HANS ULRICH BRYNER SR. by Lura Redd, great granddaughter
(As his son was also named Hans Ulrich, I will refer to the father as Hans Ulrich,
and the son as Ulrich.)
Hans Ulrich Bryner Sr;, my great grandfather was born 30 March 1806 at Bassersdorf,
He was the son of Hans Jakob Bryner and Margaretha Homberger.
His wife, Verena Wintsch, was born 8 February 1804 at Volketschweil, Zurich,
Switzerland. She was the daughter of Martin Wintsch and Regula Saurenmann.
They were married in Zurich and had a family of seven children.
- Hans Casper Bryner was born 13 May 1826 at Wiedikon, Zurich, and the little fellow died the day he was born.
- Hans Ulrich Bryner was born 26 April 1827, the same year that Joseph Smith received the gold plates from the Angel Moroni. He married Anna Maria Dorothea Mathys and Margaretha Kuhn. He died 9 Feb. 1905 in St. George, Utah. He was my grandfather.
- Hans Heinrich Bryner, born 13 October 1828 at Illnau, Zurich, Switzerland.
- Anna Barbara Bryner born 7 October 1830 at Illnau, Zurich, Switzerland. She married John Mathis. She died 1 August 1920.
- Verena Bryner born 18 April 1832 at Illnau, Zurich, Switzerland. She married John Conrad Naegli.
- Casper Bryner born 14 August 1834. He married Magdalena Gubler and Sussana Staheli. He died 10 April 1914 in St. George, Utah.
- Gottfried Byner born 7 August 1839 and died 10 April 1842.
Hans Ulrich Bryner Sr. became a citizen of Wiedikon on 5 July 1846. He and Verena Wintsch were both orphans and very poor when they were married.
In reading over their accomplishments in life, I think we can say that, with Nephi of old, “We were born of goodly parents.” Their home was a home of industry, of obedience to parents, of prayer and good living.
Hans Ulrich Bryner Sr. was a shoemaker by trade, and did well at it. His son Ulrich says that he acted as delivery boy for his father; he carried the shoes here and there. His father was strict with him. He timed Ulrich’s errands by his watch and if he didn’t come home promptly, he got a scolding.
In 1837, when the son Ulrich was ten years old, he bought a farm. In twelve years of industry and thrift they had saved enough to buy a farm. They called it a large farm then, but years later in America, they found that from western standards, it wasn’t so large. Now though, there was work for all the family. There was no mechancal machinery then. It all had to be done the hard way. The three boys were taught to prune, plow and mow; the two girls were taught to plant and hoe. They raised cabbage and kohlrabi, and such vegetables, which they chopped for food for their cattle as well as for themselves. The cattle were kept in a barn added on to the back of their house. Between the house and the barn was a room for the storage of hay and vegetables. They also grew all sorts of other vegetables for food for the family. The house had very thick walls. There were two window panes, one was flush with the outside of the wall, and the other with the inside of it. So there was a space between the panes where they could grow small plants, such as pansies and violets, even in the winter.
The training they got there came in handy over in America and the son, Ulrich, who became blind while in his twenties, was still a wonderful pruner. Even though they worked hard on the farm, they didn’t rest in the evenings. Hans Ulrich did shoemaking in the evenings and his wife and daughters did knitting, spinning and weaving, while Ulrich read to them from the Bible. They were faithful, prayerful Lutherans and Hans Ulrich taught and expected his family to live the gospel as well as they were taught.
Yes, his children went to school. They attended from the age of six until 12, and they did well in school. The father and mother must have had about the same schooling. They were a linguistic people and could speak many languages. Grandfather, young Ulrich, could speak five or six. The country was small and had three national languages, German, French and Italian, and others as very close neighbors. One of the languages Ulrich spoke was Russian. When he came to Utah, he readily learned to speak English well, though he never could read or study it by himself.
