1808 – Hartman Lorenz

Hartman Lorenz was born on June 28, 1808 to Martin Lorenz (1766-1825) and Margeth Mettier (1779-1850) in the village of Praden, Kreis Langwies (County Langwies), Canton Graubünden, Switzerland.

Martin Lorenz and Margreth Mettier were married in September 1800 in Praden. Margreth came from the village of Arosa on the northern slope of the Schanfigg valley. She was one of the so-called “married-in women” who had to buy their way into the parish in Praden.

They had four children, all sons:

  • Meinrad Lorenz, born in 1800
  • Hartmann Lorenz, born on June 28, 1808
  • Martin Lorenz, birth date unknown. Died in 1884
  • Christian Lorenz, born about 1818. Died in 1870

When he died in 1825, Martin Lorenz’s farm was inherited by his eldest son Meinrad. His mother, Margreth, lived with him and kept house until her death 25 years later.

The Lorenz family home in Praden

The Lorenz family has been settled in Praden since time immemorial, and with the help of the parish registers, their origins are most likely traceable back to the second half of the 17th century. Earlier sources support the assumption that the family had settled in the valley from the 14th to the 15th century with the Walser movement. The descendants lived on their scattered farms in Praden and Tschiertschen as farmers. Praden was always a poor village.

The Lorenz family home

This nondescript little house is the ancestral home of the Lorenz family in Praden. Today, it serves as a holiday home for the descendants who no longer reside in the village.

An inscription on the house dates it to1755. It was in the style of a Walserhaus, the designation for a historic style of a stone and timber block house built by peasants in some Swiss valleys. It owes its name to the ethnic group of the Walser people located in the Walser-speaking regions of Switzerland.

The Walser people are named after the upper Wallis valley in Canton Valais in southwest Switzerland. They are believed to have originally lived in southwest Germany and settled the upper part of the Wallis in roughly the 10th century. In the 12th and 13th centuries, they began to spread south, west, and east in the so-called Walser migrations (Walserwanderungen).  The eastward migration traveled across the Oberalp Pass to settle the valleys of Canton Graubünden where Praden is located.

Praden coat of arms

Today, the village of Praden (Prada in Romansh) is a tiny village in in Canton Graubünden in the administrative district of Plessur, which was named after the river Plessur which flows through it. The Plessur district consists of three Kreise (counties)—Chur, Churwalden and Schanfigg—which contain a total of just sixteen remote mountainous municipalities.

The village of Praden

There are just five communities or communes in Kreis Churwalden: the towns of Churwalden, Malix, Parpan, Praden, and Tschiertschen. At the end of 2004, the largest town, Churwalden, had a population of about 1,235 people. Praden’s population was 113, and Tschiertschen’s about 225.

Tschiertschen in winter

On January 1, 2009, the neighboring villages of Praden and Tschiertschen merged to become the new municipality of Tschiertschen-Praden.

Praden may derive its name from Prau, a Romansh word for “meadow.” It lies in the Schanfigg valley and is situated on the south bank of the Plessur river. The Plessur flows to the east past the village and about six miles away becomes a tributary to the Rhine river at the town of Chur, the capital of Graubünden. In the other direction along the river, just a mile to the southeast, is the neighboring village of Tschiertschen. Malix is about 2 miles to the west, and south of it are Churwalden and Parpan, each just several miles apart.

1810 – Ursula Held

Ursula Held was born on April 12, 1810 to Florian Held (1767-1850) and Lucia Jaeger (1768-1847). She was born in the nearby town of Malix. Florian and Lucia were married in 1790. Ursula was the seventh out of nine children..

1830 – marriage and children

Praden church

Ursula Held married Hartmann Lorenz on December 9, 1830 in the church in Praden, shown to the right.

They had five children;

  • Florian Lorenz, born in 1830
  • Margreth Lorenz, born in 1832
  • Luzia Lorenz, born May 15, 1835
  • Martin Lorenz, born on November 30, 1837
  • Hartmann Lorenz, born on June 25, 1840

“Getting Out of Poverty”

Their stories as adults have been told in a remarkable book titled “Wege aus der Armut: Lebensgeschichten einer Familie aus Praden im 19. Jahrhundert” by Ruth Strassmann-Stöckli. Translated it means “Getting out of Poverty: Life Stories of a Family in Praden in the 19th Century.” (A photo of Luzia Lorenz is on the cover.)

