22 September 2020

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

The earliest known history of the Swedish community in our area was published in 1877.  Two articles about the Sugar Grove (Chandlers Valley) settlement were published in Hemlandet, edited by Johan Alfred Enander, and almost certainly based on the recollections of Frederick J. Johnson [1846.003].  This pioneer's story identified the woman who came to the aid of the distraught group of Swedes in Buffalo 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 Ulriksdal, 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 man.3  Her story is a most unusual combination of places and events.

The family had arrived in New York City on 5 August 1842 aboard the FRANCONIA from Le Havre.  The Bovets settled in Buffalo about 1842, and first appeared in the 1844 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 the family was living in Buffalo's 4th Ward and had an 18 year old Swiss boarder, Edward Guillod, a blacksmith. By 1860, Mary Bovet was living in the household of Augusta who had married William Bellisaire Sirret (1834 Beaucourt, Belfort, Franche-Comté, France – 1895 Buffalo) and had begun their family.  In 1865 Mary Bovet 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 then died at age 84 in 1879.  Mary C. Bovet was buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo alongside her husband, whose remains had been relocated to the W. B. Sirret family plot.

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, Neuchâtel (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. 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 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 who 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 family indicated that she moved from Ulriksdal in Solna parish to Stockholm in 1813.  A record of incoming residents at the Palace in Stockholm identified Wendbom, Marg. Cathr. arriving 10 March 1813 to work for Conditor Gavuzi.6   

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.

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 meters 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 Wendbom'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.  The question of her connection to Neuchâtel and Switzerland remained unanswered, but a best guess was that Margaretha was employed as a servant for a family of a diplomat or a merchant 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 of the noble class felt by many emigrants was one of the factors that led Swedes to abandon their homeland. Despite this, many historians had credited Polycarpus von Schneidau (see bio ) as influential in the decision of Peter Cassel to emigrate from Kisa parish in 1845 (I disagree with that hypothesis). This is significant to the history of Swedish settlement in the Jamestown area because Peter Cassel's emigration in 1845 led directly to the emigration in 1846 of the families who would become 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 scandalous 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 almost certainly connected to the emigration of Margaretha Wendbom 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.  He became an important member of King Charles XV's entourage and was influential as an artist and cartoonist (see Wikipedia - Fritz von Dardel). 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 regiment10 of Count Charles-Daniel de Meuron established in 1791. 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 for the Dutch East India Company, but 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.  As a British regiment, they 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, was at the Battle of Plattsburg, 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, returned to Europe in 1802 and was then 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 and he had recently met his future wife Sophia Lewenhaupt.  She was from a noble family, had become the younger, second wife of the Rear Admiral (and Earl) Hans Fredrik 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 the summer of 1814 the couple and their three young children left Sweden.  Sophie was pregnant in her third trimester during this long trip south through Germany and their son Adolph died in Darmstadt in August.  Their fourth child, 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 Neuchâtel 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, Louis-Alexandre and Georges-Alexander Dardel (seated).  
Collection of Nordiska museet, Stockholm, Identifier: NMA.0037723.

Margaretha Wendbom likely accompanied the family on their trip to Switzerland in 1814 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.  However, the Dardel family retains letters of the family so there might be some reference to Margaretha (Marie) in their collections.  Wendbom's marriage ten years later in 1824 likely signaled the end of her decade-long service to the Dardel family.

*          *          *

Mary C. Bovet lived within the orbit of a Queen, the aristocracy and a president (Millard Fillmore was also associated with the Buffalo Orphan Asylum), and knew palaces, vineyards and a young America.  Her nobility lay in her charity work in Buffalo which 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. It was quite common for Americans to confuse the Swiss and the Swedes, Switzerland and Sweden.

    Buffalo expanded rapidly in the 1840s, especially with German and French speaking immigrants. Suisse et Suède, Schweiz und Schweden, the Swiss and the Swedes were smaller communities that were commonly mistaken as Germans and French and also with each other in the next several censuses.  

    Note that 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.

    1855 New York State Census, Household No. 797, Buffalo Ward 4, Erie County; 1860 United States Federal Census, Household No. 885, Buffalo Ward 4, Erie County, New York; 1865 New York State Census, Household No. 41, Buffalo Ward 2, ED 3, Erie County; 1870 United States Federal Census, Household No. 1354, Buffalo Ward 10, Erie County, New York; 1875 New York State Census, Household No. 36, Buffalo Ward 10, ED 3, Erie County.

