1833 – Valentin Clementz

Valentin Clementz was born September 29, 1832 to Andreas Klement and Margaretha Jenny in the village of Praden, Kreis (county of) Langwies, Canton Graubünden, Switzerland. The family line has been traced to Valentin’s grandfather Andreas Clementz (1742-1817) who was also born in Praden. The variation in spelling of the last name (Clementz / Klement) is due to spellings in entries of parish church records.

1835 – Luzia Lorenz

Luzia Lorenz was born seventeen months later on May 17, 1835 to Hartmann Lorenz and Ursula Held also in Praden, Kreis Langwies, Canton Graubünden, Switzerland. (See Hartmann Lorenz and Ursula Held.)


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 flows through 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. On January 1, 2009, the villages of Praden and Tschiertschen merged to become the new municipality of Tschiertschen-Praden.

There are just five communities or communes in Kreis Churwalden: the towns of Churwalden, Malix, Parpan, Praden, and Tschiertschen. At the end of 2004, the largest town, Churwalden, had a population of about 1,235 people. Praden’s population was 113, and Tschiertschen’s about 225. The photo at the right is Tschiertschen in winter.

Praden church

Praden may derive its name from Prau, a Romansh word for “meadow.” It lies in the Schanfigg valley and is situated on the south bank of the Plessur river. The Plessur flows to the east past the village and about six miles away becomes a tributary to the Rhine river at the town of Chur, the capital of Graubünden. In the other direction along the river, just a mile to the southeast, is the neighboring village of Tschiertschen. Malix is about 2 miles to the west, and south of it are Churwalden and Parpan, each just several miles apart.

Praden also lies about 15 miles west of Davos, Switzerland, which at 1,560 metres is the highest city in Europe. Davos is renowned as the host to the World Economic Forum (WEF), an annual meeting of global political and business elites.

The village of Praden had been settled sometime around the 14th century by a German-speaking people known as the Walser from other settlements in the the Schanfigg valley (Scanvetg in Romansh). The Walser people are named after the upper Wallis valley in Canton Valais in southwest Switzerland. Here, the effluent of the Rhône Glacier forms the source of the Rhône River which flows south to the Mediterranean. The Walser people are believed to have originally lived in southwest Germany and settled the upper part of the Wallis about 1000 years ago. From the upper Wallis, they began to spread south, west and east between the 12th and 13th centuries, which is known as the Walser migrations.

At the beginning of the 14th century, Walser people from the Valais came from the direction of Davos over the Strela Pass in the Plessur mountain range to settle in the Schanfigg valley, first in Langwies and then in Praden.

Walser costumes

The Walser people imported the German language to the region. Previously, the language of the region had been Romansh which is believed to have descended from the Vulgar Latin spoken by Roman era occupiers of the region. It is a Rhaeto-Romance language closely related to French and North Italian.

In addition to the German-speaking Walsers, a monastery at Churwalden was founded by Premonstratensian monks from Roggenburg in southern Germany about the middle of the 12th century. Under the influence of both the Walsers and the monastery, the jurisdiction was partly Germanised before the time of the Reformation. In spite of this, Romansh was spoken in the village of Malix well into the 17th century. Today the whole district of Churwalden is German-speaking.

In 1526, during the Protestant Reformation, Malix and Praden became the first villages in the area to accept the new belief. They were followed by Tschiertschen and Parpan after 1550.

For the first 500 years of its history, Praden did not belong to the jurisdiction of Kreis Churwalden like the neighboring villages of Churwalden, Malix, Parpan, and Tschiertschen. It was instead a part of the jurisdiction of the village of Langwies, which lies to the east in the Schanfigg valley, because of their common Walser heritage. In 1851, a division of the canton transferred Praden from Kreis Langwies to Kreis Churwalden.

Kreis Churwalden

The name Churwalden appears to be a direct translation from a Latin name for sycamore wood. The district has been of great importance since the time of the Romans because it is situated on a major route through the Julier and Septimer mountain passes of the Graubünden region.

At the time of the Franks, the territory was part of the Ministerium Curisinum. In the Middle Ages, a domain grew around Strassberg Castle in the town of Malix. The subject-territory included Churwalden, Malix, Parpan, and later Tschiertschen.


