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Life Story Of Ernest Durtschi


Copyright 2006 by the Durtschi Family

        In the beautiful little village of Faulensee, Bern, Switzerland lived the family of Friedrich and Elisabeth Von Kanel Durtschi. To these parents were born twelve children, the third of which was a son named Ernest. Ernest was born January 10, 1878. The family lived in a large house. The lower floor was divided into a bakery and a carpentry shop. The family lived on the second floor. Across the street was an open vessel of water where they would wash their clothes.
       Ernest would herd the cows and goats from their home on the lake shore across town to the grazing land. Each cow had her own Swiss bell, each with a different tone. They made lovely sounds as they jogged along.
       Ernest was a happy young man who liked lots of friends around him and who loved to tease his sisters. He would sit with his mother at times and knit his own sox. In the winter time sleigh riding was a favorite sport. Bowling was also popular. It was played much the same as our game, but was played outside.
       In 1892 Ernest graduated from the district school in Faulensee. He worked on the farm and in the grape vineyard. He also drove a team of horses on a passenger coach from town to town. He hired out as a carpenter at the age of eighteen. Beginning at this age he served six weeks out of every year in military training. On Sunday they would go boating on the lake. He at one time played a wind instrument and also sang with a quartet.
       Elisabeth, his mother, was a very devout member of the Calvanistic Land Church and would walk from Faulensee to Spiez to go to church, which was about five miles. When she heard the gospel message from two missionary companions, Alma Burgener and Conrad Gertsch, she readily accepted it. Friedrich, his father, had heard of Mormonism for twenty years, but had not understood it and when it was presented to him by these two missionaries, he said it was beautiful and why hadnít he seen the light before. Because Ernest was out working and the missionaries had to cover such a large territory, they never actually made contact with one another, but the little he had heard of it, he did not believe.
       The family planned to be baptized in the spring of 1903 and move to Zion. Ernest said he would buy the family home and make it into a saloon. This grieved his mother very much and she asked him not to do it. Ernest adored his wonderful, patient mother. He said on many occasions, ďShe was the best woman who ever lived.Ē She became ill with a ruptured appendix and died a week later. This untimely death caused Ernest to be humbled and repent of his plans to keep a saloon.
       At first Ernest would not accept the Gospel, but on July 2, 1903, he was baptized by Alma Andrew Burgener and confirmed by Conrad Gertsch. He changed his mind about coming to America after he was introduced to Elise Fischer who was being honored at a farewell party prior to her departure for America. He decided to go to America to see if the church was all it was supposed to be. He sailed all alone on August 16, 1903 for America, landing in Liverpool, August 19, and in Boston, August 27. Ernest arrived in Utah September 2, 1903.
       He went to Midway and lived with Alma Burgenerís parents who secured a good job for him at the lumber company although he could not speak a word of English. He wrote to his father and family in Switzerland, and told them to sell everything and come to Zion. In 1904, his father, Friedrich, and brothers and sister Fred, Lena, Alfred, John, Huldrich, Adolph, and Wilhelm, who was just five years old, came to America. Elise, his sister, came later by herself.

Ernest was ordained a deacon by John Morton, Dec 19, 1903
a teacher by John Huber, Apr. 16, 1904
a priest by John Morton, Dec. 18, 1904
an elder by William L. Van Wagoner Mar. 6, 1905

       He received his first patriarchal blessing by John N. Murdock at Heber City, Feb. 23, 1904. A second patriarchal blessing was given by Harrison Sperry at Salt Lake City, Feb. 13, 1915.
       Ernest received his citizenship papers for the United States of America July 31, 1913.
       When Ernest arrived in Utah he went to see Elise Fischer. They developed a great friendship and fell in love. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple April 5, 1905. To this union were born eight children:
    Walter           26 Feb 1906    (died the  same day)
    Hyrum Fischer     9 Jul 1907    (died 20 Oct 1964)
    Ida Bertha       21 Jan 1910
    Nellie Marie      5 Mar 1912
    Ernest Frederick 28 Oct 1914    (died 16 July 1983)
    Clarence David   21 Apr 1917
    Ruby Flora        7 Feb 1920    (died 10 Feb 1920)
    Clara Thelma      7 Feb 1920    (died 10 Feb 1920) twins

