Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Grandma Gygi


Liesetta joins the Church

Liesetta was five years of age when she and her family moved to the Imperial city of Nürnberg, Germany eight miles west of the town of Leinburg, where she was born October 16, 1874. Her father found work in a brass foundry there, and there she received her only schooling which consisted of three years in the Volksschule elementary school.

Her father was Johann Carl Paulus Riedelbauch. Born in a village 60 miles to the northeast, in Bavaria, where his family had lived for generations. It was in
Liesetta Gygi Wedding 1892

Nürnberg that the family was introduced to the Gospel and taught by missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. Her father was the first to join the Church, and was baptized and confirmed on the twentieth of November, 1881 at Sünderbühlteich in Nürnberg by Elder A. H. Cannon.

Liesetta’s mother Margaretha was baptized a month later, the 12th of December in the cold waters of the Zeltnerweier Castle by Elder Anton Ilg. Liesetta was then only seven years of age, the oldest of 8 children.

Liesetta's father found better work at the shipyards of the port city of Hamburg, in northern Germany. In July 1882 he was a brass foundryman living at Schulgangstr. 1 in Hamburg Altona. The rest of the family returned to Leinburg, and there lived with grandmother Kunigunde Blendinger, who resented their joining the Church, but softened her heart while living with them. Liesetta’s father sent large food packages to his family in Leinburg. The first oranges, raisins, figs and prunes the children had ever seen arrived in these packages from Hamburg.

The Moat of the Zeltnerweier Castle

While Liesetta and her mother were living in Leinburg, Liesetta was baptized into the Church on March 31st, 1884 at the age of 9, in the Urspring river by Elder F. Mödl. Both her father and mother related fervent testimonies of the truthfulness of the Gospel which were published in 1885 in Der Stern, the official magazine of the Church in Germany.

In July of 1884 Liesetta's father had earned enough money to move the family to Hamburg.
They lived at Peter Strasse 21 in the western section of the city not too far from the docks. They were a long distance from any LDS gathering, but the missionaries visited them regularly.

Peterstrasse 21, Hamburg Today, Restored


Liesetta emigrates to the New World

Persecution of Church members was intense in Hamburg. The children had to remain indoors most of the time to avoid threats, taunting and physical harm. Liesetta's brother Carl had his nose broken and was beaten by ruffians on his way to school. They made the decision to emigrate to America, as soon as they were financially able. They decided Liesetta would go to go first, accompanying other Saints traveling to Zion. On June 16, 1885, Liesetta, the eldest child, aged 10, was placed on a ship bound for the new World. They stopped in Liverpool, England where they were joined by other members of the Church emigrating to Utah. Then sailed from Liverpool the 20th of June, 1885 aboard the SS Wisconsin bound for New York with a group of 541 Saints under the direction of Elder Jorgen Hansen.



The trip lasted a little over two weeks. Seas were very rough and she often became sea sick. Elder Abraham O. Smoot, one of the returning missionaries from Germany, visited her when she was feeling very ill. Once, at the onset of one of the storms a mountainous wave threw her completely across the ship's deck. Though she came close to losing her life she told her grandchildren that she had been preserved by the hand of the Lord.

The ship arrived in New York harbor on the 8th of July, 1885 and passed by the statue of Liberty then under construction, which would be unveiled the following year. From New York City they boarded a train and spent another week traveling to Salt Lake City, far in the western Territory of Utah. Arriving at last in Zion, Liesetta had arms put around her by Sister Katharina Schoenhals, a native of Switzerland, with whom she lived at 45 South, 7th West for the next few months, and attended the Salt Lake 15th Ward until September of that year. She had arrived in this country knowing no one and unable to speak a word of English.Sister Schoenhals was very kind to her and it was difficult to leave, but Liesetta was sent to live with and work for the family of Mr. John Alexander, a native of Gloucester, England, whose farm was located in a section of the city known as Brighton Ward, about two miles west of the Jordan River.

In the early years this area seemed a long way out in the country. Here Liesetta worked hard and long for room, board, and clothing, but received no monetary compensation. She was a servant, and was not entitled to receive schooling, as were the other children in the household. The Alexander family members tended flocks of sheep and would live at the grazing locations for weeks at a time. Liesetta was often left at home to take care of the house, farm and animals. Her chores included milking the cows, cleaning the barns, feeding the animals, doing housework, cooking for the children, and other tasks.

On October 4, 1887 Liesetta's father passed away in Hamburg, Germany at the age of thirty-five years. His wife Margaretha composed a letter of testimony and hope which was published in Der Stern magazine in 1887 She wrote that despite her loss she was at peace and could sing hymn number 36 "Father, Thou givest peace and rest to Thy children who love Thee." She bore testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet, seer and revelator. Who can separate us from the love of God, she wrote, not bitter persecution, pain or death!"

On June 3, 1888 Margaretha and her five remaining children left Hamburg at last for the New World. Word was sent to Liesetta and her next sister Nellie who had also arrived in Salt Lake, that their mother and the other children would arrive on a certain afternoon at the railroad depot in Salt Lake City. When word came, she was alone at the farm, but decided to walk to the train station herself. Nellie arrived first, but was soon joined by Liesetta. The two sisters waited for hours.

Liesetta, standing, and her newly arrived family 1888 Salt Lake City

Finally after dark, since their mother had not arrived, the sisters started the long walk home. The narrow board across the Jordan River was difficult to traverse at that hour. Upon arriving home Liesetta still had to milk the cows and do all the other chores at a late hour. During the night her mother and family did arrive, and were taken to the old tithing office square, where the Hotel Utah now stands. They were shown a small house where they could stay temporarily. Her mother and all of her children then rented a house on 4th west in the 22nd Ward. Later they moved to a log house on the corner of 6th West and 4th North, and finally lived at 336 S. 10th E.

Grandma Gygi and her children Helen, Florence, Alma, Orson, Mary, Ruth, Wilford, Ralph, Berniece, Thelma, and George 1953

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