Portland Swiss, Inc was created so that Swiss and friends-of-Swiss in Portland and surrounding areas could get together and enjoy the camaraderie of other Swiss.
PSI holds many events throughout the year, with the main event being the annual Schwingfest. This is a 1-2 day festival in late summer with a Swiss-wrestling tournament, dinner and dance.
The Swiss community in western Oregon can trace its roots all the way back to the pioneer days of the Pacific Northwest. A few Swiss had migrated north after the California gold rush of 1849. As Portland became settled in the 1859’s, immigrants began arriving in larger numbers. In 1857 a number of Swiss, mainly Mennonites from Bern, founded colonies at Cedar Mill, Bethany, and West Union in Washington County. Other Swiss communities such as Hillsdale, Phillips, and Helvetia were soon established.
These Swiss immigrants found the fertile valleys and forested hillsides similar in many ways to their homeland. During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, economic hard times in Europe and the promise of new opportunities in America brought several thousand Swiss immigrants to western Oregon and southwestern Washington. The Abbey and college at Mount Angel (“Engelberg”) were founded during this period by a group of Benedictine monks. The brothers of the order came from the historic original Swiss cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden. Their success in agriculture induced many farmers from these cantons to settle the area.
During the course of the twentieth century, Swiss immigrants continued to settle in this area. The topography, climate, and fertility of the land have been found especially desirable by Swiss farmers, dairymen, and fruit growers, while the larger cities have provided industrial and technical opportunities for skilled Swiss workers.
Swiss-Americans living in the Portland area, from the early pioneers to those of us today, have always been proud of the heritage we have retained from the “old country.” The early immigrants quickly formed various clubs and organizations to preserve the traditions of their homeland. Some of these clubs were the forerunners of the current Portland Swiss, Inc.
Now, as then, we strive to retain the spirit of Switzerland.