Life in America for Johanna Bettermann Schulz

  From Chicago Albert and Hanni traveled to Murray, Utah, where Emma Sturm lived with her family on a large farm held by a few Polygamous families. They set up housekeeping in two rooms upstairs in Emma's house.


   For a professional woman, who had lived in the city, life on a farm was very different. Hanni was pulled into endless jobs of harvesting, preserving, and working the land.

Hanni with Emma Sturm on the farm

Albert worked nights as a baker, slept in the morning, and worked on the farm till evening.
    In Germany, upon joining the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-Day Saints, she dreamed of being married in a temple. That dream was dashed as she found the Mormon leaders, in Utah, to be very hostile to Mormons who insisted on living in Polygamy. The manifesto declaring the revelation from God that polygamy was to end was first published in 1880. Many families continued with the practice for another 50 years. A third manifesto was published in 1930 with threats of excommunication if any continued to live the law. Albert and the Sturms found themselves aligned with "The Group" which were headquartered in Short Creek, Arizona. which followed Leroy Johnson. They met in small groups locally and sometimes traveled to be in meetings of the larger group.Hanni believed she was living the gospel as restored to Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and John Taylor. She wanted to live simply, on the land, with a family to someday inherit eternal life. Secretly she hoped to convince her mother and sisters of those convictions.

Hanni with Emma Sturm and daughters

    Hanni's dream was to have their own farm with a house large enough to bring her mother and sisters to America. That dream was not to far in the distance. Albert secured land close to his sister's and they built a house on Riley Lane.

The Riley Lane Farm
    Hanni wrote to Germany, offering to sponsor her family. Oma Betterman came first. She came on the ship alone at age 72, with a cane. A broken hip in Silesia had not healed well and so she could not walk without a cane.

Anna Bettermann with cane and white flower on hat. Followed on left by Liesel and Norbert who helped her board the ship

   She arrived in America on Nov. 12, 1951. Hanni and Albert came to pick her up. She lived upstairs in Hanni's house in her own room.

Albert, Oma Bettermann, and Hanni
   If Hanni thought her mother would embrace her religious convictions she was deeply disappointed. Oma was appalled and distressed to find that her daughter lived apart from the mainstream church. She found connections with German saints in Salt Lake City and as best she could stayed active in her local ward community. She also wrote to Liesel and warned her of what might be an offer of marriage from Albert when she came. Liesel and Norbert arrived in America in 1952. Ruth had married in Germany and also immigrated with her family in 1954.

Hanni and Liesel in the truck with Albert and Oma up front

   There was tension in the house when Liesel arrived to live with them. Liesel made every effort to find a job and re-locate into the city, which she did.

Oma, Norbert, Liesel, and Hanni with other children

   Everyone was eternally grateful to Hanni and Albert for their generosity and support but no one wanted to be part of the Polygamist Movement.
  Shortly after Liesel's arrival, a raid by Arizona police took place in Short Creek. Many men were arrested and children taken from their mothers. The press took pity on the polygamists and the event was considered ill  
administered and did not have the desired effect of curtailing illegal marriages. Hanni and Albert were there, for reasons unknown.

   With these pressures from society and the disapproval of her family, Hanni's beliefs became more private.
    In 1955 Marta and her family came to America. Landing in New York, they took a train to Salt Lake City, Utah and Hanni was there to welcome them. It was quite a reunion since all the sisters and their mother were now together. Liesel's and Marta's children loved the farm where Albert and Hanni lived. There were goats, chickens, horses, and plenty of places to play.

Peter watches while Ingo jumps over Kurt and others
Kurt and Peter do a one legged match while Hanni and Gaby watch

Her nieces and nephews become her surrogate children. She knew them from before and she welcomed the new little girl Marta had given birth to while still in Germany.

   Kurt and Marta purchased a home within six months of arriving in Utah and soon the only one living with Hanni and Albert was Oma. Family visits between sisters was constant, even though there were many religious differences. Kurt and Goetz were not members of any church, Liesel, Oma, Marta and her two sons were mainstream Mormons and Hanni and Albert affiliated with "the Group" even though they did not take a second wife.
   Holidays were special days to come together. Christmas was often celebrated at the home of Kurt and Marta. A traditional German Heilicher Abend brought everyone together on Christmas Eve.

From left, Oma,Gaby,marta, Kurt, Hanni, Albert, Liesel, Goetz, Norbert, and Ingo sitting at the table. Missing is Peter..

When Goetz married Sigrid there were soon more children to nurture and love.
Gaby with Rosi on Christmas Eve
Nephew GoetzRosi, Robert, and Rolf

  One of the joys of Hanni's life was providing a home for her mother.

Anna Bettermann, Norbert and Liesel

Oma with a German friend on Temple Square

Oma with Marta on a hot summer day in the garden

   There were many children in Hanni's life. She would have had a fulfillment of joy had she some of her own. We were her children and she was present at all the important events of our lives. She remembered our birthdays, she came to weddings, and she called us frequently to inquire, 'Do you remember me?"
Albert and Hanni at Gaby's Wedding reception

 The family of Ivan Nielson came into her life and she invited his huge family to farm her land. There were teenagers and children working in her garden and tending to her needs.
The goats were particularly fun for the children.

