History of the sister city and friendship organization St. Marys and Lienen
There has been a connection
between Ladbergen und New Knoxville in Ohio for a long period through the
emigrants, who are in contact with their native country. Near New
Knoxville there are the cities Wapakoneta and St. Marys. Reverend Arnold
Meckstroth (retired priest), who lives in Otterbein, St. Marys, connected
Wapakoneta and Lengerich in 1993.
For 10 years St. Marys had been twinned with Hokudab-Cho in Japan and therefore they also wanted to take up the idea of Arnold Meckstroth concerning seeking a sister city relationship with a community in Germany. They wanted to improve international understanding.
Both Arnold Meckstroth and Dolores Fischbach from New Knoxville had specific ideas as to which community could be the best for St. Marys. The Reverend preferred the regional 3 L´s (Ladbergen, Lengerich und Lienen). But relational reasons also played a part in their decision, because many emigrants had settled in this US region in the 18th century.
A connection between Lienen and St. Marys was suggested and the mayor of St. Marys, William T. Sell, sent literature and a video to Germany. He invited the inhabitants of Lienen to visit St. Marys. His aim was to visit both communities and to deepen the friendship between the people as well as to build up an annual school exchange program. Furthermore, he also wanted to get in touch with business people and local industrial firms.
When the couple Arnold and Martha Meckstroth travelled to Ladbergen in October 1994 again, Arnold Meckstroth put the orders from St. Marys to find a sister city into action and arranged a meeting with the deputy mayor Alfred Gintaut, the community director Heinz Karrenbrock and the priest of Lienen, Dr. Wilhelm Wilkens. Arnold Meckstroth brought information material from St. Marys with him and Lienen gave him some informative literature to take back to St. Marys.
On 15th December, 1994 an official meeting took place in St. Marys, where those responsible discussed the possibility of a relationship with Lienen. At that time the Americans were continuing with their interests and plans, whereas Lienen was reacting reservedly.
A short time before Christmas 1994, Bill Sell sent his best wishes to the community of Lienen and asked for further information and a video. After a report in the local newspaper on 31st December, 1994 Reinhard Blömker wrote a letter and promised to send a tape. However, he did not mention the discussed twinning. The municipal council and the HF-committee were to talk about this in January 1995. The municipal council of St. Marys also wanted to make a decision in January.
Arnold Meckstroth sent a list of emigrants´ names who were recorded in both Lienen and St. Marys.
On 9th January the HF-committee decided: „The friendship should only be entered into if the citizens supported it. Therefore, we agree to invite the citizens of Lienen to a meeting conducted by the mayor of Lienen to hear the opinion of the people.” This agreement was signed by Mr. Blömker, Mr. Gintaut and Mr. Essmeier.
In the local paper of 1st February, 1995 there was a report about the American plans. They wanted to visit Germany with approx. 20 to 40 people in September 1995 and stay 4 to 5 days in Lienen.
On 8th February, 1995 the citizens of Lienen had a meeting in the “Haus des Gastes”. All those present were for the friendship with St. Marys and that evening they found 15 host families for the US visitors. The local government were impressed by the positive feedback. At last they were prepared to start a dialogue with St. Marys and announced an official invitation for the visit in September. This was done by letter dated 24th February, 1995 to William Sell, mayor of St. Marys, signed by Mr. R. Blömker and Mr. Karrenbrock.
On 4th July, 1995 there was a second meeting at the “Haus des Gastes” conducted by Horst Murken (mayor of Lienen). This time the organisation team had more host families than they needed for the 25 visitors from St. Marys. After allocating the guests host families they talked about the program, for example, church service, walk through the village, a tour with a covered wagon and a farewell ceremony.
On Saturday, 16th September 1995 everything was ready. The citiziens of Lienen waited in front of the “Haus des Gastes” for the American guests and their first visit to Germany. Both were eager to meet each other, as their first contact had been by letter. The guests were welcomed with coffee and cake and a speech by the mayor, Host Murken. Then they travelled to the homes of their hosts.
During the days that
followed, the group had a full program:
- low German service in the Protestant Church conducted by the priest Arnold Meckstroth
- a walk through the village with Hanna Schmedt
- a slide show from St. Marys with Arnold Meckstroth at the “Haus des Gastes”
- a covered wagon tour through the country around Lienen
- the farewell celebration at Baumkamp with the male voice choir, the music club, the folk dance group and the 1974 dance sport club
- the planting of an oak tree at the south of the pond in memory of St. Marys first visit to Lienen
During this visit many new friendships developed, which were to remain in the future. After leaving Lienen our American friends travelled to the Rhine and on to Heidelberg.
After the Americans returned to Ohio, Lienen had a rest. The deputy mayor of Lienen, Willi Engels, started to organize the plan for a first visit to St. Marys at the end of the year.
After an appeal in the local paper at the beginning of 1996 a lot of people from Lienen were interested in visiting St. Marys for the first time. They wanted to get to know more about the village and to meet their new friends again.
