1785 – Andreas Klement

Andreas Klementwas born March 3, 1785 in Praden, Canton Graubünden, Switzerland to Andreas Clementz and Barbara Mettier.

1792 – Margaretha Jenny

Margaretha Jenny was born to daughter of Joeri Jenny and Ursula Sprecher on May 13, 1792 in Praden, Canton Graubünden, Switzerland.

Praden, Kreis Churwalden, Plessur

Praden church

Today, the village of Praden (Prada in Romansh) is a tiny village in in Canton Graubünden in the administrative district of Plessur, which was named after the river Plessur which crosses it. The Plessur district consists of three Kreise (sub-districts)—Chur, Churwalden and Schanfigg—which contain a total of just sixteen remote mountainous municipalities. Praden and the neighboring village of Tschiertschen are part of Kreis Churwalden.

There are five communities in Kreis Churwalden: the towns of Churwalden, Malix, Parpan, Praden, and Tschiertschen. At the end of 2004, the largest town, Churwalden, has a population of about 1,235 people. Praden’s population was about 115, and Tschiertschen’s about 225.

On January 1, 2009, the new municipality of Tschiertschen-Praden was formed through the merger of Praden and Tschiertschen.

Canton Graubünden


Canton Graubünden, Switzerland’s largest canton or state, occupies the entire southeast of the country and takes in a huge but sparsely populated area that’s the most culturally diverse in Switzerland. The canton borders Liechtenstein and Austria to the north, and Italy to the east and south. It is known as Graubünden in German, Grigioni in Italian, Grischun in Romansh, and Grisons in French.

Sheer rocky Alpine peaks, thick pine-forested highlands, and over a hundred deep, isolated fertile valleys, make Graubünden the wildest and loneliest part of Switzerland, and very difficult to get around in. Glaciers that form between the high mountains launch two of Europe’s great rivers—the Rhine and the Inn—on their long journeys to the North Sea and the Black Sea respectively.

A bout a third of the canton is productive land with forests, mountain pastures and vineyards. Pomegranates, figs and chestnuts grow in secluded southern valleys.

early history

Most of the lands of Graubünden were once part of a Roman province called Raetia Prima which was established in 15 BCE. Probably the aboriginal inhabitants, the Raeti, were Celts. The city of Chur, the ancient capital of the region, was once a Roman fortified camp. It became the seat of the Roman Catholic bishop as early as 451 CE and was known as Curia Rhætorum, from which the name Chur derives. The territory nominally passed to the Ostrogoths (493 CE) and to the Franks (537 CE).

In the ninth century, the bishops of Chur began to attain prominence in the region. They allied themselves with the rising power of the Habsburgs— sometimes against the pope—and were declared princes of the empire in the twelfth century. Their power, however, was checked and gradually broken by three local leagues founded between 1367 and 1436.

the Gray Leagues

In 1367, the League of God’s House (Gotteshausbund) was the first of these popular associations to be formed, followed soon by the Gray League or Grauebund in 1395. (The Gray League was formed by a band of highland shepherds dubbed “the gray farmers” for their homespun gray wool clothing.) In 1436 the League of the Ten Jurisdictions (Zehngerichtebund) joined the other two.

The three loosely allied leagues, composed of communes and feudal lords, came together in 1471 to pledge mutual assistance, and joined with the cantons of the Swiss Confederation for support. The impenetrable landscape of the hinterland was on their side. The united leagues were soon able to seize political power from the church and the nobles. They became an independent alliance known as Graubünden or Gray Leagues.

1798 – 1813: French control

In 1798, when Andreas was 10 and Margaretha was 3, French armies invaded Switzerland.

The Swiss Confederation was abolished and was replaced by a centralized Helvetic Republic. Once Switzerland had been drawn into the French sphere of influence, it could not escape the war that raged through Europe for the next 16 years. In 1799 it was an unwilling battleground as Austrian and Russian troops tried unsuccessfully to dislodge the French. The presence of large numbers of foreign troops impoverished the country.

Graubünden changed hands several times between the French and the Austrians in 1799-1800, but the French were eventually victorious. However, the Helvetic Republic soon proved unworkable, and the country slid into civil war. The Swiss were divided mainly between “Republicans” who were in favor of a centralized government, and “Federalists” who wanted to restore autonomy to the cantons. The violent conflict between both sides was never-ending.

In Paris in 1803, Napoleon Bonaparte organized a meeting of the leading Swiss politicians from both sides. The result was the Act of Mediation which largely restored Swiss autonomy and introduced a Confederation of 19 Cantons—the 13 original cantons and six new ones, including Graubünden. This was the first change in Confederation membership since 1513. From then on much of Swiss politics would be about preserving the cantons’ right to self-rule and the need for a central government.

The tide turned against Napoleon after the failure of his 1812 Russian campaign, and the Allies—led by Austria—worked to undermine French influence in Switzerland. The pre-revolutionary authorities took over again in Switzerland at the end of 1813, and under a new Federal Pact signed in August 1815 the cantons recovered their sovereignty in all matters except foreign affairs.

The Congress of Vienna in 1815 fully re-established Swiss independence and the European powers agreed to permanently recognize the Swiss neutrality.

