1850 - 1903
When Switzerland is brought to your attention, many ideas probably flood your mind. Perhaps your first thought will be its marvelous scenery, its great world-renowned mountains, its beautiful peaceful valleys, and the lovely green slopes dotted with storybook homes. You may think of the long snow-covered ski slopes which are so popular. You may think of its industry, the Swiss cheese and chocolate for which it is famous, or the watchmakers whose products are known and respected throughout the world. Or perhaps you think of the long reign of peace with which the country has been blessed for more than 250 years, and the government which has so carefully preserved this peace.
Switzerland is a land of peace, beauty and mountains, and in the days of our ancestors, it was also a land where hard work was the common lot of nearly every person. It was a hard land which required the maximum from those who would seek to match their strength against its forces.
Among these beautiful mountains, our story begins in the heart of this lush, green land, with its beautifully sunken valleys whose sides slope upward into giant vertical walls of rock. Glaciers cover the mountains as if brooding. Avalanche fences line the mountain walls and look down into the valleys. Below are peaceful little villages with their white washed walls, mostly hidden by the buildings' burdensome-laden slanted roofs. Large flat rocks lay on the shingles to keep them from blowing off. A sharply pointed steeple reaches high up into the cool brisk air. A mountain stream cascades down, only occasionally lapping at the mountain wall as it falls beside the sleepy town. A mirrored lake shimmers in the distance. Oh Switzerland! How beautiful you are!
Not far from such a glorious scene as this, by the side of a mountain richly covered with green dense grass, a group of our forefathers began their lives together. Each member of the family of Edward Durtschi Sr., had unique experiences with their share of joys and hardships. This story is their story: it starts in Switzerland and continues in America. Let me introduce you to Edward, Sr., the father of our story:
Let me introduce myself to you. I'm the son of Johannes Durtschi. My mother's maiden name was Margaretha Winkler. My grandparents on my father's side were Christian and Elisabeth Durand Durtschi. My grandparents on my mother's side were Christian and Maria Wagisbach Winkler. This may be of interest to you: my grandfather and grandmother, Christian and Elisabeth Durtschi, didn't start out as Durtschis, however, for their name had been changed from Turtschi. It appears the name was officially changed in 1830 because there were other Turtschis living in the Spiez area. My grandparents' property records and mail was forever getting mixed up with the other family, hence the change. It seems rather drastic they had to change their name to keep things straight, but it was so. Perhaps you might wonder where the name Turtschi came from in the first place. There has been a bit of folklore which has passed down by word of mouth for several generations. It goes that a long, long, time ago, a man moved from some Slavic country to this general location in Switzerland. The people asked him what his name was, and he gave them only a first name. Apparently, where he came from they were not using last names yet. Well, the townspeople found he came from the town of Turtschi, and so they used that as his last name. I feel very fortunate to have noble ancestry. They were not nobles in a royal sense, but noble in honesty, kindness, and industry.
I, Edward Durtschi, Sr., was born on the 31st day of July 1849, in Faulensee by Spiez, State of Bern, Switzerland. They say I was a fine, healthy child with brown eyes, and dark hair. I was the seventh child born in my family. When I was fully grown, I was six feet tall and weighed 190 pounds.
Faulensee, on the south side of Lake Thun, was where I grew up. It was a beautiful little town built on the side of the mountain. At the foot of the mountain was the Thunersee, or Lake Thun, where my four brothers, five sisters, and I spent many happy hours romping along the beach, watching the sail boats in the azure blue water or lying on our backs imagining dream castles as we watched the fluffy white clouds roll over the mountain tops. These luxuries, of course, were only indulged in when our work was completed or on those rare occasions when a few precious minutes were stolen from the activities of the day.
Not far from the lake was a steep mountain where cable cars took tourists from the lake to a resort at the top of the mountain. As the car at the top of the mountain began to descend, its weight would pull the car at the bottom of the cable up the side of the mountain. When there was not enough weight in the top car to pull the bottom one up, workers added large tanks of water which gave the necessary weight to accomplish the task. This operation was a fascinating process to me.
I went to school in Spiez. Along with the other children, we walked to school each morning. I went to nine grades, which possibly would be the equivalent of a seventh grade education in the United States. School was compulsory. Two days a month were all we were allowed to be out and there was a penalty of either a cash settlement or two days in jail for the father if there was not good reason. Parents were not allowed to keep the children out of school to work.
