22 September 2020

The Buffalo Years 1846-1848 (Part 3): Mary C. Bovet

A history of the Sugar Grove (Chandlers Valley) settlement edited by Johan Alfred Enander and published in Hemlandet in 1877 was almost certainly based on the recollections of Frederick J. Johnson [1846.003].  This pioneer's history identified the woman who came to the aid of the distraught group of Swedes in Buffalo who had arrived aboard the Virginia in August 1846.

De förnämste och mest framflående damerna i Buffalo hade upprättat ett hem eller asyl för fattiga (icke fattighus), Bland dem, hwilka arbetade mest för detta hem, war en qwinna, hwilken amerikanarne ännu påstå war till börden franska, ehuru hon kunde tala swenska. Denna ädla qwinna war dock werkligen till börden swenska, men i äktenskap förenad med en fransman. Hennes namn war Bovet. Såsom en af de styrande inom nämda Bethesda medwerkade hon till att twå fattiga swenska familjefäder Germund Johnson och Peter Larson singo sina äldsta barn upptagna i detta hem.

Prominent society women in Buffalo had established a home or hospice for the poor. One of those who did most for the cause was a woman whom Americans generally looked upon as French born, but who was really born a Swede, but was married to a Frenchman.  The name of this noble woman was Bovet.  As a director of the Bethesda home, she was instrumental in gaining admission to it for children of the Germund Johnson and Peter Larson families, which were reduced to poverty.1 

I have previously written about the two years spent by the group of Swedes who arrived aboard the Virginia in 1846, see The Buffalo Years, 1846-1848 (Part 1) and The Buffalo Years, 1846-1848 (Part 2).  I have also written about the role played by the Buffalo Orphan Asylum in the settlement in Sugar Grove.2  This blog sketches out what little is known about the unusual life of this noble woman named Bovet.


Mary C. Bovet (1794 Solna Parish, Stockholms län – 1879 Buffalo, New York) was the Swedish-born wife of the French-speaking, Swiss grocer, Pierre A. Bovet.   It is rare and a bit ironic that a Swedish woman had married a Swiss man3   –   let alone that they were residents in Buffalo in 1846. Her story is a most unusual combination of places and events.

The family had arrived 5 August 1842 aboard the FRANCONIA in New York City from Le Havre.  The Bovets settled in Buffalo about 1842, and first appeared in the 1844 Buffalo City Directory.4   Pierre Bovet died 8 June 1848 in Buffalo, leaving his wife and two daughters, Emilie (1831-1885) and Augusta (1835-1871).  The widow and her children have not been located in the 1850 United States Census and they may not have been enumerated.  In 1855 they were living in Buffalo's 4th Ward and had an 18 year old Swiss boarder, Edward Guillod, who was a blacksmith. By 1860, Augusta had married William Bellisaire Sirret (1834 Beaucourt, Belfort, Franche-Comté, France – 1895 Buffalo) and begun their family and Mary C. Bovet was living in their household.  In 1865 she was living with her other daughter Emilie, who had married a French tailor named James Schneider; they lived in the same house as William and Augusta Sirret.  In 1870 and 1875 she continued living with her daughter Emilie's family and she died at age 84 in 1879.  Mary C. Boovet was buried in the Sirret plot in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo.

Photographs by GraceDV on Find a Grave Memorial ID: 215056031. 


The wedding banns5 of Pierre Bovet and Marie Vänbom identify them living in 1824 in Lugnorre, Fribourg and Saint-Blaise, Neuchatel (about 6 miles/10 km apart) near the border with France.

Reformed Church (Switzerland) records, Saint-Blaise parish, Marriages 1824-1852, p 5.

The family is registered in 1836 living in the village of Lugnorre in the canton of Fribourg. They are listed as Pierre and Marie Bovet, Pierre worked as a farmer and they had a son named Louis, plus daughters Emelie and Augusta. In 1839 they were again in Lugnorre but living in the household of David Bovet (age 77).  One of their neighbors was the family of Rodolpho and Susette Guillod who had a son named Edvin (age 2)  –  possibly the same as the boarder living with them in Buffalo in 1855.

The manifest of the Franconia lists the family (excluding son Louis) arriving 5 August 1842 in New York City: "Peter Bovat 52 male, merchant, Maria 46 female, Emilie 10 female, Augusta 7 female."   The fate of their son Louis is not yet known.

This documentation in Switzerland connects them to their immigration in America but also asks the question how did Marie (Mary) arrive in Saint Blaise, especially since there was almost no emigration from Sweden before 1840?


