Lucile Harsch

Larry E. Dahl and Don Norton, comps., Modern Perspectives on Nauvoo and the Mormons (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2003), 73-86.

Nauvoo, Illinois

Birthday: August 30, 1907

Interview on November 14. 2001, in her home by Heidi

Tice Taio Barnes also present

A. [Lucile Harsch] I’m happy that you’re here and hope I can be of some help for you.

Q. [Heidi Tice] How long have you lived here in the Nauvoo area?

A. For at least seventy years.

Q. Since about 1930?

A. It’s really more than that, because I graduated from here in 1927. And I was here a lot of years before that. So it would have been at least seventy years or more, wouldn’t it? At least.

Q. Were you born here?

A. No. I was born in Warsaw, Illinois.

Q. Did you move here about the time you were in high school?

A. My father was a butcher, and he felt that he could take his knife and steel and go to any place and make a living. So we did move a lot. When I was ten years old, we lived where the temple is being built. It was an apartment building then. And then when the Catholics got it back, they made a school out of it—I graduated from there.

Q. From the Catholic school?

A. Yes. I had to stay home because my mother was ill, and we were too poor to have somebody help her. So I stayed home with her for a year. Then she said, “Now, you have to go back to school.” But my class, which had started out in the second year of high school, was leaving. They were graduating, and I didn’t want to go back to school a year late because I didn’t want that. And in my day, the high school didn’t have the business course. So I went to Father Tholen, who said, “You should come here to school. We do charge a little tuition, but we’ll be glad to have you.” So that’s where I graduated from. I took the high school years and the business course together and graduated in ‘27.

Q. What occupations have you had?

A. Telephone operator, and 1 started at fifteen years old. I worked all the time I was going to high school. And I took every chance I could get for extra work, like at Christmastime. And all the holidays I’d go to school extra to make up for what I couldn’t take during the week. And then after I graduated, I worked for an insurance man—Bicker’s Insurance Agency. After that I started nursing. I did that for a while and then I had a family, so I had to stop.

My father had a store—[Ellis] Daugherty’s Market—then when he died, my mother wanted to keep the store going. My husband had another job, which he didn’t want to give up. My sister didn’t want any part of it, so we did it. That’s how we got started.

Q. Where was the store located?

A. The one my dad was in was downtown where the antique shop is, right side across from Grandpa John. Then we moved up to where you people [Church members] now own the building. They have the one on the comer right across from the red front. What’s that called?

Q. The bookstore?

A. The bookstore. That’s where my husband and I were. That’s where the store was.

So my husband and I went in the store for sixteen years. After that I went back to school, took the state board, and went back to nursing again. And nursing’s what I’ve done ever since. I also work in a funeral home and do a lot of volunteer work at the Rheinberger Museum and at the Wells.

Q. What has it been like working as a nurse?

A. Love it! Nursing is a calling, to my way of thinking. You have to have your whole heart and soul in your work. Sister Mary John used to tell us, “Don’t let a clock bother you. Don’t ever look at the clock, [laughs] And don’t ever have a True Story magazine in your house.” She was a wonderful teacher. You know, I remembered that and told my whole generation of family that. Nobody ever has a True Story magazine in their house, and nobody sits down.

My daughter asked me one day, “Why do we have to work all the time? You taught us we have to put in every minute.”

I said, “That’s how I was raised.” Hasn’t hurt me a bit. I’m fine. I’m ninety-four years old and still working. It hasn’t hurt me much yet. But I love nursing. I love people. This may sound silly to you, but you know as a child one thing I prayed for was friends. I didn’t care if I had anything else, I just wanted to have good friends.

Q. So as a nurse, what kind of things do you do? How do you help people when they come to see you?

A. People who are feeling if they could just find out if their blood pressure is all right or if their blood sugar is all right or if I feel there is anything that they should go to the doctor, I’m still here for them. I had five people in here this morning.

And I appreciate every one of them—to think that they still have enough faith in me to feel that I can make decisions for them. It means a lot. That’s why nursing is mainly caring. And it’s just like the nuns—that’s a calling for them. I feel that nursing is a calling too if you put your whole soul in it like you’re supposed to. You’re there for the care of people.

Hours don’t make any difference. We worked a lot of overtime with all of the work that we had to do. We stayed—it didn’t make any difference if it was seven o’clock at night or if we were called at two o’clock. We never thought if we were going overtime or not—we never even thought about that. That was just our work.

