Zimmermann History

Casper Zimmermann, Born, April 11, 1827, Schwaendi, Canton Glarus, Switzerland

Most of the facts regarding Caspar Zimmermann's life were known through cursory research in the courthouse at Kewaunee, Kewaunee County, Wisconsin and by searching through papers that his family managed to save. Since he was a Civil War Veteran, there were many papers relating to that event, including his discharge and the ensuing pension records. He also made a number of land transactions, which created records in the Kewaunee County Courthouse. But before Caspar came to the United States, there was a lot more to learn about him in his home town of Schwandi, Canton Glarus, Switzerland.
Caspar's father was Hans Jacob Zimmermann, an agricultural worker. In the records, Hans Jacob was #73. An explanation of the numbering system might be appropriate at this point. In the record books, each family was separately recorded starting with the names beginning with "A" and ending with those beginning with "Z". Each families numbers began with "1" and continued on. When a man married he was given a number, which was distinctively his. By using this method, it was easy to keep track of people, be it a first or second marriage. Women were likewise given numbers, making the system a very useful tool for genealogists. When researching in the village of Schwandi, it was only necessary to say that you wanted the records for Caspar Zimmermann # 145, and they were produced and could be copied

Caspar was the fifth child of Hans Jacob Zimmermann # 73 and his wife, Rosina Hefti, #165. Before the birth of Caspar, there had been a son, Balthazar, born February 8, 1821 and died February 20 of the same year; a daughter, Dorothea born May 9, 1822 and died August 1 of that year; another daughter, Dorothea, born June 8, 1823 and died April 9, 1826 and another son, Balthazar born July 2, 1825 and died April 16, 1826. The first child lived for less than two weeks, the second a few months and the other two less than three years each.

Hans and Rosina had been married November 9, 1820 and in the first six years of their marriage had produced two sons, both named Balthazar and two daughters, both named Dorothea. It was common practice to give a newborn child the same name as a child who had died, which might seem strange to today's reader, but it was a fact of life back then and found not only in Switzerland, but all over Europe.

After being married for six years, the couple still had no living children. The mortality rate of children under the age of six was very high. The use of folk medicines and the lack of doctors and antibiotics were two of the causes, but there were others, such as poor nutrition, which seemed to cause more deaths in young children than in any other age group. (See mortality charts)
On April 11, 1827, Caspar, the fifth child of Hans Zimmermann and Rosina Hefti was born. He is the first in his family to have been named Caspar, although there are many Caspar's in his lineage. He was named for his grandfather, Caspar Zimmermann who was #35 in the records. Caspar must have been a healthier youngster than the ones before him, because he grew up and married and had children. He was first of all, a Glarner, from Glarnerland, someone from the Canton of Glarus in Switzerland, and this is his story.


Schwaendi is a small village created on another, higher slope of the mountains that surround Schwanden which is located on the valley floor. Schwandi is higher, but not remote and the road leading to it winds between pastures and stone fences up to another level. If one stands on the outskirts of Schwanden and looks up, the houses of Schwandi are quite visible. The name "Schwandi" means higher, according to some people who live in the area today, but it also is a variation of the German word for swan, and there is much evidence of this, in the many appearances of a giant swan on signs, banners and buildings in the valley.
This whole area is surrounded by the Alps. The term "Alps" is used to denote the range of mountains that stretch across south-central Europe. The term has another local meaning, however. The Swiss and their German-speaking neighbors use it to denote the high Alpine meadows where cattle are pastured in the summer. Alps with a capital "A" mean the mountains and alps with a small "a" means the pastures.

A hot-air balloonist , who sometimes floats visitors over the Alps at a spot near the 13, 548- foot-high
"Jungfrau" can indicate with the sweep of his hand, on a clear day, the whole of Switzerland. One sees an inland island roughly the size of the states of Massachusetts and New Hampshire combined.

The Canton of Glarus is a rural canton but the villages there are highly industrialized. A very strong patriotic influence exists in that country and each year, beginning with 1837, on the first Sunday in May, the Glarners celebrate the Glarner Landsgemeinde (the canton's open-air assembly). The capitol city, Glarus, population 5,600, towered over by the Vorderglärnich, the 7,646 mountain, is the site for this celebration.

