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, ageOrigin or place of birthOccupation, Spouse, Children, ages and character comments
ABERTI, Marianne, 13 yearscounty of BernHenriette 12 years; Lisette 10 years; daughters of widow ABERTI, from Saicourt, county of Bern
AEBERSOLD, Christian, 28 yearsSchlosswil, county of BernFarmer, character no good, spouse Elisabeth, 31 years, character bad, daughter Anne 8 years
CHATELAIN, Jean Louis, 26 yearsTramelan, county of BernWinemaker, character fair, spouse Julie 22 years, character fair
DESCOMBES, David Louis, 41 yearsLignières, county of NeuchâtelFarmer, 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 yearsVal de Ruz, county of NeuchâtelWatchmaker, character bad
DROZ Alphonse, 55 yearsRenan, county of BernMerchant wholeseller, character fair, spouse Louise 43 years, character fair, son Louis 24 years, character fair, daughter Adèle 14 years
DUBACH Aaron, 57 yearsNiederstocken, county of BernFarmer, 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 yearsLe Locle, county of NeuchâtelWatchmaker, character crazy
ENGER Louis, 58 yearsTwann, county of BernBoatman, character fair
FLOTRON Sigismond, 41 yearsSt Imier, county of BernWatchmaker, 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 yearsVilleret county of BernEugène 14 years, Dyionise 13 years, Françoise Emilie 8 years, children of the widow Fournier
GABUT Charles, 23 yearsLes Brenets, county of NeuchâtelJoiner, character simple-minded
GUILBERT Auguste, 25 yearsLa Chaux-de-Fonds, county of NeuchâtelWatchmaker, character good
GUINAND Jean Louis, 20 yearsLa Chaux-de-Fonds, county of NeuchâtelLocksmith, character fair
GUINAND Justin, 4 yearsLa Chaux-de-Fonds, county of NeuchâtelPhilippine 2 years, children of the widow Guinand
HOFMAN Nicolaus, 36 yearsGross Affoltern, county of BernFarmer, character bad, spouse Madeleine 29 years, character fair, sons Christian 7 years, Jean 3 years, daughter Catherine 10 years
HOERNER David, 53 yearsSindringen, Wurtemberg in GermanyApothecary, 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 yearsTramelan, county of BernFarmer, Character good
JUNOD Charles Louis, 22 yearsLignières, county of NeuchâtelWinemaker, character bad, spouse Marianne Sophie (born MONNIER) 21 years, character fair
KOCHER Jean, 29 yearsAegerten, county of BernDistiller, character fair
LANGET Jacques François, 26 yearsCressier, county of NeuchâtelFarmer, character bad
LIENNE Louis Florian, 17 yearsCormoret, county of BernNail-maker, character fair
MARCHAND Abraham, 48 yearsSonvillier, county of BernCharacter 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 yearsSonvillier, county of BernMerchant, character no good, son Louis Gustave 8 years
MONNIER David, 50 yearsValangin, county of NeuchâtelFarmer 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 yearscounty of Bern ?Outlaw, wire-drawer and basket maker, character condemned in Bern to hard labor in irons, religion Catholic
OSTERTAG Louis, 30 yearsLoewenstein, Wurtemberg in GermanyPhysician, charcater honest, religion Lutheran
PERRET Abram, 43 yearsLa Sagne, county of NeuchâtelWatchmaker, character no good, spouse Marianne 35 years, character bad, son Charles 5 years, daughters Sophie 4 years.... (missing bottom of page)
QUINCHE Alfred, 21 yearsDombresson, county of NeuchâtelSaddler, character bad, spouse Marianne 19 years, character no good
RACINE Charles Edouard, 23 yearsLa Chaux-de-Fonds, county of NeuchâtelTurner, character fair,
REBER Jean, 53 yearsKurzenberg, county d'ArgovieFarmer, character bad, spouse Anne 31 years, character fair, son Jean 2, illegitimate daughter Anne Stoerkl 4 years
