Saturday, May 21, 2011

Grandpa Gygi’s Mission to Switzerland and Germany

On June 3, 1888 at the age of twenty-one, Rudolph Gygi, Jr. left Switzerland for America. He traveled down the Rhine river to Rotterdam, Holland where he boarded a ship bound for Liverpool, England. At Liverpool he changed ships, boarded the ship Nevada departing for New York. It so happened that on the same ship were Margaret Riedelbauch and her six children, converts like himself to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Saints. They were going from Germany to Zion. He learned that the eldest daughter Liesetta was already in Salt Lake City, Utah. After arriving in America, Rudolph saved his money and helped pay for the rest of his family to follow two years later. His father, Rudolph Gygi, Sr. and family arrived in Salt Lake City September 24, 1890.

Rudolph Gygi and Liesetta Riedelbauch Wedding Pictures 1892

In those days young married men were sometimes asked to serve missions. Rudolph and Liesetta were married the 9th of March, 1892 the Logan Temple. A year later, the 9th of March, 1893 their first child, Mary Liesetta was born. When Rudolph received a call to serve in the Swiss-German Mission, it was only six years after he had emigrated from the same mission. He accepted the call and with a group of Elders sailed on his birthday, February 1, 1894 from New York on the steamship Dubbiedam, bound for missions on the continent in Europe.

Elders Christian Kasteler, Rudolph Gygi Jr., Rudolph Gygi Sr., & Missionaries 1886

Missionaries, 1895, Rudolph Gygi Jr. 3rd from right, 2nd row

One of the group, Abraham Woodruff, sent a telegram to his father President Wilford Woodruff on Feb. 13, 1894, indicating that the Elders had safely arrived at Rotterdam. The Elders on board were William McEwan, Abraham Woodruff, C. D. Schetter, J. M. Weller and R. Gygi, all of Salt Lake City, and George G. Naegle and wife from the Mormon colonies in Mexico.

The Swiss-German Mission had been in existence for many years, and included Switzerland and western Germany. Rudolph Gygi, Jr. first served in the area of his homeland in and around Bern, Switzerland. His first baptisms were recorded there on the 12th of April, 1894 when he baptized Marie Emilie Frankhauser, age 32 of Biel, and Margaretha Finschin, age 63 of Waldenburg. By September, 1895 he and his companions had baptized ten new converts in the communities of Schüss, Liss, Weiher, Jura, Biel, Kappelen, Neuchatel.and in the Bielersee (Lake Biel).

Bern Mainstreet Gate


Bern Hinterland


Bern Switzerland Temple










Swiss Chalet, Jungfrau

In October, 1895 he was transferred north to Hannover, Germany. There he taught and baptized Ludwig Rückert, age 24, August Julius Tadje, age 17, and Lina Wieter, age 23. After that he was transferred to Hamburg, where his last baptism was recorded. Maria Prahl, age 43 was baptized May 14, 1896 in Hamburg. Soon after, he was released and made his way home to Utah.

While Rudolph was away for two years, Liesetta found domestic work washing, sewing, cleaning and doing housework of all kinds to provide a living for herself and the baby. Friends and relatives helped care for the baby while she worked by day. When Rudolph left they had saved a total of $26, which they then carefully divided. Rudolph took $13 for his mission, and Liesetta had $13 for herself and the baby.


Occasionally she was able to send money to her missionary husband. For a while she lived with the Christian Kasteler family, her husband's brother. While she was there an epidemic of Scarlet fever swept the area. Immediately, baby Mary became afflicted with the disease and would have died, except for the quick and efficient work of a mid wife, who saved her life. The Kasteler baby, Sarah, however, died of scarlet fever in the epidemic.

One day while Liesetta was walking up to the East bench to visit her mother, she noticed a small house for rent at 625 South, 10th East. She particularly noticed the roses climbing up the side of the house. She inquired of the owner the rental charge. He asked her what her husband did for a living. She informed him that her husband was on a mission and that she was working to support herself and baby. After thinking a little while, he asked: "How would $1 a month be?" This good landlord was James H. Moyle, the father of President Henry D. Moyle.

On one occasion Liesetta was particularly short of funds, and she told the milkman, Joshua B. Stewart, Sr., that she would have to discontinue his services. This kind man said he would deliver a quart of milk to her free each day while her husband was away. Mr. Stewart's son, Adiel F. Stewart, would later serve as Mayor of Salt Lake City. In this unobtrusive way, many kind friends were raised up to help in time of need.

Rudolph and Liesetta and children, 1910

Rudolph and Liesetta raised their children in Salt Lake City and Midvale. Eleven of their twelve children reached adulthood and all were married in the temple. Many of them, and their children and grandchildren like Grandpa served missions in Germany and Switzerland. Current count of missions served is 205 in 92 countries throughout the world. Descendants number 683, of which 643 are still living. A large number of these are under the age of 8.

Compiled for the 2010 Gygi family reunion -- Steven Blodgett


Gygi Family Reunion, 1948

1 comment:

  1. I was looking for the books about Rudolph and Liesetta which were published in 2002 and stumbled across this. Do you know if I could get a copy of the books?

    ReplyDelete