The Peoples of Utah, The Continental Inheritance

The Peoples of Utah, ed. by Helen Z. Papanikolas, © 1976
“The Continental Inheritance,” pp. 221–50
by Davis Bitton and Gordon Irving

[We are] all the descendants of immigrants. That is, in fact, the quality and the experience all of us have in common; the differences are of degree only in that for some of us the experience is immediate and personal, for others inherited, and for still others vicarious. Immigration is then the oldest theme in our history and the most nearly universal.
…Henry Steele Commager

Adding to the variety of Utah’s population were immigrants from western Europe. Those to be dealt with in the present chapter are the western Europeans exclusive of the British Isles, Scandinavia, and Italy, each of which receives separate treatment, and of Spain, whose immigrants to Utah are few and mainly limited to Basques. In other words, these are the German, French, Belgian, Swiss, and Dutch immigrants in Utah.

Adding to the variety of Utah’s population were immigrants from western Europe. Those to be dealt with in the present chapter are the western Europeans exclusive of the British Isles, Scandinavia, and Italy, each of which receives separate treatment, and of Spain, whose immigrants to Utah are few and mainly limited to Basques. In other words, these are the German, French, Belgian, Swiss, and Dutch immigrants in Utah.

To lump these nationalities together is to do something that would annoy most of them, convinced as they are of the importance of their own national backgrounds. But they did have some things in common. They were not Scandinavian, which in practical terms meant that they did not belong to the single largest non-English immigrant group. They were not from the British Isles, which meant that they had to wrestle with a new language; for the first generation this meant a difficult obstacle to amalgamation, as they usually spoke English with some kind of accent. Finally, the religious background of these Europeans (prior to the conversion of many of them to Mormonism) was mainly Protestant, with the handful of Utahns from France an apparent exception.

Compared with the population of Utah as a whole, the immigrants from western Europe were few. From the beginning the majority of Utahns were American-born, and most immigrants came from the British Isles, Canada, and Scandinavia. Yet the western Europeans had their importance. And they made significant contributions to the richness of Utah’s cultural heritage.

It will be helpful first to gain an idea of how many people we are talking about, where they came from, where they settled, and how these patterns varied from generation to generation. Considering that so high a percentage of those who did come from the Continent came as converts to the LDS church, nineteenth-century patterns of immigration are explained in large part by emphases in Mormon missionary work. Prior to 1890 most LDS missionaries laboring in Europe were sent to the British Isles or Scandinavia. From 1860, when records began to be kept, until 1889, 160 missionaries were sent from Salt Lake City to German-speaking countries, with only 24 going to the Netherlands and apparently none being assigned to French-speaking areas.1 As a result, although there were some conversions and subsequent migrations to Utah, the lack of a concentrated effort to make proselytes on the Continent meant that such people were few in number. The most successful early missionary effort took place in Switzerland, with 1,040 Swiss-born Utahns appearing in the 1880 Census, compared with 885 from the German Empire and a handful of settlers born in the other countries being considered in this chapter.2

After 1890 the numbers grew in all LDS missions, with a much greater emphasis being given to proselyting on the Continent. For example, between 1890 and 1909 there were 980 missionaries called to German-speaking lands and 282 called to the Netherlands, a tremendous increase over earlier years. Growth in the missionary force, coupled with socio-economic factors, brought a considerable increase in LDS immigration from these areas, some seventy-five hundred Utah residents born in German-speaking countries being listed in the 1910 Census, with nearly fourteen hundred born in the Netherlands.

Although difficult to put in quantitative terms, it would appear that non-Mormon immigration to Utah from continental Europe began in the late 1860s with the coming of the railroad and greater activity in mining ventures in the territory. For example, many of the foreign-born listed in the biographical volumes of Utah Since Statehood came seeking mineral wealth. Many others came with the idea of going into business, seeing Utah as a likely place to pursue the trades they had learned in Europe.3 In general the non-Mormon Europeans differed from their Mormon brethren in that they did not come to America with the idea of settling in Utah. Many came west only after living for years in other parts of the country, attracted by opportunities in Utah as the region became increasingly integrated into the national economy.

As the western Europeans came to Utah they initially spread out through most of the inhabited portions of the territory. The nineteenth-century Mormon immigrants were either used to agricultural work in their homelands or felt the need to pursue agricultural careers in the new land. However, there was a tendency for European immigrants to cluster in certain areas. The German-born in particular tended to settle near the major centers of population in the territory, although less typically there were sizeable concentrations of Germans in Box Elder County in the 1870s and in Juab County in the 1880s and 1890s.4 Many of the Swiss-born settled in or near the larger towns, particularly in Salt Lake and Cache counties. Providence, in the latter county, was long known as a Swiss settlement. Still, there were also Swiss colonies in less densely populated areas, such as the one at Santa Clara in southern Utah and the colony at Midway in Wasatch County, during much of the nineteenth century.

After the turn of the century European patterns of immigration to Utah changed considerably. The efforts of the Mormon church to de-emphasize the doctrine of gathering and encourage foreign members to stay in their homelands slowed immigration in many cases. For instance, although there was some Swiss immigration following 1910, the Swiss-born population of the state has declined in every census year since that time, only 566 being listed in 1970. However, in other countries unsettled political and economic conditions outweighed the ecclesiastical urgings to stay at home. German immigrants, probably encouraged by the problems connected with World War I and the economic chaos of the Weimar Republic years, came to Utah in fairly large numbers. A fairly typical response to a questionnaire sent to German-born Utahns illustrates this point:

Question:Why did you want to leave Germany?
Answer:To better my life.
Question:Why did you choose Utah?
Answer:I am an LDS member.5

Mormon missionaries in Germany, nearly eleven hundred of them during the 1920s, found many people responsive to their message and attracted to Zion in the New World, until the depression of the thirties tarnished the vision of Utah as land of opportunity. Dutch immigration followed much the same pattern, the Dutch-born population of Utah peaking in 1930, as was also the case with the German-born.

