The Red River settlement


Image credit : The Canadian encyclopaedia 

Captain Rodolphe de May, Swiss officer once at the British service under the Colonel Frédéric de Watteville, entered into an agreement with the Earl of Selkirk, owner of the Hudson's Bay Company and considerable land around Red River, to attract Swiss settlers in Red River.

Unfortunately, most of the promises made to the prospective settlers were not held and, by the end of 1826, not a single Swiss family remained in the red River country, most of them moving South in direction of the Mississippi.

Source : "The Canadian Historical Review - Notes and Documents", by George F.G. Stanley

Contract proposed to the emigrants

I, Rodolphe of May from Utzenstorf, gentleman of Bern, Captain in the British Service and commissioner plenipotentiary of the Earl of Selkirk, undertake for him and in his name, as proprietor of the Red River Colony and the lands appertaining thereto in North America, as follows :

  1. To convey and to supply each colonist with food during the journey tot he red River Colony, free of charge, and to render the voyage as agreeable as possible.
  2. Upon his arrival at red River to find him lodging in one of the established homes until he builds a house of his own, for the construction of which he will be supplied with the necessary means and assistance without of delay.
  3. During the first year to supply him with food and provisions until the harvest, awaiting the time when he may be able to support himself by his own labor as well as by hunting and fishing; it being understood that he will contribute as much as possible to his own support by hunting and fishing, for which purpose he will be supplied with the necessary facilities; otherwise he will have no claim to such assistance
  4. To advance him wheat, potatoes and other seed as required for the first year to sow land granted to him, but he will be obliged to repay in kind from the first crop.
  5. To supply him with all the requirements for his own home in the way of furnishings, farm implements and other materials at as reasonable a price a possible, the cost of which plus the current interest at five percent must be paid within the course of three or four years.
  6. To set aside and mark out for him and his heirs free of charge, 100 arpents or acres or arable land in perpetuity, on condition that he pays annually the exact amount of the following dues, which are very fair and which will be paid in kind:


    For the first year no charge will be made For the second, the payment will be 20 bushels of wheat For the third, the payment will be 30 bushels of wheat For the fourth, the payment will be 40 bushels of wheat For the fifth, the payment will be 50 bushels of wheat

    Thereafter, the farm-fee payable will be equal to half a bushel per arpent, which is very moderate in view of the extraordinary fertility of the land and will not constitute a great burden upon the settlers.

    In the event of him wishing to commute, the settler may do so provided he pays in one lump 500, i.e. five hundred bushels of wheat. In this way he may be quit of the said fee for all time.

    This fee is the only charge he will have to pay. He is also free to choose his land wherever he may wish and in whatever locality pleases him the most.

  7. He may take with him, free of charge, 150 pounds of luggage

If the above mentioned promises are fulfilled to the letter on the part of the Earl of Selkirk, the settler on his part promises and pledges himself as follows :

  1. Before his departure to pay in cash the sum of 10 gold louis, and upon his arrival in the Colony to pay in the course of 4 or 5 years, the sum of 11 gold louis with interest at 5 percent starting from the day of his of departure in Rotterdam, the payment to be made at regular intervals.
  2. To pay as soon as possible the price of the furnishings and other effects supplied to him, with the amount of the interest due.
  3. That the fees attached to his land will always be paid punctually
  4. That he and his family will, during the voyage to the colony, conduct themselves and behave as quiet, reliable, honest folk, and give all assistance and respect to those who are authorized to transport and to look after them. Finally, always to behave as quiet, thoughtful, peaceful and honest citizen.
  5. That he has no intention of engaging in any way in the fur trade of with the indians or with any other person whomsoever, as the fur trade belongs exclusively to the Hudson's Bay Company of England
  6. That he will not under any consideration, give aid or assistance, either in food or merchandise, or in any other manner whatsoever, to whoever may have the temerity to encroach upon this exclusive privilege of the said Company in its Territory, by trading in furs contrary to the said privilege.
  7. That he will help to build and maintain the roads and public highways at suitable times during the year, with his own labour and that of his sons and servants, and by lending his work animals for hauling and other necessary tasks, on the day and at the place specified by the inspector, this service to be limited to six days a year.
  8. That he will provide for the upkeep of the minister and the schoolmaster of his own faith, that is to say he promises with the help of his sons to do all the farm work required of him, providing for that purpose his servants, his work animals, wagons and tools on each day and at the place indicated by the schoolmaster, but not to exceed six days a year, that is to say two days in spring, two days in summer two days in autumn. These working days are to be divided equally between the minister and the schoolmaster. in this way the land from which each work derive his subsistence will be tended.
  9. That he and his family will promptly contribute towards the of fence of the country against enemies both within and without and that they will endeavor to promote the peace, safety and prosperity of their new country; as far as shall be within their power they will obey of their own free will the laws and regulations which are now in force in the Colony and in the other English provinces of North America.
  10. Finally, he undertakes at a future date to receive into his new home settlers as they arrive, until such time as they shall build their own dwellings, to help and assist them (on the understanding that this assistance be limited to providing house and lodging but not to include of board or other similar items) it being only fair that he should render unto others what he himself has received. He also promises to give every assistance in his power upon all occasions during the course of the journey by boat and from Hudson's Bay tot he Colony.
List of emigrants

