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7/25/2013 3:00:00 PM
Bicentennial event: Why Swiss left, came here

Local historian Barry Brown will present "Why They Left Switzerland" on Sunday, August 4th, at 2 p.m. at the Switzerland County Technology Center on Seminary Street in Vevay.

The talk will be illustrated with slides, a "map or origins", a timeline of history and several books which were instrumental in this research. There will also be a bibliography handout available. This is an official Bicentennial event.

For years we've heard about the Swiss settlement in Switzerland County. Now you can find out what motivated these people to leave their homeland and travel halfway across the world to a new life.

Barry Brown has found that the years leading up to the French Revolution, specifically the 1790s, were times of unrest in this region of Europe. What we now know as "Switzerland" was at the time a confederation of cantons (or communities) which formed a loose alliance. This was the old order in Europe dating back to about 1515.

During Napoleon's rise to power, armies looted the local treasuries and plundered the countryside of crops and woodlots. The French tried to impose the one and indivisible Helvetic Republic on the Swiss. It didn't work out, and chaos resulted. It was a time of unrest and hardship known as the "hungry years." These were conditions that drove people to migrate to the new world.

Land was another motivating factor. In Europe property did not change hands easily as we know it today. The promise of available lands in America for settlement and development was a tempting factor in choose to leave Switzerland.

The Dufour family had a specific purpose in mind as they set out on their long voyages. They wanted to plant grapevines and establish vineyards, a business they had learned well in the old world. Other families that chose to relocate from the canton of Vaud in the early 1800s were Borally, Bettens, Morerod, Siebental and Golay. From the district of Vevey Switzerland came Gex, Mennet, Detraz, Moreillon and Mottier. From canton Bern came Grisard, Trafelet, Wiseman and Chatelin.

Questions and discussion will be encouraged after the talk. A reception with refreshments will conclude the event. Sponsors include the Switzerland County Public Library, the Switzerland County Historical Society and the Vevay Switzerland Bicentennial.

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