese, establishing Dutch Brazil.
• March 22: Massachusetts Bay Colony outlaws the possession of cards, dice, and gaming tables.  

• September 25: Samuel Pepys took his first cup of tea, an event duly recorded in his diary

• November 28: At Gresham College, twelve men, including Christopher Wren (architect, astronomer, geometer, mathematician-physicist), Robert Boyle (natural philosopher, inventor, theologist, author of "The Sceptical Chymist"), John Wilkins (natural philosopher, Bishop of Chester), and Sir Robert Moray (soldier, statesman, diplomat, judge, spy, Freemason, natural philosopher) decided to found "a College for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematicall Experimentall Learning" (now better known as the Royal Society).
• Also that year: Friedrich Wilhelm, the Elector of Prussia, forms a permanent standing army. Friedrich Wilhelm is known for delegating responsibility to his commanders: he set the goals, his commanders were responsible for executing them.  29C

• November 23: A group of 1,500 Old Believers immolate themselves to avoid capture when troops of the tsar lay siege to their monastery on Lake Onega. Old Believers were Russian religious dissenters who refused to accept liturgical reforms imposed upon the Russian Orthodox Church by the patriarch of Moscow Nikon (1652-1658).
• Also that year: Edward Lloyd opens the London coffee house that soon becomes a popular meeting place for shipowners, merchants, insurance brokers and underwriters. In time the business association they form will outgrow the coffee house premises and become Lloyd's of London.  

• March 8: Persia's Safavid dynasty falls during a bloody revolt of the Afghan people, in The Battle of Gulnabad.
• April 5 (Easter Sunday): Dutch admiral Jakob Roggeveen lands on what is now Easter Island.
• May 5: Pennsylvania colony enacts a statute requiring all persons importing any person previously convicted of sodomy to pay £5 for each such incoming person.
• December 20: After the longest reign by a Chinese Emperor in history, the Kangxi Emperor dies and is succeeded by his son Yinzhen.
• Also that year: Modern music theory finds definition in Jean-Philippe Rameau's "Treatise on Harmony."
• Also that year: Peter the Great of Russia, engaged in a struggle with the existing heredetary nobility, creates the Table of Ranks. It recognizes three kinds of service: military, civil, and judicial. In each of these there are 14 grades of status according to service rather than according to birth or seniority. Henceforth even noblemen by birth, many of whom were illiterate, started at the bottom and their rise through the ranks became dependent on native ability, education, and devotion to the state's interests. The outcome: An educated class of noble bureaucrats.  

• February 5: The Great Holocaust of the Sikhs is carried out by the forces of Ahmed Shah Abdali in Punjab. Over 500,000 men, women, and children perished.
• July 9: Catherine II becomes empress of Russia upon the deposition of her husband Peter III.
• September: Empress Go-Sakuramachi succeeds her brother Emperor Momozono on the throne of Japan.
• Also that year: Jean-Jacques Rousseau publishes "The Social Contract" and "Émile," a treatise on education.  

• January 1: The Act of Union 1800 brings about the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
• January 1: Giuseppe Piazzi discovers the dwarf planet Ceres.
• May 10: The pasha of Tripoli declares war on the United States by having the consulate's flagpole chopped down.
• October 17: A coup d'état is staged in The Netherlands to form the Batavian Republic.
• November 16: Founded by Alexander Hamilton, the first edition of the "New York Evening Post" is printed. Highly respected in the 19th century, it since deteriorated into a sensationalist tabloid, in 1980 declared a force for evil by the "Columbia Journalism Review." One of its most famous headlines: "Headless Body in Topless Bar."
• Also that year: Aachen is officially annexed by France.
• Joseph-Marie Jacquard invents a loom controlled by punched cards.
• Philippe Pinel publishes his "Traité médico-philosophique sur l'aliénation mentale; ou la manie," describing a humane approach to managing psychiatric hospitals.
• Johann Wilhelm Ritter discovers ultraviolet radiation.
• Carl Friedrich Gauss's "Disquisitiones Arithmeticae" is published.  

• February 28: The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad is incorporated. It is the first railroad in America to offer commercial transportation of passengers and freight.
• March 16: "Freedom's Journal," the first African-American owned and published newspaper in the United States, is founded in New York City by John Russwurm.
• April: In Ottoman Algeria, Husain Dei slaps the French consul Decalina on the face. This led to war and French rule in Algeria.
• May 25: Romanian inventor Petrache Poenaru receives a French patent for the first fountain pen with a replaceable ink cartridge.
• July 14: Kingdom of Hawaii: The Diocese of Honolulu is founded.
• October 20: British, French, and Russian naval forces destroy the Turko-Egyptian fleet in the Battle of Navarino during the Greek war of independence from the Ottoman empire. This is the last naval action to be fought under sail alone.
• Also that year: In Laos, King Anouvong of Vientiane declares war on Siam and successfully attacks Nakhon Ratchasima. Later, the Siamese invade Vientiane and nearly destroy the whole city.
• Englishman John Walker invents the friction match. He names it Lucifer.
• Cairo University School of Medicine is established as the first African medical school in the Middle East.
• J. J. Audubon begins publishing "Birds of America."  

