I, John Staheli, was born in Amerswile, Canton Thurgau, Switzerland, May 28th, 1857, the sixth child of George and Sophia Barbara Staheli.
I was just four years old when our family came to America, and have childhood memories of my home in Amerswile, and of the seven weeks voyage across the great Atlantic in the spring of 1861, making the journey on a sailing vessel. There was a large company of Mormon emigrants on this voyage including converts from several foreign lands.
In Amerswile, we lived just on the outskirts of the city where Father had built a small factory where he made cotton yarns. The factory was operated by water power, and was still in use thirty-four years later when I revisited Switzerland. The factory was really Father's sideline, as his main occupation was teaching music. He, with three companions, composed a quartet of players who traveled not only over Switzerland, but often crossed the border into Germany to play for dances, festivals and celebrations of all kinds. After the family joined the Mormon Church Father sold the factory and rented a house until we embarked for America, in order to make the move more easily when others preparing to come were in readiness. The Father of Dixie's benefactor, George Woodward, was one of the missionaries who often called at our home in Amerswile, and returned to Utah with the emigrants in 1861.
The voyage was pleasant enough had it not been for the death of my year old baby sister, Sophia, who was buried in the sea just three days before the vessel reached the United States. Two other little ones had been buried in Switzerland.
When the vessels reached the New York harbor all of the emigrants repaired to the old wharf house known as Castle Gardens. I remember distinctly the picture of those many emigrants, the people from each country gathering in groups on the main floor of the building, with their [p.1] luggage heaped about them. It was such a sight, and I was particularly impressed with Castle Gardens. I went back to see it on my way to the Swiss Mission in 1887, and again in 1895 when I returned from a second Mission. The building was still standing then and looked just like it did when we first landed.
This band of some five or six hundred emigrants took train from New York to Florence, Nebraska, and this was a stirring part of the journey. At that time, the Civil War being under way, the windows of the cars were shuttered as the train sped along the costal states where battles were in progress. I remember how the trainmasters warned us to be very quiet going through those States, so we would not be attacked. It was quite a problem to preserve quiet with so many little children on board. However, that stretch of the journey was made in entire safety.
At Florence we were met by ox teams and wagons. Those were provided by the Church for which we were to pay after arriving in Utah. This fee was known as the Immigration Fund and was to be paid in yearly installments.
The company our family was in consisted of about fifty wagons with two families to a wagon. The company was well organized for the trip. A captain was appointed and everything was done in systematic order. Father was the bugler and gave the signals for the various orders. . . . [p.2]
When we arrived at Salt Lake City we were temporary located on the old Tithing Block near where the Hotel Utah now stands. Here we camped for two or three weeks, and may of those who had become acquainted during the months of the voyage and journey from foreign lands, as well as others who had known each other in their home countries, were married in the old endowment house, before leaving for the various parts of the state, to which the leader Brigham Young had called them on special missions. . . . [p.3]
BIB: Staheli, John. The life of John and Barbara Staheli, (Ms 7832), pp. 1-3; Acc. #19761. (CHL)