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 lies on the Plessur River in the Rhine Valley. The meeting point of roads from Italy over several Alpine passes. It became the seat of a Roman Catholic bishop as early as 451 CE and was known as Curia Rhætorum, from which the name Chur derives.

In the ninth century, the bishops of Chur began to attain prominence in the region and ruled the area. They allied themselves with the rising power of the Habsburgs— sometimes against the pope—and were declared princes of the Holy Roman Empire in 1170. 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.

French control

A French invasion of Switzerland in 1798 abolished the Swiss Confederation and replaced the loose confederation with the 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. Chur became the capital of the new canton of Graubünden in 1803.

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.

This was the political climate into which Valentin Clementz was born in 1832 and Luzia Lorenz three years later in 1835.

Swiss emigrees

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 waves of emigration in 1816-1817, 1845-1855 and 1880-1885. Valentin and Luzia Clementz were part of the wave in 1845-1855.

Local governing councils in the cantons gave people a financial incentive to emigrate—typically 400 Swiss francs (6 months wages for a working man)—in order to have one less mouth to feed during a period of economic recession. The money was given to the emigrants on the condition that they never returned to Europe. If they ever returned to their native land, they were obliged to reimburse it, along with annual interest at 4%, calculated from the day of departure. 

Advertisements appeared regularly in Swiss newspapers, placed by travel agencies catering to the demand for emigration. The more reliable of these agencies offered organized crossings of the Atlantic from Le Havre for 80-100 Swiss francs, depending on the number of passengers. Food on board cost about 40 Swiss francs, and typically consisted of biscuits, flour, butter, ham, salt, potatoes and vinegar. With this the emigrants prepared their own meals. In addition, there was the cost of overland transport in a diligence (a fast French stage coach) to Le Havre (about 60 Swiss francs) and food for the 4 or 5 days spent on the coach.

Clippers crossed the Atlantic in less than 20 days, making the crossing far less of an ordeal than for the earlier pioneers. In 1857, the agency of André Zwilchenbart at Basle advertised regular packet-boat sailings for New York, and 3-mast American ships sailing to New Orleans. 33 years later, in 1880, the same agency advertised steamship passages to North America, Canada and South America.

Groups of people from the same canton tended to travel together. Many towns, particularly in the Americas, are named after the cantons from which their founders came. Highland, Illinois is part of Helvetia Township in Madison County.

1855 – marriage and emigration

Luzia Lorenz
Luzia Lorenz

Valentin Clementz married Luzia Lorenz on March 12, 1855 in Praden, Kreis Churwalden, Canton Graubünden, Switzerland. It was actually a double wedding: Valentin’s brother, Andreas Clementz, married Dorothea Prader from Langweis.

Within days they traveled to the coast of France to emigrate to the United States. The emigrants had engaged an agent in Chur to organize the whole trip, with all transportation as far as St. Louis, Missouri.

On March 23rd, they they said goodbye to their families and left Chur, traveling by carriage to Basel. They arrived on the 26th. There, they boarded a train for Strassbourg, arriving on the 27th. Then, they took another train for Paris, and another to LeHavre on the coast, arriving on the 29th.

similar three-masted sailing ship
Three-masted square-rigged ship

On April 2, 1855, Valentin and Luzia Clementz boarded the American ship Rome, a 3-masted, square-rigged vessel built in Bath, Maine in 1847. It was captained by Thomas G. Moulton. The ship sailed with 161 immigrants from Germany, France, and Switzerland on board. They arrived in New Orleans 63 days later on June 4, 1855. En route, six children died and their bodies were thrown overboard.

Included in the passenger list from Switzerland were:

  • Andreas Clement, 30
  • Valentin Clement, 22
  • Dortha Prader, 30
  • Georg Prader, 23 (Dorothea’s brother)
  • Anna Clement, 22 (Andreas and Valentine’s sister)
  • Luzia Lorenz, 20

I have not been able to find an image of the Rome, but the painting above is representative of a three-masted square-rigged ship of the period.

