from Unterseen (Interlaken), Switzerland
Ancestors & descendants of the American immigrant, Jakob
von Allmen (b 1810, Unterseen)
who settled and died in Richland County, Illinois
The Von Allmen family originated in Switzerland, a small mountainous
country nearly the size of
Vermont and New Hampshire combined.
The Romans took over the area of Interlaken in 58 B.C.
and Switzerland saw 150 peaceful years under Roman rule.
In 260 A.D. they began to be over-run by a Germanic tribe called
the Alemanni, though the Romans kept some control until 400 A.D.
The Alemanni brought with them their German language and most of the Swiss
people today are descendants of this ancient Alemanni tribe—a name closely
On the map at right Unterseen/Interlaken
is located at the red dot between the two lakes. The Lauterbrunnen
Valley runs SE from Interlaken.
old vonAllmen crest at left.)
There have been von Allmens
in the Lauterbrunnen Valley (in the Canton of Bern) since at least
1295, and they may have arrived in the valley from the neighboring canton
to the south, Valais, in the second part of the 13th century, migrating
over the mountains under the pressure of overpopulation. During the
1200's many groups left the Upper Valais in southwest Switzerland for
other areas to cultivate. The valley of Lauterbrunnen
was only thinly settled at this time, and several of its villages were founded
by the new arrivals.
The map at right
looks south into the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Unterseen in located at
the bottom right of the map.
"Alm" (pl. "Almen") means an alpine pasture in German, and
the earliest von Allmens seem to have lived in the mountains above
Lauterbrunnen. It is possible, therefore, that they acquired their name
at this point, and were known by another name before arriving from Valais.
My VonAllmen ancestors were from the village of Unterseen, right beside Interlaken between the
two lakes. Unterseen was first built in 1280.
* 58 B.C. Romans conquer the area of Switzerland.
* 400 A.D. The Romans withdraw from Switzerland; pushed
out by the invading Alemanni tribe.
* 600's. Christianity is brought to the Alemanni by wandering
Irish monks, including Gallus in the early 600's.
* 1133: An Augustianian monastery was founded at Interlaken.
By 1350 they controlled the whole Lauterbrunnen Valley.
* 1280: The town of Unterseen was built.
* 1291: The Old Swiss Confederacy was founded. Central
Switzerland fights Austria for freedom.
* 1353: The Canton of Bern became a member of the Swiss Federation.
* 1522-36: The Protestant Reformation in Switzerland
* 1528: After a bloody battle, the monks at Interlaken
were forced to give up Catholicism and their control of the area.
The villagers from Unterseen were rewarded for their part in the fight
by a gift to the town of "mountain rights on the Sefinen Alp".
1536-1798: Ancient Regime. 13 cities; a few families
controling the government put down several rebellions.
* 1648: Declaration of Independence - Switzerland becomes an
* 1669: the last outbreak of the plague raged through the canton
of Berne. It struck the valley of Lauterbrunnen with devastating results.
About 360 of the estimated 580 inhabitants died in the epidemic, and
21 families disappeared completely. Many Von Allmens died, but the family
name remained and is common in the area today.
* 1798-1802: Helvetic Republic. Napoleon, after conquering
northern Italy, invaded Switzerland and occupied Bern on March 5, 1798.
April 12, 1798 they proclaimed the Helvetic Republic. During the
reign of Napoleon, many Swiss men were drafted into his army and perished
in the Napoleonic Wars. The Helvetic Republic saw at least four coups
d'état between 1800 and 1802.
* 1803-1815: Mediation. Napoleon enforces a constitution
written under his mediation.
* In 1812 the Swiss Federation declares its neutrality.
* 1815-1830: Restoration. Confederacy re-established with 22
* In 1815, after Napoleon's fall, the Congress of Vienna recognized
the perpetual neutrality of the Swiss confederation. Also in 1815 Valais,
Neuchâtel and Genéve join the Swiss Federation — Switzerland
gets its final boundaries.
* The “hard times’’ in 1816/17 brought hard winters and wet
summers causing serious famine, so that people were forced to search
for other sources of income. There were people travelling through the
area and also a few tourists and so woodcarving, though a skill often
practised much earlier, became more developed in the 19th century.
