From the time I was a young child I have heard the stories of the Forsgren siblings: of John Erik's missionary journey back to Sweden, of how he found his very ill brother Peter Adolph whom he blessed and healed, of how his sister Christina Erika had had a vision that a man would come bearing books that she was to look at and pay attention to...and, of course, the very common reference to Peter Adolph being the first baptized convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in all of Scandinavia. The stories have been repeated in Church media for years, particularly on the anniversaries of various Scandinavian events.

John Erik Forsgren was a great force for good and growth for the early burgeoning church membership. It is stated by those who knew him then that he embraced the doctrine with great zeal and preached firm and fiery sermons. He led a group of Saints across the ocean and into the Salt Lake Valley, encouraging them and admonishing them all the way. He served in the Mormon Battalion.

It is also true that later in his life, for reasons we don't totally understand, he became disenchanted with the Church - or more accurately, with some of its leaders. He began to be very vocal in his statements against Brigham Young whom he felt had cheated him out of a land inheritance due him from his service in the Battalion. At this point people said of him that he became cantankerous and a religious fanatic. He set up a tent on the East Bench of Salt Lake City and began preaching his own form of religion. At first he had followers, but over time lost the attention of local residents and was ignored. Tragic events occurred in his life which are referred to in other blog posts. He died in great poverty after living for a time in Idaho, then wandering homeless in Utah - a nonmember of the Church he had earlier embraced with such zeal.

This part of the story is, of course, very distressing to his descendants who for many years did not want to talk about the last years of his life. But I feel that accurate history is honest history. Not addressing an unpleasant event does not change the event. What was, was. What OUR responsibility is is to not judge. We did not walk in his shoes or live inside his head. It is our job to look at the entirety of the life of this unique man, admire him for the incredible contributions he made and not be overly critical of things we don't know much about. John E. kept a huge journal of his life. The greatest tragedy for us is that that 720 page manuscript has disappeared and we can't know all that he related in it.

This blog was created for the purpose of setting forth all the information about John Erik Forsgren that I have been able to glean from as many sources as I could. It is very much a work in progress. It is my hope that his numerous and wonderful descendants might contribute, correct, question and help verify any data I have included here...and, that ultimately this be a means of reaching out to others who want to know more of this man. I have come to reverence and respect him as I have worked on details of his life and the individuals connected to him by blood and marriage. As keeper of the Forsgren Family Association Archives it is my great pleasure to offer up what information we have. Believe me, there is nothing that better "turns our hearts to our fathers" than researching details and events of their lives. Enjoy!

Adele Manwaring Austin, July 2010


Thursday, May 13, 2010

FIFTH WIFE: Kiersten Nelson Johnson

      "On Dec 14, 1862, John married his fifth wife Kiersten Nielsen Johnson.  They were married in Moroni, Utah, by Bishop John Bradley.

      Kiersten was born October 22, 1810 in Dronninglund, Jutland, Denmark.  She was a widow who had come to Moroni from Denmark in September, 1861 or 1862.  She had been widowed with ten children since December of 1859 when her husband Henrie Johnson died. "  (Deposition of Kiersten Forsgren, Feb 15, 1893, Stanton, Blaine Co., Idaho. p. 5) 

     Johannah Catherine Timerman [Kiersten's daughter] - Deposition to the War Dept. dated 15 Feb 1893:
     "My mother had 10 children by Henrie Johnson.  [ I have yet to complete a thorough search on her pre-US life.  Different sources give different names for her Danish husband] He died in Dec 1859.   She came with a large party from Denmark, bringing only 2 of her children, my sister Alice Mariah, now dead, and myself.  We reached Salt Lake in Sept. 1861 and in December 1862 she married John E. Forsgren  My sister and I were the only ones at the wedding and an English neighbor James Blackam.