It is generally conceded that Ulrich was largely the means of bringing the family into the church. They were staunch Lutherans, and would not be easily swayed or turned away from their own religion.
In January 1843 Ulrich took very sick. He was now nearly 16 and his pal, an old schoolmate, was sick at the same time and died. This worried Ulrich as he was afraid he would die too. In this state of unrest he saw a vision. A man came and led him in darkness half way around the world. then, when they reached the other side of the world a bright light descended from heaven and he saw the city of Zion shining bright. Through a high wall there were three gates through which the righteous might enter. Ulrich wanted to enter too, but was told that his time wasn’t yet, but if he were faithful he could enter sometime. Then Ulrich saw the man that was leading him. He had a gray beard and peculiar eyes. This vision impressed Ulrich so much that he talked about it a lot to his family. Who could blame them if at first they thought it was his worried and weakened condition that had given him hallucinations? They were a close-knit honest family and Ulrich was an honest boy. His parents came to believe him just as the parents of Joseph Smith believed their son. It would have been tragic in either case if his parents had said, “That’s all a made-up story and we don’t believe. it.”
This vision was in his mind day and night; it kept repeating itself. He didn’t know the meaning of it for 10 years. During that time the family was busy on the farm and doing all kinds of jobs on the side, and were very thrifty. Because of this industry and thrift they were able to come to America when the time came.
In the winter of 1853, Ulrich was struck in his eyes, which blinded him. This was a catastrophe to the whole family, as they believed that they would have to care for him the rest of his life. After four sorrowful, painful months, Ulrich had another vision. He found himself in a great dark room and there were three fires of different sizes. The same man he had seen before came in. He had an open book in his hand. He crossed out Ulrich’s sins and they fell to the floor. He esas that he’d have to go through themiddle fire. He said he could do that, too The walls cracked open and the road to Zion was shown to him He, his wife and child, would cross the sea and go to America. A neighbor woman said they’d go to America to hunt a physician, but that didn’t satisfy young Ulrich. Hs father said he was willing to go if he knew what for.
A year latet they heard of two Mormon missionaries from America who were in Bern. Hans Ulrich with five others of the family. went to hear them. Great grandmother, Barbara Mathys, was with them. She saw the elders One of them had peculiar eyes so Barbara Mathys went up close to him and observed. One had very crossed eyes and wore heavy, think lenses, They had described him in detail to young Ulrich on their return home, and decided it was the same man he had seen in his visions.
About 9 o’clock or later, one night, a knock came at the door of Hans Ulrich’s home, and Ulrich’s wife, Anna Maria, answered the knock. She came back and said it was those Mormon Elders and she wasn’t sure she should let them in that late at night. Ulrich said, “Yes, take them up to my old room on the top floor.” So that room became the headquarters for the Elders in that area, the first headquarters of Mormon missionaries in Switzerland. These elders taught them the gospel. They had been readers of the Bible all their lives; they knew its teachings and they found that this new restored gospel was the same as the one Jesus taught. Then twelve of the Bryners and Mathys’s were baptized.
Neighbors resented the elders being there, and threw rocks and broke the outside window pane of the room where the Elders stayed. But they received the spirit of gathering. Hans Ulrich called his family together and they made plans. Barbara, the oldest daughter, and Casper , the only sighted son, were to go to America first and pioneer the way, then report back to the family. Then Ulrich, his wife and little daughter were to leave for America the next year. And lastly, the father Hans Ulrich, and mother, Verena, the younger daughter Verena and baby grandson were to come the following year.
So Barbara and Casper came to America. They came to Utah in Richard Ballantine’s company and were the first Swiss Latter-day Saints to come to Zion. They travelled through Winterthur, Fraunfied and Romenshorn. They they sailed over Lake Florence to Fredrichshaven, Germany. On to Maimheim on the Rhine River and down the Rhine river to Rotterdam, Holland. From there they sailed to Hull, England and went by rail to Liverpool. They sailed from Liverpool to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. By rail again to St. Louis, Missouri and then began their long walk across the great plains to Utah.
