Vevay, Indiana, in Switzerland County, was founded in 1813. That means 2013 will be Vevay's bicentennial year. In preparation for this anniversary, we thought it would be useful to bring together the historical sources relating to Vevay and its settlers:
Newspapers for 1840 and 1853-1901 have been scanned and are available on the internet. Tina Lyons has prepared an index, including notices of births, marriage, deaths, and divorces, as well as estate sales and similar items of genealogical interest. On the index page, look for the link to the scanned newspapers, which will lead you to the specific issue and page (TIFF images, fairly good quality). Many of the death notices give exact ages in years, months, and days. This is a very important source to confirm the inscriptions in the Vevay Cemetery that have become too weathered to be read with certainty.
Mrs. Gex and her 6 children, Luke Oboussier, and James Dalmazzo arrived in Philadelphia on the Liberty in October, 1805. The ship had sailed from Amsterdam, chartered by Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler, one of the partners in a "Société" (a legal partnership) for the establishment of a new Swiss colony in the United States. The partners had recruited about a hundred adults whom they considered well qualified to set up a new colony. Including the children of the colonists, there were 162 passengers. However, some of the passengers, such as the Gex family, were apparently not part of the projected colony, since Mr. Gex himself had arrived at the Dufour settlement a few years earlier. The formation of the proposed colony was delayed when the assets of the Société proved to be tied up in the courts in South Carolina and France. These assets were claims against money the State of South Carolina had to pay for the lease, operation, and loss of the French ship Indien, which had been used as a privateer during the Revolutionary War. The money should have been paid to the owners of the ship, but the principal owner, the Prince of Luxembourg, had since gone bankrupt, and the other owners, members of the military unit called the "Légion de Luxembourg", had died or had sold their claims to others. The question of who the rightful claimants were remained stuck in the courts for many years without a clear resolution. One of the partners, Jaques Marcel of Lausanne, spent several years in Charleston, hoping to obtain a settlement. The other partners found employment in the Philadelphia area, and the colonists, at first assisted by Hassler from his own funds, eventually had to fend for themselves. Apart from the partners, my ancestor John Marcel, the small group that went to Vevay, and a few others, we do not know what became of the passengers.
My ancestor Jean Pierre Samuel Marcel (in America, "John Marcel") was born in 1771 in what is now the Canton of Vaud, Switzerland. After the death of his father in 1793, he operated a paper mill in the town of Bière. The mill employed 16 persons, but it was heavily mortgaged. After the Revolution of 1798, the financial situation became increasingly difficult. Loans were secured to pay off other loans, but in the end, Marcel had to settle with his creditors. The mill was sold to one Jacob Oehl, but he, too, failed. Marcel took his family into French territory, at Divonne-les-Bains (then part of the Département du Léman, which included Geneva—since 1816, Divonne has been part of the French Département of Ain), well known for its paper mills. In 1805, he arranged to travel with the colonists led by Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler; one of John Marcel's cousins, Jaques Marcel, was a partner in this venture. John Marcel took his family to Lausanne to obtain passports and certificates of their citizenship, and then left for Amsterdam (by way of Basel) with Mrs. Gex and her children. Upon his arrival in Philadelphia, he wrote a letter to one of his cousins in Lausanne, describing the voyage. The original has been lost, but someone in the family made a copy, preserving the terrible spelling and grammar, but unaccountably showing the year as 1806 instead of 1805. John Marcel also wrote several letters to his relative Félix Marcel in Lausanne in the 1840's. Félix was trying to obtain funds for the family resulting from the dissolution of a guild, the Abbaye des Fusiliers, to which their ancestors had belonged. In these letters, John Marcel gives some additional detail about how he left Switzerland. The Marcel family in Lausanne and France eventually donated an enormous collection of family papers (estimated at 12 linear meters of shelf space) to the Archives Cantonales Vaudoises. For a transcript and translation of the letters of John Marcel, click here.
Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler had a distinguished career in the United States after his project of establishing a Swiss colony failed. He was an experienced surveyor and mathematician, and his credentials soon came to the attention of the intellectual elite of Philadelphia. He was soon appointed to undertake the first coastal survey of the United States. While this task was interrupted several times, he found time to teach at West Point, and to help establish standards for weights and measures in the US. As a result of these activities, there are many published accounts of his life, including information from his diaries and publications about the failed Swiss colony. For a very helpful biographical sketch, with references, see: http://www.lib.noaa.gov/noaainfo/heritage/coastsurveyvol1/HASSLER1.html. Also see Martin Rickenbacher, “Ferdinand Rudolf Hassler und die Vermessung der Schweiz 1791-1803”, Cartographica Helvetica 36:11-25, 2007. Also see the “e-expo” at: http://www.f-r-hassler.ch.
However, the information we found in the Marcel family papers (ACV PP 416) seems never to have been noticed by scholars, since it was in private hands until fairly recently. The collection contains many letters and other documents concerning the project, and especially, on the subject of its finances. One of the partners, Jaques Marcel, a first cousin of my ancestor Jean Pierre Samuel Marcel, undertook to purchase the rights to the settlement of claims for the French ship Indien from another cousin, Albert Marcel, who had purchased these rights from the members, heirs, or representatives of the old "Légion de Luxembourg", which had an interest in the ship. The Marcel papers include a copy of the agreement between Jaques Marcel, acting for the "Société" that would establish the colony, and his cousin Albert Marcel. The Marcel papers also include a draft of a letter by Albert Marcel to an unknown creditor of the Société in 1813, in which Albert attempts to explain that he was not to blame for the failure of the colony. We can see from the passages that were crossed out and altered that Albert was trying to acknowledge the difficulties while carefully calibrating his own share of responsibility and that of his cousin Jaques Marcel. For a summary inventory of the documents in ACV PP 416 that relate to the colony, click here.
Did anyone ever collect on these claims? The matter was apparently still in the courts as late as the 1850's. Superficially, the situation seemed similar to that described in Dickens' Bleak House, where the process simply continued until all the funds had been consumed in legal fees. But in fact, the "Luxembourg claims" took much longer to settle, and worse, the amount that the State of South Carolina had to pay was increased, not decreased by expenses. Now that the Marcel papers are available to historians, it might be interesting to review Hassler's version of events.
Hassler's papers are said to indicate that he at first helped the stranded colonists out of his own funds, selling some of his belongings for that purpose. It does not seem likely that many of the settlers would have returned to Europe. At least a few remained for a time in the Philadelphia area. Several of them managed to "escape" from the ship without paying their fares, and so they are mentioned in notices in the Lancaster Journal. We would like to hear from descendants of any of the passengers who remain unidentified on our list.
Some of Hassler's papers are at the New York Public Library. As of April, 2010, I understand that this collection includes letters from 1805 and 1806 relating to the proposed colony.
About the strange story of the claims concerning the ship Indien:
The following account dates from about 1833:
On the 1st March, 1803, the King of France lent the ship Indien for the term of three years to the Prince of Luxembourg. The Prince then ceded his right to the State of South Carolina; and in order to man the vessel, a legion was raised in France, called the Legion of Luxembourg.
The State of South Carolina agreed to pay the Prince 100,000 francs cash, and, in case the vessel should be lost, 400,000 francs more; in addition to which the Prince was to receive one quarter of the value of the prizes. The legions were engaged upon the terms at which persons were then commonly enlisted to serve on board ships of war.
The Prince, at the period of these engagements, owed the King 248,000 francs for sums advanced to him.
The Indien, under the name of South Carolina, made many prizes while in the employment of the American State, but was finally taken by the enemy.
Two orders of cerditors then present themselves, claiming their shares of the prize money; to wit, the prince of Luxembourg and the members of the legion.