I did a lot of work in the community because we didn’t have a doctor here for twenty years. So my daughter and I both did the work. And we did that while we were both working for doctors. We were available, and we’d call the doctors about the work and so forth. But we ran on calls, and we thought that it was something we could do. We never wanted any money. That was out of the question.

But I enjoy people. I don’t care too much about working. I just love to see them. And if I can say anything that will help them in any way and it makes them feel good, then I feel so much better that they’ve come. That’s the way it is. I love my work—always will.

Q. You said you served in the community. What organizations have you been in?

A. The Pantry Committee and the Historical Society. I worked with the Red Cross for twenty years. Now I’m just on call if anybody needs me.

Q. What years did you work for the Red Cross?

A. It was in the ‘90s, but I don’t know exactly what years. They bring their own nurses with them now.

Q. When you worked there, did you have to take blood?

A. I didn’t take blood, but I helped with the vitals, like the blood pressure and the pulse.

Q. What church organizations were you involved with?

A. I taught Sunday School for umpteen—twenty years. Led the senior and the junior choir for at least fifteen years. And I was part of the Ladies Aid, but I don’t know what I was. Not really anything special.

Q. Before the interview, you mentioned that you were Lutheran.

A. Yes.

Q. Have you been Lutheran all your life?

A. Yes, because my generations back are all Lutheran—way back. But now my family are mostly Catholics. They changed. They have married Catholics and have become Catholics. That’s the way that is. But they’re a wonderful family.

Q. Can you tell us anything about your family?

A. They’re gone. Doing so well. There’s a lawyer in Chicago. Another one’s a lawyer in Colorado, and another is a doctor in Arizona. And there are nurses of all kinds. Teachers, a lot of teachers. Mostly teachers and lawyers and doctors in my family. And they’re all doing very well. Some are also in business. I have one in business in St. Louis—a surveyor. Has an office in St. Louis and one in Edwardsville. I have a pretty good-sized family!

Q. And they’re in good positions.

A. Yes, they’re all doing very well. They couldn’t be doing better. I’m proud of all of them. ‘Course, Grandma would be. [laughs]

Q. What have you liked about being in this area? Have there been any events that you enjoyed going to?

A. Yes. And everybody is so good. I don’t drive as much as I used to, but there’s always somebody that says, “Come on and go along. I’m going to Keokuk. I’m going to Fort Madison.” And it’s such a blessing.

Q. I know they have the wine and cheese festival. Are there any other activities that they used to have around Nauvoo or that they still do?

A. I used to help with the Passion play too.

Q. What was the Passion play?

A. We just had it this last year. Everyone in the community—it doesn’t make any difference what religion you arc—would take part in it. Itshows the Last Supper. And everybody has been so wonderful working together, including the Mormons. They have been very helpful. Carmen, my daughter, is one of the leaders of it. Carmen Ourth—everybody knows her. She’s one of those nurses too that’s been around with the people.

Q. Have you found any challenges from living here?

A. Oh, there’s the challenge of nursing all the time. That is a challenge. And when we were in the store, we worked a lot with the public and there are a lot of challenges there. Truthfully, none of them were extra serious that you couldn’t handle them without any trouble. But we never had any problems.

Q. From your knowledge of the history in the area, what groups stand out in your mind?

A. There isn’t any one group. Love them all!

Q. Do they all blend together?

A. Yes. They are all so good. Doesn’t make any difference if they’re Mormons, Catholics, Lutherans, or what. And being in a funeral home, I’ve become well concerned with the ministers and what they need and want when they come in. And they are so kind too, and understanding about everything. We have a wonderful funeral home here, I think.

Q. Is it the one that’s just—

A. On the comer. Such good people.

Q. You mentioned before the interview that you don’t really know much about Mormons. Did you ever hear other people talk about them? What they know or what they feel about the Mormons when they were here in the 1830s and ‘40s?

A. I don’t know anything about it. See, when I was growing up, we weren’t in town too much. My dad went to La Harpe and worked, and he was in Peoria. We were in several different towns. Just several different ones, I can’t even remember.

Q. So you didn’t hear anything about the conflicts when they left?

A. No. I had no knowledge of that. I was too young. But you didn’t hear about those things for several years until in your twenties or what. And nobody ever heard anything—we were just one family here in Nauvoo, just one family.

