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LIFE STORY OF RUDOLF VON NIEDERHAUSERN AND ELIZABETH TRACHSEL

Foreword: Christian, Rosa, John, Lena, Martha and Anna, sons and daughters of Rudolf von Niederhausern and Elizabeth Trachsel, related personally to Irene Beutler Schwartz (a granddaughter) incidents about their family as they could remember them. Proofread and revised by Karine W. Hill. Theses were compiled and written for the benefit of all of the descendants of this couple, in an effort to impress on all the need for appreciation of our great heritage and the importance of living the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was only through the love and devotion of the Gospel that this dear couple made great sacrifices so that we are able to enjoy the blessings of a choice people and country. Our aim and purpose should be to so live that we will be worthy to meet them in our Father's kingdom.

Rudolf von Niederhausern was born the 10th of February 1839 at Ruti Thurnen, Bern, Switzerland, on the estate of Holenweg, which had been in the Niederhausern family for about five hundred years. The von Niederhausern's were known as "tillers of the soil." They were a very industrious and a hard-working people. It was customary that the eldest son take over the estate. As Rudolf was the youngest of nine children in his father's family, it was apparent that his chance to take over the family estate would never materialize. He began to look for opportunity of securing a farm elsewhere. When yet a young man he was able to make arrangements for and secure a farm in a nearby vicinity. Krautern, as the homestead was called, was near the county seat of Guggisberg.

The von Niederhausern family was very religious. They studied the Bible regularly and made the reading of it a part of their daily life. Most of this family joined the State Protestant Church; previous to this time they had been members of several churches. They were diligently searching for the truth. Rudolf Sr. always encouraged members of his family to be faithful to the church to which they belonged, and to live the principles of their religion as they understood them.

Through the spirit of prophecy, he also told them that, if they were faithful, the time would come when they would have a chance to receive something greater than that which they already had.

Rudolf was married to Maria Gottschmann in the year of 1865. (The inscription on the heating oven in their old home is still clearly legible and reads "Rudolf von Niederhausern and Maria Gottschmann, 1865.") On the 17th of May 1868, a baby daughter was born to them and she was christened Maria. Then again they were planning for another baby and twins were born prematurely. Through this ordeal the mother and both twin babies died.

Brokenhearted, Rudolf had relatives care for tiny Maria, and buried his sorrow in hard work on his farm. But time heals grief and sweetens memories, and as the years passed Rudolf became aware of the lovely young daughter of a neighboring family who lived close to his childhood home and about twelve miles distant from his own farm. He came to know the blonde blue-eyed Elizabeth Trachsel when he went to visit his own tiny "Maria." Elizabeth's mother was known as a "well-to-do widow," and thirty-six year old Rudolf visited the widow and asked for the hand of her nineteen-year-old daughter. The mother consented. Elizabeth was not consulted at this time, but she must have been aware of the ambitious and handsome dark-eyed Rudolf, for their children remember Rudolf often teasing her in later years by saying that when she was approached on the matter of marriage her answer was "Ja, Ja, Ja, Ja." They were married in the year of 1875. With their religious backgrounds and a sincere desire to keep the commandments of the Lord, their marriage had every chance for success.

Aunt Lena's contribution: "Here is Mother's wedding poem. Maybe you would enjoy having it. Margrit Lohner translated it for me from the German writing. The English translation doesn't seem to have quite the same meaning as the German; it is beautiful in German." This wedding poem was written as a special tribute for Elizabeth and Rudolf at the time of their marriage; a copy of the original and the English translation follow:

Der schone Tag er ist erschienen
Dir Brautigam, Dir holden Braut,
Wo lhr Euch durft nun ewig lieben
Als trem Gatten seit getraut.

Dad beste Los sei Euch beschieden
Nie stor es yea eirn Ungemach
Der Himmel offne sich hienieden
Es blue stetz Gluck an jenem Tag

So lebt vergn'u'gt gleich Engelschaaren
Wie heute stetz gesund und fohl
Wir feiern dann nach 50 Jahren
Die goldene Hochzeit ebenso.  

The lovely day it has arrived
For you, the groom, and you, the bride,
When you may love, for all eternity
And be united as true man and wife.

May the best fate attend you always
And not be disturbed by harm
May heaven be open to you here below
And happiness bloom as daily charm.

May your life have the peace of angels,
As today, may good health be yours,
And 50 years hence, We will celebrate
A Golden Anniversary to be sure.

Little Maria was now 10 years old, but had been in the care of relatives since the death of her mother and so continued to make her home with these relatives. Only occasional visits were made to the home of her own father and stepmother by this little girl.

