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Urbanisation and Prosperity
The peat extraction between the 16th and 19th century brought in a lot of money; turf was the new gold. Drenthe's population grew rapidly. Many labourers from other regions in the Netherlands and from Germany came to Drenthe to work in the turf industry. Still, it was only a small group of land owners, developers from Amsterdam and Leiden, and later the new farmers who really benefited from the wealth.
For a long time, Coevorden was the only city in Drenthe. On the route north, it was an important fortified town, which also served as the residence for the 'Drost' (reeve) of Drenthe. Coevorden was given city status as early as 1407. Because of the increase in peat extraction, Coevorden had to give up its position as most important trade town to Meppel in the 17th century.
Meppel, situated in one of the three sites from which Drenthe could be reached by ship, became the most important transit port for turf. The city had a direct connection to the Drentsche Hoofdvaart, Hoogeveense Vaart, and the Meppelerdiep. The city became home to wealthy merchants from the west and boatmen who sailed their boats on the canals. The city was expanded with new streets, named after the Amsterdam canals. For instance, Meppel also has a Herengracht, Keizersgracht, and Prinsengracht. Meppel was given city status in 1644.
New Villages and Cities
Even completely new villages and cities arose during the peat extraction. Hoogeveen, for example, was founded in 1636 by two investors from Leiden, Pieter Joostens Warmont and Johan van der Meer. They decided to build a new settlement where their peat labourers from Leiden could settle permanently. Van Gogh knew the town and described it in his many letters from the Drenthe peat colonies.
Emmen, now the second-largest city in Drenthe, only grew from a small angerdörf into a considerable city in the 19th century. Located in the south-east of the province, it was the last area where the peat industry got going. By extending the Hoogeveensche Vaart, Emmen could be reached and the last of the peat bogs could be extracted.
The Sense of Community Remains
The urbanisation of Drenthe had a big impact on the culture in Drenthe as well as the landscape. Despite that, the people of Drenthe always retained a strong sense of solidarity. Today the 'boermarken' and the 'naoberschap' are still symbols for the sense of community in Drenthe.