Clara Durtschi Burgener Story|
Written and Copyright by herself, Clara Durtschi Burgener
I can say like Nephi of old, I was born of goodly parents which is a
priceless blessing and a great heritage. My parents were honest hard
working and religious people trying hard to keep the Commandments of God
and serve Him in righteousness. They worked hard all their lives and we
children had to work hard too. From the time we were able to hold a hoe or
fork we had to be out in the field helping. We had to hoe a big garden and
two or three acres of potatoes and at haying time we had to help cut all
the hay with a scythe. The smaller children had to scatter the winrows so
the hay would dry fast because we had a rain storm almost every other day.
We didn't have mashines of any kind and we had about seventy-five acres of
When I was fourteen years old, we were able to get a mowing mashine
which was shipped in from the United 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 we didn't
the horse would run away. Two of us smaller children had to do that. One
on each side of the horse with a horsetail from a dead horse and shoo the
We cut all the grain by hand and shocked it and then we would put it
Every spring and fall we smaller children had to herd the cattle in
the field (between school) and that was a hard job too, especially when it
rained because we would get soaked to the skin and become very cold.
We held school all year except two weeks in the spring at haying time,
and two weeks in the fall. In the summer we held school just for three
hours a day but we had to walk the three miles to school anyway. Then we
would come home and work hard all afternoon. In the winter we had to saw
wood by hand and chop it as we had no coal to burn. The winters were
really cold and we received from three to five feet of snow. Every Sunday
we went to Sunday School which was another six miles of walking.
I had four brothers and four sisters. I was the eighth child My
father was a good, kind man. He didn't believe in using a stick on us for
punishment, as all he would do is look at us a certain way and we knew he
meant what he said and we all loved him. Mother was very good too. We
often sang together. We took turns reading from the Bible and 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 I graduated from Seminary the minister put the verse from Isiah in my
diploma saying as follows: "My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways
are not your ways."
When I was sixteen I graduated from the District School. I went
through nine grades. I wanted to go to high school which was in
Switzerland, the same as college is here in America, but it was quite
expensive and my parents couldn't afford it. They had to make big payments
on their home and farm. They also had a large family to raise.
I left home and got a job in France to learn the French language.
After a few months I went to Geneva in Switzerland and got a job in a cafe
and while I was there, in one of the letters from mother, she mentioned
that two Mormon missionaries came to see them. This worried me very much
because I knew how avoided and despised people were who became Mormons.
That night I wrote a letter home and pleaded with them not to listen
to those missionaries. But I couldn't do it because it seemed just like a
hand was stopping me from writing those words. It was the same way every
time I wrote a letter home and it made me think and wonder.
I went home for Christmas. The first evening I was home one of those
missionaries came and I was really surprised to see such a handsome young
man and without any horns. I had heard that the Mormons had horns. He
explained the Gospel and gave me a Book of Mormon. I read it with great
interest and prayed about it. I walked many miles to attend meetings and
classes which were held in different towns by the missionaries.
The people began to hate me and, when I walked through town, they
would throw rocks at me and hollor, "Here comes the Mormon". Even my own
family made fun of me and told me I was bringing disgrace upon them. I
must say that my parents were good to all those missionaries. They gave
them the best food and bed they had in the house. They even went down on
thier knees with the missionaries when they said their morning and evening
With the help of the Lord and through prayer and study I soon received
a testimony of the Gospel and that was, that this was the only true church
and that Joseph Smith was a true Prophet of God. The Spirit of gathering
with the Saints in Zion came over me. Never before had I wanted to go
across the ocean.
In March I went with my cousin to a conference in Bern. There was
such a peaceful heavenly spirit, the singing was so beautiful, the sermons
most wonderful. I reasoned that it must be that way in Utah where so many
Saints lived and from then on my every wish and prayer was to go to Utah.
After the meeting my cousin made me acquainted with a missionary I had
never seen before. He had a beard and mustache. He looked like he was not
less than forty tears old, old enough to have a wife and family, but I
liked him and I saw him in my dreams every night after that. Most of the
missionaries let their beards and mushaches grow so they would look older
because the Swiss people wouldn't believe those young boys.