• February 22: Tennessee adopts a new constitution; it abolishes slavery.
• March 25: The "Claywater Meteorite" explodes just before reaching ground level in Vernon County, Wisconsin. Fragments with a combined mass of 1.5 kg are recovered.
• April 6: German chemicals producer Badische Anilin- und Sodafabrik (BASF) is founded in Mannheim.
• May 5: The first train robbery in the United States takes place in North Bend, Ohio.
• May 17: International Telegraph Union founded.
• May 23: Union troops parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC to celebrate the end of the American Civil War.
• July 2: William and Catherine Booth found The Christian Mission, later renamed the Salvation Army.
• July 4: Lewis Carroll publishes "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland."
• July 5: The U.S. Secret Service is founded.
• July 14: The summit of the Matterhorn in the Alps is reached for the first time; four of a party of seven die in a fall during the descent.
• December 24: Jonathan Shank and Barry Ownby form the Ku Klux Klan, to resist Reconstruction and intimidate "carpetbaggers" and "scalawags," as well as to repress freed slaves.
• Also that year: The first speed limit is introduced in Britain: 2 mph (3.2 km/h) in town and 4 mph (6.4 km/h) in the country.
• Gregor Mendel formulates his theories of biological inheritance, to be ignored for years.
• Francis Galton, polymath inventor of the weather map and the silent dog whistle, introduces eugenics, practices intended to improve the genetic composition of a population.
• The National Temperance Society and Publishing House is founded by James Black.  

The period covered here saw a lot of war. One of the most destructive conflicts in European history was the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), which was primarily fought in what is now Germany and thereby exposed the vulnerability of central Europe as a power vacuum. Naval warfare also reached overseas and shaped the colonial formation of future nations. Major impact was extensive destruction of entire regions, denuded by the foraging armies (bellum se ipsum alet). Famine and disease cut deeply into the population of the German states, Bohemia, the Low Countries, and Italy, while bankrupting most of the combattants. An estimated million men were under arms. Lack of financing made military discipline difficult; armies were expected to be largely self-funding from loot taken or tribute extorted from where they operated. The ensuing lawlessness imposed often severe hardship on those living in occupied territory. The war ended with the treaties of Osnabrück and Münster, part of the wider Peace of Westphalia.  29J

The war was initially fought largely as a religious conflict between Protestants and Catholics in the Holy Roman Empire, but disputes over the internal politics and balance of power within the Empire played a significant part. The war developed into a more general conflict and became more a continuation of the Bourbon–Hapsburg rivalry for European political pre-eminence. This, in turn, led to further warfare between France and the Hapsburg powers, and less specifically about religion.  29J1

Delegates from the warring parties met from 1643 to 1649, their negotions fluctuating while battles continued. Pure exhaustion made the final treaty a compromise. The treaty was condemned by the papacy. Pope Innocent X declared it "null, void, invalid, iniquitous, unjust, damnable, reprobate, inane and devoid of meaning for all time."  29J2

Another conflict, not be overlooked, is the Nine-Year War (1689–"97) during which French troops, under King Louis XIV, the "Sun King," pillaged the Palatinate, forcing many Germans to flee. Louis claimed the Palatinate as part of a system of defenses for France, but in the end, by the Treaty of Ryswick, the region remained free of French control. Subsequently, by 1702, the War of Spanish Succession began which lasted until 1713. French expansionism discouraged a struggle for better living conditions and many Palatines fled as refugees.  29K


Click on the map on this site called webcamgalore.  *   fn1

A fine map of the old-fasioned kind is the Atlas des Deutschen Reichs by Ludwig Ravenstein. The Memorial Library at the University of Wisconsin-Madison selected the 1883 copy as one of first in their digitization projects because of its usefulness for genealogists. The atlas helps in tracing the roots of families with origins in any part of the German empire from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. Besides Germany, the maps of this atlas also cover the bordering portions of present-day Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, the Russian Federation, Slovakia, and Switzerland. I have no clear idea how useful it is, but it is a beautiful map that, for one thing, clearly shows the river valleys and thereby, presumably, preferred routes for travel.  *   fn2

Copies of the original manifests of chips anchoring at Ellis Island can be found here.  *   fn3

One of those immigrants was my favorite grandfather, Cornelis ("Kees") Koopman. He could tell stories, you wouldn't believe and never let mere facts stand in the way of regaling his narratives. He could sing too; Home, Home on the Range and Foster's My Old Kentucky Home. I still remember the lyrics of School days, school days, dear old golden rule days .... To get away from hassles with his wife's, somewhat uppity family, he had moved to Transvaal, one of two Dutch republics left after the English had captured the rest of South Africa. There he got caught up by the Second Boer War and shipped back to The Netherlands, courtesy Field Marshal The Rt. Hon. Sir Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener, KG, KP, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCMG, GCIE, ADC, PC (yes, the very one of poster fame, but that came later) whose scorched earth policy destroyed Boer farms, slaughtered livestock, and moved women, children and the elderly into concentration camps where tens of thousands perished.

Back home, Kees decided to try his luck in America. On September 17, 1900, he arrived with the S.S. "Statendam" at Ellis Island, with wife and two two-year-old daughters plus all of 10 guilders (or dollars?). Immigration records show that he registered as a butcher. From his stories I know that he worked in a Chicago slaughterhouse. Life there was uncredibly hard as one may learn from Upton Sinclair's book "The Jungle." Subsequently, he moved to Fairhope, Alabama. Fairhope has, or until recently had, what was called, a single-tax colony. Land was leased from the corporation, tax diminishing upon development. The ideology behind this, it comes vaguely to mind, was something my grandfather was attracted to.

Tax Colony Cemetery in Fairhope Alabama, where Annie Koopman was buried at age 2. (Source.)

My mother was born in Fairhope, January 16, 1908, one of the many Koopman children of which quite a few died as infants. A gravemarker in the Fairhope Colony Cemetery has the name Annie Koopman on it; no dates. Apparently, the Koopmans didn't do well in the States; eventually they went back to Holland. After WW-I, he migrated to an area near Metz in France. Farmland there was cheap with what ruins the war had left standing. Apparently that third migrant experience was no success either. But could he tell stories, you would't believe! He never let mere facts get in the way of regaling them.  *   fn4

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