Schwandi was established about the year 1350, with another Zimmermann ancestor being instrumental in its beginning and the growth of the village. His name was Dietrich Zimmermann and he was mentioned as the chairman of the Church in Schwanden. In the same year, Deitrich, was a deputy or member of the parliament for Zurich. The next Zimmermann listed was Wolfgang, in 1510, who was a Glarner Bittsteller- a petitioner- of the Pope, because the group still confessed the Roman Catholic faith at that time.
Hans Zimmermann in 1525 defended the interests of the church in Schwanden, the year the Reformation began in Switzerland. Uli Zimmermann, another who bore the name, was presumed to have been a thief and he then fled the country.

All Zimmermanns of the Fatherland of Schwandi are descended from Heinrich. who lived from the year of 1592 to 1672. He was a master carpenter, married three times and had in all fourteen children. Only nine out of the fourteen, four boys and five girls, grew up and married. We are out of this family and the tribe has grown further in Switzerland and in America. (This information from the book "Geschichte der Gemeinde Schwandi" by Heinrich Knobel. Translated the title is "History of the Village Schwandi". The book is written in the German language, but Amy Zimmermann Dettmann translated the chapter about the Zimmermanns in the history of the village Schwandi.

Some other Zimmermanns lived in Schwandi and had families there including: Bartli Zimmermann, born about 1575 and Thomas Zimmermann born in 1815. He was a dealer and trader and a leader for civil rights for the farmers in his area. One David Zimmermann, born in 1799 was called the 'lost' David because he was a hiker and rambler in America. This book did not list the dates of these comings and goings.

Johann Balthasar Zimmerman (1835-1896) had twelve children. Since he was married to a dwarf, some of his children were also dwarfs. Johann and his wife traveled around the world in a show with these tiny little youngsters.
The church mentioned above was in Schwanden, which the residents of Schwandi would attend. It had a loud bell which would echo through the valley reminding all the people that it was the Sabbath. There is still a custom, followed through the years, whereby the bell rings for ten minutes straight just after 3 o'clock on Saturday afternoon signaling the beginning of the weekend.
There is a large placque on the wall of the church next to the entrance door. It is written in Swiss German, but a loose translation follows:

Evangelical Church
First built 1349, therefrom received the under projectiles of the Chortums and a fragment of a spätischen Sacrament -häscjems. Jeitoger Lorcjembal 1753, Master Builder Jakob and Johann, Ulrich Grubenmann of Teufen.
From this time came the painted Holtz tables on the choir covers. 1950 rebuilt by Hans Leuzinger and Jakob Speich. This translation doesn't tell much. Some of the words did not translate well, so it is incomplete.

There were numerous families of Schiessers also living and working in Schwandi. One of them, Balthazar Schiesser, a farmer was married to Sibilla Knobel, another well known name in Schwandi and Schwanden. One of their daughters, Elspeth married Caspar and would play a large part in the Zimmermann family history. PICTURE OF PAGE OF HIS HYMN BOOK AND TRANSLATION.
Schwandi was a tight knit community sheltered on all sides by the Alps. Many of the families were agricultural workers, either owning land and cattle or working as shepherds herding cows and goats and doing cheesemaking connected with the cattle. Others were employed in the textile industry, which was known world wide during the 16th through the 19th centuries. Cotton was shipped in to Schwanden from Italy and the Swiss spun it, dyed it and printed it with intricate designs to be shipped to numerous other countries. The designs were similar to what today we call batik. Many of the designs incorporated the native flower, the edelweiss, in the designs. To this day, this pretty, white flower is one of Switzerland's most memorable emblems.
The building where the dyeing and printing was done is still there, in Schwanden, located on the banks of the Linth River which runs through Schwanden, but the building is no longer a factory. However, it is still in use as a retail outlet for many kinds of domestic fabrics. Standing inside the large structure, it is easy to imagine the workers mixing dyes in one corner and other workers sitting at long tables, applying the colored dye to the pieces of fabric. The molds over which the printers worked were made from large slabs of wood, covering the entire surface of the table. These molds were carved with very intricate designs and there were numerous molds to be used. After the printing process, other laborers looped the damp, printed fabric over supports hanging from the ceiling. where it hung for a few days to dry completely. There were separate buildings called drying towers. In another place, the shipping area, were the workmen who packed the finished products and attached the colorful labels to the packages of beautiful printed fabric to be sent to markets outside of Switzerland; to China, Japan, Turkey and all over Europe and even to Africa and North America.

