Searching for Luchsmatt Farm

It’s been about 345 years since my ancestors on my mother’s side were driven out of Switzerland. Records show that about 450 Anabaptists (later Mennonites) left their farms and most of their possessions in the Emmental Valley and relocated to Germany around 1671. It was another 30 years before they sailed to the New World where they first settled in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and almost a century later in York County, Ontario. But don’t get the impression these people were nomads. It’s actually quite the opposite as at least six generations of Stuaffers were born on the same farm, located in the Canton of Bern, halfway between the communities of Rothenbach and Eggiwil. In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries the property was known as Luchsmatt Farm.

Several years ago when I started planning this trip I called up an online map of Switzerland and easily found the communities of Eggiwil and Rothenbach. When Google Earth first added images of rural Switzerland, I had a look at images of the small community of Eggiwil and was pleased to see that it’s still surrounded by farmland. There’s very little urban sprawl in this part of the world. At 2427, the population of Eggiwil is probably about the same as it was in the 1670s.

For a while I wondered if it would be possible to determine the exact location of what was once known as Luchsmatt Farm. Would the land registration office have maps from that era? Was there a written description such as ‘Lot Number’ or some other way to track down which farm my ancestors once occupied? I didn’t do much advance planning but knew that I had a week in the area and I’d see where that led me. Then a few weeks ago I was checking the area on Google Maps and noticed that many of the properties on the road between Eggiwil and Rothenbach are now named. Was it possible that Luchsmatt Farm could still be called Luchsmatt Farm? A long shot to be sure, but I poured over the maps and sure enough, there it was: Luchsmatt Farm!

I thought about contacting the current residents and asking if I could stop by. This seemed a bit too much like a plan and I wouldn’t want them to go to any preparations in case something came up and I didn’t make it. I decided to just wing it. So on the morning of Wednesday, April 6 I set out to find the farm that my ancestors left 345 years ago. Here’s a pictorial account of my day.

The ticketing procedure at Bern’s Central Station is fully automated and very straightforward. There was a train leaving for Signau in 8 minutes and from Signau I could connect with an hourly bus that travels the road to Rothenbach. I bought a ticket and hurried to Platform 3.

When I got to the platform I found a young guy with a hockey stick and his equipment. You don’t see that everyday in the places I’ve been traveling so I struck up a conversation. I wondered if he might be a semi-pro player who had just been called up by another team. It turned out that his name is Tim, he works the night shift at a bakery in the suburbs and plays rec hockey on Wednesday mornings in Bern. So much for meeting a future NHL’er.

While we talked, a train made a one minute stop at Platform 3. I don’t think its destination signage said Signau so I didn’t pay much attention.

“That was the train to Signau,” said Tim as the doors closed and it pulled away.

Oh well, there’s another train in 30 minutes. That’s the beauty of European train travel!

I don’t know what this sign actually means but I’d like to think its an abbreviation for Ciao Stauffer.

The trip to Signau takes about 30 minutes. The train rolled through lush green pastures dotted with what appeared to be Jersey cows. Lots of cows. I can see where the cheese and chocolate comes from.

The glare from the mid-morning sun made it hard to get a decent photo of the countryside through the window. Here’s a nice shot of the back end of a Nestle factory though.

The train arrived in Signau right on schedule and the bus for Eggiwil and Rothenbach was waiting in the parking lot. Gotta love Swiss timing!

 This dude could be a relative. I wasn’t quick enough to get a nice shot of his impressive beard but he looked a lot like my maternal Great Grandfather, Samuel Hoover (below) whose daughter Frances  (my mom’s mom) married a Stouffer. The Hoovers also came from this area.

Samuel Barkey Hoover was born in Markham, Ontario, Canada on 4 Jun 1840 to Christian Hoover and Anna Berkey. Samuel married Susannah Wideman and had 9 children. He passed away on 11 Oct 1917 in Markham, Ontario, Canada.

