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Report on water drainage reveals names early settlers Hoogeveen

Pioneers looked after waterlocks

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

HOOGEVEEN – An October 1637 water drainage report which describes the condition of a number of water overflows (in Dutch a verlaat) provides crucial information about some of the original settlers in Hoogeveen, a peatbog colony east of Meppel. Documents discovered in the Van Echten estate archives also name the personnel who manned the waterlocks.

Owners of peatbogs harvested heating fuel for cities far and near through a backbreaking and labourious procedure. The result of the work was huge stacks of peatbricks (called turven) next to the waterways which made the peatbogs (veenderijen) accessible for freight barges.

Waterlocks’ personnel controlled the water levels in the main canal, the Hoogeveensche Vaart, so that the sailing barges could leave with their cargo. The waterlock masters also managed the water levels in the feeder canals by raising or dropping the beams as drainage thresholds (verlaat).

Each threshold had its own master, causing people to name a particular verlaat after its master. Hoogeveen’s first verlaat was called Mathijssenverlaat, the second Schoenmakersverlaat, and the third Lense Volkersverlaat. There were more than ten such locations in 1637.

The seventh verlaat received most attention in recent coverage on the 1637 report since peatbog company minutes expressly describe the reason for repair work. Managed by Boije Leewes, who also was a barge operator, he was to raise or lower the beam across the feeder canal as needed. Twelve years later, the Boijesverlaat is named again, now because the road next to the main canal required repair.

Local historian Albert Metselaar, a descendent of Boije Leeuwes, a Frisian migrant, remarks in his coverage of his archival research that Boije left numerous offspring in the region. He is the ancestor of the Booij (in North America spelled Booy) clan as well as the Fakens clan and the area’s Ten Cate or Ten Caat clans.