Eric Vänbom and Anne Catherine Pilgren are not common names and identifying them in Sweden was not difficult.  The phonetic transcription Vänbom was very close to the Swedish identify of Eric Wendbom, born in 1766 in Solna parish just northwest of Stockholm.  He was married to Anne Catherine Pihlgren also born in Solna in 1766.  Wendbom was a carpenter working at Ulriksdal palace.  His bouppteckning reported in 1828 the list of his children that included "3º Dottren Margaretha Catharina Wennbom, bosatt i Sveitz sedan år 1813."  This corroborated the identification and provided the additional detail that Margaretha (later Marie and Mary) had left Sweden as a young woman.

The household registers identified Margaretha's birthdate as 1 May 1794 in Solna denoting that she had left Sweden at about age 19.  The household register for her household indicates that she moved from Ulriksdal in Solna parish to Stockholm in 1813.  

Photograph by Elgaard Holger, 2011. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Some background on Ulriksdal, the location of a royal palace and during these years the home of the queen dowager of Gustav III, Sophia Magdalena of Denmark.  Gustav III had been assassinated in 1792 in a conspiracy by a group of nobles.  He was succeeded by Gustav IV Adolf who was deposed in a coup in 1809. His uncle was then placed on the throne as Charles XIII and he accepted in 1810 the French general Jean-Baptiste Jules Bernadotte as his successor.  This era of royal turbulence established the palace at Ulriksdal as a refuge outside the intrigue of the capital.

A records6  of incoming residents at the Palace in Stockholm identified "Wendbom, Marg. Cathr." arriving 10 March 1813 to work for "Conditor Gavuzi."  This is a reference to Etienne Gavuzzi, the pastry chef for Queen Sophia Magdalena.  Gavuzzi's own story7 is amazing:

Girolamo’s last child, baptized ‘Stefanus Gavuzzo’ at Cinzano in 1763, emigrated to Sweden in 1790 when he was 27 years old. On arrival he adopted the name Etienne Maria Gavuzzi….The first documentary evidence of Stefano’s residence in Sweden is in 1791 when he appears in the Swedish port of Helsingborg...In 1793 Stefano went to Stockholm to work for the dowager queen Sofia Magdalena... She engaged him as head waiter (hofmästare) and pastry maker (konditor). The dowager queen died in 1813, but Stefano continued to work for the court. The following year, 1814, ‘Hof Conditor Gavuzzi’ is listed in the account book of the queen Hedwig Elizabeth Charlotte as receiving an annual salary of 300 Riksdaler (Rdr) plus costs of 228 Rdr. The costs included an assistant who was paid annually 50 Rdr (SRS 1806-1814). However, the queen died in 1818 and it is probable that Stefano, now aged 55 years, retired. On 4 May 1814 he received a royal license to sell confectionery, ice-cream, liqueurs, lemonade and Swiss pastry in Stockholm. His bakery was about 200 metres south-west of the royal palace...Stefano employed two women in 1820, but closed the shop in 1830 when he was 67 years old. He was receiving a substantial pension from the state when he died in 1833.

Eric Wenbom's bouppteckning indicated that Margaretha left Stockholm in 1813 for Switzerland, so it is likely that she worked for Gavuzzi for only a short time.  No register of people leaving the royal household for this period is available and no documentation of her emigration has been found to date.  So the question of her connection to Neuchâtel and Switzerland remained.  A best guess was that Margaretha was employed as a servant for a family serving as diplomats, military attaché or merchants in post-Bonaparte France.

The Swedish Noble Society

Polycarpus von Schneidau, 
portrait by Maria Röhl, 1835.

Fritz von Dardel,
portrait by Maria Röhl, 1841.
The loathing felt by many emigrants for the noble class is listed as one of the factors that led Swedes to abandon their homeland. Polycarpus von Schneidau (see bio ) has been credited by many historians (erroneously, by my review of previous research) as influential in the decision of Peter Cassel to emigrate from Kisa parish in 1845. Please recall that the emigration of Peter Cassel directly influenced the emigration a year later of the families who would became the first Swedish settlers in Sugar Grove.

