Ernest Thode discovered a 989-page book published in 1822 in Germany that related the story of the unlikely immigration to America in 1819 of an assortment of Swiss citizens, ranging from highest nobility to the poorest class. To his delight, this volume, translated as My Emigration to the United States in North America in the Spring of 1819 and My Return Home in the Winter of 1820, revealed that the emigrants included Mr. Thode’s wife’s ancestor Jacob Tisher.
The Gall/Tisher group, which ultimately established a permanent Swiss settlement in Monroe County, Ohio, was sponsored by a private commission led by Ludwig Gall, who also wrote the aforementioned account of the voyage. His group came on the Eugénie from Antwerp to New York and Perth Amboy, New Jersey. After Gall’s hired settlers dispersed for Ohio and the new immigration society he had created in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, failed, Gall himself returned to Switzerland.
The Gall expedition is not the only one to figure in Thode’s new account of early Swiss settlement. Arriving on the Columbia from Antwerp to New York and Philadelphia, also in 1819, the Stalder clan of Baron Rudolph de Steiguer’s paramour wound up in Athens County, Ohio, where they formed a wilderness colony. Nor was the Swiss interest in settling in America confined to Ohio. Another Swiss emigration commissioner, Samuel Reichenbach, was also preparing to buy a large tract of land in Arkansas Territory, but he died of yellow fever, probably in Arkansas Post, in 1820. Lastly, the family of Swiss merchant trader John Joseph Labarthe eventually settled in Louisiana and assimilated there.
Tisher’s and Steiguer’s serendipitous choices of settlement was dictated by the low level of the Ohio River they encountered in 1819. Mr. Thode discovered this in diaries kept by the travelers, which also added a human dimension to their travails in America, The author located the passenger lists for the Swiss arrivals at New York among Philadelphia baggage lists and in a French military archive in Brest, of all places! Swiss vital records also added detailed information on individuals. And more than 100 archivists, historians, genealogists, and librarians added bits and pieces to the story of these Swiss settlers, as now told by Thode.
How the stories of the Swiss began in common, even though they went their separate ways; how they were a product of the war, famine, and marriage laws that drove them out of Switzerland; how a noble humanitarian movement helped them; how they became connected with major historical figures; how they survived in the wildernesses of America; and how religions were imported and new ones founded are some of the themes covered in this book. Readers may also be surprised to encounter the names of Daniel Boone, Francis Scott Key, Aaron Burr, Albert Gallatin, Karl Marx, and many other historic figures on the fringes of the Swiss story.
Swiss Pioneers of Southeastern Ohio will appeal not only to the Tisher and Steiguer descendants in America but also to any number of Americans possessing one or more of the following surnames: Aeberhardt/Eberhard, Ames, Barber, de Steiguer/von Steiger, Fankhauser/Fankhouser/Frankhauser, Fearing, Finsterwald, Gysi/Gysy/Guise/Guyse/Guysi, Hässig/Hassig, Hugi, Jewett, Junod, Labarthe, Marti/Martin,Nüsperli/Nisperly, Nye, Oberholzer/Oberholser, Putnam, Reichenbach, Rüegsegger/Resecker, Schneider, Spittler, Sproat, Stalder, Tschäppätt/Tschappat, Tupper, Tüscher/Tisher, Uhl, Weiss/Wyss, Winterberger.