As a youngster, my parents taught me about God. As a family, we read the Bible and were sincere in our belief. Religion was an important part in the life of each member of the Durtschi family.
Johannes, my father, became ill when I was about 20, and being the oldest boy at home, much of the responsibility for the family fell on me. Life was not easy during those times but having been taught that work is a blessing rather than drudgery, we did our best, shouldered the load, and did what needed to be done. Finally, after two long years of illness our beloved father passed away.
For the next three years, I helped make a living for mother and my younger brothers and sisters. It was during this time I met a lovely young lady who lived at Wimmis. As often as I could, I hitched the team to the wagon and took an hour's trip to court this beautiful blue-eyed, dark-haired girl, Rosina Katharina Hiltbrand. Her parents, Christian Hiltbrand and Susanna Itten Hiltbrand, lived near Wimmis at the time of her birth. They eventually became the parents of five sons and five daughters. All the daughters except Rosina Katharina died in childhood. One brother died just before turning fifteen. These parents too were deeply religious. They went to church as a family and in the evenings they took turns reading the Bible to each other just as we did in my family.
I would like to tell you how truly fine and good our parents were! Both my parents and Rosina's were very intent in teaching their families religious truths, and love and respect one for another. They realized the importance of keeping their families close, of teaching them how to work hard while there was work to be done and, just as important, how to enjoy playing. We always did everything together as a family. What a tremendous example they have been for me, and I hope my children will follow in their footsteps.
Wimmis is near a mountain called Niessen. This is a high mountain, so high that in the wintertime the sun would shine for only a short time each day. It was beautiful in the summertime. The mountain was all green, and there were pastures for cattle to graze on. These pastures were fenced in because the mountain was owned by several people. It was like a field with good rich feed on the slopes. Rosina's father owned a part of the mountain to pasture his cattle on.
While Rosa and I were courting, I helped a bit around their farm and her father thought I could be a good farmer and would be a good man to run the place. So he asked me if I would like to take over the farm when Rosina and I were married, and that was the beginning of our lives together.
On the 25th of August 1877, in a small church at Wimmis, State of Bern, Rosina and I were married. Her birthday was the 31st of October, 1850. Her grandparents on her father's side were David and Katharina Karlen Hiltbrand. Her grandparents on her mother's side were Jacob and Ilsbeth Lehnherr Itten. The ancestry of Rosina Katharina Hiltbrand reportedly is traced to Pope Gregory VII.
When we were married, we moved into the large chalet with Rosina's family. From the first, there was love and respect in our home, and as each child came to take his or her place, he was taught to respect his parents. Home was a haven where all the family could gather to find peace and joy.
All was not happiness, for sorrow came to our home too. Little baby Emil, who was born July 1, 1882, died when but two and a half months of age. And sadness again came when little Mary's tiny lifeless body was born in March of 1890.
Mother and I were blessed to raise nine of our eleven children to adulthood. Rosina Katharina was the firstborn, and proudly bore the name of her lovely mother. She was born the 31st of August 1878. Then came Elise, born the 11 of July 1879. Edward Jr. was born the 3rd of December 1880. Carolina came the 25th of September 1883, Clara on the 8th of February 1885 and Alfred on the 2nd of October 1886. Emma was born on the 11th of July 1888, Fredrick on the 7th of August 1891 and Johann Jacob, or John was born on the 17th of May, 1894. Mother and I could not have been prouder of our fine family.
The children were born at home, as was the custom in those days. Because our little Rosina's first name contained three syllables, in common usage it was shortened to Rosa, and by this name she was known.
The home was a large one so it was possible for us to have our living rooms apart from the rest of Rosina's family. Four months after Rosina and I were married, on the 16th of December, 1877, after a long illness, her father passed away. After his death, the children of a former marriage had to be paid their inheritance so it was decided that the farm should be mortgaged to obtain the necessary money to do this.
Now, the farm being in debt made it much less desirable to Rosina's brothers. The family had a meeting to see what should be done about the property. In order not to be an influence in the discussion I went out of the house to the wood pile where I chopped wood while a decision was made.
Through the course of events it was decided that Rosina and I would run the farm with an understanding that we could buy the greater part of it outright from the rest of Rosina's brothers. One of Rosina's brothers also wanted to farm and received part of the land as his inheritance. He was our neighbor. Three of Rosina's other brothers who were not interested in the farm eventually immigrated to America. They went to Colorado, where they became farmers. Rosina and I borrowed money to pay her brothers for their share of the farm.
