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


Sunday, May 2, 2010


This is the clay bust rendering displayed at the Forsgren Reunion in the year 2000, created by sisters Brenda Hansen and Trudy Iverson, direct descendants of John Erik Forsgren.
Trudy Iverson (left) and Brenda Hansen (right)

The following is the write-up about the monument placement that appeared in the Church News, May 26, 2001 (written by R. Scott Lloyd)

     A year after Church members in Sweden celebrated the 150th anniversary of the first baptism in that country, a monument is being erected to the first missionary in Sweden, John Erik Forsgren; featuring a bust sculpted by two of his direct-line descendants.
     The monument is scheduled to be unveiled and dedicated July 26 in Gavle (pronounced "YEV-la") Sweden, on city-owned property next to Elder Forsgren's family home, which still stands.  That will be 151 years to the day since Elder Forsgren baptized his brother, Peter, the first baptism in Sweden.
The bronze sculpture is the work of Brenda Forsgren Hansen and Trudy Forsgren Iverson, great-great-granddaughters of Elder Forsgren.
     "My parents attended the sesquicentennial celebration a year ago in July," Sister Hansen said, "and some of the local Church leaders were talking about erecting a monument and approached my father with the suggestion of getting the family to donate funds.  He told them he had daughters who are sculptors, and they kind of liked the idea of having descendants do it.  So when he told us about it, we didn't really wait for any further permission from anybody."
     Working from a single photograph of Elder Forsgren, the sisters had a clay bust ready to display at a Forsgren family reunion in Utah within three weeks.  That very day, the Forsgren descendants donated enough money to pay for the bust to be bronzed.
     Meanwhile, in Sweden, two public affairs missionaries from Utah, Alf and Betty Bostrom, combined their efforts with local Church leaders under the direction of President Gosta Lorlof of the Stockholm Sweden Stake to obtain approval from city officials to place the monument on the city property.  It was providential, Elder Bostrom said, that the lot adjacent to the Forsgren home happened to be vacant and  happened to be owned by the city.  The home itself is under private ownership.
     The project was helped along by the donation in Utah of [a large slab] of granite for a pedestal on which the bust will rest.  A plaque on the pedestal will contain the following account, written in Swedish:
     "John Erik Forsgren was born Nov. 7, 1816, on Ovre Bergsgatan 6 in Gavle.  In 1825 he left Gavle as a ship's boy.  In Boston USA, in 1843 he came in contact with members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Forsgren joined the Church.  As the first missionary in Sweden he returned to Gavle in July 1850, where he baptized his brother Peter Adolph.  He became the first member of the Church in Scandinavia.  Many more were converted and baptized, among them his sister Kristina Erika.  In Gavle John organized the first branch in Sweden.  John Forsgren died in 1890 in Utah, USA.  Today there are thousands of descendants of the Forsgren family active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  This monument is a gift from them to the City of Gavle.  Gavle, 26 July 2001."

The bust, now bronzed and ready to be shipped to Sweden

The bust as it appeared early in 2010 - still standing strong and unvandelized, thank goodness!!  There was a little local controversy before it was placed about whether it would be "good enough" or an eyesore, etc.  Apparently it is being respected.

This is a postcard showing the old part of Gavle which now serves as an artist's colony.  The Forsgren home is in the lower right and the park where the monument was placed is in the foreground to the right of the building.

This shot was taken earlier this year (2010) by a couple serving a mission in Sweden and posted to their blog.

This is the Forsgren Family home as it appeared in 1912 when Elias Peter Forsgren (son of Peter Adolph Forsgren) was there as a missionary.  The handwritten note about the tree concerns Peter A, who planted the tree.  According to the most recent photo, the tree is no more!  Elias Peter kept a branch of the tree and had a few artifacts made from it that are in the possession of his daughter LeJune Forsgren Maughan and her family.


  1. Dear Adele!

    I am a writer, journalist living in Gävle (actually I have lived here all my life more or less) and I while I was searching the net for info about John Erik Forsgren I came across Your blog.

    Now I don´t know how much you know and how many pictures You have from his home in Gävle. His home is nowasays an antiquity-shop and the outhouse is an arts and crafts-shop where I work extra hours during weekends. I have a lot of photos if You would like some. The people running the shops are my best friends and they take good care of the houses. Other friends of mine have a cofféeshop on the other side of Snus-Majas Tomt, and recently alot of new art shops pop up and peoples homes are being restored so Old Town in Gävle is really coming to life.

    Please tell me if You would like som pics.

    Best Regards
    Charlotta Cederlof

  2. Hi,

    I was visiting Söderhamn north of Gävle on wednesday and while in the taxi to our office I heard Charlotta (?) talk about this on the radio. I now felt I had to look it up on the internet. It's a small world :)
    My grandmother and 2 of my fathers sisters were/are LDS (my aunts in CA and AZ) and I take an interest in hearing about the church's history even if I'm not a member myself.

    Best regards
    Karin Hägg