LIFE STORY OF FRIEDRICH DURTSCHI|
Written and Copyright 2001 by
his Daughter, Freda Baker
Born February 20, 1874, in Faulensee by Spiez, Bern, Switzerland, the oldest son of Friedrich Durtschi and Elizabeth Von Kanel. (Faulensee is a small town lying in a hollow at the edge of Thuner Lake. The lake is about eighteen miles long and three or four miles wide. He spent much of his early Life on the lake.)
Friedrich was baptized a Lutheran when a small baby. The baptism was done by applying water to the forehead of the infant with the finger for each of the Trinity.
He started school when he was six years of age. The school was a two room building with one teacher teaching four grades. He graduated from the seventh grade at the age of fifteen. Every child was required to attend school until he reached the age of fifteen, and every child was enrolled in a Bible class.
Friedrich herded cows and goats in the Alps during the summer. He had many hairbreadth escapes from death in the mountains. At one time he was almost carried away by an eagle. (He said that he had a shield that was made of wood that the herders used to protect them from the eagles that often caused trouble to the herders.) On another occasion he slipped from a mountain ledge and fell onto the shore, with his arms in the water. The lake was icy cold and the shores were steep cliffs so had he fallen into the lake it would have been almost certain death. During one summer he worked for his Uncle, Gottfried.Durtschi. In the fall he went to Germany, near Poland. He worked there for seven months taking care of a dairy herd.
He spent two years helping build a new railroad. Summers, he spent at a mountain hotel milking cows and gardening. One year, he went to a little town on the french border to learn the language and gardening. In three weeks he became very ill and was forced to return home to the Alps. He evidently had rheumatic fever. The next spring, having recovered, he went back to France, but the illness returned so he went back home. Then he worked on the barges on the lake and had several narrow escapes during storms that came up suddenly. Then he worked with his father, who was a cabinet maker, and from him, he learned the trade and gained much skill that came in handy throughout his life.
As was the custom in Switzerland, he spent a year with the military. He passed his physical examination in 1893, and was given a smallpox vaccination, which was successful. He was assigned to the Sanitation Troop, and was commissioned, first class stretcher bearer and first aid officer. He was particularly adapted in caring for the sick. Following his year's training, he returned for six weeks each year for reserve training and was assigned to the "overfield doctor" in the Medical Corps. His service was terminated April 12, 1904, as he was leaving for America.
In 1898, he married his first love, Rosina Bhend. It was an ideal marriage. She fell ill with consumption and died April 16, 1899.
In February, 1901, at Krattigen, Faulensee, he and Katherine Lugenbuhl posted their betrothal bonds. They were married May 13, 1901, in Faulensee.
On August 17, 1902, their first child, a dark-eyed, black haired, daughter was born. She was christened Alice.
It was about this time that the Mormon missionaries were sent into this part of Switzerland. The people had the wrong ideas about the Mormons and were fearful of the message they brought. Katherine went to hear the missionaries and was impressed with the truthfulness of their message. She finally persuaded her husband to attend with her. He agreed to go, but as he told his children many times, his purpose was to go and break up the meeting and help run the "Mormons" out of town. However, he was touched by the message the missionaries gave, especially that of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Later, other missionaries came and inspired him to investigate the Gospel. He became a member of the Church after much study and prayer.
The gaining of a testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel was not the only action that was required. Frederick had been a heavy smoker, and was in the habit of drinking coffee every two hours, and also enjoyed his "schnieps", (liquor). These three items were against the beliefs of the church he was going to join. These habits had to be eliminated before he was ready for baptism. Having conquered these habits, he was baptized on June 3, 1903, as was his wife, by Alma A. Burgener, a missionary for the church. He was baptized in the lake Thun he loved so much. He was confirmed a member of the Church by Brother Burgener that same day.
From the day of his baptism, Friedrich worked diligently in the church. He was anxious to spread the Gospel, which brought him so much hope. He helped arrange meetings and invited his friends, or perhaps we should say, former friends, for many people ostracized them as soon as they joined the church. Some of the tradesmen even refused to deal with them. When a small branch was organized about twelve miles from home and they were unable to get benches for the hall, Friedrich built the benches and hauled them the distance on small bob-sleds.
The "spirit of gathering", called the couple, along with his father and family, to come to America, to Zion. So they sold their belongings and with their daughter, Alice, left their beloved Alps and set sail for a strange new land. They sailed from Antwerp, Belgium, April 16, 1904 on the Red Star Line. With them were his father, Friedrich, his sister, Lena, and brothers, John, Adolph, Alfred, Huldreich, and William. His mother had died prior to their departure.
