Mason County Memories: The American Dream

Since the beginning of the 20th century, America has argued over the meaning of the “American Dream.” To me, it’s pretty straightforward and simple. My ancestors came to America for various reasons; however, most of them simply realized that staying in their homeland meant continuing to live as dirt-poor farmers. In an effort to escape their situation, they fled to America and began a new life. In my opinion, nobody embodies this spirit better than a Swiss immigrant known as Charles Eggenschwiler.

Born to Andrew and Margaret Eggenschwiler on Sept. 20, 1825, Charles grew up in Basel, Switzerland. By the age of 8, he had lost his parents and was taken in by a local gentleman as an errand boy. He stayed with this man until he was 26, when he decided that it was time to move on. From Basel, he went to Geneva, where he stayed for two years, losing most of his money in the process. Facing bankruptcy, he bought passage on a ship from France to the United States with the intention of gaining a fortune and returning to Switzerland.

After arriving in America, Charles continued inland to Cincinnati, which was quickly growing into one of the nation’s largest cities. It’s unknown what he did for the next two years, but in 1855, a Dr. Morgan told him to find Bill Healy in Hartford City and ask him for a job. (William Healy was the first manager of what would become the Hartford City Salt Company). Mr. Healy made him a clerk at the Hartford City Company Store, and he held this position until his death. Charles Eggenschwiler was also a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, as well as a Master Mason.

In 1858, he married Elizabeth Aumiller, who lived near town, and they had 9 children. All of them married except Amy, Sarah, and Samuel, who all died relatively young. One daughter, Millie, was a teacher in Hartford for many years.

He died on Nov. 15, 1892 and was buried in Brown Cemetery by Biggs Undertaking Co. of Pomeroy. Dr. Archibald Crary of Hartford was the certifying physician. Later, his wife and two children would be buried beside him.

That ends the story of Charles Eggenschwiler, and as you can see, he never made it back to Switzerland with a fortune, but he was by no means bankrupt. By all accounts, he raised a large family and lived comfortably. I also had the pleasure of corresponding with a descendant in Delaware during our project at Brown Cemetery, which just goes to show that there’s always someone who cares about the family plot, whether they’re three states away or not.

Information from Mildred Gibbs’ “Hartford City, WV, 1853-1922” and WV death records.

.neFileBlock {
margin-bottom: 20px;
.neFileBlock p {
margin: 0px 0px 0px 0px;
.neFileBlock .neFile {
border-bottom: 1px dotted #aaa;
padding-bottom: 5px;
padding-top: 10px;
.neFileBlock .neCaption {
font-size: 85%;
The American Dream

By Chris Rizer

Special to the Register

Chris Rizer is the president of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society. More information on the organization found on Facebook at Mason County Historic Preservation. The next meeting of the Mason County Historical and Preservation Society will be held at the County Library, in Point Pleasant, at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 23.