     At some point Kiersten's son Anders Henry Jensen or Johnson also immigrated and arrived in Utah.  [He was Christened as follows:  Name: Anders Jensen
Gender: Male
Christening Date: 20 Oct 1842
Father's Name: Jens Henrichsen
Mother's Name: Kirsten Pedersdr Indexing Project (Batch) Number: C20165-3 , System Origin: Denmark-ODM , GS Film number: 48987

Anders was not traveling with Kiersten and his sisters as is shown on the following entry in the 1861 manifest of the ship "Monarch of the Sea"

Kirsten Pedersen, 52,  Jutlands born about 1810
Else Marie Jensen, 11, born about 1850
Johanne Cathrine Jensen, 4, born about 1856
[Aalborg Conf. 1861 on "Monarch of the Sea", Emig.S.M.- film 025696]
[NOTE:  new Family Search lists her as Kristine Neilsen Pederson & her husband as Jens Christian Henrichsen/Henricksen .  Only two submitters list surname as Johnson.  Birth consensus is 1803 -1806 and her death is listed as 22 Dec 1859.  Children to this marriage are probably not accurate in new family search since some have the surname Jensen.  Marriage to Henrie Johnson/Jens Christian Henricksen is given as 17 April 1838.  I later learned that much of the data submitted to newFamilySearch was done with the help of and with the approval of Jim Caulfield, Kiersten's great grandson.

On Oct 15, 1864 John E. and Kiersten were sealed in the Endowment House by Pres. Wilford Woodruff.  (Deposition of John Nicholson, custodian of Church Marriage records SLC, Utah.  July 28, 1902.  Book D)

Kiersten's deposition states "I had no child by John Forsgren."
[A complete set of the deposition papers are in possession of the Forsgren Family Association.  They were made by Kiersten and by Mary Ann Snyder Forsgren who both claimed rights to any pension available after John E.'s death.]

In the 1870 U.S. Census John E "Fosgren", age 54, is listed with wife Kiersten, age 60. in Santaquin, Utah Co., Utah. Also living with them is John A. Caulfield, a laborer from Canada and Alice - keeping house. Alice is Alice Mariah Johnson- Kiersten's other daughter, now md. to Mr. Caufield.  Also there is  Catherine Fosgren age 14 , White female, no occupation, born Denmark, attending school. [This would be Kiersten's daughter Johanna Cathrine by Mr. Johnson. She probably used the name Forsgren since she was only 4 or 5 at the time of her mother's marriage to JEF or it was an error on the part of the census taker who often did not record surnames accurately].

     [Note: John's plural wife Mary Ann Snyder Forsgren is also listed in the census for 1870, but living with her family in Payson - age 28].

     Kiersten's life with John E. could not have been a very happy one though she did stay married to him.  He claimed some kind of disability and Kiersten's daughter states that it was Kiersten who supported them. A Deseret News article reported that she did washing for some of the neighbors. They had the benefit of John's small Battalion pension and they sold eggs and chickens.  All this was during the years that John E had pulled away from the LDS Church and began his own preaching as "J.J. Branch."  They moved to a large tent erected on land owned by H.W. Lawrence in the Tenth Ward of Salt Lake City on the corner of 4th South and 1100 East.

    [Note:  On July 17, 2010,  I visited the corner where the tent had been erected.  I needed to just pause and look at the spot, trying to imagine what the scene would have been like in the late 1800's.  It must have been an impressive position since the bench falls away sharply on two sides at this intersection and a view of the valley would have been prominent (and probably a view of the tent from the valley below).  I was grateful that homes and trees line the streets here rather than having the spot occupied by some gas station or car dealership!  There was something serene about the view, belying the tragic events which took place there so many years ago.

     Perhaps it should be noted here that the Utah State History database has a digital collection of online photos  (htttp:// which link John E. Forsgren/J.J. Branch to something called the "Crazy House."  There are 4 photos taken by different people with different descriptions for each.  One of the them gives the location as 3rd South and 8th East which is not where the tent was located...and the pictures are not of a tent but a wooden structure with a tent-like drape on one side.   Another photo is attributed to be the home of a Mr. Miller, "a spiritualist eccentric."  Both Laurie Bryant and I are of the opinion that this structure is NOT a picture of the actual dwelling where John Forsgren took his wife Kiersten to live when he became J.J. Branch.  But it IS interesting to note that J.J. Branch was not the only eccentric individual populating the area!]

     Various records state that John E. had a following for a while, but soon interest lagged and Kiersten and John were left to themselves, living much like hermits.  Neighbors said they were no bother and few people bothered them either except for the occasional heckling of groups of young people.