* 1830-1848: Regeneration. The conservative Catholic cantons
struggle with the liberal cantons, ending in a short war.
* 1847: Switzerland exploded in the short
Sonderbund War. A one-month war between Catholics and Protestants.
* 1848: Federal constitution.
It is only since comparatively recently
that Switzerland has been able to feed all its inhabitants, and this
inevitably led to a continual stream of emigration over the years. The
last major waves of emigration were after the great famine of 1816/1817,
between 1845-1855, and between 1880-1885. My VonAllmen ancestors
emigrated to the United States (Illinois) in 1850.
During the 19th century, many Swiss left
to start a new life in America. Work was very hard to find in Switzerland,
and America seemed like a paradise where men could grow rich and acquire
their own land. In some places, the local council gave them a financial
incentive to do so (typically 400 Swiss francs, or 6 months wages for
a working man), in order to have one less mouth to feed during a period
of economic recession. The money was given to the emigrants on the condition
that they never returned to Europe. If they ever returned to their
native land, they would be obliged to reimburse it. Sometimes the Swiss
authorities took advantage of the situation to get rid of the local
undesirables - the indigent poor and the work-shy - by placing them on
a boat with the emigration subsidy in their pocket. It is doubtful whether
this cheap and effective method of reducing population pressure on the
local councils was appreciated at the unwilling emigrants' port of destination!
Many local councils in Aargau (Argovia) adopted this strategy in the
middle of the last century.
Advertisements appeared regularly in local newspapers, placed
by travel agencies based at Basle, Bern, or Belfort, in neighboring France.
These agencies offered organized crossings of the Atlantic from Le Havre
for 80-100 Swiss francs, depending on the number of passengers. Food
on board cost 40 Swiss francs, and consisted of biscuits, flour, butter,
ham, salt, potatoes and vinegar. With this the emigrants prepared their
own meals. In addition, there was the cost of transport to Le Havre (about
60 Swiss francs) and food for the 4 or 5 days spent in the diligence. Clippers
such as the "Savanah" and the "Sirius" crossed the Atlantic in less than
20 days. In 1857, the agency of André Zwilchenbart at Basle advertised
regular packetboat sailings for New York, and 3-mast American ships sailing
to New Orléans. [My ancestor, Jakob von Allmen, came through
the port of New Orleans.]
The majority of emigrants came from the agricultural cantons,
and mostly preferred to continue a rural existence in their new homeland,
rather than accept a subordinate place in the national industries.
It was not until 1971 that the Swiss people voted to give their
women the right to vote.
Johannes (Hans) Caspar von Allmen
Hans von Allmen (son of Johann von Allmen & Magdalena Gafner) was
born Feb 7, 1740 in Unterseen, Switzerland.
He married 1st to Elisabeth Haster in Apr 1763 (2 children).
He married 2nd Feb 24, 1780 to Magdalena Schmoker. Magdalena
was born Nov 3, 1760 in Beatenburg, Switzerland (daughter of Peter Schmoker
& Maria B. Maerlingen).
(Hans was 58 years old when Napoleon occupied Bern, Switzerland
in 1798. He was probably too old & his sons too young to serve in
Napoleon's army.) He died Feb 2, 1808 in Unterseen. Magdalena died May
11, 1833 also in Unterseen.
right looks north at Unterseen,
which is across the lake, on the left, below the mountain.
Interlaken is the large city between the mountains.
1. Elisabeth von Allmen, b 1763
2. Kaspar von Allmen, b 1765
3. Christian von Allmen, christened Dec
24, 1780 (witness: Anna Schmoker Tallenbach)
4. Magdalena von Allmen, chr Apr 14, 1782 (witness:
Anna Blank Schmoker, Maria Schmoker)
5. Johannes von Allmen, chr Oct 12, 1783;
6. Margaritha von Allmen, chr Feb. 6, 1785
(witness: Christian Schmoker, mother’s brother); died 1786
7. Johannes von Allmen, chr Sept 17, 1786 (see below)
8. Maria von Allmen, chr Dec 23, 1787
9. Anna von Allmen, chr Sept 19, 1790; died
10. Anna Margarita von Allmen, chr June 22,
1794 (witness: Hans Schmoker, Anna von Allmen)
11. Abraham von Allmen, chr May 20, 1798
Johannes von Allmen
Johannes (son of Johannes Caspar von Allmen & Magdalena Schmoker)
was born in 1786, christened Sept 17, 1786.