Economic disorder following World War II occasioned another influx of German and Dutch immigrants to Utah, although government restrictions on immigration were much tighter than they had been in the 1920s. Waiting periods, the finding of sponsors, and other such problems delayed the peak in postwar immigration from the Continent until the early 1950s. Although available immigration statistics are very incomplete, the censuses indicate that the Germanborn and Dutch-born populations of Utah increased 2,251 and 1,569, respectively, between 1950 and 1960, which represents a considerable postwar immigration, especially considering that such figures represent not total immigration, but rather net variations, including as they do both the effect of deaths and out-migration. Great increases, relatively speaking, can also be noted in the French-and Belgian-born populations of Utah following World War II, although these groups were not nearly so significant numerically as the Germans and Dutch. With the economic reconstruction of Europe and the easing of cold war tensions, immigration from western Europe dropped off considerably after the I 950s, the number of Utah residents born in the countries under consideration declining nearly 25 percent from 1960 to 1970, indicating that death and out-migration are now far more significant demographic features than is immigration. The establishment of the LDS church in Europe on a much more solid foundation since the end of World War II has also played some role in encouraging potential immigrants to stay at home.

German-born Richard K.A. Kletting, shown with his family, was the architect of many notable Utah buildings including the Saltair pavilion and the Utah State Capitol

Although the number of foreign-born in Utah is on the decline, western Europe now provides a greater share of Utah’s foreign-born population than in the past. Representing only about 3 percent of the foreign-born population of the territory in the 1850s and 1860s, new patterns of immigration in the twentieth century saw the proportion climb to some 15 percent between 1900 and 1920, reaching a peak of 35 percent of the total foreign-born group in 1960.

Twentieth-century immigrants have been largely drawn from urban areas of Europe, or at least they have been more inclined to settle in what can be called urban areas in Utah. Of course, opportunities for employment in agriculture have declined in Utah since the turn of the century, the general Utah population itself becoming increasingly more urban. However, the European-born in Utah are much more likely than is the general population to live and work in urban areas. The Dutch in particular have usually settled in or near large population centers. In the period since 1900 over 90 percent of the Dutch-born have lived in Salt Lake, Weber, Utah, and Cache counties. Initially favoring Weber County, and particularly Ogden, the Dutch-born since the twenties have tended to settle in Salt Lake County, where two-thirds of them lived in 1950.

The Germans have long tended to settle in the four counties mentioned above, especially Salt Lake County, where 76 percent of the German-born lived in 1950. Initially spread more widely through the state than the Germans, the Swiss-born, too, have since 1900 become more highly concentrated in what may be considered as urban counties. Although a large number still lived in Cache County in 1950, more than half lived in Salt Lake County. In the case of the Swiss, as with the Germans, when old settlers in less densely populated areas died off, they were not replaced, new immigrants preferring to settle in the cities and large towns of Utah. In many cases the new arrivals were city-bred and sought employment only available in large population centers.

The French-born population, although small, presents a contrast to the Germanic groups. The French have been no more likely than the average Utahn to live in the counties referred to here as urban. To some extent this is because up to 1950 nearly a quarter of the French immigrants lived in Carbon County, where many of them were involved in the sheep industry or in mining activities in that area.

So immigration to Utah from western Europe tended to increase in the late nineteenth century, as the foreign missionary effort of the LDS church increased and as business opportunities in Utah became more attractive. Unsettled conditions following two world wars also encouraged large-scale immigration to Utah, with periods of peace and prosperity deterring European migration. Although the foreign-born population of Utah has declined sharply both absolutely and relative to the general population, western Europe has come to represent an increasing share of Utah’s foreign-born population. Finally, the settlement of European immigrants has increasingly tended to be in what can be termed urban areas, particularly in Salt Lake County.


The difficulty of adjustment to a new environment is one of the constants of the immigrant experience. Along with excitement and challenge, to move from a homeland to an alien shore presented practical problems of finding work, making a home, earning enough to sustain life, and making new friends. The putting down of new roots can never have been easy, even under the best circumstances. For the Europeans coming to Utah, whether in the nineteenth or twentieth century, there were undeniable problems.

First and foremost was the necessity of finding work. Agriculture was the backbone of Utah’s economy, and it was natural for the immigrants to do farm work for others or, as quickly as possible, to stake out farm claims for themselves. In the twentieth century, especially after World War I, fanning was a shrinking opportunity in Utah, and it was more natural for the newcomers to stay in the towns. For those who had a saleable skill as artisans or craftsmen, the transition was often fairly smooth, but for others coming to the new land meant not an improvement in financial status but a downgrading. When asked if they found work commensurate with their skill and education upon first arriving in Utah, about half of those contacted in 1974 answered in the negative–not that they experienced out-and-out discrimination, although such may have been the case at times. Often the difficulty of satisfying the technical requirements of professional certification (doctors with degrees from European medical schools faced exclusion at first) or of union membership (nativist proclivities of unions have been notorious) reduced employment opportunities.

There was also the matter of language. Those who spoke English with great difficulty, or not at all, simply could not move smoothly into many kinds of jobs. It is not surprising, perhaps, that a fairly large number of men and women immigrating from the Continent found work as servants or hired hands or custodians. The following statement from presidents of the German-speaking LDS missions in 1958 was intended to discourage immigration, but the disappointments and difficulties of employment it describes were often real enough:

A man in Germany who held a responsible position became a janitor in America because he did not master the language sufficiently to hold down a more important job. The head of a large firm in Europe had to accept simple bookkeeping work. Here [in Europe] he was in charge of fifty to sixty people, but there fin Utah] he is on the lowest rung of the ladder and he has to live under conditions which seriously curtail his activity.

