Memories of Karl Heuberger (1875 – 1956)

Hidden Stories

There are countless stories that have not yet been told. Some of them, however, want to be found. They have been hidden for many years, waiting to be discovered and brought to the light of day. As if they had a life of their own, in search of a readership, stories that make themselves known one day, through silent and inconspicuous signs. The person chosen by a story is destined to recognize, read and interpret these signs, and then finally tell the story.

I rejoice every time I am the chosen one of such a story slumbering away somewhere. It is as if I had won the lottery, or correctly answered the question about the number of marbles in the giant glass jar at the toy store. It often takes quite a while for the fabric of the story to reveal itself, for the various pieces of the puzzle to come together and form a picture.

This story began with one of my many visits to the State Archives in Aarau. As always, I had sent my wish list of archival materials in advance and a cart filled with work was ready for me when I arrived one foggy November morning.

Upon investigating the land registry #AA1459 titled “Bözen: land registry and property tax 1st half of 18th century” I came across a folder with photocopies of a naturalization letter, located in the same archive box. One page was a duplicate, the other page contained the address of the municipality of Bözen, both written in awkward cursive script. It was the naturalization letter of bailiff Johannes Heuberger dated 1766.

Although Elfingen and Bözen formed a parish together with Effingen, it was important to Johannes that he was no longer considered a citizen of Elfingen, but henceforth a citizen of Bözen. This citizenship was worth a lot to him, he not only paid the community the considerable sum of 50 guilders (this corresponds to a half-yearly salary of a craftsman) but also one liter of wine and a pound of bread to each citizen!

According to a handwritten note of the state archivist, the document of Mrs. Marianne S. was received by the State Archives of Bern in 1994, from there it was sent to Aarau. The State Archives Aargau decided to pass it on to the municipality of Bözen, where it was then stored somewhere.

Fortunately, the archivists had made a copy and decided to keep it with an ancient land registry which bears the title “Bözen”.

naturalization letter of Hans Jacob Heuberger
Duplicate of naturalization letter (Source: #AA 1459 Staatsarchiv Aarau)


Bötzen den 2. Tag im Jänner 1766 ist eine
ehrsame gmeind gehalten worden –
und der undervogt Heüwberger als gewesener
hintersäss hat angehalten für in und die
seinigen angehalten für bürger zu sein und
die gemeind hat in auf dem fuss angenomen
dan er verspricht beider dass er der gmeind 50 gl
erlegen item yederem bürger ein Mass Wein und
ein Pf. brod. item verspricht er noch beider dass
er ali bürgerliche gefel endtrichten ohni aus
nam wie ein anderer bürger und dass under-
schribt er mit seiner eignen Hand und zuglich
mit seinem bütschaft darauf gedruckt das er
diese Schrift auch genau wöli ohne eineche
gefert. Obiges beschint Jacob Heüberger Undervogt zu Bözen (Siegel: IHB)

And this is exactly where the story that wanted to be told revealed itself! It is about the memories of Karl Heuberger, pharmacist in Bern, a descendant of the aforementioned bailiff in Bözen.

I decided to search for Marianne S. I assumed where 200 years old documents were kept, there could be more, traces from the past, photos, memorabilia and more. The first Google search was already successful in a sad way, it provided me with the obituary of the person I was looking for, she had died in 2014.

This explained her gift to the State Archives in Bern twenty years before her death – what do you do with all the collected stuff as you get older, old photos of people long dead, written records that no one cares about in the Internet age?

Marianne must have asked herself the same question when she was tidying up. The obituary led me to her relatives. After a few phone calls and emails, my efforts were rewarded. Next of kin cannot always provide information about the intangible treasures of a deceased person, their memories, dreams and thoughts, or their old photos and documents. But one of Marianne’s sons, himself interested in his family history, knew about his mother’s estate. He found the records of his grandfather Karl Heuberger (1875 – 1959), a native of Bözen and pharmacist in Bern.