In May 1852, Henri Rochat, a French-speaking Swiss citizen, sailed to the United States aboard the Rome. He left a journal that described the voyage.

At that time the navigation companies were not what they are today. The mass of emigrants took the sailing ships, because of the high cost for the steamships, and because they feared that the boilers might burst. On the sailing ship each emigrant received a certain quantity of potatoes, rice, ham, butter, and crackers, also kitchen utensils. There was a little kitchen built on the deck, and each one had to cook his own food. Things were very inconvenient. The wind blew the smoke in all directions, and, in case of bad weather, the rain fell on to the stove. But since such were the arrangements of the ship, one had to submit.

The ship “Rome” was not very large. It was full with three hundred passengers.  Some sailing ships could carry one thousand.  All the ‘tween decks formed but one big room. There was, on each side, a double row of beds, two beds—one on top of the other. The light came only from openings at the back. The center alleyway was large enough. Each family had on his bed a case of provisions and his clothes; but the trunks and many of the provisions were in the ship’s hold.

While I was there, plunged in my reflections, in the center of the motley crowd which was moving about me, the odor of tar came to mix with all the rest. Then the rolling of the ship, in fact, all combined, and I had to do what so many about me were doing—I had to vomit. I was less sick than some other; but this was not too great a consolation. I stayed on the deck all that day; and when I retired I felt quite giddy.

Henri Rochat’s journey took 42 days. The ship encountered heavy storms off the European coast.

In 1852, Rome’s normal route was between Le Havre and New York. In 1853, it shifted to Bremen and New York. And in 1854, between Antwerp and New York. Then from 1854 to 1858, she was advertised as running New York to New Orleans coastal packets.

In New Orleans, Valentin and Luzia and the other immigrants boarded a steamboat for the eight-day trip up the Mississippi. They disembarked at St. Louis on June 12, 1855, and had arrived at their destination. They made their way to the home of Barbara Schaerer, the elder married sister of the Clementz brothers. She had urged them both to emigrate.

Three weeks later, they took the ferry across the Mississippi to Illinoistown (today, East St. Louis), and from there traveled by wagon to Highland in Helvetia Township, Madison County, Illinois.

Highland, Illinois

Old image of Highland, Illinois

Highland is located about 32 miles east of St. Louis. As the oldest and largest Swiss settlement in Illinois, Highland attracted some 1,500 Swiss settlers and at one point was home to more Swiss immigrants than any other U.S. city.

In April 1831, Kaspar (Caspar) Köpfli, together with his son Solomon and friend Joseph Suppiger, led fourteen German-speaking settlers from the Köpfli and Suppiger families to America to establish a Swiss settlement in the western United States. Köpfli (1774-1854), a well-to-do doctor from Sursee in Canton Lucerne, saw Europe’s problems as being caused by overpopulation, and decided to establish a settlement in the United States so that Swiss families could start a new, more hopeful life.

The trip from Switzerland to Paris took sixteen days. Seven more weeks were required to sail from France to New York, and another month was spent to cross the country from New York to St. Louis. After reaching St. Louis, they began the search for farm land. On a trip through Illinois, they were attracted to an area called Looking Glass Prairie and decided to settle there. They purchased 1,000 acres at $2.70 an acre and founded the township of New Switzerland. The township was soon renamed Helvetia, the Latin name for their Swiss homeland. In 1833, seventeen more emigrants arrived from Sursee, and in 1835 about fifty more came.

On October 15, 1836, the town of Highland was founded to serve the farms of the township. The site was selected by Solomon Köpfli, Joseph Suppiger, and James Semple, then speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives. In honor of Semple, who was of Scottish heritage, the town was named after the Highlands of Scotland rather than the Alpine region of Switzerland.

At the time, the area was isolated. No road to St. Louis had yet been constructed. Everything needed for daily life was brought across the prairie in carts drawn by oxen. Streams had to forded. The first homes were rude log cabins.

On August 22, 1840, sixty-eight new settlers arrived from Canton Graubünden. By 1841, the population had grown to 120. In 1843, settlers arrived from French-speaking regions of Switzerland.

