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Life Story Of Lena Durtschi Burgener

Lena Durtschi Burgener
by herself

Copyright 2006 by the Durtschi Family

I was born January 13, 1883, in Faulensee, Switzerland, of goodly parents. Although they were not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at that time, they were honest and truthful, and lived clean lives. Smoking and drinking were not indulged by father, much less by mother.

Father had a common school education consisting of nine grades. He learned the trade of a cabinet maker, but was not able to make a sufficient living as the people were too poor to pay for his work, so he worked in other capacities. Among others, he helped the Burgeners in their business of shipping lime rock from their quarry over the lake to Thun, where it was reloaded into railroad cars. At one time they had a bad storm, and something crashed against the boat tearing a hole in it. They had to work for their lives to bail the water out and keep it from sinking. This was such strenuous work that when father got home, he was ready to collapse; and it happened that the children were all sick in bed with the measles, and mother was also sick. This was not a very happy homecoming.

Father also had a responsible job with the fire department. I remember how he used to storm out of the house in the middle of night whenever the fire alarm sounded and grab his heavy helmet. It used to sound and look gruesome.

I have been told recently that my father's grandfather, Christian Durtschi, was in such poor circumstances, he could not provide properly for his family, so he had to let some of his children go and live with other families. Johannes, my father's father was one of them. He had a very hard life, having to work hard and starve a lot. When he grew up he decided that this should not happen to his children. He was ambitious and acquired a fair education, and was emp1oyed as a county official, and farmed besides. He made a good living for his family and accumulated a fair estate.

My mother lost her parents in death, when she was five years old. Her parents died six weeks apart in an epidemic called typhus. She was taken by some relatives, whom I think were on her father's side. Her grandfather on her mother's side, Jakob Burgener, went to see her one day and found that she bad been terribly neglected, her hair being in a mess and full of lice and she was clothed poorly in rags that were very thin. He just took her by the hand, and she went home with him. He gave her a good home.

She had the usual nine grades of school and was very adept in all kinds of work. She was a good seamstress and took good care of the home. She was charitable, having a heart of gold.

She married father on the 28th of February, 1873, and when their first child was born, father was in the army, guarding, so the Germans would not come into Switzerland, as the Germans were fleeing from the French soldiers. They had twelve children.

Father and mother had heard of the Gospel in 1873, but were not impressed with it at that time. When the missionaries came to our house in 1902, my parents could readily see the truth, and the whole family was converted. Alma Burgener, the son of one of father's best friends who had emigrated to Utah was the missionary that really taught them the Gospel. When Alma left Utah to fulfill a mission in Switzerland, his father told him to be sure to visit the family of his friend, Friedrich Durtschi. Alma did this and mother and most of the children were converted, however, father hesitated. Unfortunately, mother took sick and died before she could be baptized. This made us very anxious to immigrate to Utah, so we could do the work for her In the Temple. We sold everything and left Switzerland April 1, l904, and arrived in Midway, Utah, May 4, 1904.

My sister, Elise, was in Monaco working in a hotel, and she could not come with us, but came alone one and one half months later. We were thankful that we all arrived safely in Zion, and that the Lord blessed us with sufficient means to come here.

My life as a child was uneventful. I played like other children and had all the childhood diseases. While I had whooping cough mother thought my life would be taken. One day I coughed so badly I was black in the face, and could not get my breath. An old lady came along and told mother to make me some red clover blossom tea. This helped me and I got well. This was what mother told me as I was too young to remember. I had the usual nine years of schooling and helped on the small farm which we had. My sister, Elise, and I had to do quite a bit of freighting with a two wheel cart. Our neighbor was a baker and a lot of people in the next town, Spiez, liked his bread so well they wanted it delivered to them, so my sister and I took a cart full twice a week to Spiez and delivered it to different people. It was quite a job to keep track of the orders and money involved, and to be able to give an accounting of it. We did not earn much pay.