I rode the bus for about 15 minutes before hearing an announcement that sounded like “Eggiwil.” As I stood on the shoulder of the road and watched the bus disappear into the distance I realized that I was at Eggiwil Ski Hill and still about 5km from the actual town of Eggiwil. I’ll be walking about 30 kilometres a day beginning next week so I decided to just walk the rest of the way. The only other option would be hitchhiking and somehow that seemed like cheating. (You certainly don’t hitchhike on the Camino.)

 I soon came to the hamlet of Neuhof. There are only a handful of buildings in Neuhof and I didn’t see a single person. There is a very nice covered bridge, however.

I continued to walk in a southern direction, past bus shelters with signs like Horben Schmied, Horben Schulhaus, Eggiwil Zimmerstei, Buchschachen, Hotzmatt and Schwelli.

There wasn’t a lot to see in any of these towns, and I use the term loosely for most were just one or two buildings.

Eventually I came to Eggiwil Dorf. You know this is a big centre when they have a sawmill, small factory (Zaugg snow blowers), a farm implement dealer (New Holland), AND a lot of very friendly farm animals.

The factory was closed on a Wednesday afternoon, as were most of the business, but three hair salons were open and doing a booming business.  There are a lot of businesses in this world that I could walk into and pretend to be a potential customer but a hair salon ain’t one of them.

 Finally, the heart of Eggiwil. You know you’re onto something when the speed limit drops from 60kph to 50kph.

I particularly liked this sign as I left my broadcasting job at Woodbine Entertainment Group – WEG – to go wandering.




After crossing my third covered bridge in an hour, I entering the town proper and immediately came upon Fritz Stettler’s welding shop. I opened the door and walked in. A brass bell signalled my arrival but nobody appeared to be working there.  I wanted to take some photos of the old-time blacksmith equipment but it didn’t feel right when nobody was home.  I went back outside, closed the door, and took some shots through the window.

 After a few minutes an older gentleman in overalls came hobbling down the road. He just looked like a Fritz Stettler. I introduced myself as Mike Hamilton and asked if he was Frtiz. “Yeah,” he said. That’s about as far as we got in that discussion. He was very friendly and clearly wanted to show me around his shop so I took the royal tour.

I showed Fritz the Wikipedia page for Christian Stauffer. He seemed to understand that I was from Canada and Christian was my ancestor. I think we bonded. With a name like Stettler, we might even be related.

  Fritz gave me a 10 minute lesson in the art of making wagon wheels. He fashions the wooden hubs and spokes on two separate machines and a third machine is used to bend the steel rims. I think he was very happy that someone would show an interest in wagon wheels in 2016.

After a while Fritz and I were able to converse pretty well. When I mentioned “Luchsmatt Farm,” he pointed down the road. I indicated that I would walk there.  He indicated that I would not walk there. “Nay, nay, nay,” was all he said as he walked out the door and left me standing in the shop.

 A few minutes later Fritz pulled up in his car and motioned for me to get in. A woman appeared and seemed to have a problem with some work that he had done for her husband. She wanted Fritz to come and look at the trailer hitch or whatever it was. “Nay, nay nay,” was his reply. He got in the car and we drove off with the woman left standing by the side of the road.

About 4km down the road toward Rothenbach we pulled into a laneway.  “Luchsmatt,” said Fritz. We drove up a gently sloping drive and parked near the barn.

We were soon met by a man whose named turned out to be Burki. He didn’t speak English either but it was clear that he owned the place, his name was Burki, and his son and grandson also live on the farm.

Fritz mentioned Christian Stauffer, the date 1671, and that I was from Canada (so he had understood the gist of what I had said) and Mr. Burki told him to take me up the hill to the main house.

Cattle occupy the lower level of most rural Swiss houses while the people live up above. Even though this house appeared to be fairly new (maybe 20 years at most) it was still built in the traditional style. As the property is quite small, I’m sure it was built on the same site as the house the Stauffer’s would have occupied until 1671. I can see why you might want to “freshen up” a house every 345 years if you have cows living on the main floor.

On the way back down the hill I picked up another rock for the necklace that I plan to make and wear to Burning Man. Let’s hope that I can drill a hole in this thing.