     But it was this tent which caused further tragedy in the life of the reclusive couple, especially for Kiersten.   I quote from an article that appeared in the Deseret News, January 21, 1886 (found in the Journal History in the Church Historical Dept - copy difficult to read).

     "A Recluse Burned Out."
"Forsgren's tent reduced to ashes - his wife badly burned while he is saving his manuscripts"
. . . . [skipping the first 6 paragraphs which give the same detail as I have outlined above....]
  "Last evening, the high wind which prevailed, threatened their frail habitation, and the old man went outside to tighten the cords and strengthen the stakes which support it.
   "While so engaged, a strong gust of wind lifted the side of the tent.  In a moment it collapsed, upsetting in its fall, the lamp, which set fire to the combustible fabric, and in less time than it takes to tell it, the whole thing was ablaze.
   "With a shout of warning for his wife to get out, he rushed to the place where the box containing his manuscript which he regards as sacred and sets great store by, was located, and succeeded in dragging it from the flames, getting his face and hands somewhat burned in doing so.
   "In the meantime, Mrs. Judges, one of the nearest neighbors arrived upon the scene and began to search for Mrs. Forsgren, who was soon discovered beneath the burning tent where she had been caught while vainly attempting to escape, and after some difficulty, succeeded in rescuing her, though in a badly burned condition.
   "Had it not been for Mrs. Judges, she would certainly have been burned to death.  As it is, her face and arms are covered with blisters, and it will be a long time before she can recover.
   "Fortunately, the unfortunate pair were immediately removed to the residence of William E. Wentworth, where everything that kindness, careful nursing, and skillful treatment could do to alleviate their suffering, was done, the family of brother Wentworth, setting up all night waiting upon them.
   "Mr. Forsgren estimates his loss at $1400, but no person from looking at his domicile would ever have imagined that its contents ever approached such a value.  The only thing saved was the box of manuscripts already mentioned.
   "The destitute condition to which the unfortunate man and woman have been reduced, calls for active and substantial sympathy, and we trust the call will not be made in vain.
   "His eccentricity should be forgotten, only commiseration when trouble comes upon a fellow creature such as has befallen them.  And those who are able, should extend a helping hand as they themselves would desire if similarly situated."
     Kiersten and John were taken to the home of Anders Johnson, Kiersten's son, there in Salt Lake City.  After nearly a year they left for Idaho to reside with her daughter and son-in-law, Johannah Catherine and John Timerman in Blaine County, Idaho.
     James L. Anderson in his Denmark to Manti expresses it very nicely:  "After two and a half years of living under the same roof with John E. Forsgren, this arrangement had run its course.  Patience wore thin and tempers flared between John Timerman and John Forsgren.  In June of 1889, the situation reached the breaking point and John Forsgren, although ill in health, decided that he had had enough.  He bid goodbye to Kiersten, promising to send for her once he had obtained a home for them in Salt Lake City."
     John stayed once again for a short while with Anders Johnson then began wandering down through Sanpete and Sevier Counties, seeking lodging among his friends from the Mormon Battalion.  He stated that he was endeavoring to write a history of the Battalion.
     His health declined steadily.  He returned to Salt Lake and called upon some old friends, Charles and Antoinette Carr.  Mrs. Carr, in her deposition to the War Dept. stated:  "I felt sorry for him, so I did all I could for him.  He came to me here in a destitute condition and I took him into my house and did for him the best I could till he died."  John E. Forsgren passed away of an ailment incident to age and physical exposure at age 73 on January 22, 1890.
     When his younger brother, Peter Adolph Forsgren heard of John's death he had the body brought to Brigham City for burial.  John's plot is in Section B not far from the Peter A. and Adolph Peter Forsgren family plots, near the corner of the roads.  It is marked with the metal cross denoting his military status and mention is made of his Mormon Battalion Service, something which was of great importance to him.  (See photo on previous blog post).
     Kiersten did not know of his death until news was picked up by her son Anders who wrote and informed her.  Kiersten remained with her daughter in Idaho.  She had been "burned almost beyond recognition" in the tent fire and was "perfectly helpless and unable to wait upon herself.  She is an object of pity, as she is frightfully disfigured and almost a constant sufferer from the burns received in '86.  She necessarily uses a great deal of morphine to relieve her suffering and it affects her mind."  She was nearly blind in addition to the disfiguration from the fire.
     Kiersten filed a petition for widow's pension with the Bureau of Pensions, Dept. of the Interior.  The claim was eventually rejected after detailed investigation (the source of most of this history).  Kiersten did not know that another widow had also filed:  Mary Ann Mount Snyder [more about her on a future blog post].  Neither widow was granted the claim.  It was decided (not until 1908!) that Mary Ann was not the legal widow of John E. and in the meantime Kiersten Johnson Forsgren had passed away on April 28, 1894.

