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William John (Bill) Burgener

LIFE HISTORY OF WILLIAM JOHN BURGENER
Written and copyright by the above
in the early 1970's

        I will give a little history on my Grandparents. Edward Durtschi Sr. was born on the 31st day of July 1849 in Faulensee by Spiez, state of Bern, Switzerland. He was the 7th child of Johannes Durtschi and Margaretha Winkler.
        Rosina Katharina Hiltbrand was born the 31st day of October 1850. Her parents were Christian Hiltbrand and Susanna Itten Hiltbrand.
        Grandfather Edward Durtschi and Grandmother Rosina Hiltbrand were married on the 25th of August 1877.
        Johannis "John" Burgener was born March 31st, 1858 at Spiez, Bern, Switzerland. "Maria Mary" Murri was born in Langnau, Bern, Switzerland. She was born the 16th of April, 1861. They were married November 27th, 1878.
        I will give a little history of my parents. John Jacob Burgener was born January 3rd, 1879 at Midway, Wasatch County, Utah. He died January 15th, 1927 at Idaho Falls, Idaho.
        Clara Durtschi was born February 8th, 1885 at Wimmis, Bern, Switzerland. She died November 27th, 1969 at Linden, Utah.
        William John Burgener, the oldest son of John Jacob Burgener and Clara Durtschi Burgener, was born December 19th, 1906 in Midway, Wasatch County, Utah.
        I have one sister older than myself named Clara. I have five brothers and four sisters younger. They are Joseph Reed, Alice, Edward Henry, Emma, David Jacob, Mary, Nephi Walter, Lily, and Melvin Fay. One sister, Alice, passed away. Eight of us were born in Midway and three in Driggs, Idaho.
        I was blessed January 6th, 1907 by my father.
        The valley where I was born is located about 45 miles southeast of Salt Lake City, Utah. I was born in a small, humble home in the north-west end of Midway. The home where I was born has long since moved or torn down.
        In the town of Midway there are several hot springs, or a they were called then, Hot Pots. They are sort of Lava rock which have built up kind of like cones. Some have dried up over the years since I was a boy. There is one which is very large and covers about two acres of ground. There is a bath house built about three hundred feet from it and we used to go swimming in it when we were just kids. Over the years many changes have been made and it is now a very, very popular resort.
        I really don't remember much about the first four years of my life. I guess we played in the dirt as most kids that age. We had our stick horses to ride. We had to make our own fun. It wasn't ‘ready made' for us like it is today.
        My father had a small farm about five miles from town. Reed and I, when we were old enough to go out with dad to the farm, would play games while Dad was plowing and getting the ground ready for planting.
        Farming in those days was done with a team of horses and a hand plow and a two section harrow. Dad would take a bucket of wheat in one hand and as he walked along he would broadcast the grain with the other and then he would harrow the ground again to cover the seed. I remember the first time or two when dad would let Reed and I take the lines and hang on to the plow and make a round or two. It wasn't what you would call a good plowing job. One time I remember he let us harrow, we got along fine until we tried to turn a corner too fast. We almost tipped the harrow over by turning too sharp. Farming was a pretty slow process in those days.
        The mode of travel in those days was a lot different too. We had two wheel carts, pulled by one horse, or a full sized cart pulled by two horses. When you could afford a large buggy you were right up there in class. They also had a one horse buggy with a top over the seat to shade you from the sun. Dad had a one horse cart which he used to drive back and forth to the farm. I remember one time when we were coming home from the farm. Dad was sitting in the middle of the seat with me on one side and Reed on the other. As we were turning a corner one wheel of the cart run off the end of the bridge. The horse got scared and started to run and Dad grabbed me and dropped me off one side and Reed off the other side. My left hand lit on a broken bottle. I still carry some of the scars from that.
        My Grandpa and Grandma Burgener lived about a half a mile out of town. Us kids loved to go there and play at their place. Grandma Burgener used to make some of the best cookies.
        Our other Grandparents, Edward and Rosa Durtschi, lived about another mile or so north of there. I loved to go to Grandma Durtschi's. She also made some of the best Swiss cookies and pastries.
        One time I wanted to go and stay with them and one thing that stands out in my mind is how homesick I got the first night away from home. It sure hurt when they wouldn't take me home.
        One time I was out in the chicken coop with Grandpa and he was grinding hay for his chickens and I was wanting to be helpful. I reached over with my left hand to help him turn the handle and my hand slipped off and one finger got caught in the gears of the grinder. It still hurts when I think about it.
