My husband, Gary Brandt, and I recently spent time in Switzerland in what I’m calling our “Finding Our Roots” trip.
Both Gary and I have family roots in Switzerland, and we set out to visit some of our ancestors’ birthplaces. One of them was Walenstadt, from whence came my great-great-great-grandmother Ursula Marie Hugg, who emigrated from there to the United States.
Before I go into the family history, let me describe for you the beauty of the area.
The town sits on the northeastern edge of beautiful Lake Walensee, (pronounced vah-len-see) surrounded by amazing mountains (Churfirsten on the north and Murtschenstock on the south). The population of Walenstadt is about 5,500 and consists of a few hotels and small businesses and homes. Summer cottages dot the shores of the lakefront with forests and farms encircling the lake.
We drove down from the city of St. Gallen (stay tuned for a blog on that city), and we parked at a little beachfront park, where kids were playing on the sand and families were picnicking on a sunny, 60-degree day.
The beauty practically took my breath away: the deep blue water, the snow-capped mountains high above everywhere you looked, the trees blossoming with green leaves.
We arrived in late morning and walked around the lake side, took photos, and then sat down for lunch in the covered patio area of the Hotel Seehof. I couldn’t resist ordering the Wiener Schnitzel (a traditional dish of breaded veal) with potatoes, carrots and green beans. So delicious. I ordered it with a Coca Cola, because that’s what I’d been seeing everyone in Switzerland drinking. The Coke comes in glass bottles there! Loved it.
Gary ordered the Club Sandwich. It was huge, with layers of pineapple, chicken and thick bacon. He declared it the best Club Sandwich he’d ever had.
The view of the lake and the mountains from our table was picture perfect. Gary told our waitress, a middle-aged woman who spoke decent English, that my family came from Walenstadt. (By the way, German is the spoken language in this part of Switzerland.)
Our waitress then brought over another waitress who spoke better English and wore a beaming smile. I showed her a paper I’d brought that had some of my family tree on it, and she told me there are families named Hugg (pronounced Hoog) and Schlegel in the area. I suspect those are common last names in Switzerland, as is Sutter.
Here’s the family history:
Usula Marie Hugg was born in Walenstadt on June 20, 1830 to Josef Hugg and Maria Anna Schlegel.
Ursula married her husband, Charles Frederick Sophus Enger, in St. Louis, Mo., on Oct. 3, 1850. He was 30 (having been born in Schleswig-Holstein, Prussia in 1820). She was 20. From there, they settled in Burlington, Iowa, my hometown. How they met, why they lived in Burlington, I don’t know and may never know.
Regardless, Ursula and Charles had eight children: Lena, Sophia, Charles, Joseph, John, Mary Ann (Anna), George and Albert.
Sophia married a man named Adrian Schlachter and they had a daughter named Anna. Anna married my great-grandfather, Joseph Robert Sutter, and that’s how the two families became aligned. Anna and Joseph’s children were Clarence Joseph, Ray (my grandfather), Gertrude and Ursula.
Charles Enger (the father) died in 1906 and his wife, Ursula Hugg Enger, died in 1907.
Back to our day in Walenstadt: After our delicious lunch, we walked along the northern edge of the waterfront, watching the kids and adults enjoying their day at the lake. We looked at the signs about the area, written in German (I took photos in hopes of translating them later).
As we were driving away through the town, we passed a beautiful old stone Swiss Reformed Church, and I had Gary stop the car so I could take pictures.
It was a memorable day, and I tried to just soak it all in. As we drove away on our way to Bern, I thought about about how my great-great-grandmother left this beautiful area either as a child or a young woman, and probably never returned. Did she miss those mountains and that clear blue water and think about them? Undoubtedly!