Written by Freda Helen Durtschi Baker.
Copyright 2006 by the Durtschi Family
Krattigen is a hamlet nestled in the shadow of the Swiss A1ps on the south shore of the Thunersee, in Canton Bern, Switzerland. It was to this beautiful area that Johannes Luginbuehl, son of Jakob Luginbuehl and Susanna Schick, brought his bride Catharina Zingrich, daughter of Peter Zingrich and Catharina Wyss of Saxeten, when they were married November 25, 1870. It was in Krattigen that their seven children were born and raised. Catharina the oldest was born January 16, 1872.
If the usual procedure was followed she was baptized when but an infant by touching her forehead with a forefinger with water for each of the trinity. She grew up with a love for the Bible and was interested in the good things of her religion, probably Lutheran. Her sister Susan was born March 26, 1874. Elise was born September 23,1876. By the time Catharina’s brother was born, May 28, 1879, and was given his father’ s name, Catharina was probably in school, as Swiss children were required to attend school, starting at six years of age and continuing until fifteen, or they had completed nine years of school. They were also required to take a Bible class.
When Catharina was ten years of age twin babies were born. They were named Christian and Margaretha. She must have been a great help to her mother by this time. She had been taught to cook and sew and clean. These skills became a great asset to her through the years. She did all her own sewing, and when she had her own family sewed her children’s clothes. Her talent was evident in the beautiful dresses she fashioned out of the most ordinary materials, even hand-me-downs. She learned to make the exquisitely beautiful Swiss laces and embroidery that are noted the world over.
Her youngest sister, Mathilde, was born October 15, 1884. During her teen years she went to work in the village helping earn money to finance the family. Later she went to work as a pastry cook for a hotel in France. Her pies and pastries were famous and in later years she shared them with friends and neighbor’s. When Catharina was twenty, on June 12, 1892 her father died. Her mother lived in her widowhood until March 5, 1916.
Catharina met Friedrich Durtschi, Jr., a widower from Faulensee, a village about thirty minutes by train from her home. He had married in 1888. His wife Rosina Bhend, had died of consumption when they had been married less than a year. As was the custom in Switzerland, Friedrich and Catharina posted their betrothal bonds in February, 1901 and were married in Faulensee May 13 of the same year. The young couple constructed some rooms in the attic of the family home, for their living quarters. The Durtschi family lived on the second floor and the first floor housed a bakery and Father Durtschi’s carpenter shop.
On August 17, 1902 a baby girl was born to them, named Alice. It was about this time that Catharina had attended a meeting by some Mormon missionaries. It was almost a miracle that Faulensee was visited by the missionaries as only about 522 were representing the Church in Great Britain, France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, Switzerland and the United States. Lorenzo Snow was the President of the Church, with George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith as counselors. One of the missionaries, Alma Burgener had been sent to the Swiss-German Mission. His father, a cousin (once removed) from the Durtschi family had suggested to his son that he seek out the family and teach them of the restoration of the Gospel. Andreas Burgener’s sister was Friedrich Jr.’s grandmother.
Catharina was truly interested in the message she had heard and she coaxed her husband to go with her to hear about the Gospel. He finally agreed to attend with her, but had made up his mind to “run the scoundrels out of town”. However, when he heard the Joseph Smith story he felt that it was true and he invited the rest of his family to study the Gospel with them. He stopped his smoking and drinking habits and prepared to be baptized. His mother became ill with appendicitis and died before the baptism was performed.
Catharina, Friedrich and his father and several of his brothers and sisters were baptized in the Thunersee by Alma Burgener July 3, 1903 and were confirmed members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day-Saints on that same day. The invitation to travel to “Zion” was heeded and they prepared to leave their native land to go to America. They sold or gave away their home and property and started from Faulensee toward the new adventure. They left Basel, Switzerland April 14, 1904 and embarked on a vessel of the Red Star-America Line, leaving Antwerp, Belgium April 16. In the party were Friedrich, Catharina and their two-and-one-half year old daughter, Father Durtschi and his children Lina, John, Adolph, Alfred, Huldrich, William, Friedrich’s niece Clara (brother Edward’s daughter), and a family friend, Jakob Gempler.
After a very rough voyage, with much seasickness amid homesickness they landed in New York, 1904. The cross-country journey was made by rail. They arrived in Midway, Wasatch County, Utah, where they had been invited to join many other Swiss families in establishing a new home. Midway had been called “Little Switzerland” because of its location in the heart of the Rockies, however, the valley and the mountains are not as green and forested as were the mountains at home. The Andreas Burgener family shared their hospitality until the travelers were able to locate a place to call home.
Catharina and Fred (the name that he was called after arriving in the new land) purchased a sixteen-acre farm with a hewn log cabin, from Fred Ernstburger. The cabin was very primitive, with the cracks plastered over to keep out the cold. The floor was uneven with wear and the knots of the floor boards being unworn. There were two rooms and an attic. The attic rooms were unfinished and the sky could be seen through the holes in the roof. The kitchen room was first paneled with “rustic” boards which made the room warmer and more attractive, and in due time the rest of the house was improved by Fred.