At the age of about 75 years, he had not only written down his memories of his youth, but also a lot of interesting information about his family history and his hometown. From these reports, a rich picture of his extended family at the end of the 19th century emerges, with many facets and details, an impressive description of village life of a bygone era.

Also preserved is his curriculum vitae and that of his wife, as well as a genealogical table of the Heuberger family. Karl attended the district school in Frick, which was opened in 1866. He went to high school in Aarau and studied chemistry in Bern. He had been one of the first Bözen citizens to venture into the world of academics at that time. This was unusual in the farming village at that time, only very few families could afford to do without the labor of a son and in addition finance his education.

This was even less the case with daughters, as illustrated by the story of Marie Vögtlin from Bözen, the first female Swiss doctor. She was the daughter of Julius Daniel Vögtlin, the pastor of Bözen, and his wife Henriette Benker. In 1868, she expressed her desire to study medicine and become a doctor, which caused a scandal throughout Switzerland. In order for Marie Vögtlin to be admitted to the examination in 1873, her father had to obtain permission in writing!

Karl Heuberger – Pharmacist in Bern

A bookplate (Ex Libris) is a note or stamp pasted in books which served to identify the owner. The art of ex-libris was revived around 1880 and experienced a great boom at that time. The one of Karl Heuberger is very much in the spirit of his profession as a pharmacist, it is a real solomon’s-seal, found in the forests of Bözen and its surroundings, known as “Dittiwurz”. Although poisonous, it is also a medicinal plant.

Ex Libris of Karl Heuberger depicting a lily of the valley

Karl Heuberger’s biography is characterized by a thirst for action and tireless creativity. After his studies, Karl traveled all over Europe, built up his own business in Bern, became president of the Bernese Pharmacists’ Association and co-founded Collaboration Pharmaceutique SA, a purchasing center for pharmacies, which later became Galenica. Karl was a pioneer and one of the leading pharmacists in Switzerland. At the same time, he remained true to his roots in the simple farming village.

Karl Heuberger’s pharmacy on Spitalgasse in Bern was taken over by one of his sons-in-law and still exists today.

Karl Heuberger’s daughter Marianne writes about the Sunday visits to her relatives in Bözen. Karl’s family used to board the train in Bern and was picked up at the Effingen train station in a horse-drawn carriage and was “deliciously entertained”. They also occasionally helped on the farm of Uncle Gottlieb and Aunt Anni, whom Marianne calls her favorite aunt.

For a better understanding of the family here are six generations of Heuberger descended from bailiff Johannes Heuberger from Elfingen who was naturalized in Bözen in 1766.

Family tree of bailiff Hans Jacob Heuberger
Family tree of bailiff Hans Jacob Heuberger

The following history is based, among other sources, on five texts written by Karl Heuberger. They were available to me as digital copies. They come from the estate of his daughter Marianne. I obtained permission to use the contents from her son.

One of these texts is preserved as a typewritten original from 1953 with the title “History of the Heuberger family in Bözen”.

The other four texts are transcripts which his daughter presumably made in the 1990s from the originals which no longer exist today and supplemented with individual comments. The titles of the texts are:

  • “Curriculum vitae of Karl Heuberger” / “Orientation on pharmacy conditions in Bern, in my time.”
  • “Brief curriculum vitae of Berta Heuberger – Schmid”
  • “The family name Heuberger” / “Our line of Heuberger in Bözen” / “My parents and siblings”
  • “The village of Bözen”

Two of these texts by Karl Heuberger are reproduced here:

The family name Heuberger

“It may be assumed that the family name Heuberger is related to the field name Heuberg. In the 15th century, when the family names originated, occasionally an hill was called Heuberg, e.g. in Kaisten near Laufenburg, the Rütihof was called Heuberghof.

