Groningen, Holland (Province) - Encyclopedia

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GRONINGEN the most northerly province of Holland, bounded S. by Drente, W. by Friesland and the Lauwers Zee, N. and N.E. by the North Sea and the mouth of the Ems with the Dollart, and on the S.E. by the Prussian province of Hanover. It includes the islands of Boschplaat and Rottumeroog, belonging to the group of Frisian islands. Area, 887 sq. m.; pop. (1900) 299,602. Groningen is connected with the Drente plateau by the sandy tongue of the Hondsrug which extends almost up to the capital. West, north and north-east of this the province is flat and consists of sea-clay or sand and clay mixed, except where patches of low and high fen occur on the Frisian borders. Low fen predominates to the east of the capital, between the Zuidlardermeer and the Schildmeer or lakes. The south-eastern portion of the province consists of high fen resting on diluvial sand. A large part of this has been reclaimed and the sandy soil laid bare, but on the Drente and Prussian borders areas of fen still remain. The so-called Boertanger Morass on the Prussian border was long considered as the natural protection of the eastern frontier, and with the view of preserving its impassable condition neither agriculture nor cattle-rearing might be practised here until 1824, and it was only in 1868 that the building of houses was sanctioned and the work of reclamation begun. The gradual extension of the seaward boundaries of the province owing to the process of littoral deposits may be easily traced, a triple line of sea-dikes in places marking the successive stages in this advance. The rivers of Groningen descending from the Drente plateau meet at the capital, whence they are continued by the Reitdiep to the Lauwers Zee (being discharged through a lock), and by the Ems canal (1876) to Delfzyl. The southeastern corner of the province is traversed by the Westerwolde Aa, which discharges into the Dollart. The railway system belongs to the northern section of the State railways, and affords communication with Germany via Winschoten. Steam-tramways also serve many parts of the province. Agriculture is the main industry. The proportion of landowners is a very large one, and the prosperous condition of the Groningen farmer is attested by the style of his home, his dress and his gig. As a result, however, partly of the usual want of work on the grasslands in certain seasons, there has been a considerable emigration to America. The ancient custom called the beklem-recht, or lease-right, doubtless accounts for the extended ownership of the land. By this law a tenant-farmer is able to bequeath his farm, that is to say, he holds his lease in perpetuity.

The chief agricultural products are barley, oats, wheat, and in the north-east flax is also grown, and exported to South Holland and Belgium. On the higher clay grounds cattle-rearing and horse-breeding are also practised, together with butter and cheese making. The cultivation of potatoes on the sandgrounds in the south and the fen colonies along the Stads-Canal invite general comparison with the industries of Drente (q.v.). Hoogezand and Sappemeer, Veendam and Wildervank, New and Old Pekela, New and Old Stads-Canal are instances of villages which have extended until they overlap one another and are similar in this respect to the industrial villages of the Zaan Streek in North Holland. The coast fisheries are considerable. Groningen (q.v.) is the chief and only large town of the province. Delfzyl, which was formerly an important fortress for the protection of the ancient sluices on the little river Delf (hence its name), has greatly benefited by the construction of the Ems (Eems) shipcanal connecting it with Groningen, and has a good harbour with a considerable import trade in wood. Appingedam and Winschoten are very old towns, having important cattle and horse markets. The pretty wood at Winschoten was laid out by the Society for Public Welfare (Tot Nut van het Algemeen) in 1826.

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