I have Burkis in my family tree as well, although I believe they worked their way in through marriage so I doubt that we’re directly related. But we could be, you never know. These people spend a lot of time standing around and staring at their rubber boots, just like some of my country cousins!

Fritz drove me back to his shop and fired up the saw that he uses to make spokes. I was interested in his woodworking but also found it interesting that he appeared to have quite a little hydroponic operation going on in the back room.

 I have been pretty good about limiting my souvenir shopping to embroidered patches (of which there were none in Eggiwil) so I asked Fritz if he sold the bells that he had sitting around. He did. I bought the smallest one he had. What’s another 300 grams?

51 Responses to “Searching for Luchsmatt Farm”

  1. Peter Henning

    Hi Mike
    great family research.
    Nice interpretation of the advertisement in the 3rd pic.

    The words are Italian and German.
    The meaning is: “Bye traffic jam”

    However: your interpretation fits your current emotions better.

  2. Erin

    I throughly enjoyed your story and all of the photos! I, too, am a descendant of Christian Stauffer and the family story of them being exiled has been passed through my family for generations. I have wondered what the Luchsmatt farm and Eggiwil were like since I was a child and my grandmother would tell me stories. Thank you for sharing your experience! I’ll be forwarding your story to my family so they can see it too!

    • 100Saturdays

      Great to hear from you, cousin. :-). I’m currently in rural India and internet is sketchy. When I get to a city in a few days I’ll post a link to a video that I took at Luchsmatt Farm. I cannot check it right now but you may be able to find the video under the Photos>Switzerland tab on the home page.

      • Erin

        I followed your instructions and was able to find the videos that you mentioned so no need to post the link for me. I’m glad you pointed me in that direction, I loved looking through your photos. What amazing adventures you seem to have! Someday, when you’ve taken a pause from your travels, drop me an email and we’ll compare Stauffer notes and figure out how close of cousins we are! Wishing you great adventures and safe travels!

  3. Tom Mason

    I am a descendant of Christian Stauffer, also. I thoroughly enjoyed your work in uncovering Luchsmatt farm. I, too, wondered if it still existed. I can now picture this area in my mind whenever I look at my family history in the future!!! We are from the Montgomery County, Pa, area, NW of Philadelphia. My direct ancestor came in through Germantown, and settled in Montgomery County, where we still live. Thanks again for some great work and photos!!!

    • 100Saturdays

      Hi Tom,

      It’s always nice to hear from people who have stumbled onto my blog. My visit to Luchsmatt Farm won’t soon be forgotten. I’m glad you were able to share it in a way.

  4. Angela Stover Johnson

    Left a reply at your author’s page, Christian Stauffer has many descendants in the states, and this article is priceless!

  5. Larry Stover

    My daughter and I pretty much followed in your footsteps. What a beautiful valley. I concluded you’d have to be forced out to ever leave. My ancestor who 1st came to America was Jacob Stauffer. This was the highlight of our trip. It’s sobering when consider our religious freedom.

    • 100Saturdays

      Hi Larry,
      Nice to hear from the “V” side of the Stauffer/Stouffer/Stover side of the family. I agree, the situation must have been pretty dire for our ancestors to have just walked away from marks in the Emmental Valley.

    • Charles Holbert

      I am Charles Wade Holbert, My gggggfather married Charity Stover which is the granddaughter of Jacob Stover and Sarah Boone. We have an amazing history from the Stover side, Did you know that President Eisenhower’s mother was a stover, a maybe great-great granddaughter of Jacob and Sarah.

      • Stephen Stover

        My Stauffer ancestor forced into exile was Christian. A narrative of his leaving Switzerland and the factors involved is available online searching his name. Many ‘Tauffers’ or Anabaptists were imprisoned and a couple were executed during this time. They left with the clothes on their backs and most had to surrender their farms to the government. When surnames began to be used many accounts say the Stauffer’s took theirs from a nearby mountain. Some were unrelated by blood and, as a descendant of Christian, my Y DNA does not match that of the Mamie Eisenhower male ancestors. Those expelled from Switzerland had a rough go of it in Germany as tenant farmers. Many of their children began emigrating to the colonies beginning around 1710 after William Penn made a European tour touting his virgin land open for settlement and religious freedom.
        My first American ancestor, Daniel Stauffer (Stover) left as soon as he was 18, in 1753, and first settled in PA before moving on to Virginia. Stauffer’s in America are fortunate we have the work of Richard Davis to access this knowledge.

