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Canton of Glarus

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Geography The canton of Glarus is very mountainous and lies entirely within the alps.[1] It is dominated by the deep valley of the Linth River and the smaller Sernftal on the east. Most of the area is mountainous. There is a large lake called Walensee (Lake Walen) on the north. The total area of the canton is 264 square miles (685 square kilometers), about half of which is considered productive.[2] Topographically, the most important summit of the canton is that of the Tödi (most elevated, most prominent and most isolated). [3] Tödi is located on the border between the cantons of Graubünden, to the south, and Glarus, to the north, close to the point where those two cantons meet the canton of Uri, to the west.[4]

Weather Glarus is home to an unusual weather feature: the Föhn wind. The phenomenon caused by moist southern air flowing over the mountains and then compressing on the dry northern side, at times is violent and causes sudden changes in temperatures. The wind has often ruined homes, crops, and orchards and is an ever-present danger in spreading fires. Illnesses ranging from migraines to psychosis, as well as a higher level of suicides, have been blamed on the Föhn.[5]

Industry The earliest known inhabitants of this region in the modern era supported themselves by breeding cattle and cutting timber. Little attention was paid to agriculture.[6] The late middle ages (c.1300-1500) saw the rise of the textile industry and the cattle trade in this area. During the long winter months many people spent their time spinning and weaving wool and hemp. Those living higher in the mountains, with its shorter growing season, raised some flax and wove linen. A simple gray cloth was typical of the weavers of Canton Glarus for many years. A brisk trade in cattle began with cows that had been grazing in the mountain pass meadows. Rather than return these cows to to the valley for winter, farmers drove them to southern Switzerland and Italy for trade. Soon their Brown Swiss breed became one of the earliest purebreds.[7] The geography of the canton helped to establish slate works in the 17th century. Slate was used in some roofing, flooring, and furniture. Cabinet makers also enclosed little slate tablets in wooden frames, some designed for keeping score when playing the Swiss card game Jass.[8] Cotton spinning was important in the 18th century, complementing traditional woolen spinning. Nowadays, forestry is an important branch of industry in Glarus, while electrical power from Klöntalersee is one of the canton's main export services. Other modern industries include dairy farming, cattle breeding, construction, retail, and health care.[9]


286 Local legend tells us the Theban Legion, a Roman military unit from Egypt, refused to take part in the persecution of Christians in Valais and all 6,600 of them were martyred. Sibling Felix and Regula were able to escape and fled over the Kistenpass to Glarus. They reached the valley bottom near Linthal and quenched their thirst after the perilous hike, at a spring that today is called the "Felix-and-Regula spring". This legend is the likely reason why the name Regula still is a popular first name in the cantons of Glarus and Zurich.[10]

380 Christianity becomes the official religion of the Roman Empire and small churches begin to appear in Switzerland. Archaeological remains of an early Christian church from the late Roman era have been found near the courthouse in the city of Glarus.[11]

6th century Christianity comes to the Linth Valley by way of the Irish monk Saint Fridolin, the founder of Säckingen Abbey in what is now the German state of Baden-Württemberg.[12] Fridolin is the patron saint of both the city and canton of Glarus.[13] This is likely why the name Fridolin was a popular first name in canton Glarus.[14]

8th century The Alemanni, a confederation of Germanic tribes on the upper Rhine river, began to settle in the Linth Valley.[15]

9th century The area around Glarus was owned by Säckingen Abbey, the town of Glarus being recorded as Clarona.[16] Under Alemanni influence, the plural Claronum changed to Claruns and eventually Glaris and Glarus.[17]

11th century The Alemannic German language becomes dominant in the region.[18][19]

1288 The Habsburgs have claimed all rights to Säckingen Abbey.[20]

1300-1500 Family names emerged in Glarus within the late Middle Ages. Documents from this late medieval era are the oldest sources of family information. Yearbooks (so-called Jahrzeitbücher) that detail donations to churches, and records of witnesses to business deals, have the earliest occurrences of well-known family names. Baptisms, marriages, and deaths were generally not recorded until the 16th Century. Where once a place of origin sufficed next to a first name (Elmer from Elm, Luchsinger from Luchsingen, Netstaller from Netstal), now surnames appeared – some were from occupations (Legler=barrel maker, Schindler=shingle), some from baptism names or first names (Klässi from Nicholas, Ott from Otto, Marti from Martin, Blesi from Blasius), others were nicknames (Dürst=thirsty). In the earliest Glarus books there are about 25 family names of which 11 still exist (Brunner, Elmer, Grüniger, Hösli, Landolt, Luchsinger, Ott, Schmid, Speich, Stäger, and Tschudi).[21]