I knew that in April my uncle and family were leaving to go to Utah
and I knew that would be the only time my parents would let me go, but I
didn't have any money and father didn't have any but I trusted in the Lord
and he answered my prayers.
A year before my oldest brother immigrated to Chicago and on the way
he got pheumonia on the ship. He had to be taken to a hospital in New
York, and was there several weeks. My father had to send money to pay the
doctor and bospital bills. After my brother recovered from his illness he
got a job in Chicago and he wrote to father he would pay back the money.
Just at the same time as I begged to be helped to go to Utah, the money
came from my brother and father let me have it. There was only enough to
go to Chicago because he didn't want me to go to the Mormons in Utah even
though his own brother and family were going there, but I accepted it
hoping I would find a way after I got to Chicago.
On April 14, 1904, I left my parents, brothers, sisters, and beautiful
Switzerland for the Gospel's sake.
We had a fairly good trip, not counting the terrible sea sickness we
had to go through, as we rode third class on the ship.
After arriving in New York we assembled with the other passengers in a
big hall and there I found out for the first time that each passenger was
required to have not less than thirty dollars in cash or they would be sent
back. All I had was fifteen cents. An officer began to read names from a
paper and as the names were called they had to go into another room to
answer questions and show the thirty dollars. I shivered and shook with
fear and I prayed like I had never prayed before. Every name was called
out but mine and I sat there alone. I didn't know how I could get away or
where to go, but after a while my cousin's baby in the other room cried so
hard, the judge sent her back to the hall where I was and as soon as I saw
her, I went to her and we walked outside and not one of the officers we met
on the way asked any questions. To me that was a wonderful answer to my
The next day at five a.m., I left on the train for Chicago alone and
my uncle's family left for Utah. I was terribly afraid as I couldn't speak
a word of English, but I was hoping my brother would be at the depot and
all would be well. To my surprise, he wasn't there. After I waited for a
long time, I showed my brother's address to a man who had a light wagon and
horse and he said he would take me to him.
We loaded my trunk and started out. We had to go twenty-four blocks
and in every block there was a saloon. Every time the driver came to one,
he would stop and go inside and bring out all the men to see the Swiss girl
on his wagon. Most of them were drunk and I was terrified. Idecided it
was a good thing I couldn't understand what they were saying. Soon after
the driver was drunk too, but we finally got to my brother's boarding place
and the landlady paid the driver. She was from my home-town.
The next day I got a job with two lady school teachers who were on a
diet, but after a month I had to quit the job or starve. They didn't
realize that a working girl has to eat.
Then I got a job in a dormitory where 200 young ladies were boarding.
I worked there two months when I had the misfortune of cutting my hand. It
was so bad that I couldn't work and because I was so lonesome, I decided to
go to Utah, the dream for which I had been praying since I came to Chicago.
But I only had half of what it cost to go to Utah. I was inspired to tell
a woman detective who boarded with us and she could talk German. I told
her my wish and she said she would try to get a half-price ticket for me.
We started out Tuesday morning.
We went from one depot to another without success but about two
o'clock we found a man who was sympathetic and he helped me get a ticket if
I would leave on the four o'clock train. I promised I would. It took
every cent I had saved up because I was getting only three dollars a week.
I hurried and packed my trunk and a Negro took it to the depot. A woman
gave me two dollars and a sandwich, as I had nothing to eat since
breakfast. The ticket would take me to Salt Lake City and then two dollars
from Salt Lake City to Provo.
In Kansas City I had to change trains and I got on the wrong train and
rode a long way into Missouri. When the conductor came he made me leave
the train and told me to wait for the seven o'clock train going back to
Kansas and then take the ten o'clock train the next morning. It was noon
The next morning I got on the right train but after I left Denver, the
conductor told me I could ride no further on that ticket and made me leave
the train at the next station. The station agent could talk German and I
told him my troubles so he wrote a letter and pinned it to the ticket I got
in Chicago and told me I could go as far as Ogden.
