HISTORY OF EDWARD DURTSCHI AND ROSINA KATRINA HILTBRAND DURTSCHI|
Written and Copyright by Clara Burgner
Father and Mother raised nine of their eleven children
to adulthood. Rosina Katharina was the firstborn and proudly bore the name
of her lovely mother. We know her as Rosa. She was born the 31st of
August 1878. Then came Eliza, 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. These two
parents could not have been prouder of their fine family.
Edward Durtschi Sr. was born on the 31st day of July 1849 in Faulensee
by Spiez, state of Bern, Switzerland. He was a fine, healthy child with
brown eyes, dark hair, the seventh child of Johannes Durtschi and
Margaretha Winkler. When he had grown to full stature he was six feet tall
and weighed 190 pounds.
Faulensee, on the south side of Lake Thun, where Edward grew up, 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 Edward and his four
brothers and five sisters spent many happy hours romping along the beach,
watching the sail boats sailing in the azure blue water or lying on his
back building dream castles as he watched the beautiful fluffy white
clouds roll over the mountain tops. These luxuries, of course, were only
induldged in when the work had all been completed or on those rare
occasions when a few precious minutes were stolen from the activities of
the day. Across the lake to the north was a steep mountain where the cable
cars took tourists from the lake to the resort at the top of the mountain.
As the car at the top of the mountain began to decend, 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 hooked large tanks of water to it to add the necessary weight to
accomplish the task. This operation was a fascinating process to the young
Edward went to school in Spiez. He, along with the other children,
walked to school each morning. He 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 they 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, Edward was taught about God. As a family they read
the Bible and they were sincere in their belief. Religion was an important
part in the life of each member of the Durtschi family.
Johannes, the father, became ill when Edward was about 20, and he
being the oldest boy at home, had to assume the responsibility of the
family. Life was not easy for this young man, but having been taught that
work is a blessing rather than drudgery, he shouldered the load and did
what needed to be done. His father passed away after two years of
For the next three years Edward made a living for his mother and
younger brothers and sisters. During this time he had met a lovely young
lady who lived at Wimmis, so as often as he could, he hitched his team to
the wagon and took an hour's trip to court this beautiful blue eyed, dark
haired girl, Rosina Katharina Hiltbrand. Her birthdate was the 31st of
October, 1850. Her parents, Christian Hiltbrand and Susanna Itten
Hiltbrand, lived at Wimmis at the time of her birth and they eventually
became the parents of five sons and four other daughters. 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.
How truly fine and good these parents of both families were! As we
learned more about them we see how very intent they were in teaching their
families religious truths and to have love and respect one for another.
They realized the importance of keeping their families close, of teaching
them how to work hard while they were working and enjoy playing, but always
together, as a family. What a tremdous example for all who have come after
On the 25th of August 1877, in a small church at Wimmis, State of
Bern, Edward and Rosina were married. From the first there was love and
respect in the home and as each child came to take his or her place in the
Durtschi home he was taught to respect his parents. Home was a haven where
all the family could gather to find peace and joy. In the words of John,
the youngest, "I do not remember that my father and mother ever had any
serious disagreements. Mother always backed up father if he found it
necessary to correct us or bring us to obey. Mother always spoke well of
Father. They honored each other." Clara and John both recalled their
father telling them, "Whenever I followed Mother's council my ventures
They were hard workers. Mother kept the large home clean and orderly
with the help of her daughters. Father, being a farmer and livestock man,
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. An elderly man was hired to look after things at
the alp and as an eight year old boy, John was sent to assist him. His job
was to arise at 4 in the morning when daylight first appeared in the east,
walk to the upper alp, turn the dry cattle out of the barn and herd them
until about ten in the morning when the flies became a nuisance and the
cattle would hurry to shelter in the barn. Then he would go back down to
the lower alp and the old gentleman would have breakfast ready. During the
heat of the day they would sometimes sit in the shade and through a spy
glass watch the older brothers and sisters working in the hayfield down in
the valley, then in the evening the cattle had to be taken out to graze
again until nearly dark. No doubt all the children took their turns at
this task until they graduated to the more difficult jobs on the farm.
Rosina's parents needed a good man to help them with their 75 acre
farm and they asked Edward if he would like to take it over when he and
Rosina were married and so that was the beginning of their lives together.
The home was a large one so it was possible for them to have their living
rooms apart from the rest of the family. Four months later, on the 16th of
December, 1877, after a long illness, Rosina's 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 mortagaged to obtain
the necessary money to do this. Now, the farm being in debt so much, make
it much less desirable to Rosina's brothers. The family had a meeting to
see what should be done about the property. Edward, in order not to be an
influence in the discussion, went out of the house to the wood pile where
he chopped wood while a decision was made. Through a course of events
Edward and Rosina bought the farm and her mother lived in her part of the
home for 25 years before she passed away in August 1903.
