Magdalena² Gilomen (Niklaus¹), born 16 July 1801, married Ulrich Zimmermann of Buchholterberg, baptized 25 June 1797, son of Ulrich Zimmermann and Anna Scheidegger. They were married on 30 December 1819. They had no less than six children, all born in Switzerland. One, probably the youngest, is listed on the passenger list of the Deux Soeurs as having died during the voyage.
The family is mentioned by Johann Jacob Eggen in his “Chronicles of Early Highland” (published in English translation in New Switzerland in Illinois, eds. Spahn & Spahn), in a passage that illustrates the difficulty of life as a pioneer, circa 1836:
Ulrich Zimmermann, Gillomen’s son-in-law, had earned $25.00 at my place, and he wanted to buy land with it. However, it was not possible to buy less than forty acres, and this would cost $50.00, so he asked me to buy forty acres and sell him half of it. He selected a tract that later became the eastern half of Highland. The Köpflis got wind of this and made Zimmermann believe that this piece of land was no longer to be had, but that the land adjoining on the west was still free. This tract was then bought, without our knowing that a project of Mr. Joseph Suppiger’s was being ruined thereby. The forty acres were divided; I received the eastern part, had an old log cabin moved on it, a forty-two foot well dug, and several hundred rails hauled to the site to make a fence. Zimmermann now moved on this small estate with his family, just as winter was setting in. He had not been there long when he complained that the prairie wolves gathered around the hut every night and that they already had devoured two of his sheep and several young pigs. He could not afford to keep a dog to drive off the wolves, he said. He had to be away from home all week long, and his wife and children were afraid to stay alone. He asked me to take over the entire forty acres, and I sold it at cost to Joseph Suppiger, who then built a house on it for a person with some private means, and this house on Troxler Street, now (1875) belonging to J. J. Spindler, became the first dwelling in the town of Highland.
Dogs were necessary, not only for keeping off wolves but also the stock, especially pigs, that roamed at will in the fall seeking to break into the fields when the prairie grass was tough and the corn was beginning to ripen. It was not unusual to find as many as a dozen dogs on a farm.
Thus a newcomer who lacked the means to construct a fence around his property to protect it against the depredations of the roaming stock, had a hard time of it, and often was driven to despair. Even if he had fences but had taken no precautions against the prairie fires that raged in the fall, the fences often burned. These were all conditions with which we had to contend for many years. Recent arrivals have no conception of what the first settlers had to go through.
By the census of 1840, three of the Zimmermann children survived. In 1850 the family lived in Gilead Precinct, Calhoun County, Illinois. By 1860, Magdalena and her daughter Anna were back in Highland; what became of the surviving sons has not been discovered. Anna apparently cared for her mother until the latter’s death on 06 October 1874. Anna seems not to have ever married.
Magdalena’s burial record in the Highland parish register gives her birthdate as 16 July 1799. I have corrected this to 1801, but her baptism record in the Wengi parish register is dated 12 July 1801. It hardly seems possible that she was baptized four days before she was born, but maybe her birthday was actually the 6th rather than the 16th. The baptism record is early enough that it doesn’t give a date of birth, only the date of baptism. Technically, it’s also possible that she really was born in 1799, and her parents waited until they were married to have her baptized; but the usual practice was to get the baptism done right away, and have a note added to the record to the effect that the parents later married, making the child legitimate.