After the peace, as the Prince was indebted to France, the royal treasury protested against the sum being paid to him. In consequence, an arrangement was effected, by which the Prince's debt was ultimately discharged by South Carolina in 1807. There now remain only the claimants of shares in the prizes in the name of the legion.
The lapse of time, the character of the claimants, death and dispersion, have caused these claims to pass into an infinite number of hands. Syndics of doubtful creation, or whose powers are obsolete, lawyers in the same predicament, the smallness of the individual claims, and other circumstances, combine to lengthen out the proceedings, and to increase the accumulation of papers, without advantage to any one except the agent, who has established himself for life, as he expects, at Charleston.
All these difficulties can not but increase, on account of the deaths of the primitive claimants; and especially to the United States, will their heirs become troublesome.
But one equitable mode of adjusting the affair presents itself. Let the State of South Carolina, which has no interest in the distribution, surrender to the French Government as the natural protector of the rights of its subjects, and, above all, as the guardian of the French seamen, all the shares of the prize money now deposited in its care; the French Government being charged with distributing it to those who make good their claims. (French minister of foreign affairs to Mr. Rives, minister of the United States, June 15, 1831, H. Ex. Doc. 147, 22 Cong. 2 sess. 191, 199.)
This is obviously a question between the legionnaires and the State of South Carolina, to which the Government of the Union is entirely a stranger. (Mr. Rives, min. to France, to Count Sebastiani, French minister of foreign affairs, June 19, 1831, H. Ex. Doc. 147, 22 Cong. 2 sess. 201, 207.)
(In the above account, the date 1803 appears to be incorrect. The ship, originally built in Amsterdam for use in the American Revolution in 1777, ceded first to the King of France, and then in turn to the Chevalier de Luxembourg, finally saw service in the Revolutionary War in 1782, and was lost (captured) at the end of the year. Further, another account says the last payment to the heirs of the "Chevalier de Luxembourg" was paid by South Carolina on December 21, 1814. See Charles Oscar Paulin, The Navy of the American Revolution: Its Administration, its Policy and its Achievements, Chicago, 1906.)
A far more complete account of the claims and their resolution was published by D. E. Huger Smith, "The Luxembourg Claims", South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine 10:92-115 (1909), available on Google Books. This account shows that the claims of the legionaires were settled 19 dec 1854 by appropriating the sum of $27,635.70 to be paid to an agent of the French government. Some of the legionaires had already collected their individual claims, and some claims had been paid in error to legionaires who had not actually served on the Indien. From that point forward, it was the responsibility of France to repay any claims deriving from the legionaires.
The settlement of Vevay was visited by many important people. Some of them are noted in Indiana Wine, see above. Here we list some of the people we would like to know more about.
One who seems to have escaped notice is Johann Gottfried Flügel (1788-1855). He was born in Barby, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany and worked as a mercantile clerk. He came to the United States about 1803 and returned to Germany in 1818. Upon his return, he secured a position as a professor of English, and went on to publish several dictionaries. He was the American Consul at Leipzig 1838-1849. He died in Leipzig. I believe he is the same John G. Flügel who married Nancy, daughter of Louis Gex, in 1815, Gallatin Co., KY — but the published transcript of this record calls him John G. Floyde! Further, the published transcript of the English translation of the will of Louis Gex (dated 05 oct 1843 in Posey Co., IN) calls him "Fliigel" — either the translator or the transcriber failed to understand the Umlaut in his name! Nevertheless, John G. Flügel is noted in court records in Switzerland County, IN and a number of other sources. It is even noted that he tried to interest Amos Kendall, another early visitor, in one of his wife's sisters. One of his descendants, Felix Flügel (1892-1935), a professor of economics at the University of California at Berkeley, had one of his diaries, either donated or loaned to the Louisiana Historical Society: Felix Flügel, 1924, "Pages from a journal of a voyage down the Mississippi to New Orleans in 1817", Louisiana Historical Quarterly 7:414-440. The lineage from Johann Gottfried is through his son Karl Alfred Felix Flügel (1820-1904), father of Ewald Flügel (1863-1914, professor at Stanford University), father of Felix. Can anyone supply more documentation for this story?
