Conrad Naegli was born January 17, 1832 in northeastern Switzerland in the village and canton of Landschlacht, Thurgau, Switzerland. When he was 29 years old he and his sister Margarette joined the other Swiss converts of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and immigrated to Utah. The group was organized under the direction of Jabez Woodward. The journey from Switzerland to Salt Lake City, Utah was a toilsome trek of approximately five months. Among them were John G. Hafen, and his two children, and some of his life-long friends. The company spent ten weeks on their ocean voyage under trying conditions. The lower part of the vessel was loaded with cattle, so the passengers spent most of their time on the deck. The new converts experienced the usual seasickness on such long voyages. They landed at New York, and the immigrants were examined at Castle Garden, whereupon they took the train for Florence, Nebraska. When they reached Florence, they remained several days to make preparations for the trek across the plains.
At General Conference of the Church in Salt Lake City in October 1861, President Brigham Young called 309 missionaries to go to Southern Utah. Included was Conrad Neagle. Swiss converts had emigrated before the Hafen group and were living in various parts of northern Utah. Many of them formed what was designated as the Swiss Company with Daniel Bonelli of Salt Lake as their leader. Teams were provided by the Church to take them south. These teams were relayed at various stations along the way.
The last stretch of his journey, a distance of about 330 miles, required three more weeks of laborious travel. The place in southern Utah to which they were to go had not been designated in the call. As most of the company had had experience in grape culture, they were told to go to Santa Clara to raise grapes and cotton, both of which had been grown successfully prior to that time in the area. The company arrived at their destination on November 28, 1861.
After building dugouts and crude homes, the next project was to construct a dam on the Santa Clara Creek and make a ditch to the new townsite. The very day this task was completed, rain began to fall, and it continued to rain for a prolonged period of time. On New Year’s day a terrific flood swept away the fort and other buildings of the original townsite and destroyed the dam and canal. After the storm, the pioneers began a new to build a town. They set to their task with vigor so that by the 16th of March 1862, they had again completed the construction of the dam in the creek and had a canal to the townsite.
After the lots and vineyards had been plotted, corresponding numbers were written on sheets of paper and placed in a hat. Brother Bonelli drew the numbers from the hat and allotted them to the various families.
In addition to building homes, a dam and canal, these pioneers had to construct roads and public buildings. A small adobe building was erected on the public square. This served as school house, church house and amusement hall. Land had to be cleared and cultivated with few and crude implements. Their challenge was to win in the struggle for a livelihood and in the conquest of the desert even in the face of many adversities.
Conrad married Maria (Mary) Huerni, January 8, 1863. She had come to America in 1862. She was Swiss which pleased Conrad very much. She had been born in Wenzikon, Gachnang, Thurgau, Switzerland on April 12, 1831. She was a tall, slim woman with a small frame and a natural red tint to her hair. She worked all the time in and around her home and fields. They were parents of three children, two of whom lived to maturity. They were: Mary, born 15 January 1864, Bertha Margaretta, born 4 June 1866 and died 2 January 1868 and Conrad, born 6 December 1869.
Mary Neagli, according to her grandson, S. Conrad Adams, recalled, “grandmother took more pleasure in work than going out socially. She was a good cook and cleaned her home even while she was preparing meals. She did not talk much. She was more on the quiet side.
Conrad never was a big man physically, yet he was powerful. He came from fishing country and worked very hard in his native country. He worked hard in Santa Clara and took care of all he had. His grandson, Lee Adams, said, “Grandfather had a disposition to work. He paid all his attention to work. Water was very scarce and grandpa took his turn guarding the ditch when it was his turn to irrigate. A hoe was his best tool. With it he kept the water flowing smoothly as he worked on the ditch bank and chopped the weeds down. He always worked. He wanted his wife and children to work hard too. He was sharp and severe with his wife. If anyone provoked him and he became angry, he went all the way.”
He provided his wife and family with a well-built house. The dwelling in 1994 was standing on the corner of 3102 West Santa Clara Drive. There were two bedrooms upstairs, rooms on the ground floor and a basement. Each level was joined to the next level with small, steep stairs – typical of early buildings.