Rudolf farmed about 135 acres of land, besides caring for livestock, which included sheep and goats. There was a great deal of work to be done and Rudolf was a very busy man. The main crops consisted of hay and grains-wheat, barley, and flax. As the majority of the work was done by hand, probably with the exception of the plowing, which was done with a hand plough pulled with horses. The hay and grain were cut by hand with long three-foot scythes. It was raked together with large hand rakes. The grain was stored on the main floor of the barn and threshed after the fall work was completed. Rudolph was the first farmer in that area to buy a threshing machine, but it still required hand feeding. The milk that was produced from the cows and goats was made into cheese by a hired "Cheeser." Nearby farmers also brought their milk to be manufactured into cheese. With all this work to be done it was necessary to hire several men; thus it was also necessary for Elizabeth to prepare meals for the hired help. Elizabeth was a very helpful companion and helpmate, and she worked hard to give her husband the support he needed. She kept a big garden, cooked little potatoes to feed the pigs, and did other chores. There was a big rock oven in the dairy and each week she baked this oven full of bread. The oven was heated with wood; when hot the coals were raked out and the loaves put in to bake.

Rudolph and Elizabeth did not forget the commandment to "Multiply and replenish the earth." Thirteen sons and daughters were born to them. Three of the children, Maria, Joseph, and Emma, died in infancy. Ten of the sons and daughters were raised to maturity: Rudolf Jr. Elizabeth, Christian, Margaritha, Johannes, Rosina, Lina, Martha, Anna, and Friederich. As the children grew up in this family they were taught to take their share of responsibility, to work, and to be thrifty. They shared the responsibility of helping with the tasks to be done on the farm and providing a livelihood for the family. One of the most disliked tasks was herding the sheep and goats, and these playful animals delighted, it seemed, in giving the children a merry chase as they tried to keep them from going into the grain or hay fields.

The parents were anxious that the children should have every opportunity to have an education. The children were sent to the village school and the rod was not spared if they did not do what was expected of them. School was in session practically the year around. At planting time and harvesting time school was dismissed for two or three weeks. Two afternoons a week the girls learned to knit and sew while the boys had military drills. In the spring of the year examinations were given. It was customary to give each of the students that had achieved by passing their examinations a small amount of money for this accomplishment. The amount of up to one dollar was given to the student, according to the grade they were in. Rudolf was a very interested father and encouraged his children to achieve the highest; if they worked hard and received satisfactory grades he would add to their fund by doubling the amount paid by the school board. Usually some sort of celebration, known as "Award Day," was held in connection with this achievement event. At this time, the girls' knitting, sewing, and other handiwork were displayed. Booths of different kinds were put up where the children could buy goodies and trinkets of various kinds with their reward money, which made a happy ending of the "Award Day."

Summertime brought glorious times for the children. The climate in this particular part of Switzerland was favorable for raising several different kinds of fruit trees and also berries. Rainfall was plentiful which made it ideal for the growth of many wild berries in the nearby woods. Strawberries, raspberries, huckleberries, and other kinds of fruit all grew wild and profusely.

Rosa states: "We loved to go to the woods and gather berries, especially where father and the boys were cutting timber. We gathered them by painful. Sometimes mother would let us go and sell them to people that could afford to buy them. We liked to sell them to the Pfarrer (minister). We were no different from the children of today, we liked money of our own and mother would allow us to have the money which we made from our sales."

Rosa further relates: "After a rain storm the mushrooms grew overnight and we gathered them and mother (Elizabeth) prepared many delicious meals with them and the berries which we had gathered. It was fun in the fall of the year to go nutting. There were many hedges on which clusters of hazel nuts grew. We, brothers and sisters, looked anxiously forward to the time when we would go together to share this pleasure."

Entertainment was provided for in their own family circle. In the long winter evenings the family gathered in the living room around the great, huge hearth to keep warm, and enjoyed songs, stories, games, etc. Also, father or mother read to them from the Bible and taught the truths of Christianity to them. The girls would knit or sew under the loving supervision of their mother. Rudolf and his good wife put religious training as the foremost obligation of their home life. Even in the busy affairs of providing for his family, Rudolf took time out each morning to read a chapter from the Bible and gather the family together to kneel in family prayer. To the smaller children, it seemed that the prayers ran to great length. The youngest daughter relates "there was time to chase the chickens from coming into the house." This they did slyly, and would then return quickly and unnoticed to the prayer circle.