Apart from the Schenkenberg area, which comprised the present district of Brugg, there are Heuberger also in St. Gallen, Appenzell, Thurgau, Bern (Ersigen). Our family name is also said to occur in Bavaria, Württemberg and Baden. In 1726 a Hans Heinrich Heuberger emigrated from Bözen to the Rhine Palatinate. His descendants – apparently strongly mixed with foreign blood – were said to be the traveling actors from the Palatinate. Whether the famous theater group of “Father Heuberger”, of which I was told a lot in Burgdorf, also descended from this emigrant, I do not know. But one of these descendants had been a night watchman in Hoffer, in Zweibrück, had died unmarried and had given his fortune to the relatives in Bözen.

It seems that the Heuberger spread in the area of today’s canton Aargau and beyond. The name is found in the parish registers and family registers of Aarau, Zofingen, Biberstein and other municipalities. In an account statement of the bailiff of Lenzburg it can be read:

“denne vom Peter Heuberger aus Baselbiet gebürtig, dass er der Leibeigenschaft frei und ehrlicher Geburt seie, zu einem Hintersässen angenommen worden sei. Collection received 50 Pf.”

Since 1500, Heuberger from Bözen and also from other areas are mentioned as mercenaries. For example, a Captain Heuberger from Thurgau participated in the Italian campaigns and later served as a mercenary for the five original members of the Swiss confederation.

In the neighboring community of Elfingen there were and still are Heuberger. They originated from Bözen and moved to Elfingen probably due to marriage. An old deed shows that Hansjoggeli Heuberger, who had taken over the farm from his father Kaspar and from his grandfather Sebastian, is the progenitor of the Elfingen Heuberger. He had twelve children, one of whom died of the plague in 1668, which is recorded in the death register of Elfingen. (His father and grandfather were still referred to as “from Bözen”).

In the parish registers and other documents, it can be seen that the owners of the mill in Bözen descended from the aforementioned Sebastian Heuberger, and that the mill was owned by members of this family from 1562 to 1892. The last miller Jakob Heuberger (1821 – 1903) was also the mayor of the village and later became district judge. He was an intelligent man, a grand seigneur, whom I remember very well. We village boys had a lot of respect for him. He was the grandfather of my sister-in-law Ida, Jacob’s wife. The secretary Heuberger of Aarau and the genealogist Th. v. Lerber both found out that different lines of the Heuberger exist, which are related through intermarriage, with the exception of the line of Jakob Heuberger.

Our line of the Heuberger in Bözen

Our line descends from the above-mentioned bailiff Jakob Heuberger, who was born on May 11, 1732 and died on April 6, 1802. He was a citizen of Elfingen, owned a farm in Linn and a flower mill in Villnachern. He naturalized in Bözen in 1766, his citizen’s letter is preserved (see transcription above). He was a local bailiff, the deputy of the Bernese bailiff at Schenkenberg, later at Wildenstein, after the castle of Schenkenberg was no longer being used.

His son Hans Jakob married Elisabeth Byland from Veltheim near Schinznach, the daughter of the bailiff there. In 1803, after the establishment of the canton of Aargau, he became mayor of Bözen and in 1837 district judge.

His son Johannes became a blacksmith. He was born on December 24, 1788, died on January 26, 1860, and married Elisabeth Brack of Bözen. He built our ancestral home in Oberdorf in 1820. His son, Jakob Heuberger, was born on October 8, 1820 and died on July 30, 1898. He was married to Elisabeth Brändli of Bözberg, and in 2nd marriage to Elisabeth Brack from the flower mill in Effingen. He was my father.

He was a blacksmith and lived with his family in our main house. In the attached neighboring house lived two brothers of the above-mentioned Johannes, the unmarried Hans Kaspar and Hans Heinrich, called “Grossrats”. His son Jakob moved to Brugg around 1895, where he privatized. When my brother Gottlieb married, my parents moved into this house. Later my brother Jakob lived in it (Note: Both houses are today owned by the municipality of Bözen).