The remainder of the farm officially became the property of Rosina's mother, Susanna. So Rosina and I, and later our children worked many hard years to raise the money to purchase the farm with the parcel of land up on the alp. Rosina's mother lived in her part of the home for 25 years before she passed away in August 1903. The farm ownership then reverted to her children for another 18 months after her death before the title was transferred into my name.
Rosina and I had considerable land to farm. At that time the size of the average farm in Switzerland was 20 to 40 acres. Our farm contained 75 acres so the extra land called for extra work. Selling cattle raised on the farm helped to pay the debts.
After the children were born, Rosina was usually referred to as Mother. She sometimes taught the children things that she considered made an ideal home. One of these things was a love of music, and she would say it was wonderful if the mother could play the organ or the piano. I played the accordion, and many an evening our family enjoyed sitting together on the porch while I played for them. Some of our dearest times occurred when on a cold wintry evening I sat on the sandstone oven and led the family in song as I accompanied them on the accordion. Mother and the children loved this, and I must confess that I did also.
Mother loved the Savior and created a love for Him in the children as she read to them from the Bible. The children often asked Mother to tell them a story, and usually it was a story from the Bible. She knew the Bible almost by memory. While very young, she instilled a love for the Savior in their hearts as she told them stories from His life.
Faith was also an important part of my life. I never finished planting a crop without taking off my hat and asking the Lord to bless the fields that we might have a harvest. The same thing happened before I left the barn at night. I would remove my hat and ask the Lord's blessings on the flocks that all would be well throughout the night.
We had a wonderful home. I don't ever remember having any discord in the home. Mother and I supported each other when disciplining the children. The children never received any sympathy from one if they were punished for wrong doing by the other. They would sometimes try to go to Mother and get her sympathy, and she would say, "Well, Father wants you to be a good man: so he is correcting you because he wants you to know what is right." The children never thought of saying anything but kind words to Mother because I would not stand for it. When discipline was necessary I did not believe in using a stick for punishment, as all I had to do was look at them a certain way and they knew I meant what I said.
At mealtime there were eleven people surrounding the table: nine children, Mother and me. We had plenty to eat and would always have a great time at meals because the family ate together: we have never eaten one at a time. During the meal I usually told stories and interesting things I had experienced, and the children greatly enjoyed this as one of the highlights of the day. At mealtime each day we experienced what most Mormons a hundred years later would consider their weekly family home evening. It was an enjoyable time for all of us.
We were raised in the Lutheran faith by parents who were honest, religious people and who followed the teachings of the Lutheran church. So it was only natural that we would want to raise our children in the same way. In our home Sunday was a day of worship. So on Saturday the firewood was stacked, all major cooking was finished, shoes were shined, and dresses and shirts were pressed so that Sunday could more nearly be a day of rest. Then Sunday morning we walked three miles to Sunday School.
Every Sunday we had a devotional of sorts. We often sang together and took turns reading from the Bible. We believed and knew that we had a Father in Heaven and that His Son, Jesus the Christ, was our Redeemer, not like our Minister said, "He was without body, parts and passions." I knew it long before the missionaries came and told us. When the children graduated from Bible study, the minister put the verse from Isaiah on their diplomas saying, "My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways."
Mother had always been a very religious woman and wanted her family raised as she had been, to spend Sunday afternoons reading the Bible. Each child was expected to take his turn reading aloud. As a result, the children had an excellent background. So when Mormonism was presented to our family, we more readily accepted it.
However, the children gave some resistance to our Sunday scripture reading. They were red-blooded Swiss, and were typically sports-minded. Especially on winter days, when the coasting was good on a nearby hill, it took devout concentration to stick with Bible reading. Sometimes Mother would relent, though, and allow them some free time.
As the children grew, we taught them to work and to do a job well. As Rosa was our oldest child she often got most of the responsibility during the children's early years. She states, "I had a happy childhood on the farm where I was born. There was fun and pleasure in our home and there was lots of work. I learned to work on the farm but I also learned something more. I learned something which makes a vast difference in the worth of a worker and in his finished job. I learned to enjoy working. Early in life I began helping with the farm work and early in life I acquired that feeling which, prompted by good health, a strong body and a pleasant environment, causes a person to begin the tasks of the day with enthusiasm and to reflect upon the accomplishments with pride and a determination to do even better, tomorrow." This attitude became the hallmark of Rosa's character and of her children as well. We were very proud of Rosa as we were of all our children.