A highly qualified beautician achieved very little in America because the styles were completely different from those in Europe. She finally had to accept household work which she very much disliked. A construction foreman who supervised large projects here had to carry bricks in America because the construction methods were strange to him. A successful teacher from here had to accept work as a waitress. We could multiply these examples?6

Behind every individual’s search for a job and the frequent disappointment and the eventual accepting of a menial task that would enable him to stay alive is a story of human pathos. But there are encouraging stories of resourcefulness and success as well. Money was saved even from the meager income of day laborers and household help, and relatives were sent for. Some upgrading in employment took place eventually, especially for those still young and energetic at the time of their arrival. And the next generation, the children of the immigrant parents, sought to prove themselves with a vengeance. Of course, all of this is not different from the general pattern of immigrant adjustment in the New World.

In addition to the all-important influence of language limitations on ability to get jobs, there was the subtle but pervasive sense of inadequacy it symbolized, the frustration of poor and slow communication and the inexcusable, if human, tendency of some established citizens to ridicule and look down upon these “funnyspeaking foreigners.” Henri Edouard Desaules, from Switzerland, was a skilled carpenter and made furniture at Kingston, Utah, in the 1880s. Although he read widely, his command of English was inadequate. The poor man was often lonely and on July 4, 1884, could not bring himself to join the rest of the community in celebration. “I staid home by my own lone[l]y cussed self,” he wrote. “Well, allright, this is my cursed fate. I must grin and bear it.”7 Desaules was not alone in being the butt of ridicule, especially from children. Who has not heard the immigrant speaking in meetings to the accompaniment of snickers from unruly boys? Of such experiences were compounded the pain and suffering, psychological as much as economic, of adjustment to the Utah scene.

Beyond these problems experienced by many of the first-generation immigrants from the Continent, the German-speaking people had an additional difficulty at the time of World War I. Even before the entrance of the United States into the war, the tendency of most Americans and most Utahns was to sympathize with the Allies, reflecting the strong Anglo-Saxon strain of the American population and perhaps the economic self-interest of the country. Even though few of the immigrants from Germany still retained any feeling of political allegiance to that country, a few defended the behavior of their fellow countrymen or at least tried to point out that the responsibility for the conflict should be shared by more than one country. Some Germans, in Utah as elsewhere in the United States, experienced ridicule and discrimination, and their loyalty to their new country was impugned. After the entrance of the United States into the war in 1917, feelings became even more intense. The Deseret News of March 30, 1917, deplored the “rumor about suspicion of loyalty of German-Americans.” In a public meeting American citizens of German and Austrian birth or extraction reaffirmed their loyalty to America, one of their speakers denouncing charges “that the German-Americans are unpatriotic.” Obviously such statements were reacting to something–to widespread fear and suspicion of the Germans in Utah and elsewhere. In 1918, due to “a growing sentiment against gatherings of German people,” meetings of German Mormons in Logan and elsewhere were discontinued. That same year all teaching of the German language was brought to an abrupt end in both church and state schools.8 Simply bearing a German name, speaking with a German accent, or learning the language was sufficient to label one as disloyal.

With the rise of Hitler in the 1930s a similar situation began to develop. The problem of loyalty to the German government was, of course, acute among Latter-day Saints in Germany, but it was not totally absent among those who had immigrated to Utah. Some expressions of sympathy and support for the new National Socialist regime were voiced by Utah Germans, as by other Germans and Bundists in the United States. One of the authors remembers hearing a speaker in church in the late 1930s, an American whose wife was German, staunchly defend the German dictator. In 1937 J. M. Sjodahl, a Utahn from Sweden who had been involved in the publication of several foreign-language newspapers, wrote an editorial entitled “Some Things in Their Favor,” referring to the Germans.9 As might have been expected, the reaction to these scattered signs of pro-Nazism was ridicule and discrimination from the larger community. With the outbreak of hostilities in 1939 and with the entrance of the United States into the war at the end of 1941, anything German was suspicious. German Mormons, who had held regular meetings in the Assembly Hall in Salt Lake City, ceased their gathering, obviously hoping to maintain a low profile. Like the Japanese-Americans, the German-Americans were overwhelmingly loyal to their new country during the war, but both groups suffered humiliation and mistreatment due to official fears and widespread public prejudice. For the German-speaking immigrants in Utah both wars brought brief periods of discomfort.

For the few French (and the French-speaking Belgians and Swiss), another subtle form of discrimination raised its ugly head. Reflecting general American attitudes, Utah newspapers as early as 1909 were describing the degeneracy and decadence of the French, an impression reinforced by the one-sided experiences of American troops during the two wars. In a religious context, some French Mormons have noticed that for many years almost all sons of General Authorities went on British Missions, and more than one Mormon leader was heard to say that there was no “blood of Israel” in France, which in Mormon terms was condemnation indeed.10 Since World War II these old prejudices have been almost entirely overcome both by the experience of the Mormon missionaries in France and by the highly respectable record achieved by French-speaking immigrants.


To help them face up to these problems–the sense of displacement and malaise, the feeling of being outsiders, the ridicule and prejudice, the employment handicaps–continental Europeans in Utah very early developed agencies of their own to provide mutual support and encouragement. On a simple level this was the natural pulling together of family and friends who spoke the same language. Newly arrived immigrants would be taken into the homes of fellow countrymen until they could get their feet on the ground. The tendency for members of a given national group to gather in neighborhoods of a town or into certain areas of the state–the Swiss in Midway or Santa Clara, for example–is mostly explained by this natural tendency to self-help and mutual encouragement, although during the nineteenth century, the LDS church seems to have encouraged such gathering to some extent.