Document dated 31 July 1822, probably the work of Walter of Huser, one of the Swiss settlers. This document is to be found in the Bulger Papers, volume II, pages 172-178.

All are of Reformed Religion, unless noted

(The few names or name places misspelled in the original book were corrected / completed. If you see any other ones, please let me know).

Surname,first name, age Origin or place of birth Occupation, Spouse, Children, ages and character comments
ABERTI, Marianne, 13 years county of Bern Henriette 12 years; Lisette 10 years; daughters of widow ABERTI, from Saicourt, county of Bern
AEBERSOLD, Christian, 28 years Schlosswil, county of Bern Farmer, character no good, spouse Elisabeth, 31 years, character bad, daughter Anne 8 years
CHATELAIN, Jean Louis, 26 years Tramelan, county of Bern Winemaker, character fair, spouse Julie 22 years, character fair
DESCOMBES, David Louis, 41 years Lignières, county of Neuchâtel Farmer, character worthless, spouse Rose, 41 years, character worthless, son Charles 15 years, character bad, Frédéric Auguste 9 years, daughter Louise 10 years
DIACON Frédéric Henri, 22 years Val de Ruz, county of Neuchâtel Watchmaker, character bad
DROZ Alphonse, 55 years Renan, county of Bern Merchant wholeseller, character fair, spouse Louise 43 years, character fair, son Louis 24 years, character fair, daughter Adèle 14 years
DUBACH Aaron, 57 years Niederstocken, county of Bern Farmer, character bad, spouse Catherine 50 years, character no good, son Jean 28 years, character no good, daughter-in-law Catherine 22 years, character fair, grand-son Jean 2 years
DUBOIS Théodore, 53 years Le Locle, county of Neuchâtel Watchmaker, character crazy
ENGER Louis, 58 years Twann, county of Bern Boatman, character fair
FLOTRON Sigismond, 41 years St Imier, county of Bern Watchmaker, character good, spouse Madeleine 36 years, character no good, sons Louis Ferdinand 14 years, François 7 years, Louis 2 years, daughters Sophie 16 years Character good, Eugénie 10 years, Olympie 8 years
FOURNIER Sophie Adèle, 15 years Villeret county of Bern Eugène 14 years, Dyionise 13 years, Françoise Emilie 8 years, children of the widow Fournier
GABUT Charles, 23 years Les Brenets, county of Neuchâtel Joiner, character simple-minded
GUILBERT Auguste, 25 years La Chaux-de-Fonds, county of Neuchâtel Watchmaker, character good
GUINAND Jean Louis, 20 years La Chaux-de-Fonds, county of Neuchâtel Locksmith, character fair
GUINAND Justin, 4 years La Chaux-de-Fonds, county of Neuchâtel Philippine 2 years, children of the widow Guinand
HOFMAN Nicolaus, 36 years Gross Affoltern, county of Bern Farmer, character bad, spouse Madeleine 29 years, character fair, sons Christian 7 years, Jean 3 years, daughter Catherine 10 years
HOERNER David, 53 years Sindringen, Wurtemberg in Germany Apothecary, character good, religion Lutherian, spouse Marianne 40 years, Character good, sons Louis 22 years baker, character good, Frédéric 6 years, daughters Louise 19 years, character good, Henriette 17 years, character good, Olympie 12 years, Caroline 8 years, religion Reformed
HOURIET David, 48 years Tramelan, county of Bern Farmer, Character good
JUNOD Charles Louis, 22 years Lignières, county of Neuchâtel Winemaker, character bad, spouse Marianne Sophie (born MONNIER) 21 years, character fair
KOCHER Jean, 29 years Aegerten, county of Bern Distiller, character fair
LANGET Jacques François, 26 years Cressier, county of Neuchâtel Farmer, character bad
LIENNE Louis Florian, 17 years Cormoret, county of Bern Nail-maker, character fair
