Bern and Beyond

Click above on the now-familiar Blue Button for Old World photographs – cathedrals, castles, churches..., a little history lesson – whatever strikes my fancy! If you have enjoyed your visit, it was my pleasure. Don't forget to drop by now and then as time permits; this site is subject to constant flux! Things will come and go. –MsDeG
Christoph V von Graffenried (or not!*)

Christoph v. Graffenried, founder of New Bern, North Carolina (USA), was born in Switzerland on 15 Nov 1661 to Lord Anton v. Graffenried [1639–1730] and his first wife, Katherina Jenner. [In the new world, Christoph is most commonly referred to as "Baron Christopher de Graffenried."]

Lord Anton, Christoph's father, was a "haushälterischer Beamter," that is to say, a "frugal government official" – a son of the more prestigious Christoph IV ("der Venner") who was a renowned Swiss soldier and politician. Todd (1920, p. 27) describes Anton: "...while not rich in his younger days, he had claims on profitable political position, but, what is more important, he possessed the ability to succeed and to keep his wealth on a solid and conservative foundation. He was frugal in his expenditures, honest in his business relations, but unaffectionate in his family life. He could never understand or sympathize with Christoph, who had an adventuresome disposition even as a child, and father and son were always more or less estranged."
*This portrait is, in fact, that of Christoph's kinsman [see, e.g., Maync, 1981, p. 51, who identifies it as Christopher v. Graffenried (1687-1719)]; however, it is said to be a good likeness of "Baron Christopher de Graffenried," and was used as the model for the bust in front of the City Hall in New Bern, NC, USA. Thomas P. de Graffenried (1925, p. 142) ruefully mentions "...the very striking life-size portrait of him [Christoph V] at the Court of Charles II has been lost track of by our family."
Christoph's mother, Katherina, died at the birth of his sister, Salome. Had Katherina survived, the life of Christoph V might have been quite different. Anton de Graffenried next took the young Susanna Lombach as wife.

At the age of 7, little Christoph was sent away to a strict Latin school, where he endured rigorous instruction* until age 14. Evidently his father had to pay a fine whenever Christoph lapsed into his native tongue, and Anton found this vexatious. Christoph's other infractions "...brought punishments so severe that the boy ran away to one of his relatives for protection, through whose intercession, however, he was shortly afterwards allowed to return home to stay" (ibid.). There followed studies in Vivis and Genf – Vevey and Geneva. Christoph did not return to Bern or to the Schloss (castle, that is) at Worb† until 1679, at the age of 18.

Fearing that Christoph would demand his inheritance from his mother's estate, tight-fisted Anton dared not deny his son's ambition to continue his studies, so the young man set off to Heidelberg.
Worb Church, Switzerland, with Schloss on Horizon Above at Left
*Todd (1920, p. 27) cannot resist an aside: "...judging from the Latin in the German version of his [Christoph's] account, the school was not a success in his case." Todd's carefully researched book, 'Von Graffenried's Account of the Founding of New Bern,' contains Christoph's German and French versions of his New World (mis)adventures – some would claim they are merely the Baron's attempt to justify his actions – along with English translations, and a comparision of differences in the two accounts. Todd's ambitious work even includes a glossary (pp. 395-417), a "Short Vocabulary...intended to be of some assistance to readers of the German account of Graffenried's adventures, the arbitrary spelling and crude syntactical structures of which show that, its author was no literary adept, at least in German, which he wrote as he spoke and heard it." Ouch!
Ruins of the Schloss (Castle) at Heidelberg, Germany, End of 20th Century
Because of Christoph IV's reputation, young Christoph was immediately received at court in Heidelberg. During the next year and a half he was often seen in the company of the Prince Elector, to the annoyance of the homegrown German nobility. Thus Anton soon learned plenty about Christoph's "high living."

The unnecessary expense, combined with tales of sword
duelling, led to Christoph's next life experiences: two years' study (law, history, and mathematics) in more sober Leyden (Leiden, Holland), after which Lord Anton allowed him to travel to England.

Christoph did not speak English when he arrived in London – with no money thanks to Anton's frugality and his assumption that Sir William Waller would advance Christoph money against his
promised position as understudy to the secretary, a Mr. Roux, of the Duke of Carlyle. In fact, fortuitously arriving at Lady Waller's doorstep by his chance encounter with a German speaking porter, Christoph learned that poor Sir William was at that moment incarcerated for debt. [Todd, 1920, cites Luttrell, v. I, pp. 84 and 91, to place this date at between May 11–25, 1681.]
Worb, Switzerland, and Environs. Schloss (Castle) Worb at Upper Right; Spire at Center is Worb Church, where Several Generations of Graffenrieds were Interred, concluding with "Baron Christopher," Founder of New Bern, North Carolina, USA
In England Christoph again met with great success, among both aristocrats – he became acquainted with the Duke of Albemarle, among others – and academicians. On June 28, 1682, he was awarded a master's degree at Cambridge, after – so the tale goes – modestly refusing an honorary doctorate (von Mülinen, 1896).

