Swiss Roots

Alois Bachman's family members
were among Swiss immigrants to the area

His father was a successful landowner and businessman

(November 2021) – Both Lt. Col. Alois O. Bachman’s maternal and paternal ancestors were among the wave of Swiss immigrants to southern Indiana. Many were attracted to the area due to an act of Congress that stated that anyone who would settle in the Ohio Valley and spend his time cultivating grapes would be given a certain tract of land.
But Bachman’s father pursued interests other than grapes once he arrived in Indiana. His father was Alois O. Bachman Sr. (Sept. 26, 1790 – Nov. 10, 1860), and his mother was Emily Thiebaud (1800 – Dec. 5, 1850). Bachman Sr. is documented in the U.S. and Canada Passenger & Immigration Lists Index (1500s – 1900s) has having arrived alone in Indiana between 1821 – 1825. He married Emily on Sept. 19, 1822, in Indiana. In the 1830 U.S. Census they are listed as living in Jefferson County, Indiana.
Additional records found at Ancestry.com indicate that Bachman Sr. was born at Canton of Nufachetel in the principality of Fusstenburgh, Germany. At an early age he left Germany for Switzerland, which is the country he immigrated from to America.
Upon his arrival in Madison, Ind., Bachman Sr. opened a bakery and saloon with John Buhler. The saloon was possibly The Lighthouse Tavern, which used to be located at Vaughn Drive, east of Mulberry Street. In 1830 he sold his interest in both businesses to Caleb Schmidlapp, who owned them for the next 20 years.
A house known as “The Bachman House” was believed to have been built around 1825 in Lonesome Hollow in Madison for Alois Bachman Sr., “a German immigrant and tavern keeper.” Drawings for the home exist in the Library of Congress.

Justi Thiebaud

Photo provided

Switzerland County, Ind., farmer Justi Thiebaud was an uncle to Lt. Col. Alois Bachman.

The house is built into an embankment, similar to many early stone houses in Pennsylvania, where many German and Swiss immigrants settled before making their way west. The first floor was level with the top of the embankment, and the lower floor faced out from the hillside. The house was constructed of two square stone pavilions connected by a wide overhanging roof and central breezeway. It is similar to a dogtrot plan, where a breezeway connects two living areas (many times cabins). It is a style of house was common throughout the southeastern United States during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Backman Sr.’s will (Book A, pg. 101) was made out on Oct. 30, 1860, two years before his only son died at the Battle of Antietam. In it he stated: “To my dau. Emily Holstein, wife of Louis Holstein, a business house (part 73 Old town) to my dau. Narcissa Bachman, and my son Alois C. Bachman, lot No. 135, addition west; with Helen Bachman, also trust for my grandchildren, Thomas A. Stevens, Wm. C. Stevens, Charles Stevens, infant children of my decd dau. Augustine Stevens of Calloway Co., Mo., $1,500. Dau. Louisa, wife of John W. Vawter; dau. Julia wife of John McKinney, dau. Frances, wife, of John Rose; Alois Jr. to be exec.”
Bachman Sr. and his wife had six daughters and one son, Alois O. Bachman Jr. (May 17, 1839 – Sept. 17, 1862, Sharpesburg, MD) all born in Madison. Their firstborn was Emily (Aug. 25, 1823 – Sept. 29, 1873, IN). She married Charles Louis Holstein (1806 – 1893) on April 21, 1842.
Narcissa (Oct. 21, 1827 – Aug. 29, 1921, Indianapolis, IN) came next. Her obituary, which appeared in The Indianapolis Star, stated that “Miss Bachman is the last of 10 children to die. Her brother, Col. Alois O. Bachman, was killed in the battle of Antietam. The local G.A.R. post at Madison bears his name.”
Louisa (Dec. 16, 1831 – July 4, 1887, IN) married John Watts Vawter on Feb. 13, 1851. Julia A. (1834 – Sept. 9, 1897, Indianapolis, IN) married John McKinney (1828 - 1887) on Dec. 24, 1855. Her obituary in The Madison Courier revealed that “Mrs. McKinney’s life was one of rare, unselfish devotion to the comfort and happiness of her family. Her own friends, as well as those of her children, will recall, with pleasure, her fine social qualities, and remember, most delightfully the happy hours spent in her hospitable home.”
Frances (1838 - June 16, 1913, IN) married John Bullis Ross (1837 – 1921) on Nov. 1, 1859. Her obituary in the Madison Daily Herald announced the “Death Last Night (of) a Member of One of Madison’s Prominent Families.” It stated that her parents were “well known early citizens of Madison, one of a large family that has played an important part in the life of the community.” And that her one brother, Alois Bachman, “will live forever in the memory of the people of this state as the personification of youth and gallantry.”
The last sister, Helen M. (1841 – April 29, 1879, IN), married John S. Neal on Nov. 2, 1865. A year before Helen was born, her father had already acquired many commercial and real estate properties in Madison. In the 1850 U.S. Census he is listed with a personal estate valued at $30,000, making him one of Madison’s wealthiest men.
His wife shared her husband’s Swiss heritage. Many of the first Swiss immigrants settled in Switzerland County along the Ohio River, as did her parents. One early settler was John James Dufour, who came to America in 1796 in search of lands suitable for vineyards. A colony was founded at Vevay in 1803.
The Thiebaud family came to the area in 1817, said Martha Bladen, Director of the Switzerland County Historical Society. They arrived with the Schenck family. The Thiebauds had a cabin waiting for them when they arrived, having made plans ahead of time to have one constructed. Possibly they had arranged this with other Swiss immigrants already here.
What attracted Swiss immigrants to the area were the vineyards, Bladen said. The earliest settlers had such success with vineyards that word soon spread. “There were also lots of Irish, Scottish and German immigrants to the area.”
Emily’s parents were Frederick Louis Thiebaud (Oct. 4, 1767 – Dec. 24, 1846, IN). Frederick was born in the Vevay District de la Riviera-Pays-d’Enhaut, Vaud, Switzer-land, possibly the same area as Dufour. He arrived in Philadelphia in 1817 with his wife and children and traveled west to settle in Indiana. A General Land Office Record shows that he purchased land in June 1818 in Switzerland Co., Ind.
He was married to Harriet Prater (April 15, 1777 – June 7, 1844), who was also Swiss. In addition to Emily, the family consisted of Justi, Philippine, Julia, Justine, Augustine, and Charles. After the parents died, Justi (1813 – 1891) took over the farm, building a new home over the foundation of the first one built by his parents.
Now known as the Thiebaud Farmstead, the 164-acre farm is in Craig Township and is owned and maintained by the Switzerland County Historical Society. “We wanted to restore a haypress barn,” Bladen said.
The property had such a barn on it and the historical society expressed an interest in restoring it. “It was granted to us by Dow Corning.” They now hold special events at the site. At one time there were more than 200 barns containing haypresses. Now there are three such barns left, since the haypresses have all been removed.
When Justi took over he raised hay, since that was the moneymaker at the time, said Bladen. From agricultural censuses, she knows they also raised sheep, hogs and made butter, so they must have also had dairy cows.
Justi, Alois O. Bachman Jr.’s uncle, married Mary Banta on June 6, 1839 and raised 10 children. He retired from farming in fall 1882 and moved to Vevay.

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