Helvetia, West Virginia
Helvetia, West Virginia is an isolated community in a high mountain valley of Randolph County. Helvetia was settled by Swiss and German settlers starting in 1869.
After the end of the Civil War, a group of Swiss and German-speaking immigrants formed in Brooklyn, New York. The members agreed that they would all emigrate to another section of the country together when the time was right. A member of the group surveyed the eastern West Virginia mountains and reported back to the society on the richness of the country. A committee of six men was assembled, and they left Brooklyn by rail on October 15, 1869. They arrived in Clarksburg, West Virginia and began the difficult trek by foot over the mountains.
They reached the plot that was for sale on October 20 and were disappointed by the extreme thickness of the wilderness in the lightly settled and rugged country. The land was very reasonably priced and they had offers of other assistance from the land agents in Clarksburg if they would encourage further settlement in the area. After hearing the report, the group decided to go to West Virginia.
At the beginning of 1871, there were thirty-two people living in the community. A new arrival in that year, C.E. Lutz, became the local land agent and wrote advertisements in English and German for papers across the country extolling the virtues of the settlement. New settlers came from various parts of the United States and Canada, and some immigrated directly from Switzerland.
In addition to farmers and herdsmen, many craftsmen and professionals were among the settlers: stonemasons; carpenters; painters; wagon, shoe, watch, hat, and cheese makers; musicians; teachers; ministers; and doctors. By 1874 the community’s population had grown to a heady 308. Many of their descendants remain but the population size is only about 60 people.
The Helvetia Village Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Today, the village is known for maintaining Swiss traditions, festivals, food, and folkways.