Sister Cities: Krummhörn and Grundy Center, Iowa

Pilsumer Leuchtturm

Pilsumer Leuchtturm, © Gemeinde Krummhörn

11.10.2018 - Article

On 16 October 2010, Johann Saathoff, the former mayor of Krummhörn, and the former Board Chairmann Mark A. Schildroth signed a partnership declaration in Grundy Center.

The first contact between the two communities, however, took place in previous decades. In 1995, the Ländliche Akademie Krummhörn (LAK) made a guest performance tour with the Low German musical Achter de Sünn an - The Way to Iowa (“Behind the Sun – The Way to Iowa”). Over 150 actors, musicians, and technicians were warmly received and taken in by host families. Hundreds of descendants of East Frisian immigrants - also from other US states - visited the performances.

The musical, accompanied by exhibitions and Low German lectures, was the initial spark for the foundation of the East Frisian Heritage Society. This institution is an association of descendants of East Frisian immigrants.

The LAK is a respected institution for the promotion of culture, which relies on financial contributions from the municipality of Krummhörn.

The idea for the musical arose because many East Frisians emigrated to the USA in the middle of the 19th century and cultivated farmland in the prairies of the Midwest. Some villages near Krummhörn lost more than a third of their population.

Even today, some older people in Iowa speak the East Frisian dialect. Many surnames in Grundy are of East Frisian origin.

Mickey Mouse and Jon Deere

In 1848, a blacksmith named Theis Smid emigrated from Krummhörn to Illinois, who in the following years encouraged numerous Krummhörners to follow him to America. Many from other parts of Europe also wanted to buy a piece of land at that time and farm it. However, ploughing the soil proved to be a major obstacle. The ploughs that were used were unsuitable. However, the blacksmith found that the prairie presented no greater problem than the tough, heavy clay soil of his homeland. All that was needed were the ploughs as they had been specially developed for the heavy marsh soil in East Frisia. He sent letters to his homeland to recruit blacksmiths, because he was soon unable to keep up with the production by himself.

In the end, Theis Smid sold his plough factory to John Deere, who was himself a blacksmith. Today, the American company John Deere is one of the world's largest producers of agricultural equipment.

Ub Iwerks is another man from Krummhörn worth mentioning: Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks created perhaps the most famous comic figure in the world at the end of the 1920s – Mickey Mouse.

The cartoonist’s birth name is Ubbe Ert Iwwerks. Iwerk's father, Eert Ubbe Iwwerks, came from Krummhörn and emigrated with his family to the United States in 1869. His son was born in Kansas in 1901.

The talented draughtsman met the same-aged Walt Disney in Kansas City in the 1920s, made friends with him and became his first employee. It is generally believed that Iwerks was the driving force behind Mickey Mouse in the early years and was instrumental in its development – without him, no Walt Disney company and no Mickey Mouse!

Iwerks directed 114 animated films and became a sought-after special effects expert. He has received numerous awards, including an Oscar.

Additional information about the community of Krummhörn:

The municipality of Krummhörn – located at the mouth of the river Ems – currently has about 12,500 inhabitants living in 19 villages on 159 square kilometers.

The main holiday resort is the fishing village of Greetsiel with the largest fleet of shrimp cutters on the German coast.

The church at Rysum houses the oldest playable organ in Europe. The organ's basic inventory dates back to around 1440.

In Krummhörn stands the highest and the smallest lighthouse of Germany (the Campener and Pilsumer lighthouse).

In Freepsum, one can find the lowest point of Germany at 2.5 meters below sea level. In general, about one third of the municipal area is below sea level.

The Wadden Sea National Park of Lower Saxony, which has been awarded World Heritage status, is situated on the approximately 15 km long levee line.

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