Soon, the Ochonicky family’s Swiss ancestors arrived in Highland. In 1847, Maria Ammann arrived from Küssnacht in Canton Schwyz. Seven years later, her future husband Jacob Beer came from Surrein in Canton Graubünden. And in 1855, Valentin and Luzia Clementz arrived from Praden, Canton Graubünden.

1855 – 1859

Highland Brewing Company

Luzia and Valentine’s purchased a home in the small town, Valentin worked over the summer as a day laborer in agriculture, and in the winter he found employment in a beer brewery ($22 per month) .

In May, less than a year after their arrival, Luzia gave birth to their first child, and according to tradition, the girl was christened Ursula after her maternal grandmother.

Valentin and Luzia Clementz had eight children over 22 years. During the 1850s, Valentin and Luzia had their first two children in Highland, Illinois.

  • Ursuluis (Ursula) Clementz, born in May 1855
  • Margaret Clementz, born in February 1858

On October 13, 1858, the first printing press arrived in the town of Highland. The first newspaper was called Der Erzähler (The Storyteller).

1860 – 1869

During the decade of the 1860s, four more children were born.

  • Jacob Clementz, born in March 3, 1860, died on September 22, 1860
  • Andreas Clementz, born in November 1861, died in May 1861
  • Georg Clementz, born on March 17, 1863
  • Emma Clementz, born on February 13, 1868

In the July 1860 census, the family was living in Highland where Valentin was listed as a farmer. The couple had three children: Usula (5), Margaret (2), and John or Jacob (6 months).

At the end of summer in 1860, Valentin and Luzia moved to St. Louis where their son, Jacob, died of dysentery on September 22, 1860.

Valentin found work in the Forster vinegar factory ($40 a month). But St. Louis was a lot less healthy than Highland had been. The whole family got sick from the tainted water and epidemics brought on by the intense heat and humidity in the summer. Regular doctor visits, at one dollar a visit, along with being out of work, brought an end to the good salaries.

On April 12, 1861 war broke out between the states.

Valentin took sick again. After a second child, Andreas, died in infancy in St. Louis, they thought of returning to the healthier climate of Highland. They even thought of returning to Switzerland.

In 1862, they returned to Highland. Valentin found a good paying job because of a shortage of laborers caused by the war. On the other hand goods were more expensive.

1870 – 1879

Luzia Lorenz

1870 census shows Valentine (37) and Lucy (35) Clemens living in Highland with four children—Ursuline (14), Margaret (11), George (7), and Emmelie (2). Valentine was listed as a laborer.

Then in the decade of the 1870s, the last three children were born.

  • William Clementz, born on January 2, 1871
  • John Valentin Clementz, born on March 2, 1874
  • Julia Clementz, born on July 30, 1877

By the time Julia was born, Luzia was 42 years old.

1880 – 1889

The 1880 census reveals that Ursula was no longer living at home, most likely married. Valentine (47) and Lucier (45) Clemens had five children in the household—George (18), Emma (11), William (10), John (6), and July (3). Both Valentine and George were working as laborers.

grave marker

Just two years later, Valentin would be dead at age 49. Valentin Clementz died on March 26, 1882 in Highland and was buried at the City Cemetery in Highland.

Helvetia Milf Condensing Company

Interestingly, just a few years later, Pet Evaporated Milk had its origins in Highland. On February 14, 1885, the Helvetia Milk Condensing Company was established in Highland by a young Swiss immigrant named John Meyenberg. He had come to America to sell his idea of canning as a preservative. The company’s first product was sold in different markets under different brand names including Tulip, Blue Grass, Success, Fin, and Our Pet. The “Our Pet” trademark was registered in 1895, and soon became Helvetia’s leading brand. This was the origin of Pet Evaporated Milk.

1890 – 1899

No census record is available for 1890. [Note: The Federal Census of 1890 was destroyed by a fire at the Commerce Department in Washington, D.C. on January 10, 1921. The surviving fragments of 1,233 pages list only 6,160 of the 62 million people counted.]

On September 1, 1896, Julia Clementz married Charles Albert Baer at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Highland. (See Charles Baer and Julia Clementz)

1900 – 1909

Luzia Lorenz died on January 14, 1905 in Highland and was buried at the City Cemetery in Highland.