In the 1990s, the author of this book, Ruth Strassmann-Stöckli, found a bundle of letters and other historical documents on the floor of her grandparent’s house that attracted her attention. (It was the Lorenz family home in Praden.) The main collection consisted of more than fifty private letters from the second half of the 19th century, which were written in Kurrent, the German script in use at that time. In addition, other documents such as village certificates and contracts came to light. Recognizing the extraordinary value of this find, Ruth Strassmann decided to transcribe the letters for private use as documents of her family history. The reading of the letters turned out to be highly enlightening, fascinating, and touching, as it offered a vivid idea of ​​the life of unknown and long-forgotten ancestors from a time that is not very distant historically. The letters offered information about the means of transportation and the unspeakable conditions on the ships that put to sea.

The book is composed of about fifty letters written by four Lorenz siblings from Praden, which tell of life in Graubünden in the 19th century. The messages arrived to their home village of Praden from the Graubünden towns of Samedan and Pontresina near St. Moritz; Le Havre and Paris in France; Brussels in Belgium; St. Louis, Missouri; and Highland, Illinois in the United States.

Johannes Badrutt’s Kulm Hotel

The young people of the Lorenz family were widely dispersed in the search for a materially secure existence. Not even the eldest son, Florian, who would inherit the land, could feed his family with the proceeds of his father’s farm. Every summer for many years, Florian Lorenz earned money as a carpenter in the town of St. Moritz in the Engadine valley at Johannes Badrutt’s Kulm Hotel, a luxury hotel in existence since 1854.

One of his brothers, Martin Lorenz, followed him into the Engadine valley and started a family in the village of Pontresina.

The youngest sister, Luzia Lorenz, chose to emigrate with her husband, Valentin Clementz, to the American midwest. (See Valentin Clementz and Luzia Lorenz.) Her touching letters document the family’s rather successful efforts to gain a foothold there and to lead a materially better life thanks to hard work. But they also report illness, suffering, and death. She sent impressive appeals to her mother and siblings to join them in the United States, where more relatives and acquaintances lived, since the situation in Praden was virtually hopeless.

The youngest brother, Hartman Lorenz (junior), anted to follow his sister to the USA, initially got stuck in Le Havre for lack of money and labored without success to improve his financial conditions for a short time. After several detours, he finally found work and a lovely wife in Brussels. The happiness of the newly married couple came to an abrupt end the following year: his young wife succumbed within hours to the rampant cholera epidemic. He finally died young in Brussels.

In their letters, the siblings have written their impressions and experiences of dangerous, intractable travel in foreign lands.

The parent’s story


Hartmann Lorenz (senior) did not choose a woman from the village of Praden, but instead in 1830 married Ursula Held from the neighboring village of Malix. For those times, the couple was considered young: twenty-two and twenty years old respectively. Many marriages were only held when the economic basis for the maintenance of a family was reasonably assured. Many people only married around the age of 39. In this case, the announcement of a child created pressure to marry. Just three months after their marriage, their first child, Florian Lorenz, was born.

The young family had to struggle for their livelihood. Hartmann worked as a carpenter and joiner, in Praden and in Malix. A few years after the marriage he was plagued with debts, resulting from money he had borrowed to purchase a forest woodland to provide lumber for his carpentry. In 1835, various persons in Praden and in Malix demanded repayment of large sums, and to alleviate these debts he sold his brothers a parcel of the woods. The next year, Hartmann and his family left their home village and the hardship of living in economically limited circumstances as a farmer and helper with his brother Meinrad.

1836 – Move to Chur

Hartmann and Ursula left Praden in 1836 with their first three children and lived for a few years in the city of Chur as so-called squatters, meaning as conditional immigrants, as settlers without political rights. They lived in the city for a few years in the Sand, the quarter where many workers and day-laborers found shelter at the time. The two youngest children were born here and were also baptized in Chur. Then, sometime between 1841 and 1846, Hartmann returned with his Ursula and now five children from Chur to Praden.

1855 – Hartmann’s death

Hartman Lorenz (senior) died on April 24, 1855 at age 46. After his death, Ursula moved in with his elder brother Meinrad, and kept house for him. He had never married. But at age 56, he married Ursula (46) on February 26, 1858.

Their marriage contract stated: “The spouse, Meinrad Lorenz, declares and promises  to turn over to his spouse, Ursula nee Held,  all of his personal belongings and half of his proposal to bequeath her peculiarly; and in the event that his spouse should survive him, then she shall be entitled to the benefit of all his other assets, for life. At the same time, the spouse promises her husband, whether in healthy or sick days, to care for and provide for him, in love and faithfulness, as much as she is able to and her strength allows.”

It was noted: “Since the groom Meinrad Lorenz is unable to write, he signs this with ‘XXX.’”

1879 – Ursula’s death

Ursula Held died on September 24, 1879.