134 Years Later a Liechtensteiner is Laid to Rest in Pennsylvania
For 134 years, the Büchel family had known that their ancestor, Fidel, had been killed in a train accident in Eastern Pennsylvania, but they had no idea where he had been buried, or what the circumstances had been. Fidel Büchel had arrived in the US in April 1881, with a small group from Balzers, Liechtenstein. They traveled to Guttenberg, Iowa, where other Liechtensteiners had settled. For some reason, Fidel, after just a few months, had decided to return to Balzers, and was walking the railroad tracks to New York when the accident occurred on July 18, 1881.
As one of her last acts before retiring, Ambassador Claudia Fritsche helped dedicate a memorial inscribed with "In Tribute to All Who Rest Here, Unmarked, But Not Forgotten" to Fidel Büchel and over 130 others buried in unmarked graves in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.
Last fall, two of Fidel’s descendants, Anna Hilti (now living in Zürich) and Susan Buchel (Boise, Idaho) met in Philadelphia to research local archives. After a week, they had found information surrounding the accident, and what had happened to the “victim,” but had found no direct link to their great grandfather. Finally, on their last afternoon, they found an article in a local newspaper that not only related the information about the accident, but reported the results of the coroner’s inquest. In that report, the “victim” had been found to have just eight cents in his pocket, and two letters from home. Remarkably, the article cited an English translation of the letters – Anna and Susan immediately recognized that the letter had come from their great-grandmother, Franciska – known in Balzers as "s’Manzele." The letter made the link, and now they could use all the information they had gathered. Fidel had been buried in the potter’s field of the Northwood Cemetery in East Caln Township, near Downingtown, PA. Their research led them to understand that some 130 other souls had also been buried in unmarked locations in the same cemetery since its establishment in 1871.
The family on both sides of the ocean determined to bring closure to the story. A family gathering was planned for July 18-20, 2016 in eastern Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, the Büchel family in Liechtenstein decided that a stone monument should be created for Fidel and for all the others in unmarked graves in the Northwood Cemetery. A large stone was chosen from the Balzers quarry, inscribed, and then shipped – all 1500 kg, or a ton and a half – to Pennsylvania. A local monument company, Luminella, agreed to receive the stone and install it. The cemetery board offered to provide the stone’s foundation.
On July 19, 2016 Ambassadsor Fritsche joined some 60 people, including Fidel’s descendants from across the US and 12 from Liechtenstein to dedicate the monument inscribed with "In Tribute to All Who Rest Here, Unmarked, But Not Forgotten" to a man who was on his way home – uf’m Hämwäg – and to the others resting nearby, unmarked, but now not forgotten.
By Susan Buchel