Research by Par Rittsell identified a contemporaneous description of von Schneidau by Fritz von Dardel.  Von Dardel was a fellow bon vivant who noted that personal debts were the reason8 for von Schneidau's emigration to America in 1842:  

Upon our arrival in Hamburg, [w]e also happened to encounter a Captain Schneidau, who escaped from Sweden for debt and was now awaiting suitable accommodations to proceed to America. A young beautiful Jew named Jakobsson had followed him here, and they had entered into marriage. S[chneidau] was a handsome young man with black eyes and mustaches. He had ruined himself by living over his assets, but did not seem at all bothered to meet us and gave us a poetic depiction of his marriage idyll.9 


As a result of looking into the the biographical details of Fritz von Dardel (1817-1901), it became clear that his family was connected to the emigration of Margaretha Wenbom to Switzerland. 

Fritz Ludvig von Dardel was born 24 March 1817 at Vigner, his family's vineyard farm in Saint-Blaise in Neuchâtel canton, Switzerland. His parents were Captain Georges-Alexandre Dardel and Hedvig Sofia Charlotta Amalia Lewenhaupt.

Georges Alexander Dardel (1775-1863) was the fourth child of pastor David Dardel and his wife Marianne d'Ivernois. The Dardel family had long been established in Saint-Blaise and the surrounding area.  The young Dardel enlisted in 1796 as a Second Lieutenant in the mercenary regiment of Count Charles-Daniel de Meuron established in 1791 to serve the Dutch East India Company.10  De Meuron was a native of Neuchâtel and his regiment of 1020 soldiers was primarily made up of Swiss Protestant men. The Meuron Regiment first served in South Africa and Ceylon. With the revolution in the Netherlands and the establishment of the Batavian Republic (basis for the name of Batavia, New York) the regiment was transferred to service of the British government and served in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Mysore (India), and then in the Iberian peninsula and Mediterranean during the Napoleonic Wars.  The Meuron Regiment was then transferred to Canada for the War of 1812 to fight against the United States and then disbanded in 1816. Many Canadians are descendants of soldiers who had been part of this regiment.

Dardel was promoted to Lieutenant in 1800 and returned to Europe in 1802 and promoted to Captain in 1803.11  He was sent by the British to recruit new troops in Pomerania, then still a part of Sweden. Dardel was in Helsingborg when the British fleet passed through on their way to bombard Copenhagen in 1807.  He had recently met his future wife Sophie Lewenhaupt.  She was from a noble family and had become the younger, second wife of the Earl of  Wachtmeister, and was recently widowed.  Dardel and Lewenhaupt married in 1808 and lived at Hornsund, an estate near Flen in Södermanland.12   In 1810 George-Alexander Dardel was made a noble by Charles XIII, raising his status to that of his wife.

In 1814 the couple and their three young children left Sweden.  Their son Adolph died in Darmstadt in August and Sophie was pregnant in her third trimester during this long trip south through Germany.  Alexis was born 4 October in Neuchâtel.  The family settled in Dardel's native Saint-Blaise, a village along the northeast shore of the 23 mile/38 km Lake Neuchatel in Switzerland.   Saint-Blaise had about 700-900 residents at that time, about half the current population of Mayville, New York.

The Dardel Family in Saint-Blaise. watercolor by Fritz von Dardel, 1843. L-R:  Sophie Lewenhaupt Dardel, Marianne Dardel (older sister of Georges-Alexander), Fritz (drawing), Augusta, Louise-Alexandre and Georges-Alexander Dardel (seated).  
Collection of Nordiska museet, Stockholm, Identifier: NMA.0037723.

Margaretha Wenbom likely accompanied the family on their trip to Switzerland and served in their new household in Saint-Blaise.  There is no information about her that I have found in the diaries of Fritz von Dardel who was born in Saint-Blaise in 1817.  However, the Dardel family retains letters of the family and so there might be some reference to Margaretha (Marie) in their collections.  Wenbom's marriage ten years later in 1824 likely signaled the end of her service to the Dardel family.

Mary C. Bovet lived within the orbit of a Queen, the nobility and a president (Millard Fillmore was also associated with the Buffalo Orphan Asylum), and knew palaces, vineyards and a young America.  Her good work in Buffalo led to the circumstances that established the Swedish immigrant community in Warren and Chautauqua counties. 