Going beyond such simple manifestations of group activity, in the case of some nationalities, meetings were held, officers elected, and organizations formed. Although there were Europeans in Utah almost from the beginning, at first only the Swiss were present in sufficient number to organize. Their own communities and wards provided most of their needs. Then by the last decade of the century, the Germans of Salt Lake City were holding meetings. In the early l870s the Germans organized a choir, which was still in existence fifty years later under the sponsorship of the Ensign Stake. After World War lithe Dutch had their Dutch Club AVIO [Alle Vermark Is Ous], a chapter of an international organization. And the Swiss had their choir, which functioned much as a club and brought together Swiss Utahns. The French and French-speaking Swiss and Belgians were fewer. “The French are not very good at emigrating. Usually they stay where they are,” said Flore G. Chappuis. But even without an official organization (except for language clubs at the universities), they have enjoyed some of the same mutual reinforcement of the larger groups. As Mrs. Chappuis has remarked, “All of us who have been here for years, when somebody comes, we help them.”11

Going beyond organizations set up merely for fraternal purposes, German immigrants in Salt Lake City during the depression expanded the Chemnitzer Vereinigung, basically a social group, into the German-American Federal Credit Union. Finding it difficult to obtain loans from banks, the German-born, by joining together, were able to finance not only the immigration of the friends and relatives of the organization’s members but also to provide loans for other ends, such as helping Germans go into business for themselves. Known since World War II as the Utah C. V. [Chemnitzer Vereinigung] Federal Credit Union, the group now has fifty-four hundred members, including those of German background as well as those who have married into German families.12

Besides clubs and organizations, newspapers also encouraged continuing national identification for these western Europeans. After two premature attempts to found German newspapers, Dr. Joseph Walter Dietrich founded the Salt Lake City Intelligenz-Blatt in 1890; lasting only six months, it “promoted things of the Germans, by the Germans, and for the Germans.” The successor newspaper Der Salt Lake City Beobachter followed the same general editorial policy of catering to the special interests and emotional attachments of the Germans in Utah. There was even a humorous columnist, “Hans Besenstiel,” who in the 1890s satirized various features of the surroundings. After 1905 Der Beobachter was published by the Beobachter Publishing Company and was subsidized by the Mormon church.13

For the Dutch in Utah there was a small periodical entitled De Huisvriend as early as 1905, published in Ogden by William DeBry, who preferred to be known as a Netherlander. Briefly in 1907 there was De Hollander published in Salt Lake City and edited by Frank I. Kooyman, a young bookkeeper. Seven years later, with some Mormon church support but largely dependent on subscriptions, DeBry began De Utah Nederlander. His editorials, according to William Mulder, were “clear, vigorous, intelligent, directed at assisting his people to find their way in the new environment without at the same time losing the refining influence of the homeland.”14 Kooyman helped with this paper, too, and published a series of humorous verses.

In 1914 these foreign-language papers were brought under the LDS church’s official direction. The need for them in Utah was diminishing–dependent as it was on the ebb and flow of immigration–and even their role overseas, where something like two hundred copies of each newspaper were sent for proselyting purposes in the late 1920s and early 1930s, was less important. Finally in 1935 the foreign papers were brought to an end “for lack of patronage.” Not only had their subscriptions declined, but also they had been standardized and brought under central editing and management. Mulder notes that their closing at least spared them “the dotage of further dependency and old age.” While they lasted, however, the newspapers were a response to the needs of mum-grants from western Europe, helping to smooth the transition from the Old World to the New World.

Much of the institutional involvement of European immigrants in Utah has been in the area of religion. Among the Latter-day Saints, religious meetings for those of European origin have been held for more than a century. For example, an Ogden record states

The first Dutch meeting was held in Ogden City in the house of Br. P. J. Lammers and R. van Dyke return[ed] missionaries from the Netherlands in the year 1870 which were held once a week. The average attendance was 10 persons, about all the Holland speaking people in the Weber stake or county of Weber. Those meetings were held of[f] and on for a number of jears [sic].15

Similarly, meetings were probably held for German-speaking immigrants in Salt Lake City and elsewhere in the early days.

Although such meetings were held, full-scale ecclesiastical organizations did not generally develop, due to the desire of LDS church leaders to see immigrant Mormons assimilated into existing English-language units; however, a German branch existed for several years in Logan. During the twentieth century the pattern until recently was to sponsor in Salt Lake City and Ogden German or Dutch “organizations.” These held weekly meetings–sometimes on a weeknight, sometimes on Sunday–in which hymns were sung, sometimes by choirs, prayers were offered, and sermons were delivered in the native languages of the congregations. But the Germans and the Dutch still had to attend English-speaking wards to receive the sacrament or to participate in the activities of church auxiliaries and priesthood quorums. The exception to this was that in some cases a foreign-language Sunday School might be organized for those elderly people for whom there existed no possibility of learning the English language.16

Although interrupted by the two world wars, some of the LDS foreign-language associations survived into the 1960s, although, in at least the case of the German organization, now meeting only once a month. In 1963 the German and Dutch LDS organizations in Salt Lake Valley were abolished in connection with the formation of foreign-language branches of the church, including the Netherlands Branch and the German Branch. These units were established to insure those having trouble mastering the English language a fuller religious participation, those who could assimilate still being encouraged to participate in the English-speaking wards within which they resided. These foreign-language branches proved popular, the German Branch increasing enough in membership within the first two years to become a ward. For the Germans the meetings attracted not only the elderly, but also the young, who had been encouraged to assimilate. This resulted in the rather anomalous situation in the 1970s that some of the children’s classes in the German ward had to be taught in English.17

On the whole, LDS European immigrants to Utah have entered into the group life of local English-speaking wards and stakes, serving as teachers and officers in the units within which they resided. Some have achieved prominence in church activity. At the leadership level Carl W. Buehner, a German immigrant, served for some years. as a counselor in the Presiding Bishopric. Frederick Tadje was president of the German-Austrian and Swiss-German Missions during the 1920s, and J. Peter Loscher was called to preside over the Austrian and North German Missions in the 1960s. German converts were also instrumental in extending LDS proselyting to South America. K. B. Reinhold Stoof, an officer in the Imperial Army converted to Mormonism, served during 1926-35 in Argentina as president of the South American Mission; Emil Schindler spent several years under Stoof’s direction as head of the missionary effort in Brazil. Both were active members of the Salt Lake German community.

