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 6, 2010

SECOND WIFE: Sarah Bell Davis

     Sarah Bell (some records spell it Belle) was born 5 April 1829 in Warren (Apollo), Armstrong Co., Pennsylvania, the daughter of William and Sarah McKee Davis.

     Sarah immigrated to the Salt Lake Valley with her parents.  They came in the Brigham Young Company of 1848 (his second crossing - mistakenly referred to as the Lorenzo Snow Company in biographies of William Davis), departing Winter Quarters on 5 June 1848 & arriving in the Salt Lake Valley in different smaller groups between the 20-24 September 1848 .  1220 individuals were in the company when it began its journey from the outfitting post at Winter Quarters, Nebraska.

     It is interesting to interject some notes here: Also traveling in this company is Mary Ann Mount Snyder and her parents. Could 19 yr. old Sarah ever have dreamed that both she and little 6 yr.old Mary Ann Snyder would end up being wives of the same man??  Sarah arrives in Utah nearly a full year after John E. got there from being mustered out of Mormon Battalion Service. Did they know each other in Nauvoo or did their acquaintance happen as soon as she got to Salt Lake. Did her arrival cause the break-up of his marriage with Mary Ann Hunt?  [Note Oct 2010.  Probably not.  New information has surfaced which I will add to Mary Ann's blog later].  Also traveling in this company were many other individuals whose names will be quickly recognizable in early Church History:  Truman O. Angell, Israel Barlow, Reynolds Cahoon, Anson Call, John D. Lee, Isaac Morley, Lorenzo and Erastus Snow, W.W. Phelps, Zerah Pulsipher and Nelson Wheeler Whipple (whose journal would later record some events in the life of another of John's wives).

     There is no history that we know of chronicling the life of Sarah Bell - only bits and pieces as they surface in the memories of other people.  Onc such short notation is made in the Life Sketch of Sarah McKee Davis (Sarah Bell's mother) which I obtained from the Daughters of Utah Pioneers.  The author is a granddaughter of Sarah McKee's , Sarah Davis Dalton.    The following gives insight into the difficult life of the early settlers of Brigham City:
     "Times were very hard during the first years my grandparents lived in Utah.  Food was far from plentiful and white flour was a luxury enjoyed by few of the saints.  One of grandmother's daughters, Aunt Sarah, was very ill and the unpalatable food obtainable could not be retained in her stomach.  Grandmother took all the money she had - - - fifity cents, and offered it for just enough flour to make a pancake for her sick daughter.  She was refused the flour.  The owner had three barrels of flour in his possession, [but] had to throw it all away later as it molded and could not be used."

     John Erik Forsgren arrived back in the Salt Lake Valley from his year-long stint with the Mormon Battalion on October 1st or 16th, 1847.  He had married and been sealed to Mary Ann Hunt prior to joining the battalion.  That marriage had reached its end, according to John, because Mary Ann no longer wanted to put up with the persecutions and loss of their child.  [The relationship of John and Mary Ann Hunt is treated in more detail on that separate blog post].    On October 26th of 1848 John's sealing to Mary Ann Hunt was cancelled.  On February 15, 1849 John married Sarah Bell.

     Sarah's niece Alice states in her memoir "It is said that [Sarah] was very beautiful, in fact, the most beautiful woman in Brigham."  [To my knowledge there are no known photographs of Sarah Bell Davis.]  
     It is this marriage to Sarah Bell Davis which has produced the many LDS (both active and inactive) descendants,  through the three children born to them:
     Charles William, born 16 Jan 1850, Salt Lake City, Utah
     Sarah Alice (known in life as Alice) born 12 July 1854, Brigham City, Utah
     John Heber, born 7 Oct 1856, Carson City, Nevada