  1. “Svenskarne i Sugar Grove (Pennsylvanien), Jamestown (N.Y.) och å kringliggande platser.” Hemlandet, 28 Mar 1877, page 2 ; and “Svenskarne i Sugar Grove (Pennsylvanien), Jamestown (N.Y.) och å kringliggande platser.” [continuation]  Hemlandet, 18 April 1877, page 2 .  The first article ends with (Forts.) – to be continued.  The second article ends with (Forts.) – to be continued.  However, no later article has been found (search through 3 June 1877 and word search for Sugar Grove and Jamestown in 1877). The Crimean War appears to have interrupted its publication. The translator of this article into English is unknown; it is included in the Lindeblad collection in the Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center.
  2. Sandy, Donald, Jennifer Liber Raines and John Everett Jones. "The Buffalo Orphan Asylum and the Settlement of Swedes in Northwestern Pennsylvania and Western New York" Swedish-American Historical Quarterly, October 2016, p 216-240.
  3. Buffalo developed with immigration in the 1840s, especially in communities of French and Germans. Suisse et Suède, Schweiz und Schweden, Switzerland and Sweden were smaller communities that were commonly confused in the next several censuses.  During this period some cantons in Switzerland paid their citizens to emigrate in hopes of reducing poverty.
  4. "Bovet, Peter h 28 Clinton" listed in 1844 Walker's Buffalo City Directory. Buffalo: Lee & Thorp's Press, 1844, p 61. 
  5. "La Dimanches cinq, douze et dix neuf Décembre Mil huit cent vingt quatre ont été publiés sans opposition le bans du mariage entre Pierre Abraham Bovet de Lugnores, y demeurant, fil de Pierre Louis Bovet et de sa femme Marie née Biolley; et Marie Vänbom de Stockholm demeurant  à devant à saint Blaise et maintenant à Neuchatel, fille d' Eric Vänbom et de sa femme Anne Catherine née Pilgren d'autrepart."  
    Roughly translated as "On the Sundays of the fifth, twelvelth and nineteenth of December 1824 were published unopposed the wedding banns between Pierre Abraham Bovet of Lugnores, residing there, son of Pierre Louis Bovet and wife Marie nee Biolley; and Marie Vänbom of Stockholm residing before in Saint Blaise and now in Neuchatel, daughter of Eric Vänbom and his wife Anne Catherine nee Pilgren for the other part."
  6. Special thanks to Maud Svensson for locating this record:  Hovförsamlingens kyrkoarkiv, Inflyttningslängder, SE/SSA/0007/B I/1 (1805-1817), np [image 57/105] See discussion, https://forum.rotter.se/index.php?topic=168143.0
  7. Details about the life in Stockholm of of Etienne Maria Gavuzzi född Stevfanus Gavuzzo (1763-1846) are included in a family history, see Stewart, Alexander D, and Silvia Gavuzzo-Stewart. Gavuzzo & Gavuzzi: The History of a Piedmontese Family from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century. Amelia, Italy, 2006, p 38-39.
  8.  Note, most historians have attributed Caroline's Jewishness for their emigration and many historians have attributed von Schneidau as influential in the decision of Peter Cassel to emigrate from Kisa parish in 1845 - both pseudo-facts are historically incorrect.
  9.  Fritz von Dardel, Fritz L Dardel and Nils E. C. Dardel (eds.) Minnen. Volume 1, Stockholm, 1912, p 72.
  10. The Swiss had a long tradition of supplying mercenary soldiers.  The most notable remain the Swiss guard serving the Pope at the Vatican established in 1506.
  11. Muster rolls of the Meuron Regiment, Commissary General of Musters Office and successors, United Kingdom, digitized copies from the National Archives of Canada (Ancestry.com).  See also biographical information on the Dardel family (http://dardel.info/famille/G_Alex.html accessed 2020.09.21).
  12. Dardel, Georges-Alexander. Letter received by Marianne Dardel, Övedsklosters Slott, 13 June 1808, Sjöbo, Skåne, Sweden. Transcription of  handwritten copy of the original made by Georges de Dardel in 1955 [http://dardel.info/famille/G-Alex1.html accessed  2020.09.21]; and Dardel, Georges-Alexander. Letter received by Marianne Dardel, Hornsunds herrgård, 18 October 1808,   Flen, Södermanland, Sweden. Transcription of  handwritten copy of the original made by Georges de Dardel in 1955 [http://dardel.info/famille/G-Alex2.html accessed 2020.09.21]

  13. In a letter to his oldest sister in 1808 he noted his return to Sweden from Rugen Island in Pomerania, then controlled by the Prussians where he was involved with Madame d'Engelbrechten.  He had a fling with a married woman in Helsingborg before he met his wife (a recent widow and countess) at a dinner held by baron Ramel at one of his estates near Helsingborg. The contrast to the lives of those Swedes who chose to emigrate to our area could not be more different.