Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Immigrants in Middle Tennessee form ethnic club, use foreign language, cling to foreign culture - Swiss Society of Nashville, est. 1857

Immigrant group still thrives more than 150 years later

Maintaining ties was also practice of German and Irish immigrants to Nashville

The Tennessean reports here that the Swiss Society of Nashville recently gathered in Nolensville to celebrate Swiss Independence Day on August 1.

According to the History page on the Society's web site, the group formed in 1857 in a Deaderick Street storefront in downtown Nashville, seeking to stick together and socialize:
There was a feeling that if they stuck together and helped each other, they could overcome any problems. They could have a social life among people of similar backgrounds and traditions. They had all come from Switzerland, lured by the promise of a better life in America. In the store that night in 1857, they wrote a Constitution, in their old language and in the new. They called their organization Schweizer Verein or Swiss Society. In simple terms, their aim would be good fellowship and mutual help in distress.
Elsewhere on the site, under Swiss Immigrants in Tennessee, we learn the Swiss origin of Hohenwald, how Swiss culture was kept alive, and that church services were conducted in German:
They established Hohenwald (which translates into High Forest). The cultural traditions of the Swiss were kept alive by the Swiss Singing Society, a band called "Echoes of Switzerland," waltzes at Society Park in Hohenwald, and the annual production "Willhelm Tell." Church services at the Swiss Reformed and German Reformed Churches were conducted in German.
German-language church services were conducted in Nashville for over 50 years, as reported in this story earlier this year. That story points out how the first generation of German immigrants to Nashville was concerned "with maintaining European ties and traditions," but that interest did not pass along to their children. The popularity of German newspapers in Tennessee was also reviewed in this story in February.

Irish immigrants to Nashville also gathered in ethnic enclaves, consolidated power, and even flew foreign flags in the mid-19th century (story here).

More about the Swiss Society from All About Nashville by Ida Clyde Gallagher Clarke:

And from Nashville and her trade for 1870 by Charles Edwin Röbert:

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