Johann Gottfried Flügel was the author of a very unusual dictionary, known as the Triglotte. Published in 1840, it gives the German, French, and English equivalents of terms used in the commerce of the day. Much of the vocabulary concerns ships and shipping, a very important topic in international trade at that time. It also covers retail, wholesale, banking, and insurance transactions. The volume for converting French commercial terminology to English and German is on Google Books, click here.
Some of the Vevay settlers were involved in trade that reached all the way to New Orleans. The first steamboat passed Vevay in 1811. The first of the steamboats on the Ohio that had some commercial success back and forth to New Orleans was the Enterprise, built in 1814. Trade along the Ohio and the Mississippi Rivers grew quickly after that.
Joseph Lakanal was born at Serres, Ariège, France 14 jul 1762. In the aftermath of the French Revolution, he changed the spelling of his surname from Lacanal to Lakanal, in order to distinguish himself from his brothers, who were royalists. Joseph was one of the delegates to the Convention that governed France for several years, and which, in 1793, voted on the execution of the deposed king, Louis XVI. (In France, being a Conventionnel, a member of this Convention, is a mark of great distinction, similar to being one of the founding fathers in the United States.) Joseph voted in favor of execution, and thus, when the monarchy was later restored in 1815, he became labeled a "regicide" and had to leave France. It was at this time that his American adventures began. A brief notice in Niles' Weekly Register (10:352), a weekly news magazine with a national circulation, based in Baltimore, on 20 jul 1816, quotes an article from the Vevay Register saying that Joseph Lakanal and his family had recently arrived (the same article announces the arrival from France of Monsieur Vairin, a professor of mathematics, with a part of his family) at the settlement of Vevay, Indiana, and that he had purchased property on the opposite side of the Ohio River about two miles upstream from Vevay (also quoted by Jesse Chickering, Immigration into America, Boston: C. C. Little and J. Brown, 1848, p. 68). Lakanal is better known in America as an educator in New Orleans and for his role in a French colony established in Alabama. He returned to France about 1838, following the fall of the monarchy, and died there in 1845. He is buried at the best possible address in Paris, the Père Lachaise cemetery.
The question is complicated, but here are some of the possible reasons that might be considered:
An additional consideration: during the war between France and England, 1806-1815, including our War of 1812, travel from Europe to the Americas was very dangerous. Some who attempted the voyage in these years ended up as prisoners in England. The migration from Europe to the United States was delayed until the end of the war.
Toward the end of the 18th Century, it became fashionable to add the wife's surname after that of her husband, as a way of distinguishing one family from another. The best example of this at Vevay, Indiana was Louis Gex-Oboussier. The name would often be shown this way not only for the husband, but also for his wife (as "Madame Gex-Oboussier") and for his unmarried children. This custom is still encountered in France and Switzerland today. There are a couple complications to watch out for: first, when "Monsieur Gex-Oboussier" remarried, following the death of his first wife, it was too much trouble, socially, to change the compound name, so he continued to be called Gex-Oboussier. Second, punctuation in the era of the quill pen was far from consistent. Even in newspapers, it was just as likely to find the compound name without the hyphen as with it.
How to deal with the confusion? We can start by following the lead of our Swiss colleagues, who always add the hyphen when writing about a person who used, or who may have used, this convention. Here are the rules to avoid unnecessary confusion:
In addition to this optional use of an additional family name, there were and still are a small number of family names in French-speaking Switzerland that require the hyphen today for a different reason. As before, the hyphen is often not found in old documents, but in this case, it has become an absolute requirement today. The best example for Vevay is the Humbert-Droz family. This designation distinguished a branch of the original Droz family. The Humbert-Droz family is first noted near the end of the 15th Century in Le Locle, in the Canton of Neuchâtel. They are descendants of a certain Humbert Droz (that is, a member of the Droz family bearing the baptismal name of Humbert). They were sometimes called simply Humbert. When citing a member of this family in a genealogy, the full surname "Humbert-Droz", with the hyphen, is required. It is not the case that a member of the Humbert family had a wife named Droz, and that the compound name simply stuck. This is an example of a different, much earlier tradition. However, confusion is possible: the unhyphenated Droz family (from the branches that did not descend from Humbert Droz) still exists, and there are also some unrelated Humbert families. There is also a further branch of the Humbert-Droz family called Humbert-Droz-Tissot! The Canton of Neuchâtel has given rise to many of these compound names.