After a rough voyage, they landed in New York on May 4th. They came west and settled in Midway, Utah. The missionaries had told them about this little valley in the heart of the Rockies often called "Little Switzerland".
On September 19, 1904, Friedrich made a down payment of $200.00 to A. Ernsburger for a sixteen acre farm. Part was irrigated land and the rest was swampland. Then began the long arduous struggle to learn farming in a new country where situations were different, where he had to learn a new language and live among people whose customs were very different. It was a shock to him to find that the people in Zion were not more dedicated to the wonderful Gospel and did not live their religion as he felt they should. It was a disappointment to find men in high places taking advantage of those less fortunate and unable to understand. In spite of these disappointments, his faith and love for the Gospel never wavered.
On March 24, 1905, his first son was born. A midwife, Delie Wilson, was in attendance. She was a kind soul who delivered most of the babies in the town. He was named Alma Frederick.
On a cold day on January 15, 1907, with the snow drifted over the fences and crusted hard enough for a person to walk on it, Delie was again summoned to the home to help with the birth of another dark-eyed, black haired daughter. She was blessed and given the name of Freda Helen, by the Bishop of the Second Ward in Midway, Bishop Jacob Probst.
On November 3rd of that same year, he was ordained an elder by Frederick Hasler, at Midway, Utah. This made it possible for him to take his wife and children to the House of the Lord to be sealed for all eternity, and late in January in 1908, the family made the journey to Salt Late City, to have this important work done. His wife and the three children were sealed to him on the 30th of January, 1908.
Shortly after this trip, the children contracted whooping cough. Freda, being only a year old, was the hardest hit, and for days the worried parents carried her around on a pillow. At times it seemed as though she would not breathe again, but their prayers and the administrations of the elders were answered and finally all three of the children were well again.
On April, 1st, 1908, a third daughter was born. This baby was only loaned to them for a few hours in this life. When it became apparent that she was not destined to live, she was blessed and given the name of Ruth. She was buried in the Midway Cemetery.
December 28th, 1908, Fred, as he was now usually called, put some of his medical training to good use and set the bone in his son Alma's leg. The leg healed without complication.
A second son was born to the couple on February 7th, 1910. He was named Ernest Walter. When this little fellow was only a year and a half old, he had the misfortune of losing the mother he hardly had time to know. It was in September, that she was helping load hay and somehow lost her balance and fell from the top of a load of hay. Her back was broken in the fall, and after two weeks she passed away, September 19th, 1911. Ida Boss, a practical nurse and Dr. Wherritt were in attendance at the time.
The loss of his wife left him grief-stricken. It was now that his faith received a real test. Why did he have to lose his wife? They had a serene home, while on all sides were neighbors who could be heard swearing and profaning at each other. He prayed fervently for solace and understanding. One night, he heard a voice clearly say to him, "The ways of God are not the ways of man; God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform." He said afterwards that he was not sure whether he was asleep or awake, but that the message was real and gave him the piece and strength to set about the task at hand of raising his four motherless children and eking out a living on his small farm.
His children can be eternally grateful that he kept them together, in spite of the pressure of well meaning neighbors to "farm" them out so he wouldn't have it so tough. Thus he at least gave them the assurance that he loved them and they had each other.
Once he brought a widow friend of his from Salt Lake City, to see if she would be interested in mothering his children. She was a gracious and lovely person, but knew that it was a greater task than she, a city bred woman, wanted to attempt.
During those difficult years of accidents, illnesses, and child hood complaints, the training he had received in the Medical Corps came in very handy. He nursed the children through their illnesses, and after a hard, long day's work in the fields, he prepared the meals, washed and ironed the clothes and mended them. He taught his children to help with the work as soon as they were able, and they worked with him in the fields as well as doing other chores. This way, they were not left to wander unattended and without supervision. In spite of all the work that needed doing, he took time to prepare special goodies on holidays and birthdays. At Christmas time, although money was scarce, he found a way of obtaining some worth while gifts. He seemed to be particularly interested in bringing music into their lives. One year he sent for a phonograph and several records. "Dardenella" and "Star of Bethlehem" were two numbers especially enjoyed. Another year he bought an auto harp, a small instrument that could be used for cording tunes.
February 17, 1914, was a red-letter day for him. It was on this day that he became a citizen of this wonderful country of his adoption.
On April 8, 1915, he married his third wife, Lydia Schmidlin, in the Salt Lake Temple and brought her home to Midway to help rear his children and make a home complete again.
War seemed eminent for the United States and all men under forty-five years were required to register for the draft. He registered at Heber City, Utah in 1917.
On July 1, 1917, a blonde, blue-eyed daughter was born to the couple. Dr. Wherritt attended at this birth. The young infant was blessed and named Lucy Emmeline.
