Monday, September 28, 2009

Henri de Büren 1825-1909

Henri de Büren was the only son of Albert de Büren (1791-1873) and Catherine de Senarclens (1796-1857). Like his father before him he was a great lover of nature and art. He was a trained botanist at Thaer's Agriculture School near Berlin and was a great amateur artist.

In 1852 he embarked on an expedition of the Americas that would take two years. He would travel through the United States, Canada, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Brazil. Along the way he met great figures in science, and kept a journal and sketch book as his constant companions. His trip is chronicled is much greater depth on my sister site The Grand Tour as well as in A Voyage Across the Americas - The Journey of Henri de Büren an adaptation of his original journal and letters home available on Amazon, iTunes and Barnes & Noble. The French version of his journey Voyage aux Amériques, Lettres et journal d’un jeune baron neuchâtelois is now also available through Le Groupe Ethno-Doc.

A year after returning to Switzerland he would marry his cousin Madeleine Sillem. Tragically she would die only six weeks into their marriage. The entire family including Henri were totally devastated. Five years later he would marry for a second time, with another cousin, Natalie de Freudenreich. They would have nine children, three of whom were deaf from birth.

Henri would be a Member of the Grand Council of Neuchâtel from 1856 to 1865 and President of the Agricultural Society of Neuchâtel from 1859 to 1885. He was also at two times President of the Agricultural Society of Romand (French-speaking) Switzerland.

In 1888 after much soul searching and surely many sleepless nights, Henri under the advisement of fellow family members decided to sell the Château of Vaumarcus, home of the de Büren family since the mid 17th century. He needed to find a home that was not as large and near special services for his children. He would move his family to a country home the family named La Châtelaine the district of Aïre near Geneva. As an interesting aside, Châtelaine was the former home of Dr. Théodore Maunoir, co-founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

A small passage about Henri from Terre et gens de Neuchâtel: Les saisons de la vie By Samuel Zwahlen

"Abolis par la constitution républicaine de 1848, lesdits titres devaient pourtant se conserver longtemps encore dans la mémoire des Bérochaux. Jusqu'à leur trépas, c'est-à-dire jusqu'à la fin du siècle passé, M. Georges Petitpierre de Wesdehlen, à Saint-Aubin, et M. Henri de Büren à Vaumarcus demeurèrent, pour les contemporains: «Monsieur le comte» et «Monsieur le baron». Longtemps après la dispariation de ces honorables citoyens, il y eut à Saint-Aubin une propriété toujours appelée «chez le comte» tandis que les habitants de Vaumarcus et d'ailleurs faisaient dans le «bois au baron» d'abondantes récoltes de chanterelles."

Henri de Büren (1825-1909), painted in 1859 by Rodolphe Léon-Berthoud

Photo of Henri from the 1880s

Natalie de Freudenreich (1835-1900) as a young woman

Photo of Natalie from the 1880s

Madelaine de Freudenreich (born de Senarclens), mother of Natalie, and Henri's aunt. © Swiss National Museum

Photo of Vaumarcus from the early 1900s

Photo of the Palais at Vaumarcus from the early 1900s


In 1855 Henri married Madelaine Sillem (1835-1855) daughter of Wilhelm Sillem (1804-1885) and Angletine de Senarclens (1808-1894).

In 1860 Henri married Natalie de Freudenreich (1835-1900) daughter of Edmond Alexandre de Freudenreich (1807-1876) and Madelaine de Senarclens (1811-1843).

From his second wife he had nine children:

1. Jeanne Henriette (1861-1944)
2. Albert Gustave (1862-1938) ∞ Odette Thonney
3. Germaine Sophie (1863-1931)
4. Amelie (1864-1935)
5. Philippe Frédéric (1865-1953) ∞ Louisa Fabrini
6. Henri Charles Paul (1867-1943)
7. Alice Eugenie (1868-1923)
8. Charles Gabriel (1870-1930)
9. Henriette Albertine (1874-?)

Interesting Tidbit:

Illustration of Guillaumine Louise de Büren most likey done by Henri.

Henri's sister Guillaumine Louise (1821-1877) with whom he was very close, was instrumental in transcribing his letters home from his two-year trip to Americas and which have become the foundation for my Grand Tour project. She also married Dr. Eugène Clément of St. Aubin a noted naturalist and archaeologist who made extensive finds along the lake of Neuchâtel from the Stone Age. Incredibly enough the finds by Dr. Clément would not have been made if not for the lowering of the lake to accommodate the new Suchard steam boats, that were funded in part by Albert de Büren, Guillaumine's father.

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