Q. Did you know anything about the Icarians who came in the 1840s and ‘50s?

A. I just know that Lillian Snyder is the one that has talked so many times about them. I’ve helped her a lot of the times with things. And she has been a very smart woman and has taught me a lot about Icarians. But I’m not a history person. She tells a different history about them—that they were the first ones that brought rhubarb to this country. And we have a lot of things down at the Rheinberger House that we talk about concerning the Icarians. But their history isn’t anything special that I know about it. There’s a lot of history about it—that’s about it. They came here after the Mormons left. But that’s history.

Q. Well, even not knowing history, do you think that they made a difference here?

A. I think they did. When the Icarians left here, they sold their homes very cheap—I guess they just left! Most of them did because I know some of the homes sold for S6.84. Today they’re worth a mint. And they walked in after the Mormons left, didn’t they? They just walked into the homes.

There was an Icarian doctor named Dr. Kerr. He had his office in Nauvoo. Another doctor, Dr. Kappmeyer, just died recently at ninety-one. I worked with him a lot. Good doctor—I liked him very much. I worked for him in Hamilton; I drove back and forth. I worked there for twenty-five years. I worked for the sisters almost twenty-six years. And then Dr. Gundrum came here and stayed for six or seven years. Then we went with him when he moved to Burlington, but I only stayed a couple of years. The driving was too much for me. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. Burlington’s a hard place to get to now anyway—it’s all hills and holes, [laughs]

Q. Are you familiar with the wine industry here?

A. I don’t know how long they’ve been here. The man that started this, Mr. Charlie Rhode, had a difficult time at the beginning. He had to use a horse and wagon to deliver his goods. But he stayed with it. His whole family was a part of our lives. We were in the store then and they traded there and we bought a lot of the cheese and those kinds of things. They were a wonderful family. They sure made a success out of it. Today. I don’t know what it’s all about, what’s going on out there. My daughter worked out there as a bookkeeper for seventeen years, and she liked it.

The Rhodes were just good friends, good to us and the store too because we bought a lot from them and they in turn bought a lot from us. But it’s like I say, we were a one-family town. People were just like one family. Everybody looked after each other, just like we were all sisters and brothers and aunts and uncles, [laughs] It’s different today.

Q. What about the cheese industry? Do you know much about it?

A. I really don’t. I never worked there. I was called there several times when there was some illness there. I remember one very good friend died there. I was with him.

We used to give shots down at the factory too. We also gave flu shots at the Mormon area one time. We had the permission then to do our own flu shots. I took a crew down there for it. We went down and into one little room. We gave the people a shot. It was impossible for them to come out to get the shot. But that was years ago. Now doctors send in a group of folks.

Q. You said you don’t really sec a difference with all of the religions. But the Catholics built the convent. Did you see any difference with that?

A. No. I didn’t, because it was being built when I was working there. It was interesting, the boy that gave the million dollars was at St. Edmunds Hall as a student. And he thought so much of Sister Innocence—she was his teacher. And that’s probably why he gave the money.

Q. What about the schools? Did they have a lot of Catholic girls go there? Did some come from out of town?

A. You mean up at the St. Mary’s Academy? Oh, yes. We had Mexican girls, and they were very wealthy girls. [After the interview, Mrs. Harsch explained how the girls didn’t know how to make their beds. They said that they had servants who would do that for them at home. So Mrs. Harsch and others told the girls that they would have to learn how to make their beds. They had to teach the girls.]

They were all very good. We had as many as two hundred and some students that would come here. Of course, that’s been changed. That is why the sisters didn’t feel they could afford the school anymore because they didn’t have the students. A lot of sisters were there then, too, but a lot have passed away. It was a wonderful school. And it was wonderful to attend there. There were a lot of Protestants that went to school there.

Father Tholen told us one day, “Now I know you’re not all Catholics, but if you want to join in the prayers, you can. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to.” But all of us did. What was the difference? We’d just go say prayers there as any place. And I think I can say the Catholic prayers pretty well yet, because we’d say them every morning. But they were such good people.

Q. What were your feelings when you heard that the nuns were going to be moving?

A. I thought that part of me would go with them because I’d been with them for twenty-some years. I felt that we were part of a family. Of course, I was alone then. My husband had died when he was only fifty-two. So I sort of threw myself into the work. That was my second home. Sometimes there was nobody here to care if I got home at night. They were a great part of my life. Of course, you hate to see them leave. But it was their choice. In fact, my daughter’s going to help them move. She and her husband, Lee, arc going to take Sister Martha to Rock Island on Friday. They’re going to take them in her van.