Christoph is said to have fallen in love with a young noblewoman of the English court* (a lady of no great wealth, alas) and wished to secure an officer's position so he could seek her hand. For this purpose, Christoph requested 10,000 pounds from his inheritance.

In response, Anton denounced the girl as a "Hofgrisette" and reminded Christoph that his duty lay in Switzerland, not in the service of some foreign country. He swore to disinherit his eldest son entirely if he did not depart immediately for France.

Christoph went sadly to Paris and was welcomed in the circle of Bernese officers. At Versailles, he was presented to Louis XIV and assured of a position by Marshal von Erlach. Lord Anton had no objection to foreign service in France, but again refused to part with funds necessary for his son to embark on an officer's career.
*The young lady, according to Irene Bush Spence (1968), was a niece of the Duke of Buckingham, who approved of the marriage, provided that Christopher procure an officer's commission in the army.

Christoph had no recourse but to return to Bern where a cold reception by his father awaited him. Along with his disapproving father, Christoph was met by a roomful of young half-siblings and the reproaches of his Grandfather Christoph, whose sense of "noblesse oblige" may well have been offended.

Told it was high time he married, Christoph experienced no difficulty beating out a rival for the hand of 19-year-old Regina v. Tscharner, a wealthy heiress who lived with her mother in the finest home in Bern. The marriage took place on 25 April 1684.

The wedding celebration of Christoph and Regina was financed by Christoph IV "der Venner" (Anton apparently being too stingy to serve as host). In the period 1685–1703, Regina bore Christoph V eleven children, including two surviving males – Christoph VI, called Christopher, who followed his father to America, and a younger son, Franz Ludwig.
Christopher IV von Graffenried [16031687]
Christoph's hope of gaining a seat on the Great Council had died in 1687 along with Christoph (IV) der Venner.

It was not until 1702 that Christoph V assumed the office of Vogt at Iferten, and his politically successful term was nonetheless a financial disappointment. Bitter at the indifference of his well-to-do father and in despair of finding a means to support his family in Switzerland, Christoph reflected on his happy days in England.

On 13 May 1709, avoiding the tears and remonstrances his decision would provoke (and his creditors), he set off to make his fortune in an English colony in the New World, leaving his father and long-suffering wife, Regina, to contend with his debts and care for his large brood.
The new world adventures of Baron Christopher de Graffenried are nicely summarized in "Notes on Christopher de Graffenried and his New Bern Venture," brought to my attention by Ramona Kenneday (deGraffenried) Gasper of Potomac, Maryland.

This pamphlet was prepared by the New Bern Historical Society for the 1989 unveiling of a memorial bust of the Baron outside the New Bern, NC, City Hall – an event attended by many local and foreign dignitaries and members of the Graffenried families of both Switzerland and the United States. I'm grateful to Ramona and to the Historical Society for the following concise account, as reproduced in the February, 1997, 1710 Society© Newsletter (v. 3, no. 1), Judy (Fox) DeGraffenreid, Editor:


"...[Christopher] came from a noble family, but one which had no extreme wealth. He wished to change that. He was restless in his studies (his academic degrees were honorary) and struck out fairly early to seek his fortune. He was a man of extraordinary drive and charm, and quickly won favor with the kings of three leading European countries and was courted by royalty in England, Holland, Germany, and France.

"In his travels to England, he found great numbers of his countrymen and German Palatines there, having sought refuge from religious persecution on the continent. The queen, Anne, was interested in moving these people to British America as colonists – while welcomed by all England, their
New Bern's Memorial to Its Founder, Baron Christopher de Graffenried
great numbers were becoming a burden on English charity, since they were camped in tent cities near London at Camberwell and Blackheath. They themselves, unable to find employment or any sign of permanency in their life there, were anxious to leave for more promising locales. Indeed, they had been fired by recent German tracts extolling the virtues of the land of Carolina.

"De Graffenried, too, read these tracts. He also met John Lawson, who had actually been there and wished to return. The baron left for Bern, met with Franz Louis Michel, Georg Ritter, and Peter Isot, deciding to join them in the Bern-Ritter Colonization Company. Their plans were to both colonize and explore for silver ore.

"Returning to England, the baron made an agreement with Queen Anne and selected 650 souls to leave for Carolina. On September 11, 1710, they landed near the confluence of our two rivers, approximately where the Neuse River bridge meets the New Bern shore. They set about the business of laying out the town.

"It was the first time in almost 125 years – since Sir Walter Raleigh's 'Lost Colony' in 1584-1587 – that a truly organized, substantial, planned colonization had been tried on these shores. And this one succeeded in establishing a permanent foothold of European culture in North Carolina. There were, indeed, about 10,000 people of European roots already in the colony by 1710, and the Lords Proprietors had set up some modicum of government.

"Nevertheless, those here were trappers, hunters, and farmers who had drifted in individually, scattered along the coastal plain from Virginia to South Carolina with no real center of activity, no really effective government. Bath, the only incorporated community, was about half the size of de Graffenried's colony.

