In the quiet village of Scherzingen, Canton Thurgau, Switzerland, John George Hafen was born on October 17, 1838. He was the son of John George Hafen and Mary Magdalena Hafen and had but one sister Barbara born in 1835. After the mother died in 1854, the father spent his remaining days with his two children. The village of Scherzingen, where the younger John George lived the first twenty-three years of his life, was a little town of about fifty families. Most of the villagers were farmers raising hay, grain, potatoes, and fruits. Farming methods were primitive; the grass was cut with the scythe and raked by hand. Oxen were the principal draft animals. The Hafen farm comprised twelve to fifteen acres cultivated intensively. It produced most of the food needs of the family and a little surplus for sale. The product of the vineyard, made into wine, was marketed locally.
John George attended school until he was about sixteen years old. Arithmetic was his favorite subject and the one in which he got his best marks. He grew up in a religious home. A blessing was asked at each meal and there was regular reading from the prayer book around the hearthstone. He did not drink wine or other intoxicants nor use tobacco or profane language.
When missionaries of the Latter-day Saints visited Scherzingen, Barbara Hafen became interested in the new gospel. Her father and brother were at first vigorously opposed and tried to prevent her attendance at meetings of the new sect. But through her enthusiasm and influence, her father and brother were converted and were baptized in April, 1860. John George was ordained a Priest and a few months later went with Elder Christian Moosman on a mission to Canton Bern. Then he went to Zurich where he met Susette Bosshard whom he later married. While on this mission he was once take by a mob and ducked in a well trough as a mock baptism.
Gathering to Zion in America was being urged by the Mormon Church. Although the Hafens were doing well materially in Switzerland, the gospel meant more to them than all else so they did not hesitate to leave their home and friends, sell their property and set out for a new and strange land. An emigrating party was made up by Elder Jabez Woodard, Mission President, and was to set out from Switzerland in April, 1861. Obtaining a fair price for their property, the Hafen’s were able not only to pay their own passage but to help out others less fortunate. In the Swiss emigrating party were a number of friends – the Bosshard, Naegli, Tobler, Staheli, and Willi families – who were to continue as neighbors in Utah.
Saints from various parts of Europe assembled at Liverpool, England, where the large company of proselytes embarked on a sailing vessel for the ocean voyage. In that day of slow and difficult transportation, it usually took six or seven weeks for the voyage across the Atlantic. As the lower part of the ship was loaded with cattle, the passengers spent most of their time on deck. Despite seasickness and other difficulties, the saints were carried safely and landed at New York City. After passing the immigration inspections, the company entrained for the railhead in the West. Upon arrival at Florence, near present Omaha, the Saints final preparations for the overland trek.
While at Florence, John George and other young men and boys went for a swim in the Missouri River. He had swum in the Bodensee, but was unaccustomed tot he swift current of the muddy Missouri. He almost drowned, but was rescued by his companions. The money belt in which he carried gold pieces he had unbuckled from his waist and put on the bank while he swam. Fortunately, it was not stolen.
Mormon pioneers had been trekking across the plains and mountains since 1847 and had even employed handcarts during the years 1856 to 1860. But the handcarts had been abandoned in the latter year, and now teams came from Utah making the trip to the Missouri River and back the same season. These teams picked up freight and some of the immigrants and hauled them to Salt Lake Valley. Emigrants who were able to purchase oxen and wagons were urged to do so, and thus help themselves and others. The Hafen family purchased four wagons and fourteen yoke of cattle; also two milk cows and two mules. John George’s special duty was to ride a mule and drive extra stock of the company. Indians were especially fond of mules, and they managed to steal the two owned by the Hafen’s before the journey ended.
The Swiss group of Saints was a part of the Sextus E. Johnson company. It moved ten to fifteen miles per day, and at night circled the wagons for protection. The company, comprising parties from several nations, were grouped according to nationality, but all mingled, especially the young folks, in singing, dancing, and other amusements about the campfires at night. Always there was work to be done–herding and guarding the stock, baking bread and preparing other food for the next day’;s meals, and gathering buffalo chips for fuel on the treeless plains.
Sunday was a day of rest and of religious services.
Without serious mishap, the company reached Utah and drove down Emigration Canyon just as the Aspen leaves were turning yellow in September.