Q. Will you keep in touch with some of them?

A. Yes. I was down to the wake for this sister the other night, and we got to see all of them. But it was hard because you’ve been so much part of their lives for so long. You’re just part of the whole family.

Q. Did you mostly do the nursing there, or did you do other things with them?

A. Just the nursing. There was enough of that. We’d have five sisters down at one time and just a single nurse. And for a time we took care of all of their medications. And all of their baths and turning them every two hours—we were busy. But you enjoyed it because they appreciated it.

Q. You were here when the Mormons came back and started to build up the flats. How did you feel about that?

A. There’s room for everybody. I didn’t feel anything or notice anything different about it. But I never saw houses go up so fast as they have—it’s like mushrooms going up. How many are they going to put down there, do you know?

Q. I don’t know. But it looks like there are at least fifteen down there.

A. Yes. And they have permission now, 1 heard, to build thirty more houses. I once asked, “How come they have the same pattern?” And I found out from Hilda Rheinberger. Her house is across from the state park—it’s the house on the corner. Her house is exactly like the other houses that are being built. The chimneys are the same.

Q. So you think it’s okay? You’ve had patients come in, and you are friends with the neighbors. What have you heard about how they feel about the Mormons building and restoring things?

A. There are pros and cons. Some like it. Some don’t because it isn’t Nauvoo anymore. But they don’t start anything. What’s the difference? God put us all here on earth to be some place, so what’s the difference? It used to be a Catholic town, at one time. But it’s a Mormon town now, honestly, because you [Mormons] do own most of Nauvoo—that’s true. I’ve been contemplating selling this house, and I didn’t know what to do about it. But I don’t know where I’d live if I did sell it. I don’t want to leave Nauvoo—I have too many friends here. I just don’t want to leave.

Q. I wouldn’t leave.

A. I’ll do that for sure. I always think God will take care of the situation. He has so far, so He’ll take care of it from now on too.

Q. What about the temple? It’s a pretty big building.

A. I’m like the man, I think, who was the head of all of it [President Gordon B. Hinckley]. I was at the meeting, and he was talking about the temple-—I had a special chair or seat. I don’t know how I was so lucky to get it. And he said, “I’m ninety-one or ninety-two years old” (I forget which one he said). He said, “I hope the temple will be finished before I die.” And I thought, “See, you know, I feel the same way. I hope it’s finished before I die.” There’s just one year’s difference in us. He’s ninety three, and I’m ninety-four now. That’s the way it is. [laughs]

Q. It’ll be done next year.

A. Yes, that’s what they say. We’ll get to see it in May some time. It’ll be interesting.

Q. I know there has been opposition about the streets and other things. How do you feel about that?

A. They’re better than they ever were. The streets are very nice now, those that are fixed, and the workers are fixing them all the time. I can’t say anything against that.

Q. We’re students from the Brigham Young Academy, and we wanted to know if you’ve had any other contact with the students besides this interview?

A. No, I’m too busy right here at home. I haven’t had time, [laughs] I don’t move around very much. I didn’t even have a chance to eat dinner because 1 wanted the house to look halfway decent, but I was pretty late. I couldn’t get the porch swept off before you come here.

Q. It really looks fine.

Q. [Taio Barnes] It is nice.

Q. [HT] What do you think the future of Nauvoo will be like?

A. I think it’s going to be a big community someday, I really do. Andas we were told in the history at the Rheinberger House, at one time we were bigger than Chicago. We will be much bigger than we have ever been. We’ve only had eleven hundred people here all these years. So it will be a bigger town. As I’ve always said, some of my best friends are Mormons, so whatever will be good. Of course, I won’t be here too much longer. I’ll be like that man—I hope to get to see the temple built, [laughs]

Q. Do you want to see Nauvoo get bigger? Do you prefer it to be a small town?

A. You know, honestly, it makes no difference. God’s plan includes everyone.

Q. You said earlier that you have a lot of friends who are Mormons, like the Pierces. What can you say about them?

A. They couldn’t be better people. They just couldn’t be better. Mrs. [Ruby] Powell has done sewing for me for so long. Mr. Pierce has been a downright good friend; he was the mayor of the town at one time. He’s a precious person. And the Hiattes that used to live over here. They still call me “Mom” or their second mother. She says it’s because her mother died when she was young. It’s those kind of people that there’s a depth to their friendship. There are more Mormons, but those are the people that I’ve had a lot of contact with. They’re the kind of people that can do anything for you.