      • Charles Holbert

        Thanks for the contact, The Presidents mother was Ida Stover, check DNA on her and you may have a match.

  6. Amy (Stauffer, Kistler) Gunarich

    What a nice surprise to google ‘Luchsmatt Farm’ and come across this post. I’m a descendent of Christian Stauffer through his son ‘Hans’ Daniel and grandson Hans S. Stauffer , who settled near French Creek, Valley Forge PA in 1710. I visited Zurich in the past for business, not knowing at the time the origins of my ancestors near Bern. Hope to travel back there in upcoming retirement years to see the area where all my father’s ancestors, on both sides of his family, seem to originate. Sincerely enjoyed your blog! Thank you for taking the time to put these wonderful photos and blog on the ‘net!

    • 100Saturdays

      Hi Cousin!

      It’s great to know that a few Stauffer/Stouffers have stumbled across my blog and have enjoyed my account of a really great day in the Emmental Valley. If you ever make it back to Switzerland, be sure to stop in to the castle in Thun (where one of our ancestors was imprisoned for a while). The cell is still intact and the castle is now the municipal museum with some great artifacts. Eggiwil is a small and quiet village but worth a half-day if you like poking around, especially if you can converse with the locals. There’s one restaurant and I can recommend the apple pie!


    • Nancy K. Renner

      I am also a descendent of Christian Stauffer. His daughter Susanna is my 7th Great Grandmother. She was born in Germany in 1700 and then immigrated to America where she married and resided in Pennsylvania. I was researching her father Christian , who is my 8th Great Grandfather. I came across where he was born in Luchsmatt Farm in Eggilwil when I came across this article. Very interesting and glad to have been able to read this. Thank You for sharing.

  7. Stephen Stover

    Great to see the old farm and more of my Swiss roots. I am also a descendent of Christian Stauffer from his youngest son Daniel. My ancestor, also Daniel Stauffer, left the Palatinate in 1753 for the New World settling first in Pennsylvania and then in Virginia. Somewhere in that transition his surname was altered to Stover. Thanks for posting these pictures.

  8. Jake

    Great to hear see this blog. We visited this house in 2016 and the old fellow who was home took me up to the top of the hay mow portion and pointed to the roof rafter area and said it is 400 years old in German so I conclude the roof top area is the original house.

    • 100Saturdays

      Thanks for leaving a comment, Jake. They struck me as being very industrious so if the main beam from the old house was still good I’m sure they’d use it. – Mike

  9. Jake Burkholder

    The one family we visited said the lower exposed wood required replacing approximately every 70 years and in their canton they may not use any type of sealers so it looked old as soon as possible. I also noticed the concrete footers and lower walls on the Luchsmatt Farm house. My wife’s grandmother was a Stauffer from this family in Pennsylvania.

  10. smsgatormag

    I was so excited to find your story and can’t wait to share it with the family. We are descended from the Stauffers who stayed in Lititz/Lancaster area. We still spend summers there. The kids and I have been to Switzerland many times but next time we’ll have to see if we can hunt down the farm too – fun!

  11. Jake Burkholder

    My wife’s grandmother grew up in Martindale Pa about 1 mile or two from where the ancestors settled in Lancaster County Pa . Our Pastor Joel Stauffer is also one of the descendants. Jake Burkholder Myerstown Pa

  12. Jill Van Buren (a Swiss name)

    Amazing! Thank you so much for doing this and then sharing it! I am a decendent of a dozen or so people from Luchmatt Farm and thought it was a lot bigger! Our mennonites also went on the “Acorn Trail” Moving from Penn. to York Co. Ontario and then into Ohio and Illinois. If you ever want more information on the family feel free to contact me: Jill Van Bure

  13. Danny Stover

    I really enjoyed the pictures, someday i may get there . Thank You for sharing. Danny

    • Jill Van Buren (Lehman, Burkholder, Christophel)

      How wonderful to be able to actually go back to where our ancestors lived! Thank you for sharing all of this!

