CAROLINE ELIZABETH AUFDERMAUR
The information below has been compiled from a variety of sources. If the reader has access to information that can be documented and that will correct or add to this woman’s biographical information, please contact the Nevada Women’s History Project.
At A Glance:
Born: April 5, 1910 in Schwyz , Switzerland
Died: December 30, 1991 in Lovelock, Nevada
Maiden Name: Caroline Heinzer
Race/Nationality/Ethnic Background: Swiss
Married: John Joseph Aufdermaur on January 30, 1930 in Schwyz , Switzerland
Children: Caroline, Annie, Mary Jane, Josie, Catherine, John Jr., Virginia, Daniel, Carl, and Robert
Primary City and County of Residence and Work:
Lovelock, Pershing , Nevada
Major Fields of Work: Housewife, mother, and farm partner
Other Role Indentities: Caregiver of foster children, member of St. John’s Catholic Church, St. Agnes Altar Society, Eaglettes, Farm Bureau, 4-H, Pink Ladies, Fairview Homemakers, and American Association of Retired Persons.
Rural dairy farmer fostered more than 100 children
In his poem, “Elegy in a Country Churchyard”, the English poet Thomas Grey says essentially that people, although leading humble lives, nevertheless have within them the rudiments of greatness. So it is with many around us whom history will never record for contributions they have made. International fame will not be theirs. Yet the world is a better place for their having been here. As a rock tossed on the waters of a quiet pool spreads its circular pattern, so do good works ever widen, touching and influencing untold numbers.
Such a doer of good works was Caroline Aufdermaur, who spent 47 years of her life raising her family and giving service to her community. She came as the bride of John Aufdermaur who had returned to his native Switzerland in November, 1929 to visit family and friends. Born into a farm family, Caroline had grown up in the picture postcard beauty of Switzerland . During the festive market days in Schwyz, after an evening of dancing, she was escorted home by the visitor from America . Caroline thought him a handsome man and was not unhappy when he came to visit the family. A whirlwind, three-month courtship culminated in marriage, and the young couple embarked immediately for Lovelock after their wedding on January 30, 1930 .
The crash of ’29 left in its wake ruined fortunes and economic ruin across the nation. The young Aufdermaurs soon realized some of the repercussions of the Depression. John had purchased a dairy farm in 1923 at the height of the inflationary prices. Now he had to pay off the property during the Depression that left thousands standing in bread lines. Arriving in the middle of the winter a continent away from home, Caroline looked out over the barren land, which constantly battled the forces of wind and dust. The stark, unfamiliar landscape, so foreign to her homeland, did nothing to alleviate the consuming homesickness that engulfed the young bride.
“I cried more tears that winter and that first year than I had shed in my entire life,” said Caroline. She could not speak English so was dependent for company upon John and the two Swiss men who worked on the farm. “John was the kindest man in the world as was one of the men who worked for us. John’s understanding and our hired man’s thoughtful small gifts helped me to forget some of my sadness,” she related.
The birth of her first child was the salve needed to soothe the ache of homesickness, and Caroline was on her way to becoming the woman who would open her home and heart not only to her own children and those of her friends and neighbors, but to troubled children sent to her by her church and finally the State Welfare Agency.
The dairy and farm work were no strangers to Caroline. “I’ve done all there is to do on a farm and in the dairy.” Caroline recalled. The Aufdermaur dairy furnished milk delivery to Lovelock residents when in 1933, John, using a horse drawn wagon, began the familiar milk route. Starting with one horse, John added a team when the route became more demanding. Finally he mechanized and drove a milk truck. In 1944, as World War II raged, they were forced to discontinue the route, for there was no help to be found. Although Caroline delivered milk when John’s failing health made the chore impossible for him, the lack of help forced them to sell the dairy herd in 1946. The historic dairy barn stood idle, and beef cattle took the place of the milk herd.
After John’s death in 1971, Caroline turned over the running of the farm to John, Jr. She no longer kept day care and foster children, having given up her last five children in 1967. She had begun caring for children in 1948. “I can’t remember how many I took in over the years. I should have kept written account of them I suppose, but I was always too busy, it seemed,” Caroline said. Last count by those who have known her throughout the years places the number near 125. The number is staggering but more incredulous is the fact that these were almost always emotionally battered children whose behavior reflected the buffeting life had given them. Equally astounding is the fact that while all these children were being given a haven, Caroline was raising her own family. She bore 10 children, eight of whom grew to adulthood. Her offspring have presented her with 27 grandchildren, 49 great-grandchildren, and 3 great-great-grandchildren.
Although Caroline was a member of the American Association of Retired Persons, one could hardly say she was retired. She was active in her church, being a member of the Altar Society, of which she was president twice and held numerous other offices. She had been a member of Pink Ladies since 1968 and served as treasurer of that organization. She was a charter member and past president of Eaglettes. She was more or less permanent treasurer of the Eaglettes for about 29 years, and state Mother of the Year in 1967.
She worked in 4-H with all her children and was an active member of Farm Bureau and its sister organization Fairview Homemakers when the organization was active. For years she and friends kept together a 500 club. She enjoyed playing canasta with friends also.
And so life was never dull for Caroline. She gave of herself to her community and to her many children, natural and gathered. She was an inspiration to those who knew her. Yes, the world is a better place for Caroline Aufdermaur having passed this way . . .
Sources of Information:
- Personal interview by Eleanor Gottschalk, November 1991.
- “Local Woman Honored for Life of Giving”. Lovelock Review-Miner, January 9, 1992 , by Eleanor Gottschalk.