At the General Conference of the Church in October, 1861, many families were called to go to southern Utah to settle. A Swiss Company was included as many had experience in grape culture, and the plan was for grapes and cotton to be produced in the sunny clime of Utah’s Dixie. The leader of the Swiss company was Daniel Bonelli, who could speak both German-Swiss and English. President Young advised those of marriageable age to marry before they left Salt Lake City. Accordingly, John George Hafen and Susette Bosshard were married in the Endowment House on October 18. Als9o, his sister Barbara was married to Ignaz Willi.
The route taken by the emigrant wagons was approximately Highway 91 of today. In places the road was very difficult, especially that part descending from the rim of the Great Basin to Santa Clara Creek. An Indian mission had been established on the Santa Clara beginning 8in 1854, and a number of families were living at Fort Clara, a stone structure that had been erected around the point west of the present town site. For the larger settlement, it was decided to found the town at its present location on a broader bottom of land and one safer from flood encroachment. Most of the original settlers moved away during the next few years and the remainder of the townsfolk were of the Swiss Company.
The new townsite was surveyed in December, 1861, and was dedicated on the 22nd. Town lots and vineyard plots were to be distributed to the settlers. In the meantime, an irrigation ditch was dug from the creek to the townsite and a dam was constructed across the stream to divert the water to the town ditch. The cost, as calculated in labor at $2 per day, was $1,030. Just as the work was completed, a rain came which continued for a week or so. On New Year’s Day a terrific flood came down the creek. It swept away the stone fort and other nearby buildings on the old townsite, and destroyed the new dam and much of the freshly dug canal. Work must be done again, but by the middle of March the task was completed.
The town lots and vineyard tracks were numbered and the numbers placed in a hat for a drawing. Brother Bonelli drew the numbers and made the allotments to various families. John George’s lot was across the street south of the present school house. The adjoining lot east was given to his father and the next one east to his sister and her husband. Their three vineyard plots were also adjoining. On his lot, John George built a small log house in which he and his wife lived for a time. The trunks containing clothing brought from Switzerland served as table and stand. Rawhide-bottom chairs made by settlers were obtained in St. George. The father, John George Hafen, Sr., first built a lumber shanty on his lot, later an adobe house which subsequently became the home of his grandson, John Hafen. Barbara Hafen’s first husband, Ignaz Willi, died in 1863, and she married Jacob Tobler by whom she had two sons, Willi and Albert. Barbara died in 1873.
John George Hafen endured the hardships of pioneering in a difficult environment. Land had to be cleared and cultivated with few and crude implements. Homes were built of adobe and lumber, a house for school and church erected. He helped in construction of the St. George Temple, hauling lumber from Pine Valley and Mount Trumbull, and lava rock from the black hills.
Responding to the advice and urging of the Church leaders, he accepted the plural marriage system. In 1873, he took as a second wife a young widow, Mary Ann Stucki Reber. In 1884, he married Anna Mary Elizabeth Huber, a convert he met on his mission to Switzerland. She occupied several homes, but in her later years lived in Santa Clara with her husband. In 1885 he married a widow, Rosena Stucki Blickenstorfer, a sister of his second wife. She lived in Santa Clara until her death. As persecutions for polygamy were pressed vigorously in the 1880’s he decided to move his second family to Bunkerville, Nevada. He bought a small house and a farm and helped the young family establish itself in the new settlement.
The plural marriage system demanded much of those who lived it. There was sacrifice, hard work, subordination of self. John George took it as a part of his religion and earnestly tried to act fairly, serve devotedly, and rear his children uprightly. Natural jealousies among the wives and children were bound to express themselves, and to keep peace and contentment was an ideal difficult to achieve. In later years he confessed that many times he prayed and shed tears over his inability to meet the requests and expectations of his large and growing families.
On his farm in the Santa Clara “South Field” John George raised cotton for several years. He also developed an orchard, for fruit did very well in this region. As the sons of the first family grew up they worked with their father as partners, having all their property except their homes in common. This continued until after all the sons were married. Besides farming, they engaged in stock raising. The sons continued in the stock business and with their sons and grandsons have been outstanding promoters of the livestock business in southern Utah and Nevada.