RINDISBACHER Pierre*, 41 yearsLauperswil, county of BernVeterinary-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 yearsSignau, county of BernTanner, character very honest, spouse Anne 52 years, character honest, sons Samuel 24 years, weaver, character honest, Jacques 10 years
ROTHENBUHLER Christian, 35 yearsLauperswil, county of BernWeaver, character no good, spouse Catherine 38 years, character fair
SCHAUB Benoît, 27 yearscounty of Bern ?Outlaw, Basket-maker, character condemned in Bern to hard labor in irons, religion Catholic
SCHEIDEGGER Samuel, 40 yearsLutzelflüh, county of BernWeaver, 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 yearsGeneva, county of GenevaMechanic, character honest
STRAMM Frédéric Louis, 62 yearsSonvillier, county of BernWatchmaker, 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 NeuchâtelSchoolmaster, character no good, spouse Henriette 42 years, character worthless, daughter Zélie 10 years
SUNIER Julien, 22 yearsNods, county of BernFarmer, Character good, spouse Marguerite 26 years, character honest
TISSOT Jean Daniel, 22 yearsCornaux, county of NeuchâtelFarmer, character no good, spouse Salomé 25 years, character fair, step-daughter Salome 5 years
TRUETTE (?) Pierre, 51 yearsKirnbach, Baden in Germanycharacter 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 yearsKittersberg, Baden in GermanyMaster-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 yearsBern, county of BernSaddler, 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.

4 Nov 1821Charles BOUCHE, Meuron of Villers Cotterets, Picardie, France, CatholicPhilippine DROZ, 39 years, widow of Tramelan, county of Bern, Reformed
 Antoine BRUCHLER, Meuron of Strasbourg, France, CatholicElisabeth RINDLISBACHER, 21 years, of Lauperswil, county of Bern, Reformed
 George Simon SCHREISSEN, Meuron of Baden, Germany, LutheranCatherine BUENTZLI, 33 years, widow of the town of Zurich, county of Zurich, Reformed
7 Nov 1821Jacques BENDER, Meuron of Strasbourg, France, ReformedRosette MONNIER 20 years, of Valangin, county of Neuchâtel, Reformed
11 Nov 1821Jean WASSILOPZKY, Poland, CatholicJustine GUINAND, 32 years, widow of Les Brenets, county of Neuchâtel, Reformed
 Jean WERING, Meuron of Alsace, France, CatholicLydie FOURNIER 31 years, widow of Villeret, county of Bern, Reformed
 Martin NORD, Meuron of Strasbourg, France, ReformedCatherine TRUETTE, 22 years, of St-Imier, county of Bern, Reformed
25 Nov 1821Simon DAZIO, Meuron, CatholicMarie Juliette PELLETIER, 37 years, of St-Imier, county of Bern, Reformed
5 Jan 1822Antoine PACQUET, Carpenter Canadian, CatholicAugustine MARCHAND, 19 years, of Sonvillier, county of Bern, Reformed
 Antoine BAYNE, Meuron of Artois, Bas Calais, France, CatholicJustine MARCHAND, 24 years, of Sonvillier, county of Bern, Reformed
18 Jan 1822Jean MORELL, Meuron, CatholicSophie ABERTI, 15 years, of Saicourt, county of Bern, Reformed
 Joseph BOLLENDER, Meuron, CatholicChristiane ABERTI, 16 years, of Saicourt, county of Bern, Reformed
2 May 1822Jean MEYER, Meuron of Regensberg, county of Zurich, ReformedMarguerite ABERTI, 17 years, of Saicourt, county of Bern, Reformed
 Bernard SCHMID, Meuron of Strasbourg, France, CatholicSusanne ABERTI, 49 years, widow of Saicourt, county of Bern, Reformed
10 Jun 1822Mathias SCHMID, Meuron of Kestenholz, county of Solothurn, CatholicMarianne SCHEIDEGGER, 15 years, of Lutzelflüh, county of Bern, Reformed
Links on this topic

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