He married Oct 29, 1807 to Barbara Brunner from Iseltwald
(she was chr July 25, 1784/6 in Gsteig,
the daughter of Christian Brunner from Iseltwald and Maria Wiss from Boenigen).
Perhaps she was christened at the St. Yoder Chapel in Gsteig (pictured at left.)
Johannes was a shoemaker in Spielmatte (an island in the river
between Unterseen and Interlaken).
They had been married just 9 years when the "hard times" of
1816-17 brought serious famine to the area, they also lived through
another famine of 1845-55 during which 2-3 of their 5 sons moved to America.
Their son, Christian moved to America in 1844, and son Jakob
moved to the US in 1850. (Son Johannes' death certificate was not found
in Unterseen, so possible he also moved to America. Sons Peter and Abraham
probably stayed and died in Unterseen.)
Barbara died Feb. 22, 1855 in Unterseen, Johannes died Aug
27, 1866 also in Unterseen.
Children (all born in Unterseen):
1. Johannes vonAllmen, christened June 19, 1808 (witnessed
by Jakob Brunner & Luzia Brunner, both from Iseltwald, so probably
relatives of the mother). He did not have a death certificate in Unterseen,
so he may have moved to America.
2. Jakob vonAllmen,
b Mar 19, 1810 (see below). Came to America in 1850. Unknown
when he died or where exactly he was buried.
Children: Margarita, Jacob,
3. Barbara vonAlmen, b Apr 24, 1812, chr May 3; d Aug
10, 1881, Unterseen; m Gabriel Beuggert, 27 Sep 1839.
vonAllmen, b Nov 10, 1814, chr Nov 20 (witnessed by Maria vonAllmen);
m Barbara Steiner; emigrated to Illinois in 1844, then moved to Evansville,
Ind. abt. 1860. He died in 1887 in Evansville. See his tombstone.
He changed his name to "Allmen" and his children went by Allmen and Allman.
Barbara was a witness at nephew John’s 1840 christening. Children: Maria,
At right is Christian's daughter
Susanna on her wedding day (1866 Indiana).
5. Petrus/Peter vonAllmen, b July 14, 1821, chr July 21
(witnessed by Christian vonAllmen & Magdalena Brunner Seiler);
d Sept 25, 1889.
6. Margarita vonAllmen, b Nov 10, 1823, chr Nov 23; d
July 22, 1830, Unterseen. Age 6.
7. Elisabeth vonAllmen, chr June 10, 1827; d Aug 25.
8. Abraham vonAllmen, b July 24, 1828, chr Aug 3; d June
Jakob von Allmen, Sr.
4th generation - 1st American generation
von Allmen was born Mar 19, 1810 in Unterseen, Switzerland; christened Mar
The 2 pictures at
right are either end of one continuous row of buildings (notice the
tower in both pictures). The section at left is called Unterseen "Little
City." The section at right is the Unterseen church. Below that is a drawing of the same
scene in 1822.
Jakob married in Gsteig, Switzerland (a nearby village) July
13, 1832 to Margarita von Allmen (probably distantly related). Maybe
they were married in the St. Yoder Chapel pictured above. Banns proclaimed
June 17, June 24, and July 1.
Historical note on “The Publication of Banns”:
In order to place a check upon clandestine marriages, to discover any
impediments which may exist, to prevent deceptions and surprises, to
afford parents and others interested an opportunity to interpose if
needful, and to procure the prayers of the faithful that God may give
grace and prosperity to the contracting parties, the Council
of Trent (1545-63) decreed that the promise of marriage be published
on three successive Sundays or holidays at the principal Mass by the
parish priest of the parties.
Margarita von Allmen was the daughter of Jakob von Allmen
from Interlaken & Anna Brunner from Habkern. So, both Jakob and Margarita
has a vonAllmen father and a Brunner mother. She was christened May 31,
1807 (a few days after her birth) in Unterseen, Switzerland. Witnessing
her christening was Hans Brunner from Habkern (perhaps her grandfather).