In order to pay for the home and farm Father had to have some kind of
income beside what he could get off the farm. Cutting and hauling wood to
nearby towns was a real 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. No one baked bread at home, on baking days
it was taken to the bakery to be baked.
The children took turns doing the farm work and going with father to
haul the wood. He bought most of it already sawed and split but
occasionally he and his crew of children would have to go to the forest and
saw and split the wood in order to supply the demand. Finally this
business was worked up to the point where it was the main business and the
farm was a sideline. They 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
Too much cannot be said about the working habits of this good family.
Father set the example as a hard working, honest man, Mother carried her
share of the burden without a murmur. More land in the 75 acre farm was
cleared so it would be more useful and this made the farm more valuable.
They 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 daughter, loved animals.
She had a special way with them that showed a beautiful human
characteristic. She it was who 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 hooking them up to the plow behind the horses. A team of
cows was worked in this way 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. Alfred
recalls that the cows that were worked in the field and given grain to eat
always came up on their milk even though they were worked hard plowing.
All the hay was cut with a scythe early in the morning while it was
still wet with dew. Then it was shocked into piles and when it was dried
just right it was tied with ropes and hauled into the barn on their backs.
After some 22 years, mowing mashines began to be imported from the United
States, which made it much easier to harvest the hay. Clara said, "At
haying time we worked from four in the morning until midnight. We all had
to work hard."
Father was among the very few Swiss men who did not drink or smoke.
In a socializing way it was customary when in groups for the men to have a
few drinks, but Father didn't participate with them. He was loved and
respected by all for his honest dealings, and he was admired for the fact
that he discussed the problems that came along with his family and our
ideas were considered in making decisions.
We had an ideal home. On winter evenings we gathered together and
sang songs while father accompanied us on the accordian. We all loved
this. One picture we children recall was seeing Father on a cold wintery
evening, sitting on the sandstone oven as he led us in song.
Mother loved the Savior and created a love for Him in us children as
she read to us from the Bible. Father too had a great deal of faith. He
never finished planting a crop without taking off his hat and asking the
Lord to bless it that we might have a harvest. He did the same as he
completed his work at the barn at night. He would remove his hat and ask
the Lord's blessings on the flocks that all would be well throughout the
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
Father and Mother raised nine of their eleven children to adulthood.
Rosina Katharina was the firstborn and proudly bore the name of her lovely
mother. We know her as Rosa. She was born the 31st of August 1878. Then
came Eliza, 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. These two parents could not
have been prouder of their fine family.
The Durtschi family all belonged to the Lutheran Church. Father was a
faithful member and gave donations unselfishly. We were all diligent in
our activities in the church. Before we went to bed we often read from a
prayerbook and we always had a blessing on the food. Mother was very
unselfish. She was good to everyone. She gave to the poor, fed the
beggars that came to our door and so when the Mormon Missionaries,
traveling without purse of script, came to our door, she invited them in
and fed them the very best food we had and offered them the best bed in the
About the first of November, in the year 1902, two of these Mormon
Missionaries, Alma Burgner and Conrad Gertsch came to our home. They began
to explain Mormonism to us. They told us the story of the Prophet Joseph
Smith, of the appearance of God the Father and His Son Jesus to Joseph in a
vision, but when they told us that Jesus told Joseph that all the churches
existing at that time were an abomination in His sight we felt that surely
must be an exaggeration. When they came to our home the next time they
discussed the Godhead with us, repeating the statement of Lorenzo Snow, "As
man is God once was and as God is man may become." Father said, "Do you
mean to say that God was a man once?"
"Yes," they said.
"Well," Father said, "There was surely a God before there was a man."
They agreed. Then asked Father, "And He was once a man?"
"Yes," the missionaries answered. This doctrine was beyond our
The missionaries had been invited to stay with us over night and as we
visited they told us that they were giving their time and were paying their
own way while on their missions. We thought that was a great thing for
young men to do so Father told them, "If you are willing to do this for
your church, then whenever you are in this area you can come to our home
but don't tell us any more about your religion." They made use of the
invitation and came often. They didn't preach to us but gave us a copy of
the Book of Mormon and a book containing a short history of the Church,
which we read.