The Linth River originates in the mountains near the village of Linthl 30 kilometers to the south of Schwanden. The Linth, while not a large river, provided power for some of the manufacturing and played a minor role in transportation. Since Switzerland has no coal or oil, there never was the chance for the country to turn into an industrial nation with the accompanying blights of the Industrial Revolution.

Factory employees worked from dawn to dusk, only by natural light because there were no electric lights. The danger of using kerosene lanterns or lamps was recognized by everyone. The presence of the various dyes and other chemicals used in the process would have produced a great conflagration. Daylight was their most precious commodity, but it meant that workers were always going to work in the dark, with their work day beginning with 7 o'clock and coming home again, also in the dark. The work was tedious but it was a living.

Due to fire hazards, new regulations in 1824 prohibited night-time labor in the textile industry. From early on, the people of Glarus had developed methods for protecting themselves from the constant danger of fire, often exacerbated by the "Föhn", a warm southerly wind. When the Föhn blew, special rules and regulations immediately went into effect. Bakers, smiths, metal workers and wagoners had to make sure their fires were banked. Women were not allowed to do their washing, or butchers to smoke their meat. Working by firelight was either forbidden or strictly regulated. For the first time in 1811 a Cantonal law was passed requiring fire safeguards in all buildings.

Since Caspar was registered as a 'printer', it seems fitting that this job is described in more detail. Printers sat at long tables, and each was required to put one color on the fabric as it was pulled past them on the long table. The fabric was pulled loosely over the molds, made of wood, with the intricate designs carved into them.The tool used by the worker resembled a small dumbell, with the upper part being larger and heavier and the lower part designed to be small enough to push the color into very small spaces. (PICTURE HERE) One of the old tools was seen in Nafels museum and it was quite heavy. This job, being very special, required a great deal of dexterity and patience and could become tedious. As the fabric was printed, it was pulled up to overhead slats where it dried for several days and later rolled into bolts and from there it went to the shipping department. There is a large museum in Nafels, a short train ride from Schwanden. The large, imposing building was formerly the Freuler Palace In 1992, restoration was completed to make it The Historical Museum of Glarus.

In this building, erected in 1595, as a dwelling for Kaspar Freuler and his family, one will find an Alpine hut which serves as a reminder that Alpine farming and cattle breeding have long been an important source of income in Glarus. Portraits, documents and old weapons testify to the former economic significance of service in foreign wars. A room displays the old banners and military flags of the Canton of Glarus. One banner that is always present is that of St. Fridolin, the patron saint of Glarus.
The most interesting is the unique museum of textile printing on the top two floors of the palace. There you will discover a wonderful world of colors and designs, and a special audiovisual presentation on " Textile Printing in Glarus". In addition, there are group pictures of the workers who were employed there over the years. Names of these workers were not included, but it is probable that Caspar and some of his relatives were included in those pictures.

Another smaller museum in the village of Schwanden was called the Pulverturm. That word means "powder tower" and the original usage for the building was as a storage place for gunpowder for the Swiss Army. After there was no longer a need for this storage, it was converted into a museum, with all the family crests of the families who lived in Schwanden, painted on the walls. Those included Zimmermanns, Schiessers, Knobels, Heftis, Kunderts, Storis, Jennys, Zweitels, Blesis, Wichsers, Bublers, Blumers and more. There was a large collection of old weapons here as well as large wooden cabinets in which all of the early village records were kept. A very complete history of the founding and settling of New Glarus, in Wisconsin, U.S. A., was also noted there with records of every family that had ever lived in the villages of Schwanden and Schwandi.

