Highland News Leader

Heinrich Bosshard was Highland’s Swiss poet

Heinrich Bosshard, 1811-1877, was called “Highland’s Swiss poet.”

He died over 140 years ago, so why should I be writing about him, at this time? Bosshard was revered in Switzerland for writing the poem, “The Song of Sempach,” which is about the Battle of Sempach, against the Austrian, which gave Helvetia, better known as Switzerland, its independence on July 9, 1386. This poem was later set to music by Joh Ylr Wehrle, using the title “Sempacherlied” and was one of several anthems of Switzerland. We will be honoring Bosshard in our new Highland Home Museum.

Amos “Pat” Spencer, former editor of the Highland News Leader, reported: “Bosshard received a college education in Switzerland and was a teacher in Schwamendingen, a village on the northeast side of the city of Zurich.

“After many years of teaching indoors, Bosshard developed a lung disease and was advised to spend more time outdoors. Bosshard had traveled to the United States, three times… The first time was in 1853, then returning and writing a series of travel booklets. The second trip was in 1858 or 1859, and it dealt mainly with New Switzerland (which is what Highland was called after the first Swiss party arrived in 1831 and until Highland was platted in 1837) in Illinois… Bosshard then, in 1859-60, published a ‘Description of America,’ a monthly publication in Zurich.”

Spencer reported that these booklets found ready sales among the people of Switzerland. On this second trip to the Highland area, in 1859, Bosshard purchased 20 acres just south of Highland on what we now call the Old Trenton Road. Bosshard and his family came to Highland in November 1860 and settled on this small farm, which was just south of the location of the Highland Home — the two properties join.

The hill where Bosshard built his home was called the “Jura,” named after a mountain in Switzerland. The Swiss had named all of the hills around Highland after mountains of Switzerland. Jacob Eggen’s 1847 map of New Switzerland also had the Sonnenberg, Rigi and Pilatus, to name a few.

In Highland, Bosshard raised cattle, was an apiarist, keeping bees; a vinyardist, raising grapes, then making wine. He built a wine cellar and constructed a long, wooden shed above the cellar, for his sales. This wine cellar was on the highest point of the Jura, at the southwest corner of his property, immediately east of Old Trenton Road.

“In 1867, Bosshard wrote that the profit from fruit, cattle, honey and wine had increased his income to far more than $2,000, exceeding his income as a teacher for 17 years. One might wonder how he could finance three trips from Europe to the United States on such a meager teacher’s earnings. Perhaps the sale of his travel books were sufficient to pay for his trips and to help purchase his Highland farm?”

(I do not have an abstract that goes back to the Bosshards. The earliest information is John S. and Bertha Weidner Zolk, owned the farm, and he also was a manufacturer of wine, as I have a pad of John S. Zolk sales receipts dated in the 19-teens from their daughter, Esther Zolk, thanks to the late Clarence and Agnes Jakel as they were the next owners and then by the late Joseph “Joe” Hess and Jane Weiss Hess.)

“Heinrich Bosshart died at his home on April 3, 1877, just five days short of his 66th birthday. The funeral was held at his home, and a teacher, also from Switzerland named Naegli, delivered his funeral oration. Bosshard was buried in his pear orchard, which he loved so much.

“His tall monument was installed in 1909 by the Swiss Society of America, with headquarters in St. Louis and is in the Helvetia Sharpshooter’s Lindendale Park, on the hill just east of the Highland Swimming Pool. The 1909 celebration of Bosshard Monument had thousands of Swiss and Swiss descendants from all parts of the United States to witness and participate in the unveiling of his memorial. (Did you know about Heinrich Bosshard? We live at the Highland Home and we are starting a museum, where a large copy of Bosshard’s tall red Granite memorial tombstone, his poem that was set to music and his local information will be hanging in Art Hall.)

“Bosshard’s writings, especially his 1859 and 1860 series, while still living in Switzerland, particularly the last series, are of interest to Highlander’s, are familiar, even today. The large Zobrist families, Zimmermann, Senns, Leutwilers from Reinach, Ibergs from Kutigen, Ambuehls from Davos, Schneiders from Bilten, Vulliets from Canton Vaud, Rinderers and Galls from Oberland and many others.

(Quotes are from the Highland News Leader of Saturday Oct. 5, 1991, from a column written by the late attorney Donald Rikli of Highland, as a he was a student of Swiss history in the United States.)