Johannes Buetschi (the elder)

Father: Peter Buetschi

Mother: Anna Immer (born in Oberhofen, Bern, Switzerland; died at the age of 75 in Indiana)

Spouse: Mary M. Stegman (-December 21, 1808)

The name has been spelled several different ways over the years. The spelling on this page matches the spelling we believe was used during Johannes' life.

Johannes Buetchi lived on the sunny side of Mt. Imier in Switzerland with excellent farmland, which he worked as a fief. The Buetschi's were no strangers to hardship. Earlier family members had their land taken away from them because they were Mennonites (called Anabaptists because of their disbelief in baptism). They had lived in hiding, very successfully, in the mountains. It is possible that the Buetschi's fled France at the approach of the French Revolution about 1792.

Early records show a Jean Butschy as being the son of Jean Buetschi. Whether they were French or German is not certain. What is very certain is they married many German women along the way. Likely they spoke both languages. Family lore has carried the story that they came from Alsace Lorraine. Possibly in an attempt to make life easier, Johannes and Maria had converted back to the state religion, and baptized seven of their children at one time. This is recorded in a church registry in Renan along with a very valuable letter from one of their children. An eighth child was baptized some months later.

Now another extreme hardship had come upon Johannes and his family. The weather was a nightmare and showed no signs of abating. Starting in l815 it began to rain heavily in all the warmer months and snowed heavily in all the colder months. Crops were planted. The seeds that sprouted produced straggly plants and little of it could be harvested. This continued through all of 1816 and on into 1817. Johannes' resources were almost gone. He had to find another country to live where he could take care of his family.

Some officers of Napoleon's army, after his defeat, were forced by the new government of France into exile. Back in Switzerland, Johannes Buetschi had learned that a man named Desnouette was recruiting a shipload of German farmers and their families to go to Aiglesville, the home of the officers. They were to work in the colony planting grape vines and olive trees. He signed a contract to work for the colony until the passage was paid off for the entire family. Then he would be free to earn a place for himself.

On March 28, 1817 the entire family, Johannes, Maria and their eight children left their fiefdom on the sunny side of Mt. Imier in the Alps of Switzerland, and sailed down the Rhine River to Basel. From there, they took another ship to Amsterdam, and then a third ship destined for Philadelphia. Johannes would not see America and experience the new life that he had secured for his children. On board the ship their youngest child, Abraham Ludwig, died and was buried at sea between Amsterdam and Philadelphia. He was around four years old.

During the crossing, Johannes kept busy carving by hand a new dough bowl for Maria to use in bread making when they arrived. He completed it and it remains in the family today. It is in the hands of a descendent of John Avis Butchee's son Willis. After the ship left Philadelphia in May 1817, Johannes took sick and died. He was buried at sea on the way to Mobile. Maria and the children completed the voyage and sailed up the Tombigbee River to the chalk bluffs where the Tombigbee and the Black Warrior River meet in confluence, about 200 miles from Mobile, arriving February 19, 1818.

The settlement on the chalk bluffs was named Demopolis, a place of trading for supplies. Aiglesville was several miles away, inside the canebrake, and the roads were hard to travel. The climate was hot and steamy. This life was nothing like the life they had left behind on their mountain. The colony struggled on, with the help of the German arrivals. One account said the Germans didn't do much work and were of no help. Another account said that in spite of the diligent labors of the Germans, the colony couldn't be saved.

The Buetschi children worked for several years there, and they came of age and began to marry. The marriage records are available in the Marengo County, Alabama courthouse. With Napoleon exiled to the Island of St. Helene and dead by 1821, the House of Bourbon extended an invitation to the exiled officers to return to France. In 1823, General Desnouette left Alabama in the ship Albion. Before he left Demopolis he called together all the German heads of households and told them of his decision to return to France. He tore up the contracts that had bound them to him and they were free to begin a life for themselves.


  1. Mary Ann Butchie (1797-1876)
  2. Johannes Butchee (1799-1893)--married Anna Grauer
  3. Margaritha Butchee (1802-1891)--married Charles Britton
  4. Anna Maria Butchee (1804-1892)
  5. Magdalena Butchee (1806-1881)--married Gottlein Breitling or Bridlen Golden
  6. Johann Peter Butchee (1808-)
  7. Christian Butchee (1811-1860)--married Francis Potts
  8. Abraham L. Butchee (1813-1817)--died at sea between Amsterdam and Philadelphia

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Modified January 26, 2017