March 19 is St. Joseph’s Day and I got to thinking about all the Sutters who have “Joseph” as either their first or middle name.
I’m not sure why that is, and all my ancestors that I could ask are gone. The family tree I have goes back just to 1816, with the birth of my great-great-great-grandfather, Ambrose Sutter, born about 1816 in the canton of St. Gallen, Switzerland.
He and his wife, Amelia Gaertner (also listed as Amanza and Amanda) had a son they named Robert Joseph Sutter, born Nov. 1, 1845 also in the canton of St. Gallen.
Why Joseph? Perhaps for religious reasons. St. Joseph of course was the husband of Mary the Blessed Virgin Mother and the foster father of Jesus. In the Old Testament, Joseph is the 11th son of Jacob, and Joseph has been immortalized for modern-day audiences in the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
According to the website Behind the Name, Josef is the spelling that Germans used, and German is the language spoken in northeastern Switzerland. Perhaps Robert Joseph anglicized his middle name when he came to the United States.
Robert Joseph and his wife, Christina Dallinger, immigrated to Burlington, Iowa, and named their first-born son, Joseph Robert Sutter, my great-grandfather, who went on to found Sutter Drug Co.
Joe and his wife had two sons: Clarence Joseph (called C.J.) and Raymond Otto, my grandfather.
Ray and his wife, Rubye, named their first-born Raymond Joseph, who was my father. Everyone called him “Joe,” no doubt to differentiate him from his father, Ray. My dad always listed his name as R. Joseph or R. Joe on documents.
The name Joseph continued into a fourth generation of Sutters, when my parents named my brother, Andrew Joseph aka Drew.
To go back to St. Joseph, he was a carpenter and is the patron saint of all workers. I like that connection, as I know my family and ancestors to be hard workers, too. Certainly my great-grandfather was industrious, not just founding Sutter Drugs but growing it into a successful business with various locations, with his legacy carried on by his sons and grandsons as pharmacists.
Click here to learn more about St. Joseph.