1816 – 1819: volcanic winter, famine and disease

Mount Tambora

1816 was known in Europe and North America as “the year without a summer.” Between 1812 and 1815, there were three major volcanic eruptions around the globe. Soufriere on St. Vincent Island in the West Indies and Mayon, the most active volcano in the Philippines, both erupted in 1812 creating El Niño weather patterns during the next two years. Then in April 1815, Mount Tambora, a large volcano on the remote island of Sumbawa in Indonesia, erupted and ejected immense amounts of volcanic dust into the upper atmosphere. This event is believed to be one of the most explosive eruptions of the last 10,000 years. (The infamous Krakatau eruption of 1883 was only one-eighth the size of Tambora.)

The earth was plunged into a volcanic winter. High levels of ash in the atmosphere diminished solar radiation which cooled temperatures worldwide, especially in most high latitude temperate zones. It also led to unusually spectacular sunsets during this period.

On the east coast of the United States, March and April of 1816 were colder and much drier than normal, resulting in an abnormal drought that retarded vegetative growth and withered the grass. Without adequate pasture, livestock had to be fed grain that would normally be used for humans.

In May, severe frosts killed off most of the crops that had been planted. Snow fell across the eastern states in May, June and July. Nearly a foot of snow was observed in Quebec City in early June. In July and August, lake and river ice were observed as far south as Pennsylvania. Although some crops were able to be harvested, grain prices rose dramatically.

Similar effects were felt in Europe. The summer of 1816 is the coldest on record across the continent. Still recuperating from the effects of the Napoleonic Wars, Europe suffered dramatic food shortages and Europeans faced widespread famine. The “year without a summer” soon became known around the world as “the poverty year.”

Because Switzerland is a mountainous country lacking good agricultural land, it has been unable to feed all its inhabitants until comparatively recently. In remote mountainous areas, nutrition and health were very poor. Crop failures in 1816 led to starvation and death.

Grain and bread across Europe prices tripled. Food riots broke out in Britain and France and grain warehouses were looted. The food violence was worst in Switzerland, where famine caused the government to declare a national emergency.

In Germany and Switzerland people were eating cats, rats, and grass. Eyewitnesses wrote of starving people on the Swiss–German border baking “bread” from straw and sawdust. Some Bavarians ate their own horses and watchdogs. In Hungary and parts of northern Switzerland, locals ate rotting cereals and carrion meat.

Swiss fatality rates in 1816 were twice that of average years. In both 1817 and 1818, Swiss records show more deaths than births.

In addition, huge storms, abnormal rainfall, and flooding of the major rivers of Europe in 1816 have been attributed to the volcanic effects. In Britain, it rained or snowed almost every day that year.

In July 1816, “incessant rainfall” during that “wet, ungenial summer” forced Mary Shelley, John William Polidori, and their friends to stay indoors for much of their Swiss holiday. They decided to have a contest, seeing who could write the scariest story. Shelley created her masterpiece Frankenstein and Polidori wrote The Vampyre.

The famine begun in 1816 may also have created conducive conditions for the severe typhus epidemic that impacted southeastern Europe from 1817 to 1819. In 1816 and 1817, nearly 200,000 Europeans died from the combined effects of starvation, typhus and exposure.

Swiss emigres

For many people in Switzerland during the first half of the nineteenth century, conditions continued to be very difficult. Poverty, hunger and lack of employment were impacted by population growth and famine. Hundreds of thousands of Swiss were forced to leave their homeland during the nineteenth century. Most emigrants went to North America, but Swiss colonies were established all over the world. In particular, there were three major waves of emigration. The first began in 1816-1817 as a result of starvation and disease. Others followed in 1845-1855 and 1880-1885.

c. 1820 – marriage

The wedding of Andreas Klement and Margaretha Jenny took place sometime around 1820. We have no record of the marriage, so the date is just a guess.

1825 – 1833: children

Andreas and Margaretha had two sons:

  • Andreas Clementz, born October 13, 1825 in Praden
  • Valentin Clementz, born December 1, 1833 in Praden

1845 – deaths

Margaretha Jenny died on March 3, 1845 in Praden at age 52. Andreas Klementdied four days later on March 7, 1845 at age 60. They are buried in the town of Tschiertschen.

The cause of death for the couple is unknown. The closeness of their deaths suggests the possibility of a disease. A cholera pandemic impacted Europe between 1829 and 1851, but we have no evidence that this was a cause.

At the time of their parents’ deaths, Andreas would have been about 19 and Valentin about 11 years old.

1854 – 1855: marriage

Andreas Clementz married Dorothea Barbara Prader on February 15, 1854 in Praden. The following year, in Praden on March 12, 1855, Valentin Clementz married Luzia Lorenz. Within days of the latter marriage, both brothers and their brides left for America.

1855 – emigration

Le Havre, France

In March 1855, ten years after the death of their parents, Andreas (29) and Dorothea (33) along with Valentin (21) and Luzia (19) left Praden, Graubünden and traveled to the coast of France to emigrate to the United States. After a five-day trip on a fast horse-drawn coach, they arrived in Le Havre. They boarded the ship Rome and arrived in New Orleans eight days later in April 1855. The next part of their journey is undocumented, but they probably boarded a steamboat for the trip up the Mississippi. It is likely that they disembarked at St. Louis and then took the ferry across the Mississippi to Illinoistown (today, East St. Louis). From there, they would have traveled by coach or wagon to their final destination of Highland, Illinois. (See Valentin Clementz and Luzia Lorenz)

Highland, Illinois

Both sons of Andreas and Margaretha (Jenny) Klement lived the remainder of their lives in Highland. Valentin Clementz died on March 26, 1882 in Highland. Andreas Clementz died on August 19, 1907 in Highland.