The first two missionaries were released and went home to Utah. For a
time we did not see any Mormon Elders, but I remember one day we were
talking about the Mormon religion and my mother made this statement, "I
don't know about this Mormon religion, whether it is true or not, but I
know this, that a church that produces such fine young men as the Mormon
Elders are, is a better church than ours." Father could forbid them to
preach the doctrine but he could not forbid them to live it. Example still
taught Mormonism even though they were ordered not to teach doctrine.
One day in November of 1904, two new Elders came to our home. Mother
invited them in and as was customary, she fed them a good meal and invited
them to stay the night. We began to study again and to go to the meetings
that they held.
We often wondered where we came from, what our purpose on earth is and
where we go after this life. The Elders had good answers for these
questions. They taught us the importance of having faith in a Supreme
Being, a God who is our Father in Heaven, the Father of all and that we are
created in his likeness and lived with Him and our Heavenly Mother as
spirit children. We learned the importance of repentance. Without it we
can never become perfect, which should be the goal of each of us. They
taught us that baptism by immersion for the remission of our sins is
neccessary to enter back to the Kingdom of God, our Father, and it is
necessary for the men who perform this ordinance to have the authority from
God to baptize in the name of Jesus Christ. Many, many more things they
taught us and the Spirit of the Holy Ghost bore witness to us that the
message we were hearing was true. It wasn't easy to change our ideas and
our way of life. It wasn't easy to give up our friends, but this is what
we eventually would have to do.
When the Lutheran minister found out that the Mormon missionaries were
visiting at our home again he spared no effort in discouraging us from
seeing and listening to these young men. Many untrue stories were told
about the Mormons in Utah. It was difficult to determine what was false
and what was true.
Soon Mother, with all sincerity, accepted the teachings given us by
the missionaries, David Hirschi and Conrad Weber. We all prayed together
that we would be able to know whether this was the right thing to do.
Father was still skeptical. Finally the day came when Mother told Father
that she was going to be baptized and he did not object. She was baptized
a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on the 20th day
of August, 1905 by Elder David Hirschi and was confirmed by Elder George C.
Steiner. Four of us chldren, Eliza, Emma, Alfred and Fred were baptized
that same evening in beautiful Lake Thun. Clara had been baptized the year
before on the 9th of September. John was away in the alps so was not
baptized until later.
As soon as word went out into the community that the Mormon Elders
were frequent visitors at our home again, an undercurrent of persecution
began. The children were ridiculed and taunted by their friends. Father
and Mother, though leaders in the community, were shunned. It was hard for
Father to lose his good name for he had been loved and respected by
John's school experiences had always been good. We children had been
taught to have respect for our teachers and when we went to school we were
obedient. One morning when John arrived at school with his book sack on
his back, he felt that something was not just right. The teacher looked
stern and disagreeable. The first thing he asked when school took up was,
"Who are these young men who are going about town carrying brief cases"?
Of course it was the Mormon Missionaries he was talking about and John knew
that the question was directed at him even though the teacher did not call
him by name, for these two young men were frequent visitors at his home.
He knew he would be in trouble if he said what he was thinking. Soon the
teacher tired of his heckling and probing and went to the task of teaching
school, but the morning didn't go at all well.
At recess time, John, after taking pains that his desk was neat and
orderly and his book case was neatly laid under his desk, marched out with
the other children. He played for a little while with his friends and then
he just happened to look up to see his teacher in the second story window
with his book sack in his hand. He had an evil look on his face as he
threw the sack out of the window directly at John making it necessary for
him to jump out of the way in order not to be hit. What in the world could
this mean? By this time the ten year old boy was really frightened. The
bell rang for them to return to class and John turned to one of his buddies
and asked him what he should do, leave the sack or take it back up to the
classroom with him? Together they agreed that the teacher had thrown it
out of the window into the school yard. They guessed that was where he
wanted it so it was left lying there. They returned to the classroom and
there was the teacher waiting with his punishing stick, chewing madly on
his chin whiskers. He grabbed John by his shirt front and yelled, "Why
didn't you bring the booksack back"? The boy was frightened speechless.
The teacher screamed, "I'll show you," and jerked him out of his seat, beat
him unmercifully with his stick and bodily lifted him, with his feet
dangling, down the stairs to the place where the booksack lay. He shoved
his head down and screamed, "Now pick it up," and when John bent down to do
as he had been told he whaled with all his strength on the boy's back with
his rod. Huge red welts raised up on his back and legs. Many times since
John has wondered how many devils were in that man to make him act so
The law was that a child had to be sick and have a doctor's
certificate to prove it in order to be absent from school or the father had
to pay a fine or serve a prison term, so when Father saw what condition
John was in when he returned from school he immediately took him to the
doctor who advised Father to send him to the alps for the spring and
summer. Father was glad for this advice for he didn't want another episode
such as this to happen and John went to live with a good friend up on the
This incident helped Mother and Father make up their minds to leave
Switzerland and go to Utah. They didn't really want to leave for they had
a good living, a lovely home and to leave it all was not good to think
about. All they had worked for these many years was here. How could they
leave it all and go to a strange land they knew nothing about and had
nothing to go to? Mother encouraged Father to go and of course, we
children were eager for this new adventure.
Then an opportunity came to sell the farm and Father decided that for
the good of the children perhaps it would be better if they did emigrate to
Utah where several of the family had already settled and where they would
be among the Latter Day Saint people.
So the farm was sold. Contracts were signed for passage across the
ocean on a steamship and plans were made to leave our homeland, our beloved
Switzerland. We packed all we could take with us in trunks reinforced with
metal stripings. Seversal days before we boarded the train these trunks
were packed, carefully labeled and hauled in the wagon to the railroad
station where they were shipped to the ocean port to be loaded on the
One third of the passage had to be paid at the time we made the
contract with the shipping company but the money Father got in payment for
the farm more than paid for our passage across the ocean and to Utah.
We all had an empty feeling as we walked away from our home for the
last time but we never looked back. We had new horizons to look forward
to, a new land, the headquarters of the church, and a reunion with loved
ones who had already emigrated. We boarded the train at ten o'clock on the
morning of the 30th day of September. Two of the girls remained in
Switzerland, Rosa, who was married to Rudold Kaufman and Carolina who
married Gotfried Feuz just a few days after we left home. It was not many
years until these families, too, came to America.
It took a day and a night and part of the next day to go from
Switzerland, through France, to Antwerp, Belgium, where we left the train
and boarded the ship. This ship we were to sail on was immense, bigger
than anything we had ever seen. It had two huge smoke stacks and the
thought came to me, "How can a vessel so large and so heavy stay afloat on
that vast expance of water"? Needless to say, there was no small amount of
fear wasted that day and for many days to come.
We had dinner as soon as we boarded the ship. Most of the passengers
were on deck the first day but when food was served for 300 people in the
large dining hall in the evening of the third day out, Mother was the only
one who felt like eating. Everyone elce was sick, so sick that food was
the furthest thing from their minds.
Just a year after we had sailed across the ocean, the ship we were on
was hit by another vessel and was cut in two. It sank and everyone on
board was lost. It carried something over a thousand passengers.
We arrived at port in New York, October 12, 1905. There were eight in
our group; Father, Mother, Eliza, Emma, Alfred, Fredrick, John and
Elizabeth Meutzenberg. She was a lovely young lady who, very much against
the wishes of her mother, joined the church. Life for her at home was not
pleasant after she took this step. We could say that she was disowned, but
she knew the gospel was true and she would not deny it. It was through the
influence of Father that she was allowed to come to America with us.
All our baggage had to be inspected by customs before we were released
to continue our journey. All our luggage was opened and inspected, and
strewn in every direction, but soon it was all over and we were able to
repack again. We boarded a train again, this time in America, to continue
on our way to Utah. Elizabeth, through some misunderstanding, was unable
to continue on the train with us. She was held over in New York until the
When we arrived at the station in Chicago, Edward was there to meet
us. He had left Switzerland in the spring of 1902 to come to America. He,
along with eight other boys from our town, wanted to stop in Wisconsin to
get jobs making cheese but he became ill with pneumonia on the boat and
when they got to Chicago they had to take him to the hospital where they
feared many days for his life. He stayed there all that summer. When he
was well enough to be released from the hospital he took a job working in
the kitchen of a hotel.
It was so wonderful to see him again. We didn't have much time to
spend with him but Father told him to be sure to meet the train the next
day and see that all was well with Elizabeth. This he did. It was the
first time he had met her and she later became his wife and the mother of
their six children.
The train ride across the United States to Utah took us about a week.
Clara, who had been in Utah for awhile wrote and told us how nice it was,
how much like the Alps the mountains were and what beautiful farming land
there was, so we eagerly looked forward to seeing this country we were
The train took us to Salt Lake and from there through the Provo Canyon
to Charleston where we were met by Ernest Durtschi, our cousin, who, along
with some of the rest of his family had come to America about a year and a
half before. Elizabeth was to get off the train there and go with him. We
had to tell him that she would be on the train the next day. We were to go
to Heber to be met at the station by John Burgener, Clara's husband. They
had been married on the 5th of April 1905.