The Heuberger family residence - map dated 1875
The Heuberger family residence – map dated 1875 (Source: Bözen village archive)

My father

Jakob Heuberger, my father, was born on October 8, 1820. He was a citizen of Bözen, as he had given up his citizenship in Elfingen. He married on July 15, 1855 Elisabeth Brändli of Bözberg, who died already in 1857, after the birth of a girl named Elisabeth. This “Lisebethli” was initially raised in Bözberg. On September 10, 1861, he married for the second time, to Elisabeth Brack of Bözen and Effingen, from the Effingen mill. She gave birth to three sons.

My father learned the profession of a blacksmith and wagon maker, which was considered lucrative at the time of the flourishing transport business on the Bözberg road. After his apprenticeship, he went on the “Walz” or journeyman years, mainly in Geneva and other places in western Switzerland, but did not learn French. When he returned home, he took over the “upper forge” and the residential house from his father. He was an efficient and hard-working master blacksmith, known far and wide for his quality products (such as hatchet, billhook, axe, etc.), and he knew how to forge wagon wheels more expediently and prettily than others. On Sunday the farmers came from far away to do business with him. He was also known as a good farrier, but often impatient with restless horses.

When our neighbor “Grossrats” Heuberger brought the first self-holding plow to the village, my brothers had no peace until their father made them a similar one. For this purpose, he had a plowsmith in Stammheim provide the necessary castings and hammer forgings. The plow turned out very well, and orders for it followed immediately.

In the Sonderbund War he was a sub-lieutenant and advanced to captain. I do not remember seeing him in uniform.

Although he was an irascible and hot-tempered man, he was respected in the village as righteous and just. He was elected as a deputy justice of the peace, who had to settle minor disputes as the first instance. At the beginning of the 1880’s he became mayor of the village and held this office for several periods.

Since my two brothers did not want to learn the blacksmith’s trade (they lacked the robust constitution and they also feared the strict apprenticeship with their father), and after the opening of the Bözberg railroad, the road transportation business suffered greatly and my father slowly incorporated a farm. He bought land that, because of the excessive demand, he usually had to overpay for.

On the larger forest complex “in der Waltern”, situated towards Zeihen, which my grandfather had already acquired cheaply, the wood was cut, the soil was broken up and planted. The “Waltern” flourished, became fertile and had become an important asset at father’s death. At 70 he was still in full possession of his strength, carrying a heavy sack of wheat to the attic without being out of breath. At 75 he was aging and often complained of stomach problems. The doctor was called in too late, and he soon recognized the problem: Stomach cancer, the family’s hereditary evil. Surgery was no longer possible, and so I found him ill when I came home in 1898, after my first semester. I kept vigil over him from July 29 to 30, and in due to my inexperience I did not notice that my father slumbered painlessly away in the early morning.

My mother

Elisabeth Heuberger-Brack, my mother, was born on August 3, 1832. She came from the Effingen mill, from a large family. A brother of hers (Jakob?), who had returned home from abroad where he had served as a mercenery, lived in a cottage next to the mill. Another brother, Gottlieb, was a bookseller at Sauerländer in Aarau, had a mentally ill wife and a son who ultimately had to be interned in the clinic in Königsfelden. I took care of him. The third brother, Fritz, had taken over the mill. His capable wife from Elfingen gave birth to two children, a son Fritz and a daughter Anna. This Anna married the local clerk Spillmann in Villnachern but died early and left a daughter named Trudi. She was raised in our family, especially by Gottlieb and Anna Heuberger. She married Marcel Chollet from Geneva and lived in Bern.

Then there was another unmarried sister, Annamarie, called Ammereili. She took care of the household of her brother Fritz before his marriage and after the death of his wife. As a result of the very poor living conditions in the shady and damp mill, she contracted tuberculous and died at the age of about 45-50.

Together with my mother we often visited the Effinger mill, and I remember my grandmother very well, a kind woman, whose name was Scherrer and who came from the castle of Biberstein. From her we keep a baptismal spoon, made of silver with engraved initials L.S., which had come from the bailiff in Schenkenberg.