"De Graffenried and his colony had many problems. The sought-after silver was not there, the native Tuscarora Indian population became understandably disturbed with such a large incursion, and there was a war with the Tuscaroras with its attendant horror and bloodshed. Most of the settlers ultimately left, to be replaced by people of English background. Title to the land passed from the Swiss to English hands. Nevertheless, a continuous, unbroken occupation of the site by Europeans was made...."

New Bern, North Carolina, April 9, 1989

Above: The New Bern, North Carolina, City Hall building served as the Federal Post Office from 18971935. Right: New Bern, NC, City Hall ca. 1992 with its (New) Bern Bear Emblem.

New Bern Past

[From Carraway, Gertrude S., 1942, Historic New Bern, A Modern City with Historic Traditions, Guidebook, 5th ed.: City of New Bern [NC], New Bern Historical Commission, New Bern Merchants Association, New Bern Chamber of Commerce (64 p.), p. 13.]
Second oldest town in North Carolina, New Bern is one of the most important and interesting cities of America from the standpoint of history and historic sites. It has been called, "The City of Five Flags."

Namesake of Bern, Switzerland, the city was settled in 1710 by Swiss and German colonists, seeking religious, political and industrial freedom and advancement in the New World. Their leader was Baron Christopher deGraffenried, to whom Queen Anne of England had granted a tract of land on the Neuse and Trent rivers in East Carolina.

Despite hardships and dangers, the settlement grew and prospered. In 1723 it was incorporated, and became the center of provincial business, culture, and political activity, long called "The Athens of North Carolina.*

Here was established the first printing press in the province, with publication of the first newspaper, first pamphlet, and first book. Here, too were started the first incorporated school, and later the first free school of the province.

As seat of English government in the province, the town played a prominent part in Colonial and Revolutionary affairs. The first two provincial conventions were held here at Tryon's Palace, in defiance of Royal orders. British rule in the province was ended with the driving out of Royal Governor Josiah Martin from the city in May, 1775.
*It was, however, noted by Watson (1987, 'A History of New Bern and Craven County,' p. 50) that the town was inhabited by as few as 21 families in 1741; not until later did New Bern's fortune begin to improve. New Bern received its borough charter on May 31, 1760 (ibid., p. 53).

It seems the new world adventures of Baron Christopher de Graffenried were largely characterized by hardship, deprivation, and disaster, including his capture and five weeks' confinement by the Tuscorara – whose uprising that resulted in the deaths of 130 settlers in New Bern, alone, was by no means unprovoked.* However, the Baron's release, unharmed, in September of 1711 should attest to the fact that he was not held accountable for the Indians' many grievances.

Baron Christopher de Graffenried, Christoph V, returned to Bern in 1713 to find that he had incurred the displeasure of his father once too often. The lordship of Worb had been passed to his younger son, Franz Ludwig. Christoph undertook the management of the estate, however, inasmuch as Franz Ludwig was a boy of 10. In 1748 a stately home in the rococo style, Neuschloss Worb, was constructed as a residence for Christoph a short distance from Schloss Worb.† There are several romantic tales about how the site was chosen – that of poet Rudolf von Tavel being perhaps the most charming. Neuschloss Worb is once again in Graffenried ownership; beginning in 1990 a complete restoration of the house and grounds was undertaken by Charles von Graffenried, and the property is once again, truly, a stately home [the history of Neuschloss Worb, accompanied by wonderful plans, prints, and photographs, is given in a 1992 book of that title by Markus F. Rubli: Benteli Verlag, Bern, 123 p.].

Christoph's firstborn, Christoph VI, remained in America, where he died in 1742, one year before his father. Christoph VI (also referred to at times as "Baron Christopher") had taken a wife in the new world, Barbara Tempest (born Needham); they produced a single offspring – their son and heir, Anton Tscharner de Graffenried, common ancestor of the American de Graffenrieds.

Christoph V – Baron Christopher de Graffenried – founder of New Bern, NC, died in Switzerland soon after his 82nd birthday; he was laid to rest beside seven of his kinsmen in the chancel of the Worb church, near Berne.

*Todd (1920, p. 77–78) quotes a letter from Gov. Spotswood to the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations (Apr. 5, 1717; in Spotswood, v. II, p. 227) that refutes the "idea people generally have of the Indians as descending without provocation upon helpless frontier settlements," stating that " is a very generall observation, both here and the neighboring Provinces, that no murders or hostility have ever been committed by the Indians unless where the English have given the first provocation."
European Coat of Arms of the Graffenried Family (The 1660 Certificate of Registration in the Royal Chancellery of Saxony at Dresden portrays the erased branches, also flamant, in reverse.)
New World Arms of Christoph v. Graffenried, Baron of Bernbury and Landgrave of Carolina, North America, USA (The escutcheon rests upon the Sun in his Glory crowned with a Landgrave's Cap of Honor.)


†The "Bern and Beyond" page includes pictures of Schloss Worb, Neuschloss Worb (20th C., before and after restoration), Worb church, der Löwen, the landscape, an enchanted visitor, Schloss Chillon, etc., etc.