Why this house?
Musée de Venoge is one of the few remaining examples of the French
colonial architecture that characterized the first settlement of
Switzerland County, Indiana, once common throughout the Mississippi
valley. Possibly some of these early builders met Switzerland County
founder and Swiss native, John James Dufour, during his 1796 sojourn to
the middle Mississippi valley to seek help in establishing his new
settlement on the banks of the Ohio. In 1802, Dufour petitioned Congress
to enter lands in Indiana on credit with the view of introducing grape
culture to the United States. In 1805, another French-speaking Swiss,
Louis Gex Oboussier bought 319 acres, a portion of that property is what
we now call Musée de Venoge.
house is posts-on-sill, timber frame, mortise-joined and wood-pegged.
Brick nogging insulation supports the first floor plaster, rare
hand-split accordion lath supports the second floor. An exterior stair leads to the
second floor storage and sleeping rooms. The unique French architecture
at Venoge, with its timber frame poteaux-sur-sol and brick nogging,
illustrate features that serve as ethnic markers, telling us the
identity of the people who built the structure and their origin.
In addition to telling the story of the
building we are also fortunate to be able to tell the story of one of
the house's earliest inhabitants. Letters of the first known tenant
were discovered in the Indiana Historical Society's library. They were
written by Jacob Weaver (1776-1847), born in Ulster County New York, who
traveled in 1813 to the Swiss settlement of New Swisserland on the banks
of the Ohio River in Indiana... then the Indiana Territory. He came with
his young wife, Charlotte Golay Weaver (1787-1841) born in the Canton of
Vaud, Switzerland and their small children. They moved to the Venoge
site in 1828 with 7 of their 10 children. We believe that telling the
stories of the people who built Venoge adds another layer to the
important message of a community’s material culture.