Thus Catharina embarked on her life in a strange land. The water was drawn from a well and carried into the house where it was heated on a wood-burning stove, in constant need of fuel, which had to be chopped and carried in. The washing was done on the washboard in a tin tub. Clothes were ironed with irons that were heated on the stove. The laundry soap was made in a tin tub outside over a fire. Old lard, drippings and grease and lye were cooked together until the soap was curdled. Much of the knowledge for these tasks had been learned in Switzerland, and the skills needed to survive had been acquired.
Each winter a pig was slaughtered and preserved by smoking the hams and shoulders. Bacon and sausages were also smoked. Lard was rendered. Headcheese and other products utilized every part of the animal that was usable. Cabbage was shredded and placed in a barrel for sauerkraut.
Catharina found life very difficult. She did not understand the language, thus neighboring was not very successful. She was homesick and missed her family and friends. She was the only member of her family that joined the church. She did correspond with her mother and some of her friends in Krattigen. One redeeming activity was the cottage meetings that the Swiss members of the community held in the “Old German Hall”. Here they would be able to converse in their own tongue and studied the Gospel together. It also, was a time of socializing, which was a good change from the loneliness. Both Catharina and Fred were disappointed at the lack of dedication to the Gospel principles that many of the ward members displayed. They had thought that in “Zion” it would be like living in the City of Enoch with no envyings nor unkindliness
On March 24, 1905 their first son was born. He was blessed in the Midway Second Ward Meeting house and given the name of Alma Frederick.
During the early 1900’s there were still bands of roving Indians in the valley. Usually there was peace between them and the whites by the time Catharina moved to Midway. One day she and the children were at home when a knock came at the door. When she opened the door she was startled to see a fierce looking Indian standing there. He probably was begging for food, but she was unable to understand what he wanted, and as he stepped toward her she slammed the door in terror. Finally he went on his way. This occured a few weeks before her third child was born and at this point in history there were old wives tales about “marking” a child when one was greatly frightened. On January 15, 1907, when the snow was fence high and the cold wind piled it against the house Catharina gave birth to another girl. The baby’s skin was red and her black hair stood up in wild disarray and she was sure that her child had been marked by the Indian. However, the baby’s skin soon cleared and the hair, though still black, became more manageable so her fears subsided. The baby was blessed on March 3, by a fellow countryman, Jakob Probst, who was the Bishop of the Second Ward. The name given her was Freda Helen.
On November third of that same year Fred was ordained an Elder, which meant that they would be able to go to the Temple to do their temple work and be sealed together as a family. In late January they boarded the “Heber Creeper” and made the trip to Salt Lake City. On January 29, 1908, Catharina received her endowments and was sealed to Fred and on January 30 the children were sealed to them, making an Eternal Family.
Shortly after returning from Salt Lake City the children came down with whooping cough. They were very ill and for six weeks Catharina was up almost day and night caring for them. She was expecting her fourth child and was not in good health. On April 1, 1908 she gave birth to another daughter, evidently the baby was premature and when it seemed that she would not live she was blessed and given the name Ruth. Ruth did not live through the day. She was buried in the Midway Cemetery.
In December of that same year her three-and-one-half year old son, Alma broke his leg. It was fortunate that Fred had been a stretcher-bearer and first aid officer in the Swiss Army Medical Corp and was able to set the bone, which healed without complications.
On February 7, 1910 a second son was born. He was named Ernest Walter. During this year the second room of the house was paneled and some work was done in the attic to make room for the growing family.
Catharina not only did all the household chores and cared for the children, but at times helped her husband with the farm work. Both of them were very hard workers and did their best to be independent and self -reliant. In early September of 1911 they were harvesting some hay for their livestock. They milked several cows and sold cheese, butter and milk to help with the cash outlay. Catharina was on the load of hay running the hayfork, Fred stacked the hay tightly to make it weather- tight, the young son Alma was leading the horse that pulled the fork of hay up to the stack. Catharina either tripped over her trip rope, or lost her balance and fell from the wagon. The doctor diagnosed a broken back. This was in the day before X-ray or other equipment was available to make a true diagnosis, but this is what it stated on her death certificate. One day Dr. Russell, the attending physician, decided that he would give her a sitz bath. With the help of a practical nurse, Maggie Boss, who bad been attending Catharina daily, they tried the treatment. It was rumored that they dropped her. At any rate, Catharina died on September 11, 1911. Her last words to Maggie were, “Look out for Freda, she’s always climbing up on things and she’ll fall and hurt herself.” Catharina was laid to rest in the Midway Cemetery beside her infant daughter.
Catharina, the lovely dark-haired wife of Fred, who moved the family to hearing the Gospel and came to “Zion” with him, helped him make a good home for their children. They, two, taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ by example and precept, to their four children. She gave them good bodies, and taught them great truths. This was her legacy to the children she loved. God bless her memory.
Note: This history is as nearly correct as faint memories and a few documents could make it. Freda Helen Durtschi Baker
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Page Updated: 11 Sep 06