Monday, August 14, 2017

How Husum got its name


Long before our memories began, and writers recorded history, someone built a house next to the Wadden Sea where dry land meets the tidal flats and salt marshes. By the grey shore and the grey sea where the fog lies heavy all year long, where the swamping seas come.

This someone thought he and his family would be safe from the storms, but he was wrong. Surely, it must have happened many times before history records the event, that of the storm and the sea surging over the land.

This house was built well.

House, hus, huis, haus at Husembro

The foundation was made of stone to prevent settling and keep out the rats, but because stone was scarce, the main part of the house was built of logs or lumber milled from the trees with a thatched roof to keep out the rain during the long, chilly, windy, and mostly cloudy winters. As is still the custom in a few such houses, the barn were the precious cattle were kept was attached to the house, so as to protect the cattle but also to keep the house warm.

Along the coastline, farmers raised crops and cattle and geese. The coastline was dotted with small fishing villages that fished the North Sea for cod and other fish. And when there was a surplus of these items, the farmers and villagers took their crops and cattle and geese and fish south to the larger cities like Amsterdam where they could be traded for money and necessaries.

Our legendary house stood for many years. Locals would have referred to it as the house by the bridge. And when they spoke in their native languages, Danish, Dutch, German and Frisian, they would have said Hus, Huis, Haus, and Hus. The pastor at the church who wrote in Latin would have changed its spelling to Husem or Husum.

 Let us move on now and speak of the first time that history records the name of Husum.

In 1252, it is recorded that King Abel of Denmark lead an army to the coast of the Wadden Sea to impose taxes on the stubborn and independent Frisians who farmed and fished and lived there. Near the bridge by an ancient house, an arrow struck the unlucky king and he died. His death might have been God’s revenge for it is hinted at in the historical records that Abel murdered his brother King Erik Ploughpenny to obtain the throne. History records the place as “husembro” (the house by the bridge).

Now, return again to the history books where it is written that in 1362 a disastrous storm tide, know thereafter as the "Grote Mandrenke," (Great Man Drowning) surged along the coastline, flooded Husum, and carved out an inland harbor. This event put Husum on the map. A seaport developed, businesses came, and houses grew up around the bridge and the house that once stood alone.

Norstrand and Husem

The maps that came in time named this little village and did so in the Latinized spelling, Husem or Husum, which is what it is called today.

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