Another daughter, this time a dark haired, brown eyed baby, was born October 2, 1919. This young lady was named Martha Elizabeth.
Three weeks later he was ordained a High Priest by Joseph F. Smith, an apostle, in the Midway Second Ward. Thus his faithful adherence to the Gospel and faithfully fulfilling each call made of him was recognized. His joy was great. He was the type of man that was happiest in obeying the will of God. Although never at ease while conversing in the English language, he was a fervent advocate of Jesus Christ. He attended as many general conference sessions as possible. It bothered him that the bishop never called on him to speak right after conference when he was filled with the messages of the general authorities, but would call on him when he felt he had no particular inspirational thought to give. He lived his religion as best he could and was almost a perfectionist. He taught his children that when one was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ he accepted every principle, not just those that were easy to understand and live. The whole Gospel was important. Less than best was sin.
In the meantime Fred bought several acres of dry land farm, this he cleared of sagebrush and oak and planted crops. He drained the swampland and put it to its best use. This gave him enough land to put his children to work. He taught them the dignity of work; to be self sustaining.. Many times frost took his crops, sometimes they were late and did not yield as much as they should. These periods of discouragement, however, did not overpower the shining faith he had that God would bless them with the necessities of life. His faith was not in vain. Though he was never able to save enough money to build a new house, which was one of his dreams, and though he never had enough money to get out of debt while his children were still at home, he finally paid off the mortgage on his home and felt great relief in being able to do this.
As his children left home for other pursuits, work and schooling, and there were fewer mouths to feed he gradually cut down the vegetable garden and turned more and more of his yard into the raising of flowers. He took pride in growing them and enjoyed sharing them with the homebound, the ill, and those discouraged. His flowers often graced the pulpit of the ward. Very few persons ever came to visit him without carrying away some bounties of the earth, whether vegetables or flowers or other goodies.
As age crept upon him, he became quite stooped. From five feet nine inches he was bent so that he was but five feet three. This was principally due to an injury he had received many years before while he was hauling milk for the creamery. During a runaway of a team of horses, a milk can hit him in the back, causing a serious injury.
For several years he and his sons drove the school bus that transported the students from Stringtown (the one road strung down from Midway along which people lived on small farms, and given the name of stringtown by the residents), to Wasatch High School located about six miles from home. At first there were no closed in busses provided by the district, so he furnished a covered wagon; and when snow was on the roads the covered box was placed on a sleigh. He made benches along the sides on which the students sat. These primitive facilities were used for several years, but did give the young people a chance to attend high school.
Temple work was an important interest of Fred. He was anxious to search out his kindred dead and do the vicarious work for them. He succeeded in finding and recording much of his genealogy. He sent what money he could spare to genealogists in Switzerland (Julius Billeter), to get the names of his progenitors. He also had a desire to go on a mission, but this dream was not realized. He had hoped to be able to send his sons on missions, but this too, was denied him. He did not live to see that one of his grandsons served a mission for the church, but it did fill part of a dream he started.
Friedrich Durtschi, Jr. had clear blue eyes that filled with tears of happiness when any of his loved ones or friends came to see him. He delighted in successful accomplishments of his children and was not afraid to show pride in their endeavors. He was ready to encourage and forgive them if they made mistakes or failed in their endeavors. He enjoyed his grandchildren; was easily upset if they failed to show respect to their elders or destroyed property or wasted the goods of the earth. He had struggled too hard to make a livelihood to not have a healthy respect for the harvest of labor. He was a man with a great love for his fellowmen, but was too shy to show it. He was never very demonstrative with his children, but they just knew that he loved them because of his concern for their welfare and desire for their success, and happiness. He seldom lost his temper, and about the worst he ever said was, "donder an' blitzen," when he was upset. No smutty stories ever passed his lips, nor profanity or derogatory remarks.
In September, 1945, he suffered a heart attack and was confined to his home for several months. This was a difficult period for him. He turned most of the work over to his youngest son, who had built a home on a lot near him. Although he didn't have the farm work to worry about, being inactive was just not in his nature. He seemed to be improving, but on January 19, 1946, he suddenly fell dead in the kitchen of his home. This was the home where he had lived since coming to America, and where six of his seven children were born. It was the home from which he buried an infant daughter, a beloved wife; to which he had brought a bride. The home that grew through the age of the kerosene lamp to electric lights; the bucket water system to the indoor pump and then to free-flowing water. This hewn-log house that through his faith, his hard work, his integrity and love was a real home. May God bless his great life.
At the time of his death his wife, Lydia, six children and fifteen grandchildren survived him. He was buried in the Midway Cemetery.