The following is a deposition to the War Dept. from Anders Johnson:
     Deposition H in case of Kirsten Forsgren  4th of March 1893, Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County, Utah:
     " My name is Anders H. Johnson, am 50 years old, a drayman, live at No. 336 E St., Salt Lake City, Utah.
     This claimant is my mother.  My father was J[ames or Jamis or Jarvis] Johnson.  We lived in Jutland, Denmark, near the city of Aalborg.  My father died in December 1859.  I was present at his burial.  After my father's death my mother was not married again in Denmark.   She came to this country in 1862, and I had letters from her telling of the arrival in San Pete Valley, Utah, Sept. 16. 1862.    I heard from her off and on and she wrote me of her marriage to John Forsgren.  I think she married him in about a year after she came here, but I cannot tell anything certain about this marriage.  I came here in 1871 and then found my mother living at Santaquin 70 miles south of here with John Eric Forsgren as his wife.  They continued to live together then as man and wife for several years then came here to Salt Lake City and lived here till about '86 then after spending a year with me after they had been burned out in '86, they went to live with my sister Mrs. Timerman in Idaho.
     About six months before he died he came here from Idaho, only told me he would not live there.  He wanted me to send for my mother so they could both live here, but I was not fixed then to keep them.  I never heard of any trouble he had with my mother, I am sure the reason he left my mother was that he was a religious crank and could not get along with Timerman.
     After coming here from Idaho he staid a short time then went down through Utah, Sanpete and Sevier Co's , going among his old comrades of the Mormon Battalion as he was trying to write a history of the Battalion.  In a short time he returned here and stopped with old friends of his - a family named Carr.  He died at their house in this city on the 22nd of January three years ago.  His remains were sent to Brigham City, Utah, by direction of his brother Peter Forsgren now living there.
     I can not tell any thing about John Forsgren's other wives.  The only other one beside my mother that I ever saw was Mary Ann Snyder of Payson, Utah and I know he parted from her 15 years ago or more and never lived with her again.  I only have heard of Mary White as his first wife, whom he married in Boston.  Forsgren told me she left him and married another man, whose name I forget.  He told me of her death, but I can not state when or when she died.
     I heard of the wife Sarah Davis, he told me she died in Box Elder Co., Utah but I can give no particulars.
     I am positive that my mother  is the only wife that John Forsgren recognized or lived with as his wife for years before he died, and I know from his statements to me that the wives whom he married before his marriage to my mother were all dead before he died.
     I do not know of any men who served in the Mormon Battlion with Forsgren except an old man named Hamilton in Sevier Co. at Richfield.  It has been all of ten years since I heard of him.
     My mother's given name is properly written Kiersten.  This statement has been read to me.  It is correct.                                                                                          Signed Anders H. Johnson

     The curiosity of the story does not end there.  I have endeavored to learn more about the final resting place of John E.'s widowsI found the following entry, quoted from my PAF notes.
    BURIAL:  Cemetery Records Online ( reveals a Timmerman Cemetery with 29 individuals buried.  Inscriptions transcribed 9/4/1999 by Kevin S. McMullin.
     Buried there is a Fosgreen, Nancy, b. 1820, d. 1893.    This odd entry stirred my investigation into action.  A trip to Idaho was needed!
     The cemetery is located in the middle of a private field and not easy to access.  I was given permission, however, to drive near it and then make my way through fields of grain to the fenced-in plot located Southwest of the junction of Highway 75 and State Road 20 in Blaine Co.   When I visited there was an establishment called the Timmerman Stage Stop and RV park.   I did not know at the time if the Timmerman business had to do with the same family (name spelling was different;  there was also a Timmerman mountain close by).   A return visit in July 2010 enlightened me.  The Timmermans did indeed own this corner land.  John Lauk (or Louke) Timmerman and his wife Johanna Catherine Johnson were married and sealed in Salt Lake before leaving Utah.  The arrived  in the Spring Creek area about 1880.    They established a way station (originally a group of tents formerly owned by a Mrs. Griffen)  Soon a roadhouse or Inn was built on the property by John Timmerman and Michael Brown to serve the needs of miners arriving for gold  speculation as well as the influx of ranchers who were beginning to establish themselves. 

