The History of the Zollingers of Providence, Cache County, Utah

by Jacob Dennis Zollinger

The Johannes Zollinger story is that of a husband and his wife Elizabeth searching and finding a new Christian religion. They traveled from Ober-Urdorf, Zürich, Switzerland to Providence, Cache County, Utah in 1862 with a family of two sons, Jacob, born on the 3rd of July 1845 and Ferdinand, born on the 18th of October 1829, and their three daughters, Anna born on the 11th of November 1831, Elisabetha, born on the 18th of October 1837, and finally Dorethea, who was born on the 2nd of February 1841. This is a great pioneer sage of a Swiss family moving to the West of the United States, and their struggle and adventure to tame the new frontier.

The story begins in Ober-Urdorf, south-west of Zürich, Switzerland, where Johannes Zollinger was a dairy farmer, and where the Zollinger family had lived for several generations, ever since they had moved there from Watt near Regensdorf in 1699. Farming had always been the profession of the family going back to the 1400's. In the summer of 1861, Johannes Zollinger, who was born there on the 4th of June 1795, hired two carpenters to remodel his house. One of the carpenters considered himself a bit of a bible scholar, and he tried to persuade Johannes and his wife Elizabeth Usteri Zollinger to join his church. Neither were convinced of his doctrine but this investigation was the beginning of their search for a true church based upon the Bible. The Zollinger farm was located right next to the local church, which at the time was used by both the Catholic and Protestant congregations in Urdorf. The Protestant pastor of Urdorf lived across the street from the Zollinger farm, and at that time he employed a young lady by the name of Mary Horlacher. Her job was to take care of his household, and her daily duties included coming over to the Zollinger farm to get milk.

Over time the Zollinger family became good friends with Maria, and during one of Maria's visits back to her parents in Zürich she found out that her parents had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints (Mormon). Soon after Maria was converted to that faith too, and upon returning to Urdorf she told Johannes Zollinger and his family about her conversion. Both Elizabeth and Johannes Zollinger were very interested, and they traveled to Zürich to meet with the Missionary Elders. Elizabeth especially recognized that this religion was very different from anything that she had ever heard before. Both Johannes and Elizabeth were baptized on the 20th of November 1861 in the Limmat river near Urdorf. Their sons Jacob and Ferdinand were baptized a bit later, on the 16th of December1861, and at that time of year they had to break the ice of the Limmat river to be able to preform the baptism. Johannes then invited the town leaders to hear the story of their new religion, and the house was full of dignitaries. Other interested folk had to stay outside the house because of the limited space, but the windows were opened so that they were able to follow the proceedings too.

Johannes and Elizabeth had heard of the Mormon movement to the West of the United States, and they decided to take part in that adventure. They sold their farm and silk business in Urdorf, and on the 30th of April 1862 the family started their journey to the United States. They left one daughter behind because she was married, but she would follow them a few years latter. The whole family traveled from Zürich through Basel to Paris, France, and from there to the port of LeHavre, France, where they arrived by the 4th of May 1862. There they waited for the departure of the freighter “Windermere” until the 15th of May, and then were on the ocean for 54 days. They had bad storms to contend with, as well as a fire aboard the ship which burnt out both the kitchens. Two children of the many families traveling with them died on the voyage and were buried at sea. They arrived in New York City on the 8th of July 1862, and after passing through quarantine and customs, they left by train for Albany, New York. Their travels then took them to Niagara Falls, where they crossed the St. Lawrence River, and then onwards through Canada to Chicago, where they arrived by July the 13th 1861. From there they traveled to Quincy, Illinois on the Mississippi River, where they took the boat down the Mississippi to Saint Joseph, Missouri where the Mississippi and Missouri rivers connect. On the river boat up the Missouri river to Omaha, Nebraska, they ran into some bad characters, but they arrived safely there on the 20th of July. The next eighteen days were spent in Omaha making preparations for the trek West, which included purchasing two yokes of Oxen, two cows, a sheet-iron stove, a tent, plows, tools, dried fruit, rice, bacon, flour and salt. The Zollinger family was a member of one of six independently owned outfits which traveled together, with the whole company consisting of sixty teams and wagons. They were the last company to leave Omaha that year. The first part of the travel west was very dusty, with up to 10 inches of fine dust covering the trail. Some people became sick from the dust and had to travel inside the wagons.