Germans and Dutch have played a prominent role in LDS church administration at the local level as well. Bart Wolthuis, Nicholas J. Teerlink, and Louis Roos, among the Dutch immigrants, have served as stake presidents, and others have served as counselors in stake presidencies. Considering the proportion of the population that is Dutch, a surprisingly large number of Dutch immigrants have been bishops in LDS wards in the Salt Lake City area. Among German-born Mormons, Manfred R. Dens has served as a stake president, with others acting as counselors, several also having been called to be bishops.

Not all of the Utah Europeans have been Latter-day Saints. Although for many years most were Mormon and came as the result of Mormon gathering, from the first there was some failing away. “Of the Hollanders who journeyed with me, six have apostatized, and my mother and I were the only ones who remained faithful,” wrote Johanna Carolina Lammers, who had come to Utah in 1867.18 And increasingly, especially in the twentieth century, there were non-Mormons who came, contributing to university and community life. Between the active Mormons, the apostates, and the Gentiles some tension has always existed, but there are also occasions when their common nationality helps to bridge the gap. An organization like AVIO for the Dutch includes both Mormon and non-Mormon Dutch nationals.

Those Europeans who were not Mormons were long so few in number that Protestant foreign-language congregations were not established until quite late in the nineteenth century. By 1890 enough German Lutherans had arrived in the territory to justify the presence of a Lutheran missionary. Then, in 1892, Rev. Otto Kuhr established the German Evangelical Lutheran Saint John’s Church in Salt Lake City, with another congregation being organized shortly thereafter in Ogden. Although there was some question as to which national Lutheran body to affiliate with, since 1900 Saint John’s has been part of the Missouri Synod’s Utah mission. Lutheran organizations in Utah were basically German-language congregations until World War I. The war marked the turning point in accommodation to American culture, as was the case in other areas. After the war, services were partly in German and partly in English for some time hut are now in English. Although more than half the members of Saint John’s Church, for example, are of Germanic descent, the group does not foster the preservation of the German cultural heritage. Since the establishment of Saint John’s, other Lutheran churches have been established in the state; like the mother church in Utah, these have become increasingly less German in their orientation. Besides churches there have been Lutheran missions to Utah mining camps, to German prisoners of war during World War II, and to other German–language groups.19

The organization of a Dutch-oriented Protestant congregation did not take place in Utah until after World War II. Prior to that time Dutch-born Utahns in the Salt Lake area attended existing Protestant churches or met together in small groups in homes. The First Christian Reformed Church was established in downtown Salt Lake City shortly after the war, with the Immanuel Christian Reformed Church being set up in the Cottonwood area of Salt Lake County in the early 1960s. Two other branches of the Christian Reformed Church of America exist in Utah–one in Ogden and a small church in Brigham City–giving the denomination a Utah membership of several hundred. Services are not held in Dutch, nor is there a conscious effort made to preserve the Dutch heritage, but many of the members are Dutch and some of the social organizations sponsored by the church could be considered Dutch in their orientation. In some cases Dutch immigrants came to Utah because the mother church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, asked the Salt Lake unit to sponsor immigrants following World War II.20


It is impossible to enumerate the many kinds of activities continental Europeans engaged in after their coming to Utah. As with other people, most of their time and energies were consumed in the business of making a living. But in both vocation and avocation they made contributions to many aspects of Utah life. Without seeking to maintain that this small minority of the state’s population was anything like a dominant force, it can safely be argued that many activities and occupations were strengthened and enriched by the Europeans’ contribution.

Most European immigrants settled down into the economy of Utah as it was, taking jobs in agriculture, in shops, or in the various industries of the state. It was primarily a question, in other words, of fitting into a new environment, making a living, establishing oneself. In a few areas, however, the previous experience and expertise of the immigrants from the Continent became fairly important. Three areas are deserving of mention.

During the Brigham Young period of Utah history one of the goals consciously promoted by the territory’s leaders was that of self-sufficiency. This meant, among other things, producing wine that could be sold to travelers, used for the sacrament m LDS services, and indulged in to a greater or lesser degree by both Mormon and Gentile Utahns. Sent to Utah’s Dixie for the special purpose of establishing grape culture were Swiss Mormons under the leadership of Daniel Bonelli, and it was John C. Naegle who became the leader of wine production in Toquerville for many years.21

Another goal for several years was the establishment of silk production in Utah. For this purpose mulberry seeds and cocoons were brought from France by Octave Ursenbach and others. Paul and Susanna Cardon, French-speaking immigrants from the Piedmont valleys of alpine Italy, taught Utahns how to raise and use silk. And one Frenchman, Louis Bertrand, was a one-man champion of sericulture, devoting several lengthy articles in the Deseret News to a discussion of silk production and its possibilities for Utah. Ultimately, the silk industry in Utah fizzled out, unable to compete with cheaper fabrics from outside, but while it lasted those who had had some experience with it on the Continent were listened to.22

Women from Switzerland, France, and other European countries used their knowledge of sericulture to found Utah’s short-lived but fascinating silk industry.

Finally, there was Swiss cheese. Some of the Swiss families–the Hubers, Abplanalps, Mosers, Abbeglens–who settled in Midway in the 1860s would graze their cattle in the canyons in the summer and in the fall drive the herds back to town, bringing cheese they had made. Later, Fred Buher established a cheese factory in Midway. On an even larger scale was the cheese industry in Cache Valley, said to produce more cheese than all of Switzerland. Although Danish settlers originally established the industry there, Swiss immigrants played a key role in the major expansion and diversification that started in the 1930s.23

Some energetic continental Europeans became builders and contractors, as did Charles Schmalz, who in 1871 moved to Ogden. After World War II, Joseph Hasoppe from Belgium came to Utah and established a family construction firm that continued active through the generation after the war. Although he had some experience in building houses in Belgium, Hasoppe found construction methods different in Utah. He worked as a laborer and carpenter for others, but he paid particular attention to learning the new methods. “I was working hard,” he said, “but my eyes and my mind were working harder.” Soon he started building a house on his own, working early in the mornings and in the evening. After four years, when he could get along fairly well in English, he launched his own construction company.24 Another builder was Cornelius Kapteyn, from the Netherlands, who did everything from simple carpentry to the building of houses in the 1960s and 1970s. Showing the brotherly concern and cooperation that was necessary in the new environment, both of these builders frequently used fellow immigrants as painters, plumbers, and other subcontractors.