My favorites were Dinah and Moki

Gaby and her favorites

The best part about the goats was when in the spring the babies were born. Everyone wanted to feed them and cuddle them.

Hanni and Ingo nuzzling the goats
Ivan Nielson had a young son, Guy, who showed interest in the violin. He was the sixth child of ten and started asking for lessons when he was four years old. Hanni told Guy's mother to find out about lessons and she would pay for them.
Guy Nielson in 1998 as a member of the National Youth Philharmonic Orchestra
Tante Hanni continued paying for his lessons until her death. She was passionate about music and often extended encouragement and support to her families in all cultural endeavors. On a visit to Salt Lake City, Gaby and Hanni were admiring baby grand pianos. She told Gaby that a new piano was not a frill but a necessity. She promptly pulled out a 100 dollar bill and announced that this was the beginning of the new piano fund. Gaby did buy a baby grand some months later and has been grateful for her aunt's persuasive argument ever since.

In 1979 her husband of thirty years passed away. This was very difficult for her.

Thirty years of marriage

She mourned in private, mostly, for a long time. Both of her sisters were widows and she knew what the transition might be. Albert left her in charge of a large house and they were connected to a loving church group, who showed their support by keeping the farm going. Ivan Nielson and his family were the most helpful to her. He had many children who worked the farm.

Ivan Nielson

He showed interest in her family and even played Chauffeur for the visit from Walter Betterman. Walter, her only brother came to America two times. On both trips Ivan picked him up and escorted the whole crew, three sisters and their brother, on excursions through the western states.

Walter Bettermann
Walter came to the United States for the first time in 1981. His wife Klare had died in 1978. The Iron Curtain was still in force in Eastern Europe but Walter was a senior citizen and as long as he did not take any money out of East Germany he was allowed to visit. He came for months at a time and stayed with his sisters in each of their homes. He visited their children and saw much of the West. In his travel diary he writes about his long conversations with his sisters. He and Hanni stayed up half the night talking. He said that sharing memories of the past was the most wonderful part of his visits. In his second visit in 1984 he stayed three months and came with his sister-in-law Kaethe.

Hanni drove a car, which her sisters did not, so she weekly took Marta to the German Delicatessen, Marianne's.
The three sisters at a restaurant
These three were best of friends but also very opinionated. It was easy to get a heated discussion going about who could make the best Strüselkuchen.
Hanni, Liesel, and Martel

Hanni cared for a retarded man, named Richard, who had a daily job, but needed a home and some care. He lived upstairs in two rooms. He visited with us when we were there and he loved to tell jokes. Hanni played the role of caretaker and mother, reminding him of his chores and his manners. She received money for Richard from Social Services.

Her hobbies included doing Genealogy. As a new convert in Germany, before WW2, she had walked from church to church, collecting the records of her ancestors. We owe much of our knowledge to her tireless work in keeping records. She liked taking old pictures out of their albums and talking about the past. She knew grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins by name. She pronounced their surnames for us with a hope that they would come alive for us.
Anna Lindner Bettermann, second from left, with three of her five sisters
Along with Genealogy she had other hobbies.
One of her favorite  was a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. There was one going on the front porch table almost all the time. Everyone was welcome to put in some pieces but Hanni was the one that saw how things fit together.
Chinese Checkers was also a favorite. She had the game down in just so many moves. Her hand would dance from hole to hole and she moved further than her opponents. She did like to win and also to be right.

Over time, nieces and nephews had children and we brought them over to be with our beloved aunt.
Ingo and Kathy, with children Karin, Michael, Jason and Gregory
Everyone had their favorite memories.of her hugs, her smells, her home, her singing, and story telling.
Grandniece Rosi, Walt. and children Corianne, Brandon and Stephanie

Tante Hanni, Tante Liesel with Maris, Joanne, and Rebecca

A most cherished friend until her dying day was Frieda Fritz. Frieda was a German immigrant who lived close by the Sturm family, in close proximity to Hanni. They shared religion, farming, holistic health practices, and their culture in common. In the last years of Hanni's life, it was Frieda who picked up Marta to go shopping in the city. They were together a great deal and in the last months of Hanni's life it was Frieda who nursed her bronchitis and her ever increasing upper respiratory problems.

She died March 31, 1996 with her close loved ones around her. However, she lives on, to remind us how much she loved and cared for her families. She lives on and takes her place in history as our Pioneer Ancestor.

"My Great Aunt Hanni was a risk taker and an adventurer. I always admired her. There are many things we don't know about the people we love and I for on, have faith that in the eternal life to come, we will be given all  the time we could ever want, to truly get to know each other. I will tell my children about her and do my best to keep her memory alive until I join her and my Savior on high. What a glorious day that will be."
Genevieve Burgess Crowson