MARCHAND Abraham, 48 years Sonvillier, county of Bern Character useless, spouse Emilie (born Brandt) 49 years, character useless, son Louis Constant 15 years, character fair, daughters Méline 14 years, Louise Elzire 8 years, deaf since birth
MEROZ Henri Louis , 46 years Sonvillier, county of Bern Merchant, character no good, son Louis Gustave 8 years
MONNIER David, 50 years Valangin, county of Neuchâtel Farmer et vine grower, character bad, spouse Elisabeth 43 and, character bad, sons David Louis 17 years, character no good, Charles 15 years, character no good, daughters Eugénie 13 years, Adèle 11 years, Henriette 9 years, Julie 5 years
MUNDWYLER Joseph, 31 years county of Bern ? Outlaw, wire-drawer and basket maker, character condemned in Bern to hard labor in irons, religion Catholic
OSTERTAG Louis, 30 years Loewenstein, Wurtemberg in Germany Physician, charcater honest, religion Lutheran
PERRET Abram, 43 years La Sagne, county of Neuchâtel Watchmaker, character no good, spouse Marianne 35 years, character bad, son Charles 5 years, daughters Sophie 4 years.... (missing bottom of page)
QUINCHE Alfred, 21 years Dombresson, county of Neuchâtel Saddler, character bad, spouse Marianne 19 years, character no good
RACINE Charles Edouard, 23 years La Chaux-de-Fonds, county of Neuchâtel Turner, character fair,
REBER Jean, 53 years Kurzenberg, county d'Argovie Farmer, character bad, spouse Anne 31 years, character fair, son Jean 2, illegitimate daughter Anne Stoerkl 4 years
RINDISBACHER Pierre*, 41 years Lauperswil, county of Bern Veterinary-Surgeon, character good but not steady, spouse Barbe 37 years, character fair, sons Christian 18 years, character fair, Pierre 15 years*, draughts man, character good, Gauthier 2 years, adopted, daughters Anne Barbe 13 years, Christina 10 years, Madeleine 6 years, Verene 4 years
RICHNER Christian, 51 years Signau, county of Bern Tanner, character very honest, spouse Anne 52 years, character honest, sons Samuel 24 years, weaver, character honest, Jacques 10 years
ROTHENBUHLER Christian, 35 years Lauperswil, county of Bern Weaver, character no good, spouse Catherine 38 years, character fair
SCHAUB Benoît, 27 years county of Bern ? Outlaw, Basket-maker, character condemned in Bern to hard labor in irons, religion Catholic
SCHEIDEGGER Samuel, 40 years Lutzelflüh, county of Bern Weaver, character fair, spouse Anne 46 years, character worthless, sons Jean 18 years, Weaver, character bad, Christian 8 years, daughter Marie 10 years
SCHIRMER (?) Philippe, 24 years Geneva, county of Geneva Mechanic, character honest
STRAMM Frédéric Louis, 62 years Sonvillier, county of Bern Watchmaker, character fair, spouse Henriette 39 years, character no good, sons Frédéric Louis 12 years, Constant 10 years, Henri 5 years, daughters Lucie 7 years, Julie 2 years
SIMON Jean Jacques Lignières, county of Neuchâtel Schoolmaster, character no good, spouse Henriette 42 years, character worthless, daughter Zélie 10 years
SUNIER Julien, 22 years Nods, county of Bern Farmer, Character good, spouse Marguerite 26 years, character honest
TISSOT Jean Daniel, 22 years Cornaux, county of Neuchâtel Farmer, character no good, spouse Salomé 25 years, character fair, step-daughter Salome 5 years
TRUETTE (?) Pierre, 51 years Kirnbach, Baden in Germany character fair, spouse Catherine 43 years, character bad, sons Jonas 19 years, character fair, Pierre 13 years, daughters Marianne 17 years, character no good, Adèle 6 years
WEISS Jean, 28 years Kittersberg, Baden in Germany Master-Carpenter, character very honest, common-law wife Madeleine LUSTENBERGER, 37 years, born in Kaiseraugst, county of Aarau, character fair, step-daughter Thérèse 3 years, son Jean 1 an
WYSS Rodolphe, 33 years Bern, county of Bern Saddler, character good but dissolute