His habit of cleanliness was well developed. Every day he swept his walk from the house to the barn with a broom, then sprinkled the path with water to help pack the soil down.
Conrad raised grapes for wine. He aged it well in fifty large barrels and charged more for his product than some other winemakers. His winery was in the basement of his home. When leaders of the LDS Church placed greater emphasis on the Word of Wisdom, Conrad sold his wine in Nevada mining camps. After loading the wine in Santa Clara, he had his wife and daughter drive a single team and follow him with his double team into the towns of Pioche, Panaca and Caliente. Sometimes he was paid in gold and the coins were dropped in the bung hole of the water barrel. When the peddlers reached home, the barrel was turned upside down and the revenue was counted. Lee recalls hearing his grandfather tell him that “if the payment for the wine were in currency, Conrad hid the money in the Bible. Sometimes mischievous boys, knowing this, stole the money out of the Holy Book and paid grandpa cash for his wine. . .and the deficit was discovered too late.”
On one trip, while driving through the cedars between Caliente and Modena, Conrad had wrapped the lines around the brake cone (end). He went to the back of the moving wagon, lay down and fell asleep. As the team walked along, a man suddenly appeared and began to climb onto the front of the wagon. Conrad awoke, sprang for a hatchet, hit the intruder in the face, and knocked him off the double tree. Conrad yelled for the horses to go faster. His wife hit her team up and the animals kept going at a faster gait until the family reached the next town.
There were choice occasions when Conrad’s daughter, Mary Naegli (Adams) returned to Santa Clara from Bunkerville (Nevada) to visit her parents. She took two or three sons with her and the boys helped their grandfather Naegli, while the mother and daughter enjoyed a visit.
For several years S. Conrad helped his grandfather stack hay in the barn from the wagon. The first time the grandfather pitched the hay to his grandson, the older man called up, “is this coming too fast?” “Yes,” was the reply. Conrad then yelled, “Now I’ll be the boss. You mind me and I’ll show you how to make time.” S. Conrad began to laugh and replied, “Grandpa, I’m bigger (stouter) than you. You stay down there and slow up a little.” The pace was soon balanced and the work completed.
Sometimes several grandsons piled hay in the fields, and when it was in stacks, the boys left it to settle, then went to the house. Conrad had the boys sweep the yard, walks and paths very clean and smooth. This was an aggravation to the boys. They looked forward to the next day when they could load and stack hay in the barn and do “a man’s work.” Their grandfather’s horses were always fat and pretty. The boys liked to work with the beautiful animals.
One summer morning, Harvey Staheli, another farmer in town, and his brother agreed to help Conrad haul hay from the Naegli west field to the barn. On the way from the field, the loaded wagon and horses had to move down a slight hill. The brother said, “Choo” which he thought was a soft hiss to get the horses started. The team took off–with only one block to go. The animals couldn’t make a turn, broke the breast strap of the harness and the tongue of the wagon went through a fence. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the hay was finally pitched into its proper place in the barn.
His wife, Mary, died December 31, 1907 in Santa Clara, Utah. Her red sandstone headstone stands erect in the Santa Clara cemetery near the headstone of her infant daughter.
When Conrad became feeble, he moved to Bunkerville. His daughter and her husband secured a small home for him two short blocks from them. Thomas, Mary and their boys took food to the elderly relative and cared for him in all other ways. At this time, ice cream became available and young grandsons took this delectable treat over to their grandfather. Lee recalled, “The first time this happened, Grandpa said, “Faith-by-jabors. I’ve had my supper. I’ll warm it up for breakfast.”
When he became bedridden, Conrad bent a wire and fastened a stick to it which, when pulled helped him lift himself up. In his last illness, he had dreams which made him think he was to go to work for some man. Sometimes he laboriously pulled himself up, got out of bed and tried to go to work. A neighbor close by would inform Thomas about his father-in-law and Thomas would go to the house and take care of the older man.
With his infirmities growing, Conrad lost his hearing and he spoke very loudly as he grew older.
He passed away May 19, 1920 in Bunkerville, Nevada.