My great-grandfather Mike emigrated from Switzerland to Goodhue County in southern Minnesota with several of his older brothers in the mid-nineteenth century. Mike was twelve years old, the youngest of the brothers. One brother became a traveling preacher with a booming voice. (“No one ever slept through Preacher Joe’s sermons!”), while the siblings became farmers in southern Minnesota. Others with the same surname also came to America, settling variously in the state of Washington, Oklahoma, and elsewhere. (I base this on the fact that there appear to be clusters of Kienholzes in those states.)
A couple years ago Younger Son’s company got a contract to install some computer equipment at a Swiss company. When he told me that he would be going to Switzerland, I requested that he check out the village that is the namesake of my family. The next time I talked to him he had googled and mapped it and figured out how he was going to get there.
Click on the link above to read the legend about the origin of the family. I remember my grandfather telling this same story to us grandchildren when I was about ten. In 1998 there was a grand family reunion in Switzerland to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the landslide and the birth of the family.
How much of the story is factually true is open to debate. I once read a Greek myth about survivors of a landslide who emerged some time after the disastrous landslide. Scientifically, how long could two people (and a rooster) survive underground? How long until the air ran out? What about water? But it all makes a good tale, and, as my husband says, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”
Rereading the myth now, it occurs to me that my entire family tree is descended from a two-year-old drunkard, which perhaps explains my fondness for the fruit of the grape…