Ulrich, Anna Maria and little daughter Maria came in 1856, and were in a company that caught up with the ill-fated Martin-Willie handcart company. They all got caught in the snows and had a terrible time reaching Utah.
Presumably the others followed the same route. Hans Ulrich and Verena Wintsch, came in 1857. They, like most of the other pioneers came by ox team, and like most of the other pioneers had never driven an ox team before. It took money. Hans Ulrich had sold out his interest in the shoemaking business where his sons had worked; he sold his home, farm and his pure-bred cattle, and in fact, everything that he owned. They were allowed only seventeen pounds of baggage on the boat, so every available thing was sold. He converted it into gold because that was good exchange anywhere. He carried it in a well-made leather bag suspended over his shoulder and under his arm. Hans Ulrich opened his purse and bought his team and wagon. Around him were many poor saints who had neither wagon nor gold, so he opened his heart and bought wagons and teams for many who agreed to return the equivalent when they could procure it in Zion. It was a long, hard journey at best because he and his wife weren’t young.
We know few of the events of that journey, except those common to all. They were up in the early morning to have breakfast, feed and yoke the cattle, walk all day in the sun, rain, snow or wind. Sometimes all these and more came in one day. And they made camp at night wherever night overtook them. This they did day after day, week after week, month after months all the long way and they were happy if that were all.
Worse things could, and did happen. One day a dog frightened a team which ran away, and then they had a regular stampede. Ulrich’s team ran away with his wife, Verena, and little grandson, Henry, in the wagon. In trying to catch and stop them he was badly hurt and picked up for dead. The team was finally stopped, and with the help of others, he was revived, but his arm was broken and his back was badly hurt. The arm healed, but his back was never right again. But he drove the rest of the way with a broken arm, so it was with a great deal of difficulty that he now drove his team. Neither he nor his wife had ever driven oxen before, and it took the efforts of both of them to manage the oxen.
They went first to Lehi, Utah, where Casper had taken up land. Barbara who had married John Mathys also lived there with their little son, as were Ulrich and his family, and their daughter Verena. They recounted all the things that befell them on the way. Hans Ulrich was more blessed than many other fathers who came to Zion. Every one of his family who had set out from the old home, arrived in Utah.
By May 1860, they were living near Ogden, but the next year, Pres. Brigham young called them to go to Dixie and settle. Pres. Young was expanding, and making settlements throughout the intermountain country. They were sent to settle and build the city of St. George, for a Temple was to be built there. They travelled through rocks and sand, and storms to get there. It would almost seem as bad as the trip across the plains. After roads were made, it would take three weeks by ox team to make this trip. It must have been much longer for them, for there were no roads.
There was no shelter for them in Dixie, either. no house. They lived in tents and the red sand could blow in and get into their food and their beds. No stores of any kind. No money to pay a bill. They were on their own now. But their years of industry and thrift in far-off Switzerland stood them in good stead now.
Hans Ulrich made a spinning wheel. They raised cotton which they gathered, carded and spun. They gathered roots and dyed it. They spun the warp and the woof. They wove cloth for their clothing, they cut it out and tailored that clothing. But their work together was short-lived. Hans Ulrich fell from a load of hay and struck his already weak and sore back on a ledge. In a day or two, his life here on earth was over. He died 1st March 1862. He was the first person buried in St. George, Utah. His body has been moved and now has found rest. His wife, Verena Wintsch Bryner, lived thirty-four lonely years more, and worked hard. She died 20th August 1896 and was the 1000th person buried in St. George.
Hans Ulrich Bryner Sr., we this day lift up our voices in thanksgiving and praise to our Father in Heaven for having the privilege of living in this age in the land of your adoption, and of being descendants of one of God’s most noble sons. A son who literally gave his all for the Gospel and all it stands for, that we, your children, may share in the good things of the earth.