The train was late when I arrived in Ogden and as I got out a man
asked where I was going, and I said to Salt Lake. He said the train was
ready to go and to hurry and get on it before it left. I told him I had no
ticket. He told me I didn't have time to buy one and he put me on the
train. I was afraid there would be trouble and I asked my Heavenly Father
to help me. The train was full of people and I wondered what to do if the
conductor caused any trouble. When he came by, I handed him the ticket I
still had from Chicago, which was about fifteen inches long. He read it,
looked at me, then at the ticket again. All the passengers were watching
him. Finally he handed me the ticket without saying a word and walked
I wanted to go to Midway where my uncle lived as I didn't know anyone
in Salt Lake. When I got to Salt Lake, I tried to get a ticket to Provo
but I was short fifteen cents, just what I had spent in Kansas for a cup of
cocoa, and the agent wouldn't sell me a ticket. I went outside and asked a
woman to help me and she did.
It was getting dark when I arrived in Provo Friday night without a
cent, or without having eaten since Tuesday morning, except the sandwich
and the cup of cocoa. I didn't know where Midway was or which way to go
but I was impressed to go up University Avenue. I was down on the Sixth
South Depot and as I walked up the road and looked up into that dark canyon
which I was certain I would have to go through to get to Midway, I got
scared and asked a woman near the B.Y.U. School if I was on the right road
to Heber, hoping she would take me in. She told me I was and then asked
me if I was German and I told her yes. She then took me to a German family
close by. The woman told me I could stay over for the night but she
couldn't give me anything to eat as they were starving. Her husband and
oldest boy had left three weeks before to find work and she hadn't heard
from them since. I was glad I had a place to stay anyway.
I had no money to take the Heber train the next morning so I decided
to wait until five o'clock and go on the Excursion Train which was going
halfway up in the canyon to take people to a celebration. I was hoping
someone would help me. It cost fifty cents. The woman walked over to
Twelfth North with me and there were about fifty people waiting for the
train. If each one had given me a penny it would have paid my fare, but
not one offered to help, not even after she told them my story. All the
evening before she had railed against the Mormons and now she really cussed
them. That was my introduction into Zion.
After that she took me to another German family and they gave me one
dollar if I would pay them back as soon as I got to Midway, which I did.
The next morning was Sunday. They gave me something to eat and I took
the train to Midway and met my uncle and his family, and had my first real
meal since the breakfast on Tuesday morning. That afternoon I saw a young
man coming along the road and I recognized him as the missionary I had met
in Bern, even though he had his beard shaved off. I didn't know before
that he lived in Midway and that he was back from his mission. I learned
that he was twenty-five and not forty and still single. Ten days later, be
baptized me and Bishop Jacob Probst confirmed me into the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints. Two weeks later, I went to Salt Lake City and
worked there until April, and on April the 5th 1905, I was married and
sealed in the Salt Lake Temple to the missionary who baptized me.
We had no money or anything else to start with, so we rented a farm
for two years, and when the two years were over we moved to Park City, and
there my husband worked in the mine. In the ten months we lived there we
saved $900.00 besides paying our tithing, and we had two children.
We moved back to Midway and bought a team and wagon and a few acres of
From the time I left my folks in Switzerland I kept writing them. The
missionaries kept going there to their home and finally they accepted the
Gospel. My mother, two sisters and three brothers were baptized but Father
still had his doubts about the Mormons. He wrote my brother in Chicago and
told him to go to Utah and find out if I was in slavery or if I was
permitted to live with my husband and was free to do as I pleased. So I
had an unexpected visit from my brother. He was very happy to find
everything in order. All the Swiss people in Midway gave a big party for
him and he was pleased with everything. He wrote a nice letter home to
Father and told him to come to Utah. They sold all they had and emigrated
to Utah in September, 1905. They bought a 30-acre farm in Midway. They
brought a very nice girl with them who had also joined the Church, the only
one to do so from a large family. While they stopped in Chicago to visit
their son, the two fell in love with each other. She came to Utah and in
a few months he accepted the Gospel and was baptized on the 24th of June,
1906. In April, 1909 he maried her in the Salt Lake Temple. My father was
baptized on the 19th of November, two months after he arrived here from
Switzerland. My oldest sister and her husband and two children came from
Switzerland in the spring of 1906, and soon after accepted the Gospel and
were both baptized. The last one of my sisters and her husband and two
children came from Switzerland in the spring of 1908. She didn't join the
Church till many years later, he never did. In January, 1908, we all went
to the Salt Lake Temple and were sealed together, all except the one
sister. She was sealed to us in January, 1953, when she married her
second husband in the Temple. It's a great comfort and joy to know that we
will all be together again if we live the way we should. My father died on
July 20, 1923, he was seventy-four. My mother died on Christmas day, the
same year, she was seventy-three. My oldest brother died in March 1922 and
left a widow with 5 children. My oldest sister died in June, 1946 and left
12 children. My youngest sister died in March, 1940 and left 10 children.