In the late 1700's and early 1800's, machines were being invented to do parts of the printing, dying and other processes involved in this textile industry, which had previously all been done by hand. As the century progressed, more machinery was produced, the end result being that the residents of Schwandi, who depended on the factory for their livelihood, were out of work. No longer was their wonderful homeland able to provide them with the wherewithal to earn an honest franc, so it was necessary to look elsewhere.
Agriculture in this area was not the same as we envision it, There were no large fields of grain or corn, only pasture lands Each farmer owned only a few cows, which were raised for the milk, much of which was made into cheese. The cows were moved from one small pasture to another during the summer months. Each cow wore a large bell, hung from a wide leather strap around its neck. The only time the bell was silent was when the cow was reclining and chewing her cud. The reason for the bells was to keep track of the animals. If one was missing, it could be tracked by the sound of the bell. Goats, small, surefooted animals, also wearing smaller bells, were kept by the farmer, for their milk which was used primarily for cheese. Each farmer would have a few pigs and some chickens for eggs and ducks and geese to keep them in food over the winter. Everyone had room for a large garden where fresh vegetables were raised with certain types to be stored for the winter months.
There was a complete lack of haying machinery, so the hay was cut by hand with a scythe and dried and toted to the barns also by hand. To augment the hay production on the lower slopes, hay makers went up the mountain to make hay on a higher level. Men usually worked in twos or threes and took advantage of the hottest days of summer. After the hay was dried sufficiently, it was made into large bundles, in a sort of loose net and brought down the mountain on the backs of the workers. It was a daunting experience, but it was a way of life and it was done, generation after generation.


Switzerland had been contributing emigrants to America as early as 1820. A large group of French Swiss settled in what would become Lafayette County, in southwestern Wisconsin. In 1844, the Glarner Nicklaus Duerst and F financed by the Canton of Glarus, traveled to America, specifically Wisconsin, to search for a good spot for his fellow Glarners. He was led to Wisconsin by the many posters and fliers being sent to European cities looking for people to colonize those Wisconsin lands. It is true that the Indians still inhabited the area at the time, but the fact that they did not own the land, in the sense that it had not been purchased by them, led the European leaders to follow up on the rights to buy it for themselves.

In the early 1800's the main industry for the the 35,000 people of Glarus was the weaving of Turkish cloth, which was used to manufacture the peculiar Turkish headgear. With the Turkish-Balkan war raging, there was no export market and thus poverty and famine overtook the people of Glarus and it was a contributing factor to their emigration.

Duerst was sent ahead to find a suitable place. The Canton of Glarus, realizing that their homeland could no longer provide bread, work and earnings for all of its people, was preparing to help finance the passage and cost of the land for anyone willing to emigrate. The place Duerst had found was in Green County, near Madison, Wisconsin's capital city and would be called New Glarus.

It was a huge step for the natives of Glarnerland to make. Each would have a plot of 20 acres, chosen by a lottery, plus some money to buy seed and oxen and other necessities to keep them in food and clothing until their first harvest. They all realized it would mean that they would probably never come back to their homeland to see their parents and friends. It was a most difficult decision, but by the year 1845, there were 193 men, women and children ready to go to North America, specifically, Wisconsin.
Many of these emigrants were natives of the village of Schwanden. Being a small town meant that everyone knew what was happening and were sharing in the joy for their neighbors and also experiencing sorrow at possiblly never being able to see them again. The ones who would emigrate, applied for their passports and on April 16, 1845, they left Glarus in Switzerland for a place unknown to them, but with promises of opportunity, riches beyond their dreams, and a place where they could own their own land. The fact that it would be named for their home area certainly must have been a very comforting condition.

They sailed aboard the three masted, 88 berthed ship named "Superb" from Nieuwediep and after the rigorous journey settled in New Glarus on August 15, 1845. The settlers were happy to be in their new home, but missed the mountains that surrounded their home in Switzerland and said "Here, there was a feeling that the whole world could look in on them."