I worked hard to be a good provider. Mother was a good cook, and took care of the family in an efficient way. She was a good housekeeper, and that was the extent of her duties. She was not required to work outside the home. Mother kept the large home clean and orderly with the help of her daughters. The family home had eleven rooms which gave the girls the opportunities and experience needed to manage their own homes and to maintain a neat and homey appearance. The family was closely woven with love and harmony found among us.
Caroline, our fourth child, exhibited the same characteristics of our other children. For as she remembers, "I had a happy childhood. I loved school and enjoyed growing up with supportive brothers and sisters. Even during hard times, I was taught to exhibit cheerfulness and have a sense of humor. Our home was large and pleasant with plenty of work for everyone. I remembered it as a happy home and prayed I could make my home as pleasant when I had a husband and children of my own."
In Switzerland there were nine years of compulsory education in the public schools. Usually only the children of the more affluent would go further. School was held all year except for two weeks in the spring at haying time, and two weeks in the fall. In the summer, the school hours were just three hours a day, but the children had to walk the three miles to school anyway. Then they came home and worked hard all afternoon. In the winter we had to saw wood by hand, and split it, as we had no coal to burn. The winters were really cold and we received from three to five feet of snow.
Being a farmer and livestock man, I kept the whole family busy in the summertime doing farm work. There were few fenced pastures so it was the job of the younger children to herd the cows. In the summer, the dry cattle were put up in the Alps, or grasslands, in the higher mountains.
Every spring and fall, the smaller children herded the cattle in the field (when not in school). This was a hard job for them to do, especially when it rained because they got soaked to the skin and became very cold. But Mother warmed them up and gave them something good to eat when they came in.
In order to pay for the home and farm we as a family had to have some kind of income besides what we could get off the farm. Cutting and hauling wood from the forests to the nearby towns was a very good business. Everyone used wood for cooking and heating and the huge bakery ovens had to have a supply of wood in order to bake bread for the community. In those days, no one had ovens in their homes, so on baking days they took their bread into town to the bakery to be cooked.
Each child in the family had his special jobs to do. As I worked in the timber a lot, it was the responsibility of the children to take care of the farm. They were all happy when I took one of them with me to help haul the wood. I bought most of it already sawed and split, but occasionally my crew of children and I would have to go to the forest and saw and split the wood in order to supply the demand. On my return trips from the cities and towns where I sold firewood, I brought bread and other food needed for the family.
In the earlier years I had two horses for hauling wood. Later I used just one. We hauled wood we had cut in the wintertime. Often I went by myself when the boys were in school, but when they could, they helped also. We got it ready in the winter, hauling it out of the mountain on sleighs. Then in the summer we hauled it to the city on a wagon.
Jacob Stucki who was just a boy at this time recalls, "We were neighbors to the Durtschis in Wimmis. In the winter, Edward Durtschi hauled his loads of wood on the road which ran right by our place. Sometimes a spot in the road by our house was bare because the snow would melt off earlier there. The single horse-drawn sled loaded with wood sometimes got bogged down in the soft mud. We boys would delight in going out to help Mr. Durtschi get unstuck. The horse would have to stop and rest before the load got completely across the bare ground. Then it was almost impossible to start the load again. Mr. Durtschi was a big strong man and he would get hold of that sleigh and lift it and speak to the horse and the horse would pull. Between the two of them, with us boys giving what assistance we could, they would get the load off the bare ground. We were not really needed, but we enjoyed helping, perhaps if only to see Edward Durtschi's tremendous demonstration of physical power."
Finally the wood business was worked up to the point where it was the main business and the farm was a sideline. We were soon able to pay off the interest and the share due each of the children in Mother's family and come out with a fair living besides. Our family was respected as being a family that had attained some worldly wealth through the efforts and hard work of its members. Our family home was large, not to be pretentious, but because of necessity. The lower level of the house was a shelter for the farm animals, a barn if you will. So the people and animals shared one common roof, a situation not unusual in Europe. I always felt that farm animals should be treated well, including the provision of a warm, dry shelter during times of bad weather.