      • Mike Hamilton

        Hi Jill, Yes, that was a really memorable part of my travels. I haven’t been updating the blog since returning to Canada in April 20017 but just in the last few minutes have changed the domain from “” to “” as I am planning another extended trip starting next year. Can I ask how you came across this post as I have changed the domain in the last few minutes. Had you Google’d “Luchsmatt” or had you been following the old blog? Thanks, Mike

  14. Tonya Tye

    Wow, thanks for posting your journey. My husband is a descendant from Christian via Daniel, Christian, Magdelana…. I had just pulled up the family line on ancestry and thought” I wonder if that Luchsmatt is still there” and found you. Love it. Hopefully you don’t mind if I save the pic for my files?

  15. Angela Stover Johnson

    I am visiting your page a second time, I am also a descendant of Christian Stauffer, loved to view your journey’s pictures and commentary. Would love to visit there some day, maybe even go to Castle Thun where Christian was imprisoned with two related Anabaptists. The Luchsmatt farm actually has an impressive amount of river frontage. When Christian and family were sent into exile, the farm was famous for it’s then 300+ year old barn. When they got to Dirmstein, one member of the family applied for a license to run a distillery, so maybe they had one at Luchsmatt. There are cups on the Staufen coat of arms.

    • Meg Van Buren

      It would be fun to organize a trip comprising of the many different descendant families to go see the old farm place together!

  16. Cassie Latshaw

    Still working on our family tree but it’s looking like Christian is my 10th great-grandfather. How amazing to get this glimpse into his homeland.

    • Mike Hamilton

      Hi “Cousin”, Sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. I have fond memories of that day at Luchsmatt Farm and now the pleasure of hearing from so many distant relatives. The family is pretty well documented so I don’t know as I have any info to add that isn’t out there, but keep in touch if you need any Stauffer/Stouffer stuff. – Mike

  17. Maureen Groh Chamberlain

    So glad to have come across this ! I too am related to Christian Stauffer through his don Daniel. This place is on my to do list to see someday.
    Is there a site where all of the cousins can share information and pictures ? A community ancestral chart perhaps ?

    • Jill Van Buren

      I keep saying we “family” members from all over the world should go on a group trip! We can visit the old homestead AND get to know some of our relatives, living and dead!

      • Mike Hamilton

        Hi Jill, Sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. Let me know if you’re organizing a trip! I have thought about this myself — only half seriously — but with tens of thousands of Stauffer descendants, there is probably a business opportunity here. 🙂

      • Jill Van Buren

        I agree with you. The best way to find out is to ask everyone who is following your website! If there is a good response we could set something up. Why not ask everyone four questions:
        Would you be interested in being part of a tour?
        Would you be available within the next 12 months?
        What would be your price range?4
        How long would you like to be gone?

  18. Paul Jackson

    I am a descendant, I believe, of the Stauffers that went to the Augusta County, Virginia area after originally being in Pennsylvania. They became Stovers. From them came the mother of Dwight Eisenhower ( My wife and I are going to Germany next summer for the Oberammergau Passion Play and to see the Wagner Der Ring des Nibelungen cycle of four operas.
    The plan is to also see the areas that the Stovers came from where you visited and the Swabian area that the Links came from.
    I plan on reading your other blog entries that might be related to these areas. Can I be in touch to ask about accommodations and other things like that if I find you have visited these areas?

  19. Jill Van Buren

    Thank you for taking the time to document your visit and share it with all of the family’s cousins! Loved seeing “the old home place”. Must go see it sometime too!

    • Mike Hamilton

      I’m starting to get a better idea of how many Stauffer/Stouffer relatives are out there as this post is by far the most popular on the blog. Thanks for commenting, Jill!