     The spelling of Timerman and Timmerman seem to be interchangeable depending on what record you might be reading

 Here are some photos of the visit.
 The Timmerman RV Park, Cafe and Buildings

The Timerman Family Cemetery fenced and refenced

The cemetery closer up.  Kiersten's stone is the dark gray one at the back near the gate.

The Timerman family plot stone with Kiersten's stone behind and to the left.  It is mislabeled Nancy Fosgreen!  I had no idea until recently why the name Nancy was placed there.  No family members have the name.  I also do not know how many years after her death the stone was placed and by whom.
Johanna Catherine Johnson Timerman - Kiersten's daughter
15 Feb 1856 - 19 Feb 1917
John Lauk Timerman, Kiersten's son-in-law, husband of her daughter Johanna Catherine.
15 Aug 1838 (some accounts say 1833) - 23 Nov 1906
Timerman Cemetery visible in the field  (below the white van on the highway in the upper center)

I have no photo of Kiersten Nielson Johnson Forsgren. After the fire she certainly would have discouraged anyone taking her picture and I don't know yet if any descendants of her son Anders Johnson might have an early photograph.   There are no living descendants from her daughter Johannah Catherine.

Below is a picture of her daughter Johannah Catherine Johnson Timmerman.  It is certainly possible that Kiersten would have shared physical characteristics with her daughter.

 Front: John Lauk Timerman, John Alexander, Johannah Catherine  
Back:  James Henry, Nancy Christina (Tena)

The headstone mystery
     I have always felt "business was unfinished" after my initial visit to Blaine Co. and the Timerman Cemetery.   I visited the church's new FamilySearch website and saw that recent temple work had been done.  I was excited to see the name of Kathy Perron linked to those submissions, feeling that she was undoubtedly a descendant who might be able to shed some light on the family.  As it turned out Kathy is NOT a descendant but became a great resource for answering many lingering questions.
     Kathy Perron is a volunteer at the Hailey, Idaho LDS Family History Center.  She and Bernice Homer, another long-time volunteer and avid genealogist,  have spent numerous hours researching the Timerman/Timmerman family in the area.  They were gracious and generous in sharing their time with me as well as all that they have learned when I made a follow-up visit to the area in July 2010.

     Two items in their collection of materials were particularly helpful:  a book written by Jim Caulfield who is a descendant of Kierston's through her daughter Alice Mariah, and a local history written by Mary Brown McGonigal, called "Spring of Gladness."  [This book is available at the BYU Fam. Hist. Library as well as the Hailey FHC]

     Kathy and Bernice worked closely with Jim Caulfield.  His explanation for the tombstone mystery, though not documented, is certainly extremely plausible! 

     The Timmerman's daughter, Christina (known as Tena or Tina in her lifetime), after causing her parents much heartache during her younger years, eventually graduated from nursing school (1929) and worked in Cleveland, Ohio as a nurse while taking post-graduate studies to become an anesthesiologist. She worked as an anesthesiologist for the Washington State Prison System for 17 years and worked for several hospitals in Oregon and Washington during the 50's.  During this time of prospering she may well have returned to Blaine Co. and paid for new stones to be erected in the Timerman Cemetery, to honor her parents and family. 
     Jim conjectures that the family would have referred to Kiersten merely as "Grandmother."   Tena was only 4 years old when her Grandmother Kiersten Forsgren died.  She knew she had been named after her Grandmother.   This is probably where her error ocurred.  Nancy Christina's (Tena's) paternal Grandmother was named Nancy.  But Tena was also named after her maternal Grandmother Kiersten - Christina being the American equivalent of the Danish Kiersten!  It makes sense that she probably just chose the wrong grandmother's name to place on the new granite headstone and in the absence of a death certificate estimated incorrectly the  years of Kiersten's birth and death.