And Jared Hill, I can’t say enough for him. He is such a good person. He doesn’t take a nickel for anything he does, but he does everything so well. And he’s helped me out a couple of times here. And I never knew the boy before that. I thought, after I’d met him, that I’d known him for a long time—he’s that kind of a person. It’s just those kind of people that there’s such a depth to their friendship that you don’t forget it.

Mr. Pierce took me to St. Louis to see the temple down there. I was just amazed at the electric fixtures. I just couldn’t get over it. I said, “You don’t even see those in pictures.” [laughs] Beautiful.

Q. Do you have any stories that you’d like to tell?

A. No.

Q. Is there anything that you want to add?

A. There are a lot of little silly incidents, funny incidents that happened. ‘Course when you’re in business, you meet all kinds of people. And when you’re in nursing you meet all kinds of people. But I don’t know anything particular to tell you.

Q. Could you give us an example of something funny?

A. There is the story about the fire engine. I have to get the picture of the engine we used to have. Have you seen what they’re doing with the fire station? They’re getting a bigger fire engine, [gets out a picture of the old Nauvoo fire engine] That’s the fire engine that we used to have. This is my dad [points to man standing by fire engine] and this was the store that he owned at one time. But the fire engine [laughs], I shouldn’t tell this. This shouldn’t be put on paper. The Opera House was on fire, and my husband was up on the roof. The telephone office was on the right side, and I worked at the telephone office. And there was a little guy—he was real thin and real little, and awfully nervous. He had a ladder, and he’d hand my husband the bucket of water to put out the fire. But it was because they couldn’t find the fire engine. Somebody was gone, and they couldn’t find where it was gone, [laughs] And so this was the size of it. [points to picture] Can you imagine the fire engine today, what it’s going to be like? It was comical how they finally found the fire engine, but the fire was put out by that time. We handed up buckets of water. Can you imagine putting out that fire?

And they say that now the new method of putting out fires is a bucket situation instead of a ladder situation. And they say they’re doing more good with it because the buckets are going up and the people are going all the time and they’re doing all of this up in the air with the hose. Can you imagine that? That’s the setup now. And they can pour the water some way so that they can get the patients out faster, or something. I don’t know. But that was quite a joke—they couldn’t find the fire engine. My grandson thought that was so funny, so he had the picture enlarged.

Q. Any other stories?

A. No, that’s enough. We have a lot of little things; we just can’t talk about some of them.

Q. Was there anything else you’d like to say?

A. No, I think I’ve said too much already, [laughs] This voice really bothers me. I don’t know what it could be. I don’t know why I’ve lost it. It’s just like I’m hoarse all the time. Very interesting. I don’t know what’s happening. Whatever. At this age, it doesn’t make any difference.

Q. Well, the last question. Do you know anybody else who might like to be interviewed?

A. Did you get Dorothy Hart?

Q. We did.

A. She lived on the same block we did, of course. You got Florence Ourth because I was down there when you [Joel la] were there. She had a lot of history. She was a teacher. There’s not many of us old folks left. I’m the only one in three blocks that’s left. Most of them have died. [Heidi went back through the interview to get spellings of names. When they reached Dr. Gundrum, Mrs. Harsch mentioned a story.]

Two of the Academy girls walked in one day. He was always interested in what nationality everybody was. And he asked, “What nationality are you?” And she said, “We’re Irish and I bet you wish you were.” [laughs] He said, “That’s the first time I ever got that answer.” [laughs]

[As we were leaving, Mrs. Harsch told a few other stories. One was about a girl who went to St. Mary’s Academy, whom Mrs. Harsch found sick by the road. Her brother or a friend was there with a black Cadillac. Mrs. Harsch took her to the hospital. All that they could find out was that the girl had eaten a weed. From her description, neither Mrs. Harsch nor the doctor could figure out what she had eaten. And the girl told Mrs. Harsch that she would only stay at the hospital overnight if Mrs. Harsch would stay with her.

Mrs. Harsch also mentioned that Janet Rheinhart, who works at the bank, might like to be interviewed. This led her to telling a story about working or being in the bank one time when it was held up. She said that the robbers forced them to go to the basement and threatened to shoot to kill if they came up.]