When our brother John saw some one he knew and the wagon, drawn by a
nice team of horses, he jumped off the train, climbed into the wagon beside
Ernest and was ready to to. No amount of persuasion could convince him
that he was supposed to ride to Heber on the train with his family. He had
had all the train riding he wanted.
Another happy reunion took place when the family saw Clara again, in
Midway where she and John lived.
A week after we arrived in Midway, Father bought a 30 acre farm from
Anton Anderson who had been looking for a buyer for his place. This farm
had a nice home on it which we enjoyed very much. We also bought all his
machinery and the animals he had on his farm, so we were able to go about
farming as though we had owned this place all our lives. There was no barn
on the farm, however, so Father and Alfred brought timber out of the canyon
that winter and the next spring Ernest Durtschi built a big barn for us.
In the viciniity of Midway is an area of hot springs and over a period
of many years, with the hot water running over the top, the mineral
deposits left cones with walls sometimes several feet thick. Some of these
hot pot cones were on our farm. We blasted out a door from the side of one
of them and used it for a chicken coop. This made a nice warm place for
the hens and they laid eggs all winter for our use.
Mother and Father were happy in Midway. This was a community of Swiss
people who had almost everything in common. Father wrote back to friends
in Switzerland and told them how glad he was that he had brought his family
to America and how happy they were to be among the Saints in Utah.
Our family attended the German L.D.S. meetings every Sunday and on the
19th of November 1905, Father was baptized. Edward came from Chicago in
1906 and on the 24th of June he and John were baptized. Mother and Father
took the family to the Salt Lake Temple where they were married in the
House of the Lord and had the family sealed to them on the 22nd of January,
Ed and Alfred left Midway on April 26, 1909 with three head of horses
and a covered wagon, headed for Teton Valley in Idaho, so now Father only
had Fred and John at home. It wasn't long until they were working for
other people and then going away to college. Rudolf and Rosa and John and
Clara soon followed Ed and Alfred to Teton Valley, so in 1917 father traded
his farm in Midway for a farm near Driggs, joining the farms of Ed and
Alfred. Alfred and Ida Aeschbacher were married October 7, 1915 and Father
and Mother lived with them that first winter. During the winter the boys
helped Father get timber out for their new home. In the spring the
basement was dug with 4 head of horses and a scraper, the lumber was sawed
out by Eli Hill at his saw mill and Ernest Durtschi came from Utah to build
the home with the help of the boys, the in-laws and anyone else that
offered a day's labor.
The valley was beautiful. The crops were planted and grew fast
through June and July. Everything looked good for a bounteous harvest.
August 1st, 1918 dawned bright and clear. It was a beautiful morning but
by mid afternoon the air was hot and still -- too still for comfort.
Suddenly the sky began to darken from the southwest and the wind began to
blow. With each minute the fury of the wind strengthened. First came
sheets of rain and then the hail. Hail stones almost as big as walnuts
pelted the ground. The grain, bent with the force of the wind, was chopped
off by the hail stones and the wind carried it for miles up into the
mountains where heads of grain were found later. What was not carried by
the wind was beat into the earth and all that was left of the beautiful
crops was about 5 inches of stubble. We were heartsick but the next spring
we planted again with the hope of a bounteous harvest.
Father and Mother saw their oldest son, Edward, laid away in March of
1922, then the next year, in the spring, Father became ill with dropsy. He
passed away the 20th of July 1923 at the age of 73. He was burried on the
22nd in the Pratt Cemetery in the shadow of the beautiful Teton Peaks.
Mother failed fast after Father went. Sometime in September she had a
stroke from which she never recovered. Clara took her to her home in Darby
where she cared for Mother until she passed away on Christmas Day, 1923 at
6-PM at the age of 72. She was laid to rest by the side of her husband and
near her son.
Father was a great man with a keen sense of humor. Mother was a
courageous woman who had a kind, steadying influence on the entire family.
Wonderful parents, God's gift to a big family.
And now, all of us children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and on
down the line, are all recipients of the wonderful heritage they have left
us, not of wealth, but of blessings everlasting. Blessings that come of
hard work, spirtuality in the home, courage to do that which they knew to
be right regardless of the consequences, are ours today because they wanted
to leave for their posterity a legacy of a better and easier life than they
had. There are no greater stories of faith and courage written than this
of our grandparents. From their posterity have come more than half a
hundred missionaries who have traveled throughout the world teaching the
gospel of Jesus Christ and almost that many servicemen who have served time
protecting the freedom of our country. We can all be proud to belong to
this noble famly tree.
Thanks to all who have supplied information for this history.