       Ernest and Elise lived first in Midway where Walter and Hyrum were born. They lived in what is known as the Old Tate House. Then they moved to Salt Lake City, were Ida and Nellie and Ernest were born. After moving to a house Ernest built on 4th East near Liberty Park, he bought his first car, which had a straight bar for a steering wheel. He later had a Model T Ford.
       They returned to Midway and Ernest purchased the farm in Stringtown from his father. Ernest wasnít a farmer at heart. Whenever he could find any work in the building line he would do that and hire help on the farm. He remodeled and added onto the 2nd Ward building in Midway. All three of his sons followed in his footsteps and became carpenters. Ernestís father continued to live with them on the farm. It was here that Clarence was born.
       Mark Jeffs promised to sell Ernest the lumber yard in Heber and Ernest built a large home in Heber, on the highway going to Midway. After the house was built, Mark Jeffs went back on his word. Ernest sold the house in Stringtown to Dave and Nina Clayburn. Ernest then moved up town to a white brick house a block east of the school house. Then for a few months, the family lived in a small pot rock house on the Main Street while building the house in Heber during the fall of 1919.
       When the flu epidemic was very bad in 1918-1919, everyone wore gauze masks when going out in public. Ernestís family escaped that siege, only to contact it the following year and just at the time Elise gave birth to twin girls. They lived only three days. The day after they died, Elise passed away. She was buried with a baby in each arm. Ernest was so sick himself that he couldnít attend the funeral.
       Ernest at one time mentioned to Nina Clayburn that he needed someone to come and take care of his house and children. Nina said maybe her sister, Nellie, could help out. Nellie did go to Ernestís home and worked for about six months. In the summer of 1922, Ernest and family moved back to Salt Lake. Nellie went to Salt Lake to care for them again. Her father asked her to return home, which she did. The first winter, Ernest decided to go to California to work. The youngest four children were at Mrs. Southernís home (a neighbor) who took care of them during the day. They went home at night to sleep. Uncle Bill (William) and Hyrum were batching there and looked after the kids at night. Ernest arrived in Los Angeles Nov. 25, 1922. He came home April 14, 1923, but returned again to California May 5, 1923. May 19, 1923, he returned home to Salt Lake.
       On June 27, 1923, he again entered the Salt Lake Temple for a second marriage, taking as his wife, Nellie Amanda Giles, who had worked for him and cared for his children prior to this time. To this marriage were born two girls:
	Wilma June	30 June 1924
	Elsie Vera	6 Sep. 1927

       Their first home was at 834 Windsor Street, where Wilma was born. Ernest, being a builder, moved to many houses. Elsie was born at 1208 Driggs Ave. In November of 1929, they moved to California, returning in February. Ernest built a large stucco house at 157 E. Gregson Ave. and they lived there for several years. The next home he built was at 472 Bryan Ave. While waiting for the completion of this house, they lived at 464 Bryan Ave., in an apartment. In 1940, they lived In another apartment on 6th East and 17th South, while waiting for the new home at 3161 South 17th East to be completed enough to move into. In Sept., 1941, the basement was suitable to move into and so they spent the winter there. The following spring the upstairs was finished.
       Ernest enjoyed having his family around him and just about every Sunday the married children would bring their families back home for an enjoyable visit. It was an old Swiss custom to celebrate Christmas by putting up and decorating the tree on Christmas Eve. Then all the family would exchange gifts. After the number became too great they would draw for names to exchange presents. This was always a very happy affair.
       Ernest was a hard worker and worked long hours. He was a kind man and very sympathetic to others. He often did work on a job and received no pay for it. He was an expert builder and finish carpenter.
       While on a trip to Boise, Idaho, to visit Ida and Morris and their family, Ernest became ill. Upon returning home, he underwent surgery for prostate gland trouble on Jan. 22, 1944, at the Holy Cross Hospital.
       On October 16, 1946, Ernest suffered a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital where he spent about six weeks fighting for his life. He was able to return home the week before Thanksgiving, but was forced to stay in bed. In February, 1947, he felt a little stronger and would get up occasionally to sit at his desk and work over his books. He kept a fairly complete set of books on all of his work and family expenditures.
       February 11, 1947, while working at his desk, he again suffered a heart attack, very quietly, which took his life. The Deseret Mortuary took care of preparing his body for burial and the night before the funeral was brought back to his home.
       Funeral services were held at Grandview Ward, February 15, after which he was taken to Midway, Utah, where a second funeral service was held in the same ward chapel that he had built many years before. Interment was in the Midway City Cemetery.
       In one of his books, kept from the time he arrived in Utah in 1905, were notations of the important days and events in his lifetime. Also, there were many gospel truths and blessings. One notation was, ďA man should bring a flower with him for his wife when he comes home.Ē

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Page Updated: 22 Aug 06