        One time when I was about eight years old, Reed and I went with Dad up Snake Creek Canyon after a load of dry wood for firewood. Everything went fine until we were coming home from Grandpa Burgener's place. It was down hill to the creek and I guess I was in a hurry to get home, so I got off the load of wood and started to run down the hill and that's the last thing I remember until the next morning when I woke up with one of the worst headaches. It was about two weeks before I got over it.
        When I was six years old, I was sent to school which was about two blocks from our home. My first teacher was a tall, slender girl. Her last name was Johnson. Her father ran a flour and grist mill. She married a boy named Ernest Sondreger. Two of her sons are professors at Ricks College and one is a Stake President. I spent six years at that school. She was a very good teacher. One of the things I remember most about her was she taught the three "R's".
        On June 13th, 1915, I was baptized by Brother Conrad Gertsch and was confirmed the same day by Brother John Ulrick Probst. We belonged to the Midway 2nd Ward while living in Midway.
        I have already told you about how we planted grain. Now I will tell you a little about how we harvested our grain. Grain binders had been invented which was a big step forward in harvesting. A binder was a machine that was pulled by three horses with the driver sitting on top of the machine. As the grain was cut it would fall back on a platform made of canvas which was on rollers. Stooked Grain As the grain went up the canvas it was tied mechanically into bundles and then these bundles were kicked out onto the ground. Then we would come along and set the bundles up, about twelve to a bunch, with the grain heads up until they would dry. As soon as they were dry enough to stack or thresh they were hauled in close to wherever it was needed the most.
        I am going to try and describe the horse powered threshing machine that was used when I was a small lad. To operate this machine it took six teams of horses, two men to handle and drive the teams. The horses went in a circle around the machine which drives the threshing machine. It takes four men working two at a time standing on a platform, with one cutting the string and the other man feeding the grain into the mouth of the thresher. The straw comes out the rear end of the machine with two men stacking the straw. Then there are two men sacking the train which comes out of the side of the machine. Two additional men were employed to watch the bearings and other moving parts, keeping them oiled and greased and working properly. One man can now do alone in a third of the time what it took twelve to fourteen men to do in those days. Don't ever wish you could go back to the good old days. It was all hard labor and toil. But it was good for us.
        One time Reed and I were taking out team of horses over to the canal to let them get a drink of water. Reed was riding the mare and I was walking, leading the other mare which had never been broke to ride. After they got through drinking, nothing would do but that I was going to ride the one that had never been rode before. They both had harnesses on them and so I proceeded to crawl on. Everything went fine until I wanted her to go. I kicked her in the ribs with my heels and then she took off bucking and running. Needless to say I didn't stay on her back very long. That was my first experience in trying to ride an unbroken horse.
        As a kid we enjoyed many happy experiences with our parents and friends. As a youngster we had to think up ways of our own to pass the time. When we went out to the field with Dad, if we didn't have anything to do, it seemed as if the day would never pass. One thing we learned was to be very patient, which didn't hurt us.
        As a youngster we suffered all the ailments of youth, such as mumps, whooping cough, small pox, measles, chicken pox, and in 1918 when the Spanish Flu. It hit all over the world; thousands died because of the lack of how to treat the sickness. My mother and all eight of us kids were sick in bed at the same time. Dad never did get the flu. He nursed us all back to health as well as helping many neighbors.
        In 1917 my Grandfather and Grandmother Durtschi and their two youngest sons, Fred and John, sold their small farm in Midway and moved to Driggs and bought a farm there three miles east of Driggs. My father helped them move and when he got to the Valley he liked it so well that he decided to sell his property in Midway, Utah and move to Idaho. After we sold our property in the spring of 1919, we loaded our livestock, household goods, and what machinery we had on one boxcar and a cattle car on the railroad and headed for Idaho. I was 11 years old when we moved.
        The winter of 1918 and 1919 we had very little snow throughout most of Utah and Idaho. My brother, Reed and I went along with Dad on the boxcar with the furniture. It took about four days to get to Idaho.
        After we got to Idaho we rented a dry farm on the west side of Teton Valley. Because of the lack of snow the winter before and no rain during the summer, we weren't able to harvest any crops.
        We then rented a farm up in Darby on the east side of the valley at the mouth of Darby Canyon. Reed and I worked for our uncles, Alfred and John Durtschi. Farming was all done with horses, but they had come up with plows that had wheels and a seat so we didn't have to walk anymore. The grain drill had also been invented. There was also a steam engine with which they ran a threshing machine. All this farming machinery made life a little easier for the farmer.
        When we first moved to the Valley, Reed and I went to the Pratt Ward to church. After we moved to Darby in the fall of 1919, we went to school and church in Darby. I attended school in a two room building. Each teacher taught four grades, and they only had two teachers to teach the eight grades.
        The first winter we spent in Teton Valley was a real doosy. By the time spring finally had come, the fence posts were covered. When the snow had crusted we could walk over the fences. That was one to remember. Farmers ran out of hay and they had to ship hay in from where ever they could get it. They shipped it in on boxcars and the farmers would come from all over the valley and go home with maybe two or three bales of hay.
        School was never closed because of the weather in those days. Their wasn't any indoor toilets. Why there wasn't people froze to death, I'll never understand. We lived about two miles from the school house and about the only time we didn't walk was when the weather was so bad that it wasn't safe to walk.
        On January 9th, 1921, I was ordained a Deacon by Bishop Octavis Smith. It wasn't long before I was ordained, that I was set apart as the secretary of my quorum. About six months later I was set apart as Deacon President. On March 9th,1924, I was ordained a teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood by Brother Alma J. Enberson. Two years later on March 21st, 1926, I was ordained a Priest by Bishop Charles A. Larsen.
        From the time we moved to the valley in 1919, I worked away from home, mostly for my Uncle John. It was hard milking cows and all the other work that goes along with farming. I'm sure it didn't hurt me.
        In the winter we went home and went to school. I just went to the eighth grade.
        We always had a horse to ride or else we could walk. We didn't have a car that we could jump into and take off to some distant place. We stayed pretty close to home. There were a few cars beginning to make their appearance. The roads were so bad that it took days to go very far. It took two days to drive to Salt Lake City.
        In 1922, I graduated from grade school. My teacher was Alma Simmons. He was a very good teacher. He had to be to get me through school.
        When I was about sixteen, I was called to be a counselor in the Sunday School Superintendency. I was 2nd Counselor. I was also the chorister in the Sunday School. Later, I was also the Superintendent. I held this job for about two years.
        In 1923 I was working for my Uncle John. My grandfather Durtschi became very ill with what was called Dropsy. With this sickness, a person fills up with water and it finally drowns them. I will remember the day he passed away. I was on the back porch next to the bedroom he was in. In those days there was no hospital to go to, but people had to be nursed in their homes. My father stayed at the Durtschi home and nursed grandfather the best he could. I went to the door to ask how he was doing. My father said he was very sick and he said for me to stay outside and wait. I was on the porch. The strangest feeling came over me. I can't explain it, but Dad came and told me Grandfather has passed away and to go and tell his wife and his three sons what happened. He was 74 years of age. Grandfather and Grandmother never did learn the English language, so us kids learned to talk the Swiss language. Grandmother died that same year on the 25th of December. She died of a stroke and Pneumonia. They are both buried in the Pratt cemetery in the mouth of Teton Canyon.
        In the winter of 1925 and 1926 my father went on a six month mission to Canada. I stayed on the farm and did the chores. Milking the cows and feeding the stock and doing any other work that needed to be done. It was about this time we got our first car. I think it was a Chevy. It didn't have a fancy body like the cars of today. In the cold weather we had side curtains that we had to put up when it was raining. There was no heater to keep us warm, and we were only able to drive it during the summer. The roads were awful when it rained. In the winter time we put the car up on blocks of wood and took the wheels and tires off. When the roads were wet and muddy it was almost impossible to go anywhere. This first car we had, had a cut out on the muffler with a wire that came up inside the car and when we wanted to impress the neighbors we would open up the cut out and everybody new we were on our way. It sure made a lot of noise. The car sure beat hitching up a team of horses.
        In the spring of 1926 when Dad got home from his mission, we could see that he had lost a few pounds and we were very concerned. Shortly after he got home the Stake Presidency asked him to be the Bishop of the Darby Ward. All that summer Dad was in constant pain in his side. After the crops were in and taken care of, things looked better, but in December of 1926 we had traded for a new horse and he had the bad habit of kicking. Dad had just got back from town and was taking the harness off him when this horse kicked him in the stomach. I heard Dad holler. I was milking the cows in the other part of the barn and I went running in where he was and got him over to the house and in bed. Two days later; after Christmas, we had to take him to Idaho Falls. This was the nearest hospital. He was operated on and he was full of cancer. He died a few days later. That was on the 15th of January, 1927 and on the 18th of January funeral services were held in the Teton Stake Center and he was buried in the Pratt Cemetery at the mouth of Beautiful Teton Canyon.
        I stayed at home and did the chores such as milking cows and feeding, keeping wood and coal on hand to keep the house warm and taking the younger brothers and sisters to school and seeing they got home.
        After a short courtship I married Anita Larsen, June 25th, 1927. We were married by Stake President Albert Choules at the Stake House in Driggs. I helped run the farm that summer. My mother rented the farm that fall and moved to Provo, Utah.