    Margaretha C. “Mary” Wendbom Bovet, see Find A Grave Memorial ID 215056031. For additional documentation see her listing in LDS Familysearch.org [familysearch.org/tree/person/details/27TN-5WK accessed 2020.09.21]

  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."  

    Reformed Church (Switzerland) records, Saint-Blaise parish, Marriages 1824-1852, p 4-5. 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."

    The household of Pierre and Maria Bovet was listed in the civil registration of the canton of Fribourg:

    Household No. 56, Lugnorre, Morat Commune, Fribourg Civil Registration, 1836 "Suisse, Fribourg, Recensement, 1836," Archives de l'Etat de Fribourg (Fribourg State Archives, Fribourg), DI IIa 24, Folios 1-218 (image 193/220).  See LDS FamilySearch.org [familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G9HP-B7JJ?cc=2142773&wc=MHFJ-P6D%3A368381701%2C368388301 : accessed 2020.09.22].

    Household No. 1, Lugnorre, Morat, Fribourg "Suisse, Fribourg, Recensement, 1839," Archives de l'Etat de Fribourg (Fribourg State Archives, Fribourg), DI IIa 31, Folios 193-428 (image 145/237). See LDS FamilySearch.org [familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89HB-Q32Q?cc=2143219&wc=MHNM-DMS%3A387859001%2C387860701 : accessed 2020.09.22].

  6. Special thanks to Maud Svensson for locating this record of Margaretha entering the royal household, see Hovförsamlingens kyrkoarkiv, Inflyttningslängder (1805-1817), SE/SSA/0007/B I/1, np [image 57/105]. See discussion on the Rötter website [forum.rotter.se/index.php?topic=168143.0 accessed 2020.09.21].

    The birth of Margaretha is recorded in Solna kyrkoarkiv, Födelse- och dopböcker (1768-1833), SE/SSA/1564/C I/1, p 162. The household examinations include (sometimes she is listed as Maria): Solna kyrkoarkiv, Husförhörslängd, Ulriksdalsroten (1790-1798), SE/SSA/1564/A I b/2, p 27;  Solna kyrkoarkiv, Husförhörslängd, Ulriksdalsroten (1799-1805), SE/SSA/1564/A I b/3, p 26; Solna kyrkoarkiv, Husförhörslängd, Ulriksdalsroten (1805-1811), SE/SSA/1564/A I b/4, p 27. Solna kyrkoarkiv, Husförhörslängd, Ulriksdalsroten (1811-1823), SE/SSA/1564/A I b/5, p 41. 

    The bouppteckning for Eric Wennbom is located in the court records: Danderyds-skeppslags-häradsrätt-FII-14-1828-1829, p 53 [image 1100]

  7. Details about the life in Stockholm of Etienne Maria Gavuzzi born Stevfanus Gavuzzo (1763-1846) are included in a wonderful 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.  For the research by Rittsel, see his website on the history of photography in Sweden, [sites.google.com/site/prittsel/polycarpusvonschneidau accessed 2020.09.21]

    Most historians have attributed von Schneidau's emigration to his marriage to a Jew, Caroline Jacobsson.  Like his "influential letters," this cause for his departure has become a pseudo-fact, and is undocumented and likely inaccurate.

    Polycarpus von Schneider [sic]  1835 portrait by Maria Röhl, pencil on paper, edited. Collection of Kungliga biblioteket (digitized material) [weburn.kb.se/metadata/077/digbild_10319077.htm accessed 2020.05.01]

  9.  Fritz von Dardel, Fritz L Dardel and Nils E. C. Dardel (eds.) Minnen. Volume 1, Stockholm, 1912, p 72.

    Fritz von Dardel, 1841 portrait by Maria Röhl, pencil on paper, edited. Collection of Kungliga biblioteket (digitized material) [weburn.kb.se/metadata/069/digbild_10420069.htm accessed 2020.09.21]

  10. The Swiss have a long history of supplying mercenary soldiers.  The most notable remain the Swiss guard serving the Pope at the Vatican since 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 [dardel.info/famille/G_Alex.html accessed 2020.09.21].

  12. Biographical information based on letters written by Dardel to his older sister.  See, 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 [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 [dardel.info/famille/G-Alex2.html accessed 2020.09.21]

  13. In the letter to his oldest sister Marianne in 1808 Dardel noted his return to Sweden from Rugen Island in Pomerania.  There he had been involved with Madame d'Engelbrechten (possibly the second wife, Marie Sophie Ohlsen, of Herman Fredrik Christian von Engelbrechten).  He then had an affair 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 the baron's estates near Helsingborg. The contrast to the lives of those Swedes who chose to emigrate to our area could not be greater.

No comments:

Post a Comment