Niklaus¹ Gilomen was born in 1782 to Elsbeth Gilomen of Scheunenberg. He was baptized on 04 August 1782 at Wengi, but his father’s name was not recorded. Niklaus was married on 31 October 1800 to (1) Anna Zimmermann of Buchholterberg, at her home parish church in Oberdiessbach. Born to Johannes Zimmermann and Anna Bachmann in 1780 (baptized 30 January), she was more than two years her husband’s senior. They may have lived in Scheunenberg at first, but by 1809 they seem to have moved down to Steffisburg near Thun, and by 1818 they lived at Buchholterberg. In later church records in Illinois, their children and grandchildren were sometimes assigned Buchholterberg or neighboring Heimenschwand as places of birth or, mistakenly, of citizenship (that is, family origin). Niklaus and Anna sailed from Le Havre, France to New Orleans, Louisiana on the ship Deux Soeurs (“Two Sisters”), arriving in the United States on 09 February 1835, with six children, four children-in-law, and at least nine grandchildren. Their party appears to have included some members of the Zimmermann family as well: these could be close relations of Anna or of the oldest son-in-law, Ulrich (see no. 2 below), or even some of each. The whole family settled in Helvetia Township, Madison County, Illinois, a couple of miles south of the future site of the city of Highland.
The area is described by Kaspar Köpfli in his travel journal “Mirror of America” (published in English translation in New Switzerland in Illinois, eds. Spahn & Spahn):
Thursday, May 27. In the middle market yesterday I met a farmer from the Highland area, a native of the Canton of Bern. He had a wagon drawn by four horses, and he agreed to take my family and me and our belongings to New Switzerland when he returned there later today. We left St. Louis at 2:00 p.m. Two steamboats, well equipped for ferrying, took us across the Mississippi to the Illinois side. Across from St. Louis lies Illinoistown, a place of little importance. The crossing for me, my family, and the baggage cost me twenty-five cents (one-fourth of a dollar). The first ten miles going east through the State of Illinois led through the so-called American Bottom (Mississippi River Valley). The land is very rich, but being only slightly higher than the river, it is unhealthful. After ten miles (a mile is twenty minutes) the road climbed decidedly, and here we left the lowlands of the Mississippi behind us. We came to the little town of Collinsville, and later Troy. Along the road we saw pleasant farms, with nice-looking homes, and lovely orchards. The distance from St. Louis to Highland, the center of the settlement of New Switzerland, is twenty-four miles or eight hours. Late at night we arrived at the farm of our driver, which is very near to Highland. The road here is bad and leaves much to be desired. We spent the night at our driver’s home, a man by the name of Gillman, formerly from the vicinity of Thun.
Anna died sometime between 1840 and 1847, and Niklaus married again on 10 July 1847, to (2) Mrs. Josephine Landolt, a widow with children and grandchildren of her own. Niklaus himself died ten years later, on 25 February 1857, and was buried in Highland.
Children of Niklaus Gilomen and Anna Zimmermann: