Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Fall 2012


Great Plains Quarterly 32:4 (Fall 2012).


Copyright © 2012 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska.


In 1877 a small group of Swiss immigrants from the Graubunden canton formed a cooperative with another Swiss group in Stillwater, Minnesota, to begin a colony in eastern South Dakota. These settlers founded the Badus Swiss colony on the open prairie in Lake County, Dakota Territory {later South Dakota}, based on cooperative rules written in Switzerland in 1424. This settlement was one of the last Swiss colonies created in the United States during the great nineteenth-century European migration, and one of the westernmost Swiss settlements in the United States.

There were two major factors that contributed to the Badus Swiss colonists achieving their goals of individual self-sufficient family farms and assimilating into American society. First, cultural preadaptation {i.e., organizational bylaws} provided the colonists with the knowledge and skills in its formative years to create a colony. The history, organization, institutions, and artifacts of the Badus colony reveal cultural traits that were present in their home country. Second, its affiliation with a nearby Irish settlement hastened Swiss assimilation, compared to what it would have been had the Swiss remained an isolated group. Both immigrant groups were Roman Catholic, which facilitated a bond based on the common religion.