Margarita’s siblings were: Anna (1804, m Johannes Wyler from Grindelwald),
Jacob (1809), Johannes (1812, d 1813), Elisabeth (b 1815, was a witness
in chr record as “from the village”). Margarita had several Jacobs in
her family: her father, a brother, her husband, and a son.
Historical note: With 4 official languages,
2 religions, and a strong sense of cantonal identity, Switzerland had
various conflicts to deal with from the 1500’s on. And in 1847 Switzerland
exploded in the short Sonderbund War, a one-month civil war of German-spreaking
Protestants fighting French-speaking Catholics. For a very short period,
Switzerland was the Ulster of 19th century Europe.
All the vonAlmen families who came to Illinois seem to have
taken the Le Havre, France to New Orleans, Louisiana route.
Jacob & Margarita had 6 children in Switzerland before
emigrating to the United States in 1850. [I didn't find daughter Elizabeth
listed on the ship's registry, but she was with the family on the 1860
census of Richland Co, IL.] They traveled first to Havre, France
where they boarded the ship, Lemuel Dyer and arrived at the port
of New Orleans Dec. 5, 1850. Then they probably took a steamboat
up to St. Louis, where they surely disembarked and traveled east to Richland
County, Illinois. [Two of Jakob’s brothers, Johannes & Christian,
did not have death records listed in Unterseen. Christian moved to Illinois
in 1844, so it's possible that Johannes did also.]
list of VonAllmens from:
Ship's Name: Lemuel Dyer
[The Lemuel Dyer pictured at right made many runs
back and forth across the Atlantic for many years.]
Date of Arrival: Dec 5, 1850
Final Destination: United States
Port of Embarkation: Havre
Port of Debarkation: New Orleans
Passenger's Name: Jacob Vonalmann, Age: 40, Occupation:
Farmer, Last Residence: France in Switzerland
Passenger's Name: Margarite Vonalmann, Age: 43
Passenger's Name: Margarite Vonalmann, Age: 14
Passenger's Name: Jacob Vonalmann, Age: 9
Passenger's Name: Johann Vonalmann, Age: 5 [this is great-grandpa, John VonAllmen, but
he was 10]
Passenger's Name: Suzanne Vonalmann, Age: 4
Passenger's Name: Marianne Vonalmann, Age: 3
Passenger's Name: Johann Vonalmann, Age: 23 [don't
know his relationship]
[Broderbund Family Archive #355, Ed. 1, Passenger and Immigration
Lists: Germans to America, 1850-1874]
They settled in Richland County, Illinois near many other Swiss
immigrants, many by the name of VonAllmen. In fact, all the VonAllmen
marriages listed in the Illinois State Index before 1900 were only in
1860 IL census - Richland Co, Olney twp, p 44:
Jac VanAlman - 51, b Switz, farmer, 1200/300
. . . . Marg't - 54, b Sw
. . . . Jac - 24, b Sw, laborer
. . . . Eliz't - 19, b Sw
. . . . Jno - 18, b Sw
. . . . Susan - 16, b Sw
. . . . Mary - 13, b Sw
Jacob VonAllmen bought land in Olney, IL, Jan. 25, 1861.
Margarita seems to have sometimes gone by the name of Mary after coming
to the US.
I have not been able to locate Jacob or any of his children
in 1870. He must have died in Richland Co, IL, but I don't know
when or where he was buried. I'm guessing that it was in Haven
Hill Cemetery in Richland County, IL.
1. Margarita vonAllmen
Margarita was born Feb 24, 1833, christened Mar. 3 in Unterseen,
Switzerland. She arrived with her parents in New Orleans in Dec 1850.
She was not on the 1860 Illinois census with the family probably because
she had married by then. There are no family stories or pictures of her
handed down in John's family, as there were of other siblings. This marriage
in Richland Co, IL was the only Margaret Vonallmen marriage between 1850
& 1860, so it was probably hers: Ulrich Feitz & Margaret
Vonallman, Aug 19, 1856
2. Jacob VonAllmen, Jr. (pictured
at right soon after he married Anna with her daughters: Margaret, Sarah,
JACOB, Jr. was born Nov. 15, 1834 in Unterseen, Switzerland
and christened Nov. 23. He emigrated with his parents in 1850 at age
of 17 [The ship's registry says he was 9].