Coming from a continent where the apprentice system was still strong throughout the nineteenth century, many of the immigrants were skilled artisans and tradesmen. Watchmakers from Switzerland like Octave Ursenbach brought this skill across the Atlantic and plied the trade in Utah. In the mid-twentieth century it was still noticeable that for certain kinds of skilled work–fine antique painting, woodcarving, furniture upholstering, bookbinding, cabinet making, and the like–European immigrants were among the best. A contemporary example of European craftsmanship transplanted to Utah is Peter Paul Prier’s Professional Violin Making School of America. Prier, who was trained in Bavaria as a violinmaker, came to Utah in 1960 to take charge of the violin department of a Salt Lake music store. A few years later he opened his own shop and then in 1972 initiated his violin-making academy, apparently the only school of its kind in America. Beginning with four students who followed a three to four-year curriculum, demand for violin makers in America had become so great by 1974 that there were twenty-six students, and Prier had had to expand his original facilities.25

Moving to another field of endeavor, in the nineteenth century most schooling in Utah was not influenced by anything beyond American models, although within that context there were important innovations. In the field of education, especially higher education, immigrants from Europe have exerted a pronounced influence. In the 1 880s a German, Karl Gottfried Maeser, became president of Brigham Young Academy. Macser’s conception of education and his advice on organizing the curriculum grew out of his experience as head teacher at the Budich Institute in Dresden. In Utah several hundred academy students came under his direct tutelage, and as head of the Latter-day Saint Department of Education Maeser traveled to many communities and sought to raise educational standards. During the same generation, at the end of the nineteenth century, German-born Louis F. Moench became an important leader at Weber Stake Academy.

In the twentieth century it is mainly individual professors who have made valuable contributions to the educational experiences of Utah young people. Gerrit de Jong, who emigrated from the Netherlands in 1906, made important contributions to Brigham Young University as dean of fine arts and established a Portuguese language program second to none in the country. Almost constantly from the 1930s on, Utah universities included in their language faculties native-speaking professors, many of whom settled down as permanent residents. Belgian Andree Barnett, professor of French at the University of Utah, was graduate advisor and in 1974 was named assistant dean of humanities. Robert E. Helbling, from Lucerne, Switzerland, became an acknowledged authority on the writings of Rudolf Kleist. A master teacher, Helbling became head of the Department of Languages at the University of Utah and for three years was director of the Honors Program.

It was not only in language departments that Europeans made themselves felt. Helmut Calls, born in Leipzig, Germany, became the University of Utah’s expert on Asian history. In the Department of English at the Salt Lake school one of the most respected faculty members was William Mulder, from the Netherlands, author of the highly regarded workHomeward to Zion, a study of Mormon emigration from Scandinavia. Mulder, who obtained his doctorate at Harvard University, taught American literature and, broad-gauged person that he is, served on two occasions as advisor to India in the establishment of American Studies programs there. One of the most celebrated adopted Utahns in the 1 970s was Wilem Kolif of the University of Utah Medical School, who was one of the nation’s acknowledged leaders in research on artificial organs. Several dozen other names of European professors in Utah’s universities could be listed.26

For the great majority of immigrants, of course, the American institutions they encountered most directly were less likely to be universities than business and politics. As for Utah politics, if the immigrants in higher education were few, all who obtained citizenship had to come to grips with Utah’s political system. Seldom did those of the first generation become directly involved except as voters. Prejudice against foreign-sounding names discouraged entrance into the political arena as candidates, and the challenge of adjustment to the new environment was enough to keep most of them occupied. They did not constitute large enough voting blocs to form powerful interest groups, although occasionally their newspapers did venture to give cautious advice to their readers.

With all of these discouragements, however, some immigrants made their mark. The French-born Alex Toponce was elected mayor of Corinne; the Swiss Eugene Santschi, mayor of Hiawatha and county commissioner in Carbon County; the Frenchman Paul Droubay, commissioner in Tooele County; Fred J. Kiesel, mayor of Ogden. Later in the century, Dutch-born Nicholas Teerlink served in the state legislature. Another Netherlander, Bart Wolthuis, was elected mayor of Ogden. A good example of a continental European who refused to be discouraged in her determination to be involved in public service in her adopted country was Else Furer Musser, who emigrated from Switzerland in 1897. A state senator, Salt Lake County recorder, and trustee of the Utah Unemployment Commission during the 193 Os, Mrs. Musser was a representative at international peace conferences, a Democratic national committee-woman, and a crusader for child welfare.27

In the world of music in Utah the Europeans were noticeable. The Dutch and Germans had a choir as part of their LDS congregation, and the Swiss organized an independent choral society, the Swiss Chorus Edelweiss, which gave numerous concerts from the 1940s on. Following the disbanding of the German LDS organization, the German choir became the Chorus Harmonie. Other German choruses have also performed in Utah, among them a male chorus and a children’s chorus. Alexander Schreiner, an immigrant from Germany, became Tabernacle organist and won renown for his broadcast performances, starting in the 1930s. Gerrit de Jong, already mentioned with regard to his contributions in the field of education, was also an accomplished musician, playing and teaching piano and organ and leading orchestral groups at BYU. Margrit Feh Lohner, from Zurich, Switzerland, joined the Tabernacle Choir and the Swiss Chorus Edelweiss upon her arrival in Utah in 1940. In 1957 she became the director of Edelweiss. The group, dressed colorfully in Swiss costumes, gives many concerts each year and participates in the conventions of the Pacific Coast Swiss Singing societies. Mrs. Lohner also joined the Symphony Singers and was featured as a soloist for some five years.28 Most notable in the post World War II period was Maurice Abravanel, who took over the leadership of the Utah Symphony and raised it to a respectable level among American symphony orchestras. Although technically not a native of the countries being discussed here, Abravanel was truly a European with broad background–of Spanish-Portuguese ancestry, born in Greece, reared in Lausanne, Switzerland, and student of music and guest conductor in both Germany and France–and he has made such significant contributions to Utah music since 1947 that he deserves mention as an example of western Europe’s cultural impact.

