Upon arrival, Dufour visited the gardens of Peter Legaux near
Philadelphia, others in the Baltimore area and Jefferson’s Monticello
before investigating the country’s interior. President Jefferson
personally encouraged him to try producing wine in the west. Along the
Ohio River Dufour found productive vineyards at Marietta and Gallipolis in
the Northwest Territory.
Dufour traveled down the Ohio River and up the Mississippi into New
France; he found that promising vineyards had been removed because they
were seen as a threat to the mother country’s wine industry. He made
important business transactions and contacts in Kaskaskia, Ste.
Genevieve and St. Louis that supported his future experiments in grape
culture. Although we have no specific record, Dufour was apparently also
impressed by the vernacular architecture of the French colonists.
In 1801, seventeen members of Dufour’s extended family joined him at
their First Vineyard on the Kentucky River southwest of Lexington. The
vineyard was only partly successful and by 1802 most had moved on to the
already planned Second Vineyard on the Ohio River. The second Vineyard
often labeled “Swiss Vineyards” or “New Switzerland” on maps of the
period was established in Indiana Territory just east of the Greenville
Treaty Line in what was to become Switzerland County. By an 1802 Act of
Congress, 2500 acres were sold to Jean Jacques Dufour on extended
credit; 1200 acres were added later.
The Swiss laid out the town of Vevay in
1813, which became the county
seat of Switzerland County in 1814 (Indiana became a state in 1816). The
Swiss were well educated and influential locally and regionally. In 1826
Dufour published “The Vinedresser’s Guide”, the standard authority on
wine-grape growing for North America bringing the Swiss vintners into
national attention and put them at the forefront of the wine industry.
New Switzerland The second Vineyard often labeled “Swiss Vineyards” or
“New Switzerland” on maps of the period, was established in Indiana
Territory just east of the Greenville Treaty Line in what was to become
The land was subdivided in the French manner in long narrow parcels
perpendicular to the Ohio River. Parcels were resold to both men and
women of the original party and a few Swiss families who joined them.
Louis Gex Oboussier
In 1805 Louis Gex Oboussier (1761-1845) purchased the largest tract of
319 acres of bottomland along Indian Creek, which the Swiss renamed
“Venoge” after a river in their native land. He planted grapes, orchards
and food crops.
two story home on the high bank of the Ohio River became part of the
Swiss community’s efforts which resulted in the first commercially
successful winery in the United States. By 1810 they were shipping wines
in quantity to the East Coast by way of New Orleans. A parcel of the
Gex-Oboussier property is what we now call Musée de Venoge.
Jacob Weaver And Charlotte Golay
Jacob Weaver was of German decent; he met and married Charlotte Golay in
1803 in Ulster County, New York. When they married she was 17 and he was
27. The Golay family were from the Canton of Vaud in Switzerland and
been living in New York in order to settle a legal affair before going
to on to New Switzerland. Charlotte’s father, David Golay, had already
joined Dufour’s venture in New Switzerland and as soon as possible
Charlotte and Jacob joined him. Their 45 day journey over land and by
flatboat is described in a letter from Jacob Weaver to his father in New
When Jacob and Charlotte reached New Switzerland, Jacob wrote “we are
settled in a house of my father-in-laws, close to his door”. Jacob
enthusiastically set about earning a living in farming and in starting a
vineyard for his family.
Jacob writes to his father in 1814 of plans to move to a parcel of land
(now called Musée de Venoge) owned by Louis Gex-Oboussier. When
Charlotte’s father, David Golay, died, their plans seem to have changed.
He and Charlotte stayed at the Golay family house until 1828. By that
time Jacob was 52. Some of his older children (they had ten) where grown
and making lives for themselves and it was time to move to a smaller
place that required less manual labor. Jacob had given up on his
vineyard; he had three times flat boated produce to New Orleans’s (which
he called a ‘foreign port’) with no real success. We also know he built
a horse powered carding mill. In 1839 he was lured into selling
his Venoge property to buy into a mercantile venture by a devious
son-in-law, a decision which proved financially disastrous. Charlotte
died after a five year illness in 1841 and Jacob spent his last days
living in the little town of Jacksonville, Indiana, a few miles away
with a daughter.
Many homes that are restored and open to the public are of the
well-known and successful. The Jacob and Charlotte Weaver home at Venoge
is one of an early Switzerland County family that worked hard, tried
many ventures and was only able to stay even. This is typical of many,
but significant in the progress toward our life today.