As discussed earlier, the Zimmermann and the Schiesser families both lived in Schwandi. Caspar's father worked in the agricultural business and Elspeth's parents, Balthazar Schiesser and Sibilla Knobel were also farmers. They all attended the church in Schwanden. They either rode to church in a horse-drawn carriage or they might have walked, depending on the weather. When Caspar and Elspeth ) married in September of 1847, just two years after the large group of their neighbors and friends left for North America, Caspar continued to work at the textile printing factory, and Elspeth cared for the house and the children. Just a word of explanation --The name "Elspeth" was spelled interchangeably as "Elsbeth". It was that way in Switzerland and continued in the United States.

There was also a cottage industry, by which any resident of Schwandi, or Schwanden, could do some of the weaving at home. A loom would have been needed. Raw material was taken home in large quantities and turned into woven goods, which would then go to the printers to be finished. It is possible that Elspeth and her family did some of this kind of work, to set aside money necessary to travel to 'Nord America'.

The first child born was John Jacob, born November 14, 1847. He was followed by a daughter, Sibilla, born December 26, 1849. Then came Rosina born May 26, 1851. These three children were born in Schwandi. Sibilla lived for 1 month and 17 days and died on February 12, 1850. Rosina lived one year, 3 months and 21 days. She died on September 18, 1852. When the family emigrated to the United States, they brought with them their only living child, John Jacob, almost seven years of age. This son died on April 14, 1856, two years after their arrival. At that time there was no mandatory requirement to record births, deaths and marriages, so the record for the death of this child was never found.

PICTURE OF REISE-PASS #12065 DATED 24 Feb. 1854 --good for 12 months. Good for three people, Kaspar, Elsbeth and son, Johann Jakob.
Elspeth had a close relative, a cousin, Peter Schiesser, who went to North America by himself, soon after the group from Switzerland left for New Glarus. His plan for success did not lie in that direction and he did not go to New Glarus, although he may have passed through to say hello to many of his old friends. Instead, he went to a place along Lake Michigan named Ahnapee, in Kewaunee County where there was still plenty of land yet to be sold. Peter was very active in buying and trading plots of land and in the organization and administration of the county and he kept in touch with his relatives in Schwanden and Schwandi. It did not take too long before he persuaded several of the Schiesser and Zimmermann families that they would be able to buy land in Wisconsin, and they would also be able to make a very good living.

Peter Schiesser was the eleventh child of Gabriel Schiesser #248 and his wife Ursula Schiesser #320. There were a total of 13 children in the family, including a set of girl triplets. They are as follows:
1. Kaspar Born April 10, 1808 Died 1826
2. Elsbeth Born June 10, 1809 Died August 9, 1809
3. Heinrich Born August 18, 1811 Died October 27, 1811
4. Heinrich Born October 30, 1814 Died March 26, 1853
5. Regula Born June 22, 1817 Died August 22, 1817
6 Gabriel Born November 1, 1818 Died July 18, 1898
7. *Regula Born November 18, 1821 Died February 17, 1822
8. *Ursula Born November 18, 1821 Died December 4, 1821
9. *Salome Born November 18, 1821 Died May 14, 1822
10. Regula Born September 21, 1823 Died October 18, 1823
11. Peter Born June 16, 1825
12. Regula Born September 17, 1826
13, Ursula Born February 15, 1829
Of the first 10 children only two grew to adulthood, Heinrich and Gabriel. It is not known for certain how many of this family came to the United States, besides Peter.

From her obituary dated February 28, 1 It is known that Peter's sister, Ursula, born February 15, 1829, married Matthias Zimmermann in 1849, in Schwandi. Matthias was born about 1826. The couple came to the United States in 1864, where Matthias ran a very well known butcher shop in the Town of Ahnapee, later Algoma. A typical advertisement in the Algoma Record looked like this:
Keeps on hand a good supply of all  kinds of fres Meats, Ham, Salt Pork,  Sausages, etc. All of which will be sold at the lowest prices. Cash paid ] for hides. Shop on Steel Street, Ahnapee, Wisconsin.

