From mountain farmer boy to respected politician: The Werdenberg Historical Association publishes a book about Matheus Eggenberger
Thanks to the Werdenberg Historical Association, the memoirs of Matheus Eggenberger are now available in book form. His great-great-granddaughter is also present at the presentation in Grabs.
«If a boy, in a healthy body, has a healthy mind, and he gets out into the world, he learns easily; external impressions stream in through every pore.” With this quote from the grandfather of Matheus Eggenberger, a farm boy from Leversberg, Susanne Keller-Giger, President of the Historical Association of the Werdenberg Region (HVW), welcomed the guests to the book presentation.
The trigger for the festive gathering on Thursday evening in the parish hall in Grabs were the handwritten memoirs of Matheus Eggenberger (1823 to 1895). Two years before his death, he recorded the career from a simple farm boy on Grabserberg to mayor, district judge and respected politician in Eastern Switzerland.
Supplemented by classifying specialist articles
The book “The much eventful life of Matheus Eggenberger Grabser” – “A contribution to the economic, social and legal history of Eastern Switzerland in the 19th century” – is described as a contemporary picture of this epoch. The texts, transcribed by the old local archivist Mathäus Lippuner, are supplemented by specialist articles by authors who place the autobiographical part in the historical context.
The publication of the work was made possible thanks to the HVW, with the support of the Politische Gemeinde Grabs.
A “short break” on earth
Matheus Eggengerber was played by Peter Keller-Giger, much to the delight of the audience. He let those present know that he had asked for a “short vacation” and was therefore present for the book presentation. The narration and reading in the first person transported those present to a time when Grabs had neither a town hall nor a post bus connection to Buchs and Wildhaus. But the clever politician Matheus Eggenberger found solutions, negotiated and looked for allies.
The inquisitive boy supplemented his basic education at the primary school in Grabserberg by reading various books that he found from his grandfather. “But I owed everything to my grandfather, who filled and gifted me with his unshakable willpower and perseverance through my upbringing and whose unforgettable teachings never left me in my life,” says Matheus Eggenberger.
Thanks to his stay in Puschlav, where he learned Italian, he was able to work as an interpreter for farmers and Italian cattle dealers. At the age of 26 he was elected to the municipal council of Grabs, thereby laying the foundation for his political career.
Blessed with healthy self-confidence
Niklaus Lippuner, Mayor of Grabs, writes in the foreword: “Reading the memoirs is a pleasure. Eggenberger also provokes a laugh when, blessed with a healthy self-confidence, he describes his deeds. His numerous mandates often took him to places where conflicts were resolved and practical solutions sought.»
At the book presentation, the incumbent mayor – “I am his 17th successor” – described Matheus Eggenberger as a “great Grabser personality”.
For the St.Gallen historian Max Lemmenmeier, Matheus Eggenberger is “a liberal pragmatist in the 19th century”. “Education, discipline and integrity have shaped his life and that is still indispensable for democracy today,” was his message to those present. Former local archivist Mathäus Lippuner gave an insight into his work in transcribing the memoirs. “Thanks to the foresight of the great-great-granddaughter Vreni Strässle, the handwritten texts bound in book form came into the local archive and thus laid the foundation for the work that exists today.”
The evening was enriched by the songs of the Grabs men’s choir under the direction of Pius Büchel. The singers skilfully accompanied the audience through the evening and with an Italian song built a bridge to the Puschlav days of the Grabser farm boy.
“The ‘moving’ life of the Grabser Matheus Eggenberger”, ISBN 978-3-03895-041-7, FormatOst, Schwellbrunn