Uncle John says, "I had wonderful parents." My father read the Bible every night, a chapter or two. He had hired men who after supper would sit around the big table with the family. He told the men now I am going to read a chapter in the Bible; if you want to stay that is alright and if not, you can go. He was just a man of that kind. He never smoked or one would never hear him swear and when he had hired men, he told them no, no and they hushed. He did not allow them to swear.

"Our largest city nearby was Fribourg and my father went there about every week or so to get goods for the home or things which were needed or tools. The market there was about 15 kilometers away and of course there were places where you could go in and drink and eat. Father went in the place and sometimes there was trouble therein. When they saw him they hushed. He was well respected and wouldn't stand for any swearing or foolishness."

The Sabbath Day was strictly observed. Everything was in readiness before the day arrived. No shining of shoes, sewing of buttons, chopping of wood or any unnecessary chores was done on the Sabbath day. Whenever possible, they attended church services. However, with all this there still grew a "spirit of emptiness"-there was something lacking. Studying of the scriptures only proved to them that their religious beliefs were not soul satisfying. Because Rudolf was a genuinely religious man and also observant of local happenings, he heard of a new sect, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he had also heard that Mormon missionaries were laboring in the nearby city of Bern. The missionaries had visited Rudolf’s sister, Anna Pauli, and her husband, Rudolf Pauli. As they became more interested and fascinated by these missionaries' message, they were anxious that Rudolf and Elizabeth should also share its beauty. In the year of 1888, missionaries from the Church were introduced to the Rudolf von Niederhausern family.

The minister in the local village was greatly concerned when he heard that Rudolf had allowed these missionaries to come to his home. He knew that Rudolf was one of the richest and most influential men in the community and he realized that this action would probably result in his losing some of his congregation. The minister became very conscientious about making regular visits to the von Niederhausern home and tried continually to convince the family of their erring ways, He advised them to join any sect but those "despised Mormons," He told them action such as this would bring disgrace upon his Parrish.

As Father Rudolph began to realize that the missionaries had the truth and also the authority to perform ordinances that were necessary to salvation, he tried to explain to the minister how important he felt that the principle of baptism was. The minister then replied that if it was baptism that he wanted, he could do this ordinance for Rudolph, too.

The missionaries came either from Thun or Langnau, cities of a distance of 20 to 50 miles from the von Niederhausern home. As they walked, it took them several hours to reach their destination and they were naturally hungry and tired upon arrival. Rudolf was a good Christian and felt the need to offer them lodging for the night; he didn't have the heart to turn them from his door as had been suggested by the minister.

As time passed Rudolf s sister, Anna Pauli, and her husband joined the Church and immigrated to Zion. They located in Logan, Cache, Utah, and their letters now told of the blessings that came to them through their acceptance of the Gospel plan. They had found the peace of mind they sought for in making the right decisions, although they had encountered much opposition from the adversary. Anna wrote that it was wonderful to come to Zion, even though they became very homesick at times. Again the local minister made false accusations, saying that Anna had probably written this way because she was so anxious that other members of the family join them in this new land of America. But Rudolf knew this was not the reason his sister had written as she did, and the accusing words pierced him as if lie were being cut with a sharp knife.

The missionaries continued their visits and taught the principles of the restored gospel in the von Niederhausern home. They continued to be made welcome and were shown every consideration and given the best of everything; at times the children even resented the many sacrifices that the parents made for the missionaries. Rosa remembers that a small bedroom above the "cheesery" was kept especially for the missionaries. It was a small pleasant room with one large window overlooking Elisabeth's garden. Just below the window grew a prune tree. To the right was a small forest, also to the left. When the window was opened you could hear the cuckoo call in one forest and hear the echo in the other. Rosa states that this bedroom boasted a highly varnished wooden bed with a "real" mattress-the only mattress they owned. The family all slept on straw ticks, covered by thin feather beds. (Each summer these ticks were refilled with sweet smelling fresh straw and the feather beds were aired and plumped.) Rudolf and his lovely companion were well read, and as the gospel plan was presented to them they had no difficulty in following and grasping the truths being taught. On one occasion, the minister told dear Mother Elizabeth that she read the Bible with "Mormon eyes."

The missionaries also visited Heironimuss von Niederhausern, an elder brother of Rudolf, during this time. He, too, was interested until the principle of tithing was explained. Heironimuss could not see the truth of this principle, and it became a stumbling block to him. He was a man of "goodly means" and felt that he would rather keep his hard-earned money for his own interests.  He never did join the Church.

Because of their expressed interest in the Church and the missionaries, Rudolf's family became the subject of much persecution and ridicule. Taunts such as "Here come Kraeutern Rudi's missionaries" or "The egg pancake preachers are coming again" were heard often. (Egg pancakes or "Eierdaetsch" were a delicacy served especially for special guests, and, of course, this was a special treat when the missionaries came.) Other children at the village school had much to say and teased the younger members of the von Niederhausern family unmercifully.