In the visual arts Europeans played a relatively small role. Although a group of Utah artists went to Paris to study at the end of the century and there absorbed important western European influences, only one of these, John Hafen, was himself a European. Born in Scherzingen, Switzerland, in 1856, Hafen came to America at age six and learned painting in Utah at the studios of Ottinger and Weggeland, beyond what he taught himself. After studying in Paris in the 1890s, Hafen traveled extensively throughout the United States and finally settled in Indiana. Returning to Utah, he produced many paintings of recognized merit. Another European who came to Utah as a boy was Herman H. Hagg, painter and instructor of art at the end of the last century.

In Salt Lake City the Deutsches Theater, under the direction of Siegfried Guertler, has fostered the preservation of the German dramatic tradition.

Like other Americans, the immigrants were on the whole less interested in the arts than in more popular activities. Sports presented an interesting challenge of adjustment. Not accustomed to playing traditional American sports such as football and baseball, European immigrants to Utah have done much to popularize soccer in the state. German and Dutch immigrants promoted the formation of athletic clubs both before and after World War II to provide athletic and social activities for their young men. Initially the clubs fielded teams divided along national lines, some of the more prominent being the Germania and Alemania clubs among the Germans and the Salt Lake Athletic Club and the Sports Club Rapids, which were predominantly Dutch teams. These and other teams came to form the Utah Soccer Association, which soon branched out to include teams sponsored by some of Utah’s universities. An unusual club was Sports Club Berlin, whose team was mostly comprised of East German refugees. The adult league grew until by the mid-1960s there were fifteen teams in three Utah cities, although the teams now are organized more by ability than nationality. The Germania and Hollandia clubs have visited Europe in recent years on exhibition tours.29

Two immigrants from Germany were among the prime movers in interesting the young people of Utah in soccer. Hermann Neumann came to Utah in 1929 and played for the Germania Club for thirty-two years until an injury forced him to retire at age sixty-two. Arthur Zander came in 1952. Together these two organized the Utah High School Soccer Association, with the first teams being fielded at South, West, East, and Highland high schools in Salt Lake City in the mid-1950s. Not recognized by the Utah High School Activities Association until 1974 and therefore not funded by those schools having teams, the soccer program in Wasatch Front high schools long had to operate with volunteer coaches and officials. Zander served as coach of the first high school team. As soccer be-came increasingly popular in the late 1 960s, membership in the association swelled to thirty-two teams in 1972, involving more than five hundred players.

As soccer became of greater interest to older boys, the Alemania and Hollandia clubs in 1967 organized the Junior Soccer Association to encourage play by young men from ages nine to fourteen, with Hermann Neumann as commissioner. The league was soon expanded to include three age groups. Although soccer is still not so popular as it is in many countries outside the United States, it would appear that the efforts of continental immigrants in Utah have guaranteed the sport an ever greater popularity in future years.

Besides participation in a team sport like soccer, there has also been the opportunity for Europeans in Utah to participate in individual sports. German young men participated in a physical fitness program known as Sport Abzeichen, in which awards were given according to the physical performance of individual participants. Gaston Chappuis, from French Switzerland, was Utah’s handball champion seven different times and also showed his ability in chess, winning the state championships of Nevada, Idaho, and Utah.30


Certain aspects of the immigrant impact are almost impossible to discern. Because of the arbitrary custom of wives taking the surnames of their husbands, many young women from the Continent drop out of sight in Utah. Foreign-born wives of former servicemen, returned missionaries, or others certainly influence their families as much as any mother, and many of them participate actively in church and community affairs. But because their name is Smith or Johnson rather than Schroeder or Chateaubriand they are not usually noticed as obvious examples of foreign influence.

Even more important is the second generation. Since those born in Utah after the arrival of their families were native Utahns in the strict sense, they have not been considered here. But in the immigrant experience generally in the United States, it is the business of the first generation to get its feet on the ground and establish a secure existence, while it is the second and third generations that go on to dramatic achievements. In a sense it is artificial to divide these generations, counting some and excluding others, for the parents would undoubtedly count their children as the most important single “contribution” to the new environment–children who could draw from the strength of their European inheritance hut who, more at home in the new environment than their parents, could go on to excel in their chosen profession. Since this is the way the immigrant families saw their own experience, it is artificial to include only those of the first generation, artificial, but inevitable; for the succeeding generations are American in language, education, experience, self-consciousness, and they frequently intermarry with other Americans without regard to national background.

In studies of this kind one often comes away with an impression that the sum of the parts equals far more than the whole. “Contributions” can be exaggerated. What would most Utahns say if asked to name their contribution to the state? It is not really assumed that one should come up with something dramatic to justify his existence. Most work, pay taxes, and vote in elections. Most try to be good citizens. Thus it may be a valuable indication of the degree of assimilation of the western Europeans now residing in the state that in 1974 most of those who filled out a questionnaire sent out by the authors said something like this: “Our people are industrious, good citizens.” They take pride in the reputation they have for hard work and frugality. Some mentioned that a relatively small percentage of their national group had been involved in crime. Most of them have indeed become Americans and Utahns in their basic self-identification. If they retain a lingering nostalgia for the old ways, this is not basically different from other Americans who look back with fondness at the simpler life of their childhood.

