Translation from german: Kurzfassung der Familiengeschichte
Johann Mathias Näff (1773-1853) led a trade business for canvas founded by his father in Altstätten SG. There were several trade houses in this small city at that time: the Schachtler, the Custer (later in Rheineck) and others, which where also related to eachother by family (the mother of Johann Mathias was born a Schachtler, and their mother carried the name Heer from the trade-house in Rheineck). The importance of this at-first-glance small city was in its position on an old trade route from Schwaben and other more remote areas in Germany over the Bündner Alpine passes to Italy. Trade relations seen on this trade route where sometimes also reflected in Marriage relations. For example, the wife of Johann Mathias Naeff, Maria Dalp, was born into a merchant family of Chur.
Altstätten was until 1798 subject territory to the swiss confederation and had therefore no voice in political issues, except in their own municipality. With the new times, the citizens developed the desire more and more to participate in political decisions. Johann Mathias Naeff was elected member of the governing council (Regierungsrat) of the newly formed canton St. Gallen, but soon after had to resign because of health issues. His son Wilhelm succeeded him in this political career. He became a member of the same governing council as his father and was later - as an important liberal politician of Eastern Switzerland - elected a member of the first Swiss Federal council (Bundesrat) in the year 1848.
Only a few of the registered approximately 1300 descendants of Maria and Johann Mathias Naeff-Dalp still carry the family name Naeff, and most of them live in Switzerland.