1350 Construction begins on the Letzi wall, a defensive stone wall built across the entrance to the main valley of Canton Glarus. The wall is designed to delay and inhibit, not stop, an enemy. There are two gates that could be used as customs stations. Many other Letzinen are built in other parts of Switzerland, some with moats, palisades, and hedges.[22]

1352 Glarus joins the Old Swiss Confederacy as one of the foundational Acht Orte (eight cantons), which will remain in place until 1481.[23] This rare union brings together rural and urban communities, all of which enjoyed imperial immediacy in the Holy Roman Empire.[24]

July 1386 Glarners attack and breach the Oberwindegg castle near Niederurnen, historically one of the homes of the Empire's Glarus Landvogt.[25]

1387 The first recorded Landsgemeinde of Glarus took place and Canton Glarus set up its own government.[26] The democratic practice probably existed long before, but this is the year it is first documented.[27]

February 21-22, 1388 Soldiers from Glarus and the Confederation occupied the village of Weesen. Habsburg sympathizers left a city gate open overnight and imperial troops returned and killed almost the entire occupying army, approximately 60 men (about 30 from Canton Glarus) and captured an important Glarus military banner. News of the Mordnacht ("murder night") at Weesen spread throughout the canton and caused great fear among the citizens.[28]

April 9, 1388 The Battle of Näfels is a result of Habsburg forces attempting to reconquer the valley. The imperial army attacked with 600 horsemen and approximately 5,500 foot soldiers. They overwhelmed those defending the Letzi wall and pillage the village of Näfels.[29] The Glarner defenders retreated to a mountain-side, where they were joined by other men from elsewhere in the canton and a small group of allies from Canton Uri. A banner depicting St. Fridolin was used to rally the people of Glarus to victory, and from that time the image of St. Fridolin has been used on the flags and coat of arms of Glarus.[30] In the end, more than 1,700 of the Emporer's troops died, while Glarus lost only 55 soldiers. Glarus has gained its independence from the Holy Roman Empire.[31]

1395 Canton Glarus buys out the remaining rights of the Säckingen cloister. Control of Alpine pastures was included and some were set aside for community use. As a token of appreciation for its benevolent rule, Canton Glarus continued to pay a modest yearly tithe to the cloister until the end of the 18th century.[32]

15th century Swiss cantons seek to limit the influence of the Church on their political sovereignty.[33]

1506-1516 Huldrych Zwingli is the priest in Glarus, before being called to Einsiedeln and then Zürich.[34][35] Unlike his religious contemporary Martin Luther, Zwingli was deeply affected by the humanist movement.[36] His studies lead him to preach against injustices and hierarchies in the Church.[37] Zwingli amassed a large library thanks to a generous papal endowment and became one of the most influential men in Switzerland. Locals also saw another side of him - he had relations with women, not an uncommon practice for clergy in that day and age.[38]

1517 The County of Werdenberg is annexed to Glarus.[39]

1520s Huldrych Zwingli promotes the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland, gaining the support of magistrate Mark Reust and the population of Zürich. This leads to significant changes in civil life and state matters in Zürich and spreads to several other cantons. In Glarus, individual communes decided for or against the Reformation, with 15 of 17 voting to affiliate with Zwingli's theology.[40] Only the congregations at Näfels and Oberurnen remained Catholic.[41]

1524 Luther's German translation of the New Testament was first printed in the Swiss dialect by Froschauer in Zürich.[42]

1525 The Confederacy declares its neutrality. Zwingli introduces a new communion liturgy in the Swis dialect.[43]

1529 Zwingli splits with Luther over the issue of the real presence of Christ in communion.[44]

1531 Zwingli publishes the first German translation of the entire Bible, the so called "Froschauer Bibel" - 4 years earlier than Martin Luther.[45] Catholic cantons institute counter-reformatory policies in some regions.[46] Zwingli pushes for an economic boycott of the Catholic cantons, which leads to a military response, the Protestants of Zürich being defeated, and Zwingli killed in battle at the age of 47, still refusing to recant his beliefs. An agreement was reached to preserve the Confederation and each canton's right to practice either faith - an unusual thing in Europe. [47]

1564 All of Zwingli's reformer followers have been eliminated, but this does not end the struggles between Protestants and Catholics in the area.[48]

1622 The Confederation banishes Jews from Switzerland. A few families are permitted to live in two villages in Canton Aargau because it is not officially a part of the Confederation.[49]

1623 To secure peace between the Protestants and Catholics, it is decided each should have its own Landsgemeinde.[50] There was also one joint Landsgemeinde.[51]