      • Jill Van Buren

        Have you ever considered organizing a group of willing cousins for a trip back to the old home farm?

      • Mike Hamilton

        Short answer: no. I’ve travelled with small groups in the past, and while I generally had a positive experience, I just have no desire to do the organization / cat herding.

  20. Paul H Jackson

    For those of you who do want to look to see how your autosomal DNA lines up with some of the Stovers related to Dwight Eisenhower, my grandmother Nettie Stover Eisenhower was his first cousin. So approximately 1/8 of my DNA came from her. To go back to my common ancestor with Dwight Eisenhower, whose name was Simon Peter Stover, I would have about 1/32 of his DNA.
    I am planning to do a genealogy on my branch of the Stovers. To prepare for it, a cousin of mine who is a Stover has agreed to have the Big Y 700 test done with Family Tree DNA. That will tell us the origins of our Stover male line back to prehistoric times.

  21. Susan

    I am also a descendant. My ancestor, Henry Jacob Stauffer, arrived here in 1732.
    Christian Stauffer is my 9th ggf. I was raised in Lebanon county, surrounded by the culture of my Swiss and German ancestors. My grandmother didn’t learn English until she attended kindergarten. Unfortunately, few people in the area speak the language anymore, with the exception of the Amish and Old Order Mennonites. I have been interested in my heritage since I was a child. It was so nice to see some origins of my ancestors. Thank you so much for your post.

  22. Ronald D Stauffer, Groveland, FL, USA

    Mike, Another descendant of Christian Stauffer here. My name is Ronald Duane Stauffer (son of Ronald Reller Stauffer of Hatfield, PA, son of Clayton Landis Stauffer of Hatfield, PA, son of Mahlon Cassel Stauffer, son of Isaac, son of Joseph, all from Montgomery Co, PA). From Mahlon backwards, all were Mennonites and all spoke “Pennsylvania Dutch.” Thank you for your travel log!! Did the Burkis happen to mention how old they thought their farmhouse is?

    • Mike Hamilton

      Hi Ronald,

      As I don’t speak German or Swiss-German and none of the Burkis or the local man who drove me to the farm spoke English, there wasn’t much conversation that day. This was pre Google Translate (or at least before I knew of it) so we were left to point, shrug and mime. I also showed them my family tree on my iPhone and that clearly indicated “Luchsmatt Farm” as the birthplace for many generations ending in the 1600s. After some initial concern they quickly realized I was interested in family history and not there to repossess the farm!

      The house appears to be relatively new – maybe 20-50 years at most. The untreated wood is starting to show some age but the poured concrete foundation walls looked pristine. I doubt that the foundation was built under an older structure but I suppose that would be possible.


      • Jake Burkholder

        Good Morning: We were at Luchsmatt Farm and all I new to speak in Pennsylvania German was “how old is it” . The old fellow took me around to the back upstairs in the barn hay mow and said in German as he spread his arms out toward the entire roof and said 450 years old.

        We were told by a Swiss house builder remodeler that most homes the wood from 1/4 down all outside was replaced about every 70 years.
        Jake Burkholder Pennsylvania

      • Mike Hamilton

        It’s possible that this is the original structure with newish cladding and a new foundation. The roofline did appear to be sagging and you wouldn’t see that unless the roof was MUCH older than the foundation, windows, doors, cladding, etc. I think you’re onto something!

      • Jill Van Buren

        Thank you so much for taking that wonderful trip, taking photos, and then sharing it all with us!

        My ancestors were right there along with yours.  Even made the move from PA to Canada.  Did you know that was called “On The Trail of the Chestnut”?

        Then my family moved to Ohio and onto Illinois.  Where I visited with some of our Mennonite family in Cullom, Illinois. (Lehmans, Christophels, Herseys, Stauffers) They loved family lore and stories, and would have been amazed to see your photos and story!

        Isn’t it about time you took another trip?  Would you like company?

        Thanks again;

        Jill Van Buren

        Albany, Oregon

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