Matthias and Ursula had one son, Matthias died in Sturgeon Bay in _______. Ursula lived to be ____________ and died in Algoma. She was a life-long member of St. Paul's Church.__________

Peter married Barbara Kuhn. The baptism of one of his children, Ernestine, born December 16, 1859 is recorded in St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Algoma. She was baptized on January 18, 1863 and her sponsors were Caspar Zimmermann and Barbara Zimmermann. Barbara has not been identified, but Caspar is the one married to Elspeth Schiesser. It is known that Peter had another child, Balthazar (Paul) but records for his baptism have not been found.

Aufenthaltsanzeige für Familien außer der Heimatsgemeinde/ This contains the birth dates of Caspar and Elspeth and the date of their marriage as well as the birth date of the son, Johann Jakob.

The trip over -- others from Schwandi or Schwanden who also came. There were numerous other families on the passenger list. There were two families of Strief's, two of Hefti's, a family named Marti, another family of eight, named Luchsinger, two families of Schiessers, and a family named Zweifel. There were two more with Italian-sounding names, Benino and Martilo, also from Switzerland


Caspar and Elspeth settled in Ahnapee Township in early 1855. Their next child, Elspeth, was born in that Kewaunee County community on March 8, 1955. She now was the only living child they had, although Elspeth had given birth to three children, previously.
When Caspar and Elspeth left their homeland of Switzerland, Caspar had one living brother, Hans Jacob and one living sister, Dorothea. Hans Jacob Zimmermann was married to Anna Knobel on May 8, 1851, before Caspar left. Hans Jacob and Anna had five sons, three of whom died in infancy. Their 5th son, Abraham, followed his Uncle Caspar to the United States, but his parents never left their homeland.
Caspar's sister, Dorothea Zimmermann, married David Schiesser on May 12, 1859. This couple had 5 children, but four of them died in infancy. The one who grew to adulthood was named Gabriel Schiesser. He married and had a family in Schwanden, but never left Switzerland, nor did his parents.


Balthazar Schiesser, a farmer in Schwandi and his wife, Sibilla Knobel, were the parents of nine children. Six were daughters and three were sons. There was:
Daughter - Elsbeth born March 10, 1816. This first child died on August 5, 1817.
Son - - - - - Heinrich born November 12, 1818.
Daughter - Sibilla born October 5, 1820: died two weeks later.
Daughter - Sibilla, born October 6, 1822. This practice of naming the current child after one who had died was common all over Europe.
Daughter-- Elsbeth was born April 19. 1825.
Daughter - Magdalena, was born June 4, 1827.
Son - - - - - Fridolin, born 19 April, 1830,
Daughter - Ursula, born December 12, 1834.
Son - Balthazar, named for his father, born July 5, 1836.
The records show that Elspeth born in 1827 married Caspar Zimmermann, the subject of our story, Sister Sibilla born in 1822, married Johann Zimmermann. Another sister, Magdalena, born in 1827, married Kaspar Knobel and the sister named Ursula, born in 1834 married Heinrich Zimmermann. It is not known which of these emigrated to the United States, but it is interesting to note that three of the Schiesser sisters married Zimmermann's.



On August 31, 1859, Balthazar Zimmermann was born to Caspar and Elspeth. He was baptized with that name and confirmed, but he later adopted the English version of the name and was called "Paul" He was now the only son, with an older sister, Elspeth.

All transferred to a document named "Caspar Zimmermann"

John Johann Jacob & Wilhelmena Pawlitzke Zimmermann


On his confirmation certificate, he was called Jacob Zimmerman. He was confirmed on 21 March 1875 at St. Paul's Church in Algoma, Pastor Ed. Jonas.

On his marriage certificate he was called Johann Jacob Zimmerman. Witnesses were Fridolin Zimmerman, his brother, and Karl Pawlitzki, his wife's brother. The pastor was Christ F. Doehler.
His bride's name was spelled incorrectly (as Pawerzki) as was her father's name and her brother's name(a witness.). Wilhelmines mother's name was also mispelled--it should have been Juliane Weicht, instead of Johanna Weicht.

1900 Census showed John and Minnie and 6 children, all living. Her mother, Juliane Pawlitzki 72 lived with them.
John was 41 years, 9 months and 16 days old when he died on January 12, 1904.