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About New Glarus

New Glarus, Wisconsin

 

 

 

 

 

New Glarus is a village in Green CountyWisconsinUnited States at the intersection of Wisconsin Highways 69 and 39. It has a population of 2,172 according to the 2010 census. Since 2000 it has had a population growth of 2.9 percent. The village, and the town that surrounds it, were named after the canton of Glarus in eastern Switzerland. The community was founded in 1845 by immigrants from that canton and was incorporated in 1901.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heritage 

 

 

 


New Glarus is a popular tourist destination best known for its Swiss heritage, old world architecture, ethnic dining, small independently owned craft brewery, and outdoor festivals.

More than 160 years after it was founded, New Glarus has maintained much of its Swiss heritage and old world traditions. Swiss-style chalets and flower boxes filled with red geraniums grace the streets of the village and Swiss flags fly next to the American flag at many businesses and homes. Old World meat markets, restaurants, and a Swiss bakery are also found in downtown New Glarus, along with folk art, museums, and Swiss-style shops. Many Swiss customs are still alive in New Glarus, including the card game Jass, yodeling, and flag tossing. Today New Glarus is the best known Swiss settlement in America.

 

 

 

 

 

History 

 

 

 

 


Coming to America

A bird's eye drawing of New Glarus, Wisconsin (1860).

In the early 1840s, after several years of failed crops and as food became scarce, much of the canton of Glarus in Switzerland found itself deep in poverty. With more workers than available jobs, the government of the canton saw emigration to America as a solution. Authorities established the Glarus Emigration Society in 1844, which offered loans to help residents purchase land in the New World. All other expenses associated with the voyage to America were to be paid by the emigrants themselves. Men were offered 20 acres (81,000 m2) free of rent for ten years, after which they could own the land for a mere ten shillings per acre. Given the desperate economic conditions in Switzerland, 193 volunteers decided to leave their homeland to start anew in America.

In 1845 magistrates in Glarus dispatched two men, Nicolas Duerst and Fridolin Streiff, to find a suitable location for a colony in the New World. They were given $2600 and instructions to purchase land, build cabins, and prepare for the settlers to arrive the following spring.

Duerst and Streiff began their search in OhioIndiana, and Illinois before reaching St. Louis, Missouri. In the early days of July 1845 they then traveled north to Galena, Illinois, after which they arrived at the land office inMineral Point, Wisconsin. The men investigated several tracts of farm and timber land in the southern Wisconsin territory before deciding on two square miles along the Little Sugar River. On July 17, 1845 they purchased 1,280 acres (5.2 km2) for $1.25 per acre. It was a fertile basin bounded with hills and a large stand of trees nearby. Some said later it wasn't the best property available, but the valley and hilltops reminded them of their native Switzerland.

The land that would become the Village of New Glarus was untamed wilderness, which had been inhabited by Native Americans for centuries. An Indian trail passed just south of present-day New Glarus, through what is now New Glarus Woods State Park. That trail later became the main thoroughfare to and from New Glarus. Even as late as 1845 the remnants of an old wigwam were still found near there.

Anxious to begin a fresh life in the New World, families in Switzerland decided to depart much earlier than expected. On April 10, 1845 the group left Glarus on a barge bound for Rotterdam. From there they expected to sail into New York City where friends were scheduled to meet them. Dishonest agents, however, routed them to Baltimore, Maryland, where they first set foot in America after a 49-day voyage. Without any knowledge of the whereabouts of Duerst and Streiff, the former residents of Glarus left Baltimore searching for the two men who arrived before them and the land chosen for their new home.

During their journey across America, the Swiss pioneers heard rumors that Duerst and Streiff had died. Undaunted, the group continued their difficult journey west. When they arrived in St. Louis it was said that the settlers were covered with mosquito bites and very nearly approaching starvation. From St. Louis they then boarded a steamboat for Galena, Illinois.

Shortly after arriving in Galena the settlers from Switzerland were excited to learn Duerst and Streiff were alive and had already secured land for their new settlement. Overjoyed, 18 men left that night on foot and walked 62 miles (100 km) to the location of the settlement. Wagons were then dispatched back to Galena for the remainder of the immigrants still there. After a long journey that took four months and five days, 108 settlers arrived at their new home on August 15, 1845. Three members of their party died on the way to southern Wisconsin. The balance found work or friends along the way; many more joined the colony later the following year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tourism

 

 

 

 

 

New Glarus yodelers in traditional Swiss garb. (1922).

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the years leading up to World War II, an economic crisis affected much of the agriculture and dairy industry in New Glarus. Many residents left the community to look for work elsewhere and leaders became concerned about the future of their small Swiss community. Representatives of the village consulted with the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the Swiss American Historical Society to find a solution. It was decided that tourism could help resurrect the local economy and preserve its identity. Local businesses began changing the way they did business, actively promoting the heritage of New Glarus. Swiss chalet-style architecture began appearing throughout the village and festivals, once intended for local consumption, became frequented by tourists from throughout the upper Midwest.

Arnold Wieser, owner of the Swiss Miss Textile Mart and Lace Factory, became a de facto ambassador for New Glarus. As he traveled through the Midwest peddling his embroidery and Swiss lace at festivals and fairs, Wieser actively marketed the community and its Swiss heritage.

Roger Bright, whose polka band played in 33 states, Canada, and Europe, also became an ambassador for New Glarus. Bright's Cleveland-style polka included a Swiss influence and wherever he played he promoted New Glarus. Bright's music was recorded on 35 albums, including hit songs such as "Everywhere You Go" and "Come to the Mountain." When not on the road, the band was a fixture at the New Glarus Hotel on most weekends. In the early 1970s Bright played on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson with the Emmy Award-winning Frankie Yankovic. He also appeared on the Phil Donahue Show and performed with the St. Louis Pops Orchestra.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tourism

 

 

 

 

 

Museums

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

Festivals

Jodel Choir perform at the New Glarus Swiss Volkfest, a celebration of Switzerland's independence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Glarus,_Wisconsin


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