In the spring, a Church conference was being held in the city of Bern. Rudolf and his wife made plans to attend this conference and to be baptized in the Aare River. This was a beautiful place, as the city of Bern was situated on a peninsula. On the 12th of May 1894 Rudolf, Elizabeth, Rudolf Jr., a girl friend Anna Marti, and Christian made the trip to Bern. Anna Marti later left the Church and some have mentioned that she was baptized only because of her attraction to the missionaries.

Christian recalls: I was sixteen years old. I thought when my father asked me if I wanted to go with them that 'I guess if my parents were baptized to this new religion it would be good enough for me, too.' I thought I might get out of some work and I could drive the one horse shay to the 'stadt' or city." The one horse shay was a two-seated buggy and Christian felt quite proud that they would let him go to be the driver.

Later the next summer Margaritha, John, and Rosina were baptized in the Graben, a creek near their home-1895. They had been old enough to be baptized at the time their parents were baptized, but remained at home to care for the younger children and to do the chores.

Some of the missionaries that visited the von Niederhausern home and were responsible in part for the conversion of this family were: John Theurer and John Schiess from Providence, Utah; Fred Weyerman, John Gilgen, and Joseph Keller (a very choice missionary, gifted as a preacher) from Logan, Utah; Gottfried Eschler and Henry Tuescher from Bear Lake; Emil Kohler from Midway, Utah; and Frederich Reber from Santa Clara, Utah. There may also have been others involved.

As soon as Rudolf and his dear companion became members of the true church they felt the "spirit of gathering" and were anxious to forsake friends and loved ones to go to the new land "Zion," where they could worship according to the dictates of their conscience and also partake of the blessings of going to the temple to be sealed for time and eternity.

Perhaps the Lord saw fit to test this family; He has a way of helping people realize their blessings by placing obstacles in their way, thus making them grow and develop. Such was the case with this dear couple. The farm and belongings were put up for sale, but circumstances arose which prevented them from selling the farm readily. Rudolf was a man with a big heart; he had loaned amounts of money to several different people, who were now reluctant and slow to pay their debts. These delays, at least in part, could easily have resulted because Rudolf joined the unpopular religion.

Elder Eschler suggested that if some passage money could be arranged, it would be wise for some of the family to immigrate then; later, after the necessary business transactions were completed, the parents could make the trip. Passports were therefore secured for the three teenage girls: Margaritha, age 16; Rosina, age 14; and Lena, age 12. With fear and yet an unfaltering faith, trusting their father's wisdom, the girls bade goodbye to their loved ones to go to a new and strange land-America. They left with sadness in November 1898, hoping that in the near future they would be reunited with the other members of their family. After an ocean voyage lasting 8 days, they disembarked the ship and came by train directly to Logan, Utah.

During the voyage, Rosa worried constantly that they would not be able to find their aunt when they arrived in America. One night she had a dream in which she clearly saw the railroad station and her aunt waiting to meet the train. Later, as their train pulled into the snowy Logan station, she recognized it as the one she had pictured in her dream. There stood her aunt, dressed exactly as Rosa had dreamed!

This journey had taken about three weeks, and the tired girls were happy to go home with their aunt. They lived with her until they were able to secure work for their own board and room.

Anti-Mormon feelings against the family members remaining at Krautern were becoming stronger during this period. It is interesting to note that the two missionaries most instrumental in helping these von Niederhausern girls obtain passports and passage were consequently accused of kidnapping Mormon girls and shipping them to America. As payment for their innocent assistance to the von Niederhausern family, they were forced to spend approximately six weeks in jail.

The three girls now in Utah soon managed to find work. Margaritha was first in the home of Dr. Gowans, where his family became very fond of her. Later she went to Cokeville, Wyoming where she helped Salome Beck cook for section hands that worked on the railroad. Here it was that she met Salome's brother, Felix Beutler, whom she later married. Rosina worked for several different families-the Standers, Sam Hendricks, the Mooreheads; she then secured a position in the home of Apostle John A. Widtsoe. She remained with them for eight years, until her marriage to John Wursten. During these years she became very attached to them, and they to her. Lena stayed with and worked for the John Schiess family in Providence, then later for Isaac Smith, the Stake President. Here she met John Glauser, whom she later married.

Rudolf Jr. was married to Elizabeth Zbinden in the old country and came with his new bride to America. Christian, who had been in military service, also came with them.

