The History of the Citizen Families of Engi (GL) and their Development

Public lectures by Martin Baumgartner : Introduction

The History of the Citizen Families of Engi and their Development
[Zur Geschichte der bürgerlichen Geschlechter von Engi und ihre Entwicklung]

Public lectures by Martin Baumgartner, teacher in Engi.
Self-published by the author, Glarner Newsprint Shop, Rud. Tschudy, 1923.

Translated by Barton T. Geger, SJ, and Sue Wolf


The present work raises no claim to be a rhetorical masterpiece, but it is part of the fruit of many years' work, which I, following an inner drive, began almost four years ago, and which I always indulged with lively interest. It is a presentation of the genealogies of the principal citizen families of our commune, which I was able to gather on the basis of the oldest church and pastor books and citizen-status records. Only those who have done these or similar projects understand the kinds of manifold difficulties with which one must reckon, e.g., colleague Dietrich Bäbler, who produced the genealogies of the Matter families. Fortunately the well-known genealogist Mr. Kubli-Müller in Glarus helped me. He labored to produce the largest genealogical work in all of Switzerland, helped me through many difficulties and generally brought the entire work to completion. I also respect him as one who, perhaps together with Pastor Gottfried Heer, dedicated all his time and energy like no other to the field of historical research in our canton. He produced the family trees of all existing and extinct families in the whole of Canton Glarus, to the extent that it was possible on the basis of the first church books. He also worked on the families of other cantons, for example the Redings in Schwyz from the 12th century to the present day, using church books in Schwyz and Arth and particularly the deeds and family documents of the Reding family from times past, which today are still in the possession of the old cantonal governor and colonel R. von Reding, a grandson of the famous patriot Alois Reding, and descendant of the cantonal governor Ital Reding the elder, who in the Zurich Wars of 1444 played a large role in conjunction with our cantonal governor, Jost Tschudi the elder.

Most of the family histories of the Sernf valley, in which the present day citizen families of Engi are found carefully treated, have been acquired from Gottfried Heer. Insofar as I assume his content, and only where it is absolutely necessary bring in relevant repetitions, it shall be my endeavor to take a closer look at the families in my work based on the constructed family trees, in light of statistics. The relationships of particular families to each other should also be taken into consideration. Furthermore, the distributions of the Tagwen and church offices really give an idea of the various families. It was primarily the latter that made it possible for me to begin to study the archives of communes and churches, with local culture and history in mind. It is a project which I can bring to a close in a few years at the earliest. Many will perhaps shake their heads, and not see the same benefit from all this that I expect from it. Of course, this work does not bring me much in the way of material recompense, but it is all the more ideal and joyful to me, precisely because it satisfies an inner need. In school we teach about our canton's past, about Switzerland's past, and about other countries' pasts. The history of local communes where we were born, where the destinies of our ancestors were bound to the clods of dirt on which we stand and walk, is this history of our beloved homeland supposed to molder in the archives? No, it cannot! Each forest, every old weather-beaten house or barn, yes, perhaps every nook and cranny in every village somehow tells a story! In this way we can create ties to our local past. The trees, rocks and paths become living witnesses which tell of the joys and sorrows of our ancestors. And one day they will tell of those who listen to them now. Only one bloodless term stands for all these things in my teaching schedule: local history studies! Even adults should research the mysteries of our homeland. I believe people would be more amenable to bettering themselves, if the witnesses they leave behind were always held before their eyes, witnesses which hold onto their memories for centuries; then they would not be so indifferent to their native soil. These are just a few thoughts which all unbidden suggested themselves to me.

I have compiled the following citizen families of Engi into genealogies: 1. the Martis 2. the Blumers 3. the Baumgartners 4. the Hämmerlis 5. the Luchsingers 6. the Altmanns 7. the Bräms 8. the Weisses 9. the Gigers and 10. the Norders. Of the last family, the Norders, no more representatives are found in Engi, but a few Norders still live in North America. They were not very widespread, but were an old and respected citizen family in Engi. The older people can even remember the last descendants of those [Norders] who still lived in Engi. Since the church books, i.e., the pastor's records of baptisms, marriages and deaths, first begin in 1595, it was only possible to take the genealogies back to the mid-16th century at the most. Before 1595, i.e., in the years immediately preceding, undoubtedly no church books were kept, since all old records, including those in Elm, begin with the year 1595. In my view, however, such indexes had to have been kept by the appropriate clergymen before the era of the Reformation, since in Catholic parishes these records go back to the 13th and 14th centuries. As said earlier, it was possible for Mr. Kubli-Müller to go back to the Redings of Schwyz who, it can be mentioned in passing, entered into close relationships through marriage with the well known Bachmanns of Näfels and especially with the Tschudis in the 18th century, on the basis of those available yearbooks and church records of Arth, Einsiedeln and Schwyz up to the 12 century.


Pastor Heer informs us in the introduction to his history of the citizen families of the Sernf valley,1 page 4 in the notes, that the pastor's records of Matt and Elm show gaps at the beginning. That is correct, but not only in 1611, as he says, but mainly in 1629, during the year of the plague, to which the former pastor Wolfgang Bedrosius himself fell victim. The plague, which at the time raged terribly through all of Switzerland, claimed 74 victims in 1629 in the church-commune of Matt-Engi alone; that is to say, at least this many were recorded in the death records. After the soul-keeper's death, the commune was without a pastor from September 26 until the end of 1629, nor were any baptisms or deaths recorded. The plague was in no way over, and it is indeed assumed that during this time there were still quite a few more deaths. Pastor Bedrosius was preceded in death by four of his children. In the Hämmerli family #11 [in the family tree] the mother together with her four children died during a period of 14 days, from September 5-20, 1629; and Gallus Hämmerli, #13 in the family tree, lost five children between the ages of 2-11 within two days. Four to six bodies were laid in a grave without a coffin.2 If one compares the number of deaths in the normal years before and after, only then one can readily imagine what a tremendous breach the plague made in the already small population of our church commune. In Matt and Engi together there were only three deaths in 1627, five in 1628, seven in 1630, two in 1631. Unfortunately the "Anniversary Book" of Matt has been lost, which undoubtedly could have given us insight into this tragic time.


It might perhaps interest you to learn the names and periods of ministry of all the pastors in Matt from 1595 to the present.


Before we move on to the treatment of the topic at hand, you might perhaps be interested in the citizen families which existed together with the modern ones for three to four centuries, and which now for the most part have died out. The main ones are the following: 1. The Buchmüllers 2. The Büssers 3. The Heuwers 4. The Solmanns 5. The Simons 6. The Härtzis, and then the Mettlers, Wilds, Wintelers, and Wursters. The Buchmüllers, Büssers, Heuwers and Solmanns are counted among the oldest of the Engi families.

The Buchmüllers lived in Engi until 1725 and then died out in the male line. They were also named "Wild," for reasons unknown to me. But one can draw parallels to the Stauffachers, who were also named "Murer," and the Kublis, who were also named "Zopfi," just like the Luchsingers were named "Murdi" and the Aeblis of Ennenda, who bore the name "Kilchmatter".

From 1595 to 1700 the Buchmüllers were represented by 13 families. In 1651 a Hans Ruedi Buechmüller was allowed to buy in as a member of the Tagwen** in Engi for the sum of 50 Gulden and 10 measures of wine, according to the oldest Tagwen records-and only for himself, but not for his descendants! It is a peculiarity, as is already known, that the Buchmüllers were citizens of Engi. It could be similar to the Hämmerlis' case, with whom the one bought for himself and his descendants, and another only for himself.

**[Translator's Note: Tagwen – an ancient term, from at least the 6th century A.D., which is still used today in Canton Glarus to denote the commune of the citizens, i.e. those who have inherited or purchased the Tagwen rights (this may only partially coincide with the political commune). It is derived from Tage Wann, meaning the work someone could perform in one day in the commonly-held fields, pastures and forests. Over the years the number of Tagwen in the canton has varied considerably, with the present-day number being 29. Also its duties have changed – from jointly working on and enjoying the benefits of its common property, to administering all the commune’s public interests, to (today) administering and enjoying the benefits of its common property.]**

According to the Tagwen records of 1642 one Ruedi Buechmüller is a standard-bearer and owner of the property of the mineral springs in Matt. A non-citizen would never have become a standard-bearer ! It is possible that in the Rhine valley (Wartau-Gretschins) descendants of this Buechmüller exist still, since a family migrated there in 1650.

The Büssers, undoubtedly also one of the old families in Engi, are at this period between 1595-1700 represented by 14 families, and appear in the council records even earlier, and in the years between 1527-1584 still more often. The Büssers are listed with 12 baptisms from 1595-1617 (the Buchmüllers with 18); as opposed to the Martis, who are now a large family, with only 7.

The Büssers died out in Engi in the year 1701.

The Heuwers, initially known as Heuw, are from 1595 onward listed with only 5 families, and were probably already extinct at that time. In the last quarter of the 17th century the last family, Fridli Heuwer, pulled up stakes and left the country. In March 1679 the second wife of Fridli Heuwer died in the borderlands, was taken to Niederurnen on account of her religion and buried there. Since then no one has any more news about the Heuwers of Engi. Already at the beginning of the 17th century the Heuwers from Engi had also purchased in Glarus, but then they called themselves Heuberger.

The Solmanns were also an old Engi family, but they exist sparingly at the beginning of the 17th century. In the interval between 1595-1620 only six children were baptized from the Solmann family of Engi. They were also represented in Elm, and only later died out in 1682. They belonged to the "Free People of God's House" [Gotteshausleute].3 In February 1388, on the "Night of Death" at Weesen, a Heini Solmann was killed, who was known to be from the Sernf valley. Among the fallen at Novarra in 1513 was reported to us also Thomen Solmann from the Sernf valley. Whether the latter was from Engi or Elm cannot be determined. Today the Solmanns, also known as "Salmen," are found only in Bilten; whether they are descendants of the Sernf valley Solmanns cannot be ascertained either, although they probably are.

