Principle # 1:Van and Von were often confused in l8th century America because people from the Netherlands referred to themselves as "low Dutch" and people from German speaking states as "high Dutch."Therefore, Dutch, which is for us a Germanic dialect spoken in the Netherlands, meant in the l8th century both German & Netherlandish. The German states had both Reformed churches and Lutheran churches.The Netherlands had only Reformed churches.When baptisms occurred in a Dutch Reformed church, they would appear in Dutch spelling, e.g. one of my ancestors, James Wilson appears as Jems Willson.Similarly, the prefix "van" was often confused with "von."
Principle #2Yes, Teddy, you're correct; Van means "from" in English and the place was a village called Gachnang in the territory belonging to Zurich.On Pat's website you can find the results of my research at the Zentralbibliothek in Zurich on the "Von Gachnang" family.Just imagine French speaking Alsatians listening to Swiss German and noting the family name:Von Gochnat.You can also find it on this website in one of my responses to Robert.
Principle #3:"Von" in a German name always indicates a noble family of at least the rank of knight.Sometimes these families maintained their property and money; sometimes they lost it, but maintaining the prefix was ALWAYS a mark of pride and distinction.It still is in German speaking areas.