     The newlyweds had only a little over a year together.  In the October 1849 Conference of the Church, John was called to serve his famous mission to Sweden.  He did not arrive back in Salt Lake until September 30, 1853, four long years later.  He would not have been present for the birth of  their first child, their son Charles William.  Sarah returned to live with her parents while John E. was gone.
CENSUS: 1850 Census of Weber, Utah Territory household 30, pp. 5 & 6
Davis, William, age 56, blacksmith, all born Pennsylv.
Davis, Sarah, age 51
Fossgreen, Sarah, age 21
Fossgreen, Charles W, age 1
Davis, James S, Male, age 20, farmer
Davis, Margaret A, female, age15
Davis, Moroni, female, age 11
John E is not listed here, of course, because he is enroute to Sweden. 
[NOTE:  There are two filmings of this handwritten census on Interestingly, on one of them the pages are filmed out of order so that it appears that only Sarah & William Davis and Sarah Fossgreen are enumerated together. When you go to the next page in sequence there are no other household members shown. That is because page 2 is filmed there next. Continue going to "next" and page 6 DOES appear with Charles W Fossgreen and the remaining Davis children listed. Please note that this census does NOT show relationships. It is only family knowledge which verifies who these individuals are. I am grateful to JEF descendant Grant Hovey whose comments on another blog post led me to re-examine my own census notes on Sarah]

     John and Sarah were not sealed until his return from Sweden.  The date was April 9th, 1854, just a few months before Alice was born.  John and his brother Peter Adolph and sister Christina Erika, whom he had baptized and brought back with him from Sweden, joined the Davises in Brigham City.  It is interesting to note that Christina Erika, John E's sister later became a plural wife to William B. Davis, thus Sarah Bell's Sister-in-Law is also a step-mother.

     Five days after the birth of Alice, John's second child with Sarah, on July 17, 1854, John entered into a polygamous marriage with Harriet Frances Noon Smith, a two-year widow of David S. Smith.  (Harriet was also sealed to David on that same day in the Endowment House).  Harriet was the step-daughter of Heber C. Kimball.  The sealings were performed by him.  Harriet and John separated after a very short marriage and she later married Leonard E. Harrington with whom she lived out her life.  [See more details about this union in her blog post].  This marriage was apparently very upsetting to Sarah Bell.  In a memoir written by Alice Forsgren Eliason Hatch, a grand-niece of Sarah's (her brother Charles Wm's daughter) the following is quoted.
     "Aunt Alice (our grandfather's sister) told me this:  Her mother, Sarah Bell Davis had one child, Charles, and was seven months pregnant with her (Alice).  One day she was standing on the porch and just happened to see a covered wagon bound for Salt Lake City and the Endowment House, and there was her husband going to take a second wife.  She fainted and Aunt Alice was born prematurely.  Sarah Bell was so angry she went home and, according to Aunt Alice, left her husband for good." 

     It would be wonderful, of course, to be able to clarify some of the details of this memory.  On whose porch was Sarah standing?  How did she know that the covered wagon she saw pass by was bound for S.L.?  It is possible that John had informed her of his desire and intent, but to see the actuality happening was very upsetting to her.  That she "went home and left her husband for good" must not have ocurred at this time since they are still together when Brigham Young sent John and Sarah and their two children to live in Carson City, (now Nevada) on February 29, 1856.  While living there their third child, John Heber was born.  The family returned to Brigham City early in 1858 with the other Carson Valley settlers when Brigham called them back because of the approach of Johnson's Army.

     Shortly after this return from Carson, Sarah and John have separated.  Niece Alice makes a confusing statement in her written memories about John Heber's birth. Following the paragraph I quoted above she states: "Uncle John was born a few years later and Roy [Alice's brother Samuel Leroy] said they called him Johnny Crocker.  She married John Crocker later."  This is a confusing statement on two accounts.  She is not remembering the surname correctly.  It would have been Clapper.... and is she suggesting that other people felt that John Heber was really the son of Joseph Clapper whom she married on 11 October 1859?   Or were people just speculating and being unkind if she was seen to be keeping company with Mr. Clapper??  I am inclined to believe that John Heber IS John Erik's actual son for two reasons. He is named John, probably after his father, and Heber, probably after Heber C. Kimball who was important in John E's life. (It is possible, of course, that John Erik only thought he was the actual father of John Heber and would have named him accordingly).  Another consideration is that a close examination of the photos of John Heber appear to show a genetic trait present in many of the Forsgren siblings and their descendants - a slight eye abnormality which I have seen in photos of Peter Adolph, Pehr Johan, Milda, Elias Peter and others.]

