While I have been filling a reference request this week from the Laurel County History Museum, I have been listening to interviews conducted between 1976-1978 with 2nd generation Swiss immigrants from Bernstadt, KY, aka the Swiss Colony. In 1881 Bernstadt was founded by Swiss immigrant groups who came to KY for the chance to own their own land and start a new life. The story is not uncommon from many immigrant stories, but what is unique is that this community was the largest foreign colonization in the state. Children often didn't learn to speak English until they started school.
While there aren't many Swiss left in Bernstadt, there is still a Swiss Descendants organization and community and family influenced traditions, like food and specifically the home recipe for cheese making. I am not sure if anyone still practices this tradition today, but very recently you could still find a handful of people who knew the skill.
The oral history on this community is really interesting, many of the interviewees from this collection share memories of their own childhood in bilingual homes as well as the histories of their parents and the history that brought them to the states.
If you want more, visit our Digital collections catalogto view some more images of Bernstadt and its "lower colony" East Bernstadt. You can also come in and check something out of our rare books collection: Die Kolonie Bernstadt in Laurel County, Kentucky translated from the Swiss in 1939 by A.S. Mory, Sr or check out the 1955 publication The Swiss Colony Bernstadtby Marvin A. Kummer, available in the Martin F. Schmidt Library at the KHS.
Also, KET has produced a program on the Swiss Colony as a part of their Kentucky Life series.
If you would like to donate something that would add to these collections, please contact us at 502-564-1792