My parents had sixy-nine grandchildren. All my folks except two sisters
had moved to Driggs, Idaho.
We were still living in Midway renting when the Bishop asked us if we
would move in with an old man who was deaf and otherwise in bad shape. He
wouldn't live much longer but somebody had to take care of him. We could
buy his house and lot of five acres for a small price and then it would be
ours when he died. He had a son living in California but he wouldn't take
care of his father. So we were foolish enough and feeling bad for the old
crippled man, we moved into his house. We fixed it up, cleaned it, fed him
at our table, he ate as much as two men and soon began to improve and look
better. I did his washing and we made our payments. I spent hours writing
for him, what he didn't like you couldn't make him understand. I suppose
deaf people are that way. We lived with him for seven years, then he got
mean, he wanted more money, and one day he hit me with a shovel. My
husband got mad and hit him with his fist and after that we made him eat in
his own room, but I cooked it.
The next spring we took our cattle and team and furniture and moved to
Idaho where my folks lived and left the place to the old man. He died a
year later and his son came and sold the place.
We rented a dry farm on the west side of Teton Valley but it didn't
rain that summer and the wheat burned up, so we moved over to the eastside
into an old loghouse, and my husband worked for my folks the rest of the
summer. We had eight children by then. In the fall we were lucky to rent
a 160-acre farm with a good water right and a big seven room house on it.
When I lived in Midway town I always wished for a farm like that with the
house in the middle of it so my children would have to stay home and learn
to work and now my wish was fulfilled. The house was almost in the middle
of the farm and the next neighbor was a mile away.
That winter we didn't have much to eat, neither did the cattle. Hay
was $25 a ton and hard to get. By spring we paid $50 a ton and it had to
be shipped in from Utah. We had to borrow the money and pay 10% interest.
But we were happy on that farm as a family even though we had many
hardships and disappointments. It was a cold country and some years when
we had nice grain the frost came and froze it and we couldn't get much for
it. The same with potatoes, but the rent had to be paid anyway. We could
raise good hay. It was also a good country for cattle.
There were twenty families living in that ward. We held meetings in a
loghouse. We did all we could in the ward. I worked in the Relief
Society. My oldest daughter played the organ from the time she was
fourteen until she went away to work.
In the fall of 1926 my husband was called on a six-month's mission to
Canada and when he came back in the spring, he had poor health and was
losing weight. On the first of July he was made a Bishop.
In December he bought a horse and one night as he walked in the
stable, the horse kicked him in the stomach. He got feeling worse by the
day and on the 12th of January I took him out to the Idaho Falls Hospital
where they operated on him that night. Three days later he died. Before
he died he asked to be buried by the side of my parents and not to be sent
to Midway, so we did. I was left with eleven children, the youngest two
years old. My husband was insured for $1,000 and after the funeral expenses
were paid, which was $225 I took the rest and made a payment on the farm as
we were determined to stay on the farm.
Two weeks after my husband died in January, 1927, it got terribly
cold. One night it was forty-two F below 0. Each day my oldest boy got up
at 6:30 and would start the fire in the heater. Then he would go out to
the barn where he would do the chores. After the chores were completed he
had to take the children to school in the sleigh because it was too cold to
walk the three miles. As soon as he went out I got up and started the fire
in the kitchen and then I would get breakfast.