Children of Magdalena Gilomen and Ulrich Zimmermann:
The second in what would become a series of four men named Niklaus² Gilomen (Niklaus¹), born 04 February 1809, was first married to a widow almost forty years older than himself. 1) Elisabeth Beutler, a daughter of Hans Beutler and Madle Lehner, baptized 29 July 1770, appears not to have had any children with her first husband, Samuel Jöhr, and the marriage may have been a way of providing for her needs as an aging widow. Elisabeth and Niklaus were married on 18 April 1828, when he was 19 and she was 57; she died on 10 April 1833. Later in the same year, Niklaus married again, at Signau on 04 October 1833 to 2) Elisabeth Maurer of Signau, born 23 June 1812 to Christen Maurer and Elisabeth Ramseyer. Elisabeth’s brother, Hans Ulrich Maurer, had married Niklaus’s sister Verena (see no. 5 below) a few months earlier. To Niklaus and this Elisabeth, one child was born in Switzerland, and at least one in Illinois. Elisabeth appears to have died in about 1840. Niklaus was married a third time on 23 July 1841 to 3) Anna Iberg of Küttigen, district of Aarau, Canton Aargau. Anna was born on 20 January 1820 to Rudolf and Elisabeth Iberg. Niklaus and Anna can be found in the census of 1850 under the name “Gillhom”, indexed as “Gillhour”. In 1856 they moved to Alma, Buffalo County, Wisconsin, a city on the Mississippi where it forms the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota. Niklaus died on 28 September 1858. Before 1860, Anna married Jacob Haug, a saloon keeper, and they soon had twin daughters and possibly a son. Anna died 26 August 1885 and was buried in Alma City Cemetery.
Children of Niklaus Gilomen and Elisabeth Maurer:
Children of Niklaus Gilomen and Anna Iberg:
Anna² Gilomen (Niklaus¹), born 1811, was married at the age of 19 to Gottlieb Kurz of Thun, a Polizeiwächter (“police watchman”?), on 20 January 1831 at Amsoldingen, not far from Thun. Gottlieb was a son of Gottlieb Kurz, baptized 27 September 1803 at Thun. Whether any children were born to Gottlieb and Anna between 1835 and 1840 is not now known; the baptismal register of the Evangelical Church of Highland begins with their son born in 1840. Anna died before 1850. What remained of this family appears to have joined Niklaus and Anna Gilomen in the move to Wisconsin (see no. 3 above).
Known children of Anna Gilomen and Gottlieb Kurz:
Like her brother Niklaus, Verena² Gilomen (Niklaus¹), born 14 February 1814, married three times, once to a child of Christen Maurer and Elisabeth Ramseyer. Verena’s first husband was 1) Hans Ulrich Maurer, born 27 June 1815 near Eggiwil, whom she married on 19 April 1833 at Oberdiessbach. Hans Ulrich died at some point between 1850 and 1855, and Verena married 2) Rudolf Frey on 01 December 1855. Rudolf was born in February or March 1834 in Canton Aargau. He died only a year and two days into this marriage, on 03 December 1856, and Verena married her third and last husband, 3) Johann Bircher, on 16 February 1857. They lived with a large Bircher family, at least into 1860. Verena died on 26 February 1873 at Marine.
Children of Verena Gilomen and Hans Ulrich Maurer:
When Elisabeth² Gilomen (Niklaus¹), born 03 October 1818, married Heinrich Franz Tscharner on 31 December 1835, she became the first of the Gilomen clan to get married in the New World. Heinrich Franz Tscharner and his brother, Johann Baptist Tscharner, arrived in Illinois in 1833 from Chur, Canton Graubünden (Grisons). They were among the earliest Swiss immigrants to the area. They appear to have had ties to Washington County, Illinois, probably through Johann Baptist’s wife. Franz originally held and farmed land in Saline Township, somewhat north of Highland; by 1860, he and Elisabeth lived in Highland and he worked as a blacksmith. Sometime between 1866 and 1870, they moved to the town of Bridgeport in Okawville Township, Washington County; probably this was when Franz retired, since the 1870 census shows him as a “retired farmer.” Elisabeth died in Bridgeport before 1880, Franz sometime after 1880. They are reportedly buried in St. Peter’s Evangelical Cemetery in Okawville Township.
Children of Elisabeth Gilomen and Heinrich Franz Tscharner:
Christian² Gilomen (Niklaus¹), born 28 March 1824, was survived by his only wife, Elisabeth Iberg of Küttigen, Canton Aargau, whom he married on 06 December 1841. Elisabeth was born in about 1822. Christian died when he was only 30, on 25 February 1855, and the widowed Elisabeth, still young and with four children to support, remarried on 22 November 1856 to Joseph Stocker, and had four more children (all sons, not listed here).
Children of Christian Gilomen and Elisabeth Iberg: