Subject Orte Personen
Staatsarchiv Wallis – Mediathek Wallis – Walliser Kantonsmuseen
Dismissal of Georges Bonaventure Gillet
Soldier and sergeant in the de Courten Regiment
(Lille, 7 September 1744)

Following the defeat of Marignan in 1515, the signing of the perpetual peace with France in 1516 and the conclusion of a treaty of defensive alliance between France, the Swiss cantons and their allies in 1521, including Valais, mark the beginning of the foreign service. Valais commits, in this context, to purvey the King of France with a certain number of soldiers; in exchange, the King of France pledges to pay rich pensions and to provide Valais with a supply of salt. The de Courten regiment which remained in the hands of the same family from 1690 to 1792, is the most famous and well documented regiment of Valais. As a testimony this certificate of dismissal and passport was issued by Pierre Christophe François de Lavallaz, "commander of the 3rd battalion and captain of a company from the de Courten infantry regiment of the Republic of Wallay in Switzerland", in favour of Georges Bonaventure Gillet from Sierre who served him "for six years as soldier and six years and six months as sergeant".

Parchment, 41x29 cm; French
AEV, Flavien de Torrenté, AT Fl., Pg 156

Recruitment of settlers for Nova Friburgo
The first major transatlantic emigration took place in 1819 to Brazil.
The "Giétroz break-up" which killed 44 people at Bagnes and Martigny in 1818, explains why the great majority of the 160 Valaisans who embarked for Rio de Janeiro in the autumn of 1819 came from the Bagnes, Martigny and Entremont areas as they were most directly affected by the disaster. This "Review of the heads of families of the first convoy headed for Brazil, who have received gratifications from the Secretary-General of the Portuguese Consul in Switzerland" is testimony to this. Written by Commissioner Eugene Stockalper on June 30, 1819, he lists families who wish to leave for Brazil and who received a sum of money in this respect, indicating in particular - for each of them - the district of origin, the number of people over the age of 14, and the number of people under 14 years of age. Of the 119 persons registered at that date, 30 were from Bagnes, 20 from Martigny, 24 from Orsières and 5 from Liddes.
In total, 2006 people participated in the first departure from Switzerland in the autumn of 1819, including 830 people from the canton of Fribourg. The Swiss colony was to be named Nova Friburgo, because Brazilian authorities, under Portuguese colonial administration, signed a settlement treaty with the government in Fribourg.

Paper, 42 x 32.5 cm; French
AEV, DI, 194.4.1/16a
Convoy led by Eleuthère Besse
(Sion, 30 March 1857)

The emigrants from Valais settled mainly in Argentina between 1855 and the beginning of the 20th century. People from the French speaking part of Valais headed for the colonies of Esperanza and San José, while the people form the German speaking part of Valais founded the colony of San Jeronimo Norte. The general agency Beck and Herzog in Basle ensures the main organization of the emigration. It regularly publishes advertisements in the press in Valais and recruits in the canton through local agents such as Eleuthère Besse, notary in Sion, and Martin Pache, notary in Martigny. This letter addressed by the notary Eleuthère Besse to the Conseil d'Etat on March 30, 1857 bears witness to this: "A few days ago, two deputies from the German speaking part of Valais came to ask me to take charge of the dispatch of a convoy of emigrants to South America. According to a letter I have just received, there are about 150 of them, each family possessing the 1200 francs required by law, as they will prove it. They wish to leave as free passengers and are instructing me to prepare their journey. Some families will catch up with relatives in Santa Fé; others will leave to settle in one of the provinces of the Argentine Confederation. I took charge of their expedition, followed by some measures taken at two seaports, and I have decided to inform you, with the conviction that you will not put any obstacle to my enterprise, which is the wish of many. The prices I paid and those I am asking, prove that other companies are pricing too high. I only provide travel contracts, and the correspondence I am to establish with a person who works in one of the most frequented ports of South America, prove that the emigrants will be able to find a job by themselves much easier than by submitting to pay tithes to European companies."

Paper, 50 x 36.5 cm; French
AEV, DI, 194.5.5

Johannes Bodenmann’s Travel story
Founding of San Jeronimo Norte
(18 April 1858)

In 1857, a group of 80 emigrants from the German speaking part of Valais left Sion to come to Argentina via Antwerp. Led by the brothers Lorenz and Johannes Bodenmann, originating from the village of Grengiols, the emigrants were mostly from the valley of Conches and the districts of Rarogne and Leuk. Having left Valais in April 1857, the Bodenmann convoy moved to the province of Santa Fé in August 1857, near the San Jeronimo del Sauce Indian Reserve, 40 kilometers west of the capital of the province. Once the emigrants settled, Lorenz Bodenmann returned to Valais to accompany another convoy of settlers to South America. This is in any case what we learn from the "Story of the Journey of Jean Bodenmann in America" written by him in German on April 18, 1858.

Paper, 43.5 x 35 cm; German
AEV, DI, 195.6

Map of the colony of San José
(Argentina, s. d.)

The majority of the emigrants from the French speaking part of Valais settled in Argentina in the colonies of Esperanza and San José. This plan of the colony of San José, raised after 1859, is a very good illustration of these settlements, since the reading of the names of the land owners from Swiss origin suggests many family names originating from Valais. Abbot Laurent Cot published in 1859 a note on the colony of San José. He describes it as follows: "The colony of San José is situated in the province of Entre Rios on the right bank of the Uruguay River, at 32 degrees south latitude and 60 degrees west longitude. There are about 125 families already, of which about fifteen are Savoyards, some from the Canton of Basel, others from Lucerne, others from Bern. The greater part comes from Valais. All concessions are square; each side measures 600 vares. [the vare is equal to 0.866 meters] The roads that separate a concession from the others are 16 vares width. In the center of the colony a concession was reserved, where will be build the church, the curial house, the school-room, etc."

Paper, 64 x 64 cm; Spanish
AEV, DI, 356.26

The register of emigrants
In 1871, the decision was taken to establish a cantonal register of emigrants. Its purpose was to provide information about the persons and families who emigrated to Argentina, North America or North Africa between 1849 and 1879. It contains the names of 6,629 individuals. In the Rapport de gestion du Conseil d’Etat of 1871, a memorandum of the Department of Interior Affairs indicated the date of the elaboration of the Register and the sources that were used to establish it: "Since the State did not have a complete register of emigrations, we had the municipalities take a general census since the beginning of the emigration". This document was therefore established retrospectively for the periods from 1849 to 1871. From 1871 to 1879 it was kept by a state agency based on information provided by the municipalities, and is unfortunately far from being complete.

Paper, 38.5 x 49 cm; French
AEV, DI, 358
Advertisement for the emigration agency Otto Stoer in Basel
(1882 and 1885)
The press from Valais regularly published advertisements from emigration agencies. Here is an example of two announcements published a few years apart (1882-1885) in two different newspapers from Valais – the Nouvelle Gazette du Valais and the Walliser Bote. The emigration agency Otto Stoer in Basel offers its services for a worry-free and preferential travel to the Americas.

Paper; French and German

MV, BCV J 26, Nouvelle Gazette du Valais, n° 85, 25 October 1882, p. 4 ; MV, BCV J 36, Walliser Bote, n° 9, 28 February 1885, p. 4
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Département de l’Intérieur 194.4.1
Musées Cantonaux, 4350 2016/3 2/7
Musées Cantonaux, 4350 2016/3 2/7
Musées Cantonaux, 4350 2016/3 2/7
Département de l’Intérieur 356.26
Musées Cantonaux, 4350 2016/3 2/7
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