On this extra cold morning I didn't hear him start the fire and go
out. I was sound asleep until I heard somebody call my name in a
frightening voice. I sat up in bed but I couldn't see or hear anything
because it was so dark. I lay down again and dosed off to sleep. Again
somebody called my name and I immediately sat up and wondered who had
called me. Everything was so dark both inside and out and because of this
I lay down again and dosed off to sleep. Then somebody grabbed me by the
sholder and really shook me hard. After they called my name again. I
jumped out of bed and run for the living room and there was that big heater
(one of those old fashoned things they used thirty years ago without a
frame around it) firery red all over and the wooden wall behind the heater
was smoking. In a few minutes that wall would have been on fire and six of
my smaller children were sleeping on the other side of that wall. It
scared me so bad that I quickly opened the outside door and called for my
boy to come in but he couldn't hear me. Then I realized that having the
door open only made the fire go much faster. I quickly closed the door and
tried to decide how to make it slow down when I heard a voice say to open
the door on the heater. I opened it and the fire soon slowed down and the
heater began to get black again. I know it was my husband who came from
the other world to save our lives and our home.
In June the oldest boy got married and the second oldest boy was hurt
in an accident and had to go to the hospital to be operated on. The doctor
said he couldn't do any hard work for two years. It seemed like everything
was going against us that summer. I helped in the fields with the haying
and watering. One morning I got awful sick. It was getting worse by
afternoon. Later in the afternoon I became paralized and I began to suffer
terrible. I thought any minute I would last no longer.
As soon as the boys came home that evening, Reed rode five miles to
town to get the doctor. When the doctor came he gave me morphine pills to
kill the pain. It was nearly four hours before I received any relief and
could move around again.
The next day when I was able to move around I went to see the doctor.
He told me that he couldn't help me. I told him that he must help me
because I had a big family and farm to take care of. But he shook his head
and said there was nothing that he could do. I really felt blue and
When I got home I walked out to the ditch to get some water. While I
was there, my father, who was dead, came to me and said, "Didn't I tell you
three years ago that, if you ever suffer with your kidneys to drink the tea
made from these herbs along this ditch?" Then I remembered him telling me
that. I gathered some of them and made tea and, in a week, I was as well
as I could be. I learned from that experience something I shall never
forget and that is to always to have herbs on hand. I later told a
neighbor who suffered from it for many years and spent hundreds of dollars
that, if she drank the tea, she would get better. She took some and, in
two weeks, was better and had good heaalth. She is still enjoying her
health. The Lord gave us the herbs for our health and we should use them.
In the fall we decided to go back to Utah on a smaller place. In
November we sold everything that could be sold except the farm and came to
Provo and bought the place we are on now, making a down payment of
$1,800.00. I bought it for $7,850.00; it had a good 5-room brick house on
it with a full basement built on a hill overlooking the B.Y.U. campus.
Below that was Provo City and to the west was Utah Lake and Orr Mountains
and, on the east, beautiful Timpanogus and other mountains. There were 16
acres of level land and all along the hill below the house was a grape
vineyeard. The first year we did fairly well from the crops earning
$1,000. Then came the depression years, and it was hard to make a living
for a widow and 11 children. The boys couldn't find jobs. Soon the time
came when I couldn't make the payments on the place, but I always managed
to pay the interest which was $300.00 for several years and so I sold the
land a few acres at different times. I picked fruit for other people and
took care of children and did housework for other people.
One winter I took in my home 5 motherless children from the Welfare.
The father was an alcoholic and was getting treatments in the Utah State
Hospital. Two months later he came and stayed at my house too. They
stayed with us for 10 months and, as soon as school was out, they went back
to their home in American Fork.
The next fall, the Welfare brought me 5 other orphaned children; they
stayed with me 10 months. The next two winters I worked in the school
kitchen serving lunch. Finally I was able to pay off my debts for the
house and one acre of land and pay the doctor for two broken arms of my two
youngest children and I was out of debt. I had no help from the Church and
only 10 dollars a month from the county for two years.
Three of my boys went on L.D.S. missions at different times. Reed
went to the South American Mission September 1931. Edward went to the
Northern States Mission November 1934. He was district president for 13
months. Nephi went to the Centeral States Mission February 1941. Then the
Second World War started and three of my boys went in the service and
They are all married now and, since I am alone, I have went and helped
them when they have needed help. I have taken care of the children while
their parents have gone on vacations and at other times.