Then we had another neighbor on the other side of the baker, who had a grocery store. A lot of times he would have orders come by express and we would be asked to go to the depot in Spiez, to get it with our handcart. Another time, a lady from our town moved to another, and so Sis and I were again elected to haul the trunk for her. In those days, in our town, you hardly ever found a horse. Everything had to be hauled by those handcarts. Also in summertime when the tourist season was on, we had to go to the hotel in Faulensee, which was on top of a hill on the edge of the forest, and bring every morning before breakfast, bread and buns, which we carried in a hod. A hod was a tall, narrow basket with straps attached to go over the shoulders and was carried on the back. When we made those trips with bread to Spiez, going after school in winter, the days being short, we would be in the dark getting home. We had to pass a big hill with forest all over it and there were a lot of spooky stories circulated about that area. We used to get pretty scared at times, but we always prayed to the Lord to protect us, and we never were molested, whether by living persons or ghosts.

Another time, we had to go to Spiez for the baker, to get yeast for him, and it was almost dark when we left home. My brother, John, wanted to go with us, but he was too slow and we wanted to run fast. We did not realize that he followed us, and when we got home mother asked where John was. We were greatly worried and soon a bunch of volunteers were searching for him. When we found him, he was eating some cookies in the home of a kind lady who finding he was lost bad picked him up.

After graduating from school, I worked in hotels and private homes. After mother died I stayed home and took care of the family. After we came to this country, my sister stayed home and I went to work in Salt Lake City. In June, 1907, my sister married Conrad Gertsch, and then I was home again for about four months, when I got married too, and moved with my husband to Duchesne County, where we made our home, The place where we lived was first called Utland, then was renamed Midview, and is now called Bridgeland. We had a family of eleven children, six of whom are still living in 1958.

We had lots of experiences in pioneering; it wasn't all roses. We lived in a tent for almost two months, and then we moved into a dirt roofed log cabin. Later, we built another room on to it, having had only one room to begin with. The second room had a dirt roof also and a dirt floor. When it rained heavily the dirt would come off the roof, along the stove pipe, and the stove would be covered with mud. Our children were all born in that log cabin, except Marjorie. In 1921 we had a house of four good sized rooms, shingled roof and wood floors. That was some improvement. We had a cistern and pump, which was a big improvement over hauling water in barrels from the river, or carrying water in buckets at a distance of a block or two.

In the meantime we also had experiences in church activities. We were members of the Duchesne Ward, which was about twenty miles away, and in those days we had no cars. We had only an old farm wagon drawn by horses, and roads that were really terrible to say the least. The horses, having worked hard all week building canal banks, were tired and needed rest on Sunday, so we did not go to church very often, but the time came when we got a branch organization, with my husband being branch president. In 1913, we were organized into a ward, with Fred S. Musser as bishop, and Alma as counselor. A few months later they organized the Relief Society. At that time I was made treasurer. Then I had experience as second and later as first counselor, and for some time counselor in the Primary. I was also a visiting teacher. In 1915, the ward was reorganized, and Alma was sustained as Bishop. He was Bishop until we moved to Salt Lake City, Dec. 24, 1929. He was released in 1930.

Since we have been here Alma has been active as Sunday school teacher and Ward teacher. He worked in genealogy and the Adult Aaronic organization for ten years. I was a visiting teacher until I was injured in a fall in which I broke my pelvis. I was laid up for some time and had to give up my position as supervisor of visiting teaching.

When we came to Salt Lake City, we were going to make our fortune with chickens but it did not work out that way. It was in the depression of the '30s, and we had tough going, but the Lord blessed us. Alma got a job at the Paris Co. and worked there for seven years. Then the Bishop of the ward asked him to take the janitor position in the ward. He worked there until he could do it no longer, having very bad arthritis and a rupture. Then he worked at home taking care of the garden, and milking two cows. We sold the milk and with two rentals we have made a living. The cows had to be sold when Alma could no longer take care of them.

We are getting older all the time, and less able to work but we still have our rentals and get along nicely. We have many things to be thankful for, and we feel the Lord has blessed us greatly.

Durtschi.com Admin: mark@durtschi.com

Page Updated: 11 Sep 06