Willi Engels organised the journey and his contact was Mrs Pyles, development manager of St. Marys. At the beginning, many letters went from Lienen to St. Marys and back. The visitors from Lienen were to be a part of a presentation of Lienen one evening and therefore the people started to learn sketches, songs and they also organised a slide show about Lienen. The Americans let us know how much they were looking forward to meeting the visiting group from Lienen.
On 30th July 1996 a group of 35 people set off on their tour to the USA. Tired, but in a good mood the people from Lienen arrived in St. Marys after a 21-hours-journey. Ray Barber picked up the group from the Cincinnati airport. The host families, mayor Greg Freewalt and former mayor William Sell gave the travellers a warm welcome in St. Marys. After short welcoming speeches everybody went home with their host families.
In St. Marys
there were also many activities on the program:
- official welcome of the visitors from Lienen in Memorial Park
- plantation of a friendship tree near Memorial Park
- bus tour through St. Marys and to the neighbour towns, New Knoxville, New Bremen, Minster and Wapakoneta
- boats tour on the Grand Lake St. Marys
- service at St. Pauls United Church of Christ with lunch afterwards
- grand evening with presentation of both towns
At the International Friendship Center St. Marys, the heads of the German and American groups signed a special contract about the formal appreciation of their friendship. Willi Engels (2nd deputy mayor of Lienen) and Hanna Schmedt represented the German side and Greg Freewalt (mayor of St. Marys), Arnold Meckstroth, William T. Sell and Marge Schmidt from the sister city organization of St. Marys, signed the certification.
Afterwards the group started their tour through the western states (California, etc.). They visited the gambling paradise, Las Vegas, the western coast with the cities San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Even during the tour
all members decided to keep and build up the friendship and contact with St. Marys. After the returning from Ohio the "Förderkreis zur Vertiefung der
Freundschaft zwischen Lienen und St. Marys" was founded on 14th
October 1996. The founder members Dr. vet. Gabi Schmiemann, Dr. vet.
Friedrich Schmiemann, Fritz Beineke, Gudrun Engels, Walter Remme, Horst Gerseker
and Willi Engels signed the statutes and articles. The election for the first
managing committee resulted in the following: President: Willi Engels, vice
chairman: Gerhard Schomberg, secretary: Dr. vet. Gabi Schmiemann, treasurer:
Hans Spanhoff, assessors: Hanna Schmedt, Claudia Driemeier, Horst Gerseker, Heike
Stegemann, cash auditor: Walter Remme, Gabi Schomberg, Simone Lagies.
The registration of the sister city organization was made and became "eingetragener Verein (e.V.)". The work in Lienen started and a busy mail contact between Willi Engels (Lienen) and Ray Barber (vice chairman of the sister city in St. Marys) began.
At the same time St. Marys also founded an organization, called "The St. Marys-Lienen Friendship Organization" (SMLFO).
President: old Major William T. Sell, secretary: Marge Schmidt
On Sunday, 3rd
1997 Lienen welcomed a group of 18 people from St. Marys for the second
stay. In the evening everybody met at the farm of Gabi and Friedrich
for a cosy get-together party.
On the following two days there were tours to Kattenvenne, Ladbergen, Lengerich and Tecklenburg as well as a visit to the flower farm, Heuger, at Glandorf and to the Vinnenberg cloister.
In the evenings everybody enjoyed a barbecue together at the “Reiterkrug" (family Beineke) and a grand evening at the restaurant "Jägerhof". Afterwards the group continued on their tour of Europe on 6th August 1997.
committees from Lienen and Lengerich had meetings at the end of 1997 and the
beginning of 1998 to consider better cooperation. Dr. Wesselmann (sister city
Lengerich) had a great deal of experience concerning problems, which could arise in
America, as well as Germany especially regarding the annual school exchange
program with St. Marys.
The organization from Lienen checked with the Memorial High School St. Marys if it was possible to offer a school exchange program for German students. This would take the strain off the High School in Wapakoneta. St. Marys welcomed this idea. The managing committee received the offer that 3 students could go to St. Marys and stay there for max. 1 year. The only condition for a longer US-stay for students was the minimum age of 16. The sister city friendship organization in St. Marys paid the school fees. Dr. Gabi Schmiemann would be responsible for the school exchange program between Lienen and St. Marys. She worked closely together with Dr. Wesselmann.
In February 1998 the
friendship organization, or rather the municipal council, received the sad message
that William T. Sell had passed away. He died at the age of 66 years after a serious
As a result of this, the friendship organization between Lienen and St. Marys and the St. Marys-Lienen Friendship Organization (SMLFO) had lost one of his important founder and supporter. Bill Sell was mayor of St. Marys from 1982 - 1986 and 1990 – 1994. He had worked as a teacher and was also employed in the school office. Until his death he had been chairman of the SMLFO and had played a decisive role in setting up the sister city friendship.
- in May, a bicycle tour to Glandorf-Schwege to visit Spargelhof Toppheide
- in August the friendship organization organized a medieval dinner and crossbow shooting in Ostbevern-Vadrup
- in November the committee welcomed Martha and Arnold Meckstroth to Lienen, where they talked a lot together over a strong, hot winter punch.