* Pierre Rindisbacher / Peter F. Rindisbacher (Rindesbacher), 1806-1834, artist. Born in the Emmental village of Eggiwil, Canton Bern. Originates from Lauperswil (BE). At the age of 15 emigrated with his parents to the Red River Settlement in Canada. Moved to Wisconsin in 1826, and to St. Louis in 1829. He made his name as a painter of American Indians (source: wikipedia)

List of marriages

From the same source, here is the list of marriages celebrated in Red River during the autumn and winter of 1821 and the spring of 1822. The term MEURON refers to the mercenaries-soldiers of the DE MEURON Regiment.

Date Male Female
4 Nov 1821 Charles BOUCHE, Meuron of Villers Cotterets, Picardie, France, Catholic Philippine DROZ, 39 years, widow of Tramelan, county of Bern, Reformed
Antoine BRUCHLER, Meuron of Strasbourg, France, Catholic Elisabeth RINDLISBACHER, 21 years, of Lauperswil, county of Bern, Reformed
George Simon SCHREISSEN, Meuron of Baden, Germany, Lutheran Catherine BUENTZLI, 33 years, widow of the town of Zurich, county of Zurich, Reformed
7 Nov 1821 Jacques BENDER, Meuron of Strasbourg, France, Reformed Rosette MONNIER 20 years, of Valangin, county of Neuchâtel, Reformed
11 Nov 1821 Jean WASSILOPZKY, Poland, Catholic Justine GUINAND, 32 years, widow of Les Brenets, county of Neuchâtel, Reformed
Jean WERING, Meuron of Alsace, France, Catholic Lydie FOURNIER 31 years, widow of Villeret, county of Bern, Reformed
Martin NORD, Meuron of Strasbourg, France, Reformed Catherine TRUETTE, 22 years, of St-Imier, county of Bern, Reformed
25 Nov 1821 Simon DAZIO, Meuron, Catholic Marie Juliette PELLETIER, 37 years, of St-Imier, county of Bern, Reformed
5 Jan 1822 Antoine PACQUET, Carpenter Canadian, Catholic Augustine MARCHAND, 19 years, of Sonvillier, county of Bern, Reformed
Antoine BAYNE, Meuron of Artois, Bas Calais, France, Catholic Justine MARCHAND, 24 years, of Sonvillier, county of Bern, Reformed
18 Jan 1822 Jean MORELL, Meuron, Catholic Sophie ABERTI, 15 years, of Saicourt, county of Bern, Reformed
Joseph BOLLENDER, Meuron, Catholic Christiane ABERTI, 16 years, of Saicourt, county of Bern, Reformed
2 May 1822 Jean MEYER, Meuron of Regensberg, county of Zurich, Reformed Marguerite ABERTI, 17 years, of Saicourt, county of Bern, Reformed
Bernard SCHMID, Meuron of Strasbourg, France, Catholic Susanne ABERTI, 49 years, widow of Saicourt, county of Bern, Reformed
10 Jun 1822 Mathias SCHMID, Meuron of Kestenholz, county of Solothurn, Catholic Marianne SCHEIDEGGER, 15 years, of Lutzelflüh, county of Bern, Reformed
Links on this topic

The Red River Colony (Dictionary of Canadian Biography)
A Historiographical study of Red River settlement (PDF)