He served in the Civil War with his brother John in Co. I,
63rd Ill. Inf.
He married 1st (age 34) April 11, 1869, Richland Co, IL to
Mrs. Anna (Balmer) Lewis (b 4-1-1832, Switz). Anna was a widow
with 3 girls. She had 2 children with Jacob and died Oct. 10, 1902.
Jacob married 2nd to Mrs. Eva Whittaker, Jan. 1, 1903 in Richland
Co, IL (he was 69, she was 42). They were divorced 7 months
later (July, 1903). That same year, Nov. 19, 1903, Jacob married 3rd to
Mrs. Elizabeth Bushong (age 63, of Olney). He raised his step-granddaughter
Isa W. Robert (she was with him in 1900 and 1910, age 7 & 17).
Jacob died April 30, 1919. Both he and Anna were buried in
Linden Lawn Cemetery, Richland County, IL. Children:
1a) John VonAllmen, b Feb 1870 IL, d bef 1880
1d) Minnie Von Allmen, b 1871, IL.
3. Elisabeth VonAllmen
ELISABETH was born March 15, 1838, Unterseen, Switzerland;
christened Mar. 25. I didn't find her listed on the ship's registry
in 1850, but she was on the 1860 census with her family. She could be
the Elizabeth VonAllmen who married Frederick Miller, Feb 11, 1855 in
Richland Co, IL. She would have been 17 years old. No stories or pictures
of her survived in the John VonAllmen family.
4. John VonAllm
en (pictured at right,
also see his birth record below)
was born Dec 10, 1840, Unterseen, Switzerland; christened Dec. 20 (witnessed
by his aunt Barbara Steiner Vonallmen); He married Mary Elizabeth Heral,
Nov. 1, 1866, Richland Co, IL. Moved to Missouri, 1896.
Died 1913, buried
in Missouri. [They must have been very creative with their children's
names. None of them are named for their grandparents, and only Wesley
was named for an uncle.]
Children (see also next generation).
4a) Edward Von Allmen, 1867-98; m Etta ?
4b) Wesley O. Von Allmen, 1870-79 [his mother
had a brother & and uncle named Wesley]
4c) Mary Ellen Von Allmen, 1872-74 [named
for her mother]
4d) Alfred Riley Von Allmen, 1876-96
4e) Millie Von Allmen, 1879-1969; m George
4f) Elmer Franklin Von Allmen, 1880-1967;
m Nora Bell Jolliff
4g) David A. Von Allmen, 1883-84
4h) Charley Orey Von Allmen, 1885-1968; m Ollie
4i) Harlin Albert Von Allmen, 1888-1972;
m Ethel Judd
4j) Lillie Rosetta Von Allmen, 1891-1920;
m Elijah Jolliff
5. Susanna von Allmen
SUSAN was born July 30, 1843, Unterseen, Switzerland; christened
Aug. 6. She emigrated with her parents in 1850 and was on the 1860
Illinois census with her parents. No stories or pictures of her survived
in the John VonAllmen family. Here are 4 marriages in Richland
Co, IL which one might have been hers:
Susan Vonalman & John W. Day - Sept
Susan Vonalmen & John Schmoker - May
Susan Vonallmen & Peter Burgener - Dec
Susanna Vonallmen & Frederick Senfton
- Apr 22, 1884
Susie Vonallmen & Henry Burgener - Mar
6. Maria VonAllmen
(pictured at right)
was born Apr 26, 1846, Unterseen, Switzerland; christened May
3. She married March 5, 1871, Richland Co., IL to William Steward
(Stuart). He was born June 22, 1833; the son of Cornelius Steward
& Sarah Bullard. William gave testimony for John VonAllmen on his pension
application papers in 1894-5 and signed his name with an X. Mary
died Nov. 4, 1897 in Richland Co, IL. William was alone with his 2
youngest sons on the 1900 census. He married 2nd Rebecca A. Spausler,
May 14, 1900. He died April 16, 1919. Mary and William were both buried
at Haven Hill cemetery in Richland Co., IL. Children:
6a) William A. Steward, b 1873 (notice William's
similarity to his cousin Alfred in the picture above)
6b) Rogenia Steward, b Jan 12, 1874, Richland
Co, Ill; m Oct 17, 1896, Richland Co. to Edward Teitsort. Died
March 9, 1966, Richland Co.