At the beginning of the 19th century, all sorts of things were going on in the Effingen mill, as I could catch from my mother’s conversations as a child. In those politically turbulent times, revolutionaries and conspirators went in and out of there, and persecuted people were hidden there, whom the soldiers were looking for with long sabers in the hayloft.

My mother was a good dear woman who suffered a lot from my father’s rough nature and did not know how to handle him.

Her most ardent wish was that her youngest boy would become a pastor or district teacher, which did not come true. Later, at every visit, she reproached me for still being single. When I finally introduced her to my bride, she was not satisfied either, since she was a catholic lady from the Fricktal. But she soon changed her mind when she got to know her better and when a granddaughter was born in 1911.

She remained healthy well into old age. She died of pneumonia on March 19, 1914. She left a big gap with her two daughters-in-law and the grandchildren in Bözen.

My siblings

Elisabeth, my stepsister, was born on October 7, 1857, and lost her mother at the age of 10 days. She was first raised by her family in Bözberg and Riniken, then came back to our house when my father married for the 2nd time. As I was told, she took care of me in my earliest youth. Later she was again with her relatives in Bözberg, who, it seemed, were incorrect towards my mother.

As an adult, Elise -as she was called- was a buffet lady at the “Krone” in Lenzburg. There she met the chef Albert Ott from Basel, to whom she married. The young, inexperienced couple then took over the Hotel and Restaurant Krone, which was subsequently not profitable. It was thanks to my mother that my father did not interfere in this matter and lost money.

The young couple then emigrated to the USA, where they were successful in the hospitality business. In 1895 they came to visit Bözen for a few weeks with their two boys. After the death of her husband, Elise lived with one of her sons in Miami, where she died on May 13, 1939. The other son lived in Brooklyn. I have no connection at all with these nephews of mine.

Jakob, my older brother, was born on June 22, 1862. Since he was too weak for the 1 1/4 hour walk to school in Frick, he attended the district school in Brugg for three years. He became a farmer, took private lessons with a lawyer and passed the exam as a notary (issuing of sales contracts and deeds). When the elderly municipal clerk in Bözen died, he became his successor. He took care of the municipal clerkship with skill and conscientiousness until old age. He was married to Ida Heuberger from Bözen and had three sons. Robert, the eldest was a bank clerk in Zurich, Karl a merchant in Lucerne, Alfred (Fridel) took over the parental farm. He married Ida Brack and had three children. Jakob died on October 8, 1941.

Gottlieb, my younger brother, was born on October 9, 1865. He attended eight years of the community school in Bözen. He lived in our ancestral home and was married to Anna Brack of Bözen and had three children. He was a farmer with heart and soul and took care of cattle, fields and meadows very reliably. He was a tireless worker. He suffered from stomach problems at an early age. He died on January 10, 1935.

The elder son, Walter, took over the farm, his mother and sister Hulda took care of the housekeeping and the garden. The younger son, Otto, became an electrical engineer at Ciba in Basel. He married Gertrud Zipf of Basel and had two children.

The village of Bözen

The village of Bözen is a wine-growing village. Its houses are masonry Jura gable houses, dimension and roof shape have been preserved in their original form, the interior decoration has been renewed over the years. Among the oldest houses is the Tavern zum Bären, built in 1517, with a large barn and stables, as they were used for transporting people and goods before the construction of the Bözberg railroad. Not far from it, another ancient house is located (No. 52), which served as a tithe house. In the village mill, the millstone pillar bears the date 1575.

Bözen in 1902 - two women fetching water from the village fountain
Bözen 1902, Oberdorf – fetching water from the fountain (Source: ETH library Zurich, picture archive)

Note: on the left side a part of Karl Heuberger’s parents’ house can be seen. Opposite is the old wine press and in the background the steeple of the Bözen church can be seen. To the right of the road runs the creek coming from Elfingen.

At that time there was no water supply, it had to be fetched at the village well and laboriously carried to the house.

The Protestant church rises on the panoramic spur north of the village. It was built in 1667 as a simple preaching hall with a choir raised by two steps. The pulpit and its sound cover were made in 1668 by master carpenter Hans Löüpin.

