New Schwanden, Minnesota

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New Schwanden

New Schwanden Memorial
Address: 11700 Goose Lake Road N
Champlin, Minnesota
Hennepin County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year Established: 1854
Year Ended: 2007
Founded by: Peter Blesi, Fridolin Zopfi, Martin Hosli & others
Historic Function: Agricultural fields
Historic Function: Farming District
Other Historic Function: Farming District
Current Function: Park
Notes: Swiss American Hist.Soc.

Champlin Hennepin County

New Schwanden, Minnesota
(45.167465° N, 93.421961° WLatitude: 45°10′2.874″N
Longitude: 93°25′19.06″W
New Schwanden, Hennepin County, MN. founded in May 1854 and settled on March 25, 1855, was located in the Dayton, Maple Grove and Champlin Townships near Champlin, Osseo and Maple Grove. Dayton being farther away but in the township. A Swiss memorial was dedicated on Oct 30, 1976 in the Elm Creek Park reserve in honor of these early Swiss families. The road location for the Hub of this Community is at the crossroads of Hayden Lake Rd, Elm Creek Rd. and Goose Lake road or Zachary Lane No. where the memorial stands and a Cemetery founded in 1866 which is still being used and cared for under perpetual care. New Schwanden can not be found on a Minnesota map. The last families removed by eminent domain by the City of Champlin in favor of the Elm Creek Park Reserve.


Site History

Some of the early settlers left Schwanden, Switzerland on August 25, 1853 to come to America and after 50 days voyage they arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana about October 14, 1853. They traveled up the Mississippi River by riverboat to the Ohio River and to Chicago, Ill., Milwaukee, WI and New Glarus, Wisconsin in search of land of which they were out of money and then proceeded to work their way to St. Anthony, Minn. later named Minneapolis, Minn. arriving in April 1854. They set out in search for land of which they found 2 1/2 miles southwest of Champlin, Minn. of which they named New Schwanden.

They started cutting logs for several cabins in their new found land. Peter Blesi purchased a yoke of oxen at Anoka, Minn. in January 1855 for $150.00 of which he was required to repay 60% in one year. During the winter the oxen were used to roll logs up in the construction of the cabins. Many had moved into their cabins in March 1855. In September 1885 Hardin Nolan came into the area with the last survey of Hennepin County and found several cabins with paths from one cabin to the other in this primitive forest as it was stated in the footnotes of the survey. Credit is given to John Hefti of the survey crew for naming Elm Creek after the Village of Elm in his native land. The New Schwanden area covered a large area of the Champlin, Dayton, Maple Grove and Brooklyn Townships where these pioneers settled.

Among the first settlers were the families of Aubert, Blesi, Hefti, Hoesli Lisch, Knobel, Paul, Schmid, Scott, Tschudi, Zimmermann and Zopfi with many others who came until 1890 of Ebert, Gigly, Maag, Ruegg, Schmidt, Weber, Wild, Wilmes, VanDake and others. The Community was inter-related. According to today's map locations the hub or center of the community was located at the crossroads of Hayden Lake Road, Goose Lake Road, Zachary Lane and Elm Creek Road. When the Civil War broke out many went to serve for their new found land, namely John Blesi who enlisted in 1861-1864 and he was in the First Battle of Bull Run which later he was wounded in the heel and was placed in the V R C for 1 year and also helped General Grant off the battlefield being slightly wounded. In 1882 former President Grant came to see the opening of the Northwest passage railroad and on his way back from St. Cloud, Minn. he stopped to visit all the Vets of the area. Grant ordered to have a picture taken of John Blesi for his valor the picture is still in the family albums. Peter Blesi served one year 1864-1865. He signed for his brother Melchoir because he was under age. He died of one Typhoid Fever at Nashville, Tennessee. The only one that didn't return.

Marlin Hocali 1862-1864, Charles Paul 1864-1865, Hilarius Schmid 1862 - 1863, Bernhard Schmid 1862-1865, John U. Tschudi 1864-1865, Melchoir Blesi 1862-1863 11 months died at Nashville, Tennessee. That realized the need to build a log Church after their return from the great conflict to give thanks to God. The deed is shown which was filed on the 8th day of September 1866 at 1:00 p.m. in book 12 that of warrenty deeds page 3 by R R Bryant Hennepin County, Minn. A simulated drawing is show of the log church in New Glarus, Wisconsin at the Historical Park for visitors.

Peter Blesi gave the 4 acres of land to Agatha and Charles Paul which the church was built on. And Peter Blesi was the church founder located in Dayton Township and the cemetery of St. Fridolin was located on the east side of Goose Lake Road in Champlin Township which had three and one-third acres of land in 1866 which was given by Fridolin Zopfi. The church was first with the Iowa Synod that was later changed to the Missouri Synod that was served by the St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Osseo, Minn. The church services were in German until 1912 when there were 2 services a month 1 in English and 1 in German. It was about 1925 when the services were entirely in English. A new church was built in 1897 and dedicated on January 1, 1898, the church had a light yellow brick facing from brick that was made in Dayton, Minn. at the cost of the $1,078.36, not including the pews and organ.