At the end of 1998 Lienen began to plan for the next visit to our new and old friends in St. Marys. A group of 42 people travelled to St. Marys for the second visit in July 1999. The welcome was again friendly and warm. Many new friendships were made and old friendships deepened. The SMLFO insisted on planning a varied program for the 5-day stay:
- a barbecue with
hosts and friends at the Friendship-Center
- a church service at the Zion Lutheran Church
- a boat tour on the Grand Lake St. Marys
- tours together with the host families, e.g. to a bicycle museum in New Bremen or a visit to St. Charles monastery in Carthagena
- a visit to Amish country in Indiana (Armishville)
- company tours in St. Marys: to BRW (owned by Ray Barber), GSW (German company from Witten), OMNI (owned by Greg Freewalt) and FLUORPOWER (owned by Mark Langsdon)
- a grand farewell party at the Friendship-Center with entertainment
The group travelled from St. Marys via Pittsburg, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York to Boston and then onto Niagara Falls and Toronto.
- in May, hiking tour through the Teutoburger Forest to Bad Iburg
In October 2000 a one-week-tour to Hungary was the highlight of that year. Before the group arrived in the capital city Budapest, they made a stop-over in Passau. After a few days in Budapest sightseeing and trips to Esztergom, Vidagrad and Szentendre, they went on to Puszta and Harta, a German-speaking village where Willi Engels had had contacts from decades. The group drove back to Wien along the Balaton lake. Of course, sightseeing and a visit to Heurigen did not go amiss on the way back. Many of the friendship organization members found this tour fascinating.
- in January, a winter hiking tour through the Teutoburger forest
- in May, a bicycle tour through the agricultural area Holzhausen and Meckelwege to
The third visit by the Americans to Lienen was in July 2001. The members of the group were welcomed at Haus des Gastes and during their stay, trips to Münster and Bad Rothenfelde were on the program. In Münster they went on a sightseeing walk through the old town and also visited the old mill museum. The salt works at Bad Rothenfelde was also on the itinerary for the American guests. An official evening at Kruse farm was organized by the friendship committee with entertainment.
Before the Americans continued their tour through Germany and Europe the committee prepared breakfast for them on the last morning at the sport center in Lienen. The group begin the next leg of the tour well fortified.
- in May, a bicycle tour to Brochterbeck
- in August some members travelled to our capital city, Berlin, for a long weekend. The BuGa (German garden show) in Potsdam and a visit of the parliament in Berlin were on the itinerary of this trip.
In February 2002 Willi Engels died suddenly at the age of 70. This meant that the friendship between Lienen and St. Marys had lost one of its important founders and supporters. Willi Engels was the president of the managing committee since the foundation of the friendship organization between Lienen and St. Marys.
During to this sad loss, the friendship organization had to call an extraordinary meeting. The members had to elect a new president and vice chairman. President: Gerhard Schomberg, vice chairman: Dr. vet. Freidrich Schmiemann
- in February, a winter hiking tour to the forest restaurant Malepartus
- in June, Brunch at Schmiemann farm
- in October, a bicycle tour to Ladbergen
In August 2003 the next group from Lienen set off on its third visit to St. Marys. After a long flight via Atlanta to Dayton the host families were waiting at the airport and picked up the group. They had organized a welcome-party at the Grand Lake St. Marys.
An extensive program was also organized for their guests from Lienen:
- a trip to Archbold, approx. 1 hour drive from von St. Marys, and a visit to Sander Village, an open-air museum with old buildings such as school, church, flats, etc.
- on Labor Day Weekend a tour to Piqua, to Johnston Farm for the Piqua Heritage Festival of Ohio wilderness frontier
- planting of a fir tree at the Friendship Center together with Kathy Langsdon, mayor Greg Freewalt, Gerhard Schomberg and Friedrich Schmiemann
- friendship party with entertainment and a good atmosphere.
After a few wonderful days in St. Marys the group traveled to Atlanta, where they set off on a fourteen-day tour to the Southern States e.g. Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida.
In June 2004 the
friendship organization offered their members a 3-day tour to Dresden and into the Elbsandstone mountains and
many people participated. As well as a
sightseeing tour through the new town of Dresden there was also a walk through
the old town. An addition trip to the Elbsandstone Mountains to Königstein fort and a boat tour on the Elbe were on the program. On the way to
Dresden the group visited Meißen and its porcellan production.
They also visited the hunting castle Moritzburg on the way back to Lienen.
Further activities 2004:
- in June, a winter hiking tour through the Teutoburger Forest to the restaurant Wittmann
At the beginning of March 2005 we received the news of the death of Martha Meckstroth, the be loved wife of reverend Arnold Meckstroth. She died at the age of 95 at the residential home in Otterbein. The couple had been happing married for more than 73 years.
In July 2005 the 10-year anniversary of the
zur Vertiefung der Freundschaft
Lienen und St. Marys / Ohio
organization between Lienen and St. Marys / Ohio - will be celebrated.
We arel also expecting a group from St. Marys for their fourth visit from 18th – 21st July 2005. We are celebrating the 10-year anniversary of our friendship on 19th July at the restaurant Wittmann.
- in January, a winter hiking tour through the Teutoburger Forest to the forest restaurant Malepartus.
to the beginning
Continuation of the History