More land in the 75-acre farm was cleared so it would be more useful and this made the farm more valuable. We had cows, so we always had our own milk and sold milk to the nearby town. Aside from our firewood business, our income was mostly from the sale of cattle and milk, and some grain was sold.
In Switzerland there was no irrigation done, although we had big streams of water coming down from the mountains. Where we lived, the land was flat enough to irrigate nicely, but we didn't use irrigation techniques because there was always plenty of rainfall. The varied climate and long growing season allowed for several types of crops. In the low valleys like Faulensee where I grew up, there were many grape vineyards. The altitude of the valley is between 2,000 and 3,000 feet. But that was further away from the high mountain, Niesen, our home outside Wimmis, where we were somewhat limited as to what we could grow. Here our days were much shorter in the winter because the high mountains hid the sun much of the day.
Rosa recalls the summer days on the farm in this way, "When I was a girl the summertime day began at 4:00 a.m. and the wintertime day only an hour or so later. Most of the work was done by hand methods and required strong and willing bodies. Many of the farm implements which we know now were not available to us then. Only a few farms had more than the basic plow and small wagon. There were scythes, axes, hammers, rakes, sleds and other small tools which could be made at home or by a neighbor, but they were hand tools and required muscles to operate them. The more modern implements were not manufactured in Switzerland, and only the more affluent could afford them."
We broke up the ground with a hand plow drawn by a team of horses in the lead and a team of cows behind. Rosa, the oldest, loved animals. She had a special way with them that showed a beautiful human characteristic.
"I loved the farm duties", Rosa remembers, "and enjoyed handling and training animals. When there was a colt to break for work or riding, I eagerly assumed the task. I tried to be kind and yet firm with the animals and they developed into gentle, easy to manage stock. I once trained two cows to work and when an extra team was needed, they were used. I loved to hitch a colt to a cart or sleigh for a speedy ride down the road. I sometimes took more corners on two wheels than four, something Mother and Father tried to discourage."
Rosa had the patience to teach the cows how to pull by first dragging a log behind them until they were accustomed to pulling and then she hooked them up to the plow behind the horses. A team of cows was worked in this manner for only half a day, and then they were freed from the harness, grained and allowed to rest and chew the cud while another pair of cows was hitched up for the next half of the day. As Alfred did a lot of the milking, he learned that the cows who were worked in the field and given grain to eat always came up on their milk even though they were worked hard plowing.
From the time the children, including the girls, were able to hold a hoe or fork they had to be out in the field helping. We had a big garden to hoe and two or three acres of potatoes. At haying time we cut all the hay with a scythe. We did not have machines of any kind. The smaller children had to scatter the windrows so the hay would dry fast because we had a rainstorm almost every other day.
All the hay was cut with a scythe early in the morning while it was still wet with dew. Then it was often stacked onto a tripod device, perhaps 5 feet high, which supported the hay above the ground and permitted much more rapid drying. Some farmers employed other drying devices but most kept the hay above the ground. When it was dried just right, it was tied with ropes and carried into the barn on our backs, and in later years with a wagon.
Wimmis, Switzerland, had a great deal of rainfall. We never stacked hay outside. Everybody had barns providing shelter for the hay. We never saw a stack of hay outside as we do in this country (America).
Clara states, "The hardest job and the only one I hated was to keep those big horse flies away from the horse when we were hauling hay, because if not, the horse would run away. Two of us smaller children had to do that. One of us would walk on each side of the horse with a horsetail from a dead horse. We would use these to shoo the flies away."
I have to tell how we would put the hay in the barn once we started using a wagon. First we pitched the hay on the wagons in the fields. When we had a load we went to the barn. We never had to pitch the hay up into the barn because we had a dirt incline built up to the top floor of the barn. We just drove up the incline with a load of hay and rolled the hay off the wagon with pitchforks. Then somebody would stack it, spreading it around, and tromping it down solid. We did this until we had enough to feed the cattle and horses for the winter.
"When I was fourteen years old," Clara remembers, "(1902) we were able to get a mowing machine which was shipped in from the United States. The new mowing machine pretty well retired the scythes and was greatly appreciated. At haying time we worked from four in the morning until midnight. We all had to work hard."