It would be inaccurate, on the other hand, to overstate the fondness of the immigrants themselves for Utah. From the beginning some became disenchanted with Mormonism or Utah or both. Some of these left, others stayed. One Dutch immigrant said that he would have returned to the Netherlands if he had not been so poor; even now he does not feel welcome except among those of Dutch background. He does not like the crime rate and finds the cold winters hard to tolerate. Yet the same man considers Utah the best of the states he has visited, including California. Others are more enthusiastic about their adopted land, emphasizing the wide open spaces, the opportunities for outdoor recreation, and the relative immunity of the state from the unrest of the large industrial cities. Mormons who stay usually emphasize the LDS church as one of the positive features; the original lure to attract them, it continues to function as a help and support in their lives.

So supermen they are not, these Utahns from continental Europe. Good solid stock ready to work and save and participate they have been. They have exerted themselves to deserve their reputation for hard work and sobriety. They want to be part of the answer, as the saying goes, and not part of the problem facing society. Inevitably, in many small ways, they have added to the richness of the warp and woof that make up the cultural heritage of Utah.

1 Discussion regarding numbers of missionaries and their geographical distribution is based on Gordon Irving, “A Preliminary Compilation of Data Relating to Numerical Strength and Geographical Distribution of the LDS Missionary Force, 1830-1973” (unpublished paper, 1974).

2 Numerical data in this chapter relating to the foreign-born population of Utah are drawn from appropriate sections of the U.S. Census returns for Utah, 1850-1970. Data for 1850-1880 and 1900-1950 are conveniently summarized in Douglas A. Alder, “German-speaking Immigration to Utah, 1850-1950” (M.A. thesis, University of Utah, 1959), pp. 124-34.

3 Noble Warrum, ed., Utah Since Statehood, 4 vols. (Chicago and Salt Lake City, 1919), vols. 2-4, passim.

4 Data relating to patterns of settlement within Utah are drawn from U.S. Census returns, such material being available by county only from 1870 to 1950, with some of the nationalities under consideration in this chapter not being listed during all of those years.

5 Questionnaire completed in August 1974 by Erich W. Kuehne of Salt Lake City, a 1929 immigrant from Hamburg. Questionnaires relating to immigration and adjustment experiences in Utah were sent by the authors to roughly one hundred German-, Dutch, and Swiss-born Utahns during August 1974.

6 “Emigration” by Burtis F. Robbins, president of North German Mission, Jesse R. Curtis, president of Swiss-Austrian Mission, and Theodore M. Burton, president of West German Mission, in Der Stern84 (1958) 343-46, translation in Alder, “German-speaking Immigration.” pp. 114-18.

7 Henri Edouard Desaules Diary, holograph, Archives Division, Historical Department, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City.

8 “Journal History,” October 2, 1892, April 7, 1918, April 13, 1918, July 19, 1918, December 3, 1921. This is a huge, multi-volume compilation of letters, clippings, and other primary sources located in LDS Church Archives.

9 “Journal History,” August 28, 1937.

10 Conversation with Roger Dock, LDS Translation Services, September 1974.

11 Interview with Flore Chappuis, LDS Church Oral History Program, transcript in LDS Archives.

12 Conversation with Carl E. Ebert, credit union manager, September 1974.

13 William Mulder, “Utah’s Nordic-Language Press: Aspect and Instrument of Immigration Culture” (M.A. thesis, University of Utah, 1947), p. 64-67.

14 Ibid., pp. 77-78.

15 Dutch Organization, Ogden, Utah, Historical Record, 1911-1929, p. 1, LDS Archives.

16 Conversations with John A. Dahl, Nicholas J. Teerlink, and Alfred A. Lippold, all of Salt Lake City, September 1974. The church archives has records for Dutch organization meetings in Ogden and Salt Lake City, as well as the German organization in Salt Lake City and the German Branch in Logan.

17 Conversations with Dahl, Teerlink, and Lippold; also Theodore A. Mebius of Salt Lake City, July 1974.

18 Johanna Carolina Lammers, “A Journey to Utah in the Year 1867,” Utah Nederlander 1 (July 23, 1914): 17, translation in Mulder “Nordic Language Press,” pp. 15-57.

19 Conversation with Rev. Lawrence Meinzen of Saint John’s Lutheran Church, Salt Lake City, September 1974. Ronnie L. Stellhorn, a graduate student at Utah State University, supplied much of the information given here with regard to the Lutheran church in Utah. Stellhorn is preparing a master’s thesis titled “A History of the Lutheran Church in Utah.”

20 Conversations with Rev. Clarence Van Slooten of First Christian Reformed Church of Salt Lake City and Rev. Adriaan Van Heyst of Immanuel Christian Reformed Church in the Cottonwood area of Salt Lake County, September 1974.

21 On the wine industry in early Utah see Leonard J. Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900 (Cambridge, Mass., 1958), pp. 216-22, 477; Nels Anderson, Desert Saints: The Mormon Frontier in Utah (Chicago, 1942), pp. 373-74, 434-37; and the chapter on John Naegle in Thomas G. Romney, The Gospel in Action (Salt Lake City, 1949).

22 Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom, pp. 22 7-28, 254, 347.

23 The great expansion of cheese making in Cache Valley occurred in the 1930s. One example of a Swiss who was a moving force in the making of cheese there is Edwin Gossner, whose company continues.

24 Interview with Joseph Hasoppe, LDS Church Oral History Program, transcript in LDS Archives.

25 Peter Prier Clipping File, Deseret News Library, Salt Lake City.

26 A brief survey of the faculty at the University of Utah in 1974 indicated that at least two or three dozen professors obtained their degrees in Europe and, to judge from the names, must be of European origin.

27 Richard Jensen, “A New Home, A New Life: Contributions of the European Saints in Building the Kingdom,” The Ensign 3 (August 1973): 62.

28 Margrit Feh Lohner, LDS Church Oral History Program, transcript in LDS Archives.

29 Section on soccer in Utah is based on articles in Soccer Clipping File, Deseret News Library.

30 Conversation with John A. Dahl of Salt Lake City, September 1974. Interview with Flore Chappuis, LDS Church Oral History Program, transcript in LDS Archives.