1683 Protestants and Catholics are each granted the right to their own tribunal.[52]

18th century There were two calendars in use in Canton Glarus: Catholics had the new Gregorian calendar (used universally today) and the Protestants, not recognizing the Pope's decree, continued with the old Julian calendar.[53]

March 5, 1798 During the French Revolutionary Wars, the armies marches eastward, enveloping Switzerland in their battles against Austria.[54]

April 12, 1798 Following the invasion by French troops, Glarus becomes part of the canton of Linth as established by Napoleon, also consisting of the County of Werdenberg, the Höfe and March districts of Schwyz and the Züricher subject Lordship of Sax, along with a handful of shared territories. Like all the cantons of the Helvetic Republic, Linth was established and administered on a French Revolutionary model.[55] The mainly Roman Catholic canton acquired a strong aversion to the centralized nature of the government of the Helvetic Republic, which ignored the strong sense of identity most Swiss had with their canton or city.[56]

July 1802 Napoleon withdraws French troops from Switzerland, ostensibly to comply with the Treaty of Amiens, but really to show the Swiss that their best hopes lay in appealing to him.[57]

February 19, 1803 The Act of Mediation, issued by Napoleon Bonaparte, abolishes the Helvetic Republic and establishes the Swiss Confederation. The original 13 members of the old Confederation were restored and 6 new cantons were added. This was Napoleon's attempt at a compromise between the Ancien Régime and a Republic, and also created a pro-French buffer state with Austria and the German states.[58]

1811 The Linth River is re-routed at Mollis so it now empties into the Walensee rather than the Maag River. This eliminates annual flooding that was caused by debris buildup where the Linth connected with the Maag.[59]

1815 The territory of Switzerland is increased for the last time as the Congress of Vienna fully re-establishes Swiss independence and all European powers agree to permanently recognize Swiss neutrality.[60]

1822 Textile productions are increasingly mechanized, with now more than 20 spinning and weaving mills in operation. Construction on Hans Conrad Escher's canal to connect the Walensee with the Zürichsee is completed, effectively draining the marshes and providing easier trade transportation.[61]

1836 A constitution is adapted to unite the Catholic and Protestant assemblies and establish a single Landsgemeinde.[62]

1837 Public education becomes mandatory in Canton Glarus.[63]

1840s After several years of failed crops and scarcity of food, much of the canton found itself deep in poverty. With more workers than available jobs, emigration to the USA was seen as a viable solution.[64]

1844 The Glarus Emigration Society is established, offering loans to help residents purchase land in the USA. Many emigrants utilizing this program settled in the state of Wisconsin, where they founded the town of New Glarus.[65] This deliberate method of aid ensured that Glarner emigrants would have a safe, financially favorable community overseas, with mutual aid and the use of the mother tongue helping to reduce homesickness and the possibility of being cheated.[66]

1845-1855 1/12 of the population of Canton Glarus emigrated. In most cases, the emigrants cashed out their communal rights, which gave them some money to begin their new life abroad.[67]

1847-1914 This time period sees the development of the Swiss Railway network.[68]

September 12, 1848 A federal constitution was created for Switzerland, heavily influenced by the United States Constitution and the ideas of the French Revolution. This is the first time the Swiss are governed by a strong central government instead of being a collection of independent cantons bound by treaties.[69] Full rights for Jews were guaranteed in legislation. However, ritual slaughtering for kosher foods is still prohibited.[70]

1888 The 500th anniversary of the Battle of Näfels is marked with a large national gathering. The Mordnacht and the burning of Weesen are the subject of Näfelserleid (patriotic songs) and poems hailing the achievement of the Glarners.[71]

1936 The annual Näfelser-Fahrt (procession to Näfels) on the anniversary of the 1388 Battle of Näfels, long a Catholic ceremony, becomes a secular event.[72]

1999 The federal constitution of 1848 is wholly replaced.[73]

2000 The population is nearly evenly split between Protestants (44%) and Roman Catholics (37%).[74]

2006 The Landsgemeinde decided that the 25 municipalities of Glarus be consolidated to 3, effective January 1, 2011.[75]

2007 Approximately 19% of the canton's province is comprised of foreigners.[76]

May 6, 2007 Voters at the annual Glarus Landsgemeinde lowered the voting age to 16, a first in Switzerland.[77]

2014 The finals effects of the ban on reconstructing the village of Weesen following the April 9, 1388, Battle of Näfels finally disappear when some apartment buildings are constructed near the Walensee.[78]

December 31, 2016 The population of the canton is 40,147.[79]

Canton Glarus is one of only two regions in Switzerland that still holds an annual Landesgemeinde.[80]

Genealogy Web Links

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