When John was about eight years old, I hired an elderly man to take care of the cattle on the property. This man wanted some help, so John had the chance to go up on the mountain and work with him in the summertime. John recalls, "At three o'clock in the morning he woke me up, I rolled off my bunk bed, got dressed, and walked up on the Upper Alp, as we called it, where the dry cattle were. I turned them out of the barn, and herded them until about nine o'clock when the flies got bad. They were filled up by then; so I put them back in the barn. We sat there in the shade together and through his telescope we watched the people down in the valley. I could even see where my own folks lived, and could see the family down below. If Father was home he would be working with the older children. They would be working in the hayfield getting hay ready to dry and put in the barn."
Then in the evening the cattle had to be taken out to graze up on the alp again until nearly dark. All the children took their turns at this task until they graduated to the more difficult jobs on the farm.
Farming in the 1890's was much different than it would be a hundred years later. As mentioned before, we had no machinery to speak of, and almost everything was done by hand. Take our grain operation as another example. When we planted grain, we carried a sack of grain over our shoulder and threw, or broadcast it out in a fan shape with our hands. As mentioned before, whenever I finished planting a patch of grain, I took off my hat and asked the Lord to protect it, and bless it that we might be able to harvest a crop. During my days here upon the earth I have planted and harvested crops for some fifty-five years, and have never lost a crop. The Lord has been extremely merciful to me and my family.
At the time of harvest we cut all the grain by hand with a scythe and shocked the wheat into bundles. Then we put the bundles together in preparation to being hauled to the barn.
In the later years, we had a horse-drawn wagon to move the grain into the barn, which also served as a threshing floor. This threshing floor was in the center of the barn where we pulled in with the wagons to unload our hay. It was a solid plank floor. When we were ready to thresh the grain, we cleaned the floor off well, and then put the bundles on the floor. We had flails to thresh it. This was something like a baseball bat with a leather strap tied to the end. We held onto the leather rope end of the flail and swung it around, hitting the grain and knocking the kernels out of the straw. There were usually four men threshing the grain out together. They did this in a rhythmic way. The children often sat about the sidelines watching in amazement as the men hammered the grain out with the flails. As we hammered it, we stirred it around so that it was all exposed to the blows as they came down. When it was finished, we raked the straw off the threshed grain, and sacked the wheat up. The next step was to put that through the fanning mill. Somebody turned the fan which blew the chaff off the wheat as it slowly sprinkled down through the front of the fan. At last the wheat was clean and ready to be sacked again.
She received all of her formal education in Wimmis and completed 9 years of schooling which was the same as finishing high school in America. In 1896 when she was 18 years old, she went to the capitol city of Bern to work in a bakery and a laundry. It was her first experience away from home and the scenes and sounds were so different and there were so many strangers that the old malady, homesickness, overtook her and she returned. After a short time the urge to be out on her own returned and she began working at a nearby hotel. The following year she went to Grindelwald to work in the big tourist hotel, the Hotel Baren. It was there that she met and fell in love with Rudolph Kaufman who was a coach driver for the same hotel.
Located in a high mountain valley, not far from Wimmis, is the town of Grindelwald. It is set like a jewel in this beautiful valley, near the base of Switzerland's most famous mountains, Youngfrau, Eiger, and Wetterhorn. On a 25-acre farm beside the town lived Rudolph Kaufman, Sr., and his wife, Elizabeth. Here among some of nature's grandest scenery, they raised their family of five boys. He augmented the farm income by serving as a mountain guide in the mountains which he knew so well. The Rudolph working at the hotel was the first son of this couple and was named after his father. His parents were of the Lutheran faith and young Rudolph was raised according to those teachings.
They had two cows and several goats, but the cows spent the summer in the Alps in the care of an "Alpher" who made cheese from the milk. Alfalfa and grain were grown on the farm and were cut with a scythe. The hay was forked onto drying racks then tied into various size bundles so that all members of the family could help in carrying it on their backs to the hay loft in the barn.
Young Rudolph's father was often away from home for several days on guiding trips and the farm operation was left to him. During the winter he helped his father in the shop, where they made sleighs for trade, or he worked in the lumber mill where he learned to square timbers with a broad ax.
In 1894, when he was 18 years old, he began working for Fred Boess at the Hotel Baren in Grindelwald, one of the largest tourist hotels in Switzerland. In the summer he worked as a coachman and the first two winters he took care of the dairy herd where he milked 12 cows by hand. In the year 1897, he became a full-time coach driver for the hotel. And as mentioned before, he also met Rosa when she started working there. Rudolph has said that his finding our Rosa was the best thing that ever happened to him and they resolved to spend the rest of their lives together.