Although Rudolf Sr. had large holdings in the old country, they brought little cash for him after the payment of his debts and people who were obligated to him were not able to make settlements. He was forced to take great losses, and came to this country a poor man. 

In addition to financial losses, the parents were greatly grieved because of the sickness of their nineteen-year-old daughter Elizabeth, who was believed to have had consumption. Because of her ill health, she was unable to make the journey, and so was left in the care of Rudolf s oldest sister, Anna Kunz, who had no children of her own.

The four youngest children, John, Martha, Anna, and Frederich, with their parents, bid goodbye to their loved ones and their beloved home in Guggisberg and were enroute to a new and strange land to be reunited with other family members. They embarked on the ship "New England" and after several days travel arrived at Boston, Massachusetts the 2 May 1902. While on this voyage, John dreamed that Elizabeth was playing with he and the other children on board ship. Soon after arriving in Logan, Utah, the parents had news from relatives that their daughter Elizabeth had passed away May 1, 1902, while they were yet on the ocean voyage. The parents and younger children arrived in Logan May 10, 1902. It was just 3 ˝ years from the time the girls arrived in America until the entire family had immigrated, in three separate treks. At last Rudolf Niederhausern had realized his great ambition of "gathering his family in Zion."

Great disappointments came Father Rudolph's way again when he was influenced to buy some range land 20 miles up Logan Canyon at a cost of $2.00 an acre. He envisioned building a hotel and "half-way house" where people could lodge and buy milk and food as they journeyed to Bear Lake. Anna remembers going to the courthouse for her father, who could not speak English, and paying for this land with $20.00 gold pieces. Her father's idea was sound, but the land was so far away and shortly after he arrived in this country his health began to fail. He was not to enjoy life in this new land for very long. He became ill and on the 18th of May 1904 he departed this life. His mission of establishing his family in the "land of opportunity" had been accomplished.  

Shortly after his death, Anna had a dream in which she saw her father, dressed in white, preaching to a great congregation of people. When she told her mother about this dream, Elizabeth replied: "It is up to us to see that the temple work is done for those people." Anna was so impressed by her mother's interpretation that she gave her $30.00 she had saved, to be used for that purpose. This contribution marked the beginning of the family's genealogical work and research.

During the rest of her life, Mother Elizabeth labored faithfully in the temple. At that time there were sessions only on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The first session began at nine o'clock and it took almost the entire day to go through one session.

Christian and John were compelled to find work, which took them to Sunnyside and Castle Gate, Utah where they worked for some time in the mines. Rudolf Jr. remained in Logan and worked by the day for anyone who needed help.

One by one the children found companions and were married. Frederich and Mother Niederhausern enjoyed each other’s association in their small home on 8th North and 6th East, where they had a cow, a few chickens, and raised a garden and hay for the cow. As Fred grew to manhood he desired to attend school at the A.C. College (now USU) not far from their home. His ambition was realized as he studied carpentry work and became a very efficient workman. He now replaced the little old house with a lovely modern bungalow, which was a blessing and comfort to his dear, little mother while she sojourned in mortality.

Besides making a pleasant abode for her son and many grandchildren who visited her, Elizabeth found great satisfaction in visiting her children and getting acquainted with each new grandchild. All of her married children lived within a distance of five miles from her home, with the exception of Lina who had moved to Salt Lake City. Margaritha and her husband had purchased a farm in North Logan, and many times this dear grandmother walked the four miles to pay them a visit. As each harvest season commenced, she, with some of her grandchildren, would go to the grain fields in North Logan to glean the heads of grain that had been knocked off as the binding machine cut the grain. When several sacks were filled, they were loaded on the wagon or buggy and Elizabeth would return home, happy in the knowledge that her little flock of chickens could feast on the gleanings during the coming winter.

One of the daughters paid this tribute to her mother, Elizabeth Trachsel von Niederhausern: "Yes, mother was a wonderful woman. She attended the temple regularly. She was so very kind and patient. She had such great faith and it could not be surpassed. She believed in the healing power of the priesthood when hands were laid upon the heads of the sick. She also used the blessed oil to give to her sick cow when she felt it was needed."

Elizabeth's eyes closed in death 4 March 1921 after a short illness. Rudolf and Elizabeth are now reunited in another sphere of action. Their joy cannot be full unless each of us, all linked in the chain of the Rudolf von Niederhausern family, will be as devoted, as united in purpose, and as willing to sacrifice our all if necessary in building up the Kingdom of God on this earth. Let us not forget our obligation to them for the heritage they gave to us.


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If there are any additions or corrections that would make this more complete please send them to  Nathan Niederhausern