The mason was Jacob Maag who came from Zurich, Switzerland. The ceiling had coved sides with a fancy tiled design. There were 2 livery stable sheds on the south side.In 1893 the congregation changed the name of the Church to German Evangelical St. Fridolin's Church. The Pastors who served the Church were- W. Buhring 1866-1878, Rev. Zwicker 1878-1885, L. Schmidt (also at Osseo, MN.) 1885-1889, Rev. Mack 1889-1896, Rev. Mayer 1896-1899, Henry Hartig 1899-1935, G.W. Busse 1935-1951 when the Church was closed and the last three members sold the Church to the American Legion which was not according to the bylaws. The wives of the Legion went and tore out the inside and the Church was raised in Apr.1954 & sold for residential use & the funds placed into a perpetual care fund for the Cemetery.

The Winebago Indians were still living in the big woods on the west side of Peter Blesi's land and when He came to get hay from the haystack with is sled He noted that there was some hay missing of which He followed the snow shoe trail He confronted the Indians of their missdeed of taking His hay of which They gave Him venison or taned deer skins for the hay. Sadie Signor Blesi made Her children mittens with wool liners out of the smokey smelling skins of which was handed down from Henry Blesi to His son Harry Blesi. During the Civil War the Indians would barg into the settlers cabins to melt lead for Their musket losaders and any food left on the table would go with them.When the settlers had a pony of beer on their buckboards to go visit the Indians would give chase but it was only to scare them.They were a peaceable tribe and shortly after the Civil War the Indians were no longer present in the area of New Schwanden.

Margaretha Blesi made a white and yellow brick Swiss cheese 8 inches in size & 3" thick. Also Peter Blesi made a green tinted hard cheese flavored by a special alfalfa seed that was called Sap-sago cheese that was cone shaped and grated on bread. His son Henry Blesi also made this Sap-sago cheese until 1912.These swiss made cheeses were the first cheeses sold in Minneapolis, MN. The imprints of the cheese cakes was still visable where they were placed on the pantry shelves and were rubbed down every day and turned over to cure. The Sap-sago cheese is still sold in the Byerly Food stores today. At times there would be a band of Souix Indians that would pass through the area where there were a few girls bathing in the Elm Creek and they hid under a tree that was overhanging the creek.

The farms of these pioneers continued into the fourth and fifth generation. About 1960 the Hennepin County Park Reserve started to purchase the farms of these families located in Champlin, Dayton, and Maple Grove communities which has several thousand in acres in its domain. On October 30, 1976 the Elm Creek Park Reserve had a Swiss Pioneers Memorial dedication with a 100 people to witness the presentation of which a 7 page booklet was given to the people of the history of New Schwanden. The cost of the memorial was $1,300 .00 which had the early history and a picture of the second Church of which the Minnesota Historical Society had taken a picture of the Church in 1936 for the historical preservation in this active Swiss Community. In 1971 Sadie Blesi said to her son Wayne C. Blesi that the area was void of any evidence of who lived here because all the homes and buildings were all destroyed for creating the Elm Creek Park Reserve. After working with the Hennepin County Park Reserve and and Clifton E. French the Park superintendent for five years this memorial was at last finalized, erected and dedicated on October 30, 1976.

Preceeded by

There were Winnebago Indians still living on the land settled By Peter Blesi of which were stray tribes that had escaped being rounded up and put on reservations.But after 1865 when the Civil ended they were no longer present.

There was evidence that the Indians were present long before the arrival of these earl Pioneers of which there was found many arrowheads and many chips from making these arrowheads on a strip of land which had a higher elevation than the low meadow land which gives the assumption that the named Hayden Lake at on time had a higher level which could have only been created by a hugh beaver dam at the lakes exit.It was also told that the Indians would come many miles to harvest the wild rice on this lake because of its long grain size. But because of the nature of this lake having the water collect around the outside of the lake these rice paddies eventually floated out in the spring thaws which is still happening to this day of this water collection around the lake and no more rice paddies are left.

Superseded by

Elm Creek Park Reserve

Memories and stories


I was born & raised in this Community of which Family members remained until 2007 when the last Swiss Families were removed from the Park Reserve area.And the Hayden Lake Rd. closed.
~Wayne Blesi


A story was told about times when the Indians woud barg into a cabin to melt lead for their musketloaders which was frightening to the house wives and if the spilled any lead they would tear up the floor boards to retrieve the lead and any food on the table would go out with them. Another story told that when Peter Blesi would go to get hay from the stacks He noted that there was has missing from yje stack and followed the round snowshoe tracks to the Indian camp He would approach them of their missdeed whereby the would give Him venison and tanned deerskins in payment for the hay they took to bed themselves in their tepees.

There was so much skins left from him to his Son And grandson that Sadie Blesi wife of Harry Blesi made many mittens from the deer skins which was very soft and had a smokey smell for Her children.
~Wayne Blesi

Places in the former town of New Schwanden, Minnesota

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