Genealogy plays part in soiree for Calif. Relief Society

By Elaine Cole

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, Sept. 29 2012 3:00 p.m. MDT

As Rebekka lay there, she opened her eyes and spoke to Kristine, saying, "I have been permitted to return for a brief instant to you to beg you not to grieve for me and to tell you that you will be cared for. I have been taken to a beautiful place and had I known this I would not have mourned for my son Peter. Take care of your brother and sisters; be faithful to the gospel as long as you live. This brief return is to be a testimony to you and your children and your children's children." With these words, she departed once more. She and her son, Peter, were buried in a shallow grave on the plains.

Brigham Young sent a relief mule train out to meet the company 400 miles from Salt Lake City. The orphans were all loaded into a wagon, including Hulan's great-great-great-grandfather, Niels Rassmussen, and his four sisters.

Varna Elise Heesch wrote about her grandmother, Elise Zbinden, as the first woman to join the LDS Church. Elise said that two young LDS men were singing hymns in a tiny hamlet high in the Swiss Alps when her husband heard them and rushed home to tell her, "you must hear these boys sing. They sound like angels."

Elise and her husband joined the church in the tiny hamlet of Guggesberg. The Zbindens sold their chalet and dairy herd so they could come to America and bring their large family with them. They brought Rose, who was Varna Heesch's mother, and came by boat through Ellis Island.

They crossed the plains on a train, and many people threw stones at them from roadways and railway crossings because they knew the train was going to Utah and had LDS people on it.

They settled in Logan, Utah, known as Little Switzerland where many other Swiss converts had settled. Here they started over and began farming to feed their family of 12 children.

Elaine Cole is an assistant media representative for the Vista California Stake in Southern California.

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