Centuries of Swiss Hiestands in a Land Cooperative

Dr. Peter Ziegler (Zürich, Switzerland) and Dr. Wayne Haston (Pennsylvania, USA), Co-Authors

(Including significant research data from Kent Douglas Hiestand)

"Early Swiss Hiestands" Series

German Language Version of this Article

Sometime in the late Middle Ages, some families on the south shore of Lake Zürich apparently marked off a large tract of land and agreed to collectively claim ownership of the land, as well as the rights to cooperatively manage its use.  That agreement may have even occurred before family names (surnames) were generally adopted by families.  No beginning date of that agreement exists today, nor do we have a record of the original details of the agreement.  But, amazingly, the cooperative arrangement continues to bind together some of their Swiss Richterswiler descendants to this day.  

Thus, some of our Swiss Hiestand relatives have been comrades in a Swiss allmend (or cooperative) since at least 1564, but probably much earlier.  Whether or not our Hiestand ancestors were original members of that agreement, we do not know.  But Hiestands do appear on the oldest existing membership list of what we now know as the Allmendkorporation.  That’s approaching at least 500 years (but probably much more) of cooperation with other Swiss families around a section of land on the mountainside south of Lake Zürich, above the village (now city) of Richterswil.  

Some families, such as some branches of Hiestands, had hereditary rights to the Allmend land.  These branches were able to trace their lineages back to ancestors who may have been part of the original group who established the Allmend, or at least very early members.  Other families became members by purchasing rights to use the land.  But there was no official distinction made between the two classes, meaning the “bought in” families had the same rights and duties as the hereditary families.

The climate and the soil on the Richterswil mountain are not conducive grain cultivation.  However, the precipitation-rich pre-Alpine region is excellent for cattle breeding and pasture farming.  So the users of the Allmend land generally shifted to livestock farming until the end of the 18th century.  Beginning in 1704, comrades who practiced non-farming professions and did not keep livestock were paid an annual sum of money instead of their use of the land.  Some farmers chose to use some of the Allmendkorporation’s good land for planting, instead of running cattle on the land.  In the early 1800s, grazing became prohibited altogether.  Over the years, the corporation has found numerous ways to produce revenue through the use of the land.

The Nouns Cooperative and Allmend Defined

As a noun, the term cooperative refers to a jointly owned enterprise engaging in the production or distribution of goods or the supplying of services, operated by its members for their mutual benefit, typically organized by consumers or farmers.  -Dictionary.com

For example, you have may have heard of a Farmers’ Co-op (Cooperative).  There are more than 2,100 agricultural co-ops in the United States with more than two million members. 
In German, the word allmend translates to common in English, but generally refers to common land.  An allmend is a cooperative based upon common land–that is, multiple families share the ownership of (with its responsibilities for and benefits from) a common tract or tracts of land.

Timeline of Hiestand Participation in the Allmend Richterswil

September 5, 1391
Earliest Mention of the Allmend Richterswil

According to current research, the commons are a creation of the late Middle Ages. They are to be seen in connection with the population growth in the villages that were formed.  The Allmend was first mentioned in the area of Samstagern, south of Richterswil.

This "earliest mention" (1391) does not mark the beginning of the Allmend.  It is only the earliest existing documented record of the Allmend's existence.  We do not know the exact date when the Allmend Richterswil was formed.

1391 Document Mentions the Allmend in the Samstagern Area

StAZH, C II 14, Nr. 34, dat. 5.9.1391 (im Staatsarchiv Zürich)

Samstagern is located about a half mile northwest of Lake Hütten.
As early as the 15th Century, we know that there were already several Hiestand farms in that general area.

First Mention of the Hiestand Name

Heini Hiestand's name appear on a tax list in this year, 10 years after the earliest mention of the the cooperative that became Allmendkorporation Richterswil.

June 7, 1548
Hiestand Farm On or Near the Allmend

Gilg Hiestand on the Sattelbogen sold the Schaffner Batt Wirz an interest on his estate Stollenweid. Adjacent to Marti Tanner's Hausmatte on Dürsenen and all around to the Richtischwyler Allmend.

April 30, 1549
Another Mention of the Gilg Hiestand Farm

The house and farm of Gilg Hiestand at Sattelbogen on Richterswilerberg border on the pasture Strythalden of Gilg Tanner, on the Hügsame, on the Richterswiler Allmend and on the country road.

May 13, 1564
First List of Richterswil Families Entitled to Use the Land

Jakob Hiestand was one of seven men to oversee the recording of 69 comrades who were entitled to use the Allmend.  Sixteen families had inherited the rights from their "ancestors," and did not purchase the rights. Men from "old families": Bachmann 1, Eschmann 4, Fox 1, Tanner 1, Hensler 1, Hiestand 4, Hotz 1, Leemann 1. Lüthi 2, Schneider 3, Strickler 8, Suter 1, Tanner 8, Wild 4, Wymann 2, Carpenter 1.  One Hiestand [Jacob] was on the list of men who had purchased rights to use the land.

Geschlechterrodel, a 16-page Paper Booklet

The first known list of persons and families from Richterswil who were entitled to use the Erlen-Allmend dates from 1564. It is the Geschlechterrodel, a 16-page paper booklet measuring 11.5 x 33 centimeters in a parchment envelope.

The second part of the Rodel lists the old families who inherited the Allmendrecht from their “ancestors” and did not buy it. These are 43 men from the following 16 families: Bachmann 1; Eschmann 4; Fox 1; Tanner 1; Hensler 1; Hiestand 4; Hotz 1; Leemann 1; Lüthi 2; Schneider 3; Strickler 8; Suter 1; Tanner 8; Wild 4; Wymann 2; Carpenter 1.

