Roesiger's descendant captures his journals in new book
Melanie Russell photo
Monika Teuscher-Schramm, left, and Clara-Jean Heirman visit over the late Bob Heirman’s story about Lake Roesiger and Teuscher-Schramm’s new book “On the Trail of Richard Roesiger: A Pioneer’s Life in the Pacific Northwest” at the Heirman residence on July 20. Teuscher-Schramm was in the area for her book signing and to see the lake her great-uncle settled.
SNOHOMISH — Like her great-uncle Richard Roesiger, who settled the area around what is known today as Lake Roesiger, Swiss author Monika Teuscher-Schramm likes to write.
The family trait of writing has gifted locals with the knowledge of how the treasured lake and greater Snohomish area were settled back in the late 19th century.
Roesiger, a German-born pioneer, first came to the United States in 1886 at the age of 20 after receiving what his great-niece described as a “very good education,” wanting to explore and make his own way. Along that journey, he wrote about his experiences and the people he encountered in his journals – a collection of about 30 years of journaling.
Teuscher-Schramm grew up hearing family lore and stories about her adventurous great-uncle, as Roesiger had sent letters about his travels back to his family in eastern Germany. She, too, kept diaries and dreamed of adventure.
It was years before her dreams of seeing what her great-uncle did became a reality. She weaved it into a 500-page book, “On the Trail of Richard Roesiger: A Pioneer’s Life in the Pacific Northwest,” which was published in its English edition in May.
Teuscher-Schramm spent two years writing but many more years researching.
“There was an uncle, who immigrated to the states. He found a lake and it is named after our family, this is what I knew as a child,” Teuscher-Schramm said in a July interview. “I began researching, reading the old letters, written to Germany to his parents and his letters were so exciting. Now, I am in this area he wrote about, and when I first came here to have a look.”
Teuscher-Schramm’s first trip to Snohomish was in 1999 with her husband. When they went to visit Lake Roesiger, they met many locals who were happy to know the story behind the lake tucked between Granite Falls and Snohomish.
“They lined up at our door, many people came and they were all so nice,” Teuscher-Schramm said of their first visit to Granite Falls. “They had heard I was the European great-niece of Roesiger. And they wanted to know what Roesiger was!”
The third time Teuscher-Schramm traveled to Snohomish, she met a man and his wife who became great friends because of the shared love for history and writing: Bob and Clara-Jean Heirman.
Bob Heirman, who passed away in April, helped with Teuscher-Schramm’s uncovering of her great-uncle’s and family historical ties to Snohomish because he was a lifelong Snohomish resident borne of settlers and pioneers. Bob Heirman wrote a special to the Tribune about Lake Roesiger (reprinted on page 7 of this newspaper), and contributed historical photos of Roesiger to Teuscher-Schramm. Heirman loved his Snohomish history and told it to anyone who would listen. Teuscher-Schramm was all ears. They talked and talked and went on drives around the lakes.
Heirman’s account of a letter by Roesiger is detailed in the March 2011 Tribune supplement Snohomish County Seniors:
“I have a wonderful letter written in my archives written by Richard Roesiger in May 1934. He tells of discovering the lake in 1885 while looking for coal deposits. He was fascinated by the giant trout, huge timber and numerous deer and bear. He home-steaded on the lake in 1887…”
Bob’s wife, Clara-Jean Heirman, hosted Teuscher-Schramm for her visit in mid-July to sign books and talk about her great-uncle.
“She is my great friend,” Clara-Jean Heirman said. “Bob wrote a story of Lake Roesiger and I think he told how he got the photo, but anytime he would write, I couldn’t leave the house because I would help him! It was funny.”
Like Bob, Clara-Jean has been driving Teuscher-Schramm around town and the lakes during her visit for her book.
The Granite Falls Historical Museum hosted the book signings on July 15 and July 23.
At the July 23 signing, people lined up to get their copies signed and to speak with Teuscher-Schramm about her great-uncle.
“We came here to meet the author but it’s also so cool to read about the history of the area since we love the lake,” said Sally Ohlsen, as she held her signed copy of the book. “We’ve lived in the area all our lives, in Monroe, so we used to spend a lot of time at Lake Roesiger.”
Teuscher-Schramm’s book contains images scanned from Roesiger’s large leather-bound journals. Roesiger’s detailed his concerns, his work and his thoughts on science, politics, and other pioneer families that eventually came to the area.
“Do not let your courage waiver,” was an entry inked in German, by Roesiger to himself while he was working, settling the area around the lake. Before then, it was a densely forested area with small footpaths. It was wild.
Lake resident Elsie Sorgenfrei helped Teuscher-Schramm research Roesiger’s journals. Sorgenfrei had held onto the journals and when she died in 2013, the journals went to the Granite Falls Historical Society. A historical society member, Fred Cruger, met with Teuscher-Schramm and helped edit the English translation of the book derived of her great-uncle’s journals.
“What’s neat about Roesiger is that he often went into Snohomish for supplies, but traveled all over this area,” Cruger said. “He kept details of it all, and I won’t give away the best parts, but he had some adventures that he wrote about. I helped a little with the (English) editing to get it down a few pages, but it was a fun project.”
Cruger, who helped out at the book signings, shares Teuscher-Schramm’s enthusiasm for the historic significance of Roesiger’s writings.
“It was like a puzzle,” Teuscher-Schramm said. “But it was so exciting and wonderful for me to learn, I had to write it. It’s also important history for the people here, for the residents at the lake. My great-uncle wrote great details about everything. He was very interested about everything. He walked a lot. He worked very hard and it was cold, and it was sometimes awful for him. It was a life of life-and-death, a really hard pioneer life. But he made his place, his little residence, and in his diaries, it’s exciting to read why. He was very interested about science, politics, and described the exact boom of Seattle, and all the area around here, Monroe, Everett of course, and Snohomish. Step by step, time by time, there came more settlers to the lake. He wrote about them, the families, too. So, his very good education, my grandmother, his sister, had very good educations and so he could write. He also founded a school for the settlers’ children. He loved education.”
The book also details Roesiger’s search for a wife, starting a family and contributing to the local communities. It is available for sale at the Granite Falls Historical Museum, 109 E. Union St. in Granite Falls, and on Amazon.
What remains of the original homestead is a park for the public to enjoy.
“Now, it can be well-known the history of this lake and the people,” Teuscher-Schramm said. “It’s a great story. Courageous.”
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