Francis Lafayette Simon with his family

Circa 1913 (Left to right) Mollie, Libby, Bertha, Alice, Jennie, David Dinwiddie (seated), Francis Lafayette, John Wright, Hallie (in front), Francis Lewis, George Miller, Belle, Baby Wesley, Walter

The Simon family originated in Lignières, a village in Canton Neuchâtel, Switzerland. They immigrated to the US in the 1850′s and helped found Neuchatel, Kansas. Surviving the hardships of the Kansas prairies, these hardy pioneers left descendants who now reside in almost every state.

What would bring the Swiss all the way to Kansas?
Just like many other immigrant groups, the Swiss were motivated by hard times at home and the prospect of opportunity in America. Making their way across France, they boarded ships at Le Havre and sailed to New York to seek their fortunes in the new world. As French speakers, they were attracted to settlements where other French speakers were already gathering. Ohio and Indiana were popular destinations.

And, once there, seeing much of the land already taken, they could decide to go by boat all the way to Leavenworth, Kansas. From there, the Oregon trail beckoned. Neuchatel, Kansas, is located very near the Oregon trail. In fact, a popular camping ground for the pioneers was at Alcove Springs, just outside of Marysville, Kansas. If you visit Neuchatel, Kansas, and Neuchâtel, Switzerland, you’ll see many similarities. While there is no mountain view in Kansas, the rolling hills and sunflowers are very reminiscent of the land our ancestors left behind.

The Oregon Trail proved too tempting for some and many of our family members went on to Oregon and other places in between. The Santa Fe Trail was also an option. It was not terribly far to go south and pick up the other significant trail heading out of Kansas to adventures further West.