On Mothers Day 1954, I had the most wonderful suprise. I went to
Sunday School not expecting any special honors. When the preliminaries
were over, the Superintendent got up and said they had chosen me as the
most honored mother and asked me to come on the stand with my daughter
Lily. They showed some beautiful pictures of Switzerland, my homeland, on
a big screen and played Swiss music. Then Brother Crandall read part of my
life's history, my conversion to the Church and trip to Utah. Then came
the surprise of all when my children walked in with their husbands or wives
one after another as their names were called. One from California, three
from Idaho, one from Talmage, one from Heber, and four from Orem. One from
California was unable to come. Four of my sons and one daughter gave short
talks. Twenty-four of my grandchildren came in and sang, "In Our Lovely
Desert", and prayer was said. When we got home, we found chairs already
set up by two high councilmen and all the families enjoyed a good dinner.
We took pictures and had a wonderful visit together.
In 1955 I went to Europe with a group of 21 people. I wanted to go to
the dedication of the Swiss Temple which the Church built not far from
where I lived before coming to Utah. And that was surely a thrill. Then I
wanted to see my old home again where I was born and raised. I wanted to
see more of Switzerland while I was there because I hadn't had a chance to
see much of it while I was a girl. Before we left on our trip, the people
of my ward surprised me with a nice party and dinner and program and gave
me nice presents, things that I would need for the trip. My children also
had a dinner for me and gave me clothing I needed and then they took me to
Salt Lake to catch the airplane. I was gone five weeks on a most wonderful
trip which I enjoyed wery much. The thing that made me feel good was that
I could pay for the trip with my own money and didn't have to beg.
One year later I went with another group of 44 people to the Hill
Cumorah when the pageant was on. We went in a big Greyhound Bus and that
trip was even more wonderful than the first, but lasted only two weeks and
both times Mr. and Mrs. Losee were our leaders. I have both of my trips
written down and enjoy reading them over often and looking at the
The next year, our Stake was building a big meeting house and, after
the walls were up, they asked for help to clean out the rooms and chapel,
so I went and hauled out 16 wheelbarrows of junk and dumped them out over
the hill. No one else came to help. I helped many days when they put the
floors down and, the next summer, I went and took care of the landscaping
after they had it all planted. The weeds were getting the upperhand of
things and they had asked the boys of the Ward to do the weeding. They
destroyed 14 choice shrubs, so I worked 140 hours that summer keeping
things nice. I would have gone the next summer too, but the B.Y.U. wanted
our place and we had to sell it to them. I had sold my home to my daughter
and son-in-law, Gordon McQuivey, in 1949. He built a room for me and I
lived there. When Gordon had to sell, he bought two acres in Lindon and
had a beautiful home built on it. He let me move a little house on it near
I have a beautiful view on the west looking down over orchards and
farms and the Lake and mountains west of the lake and beautiful Timpanogos
on the east. In the evening, I enjoy looking down on all the lights of
American Fork, Lehi, and part of Pleasant Grove, and I can make a garden
again and have flowers....
...I have been a visiting teacher for 42 years. While I lived in
Idaho, I was counselor for eight years and Relief Society president for a
few months. I never worked in Primary, but I have been taking care of
little children so the mothers could go as officers and teachers. I have
also done it for Mutual officers.
I hope I am worthy to receive the wonderful blessing which Christ
promised to all in the 19th Chapter of Matthew, 29th verse: "And every one
that has forsaken father and mother or brethern or sisters or houses or
lands for my name sake shall receive one hundred fold and shall inherit
everlasting life". I left them all for the Gospel's sake. In all these
fifty years of trials and sorrow I have never doubted for one minute that
this was the only true Gospel. My testimony is that the Latter-day Saint
Church is the only true Church, that God lives and watches over us and that
Jesus the Christ is our Savior.
Clara died 27 November 1969 at home, Lindon, Utah from
pneumonia. Funeral services for Clara were held Sunday, November 30,
1969 in the Lindon Ward Chapel and December 1st at the Teton Stake
Tabernacle, in Driggs (with) interment at Pratt Ward Cemetary, Alta,