6c) Ralph Steward, b 1879
6d) John O. Steward, b Feb., 1881
6e) ?(son) Steward, b 1883
Below is a copy of the birth record
for John VonAllmen, Unterseen parish, Switzerland. All this family’s
records were at the “Evangelish-Reformierte Kirche” (Evangelical Reform
Church) in Unterseen. (Except that Jakob Sr’s marriage record was at
the Gsteig church.) All Swiss records were kept in the parish (church)
in the village where the family held their citizenship, even if they
lived in another village. Thus, “von hier” means the village where
their citizenship was, and “in hier” or “zu hier” is where they resided.
At the top of the page for this record is “1840.”
To the right of the record reads: “Johannes nat (born) Dec
10” - “22” is the entry number in the registry.
It says in German:
“Eltern: (parents) Jakob vonAllmen, Johannes S. (son),
Schuhmacher (shoemaker) inhier ("in village," lives in Unterseen)
Margarita vonAllmen, Jakobs sel (deceased) T. (daughter) von
hier (from another village)
cop (married) Gsteig 1832, Jul 13
Johannes vonAllmen, das Kinder Grossvater (child’s grandfather),
an der (on the) Spielmatte (name of the Alpine meadow in Unterseen where
Heinrich Michel, von hier, im Dorf (in the village)
Barbara vonAllmen geb (born) Steiner, das Vaters Schwaegerin
(father’s sister-in-law), im Dorf [this was Christian's wife who also
moved to IL]
[I have these birth records for all of Jacob’s children.]
In 1847, previous to their immigration, the VonAllmen
family had lived through a short religious civil war in Switzerland.
Perhaps they emigrated partly to escape the civil unrest, perhaps because
of economic difficulties. However, 10 years after moving to America,
John & Jacob both joined the Union Army in the Civil War. Since they
would have still been familiar with their native language perhaps they
knew this Civil War song, which came out of the German immigrant population
of St. Louis:
I Goes to Fight Mit Sigel
I’ve come shust now to tells you how, I goes mit regimentals,
To schlauch dem voes of Liberty, like dem old Continentals,
Vot fights mit England long ago, to save der Yankee Eagle;
Und now I gets my sojer clothes; I’m going to fight mit Sigel.
Ven I comes from der Deutsche Countree, I vorks somedimes at
Den I keeps a lager beer saloon, und den I goes shoe-making;
But now I was a sojer been to save der Yankee Eagle,
To schlauch dem tam secession volks, I goes to fight mit Sigel.
I gets ein tam big rifle gun, und puts him to mine shoulder,
Den march so bold like a big jackhorse, und may been someding
I goes off mit der volulnteers to save der Yankee Eagle;
To give dem Rebel vellers fits, I goes to fight mit Sigel.
Dem Deutschen mens mit Sigel’s band at fighting have not rival;
Und ven Cheff Davis mens ve meet, ve schlauch em like de tuyvil.
Dere’s only von ting vot I fear, ven pattling for der Eagle,
I vont get not no lager beer, ven I goes to fight mit Sigel.
For rations dey gives us salty pork, I dinks dat was a great
I petter likes der saurkraut, der Schvitzer-kase und bretzel.
If Fighting Joe will give us dem, ve’ll save der Yankee Eagle,
Und I’ll put mine frau in breech-a-loons to go and fight mit
Franz Sigel was a Union General who organized 2 regiments of
Germans from St. Louis and fought in Missouri.
[words by F. Poole, abt 1864, from Songs of the Civil War,
Irwin Silber, ed]
Hear a 1-minute demo of the
The information for this family came from numerous sources.
Here are just a couple:
1. Illinois State Marriages at
2. Mormon FHL Film 2,005,784, Unterseen Parish
would like to check my database to see if the information on your family
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