The construction of the church resembles that of an unpretentious chapel. The only decoration is a sandstone epitaph on the east side, which tells of its founder, Justine Roland, born Dietrich von Hohenstein. Her husband, Andreas Roland from Königsberg, major in French service, died as commander in Laufenburg during the 30-year war and was buried in Bözen as the nearest Protestant community. A silver gilded cup, which Mrs. Justina had given to the church on this occasion, served as a communion cup in my time.

House where Karl Heuberger was born - Foto around 1975
House where Karl Heuberger was born – Foto around 1975 (Source: family property)

The following description about our ancestral home, built by Johannes Heuberger in 1827, is found in the Swiss art monument guide, Aargau II:

….on the road to Elfingen, No. 30, former smithy, built in 1827 by J. Heuberger, brick throughout, under gable roof. In the parlor green-black ornamented stove. White ornamental frieze with urns and banners in sepia painting by Wolfgang Schmid, master stove-fitter in the Gipf near Frick and Egli, painter in Aarau, 1834. An identical stove on the upper floor, with inscription “Johannes Heuberger, Hufschmid, 1832”.

This is my birthplace, where I also spent my childhood years. My father’s forge was not located here, but down by the confluence of the three streams.

Of the three streams that unite in Bözen to form the Sissel creek, I would like to mention the one from Elfingen in particular. It has a very extensive catchment area and swells rapidly after a heavy thunderstorm. As a boy, I have twice experienced how it brought barrels and buckets and household goods from Elfingen and also flooded and devastated Bözen.

Bözen lies in a tableland area. The hills have a broad, often flat ridge, on which perhaps some forest grows. Mostly, however, it is fallow land that covers it, plots of land with a thin layer of topsoil and puny grass growth. But marsh orchids of various species were found by Marianne when we hiked from Ueken over the Mühleberg to Bözen. As a result of rapid weathering of the limestone layers in place, the fallow grounds have become somewhat deeper over time, and gave, with the addition of artificial fertilizer, some grass and hay.

The arable land is mostly located on the lowest slopes of the hills. The clay soil is not very fertile and difficult to work, and because of continuous division of inheritance so fragmented that it could not be worked profitably. Therefore, the consolidation of the estates and the accurate surveying about 1930 was a blessing.

The vineyards gave a sour wine, which in bad years could only be enjoyed chaptalized, i.e. mixed with sugar water before fermentation. However, it was always bought by farmers in the upper Aargau and by wine merchants. Recently, the aging vines have been replaced by new varieties of American origin, which are also less susceptible to pests. As more careful selection takes place at harvest time, the quality and shelf life of Bözen wines has improved. Viticulture, besides agriculture, meant a lot of work for the population. In many cases, the major work in the field and in the vineyards took place at the same time.

The problem of the region was that neither grass nor vegetables grew well on the dry vineyards, industry was still completely absent, and agriculture alone could not feed the population. Thus, the sale of wine was an important subsidy to be able to pay the interest due in fall. Or perhaps, in good years, to buy a small plot of land or a cow or to pay off a mortgage. Consider how exhausting this labor was: grain and potatoes, some vegetables and fruit, a sow for slaughter in late autumn — that was all the farm could produce. Rice, corn, pasta, coffee, fat and clothes had to be bought in addition.

Sometimes even their own flour was not enough. One did not consume one’s own wine, which would have been too expensive. At the most, it was diluted with sugar water, or people were content with pomace wine.

Around 1850 the misery was great, the potatoes rotted in the ground, the grain harvest failed, many people had to suffer from hunger. A side income was the weaving of linen, which later disappeared completely.