The son Jacob tells the story of a wagon next to his own which was driven by an Englishman and his wife. She fell asleep and fell off the wagon and directly under the heavy wheels, killing her instantly. They all stopped to bury her, and then went on. On the 7th of September a Mrs. Wintch also died, and a few days later a child of Nichlaus Jacobs died. Then on the 28th of September a son of Jacob Neeser died, and on the 1st of October a man from England died too. When they finally arrived at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, Jacob’s brother Ferdinand and a friend of his, Henry Mathes, noticed something tied in a buffalo hide hanging in a tree. Out of curiosity, Ferdinand climbed up to see what was in the buffalo hide. And to his astonishment he found a dead Indian in it, and the stench made him sick.

Johannes was 67 years old when he undertook his trip West, and his son Jacob was 17, and these two were the only family members who enjoyed good health throughout the whole journey. Mountain Fever had attacked the company in the Rocky Mountains, and those who were sick had to remain in the wagons during the rest of the trip west. Jacob’s mother and his three sisters and the brother all fell ill too, and Jacob hired a German girl to do the cooking and caring of the sick and he found a youth of his own age to help him care for the oxen each morning and evening. Each night the company would use the wagons to form a circle for protection, and Jacob would later write: "Every evening I had to put up the tent, set up the stove and make the fire, then milk the cows and search for water, which in most cases was some distance from the wagon train". Once camp was established all the sick were taken from their wagons every evening and made as comfortable as one could under those conditions. The next morning the process was then carried out in reverse. As they approached the Rocky Mountains with elevations of up to 7500 feet, they were experienced very cold weather and at times had to move through deep snow . Many froze their feet, and one man had to have his toes amputated upon reaching the Salt Lake valley. On the 5th of October, a man by the name of Looser died, and a day later the baby of the Bachofen family died shortly after birth.

The company were forced to cross the Sweet Water river several times, where they had to carry some of the people across on their backs. Here again they had to contend with heavy snow and very cold weather. The last leg of their journey was to descend the Echo Canyon, and on the 27th of October they camped near a location where the village of Coalville is situated today. That night Jacob forgot to unyoke one pair of his oxen, and during the night someone stole them. They finally arrived at Emigration Square in Salt Lake City on the 31st of Oct 1862, but a total of 35 people had lost their lives on the trip between Omaha and Salt Lake City. Johannes and his family did not know a soul in Salt Lake City, but an invitation had been extend to them by the brothers Jacob and Balif Naef to come some 80 miles north to the Cache Valley, and so on the 15th of November 1862 they arrived at their final destination in Providence, where a small fort had been established some years earlier.

Since that time of the great and difficult pioneer trek to the West, Johannes and his family have multiplied, and today more than 400 direct relatives are part of the family. The Johannes Zollinger family has done much in the area of genealogy research into the Zollinger name both in Switzerland and in America, and they have found a number of Zollinger families here in America who are related to them. But it is interesting that this Zollinger family needed to go back to 1603 to connect to the other Zollinger family who started out in Providence, but then moved on to Rexburg, Idaho. Urdorf has been the origin of several other Zollinger families in the USA, among them the large Zollinger family in Wayne County, Ohio and the group of Zollingers in Cattaragus County, Upper New York State. Ultimately however almost all these groups link back to the hamlet of Lautikon near Hombrechtikon in the Zürich Highlands.

Jacob Zollinger, the son of the patriarch Johannes Zollinger returned to Switzerland in 1889 as a missionary for his church, and during a three year period he was able to do extensive genealogy research on his Swiss ancestors as well. He later even hired the services of a Julius Billeter, a professional genealogist from St. Gallen, who continued the genealogy research until Jacob's death in 1942. As a result of all this work on family history there now exist detailed records of the offspring of Johannes Zollinger in the USA, as well as of his ancestors in Switzerland.

The author of this story, Jacob Dennis Zollinger is the great grand son of Johannes Zollinger.

Las Vegas, December 2004

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