This list of names of 69 comrades was recorded on May 13, 1564, in the presence of Thoman Bachmann, Rudolf Tanner, Galli Zimmermann, Hans Hänsler, Rudolf Strickler, Christian Tanner, Jakob Hiestand “and other good gsellen.”

The second Heinrich Hiestand on the list below was “at the Schürli,” which was west of Samstagern. 
His name was marked out, which probably indicates he had died or had left the Allmend.

The Wollerau and Richterswil Split

Prior to 1632, the Almend included land in the Richterswil area as well as the neighboring village of Wollerau.  After the Swiss Reformation, it became necessary for the two portions of the Allmend to split.  Wollerau aligned with the Catholic Canton of Schwyz, but Richterswil became a Reformed district. 

Hiestands, one of 12 Families Still on Inherited Rights List

At that time, twelve families still had inherited allotment rights, namely: Baumann, Eschmann, Häusler, Hiestand, Leemann, Lüti, Schnyder, Strickler, Tanner, Weinmann, Wild and Zimmermann.

June 3, 1645
"Statutes and Regulations of the Erlen-Allmend Richterswil"

Heini Hiestand and four other men appeared before the bailiff and presented a set of statutes and regulations for the Allmend that they had unanimously decided on "for themselves and their descendants."  They indicated that these policies were constructed to eliminate the uses of the land that had been occurring since the 1632 partition of Wollerau.

May 18, 1663
The Allmend Stallion

Conrad Hiestand and some other men put a stallion on the Allmend for the purpose of breeding mares for a fee of 32 shillings.

March 19, 1679
Eleven Families Still on the Inherited Rights List

There were still eleven inherited families in the Allmend, namely Baumann, Eschmann, Hänsler, Hiestand, Leemann, Lüti, Schnyder, Strickler Tanner, Wild and Wymann.

1738 - 1748
Hiestand Trial

In 1738, a passionate lawsuit broke out over an allotment right. The hatter Heinrich Hiestand, son of a Heinrich Hiestand from Chneus (Richterswiler Berg, today Hütten), who lived in the village of Richterswil within the surcharge, had received the "Allmend crown" paid out by Allmendvogt Jakob Schneider in the years 1733 to 1738. At the Genossengemeinde of June 24, 1738, concerns were raised about Hiestand's Allmend entitlement. Before the bailiff, Hans Ulrich Lochmann and the Wädenswil court, Hiestand, with the help of his mother and his two brothers Rudolf and Ulrich, who still lived in Chneus, managed to make his alleged right to the allotment credible.  In its decision of September 4, 1748, the higher court overturned the ruling of the Wädenswil court and dismissed Hiestand's claim. 

1794 Begining
Two Hiestands Represented Their Groups in Suggestions for Allmend Improvements

The question is raised whether the extensive and partly unimproved, in many places especially by the Turbengraben barren Allmend could not be brought into a better and more useful condition. A lot of opinions and projects are put forward, partly in favor of, partly against the present allotment constitution and usage letters. In order to prevent disputes arising from this, one man from each of the 10 groups came together with the final reported superior of the allottees on the advice of the authorities, in order to discuss the allotment matters and to put the result in writing.
From the side of the mountain: Country judge Ulrich Hiestand at the Bällen and Jakob Hiestand in the Löchli.

September 22, 1801
Representatives of the Richterswil Citizens

From the side of the mountain: Country judge Ulrich Hiestand at the Bällen and Jakob Hiestand in the Löchli.

August 30, 1807
Two Hiestands Help Rectify Allmend Disorders

Heinrich Hiestand at the Langgass and Conrad Hiestand next to the stork and other men were convened to "rectify the disorders that have arisen in the Allmend and to compensate for the disproportionate benefits that several allottees draw against others."

1808 - The Richterswil Allmend Survey

Approximately 306 Acres or 124 Hectares.

1808 Karte der Richterswiler Allmend im Kanton Zürich, Schweiz
List of 15 Hiestands in the Allmend with Locations and Occupations (or Other Designations)

Hiestands - Jacob at the lake (Carpenter); Heinrich at the Langgass (Captain); Heinrich at the Schulgass (sheep servant); Caspar on the donkey (old mayor); Jacob in the moss (Mabuben); Heinrich in the Weberrüti (Schneiders sel. Knäbli); Heinrich allda (Mabub); Jacob on balls (Jacob blessed); Jacob allda (Judge's brother); Johannes at the Blegi (Mauser); John in Dürsenen (Dolfen sel.); Caspar in Haslen; Conrad in the village (Harness maker); Caspar Wäberrüti; Caspar on the Bergli (from Mistlibühl). 

Heinrich Hiestand - Administrator (President) of Allmendkorporation Richterswil

He was also the mayor of the Richterswil municipality.

Johannes Hiestand - the Mouser

Johannes Hiestand and Jakob Baumann were mousers for the Richterswil Allmend--they were charged with the task of setting traps for the mice on the Allmend -  Mice trapping became important as the land began to be used more for planting than for pasture.

Number of Hiestands in the Allmendkorporation from 1820 through 2007

Reasons for the decrease in Allmendkorporation membership: 1. Decrease in number of children born to families, 2. Some comrades died without leaving male descendants, and 3. Increased mobility led many to renounce joining the Allmendkorporation.

Seite 47 der Geschichte der Allmendkorporation Richterswil von Peter Ziegler (April 2008). Wenn Ihnen dieser Artikel gefallen hat, teilen Sie ihn bitte mit anderen, denen er auch gefallen könnte.

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