The other aforementioned families bought themselves into Engi only after 1600, and then are soon gone again. In this manner in 1642 Jacob Mettler (or Möttler) of Wattwil purchased Engi Tagwen rights for 100 Gulden, and Läri Simon (or Simen) for 80 Gulden, both for themselves and their descendants. 20 Gulden were waived to the latter, since his ancestors already lived in Engi. According to the Historical Yearbook 24, Folio 32, the Simens must have already been in Engi in the 16th century, since there they say that in late autumn of 1527 a child of Hans Simen from the Sernf valley was killed.** Today only very few Simons exist in Glarus and Niederurnen.

**Author's Note: "From the diary of Valentin Tschudi: 'While he was digging (i.e., the time when he is used to dig) for a groundhog, a child of Hans Simen from the Sernf valley expired in the hole.'"

In 1652 Fridli Härtzi, who married Verena Bräm in 1651, a great-granddaughter of the Bräm progenitor, bought himself into Engi for 100 Gulden, both for himself and his descendants. But in 1680 the Härtzis sold it back again and received 60 Gulden from the Tagwen. They pulled up stakes and left for the borderlands, and there apparently became Catholic.

A year later in 1653, Jacob Wild, the late Kaspar's son, bought himself [into Engi] for 100 Gulden, and 5 Schillings to each Tagwen member. The Wilds were more represented in Matt. Up until 1714 there were no more purchases in Engi. In 1714 Kaspar Winteler of Mollis, who was later Tagwen official and councilor, acquired the Tagwen rights of Engi for himself and his descendants for 180 Gulden and "to each Tagwen member, about 16 years old and older," three Schillings. In Engi there were six families who were descendants of this councilor Kaspar Winteler, who is supposed to have been a respected man, and they became extinct in the male line on November 20, 1896.

We still wish to mention other purchases up until 1850. There are two of them. In May of 1823 Adam Blumer of Nidfurn, 1805-1876, grandfather of the present church president, who would later become church president and communal councilor, bought himself [into Engi] for 200 Gulden and indeed this cheaply, because he lived since his youth in Engi, growing up near his cousin, councilor Blumer, and his mother, Anna Baumgartner, who came from Engi. In 1837 the tailor Jacob Wurster, who came from Wurtemburg, bought himself and his sons Adam, Jacob and Martin [into Engi] for the following sums: 100 Gulden, since his father Adam already lived in Engi; the sons Adam and Jacob, who both had emigrated to America, were to pay upon their marriage 400 Gulden each; and the youngest son Martin 200 Gulden. The Wursters had also already died out by the 1870's in Engi. Their descendants are still in North America.

All these old families described herein exist in Engi no more. It could also fare the same way for particular citizen families existing today. The Weisses, or Wysses, an old, dignified Engi family, are close to dying out. So it also went, as said at the beginning, for the Norders, whom we discuss later. I even forgot the family tree of the Speichs of Engi, the last generations of whom still live in North America and who came from Matt to Engi circa 1650.


I would now like to attempt in the following [pages] to demonstrate why, of the existing citizen families of Engi, one flourished so strongly while others instead declined.

The largest family by far are the Martis. Since the Martis of Matt belong to the same family (more details about that farther back!) those of Engi and Matt are united in the same family tree. Up to now the Martis of both communes number 630 families, of which 480 are allotted to the Martis in Engi. In second place stands the Blumers with 370 families; 3. the Baumgartners with 335 families; 4. the Hämmerlis with 210 families; 5. the Luchsingers and Altmanns each with 110 families; then follows the Bräms with 48, the Wysses with 46, the Gigers with 41 and the Norders with 20 families. The sum total of [individual] families in all** the citizen families of Engi in the time period between 1590-1920, thus in 330 years, amounts to 1770 families; i.e., those families who became established in America and could not have been known to me, are therefore not included.

**Author's Note: All existing citizen families.

It was possible in several families to trace the family tree back to a single progenitor; so it is with the Martis, Blumers, Baumgartners, Luchsingers, Bräms and Norders. As for the other four families: Hämmerlis, Altmanns (in part), Wysses and Gigers, more representatives were already in Engi in 1590. These latter [families] have continually decreased however, as opposed to the Martis, Blumers and Baumgartners, who have become extremely strong in number.

(see table in the back!)[Statistics]


1The author probably refers to Gottfried Heer's Zur Geschichte glarnerischer Geschlechter, derjenigen des Sernftales insbesondere. Alerlei Bilder aus vergangenen Tagen (1920)

2It is unclear whether the author refers to the bodies of the deceased children, or to burial practices in general at the time.

3Sie gehörten zu den freien Gotteshausleuten. Refers to people attached to a religious establishment for protection, usually as serfs. They could buy their freedom, for example, with the purchase of church land. [S.W.]

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