After the Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution (Z.C.M.I.) was founded in Salt Lake City, other cooperative store were founded throughout Utah. One of these was started in Santa Clara in the 1870’s. John George Hafen became the manager and the merchandise stock was first housed in one of the rooms of his residence. The business was well and honestly managed and the stockholders received dividends on their investments. Later the company was dissolved and the manager took over the business. He developed it gradually and built a brick room for housing it. His wife Susette took care of the store when her husband was away. He retired from the store in 1917, selling the chief interests in it to his son Adolph and grandson Guy Hafen.
Markets for the fruit and other produce grown in Santa Clara had to be found elsewhere; John George became the principal handler of this produce. With his wagon and team of horses or mules he made the long trips to the mining camps of Silver Reef, Utah, and to Pioche and Delamar in Nevada, and to the Whitehills of Arizona. Loads were often taken to adjoining counties in Utah and sometimes to Salt Lake City. He traveled at all seasons, in the heat and dust of summer, and snow and sleet of winter. Fruit was hurried to market while fresh; it was dried and sacked and hauled to the brewery in Salt Lake City, or made into preserves and carried in barrels to northern markets. Molasses made from sorghum cane and preserves made from fruit cooked in molasses were commonly parts of his loads.
By handling the fruits, vegetables, and poultry products of the community he stimulated his mercantile business. While he was Bishop of the Santa Clara Ward he received produce as tithing and felt obligated to find a cash market for it. So well had he established himself that when the United Order was instituted in Santa Clara (it did not last long) he was called to do the peddling for the community.
Hauling in those days was not like trucking over paved roads today. Twelve hundred pounds was considered a load for a one-span team over the rough and difficult roads of that day. Fifteen to twenty-five miles would be covered in a day. The first stretch of the road, the twelve miles leading to Diamond Valley, was so heavy that a “doubling team” was needed to help through the deep sand and up the volcanic ridges. When the “top” was reached, the lead team was unhitched and the boy, brought along for the purpose, rode one horse and led the other back home, generally arriving late at night. Prominent camp grounds on the road to the west were Chadburn’s Ranch on the Santa Clara Creek; Cane Springs, a few miles beyond; and Holt’s Ranch, on the edge of the desert. A trip to the Nevada markets required from eight to ten days. Competition was often keen among the peddlers–each striving to get to the market first and to dispose of the produce after arrival.
Other pioneer experiences should be recorded. Ox teams were used at first in farming at Santa Clara and the oxen were turned out to graze on the public domain. Frequently the farmer had to walk several miles in the morning to find and recover his team. John George often walked to Three-Mile-Place, did a day’s work on the farm, then walked home at night. In the spring or fall, when gathering cattle he sometimes walked to Magotsu or even Mountain Meadows to get the cattle. He cut many acres of grain with a sickle or scythe and cradle and bound the grain by hand. A self-binder was not used in Santa Clara until 1891. Much hay also was cut with sickle or scythe.
John George lived a life of service to his church and his community. Besides his missionary work in Switzerland before he emigrated, he went on subsequent missions. In 1877 he filled a short mission to the German-speaking people of Minnesota. The trip had to be made by team as far as Salt Lake City. Upon his return, his son John drove a team to that city to bring him home. In 1882, when he had two families with small children, he responded to a call to go on a European mission. He spent two years preaching the gospel in Switzerland and Germany.
Soon after his return home, he was called to be the Bishop of the Santa Clara Ward. He was to serve in this office for 28 years from 1884 to 1912. Thereafter he spent much time in the temple where he id the work for more than 1200 souls. He spent a considerable amount of the savings acquired by industry and frugal living in genealogical research, seeking out his ancestry.
Of his character traits, honesty was outstanding and fundamental. He was courageous in carrying out his convictions. Industry and frugality were inherited from his Swiss forebearers. If not always diplomatic in dealing with others, he was sincere, dependable, and forthright. He was deeply religious. His faith was simple but genuine. He was prayerful and believed firmly in the efficacy of sincere and devout prayer. He practiced family prayers before the morning and evening meals, the entire family kneeling around the table. He prized the priesthood and accepted counsel from those in authority.
It was in obedience to celestial law that he accepted the plural marriage system. Though compliance caused him much heartache and struggle, it also brought his greatest joy–the blessing of a large posterity of honorable and devoted children and descendants.