        Work was pretty hard to come by and in the spring we moved back to Driggs and found odd jobs. Some of the places we lived in were pretty bad. That fall, October 13th, 1928, our first son was born. We named him Robert L.
        Some of the jobs that I had was working for some of the farmers in the valley. I got a job two summers as camp jack, herding sheep. I also milked cows for one of my uncles two winters. I also fed sheep two winters for my uncles.
        A couple of years later our second son was born. We named him Melvin William. Robert was a real cotton top, while Billy was just the opposite. He was dark haired. It was so cold the week that he was born that the frost never came off the windows.
        We went back and forth to Provo several times before we finally settled down in one spot. They were hard years. While we were in Provo two more children were born to us, Lyle Rex. He was also dark.
        While we were in Provo the last time I worked for John Kuhni who furnished meat for the fish hatcheries in that part of Utah.
        Next, a daughter was born to us. We named her Dorlene. On June the 10th, 1934, we went to the Salt Lake City, Utah Temple and had our children sealed to us. Two days later we moved back to Driggs where we have since resided.
        We moved back on Mother's farm where we lived for two years. While we were still living there our fourth son was born. We named him Sidney John.
        After we moved back we became active in the church again. I was put in the Sunday School. I held all three positions in the Superintendency.
        We ran some ground which we had rented and lived there. Then we moved into another house and while we were there Annette, our 2nd daughter, was born.
        I worked two summers in a saw mill in Darby Canyon. We then bought a farm in Darby where Dorlene and Virgil live. It was while we were living there that we built a new home. We put in some rough years while we were farming there. We milked cows and raised hay, grain, and potatoes. I had to work where ever I could find a job to make ends meet.
        On January 13th, 1945, I was chosen to be the Second Counselor in the Darby Ward Bishopric, which position I held until January, 1958. I was ordained a High Priest March 18th, 1945 by Alma Sonne, an Apostle. During this time as counselor I was Home Teacher, the Mutual Advisor, Deacons Supervisor, Secretary in the Mutual and Welfare Work Director of Darby Ward.
        Dale, our youngest son, was born. He is our youngest and last.
        The month of February 1949 was one of the worst for snow and blizzards. Every day of February, 1949, it snowed and the wind blew. We had our car sitting out by the road and by the time the storm was over our car was completely covered over. The train was snowed out for about 32 days and all the highways leading into the valley were closed, as they didn't have the equipment to open them.
        While living on the farm I drove the school sleigh, hauling the school children down to the highway where the school bus met us and took the children into Driggs to school.
        While living in Darby, a new church house was constructed and it was dedicated by Apostle David O. McKay in July of 1949.
        Robert, our oldest never did get married after he graduated from high school. He left home and roamed the country. He loved to go places and see new things. He returned home about the first of October, 1964. Melvin W. got married October 10th, 1951 to Laree Tueller in the Idaho Falls Temple. They have five children, three girls and two boys. Lyle Rex never did get married. On November 27th, 1952, Dorlene married Virgil Beard. They have two girls and two boys. Sidney John married Rana Nelson February 20th, 19??. They have one boy and one girl. Annette married Harold Ross May on November 9th, 19??. They have three boys and one girl. Dale James married Melvina Christeansen February 9th, 19??. They have one boy.
        About the last few years that Bob was away from home his health started to fail. He spent some time in a hospital in Chicago. We didn't realize just how bad his health was. We helped all we could with money whenever he needed it.
        It wasn't long until we started to get Grandchildren. They are all very special to us.
        In 1963 we sold our farm to Dorlene and Virgil and moved to town. We bought a home on Main Street in Driggs. After moving to Driggs I worked in the peas. In the spring of 1964 I worked on a dry farm and then I got a job working for the city of Driggs as the night watchman and Sanitation Engineer. I also worked for the Forest Service.
        I taught a Sunday School class for two years and also I was sustained YMMIA Stake Secretary, which position I held for six years. I was also a home teacher and am doing that at the present time. I was released from my stake job and was sustained as Ward Clerk of the Driggs 1st Ward which position I held for a little over seven years. After I was released as Ward Clerk, I was again sustained Group Secretary of the Ward High Priests of Driggs 1st Ward.
        After Bob came home we knew that he was very sick. His heart was very bad. We felt that he had to get ???? before he passed away, which happened October 31st, 1964. He was just 36 years old. We had a hard time getting over his death.
        Since we have been in town we have gained a lot of new friends and we haven't forgotten our former neighbors and friends in Darby.


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Page Updated: 2 Sep 01