Around 1800 Bözen had about 500 – 600 inhabitants, but there was not enough food for all. So, in time, young people moved out to areas where industry brought job opportunities. Others left home, emigrated to America, where they saved some money as domestic servants and construction workers, and finally bought a small farm. Of these, rarely did anyone find their way back to Europe, at most for a brief visit. Between 1860 and 1890 there was a real emigration epidemic. My brother Jakob, who was a municipal clerk and studied such things, claimed that there were as many folks form Bözen living in the USA as in the village itself. Until 1875, some of them served abroad as mercenaries and then came back home, spoiled in body and soul. I remember that my father, as mayor, received pensions from the Italian embassy in Bern, which he had to pay to the surviving dependents of the “Napolitans”.

The transportation business to support the traffic of people and goods on the Bözberg road from Basel to Zurich and to Eastern Switzerland brought earnings. The road climbed steeply via Effingen up to the Stalden, so that lead horses were needed. For this purpose, horses were available in Bözen, where the stables of “Bären” and “Post” each housed 20 – 25 horses.

The horses of the stage coach were also changed here. The maintenance of the wagons brought the wainwright and the blacksmith a nice income, and the regular shoeing of the horses allowed my father and grandfather to keep a journeyman. Consider what a loss the opening of the Bözberg railroad in 1872 brought, which at once made the road transportation business disappear.

A period of lean years set in again, which I remember well, and which favored emigration to the USA.

A day laborer earned 7 Batzen (1 Batzen = 10 Rappen) for an afternoon’s work from 1 to 7 PM, the women only 6 Batzen. Difficult or hard labor started from 4 or 5 AM and was compensated with 1 ½ times the daily wage. For breakfast there was coffee with milk, hashed potatoes and bread, and for lunch wine, bread and cheese were given to the workers. For lunch there was soup, vegetables and potatoes with bacon, and at best another glass of wine. During the morning and afternoon break each person received a “snack” consisting of bread and seven deciliters of wine. The evening meal consisted of coffee with milk, bread and boiled potatoes.

After the completion of the day’s work, the day laborers were invited for lunch on Sunday. There was meat soup, green or scrawny beans, mashed potatoes, ham and cooked beef. Dessert was not known. Upon completion of the grain harvest, there was a traditional invitation for the day laborers, the “Sichellöse”. My mother had to bake a whole wash basket full of carnival fritters, of which each day laborer could take home a big plate.

A word about the eating habits of those days

In our household meat was served only on Sundays and it was brought to the table boiled, visitors were also served roasted veal. In the garden we planted chard, cabbage, turnips, carrots, leek, onions. Tomatoes were not known at that time, cauliflower and beetroot were rare, beans were eaten green and dried.

In autumn a bucket full of sauerkraut was preserved, the preserved leaves of chard were called “surchrut”. This is still vivid in my memory.

In the summer our menu consisted of bacon, boiled potatoes and vegetables, in the winter, small dumplings and dry plums, sour vegetables and bacon, or sometimes milk coffee and flower pastry. On bread baking days there were pies, depending on the season using apples, cherries or plums to make fruit pies, in winter also potato or onion pie. Rice and semolina were also served occasionally, but no corn. People lived simply and as much as possible from the products of their own farm.

In the fall, when the meat supplies were used up, they farmers had the village butcher come and slaughter the fattest of the two pigs, the second pig was slaughtered only after New Year. On these slaughter days everyone had to help out. After the dead pig was gutted and cut up, the butcher went to the village stream to prepare the intestines.

Then the sausages were prepared: for the blood sausages my mother needed a kettle full of milk and a large quantity of fried onions. For the liver sausages, the butcher’s assistant chopped the liver on a meter-wide butcher’s board with a cradle knife, a job that took 1-2 hours. They also made sausages and smoked sausages, partly from bacon, meat scraps and rind, which were dried in the smokehouse and saved for later.

The hard work made people thirsty, diligently wine was poured. Some of the sausages were given away to the needy and day laborers, with our neighbor Grossrats the “Metzgete” was regularly exchanged.

In the evening of the slaughtering day, the order of the dinner dishes was determined by the old tradition: first a roasted flour soup, into which the spleen was cut, then came the bloodhound (the pig’s stomach filled with blood) and the liver sausages, which were eaten with hashed browns and apple slices. Anyone who still wanted to eat more meat would get a steak. Wine flowed, tongues were loosened, politics were discussed, and news was exchanged.