They became engaged to marry, but continued to work at the hotel to accumulate funds before beginning their married life together. On February 17, 1900, they went to Bern and were married. In July a beautiful baby boy was born to them and became the third Rudolph, Rudolph Jr.
Caroline also finished the ninth grade. With the help of Mother and me, she chose to go to France to a school for fine sewing. France was also chosen for the opportunity to learn the French language. Proficiency in foreign languages was a necessity for getting work in the hotel field which was one of her goals. She stayed in France for two years, and had matured a lot by the time she returned home.
Edward Jr. was our next graduate. He then took the compulsory military training that all males in Switzerland were required to take. Upon completion each man was required to keep his rifle and other equipment in readiness, so that at all times Switzerland could be defended. Once he won a six-shooter at a lottery where lots of chances were sold. This was an unusually fine pistol worth prizing. He used to practice quite a lot and could shoot a crow, most every time he fired.
For a time, Edward Jr., worked on the dam project that was to produce electricity for the first electric train in Switzerland. Before this, coal from France was used to power the trains, and there was always the concern that in case of war this source might be cut off. Here, the achievements of Swiss engineers were incredible. Water lines needed to power the generators would freeze in the winter if exposed. To solve this problem the workers tunneled through a mountain to lay the water line.
After this project, Edward Jr. felt that now he could be relieved of home responsibility and urged Mother to persuade me to let him go to France. It was agreed and he went by train. As Caroline was already there, she helped him find work. He stayed in France for about two years and learned to make cheese. Edward was a wonderful boy and as was usual for him during those times when he had employment away from home, he sent his wages home. While he was there he sent me a gift, a barrel of pure grape juice. I enjoyed the little sips I allowed myself while working in the hay. When Edward Jr. came home from France he arrived on a bicycle. He also had a new pompadour style hair cut, which really made the neighbors take notice.
Caroline wanted a sewing machine before she left France. So she ordered a Singer, which was imported from New York. Edward Jr. gave her some of his savings to make this purchase. This little machine was one of the early sewing machines in Wimmis and was a joy and a help to her through most of her life. When she arrived home, she found herself sewing not only for her family, but also for the neighbors. But with all the pleasure this brought, she still enjoyed working in the fields with her brothers and sisters as much or more than sewing.
It was the custom for families to hire the neighborhood butcher to come to the home to kill their pigs. While in France, Edward Jr. had also learned the butchering skill. This particular day the town butcher had come to kill a pig for our family. Edward Jr. had taken on some hard jobs during his time in France and when the butcher hesitated because of the immense size of our pig, Edward Jr. grabbed the ax and with one blow lowered the animal. I was really tickled at this and often related this incident to my friends.
In 1903, Edward Jr. got the itching to be out on his own again and left with eight young men from Wimmis for America. It was painful to see him go, as I never thought I would see him again. There had been quite a few people leave Wimmis for America, and we never saw any of them again. Finally, I gave my permission and he left our beautiful town and country never to return. While on the ship he contracted pneumonia. And when they got to Chicago he could go no further and was put in a hospital. The other fellows went on to Wisconsin where they worked that summer. Later several of them operated a cheese factory there, but Edward spent most of the summer hospitalized. A family by the name of Nightingale took an interest in him and with great kindness would relay information to us in Switzerland. We received the news with great sorrow, and in our troubled minds pictured him as ready for the grave. In those days pneumonia was a deadly killer, and the chances of recovering from a bad case were not too good. We all wept and had him in our constant prayers. But instead of dying, our prayers were answered and he gradually recovered. He had no money to pay the hospital bill so we sent enough money from Switzerland to cover the bill. And as soon as he could, he repaid us.
Edward relates, "After I got out of the hospital, Mr. Nightingale helped me get a job as a dishwasher in the Lake Michigan Hotel where Mr. Nightingale was the Chief Chef. I did not continue washing dishes for long, however, for soon I had worked myself up to Cook." (The family still has his Chef's cap and apron.)
When Clara was sixteen, she graduated from the District School. She wanted to go to high school which was, in Switzerland, the same as college is here in America. But it was quite expensive and Mother and I couldn't afford it as we were still making big payments on our home and farm and yet had a large family to raise.
This work Copyright 1987 for the Durtschi Family by Mark Durtschi.
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