Friday, July 26, 2013

Pioneer Ancestors - Neeser

Jacob Neeser is my mother-in-law's great-great grandfather, and he crossed the plains as part of the William H. Dame Company of 1862. However, my mother-in-law was not born into the church; she found it and was baptized as a teenager.  Imagine her surprise when she started doing her genealogy and discovered that she really did have pioneer ancestors! Jacob's wife, Regula Laubi Neeser, was also in the Dame Company, yet she didn't complete the trip, dying the summer of 1862 near Winter Quarters, Nebraska.

The company started west in mid-August and arrived in Salt Lake at the end of October. Here's the recollection of one of the teenagers in that company:

Our company consisted of sixty teams and wagons. We were among the six outfits independently owned and we traveled together. We were the last company to go west. At first all went well, then the roads became dusty with eight to ten inches of dust in some places. Progress became slow, feed scarce and the cattle began to lose flesh. Some of the people became sick and had to remain in their wagons. A wagon following our wagon was driven by and Englishman and his wife. She fell asleep and fell under the wheels of the heavy wagon killing her instantly. They stopped and buried her and then went on.

On the 7th of September, Sister [Anna Willemann] Wintch [Wintsch] died. A few days later a child of Michlaus [Niklaus] Jakobs died, and a son of Jacob Neaser, and October 1st, a man from England passed away.


While passing through a grove of cottonwood trees along the Platte River, Ferdie [Ferdinand Johannes Zollinger] and his chum, Henry Mathes, noticed something tied in a buffalo robe hanging in a tree. Out of curiosity, Ferdie climbed up to investigate. To his astonishment he found a dead Indian. The stench made him sick.

Following the incident of the dead Indian, my brother Ferdie joined the rest of the family my mother, my two sisters and his wife, Louisa [Meyer Zollinger], with what was then called the Mountain Fever. He never walked another step until we arrived in the Salt Lake Valley. My father, sixty three, drove the two cows and gathered wood for the fires each morning and evening as he walked along, so you may guess that most of the work was left to me. I hired a German woman to cook for us and care for the sick. I got a youngster about my age, 17, to help me with the oxen each morning and evening. Each evening a circle was made with the wagons, the oxen unyoked and kept confined to the inside perimeter, giving better protection against the Indians. I had to put up the tent, set up the stove and make the fire in addition to milking the cows and go after the water which was usually some distance away. With the assistance of a neighbor, the sick had to be carried back into the wagon and so it was day after day.

Approaching the mountain terrain and on to the south pass, having an elevation of 7550 feet, we moved through snow and experienced very cold temperatures. Many froze their feet. One man, upon reaching the Salt Lake Valley, had to have his toes amputated and on the 5th of October a man named [Jakob] Looser [Losser] died. A day or so later, the Bachofen baby died at birth.

Our travels took us across the Sweet[water] River several times. We had to carry some of the people across this river on our backs.. There was five inches of snow on the ground so you might guess the water was very cold. When we reached the Green River the snow was gone. We came down Echo Canyon and camped a number of miles south of what is now Coalville, on October 27th. I forgot to unyoke one pair of oxen and the next morning they were gone. Someone had stolen them, but we managed to keep going and on the 30th of October we arrived at the mouth of Emigration Canyon. Many people came to see if any of their relations were in our company. One man came all the way from St. George, Utah.

On the 31st, we drove into the city and we camped in Emigration Square. The cattle were turned out to graze in the church pasture but being so late in the year the feed was about gone. Thirty five people had lost their lives in our company.

by Jacob Zollinger

So, the big question in our family is, "Why didn't Jacob's daughter Rachel (my mother-in-law's great-grandmother) go west?"  Was she even a member of the church when she immigrated to the United States? Does she realize the effort it took for her descendants to find the church again? I don't know if we'll ever know the answers, but it sure will be interesting trying to find them.

For example, in trying to find information, I discovered that in 1862, Jacob Neeser and his wife Regula traveled on the ship Windemere from Le Havre, France to New York City with six of their children: Emilie, Sigmund, Esther, Johannes (or John), Hardmann and Jacob. Their son Arnold sailed in 1860 on the William Tapscott.

I found a little blurb about her older sister Amelia:

Grandfather John Enz was called with several others to go back to Omaha, Nebraska, to bring Saints to the west.  It was on this trip that he met a girl by the name of Amollie Nazer (Amalie Anatzer), whom he married in the Endowment House at Salt Lake City.  They settled in Santa Clara.  One child, a girl, was born to them, but they weren’t to stay long.  They both died leaving him alone. [source]

So, apparently, Amelia traveled with her father west, but she didn't live very long once she arrived in Utah. (I also couldn't find either her name or this John Enz when searching the Pioneer Overland Travel website, which is a bit confusing.  However, our family records do state that Amelia Neeser married a John Enz, settled in Santa Clara, and died in 1863, so I'm going on the assumption that our John Enz and the John Enz mentioned in the Santa Clara Historical Society report are the same.)

Jacob Neeser married again a few years after arriving in Utah, to Elisabetha Zollinger, whose family also traveled with them on the ship Windemere and in the Dame pioneer company.  Her younger brother (Jacob Zollinger, the teenager in the first account) wrote quite a detailed life story, and I found someone who posted it on her blog.  I'll add one story below, but you can find the whole thing here.  It's pretty amazing, and really helps you get a feel for our ancestors' daily life.


One of the things I liked to do was to go swimming on Sundays with my chums.  [This was before they were baptized!]  On one particular Sunday, as soon as the preacher said amen, out the door we went to the river nearby to swim. This was of course against the wishes of my mother. She was always quite strict with me and had told me to stay home that Sunday. When we boys were prepar­ing to leave the swimming hole a group of younger boys came to swim. One of these boys, a cousin of mine then eleven years old, also had the name of Jacob Zollinger. He got too far down in a whirlpool and was drowned. When the news of his death reached the near­by town of Dietikon by the river, my parents who happened to be there on business, think­ing it was I, became very much alarmed. As you may guess they thought it was I who was drowned. However, they were very much re-leaved upon returning home to find me safe and sound. 

This is fascinating stuff, yet I should probably wrap up this post.  I don't know that I'm any closer to answering the question of why Elizabeth didn't make it to Utah, but I've found a lot of clues that are worth investigating further.  Stay tuned!

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