There were also compound surnames in use in parts of France that never used the hyphen. This very old tradition was unfamiliar to the citizens of Vaud when they were confronted with Huguenot refugees who used such names; generally one or the other of the two names was simply dropped, within the first generation. A family called "Richard Janin" from the area of France near Grenoble was among these refugees. Although one or two early records called them "Janin", they were soon known simply as "Richard".
Another development in the 19th Century was the use of the hyphen (or, in French, indicating how it was used, the "trait d'union") to connect all of the baptismal names of an individual. This usage was far from consistent even by the middle of the 19th Century, but today it is always considered correct by French and Swiss authors. Since this convention seems to have been unknown to most writers before the 19th Century, it seems best to ignore it when dealing with early records, but with the understanding that it will be applied retroactively by most French and Swiss writers when discussing individuals from the past. A further refinement has been added to this custom to show the single name or names that a person used during his adult life. For example, the eldest son of Louis Gex-Oboussier was baptised in 1790 as Jean Antoine Louis Gex. You will probably find him in a genealogy prepared by someone in France or Switzerland this way: Jean-Antoine-Louis Gex. The use of italics (or sometimes underlining) indicates that he was known as Antoine during most of his life.
Finally, we have the problem that the spelling of baptismal names and some surnames has changed over the centuries. Before about 1800, spelling in French-speaking Switzerland is extremely inconsistent. It is not uncommon to find multiple spellings of the name of one person within a single document. In view of the inconsistencies, it is usually not helpful to give any particular weight to the alternate forms of a personal name until after about 1800. Instead, the usual practice is just to use the modern equivalent of the name. Thus, such forms as Estienne, Anthoine, Louys, Jehan, etc. are silently replaced by Etienne, Antoine, Louis, and Jean. The spelling variants are not helpful, and they were not even used consistently during the periods in which they are encountered. Sometimes we can find evidence in the baptismal registers that a particular spelling was simply one favored by a particular pastor — and only rarely do we have any idea what spelling was favored by the person himself! There is one curious exception: the name Jaques, and related feminine names such as Jaqueline and Jaquema, were spelled well into the 19th Century without the additional "c" that is found at a very early date in France (for example, Jacques) , and which is the standard French spelling today. Jaques is the one name that many Swiss authors hesitate to replace with its modern spelling.
In the Pays de Vaud, and to some extent in other parts of Switzerland where French is or was spoken, we sometimes find names of places or persons, not borrowed from German, that begin with the letter W. French really doesn't use the letter W. To see how the W is used in French-Swiss names, it helps to realize, first, that in Latin, the letters U and V were originally the same letter. In old script in Latin and in French, U and V are frequently indistinguishable; you have to use the context to figure out whether the letter should be transcribed as a U or a V. The second point is that the W, called "Double U" in English, behaves quite literally as a double U in early Latin and French script, and, often, in the proper names in French-speaking Switzerland. When we combine these two points, we have the possibility of some creative spelling. The region now known as Vully (the area around Morat) can also be spelled Wlly, once you know that W is equivalent to UU, VU, UV, or VV. For a period of at least 4 centuries, we find Vully and similar names spelled with a W replacing the Vu at the beginning of the name. We also find a W in the middle of a word where there would otherwise be VV (as in the name Fiwaz, equivalent to Fivvaz, modern Fivaz). A name that comes up in the ancestry of some of the Vevay families is Vuichoud, often spelled Wichoud in older documents. It is the same name, pronounced the same, just a different way of representing the spelling. For almost all of these names, the modern spelling uses the Vu, not the W.
