Musée de Venoge is one of the few remaining examples of the French colonial architecture that characterized the first settlement of Switzerland County, Indiana. Possibly 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.
The 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 door 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 able to tell the story of one of the house’s earliest inhabitants. Letters were found written by Jacob Weaver, the first known resident, who traveled in 1813 from Ulster, New York to the Swiss settlement of New Swisserland, then Indiana Territory. He came with his young wife, Charlotte Golay Weaver 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 our community’s material culture.