Timerman story tragic in its own right
     As was common to the era for pioneering peoples, Catherine Timerman endured the hardships of taming the land.  "It is written that John L. Timmerman came to the Spring Creek area in July1880, and lived near the Black ranch the first year. In the fall of 1881 he established his residence on the northern slope of the hill, which bears his name. The Timmerman family received four land patents in Spring Creek (near today's Stanton, Idaho), the first being granted on 6/20/1889. It is also reported that John L. and Johanna Timmerman lived in a covered wagon the first winter or two while staying in the Spring Creek area before they began building a permanent residence. John L. was about 47 yrs. old at the time and was looking to start a business instead of mining or prospecting. "  (Jim Caulfield's book)

The Timerman's gave birth to a son on July 7, 1882.  He lived only a short time and was taken to the Timerman Cemetery for burial.  In the fall of 1883 John and Johanna Catherine had their second son.  He also passed away a short time later from penumonia and was also carried to the Timerman Cemetery.   In 1886 James Henry Timerman was born, the same year that Kiersten and John E. Forsgren moved in with the family.  Their daughter, Nancy Christina (Tena) Timerman was born on July 22, 1890.  Their last child, John Alexander was born Oct 15, 1895. 

However more tragedies were to occurr.  In 1905, at age 19,  the Timmerman's oldest son, James H. died.  Young John Alexander would grow to manhood, but he enlisted in the army and at age 23 was killed in action on Sept. 30th, 1918, in Epinonville, France.  He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Euro Section, site 3728.

Their daughter Tena was to give them much heartache, and was, indirectly, the cause of her father's death.  In November 1906 - just a year after the death of her older brother, Tena decided to run away and marry Sidney Knifong.  Her parents thought the match unsuitable and left Spring Creek to head for Hailey to try to get the license revoked and prevent the marriage.   They were unsuccessful.   (Tena and Sidney were married on Nov. 11, 1906).  When they were returning their wagon was passed by another rig which spooked their horses.   The horses bolted, throwing John and Catherine from the high spring seat.  John landed on his head and suffered massive concussions from which he never recovered.   He died on Nov. 27 without gaining consciousness.

Johannah Catherine's fall forced her head between two barbed wires of the fence, essentially scalping her.  The neighbors and local doctor worked all night and into the next day to clean her head with tweezers and an antiseptic solution.   She eventually healed, but the shock of losing her husband in addition to the severity of her injuries caused that she was pronounced insane (an unfortunate use of words in those days!).  She was sent to an Insane Asylum at Shoshone.  It is assumed she was there for some months, but in the 1910 census she is back home living with her son John Alexander, with Tena and her husband in an adjoining piece of property.    It is possible she eventually returned to the asylum since the Wood River Daily Times (Tues., Feb. 27, 1917) reports her death:
     "Mrs Sydney Knifong and brother, John Timmerman, left Tuesday for Blackfoot, Idaho in response to a telegram announcing the death of their mother at that place.  They will bring the body to Bellevue for burial."  She was buried next to her husband, her mother and three sons in the Timmerman Cemetery.

     Tena had many more turbulent years, divorcing Mr. Knifong and later marrying a Frank Dillion.  Tena divorced him in May 1923.   She eventually went on to medical school, as stated earlier, and seemed devoted to the care of the suffering.  She died on June 19, 1979, one month short of her 90th birthday and is buried in a niche in the Evergreen Memorial Park Cemetery in McMinnville, Oregon.

     She never had any children so there are no surviving descendants of John and Johanna Catherine Timmerman.

     We are greatly indebted to Bernice Homer, Kathy Perron, Jim Caulfield and Mary Brown McGonigal for their very detailed investigation into the lives of the Timmermans.  Kathy and Bernice have supplied the Forsgren Family Association with copies of Jim Caulfield's memoires as well as miscellaneous pages from Mary McGonigal's book and photocopies of some newspaper notices.    Kathy and Bernice are not sure why they became so involved in the Timmerman story, but I feel that some day they will know the reason.  Jim Caulfield certainly benefitted from their will anyone else who wishes to visit the Hailey, Idaho Family History Center.  May these people be blessed for all that they have preserved for future generations!

No comments:

Post a Comment