There is always some ambiguity about the vowels and the final consonants of some names in the early documents as well. For Vuichoud, the last syllable can be found as -chod, -choz, -chouz, etc. Before about 1800, the idea that one spelling was correct and all the others wrong, simply didn't enter into the minds of our ancestors in most countries, including Switzerland. To prevent as much confusion as possible, it is best to stick to the modern versions of the family names, placing any alternate spellings that seem to be important in the footnotes or in quoted passages.
The region now known as the Canton of Vaud was historically called the "Pays de Vaud" — that is, the "country" or "region" of Vaud. The Pays de Vaud also included some of the territory in the Vully region that is now part of the Canton of Fribourg. Until 1536, the Pays de Vaud was a possession of the Dukes or Counts of Savoy. In 1536, as a result of some complicated politics, the government of Bern, with assistance from Fribourg, invaded and occupied the Pays de Vaud. The Bernese rule lasted until the Revolution of 1798. During its history, Bern has expanded and contracted, with the result that some places that were under the control of Bern toward the end of the 18th Century are now parts of other cantons. The Canton of Neuchâtel ended up for a long time as a possession of Prussia (definitively detached from Prussia in 1848). In fact, each Canton has its own peculiar political history that the family historian needs to be aware of.
The name of the Canton that arose from the occupied Pays de Vaud, then, is "Vaud". The name of the Canton is not "de Vaud" — that is simply French for "of Vaud". We have exactly same situation in English. If you were born in Vevay, in the State of Indiana, you would list this information in a genealogy database as Vevay, Indiana, USA. You would not show it as Vevay, of Indiana, USA.
The official German name of the city of Bern is Bern. That's simple enough! However, the French name of the city of Bern is and has been for many centuries Berne. Probably because most diplomats from Bern who were encountered by the English spoke French, the English got into the habit of spelling the name of the city as Berne, following the French spelling. Today, Swiss web sites seem about equally divided between Bern and Berne as the English spelling for the city and the Canton. Not seeing any reason to deal with two spellings, depending on what language a particular record happens to use, I decided to stick with Bern.
Switzerland itself has several possible names in English: Switzerland, the Swiss Confederation, the Helvetic Confederation, etc. The Cantons often have more than one name, and there are two ways to refer to them: you can write either "the Canton of Bern" or "Canton Bern" (or, if you follow the logic of the English, presumably "the Canton of Berne" is also correct). In documents in the German language, many towns in the French-speaking areas have different names, some of them bearing no resemblance to the French names! When listing place names from the Cantons of Vaud or Bern in a genealogy database, it seems simplest to show the town (using its "native", most commonly used name), then the name of the Canton, then "Switzerland": Montreux, Vaud, Switzerland; St. Imier, Bern, Switzerland, etc.
Some of the place names in the French-speaking areas of Switzerland include the definite article. This is exactly the same phenomenon we find occasionally in English: we might say that someone lives in "the Hamptons", for example. In Swiss sources, including maps, place names that include the article may be listed in several different ways: Le Locle, le Locle, or Locle (le). For purposes of genealogies written in English, the best, and least confusing option is probably to use the first method, with the article capitalized, to emphasize that it is an integral part of the name. When translating documents from the French, be alert for this usage of the article. When we read that someone is a "résident aux Planches" or "Châtelain du Châtelard", leave the implied article in French, like so: "resident at Les Planches" or "Châtelain of Le Châtelard", not "resident at the Planches" or "Châtelain of the Châtelard".
When place names in this area consist of multiple words, they are usually connected by hyphens, except for the initial article: Belmont-sur-Lausanne, Saint-Saphorin-sur-Morges (or St.-Saphorin-sur-Morges), but La Sarraz, Les Ponts-de-Martel.
—John W. McCoy