The following morning, the kitchen and living room had to be cleaned, the meat was being preserved, the fat was cut up and rendered into lard. Again, everyone had to help.

The Christmas tree was known in our family only by hearsay. At Grossrat Heubergers next door they decorated one for Olga. I was invited to this when the two families were not in a mutual disagreement, which could be triggered by trifles, whereby I do not want to defend either the one or the other family.

The new schoolteacher then introduced the Christmas celebration in the church from about 1882 on, a large decorated fir tree was placed in the choir and lit up the church with its candles. The school children participated in the celebration and were given a useful gift afterwards.

(About the candle lighting: electric light was first seen by my father and my brother Gottlieb at the National Exhibition in Zurich in 1883 in the form of a small light bulb).

The men spent New Year’s Eve among themselves with playing cards in a local tavern. On New Year’s Day, however, they also took the women with them, the younger ones to the dance in the “Bären”, the older ones met with friendly couples, my father and mother for example met with “‘Krämers” in the Unterdorf. Every few years a merry-go-round came to the village, to the delight of the children, or circus “Knie” stretched a rope across the street at the “Bären”.

By far the most popular event was the cattle and goods market, which took place in spring and autumn. However, it has been closed for 50 years (i.e. since about 1900). From the bridge at the Smithy to the Bären, market stalls were set up on both sides of the street, manned by out-of-town merchants and market criers. Clothes, undergarments, linen, hats, rags, etc. were haggled over. Regularly a straw hat had to be bought for me, which went to shreds again until the next spring when we played and fought with the other village boys. Other things worth appreciating were sugar stuff, hair oil and cologne.

After good wine years the merchants did good business, after bad years their sales were low. But over the years, the village’s two general stores sold everything that was needed by the inhabitants, and twice a year the peddlers of Gamper & Co from Aarau and the “Baderjud” came to the village with large sample collections. The housewives exchanged knitting yarn, sewing thread etc. for rags and bones at the “Lumpenvreni”, a poor peddler in Herznach, where they also learned the latest news and scandals. Ribbons were regularly brought by the “Bändelijud” from Baden.

Garden Seeds were bought by hawkers from Swabia, who regularly appeared like a clockwork in spring with pack on their backs carrying their goods. Broken windowpanes were mended by an Italian glazier who carried his supply of window glass in a back basket. Another Italian brought young chickens in the spring, “pretty yellow legs” he would exclaim.

In time there was also a baker in the village who baked fresh bread every day, and a butcher who offered fresh meat on weekends. We had a good shoemaker in Hornussen. When I went to high school in Aarau, my mother had new clothes made for me in Hornussen, later at Gamper & Co in Aarau.

On these pages I have tried to give my descendants a picture of my hometown and to show them how the lives and earning possibilities were at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, how one had to struggle and toil to get by. There were few really poor people, almost all of them could keep a cow or two goats and slaughter a pig now and then. But unfortunately, there were a lot of poor citizens from outside the community, for whom one had to collect the poverty tax regularly. There were two families of drunkards in my time, but they quickly died out.

It is probably thanks to the use of artificial fertilizers that the yields from meadows and fields improved and the people achieved a modest prosperity. The establishment of agricultural cooperatives also brought many improvements for the farmers.

The municipality has only a small forest property, so that the annual yield for each resident Bözer citizen, the “Burgerknebel” is rather meager.”


Karl Heuberger’s memories describe a village in the upper Fricktal around 130 years ago, where life was still dominated by agriculture during his younger years. Known as the poorhouse of the canton of Aargau, it took until the middle of the 20th century for a certain prosperity to become noticeable with the emergence of industrialization. Among other things, the chemical industry was looking for alternative locations because of the spatial constriction in the urban area of Basel. With the relocation of their production sites, numerous new jobs were created in the Fricktal.

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