Chapter 2: Childhood

The Life and Adventures of the Poor Man of Tockenburg, related by himself

Author's preface:

Although in general I dislike prefaces, I must say a few words by way of introduction before I smudge these pages with I know not yet what worthless stuff. What has moved me to do this? Vanity? - Of course! And with it my inordinate love of writing. From my papers, many of which I must look on with abhorrence, I should like to make a selection. I should like to roam through the scenes of my past life, and preserve in this narrative the most remarkable among them. Pride and self-love? Of course! Yet I should much misjudge myself, did I not perceive my other motives.

Firstly, the praise of my good God, my loving Creator, my Father above all other, whose child and creature I am, as much as were Solomon and Alexander. And secondly, for the sake of my children. Many a time I would have given I know not how much to possess such an account of my late father, an account of his life and of his thoughts and feelings. Well, perhaps it may be so with my own children, and they may benefit as much from this little book, as they would if I had spent at my customary tasks the little time I devoted to its writing. And even should this not be so, yet it gives me innocent pleasure and a singular delight thus to go over my life again. Not that I expect others to find that my destiny contains anything strange or miraculous, nor do I consider myself a special favourite of heaven. But even if I did so believe - would it be a sin? Again, I think not! Indeed, in my own eyes my story is strange enough, and I am profoundly content that the eternal wisdom of Providence saw fit to lead me by these ways up to the present time.

       With what happiness I return to the days of my youth and retrace every step that I have made in this world, then and since! Indeed, the times when my many transgressions caused me to stumble - O, these fill me with dismay - perhaps I shall pass over these all too hastily. Yet who would profit if I were to tell all my faults? For I hope that my merciful Father and my divine Redeemer have in compassion stricken them from the record, because of my sincere repentance. O even now my heart is warm with fervent adoration, at the memory of certain moments, when I was as yet unaware of the guiding Hand from on high, that later I knew and felt so clearly. Now my children, my friends, my loved ones! Prove all things, hold fast that which is good!


My forefathers:

       Concerning these few can be so ignorant as I. That I had a father and a mother, I know. I knew my late father for many years and my mother is still living. That they too had parents


in their turn I can envisage, but I never knew them, and have learnt nothing of them except that my grandfather M.B. was said to have come from the Käbisboden, and my grandmother, whose name and place of origin I never learned, died giving birth to my father; a childless cousin, J.W. of Näbis in the commune of Wattwil, adopted him as his son. Because of this I looked on him and his wife as my true grandparents and loved them accordingly, and they too regarded me as their grandchild. My maternal grandparents, on the other hand, I knew well, they were U.Z. and E.W. from Laad.


I Thessalonians 5, v 21.


Bräker evidently meant to say that he knew nothing of his father's parents. His ancestors can be traced back to one Uli Bräker, a miller in Steinenbach, near Kappel. His grandson, Michel Bräker of Käbisboden (1669-1739) lost his first wife Anna Klauser in childbirth, not at the birth of Bräker's father Hans (1708-1762) but of his brother Joseph, in 1711. [Voellmy, v 1 pp 370-1], Bräker's mother's name was Anna. Her parents were Ulrich Zuber (1677-1746) and Elsbeth Wäspi (1685-1755) of Laad near Wattwil. [Chronik, p 58].