     Sarah and John Clapper had at least three children of their own.   In James L. Anderson's masterful biography of John E. Forsgren in his book Denmark to Manti, he states "John and Sarah later separated, but exactly when this occurred is not known.  They were reported to be living together as man and wife in North Ogden as late as 1866."  His source for that statement is a deposition given by Thomas Dunn, February 18, 1893, Oakley, Cassia Co., Idaho.  Those dates would be impossible since Sarah Bell Davis Forsgren Clapper passed away 17 Nov 1863.  As far I know she never lived in Ogden.

     A deposition by Johannah Timerman, John Erik's stepdaughter, in 1893 in Stanton, Blaine Co., Idaho states that Sarah bore Joseph Clapper four children.  I have information on only three, unless she did indeed have an out-of-wedlock child  (John Heber?) before the twins were born.  There is also room for a fourth child to have been born between the twins and Maroni. These are the names of the documented children:
  •     Twins:  Joann Catherine Clapper and Joseph Christian Clapper born 30 October 1860 in Box Elder County.  Joann died 1 Feb 1863 and Joseph died 12 Sept 1863.
  •      Maroni Davis Clapper, born 11 Oct 1863, Box Elder County.  He died just two weeks later, on 26 October 1863.
CENSUS: 1860 Census of Brigham City, Box Elder, Utah Territory p. 209 ( taken 25 July 1860) Family 1590
Clapper, Joseph, age 25, farmer , born Ohio
Clapper, Sarah, age 31, born Penn
Clapper, Chas W, age 10, born U[tah] T [erritory}
Clapper, Sarah A, age 6       "
Clapper, Jno. , age 3            "
[NOTE: These children are NOT Clappers. They are Sarah's by John Erik Forsgren. It should be noted that these three children (with slightly different ages given) were also enumerated in this same census in the home of John E and his wife Inglebury (Ingeborg) down in Moroni, Sanpete Co! That census was taken 18 June 1860 before the enumeration in Brigham City. There is no way to know whether any of the children was physically present in either home when the enumerators came by...or if both parents just claimed them as members of the household.  Households were asked to give all the names of all people present in the home as of the night of June 1, 1860.  Scholars of the Utah Censuses have noted that many of the early Utah enumerations are inaccurate or "inflated" as families claimed individuals who were not actually physically present in the homes on the night of the official enumeration.  Some did so with the hope that his boosting of information would help Utah gain statehood more quickly.]

     What incredible tragedy struck this Clapper family? Was there a flu epidemic? All three of Sarah's children and Sarah herself died in the same year! Sarah passed away after the birth and death of her third child on 17 Nov. 1863.

     Every time I review what little seems to still be in print about Sarah's life my heart is filled with sorrow.  Her death left a hole not only in Mr. Clapper's life, but in the life of her children by John Erik.  It is said that Charles William never forgave his father for what he felt was the break-up of their marriage.  John Heber was only 7 at the time of Sarah's death.   The three children were NOT cared for my John Erik.  Grandparents Sarah McKee, Christina Erika and William Davis took over the job of finishing the rearing and care of Sarah and John's three children.

     Sarah is listed in the Brigham City Sexton's records as Sarah Belle Forsgren even though she had been married to Joseph Clapper for 4 years.  She is buried in the Brigham City Cemetery, plot B-35-12-4.  The headstone is mislabeled.  It reads "Davis, Sarah Bell McKee & children" [no dates] which is incorrect. It should read "Clapper, Sarah Bell Davis Forsgren & children" [McKee was never part of HER name.  McKee was the maiden name of her mother, Sarah]  She is buried not far from the headstone of her father William Davis. The Sexton's records that I have in the Forsgren Archives do not list any of the children so I do not know if this stone is accurate (that the children are actually buried there) or if it is a commemorative stone placed to honor her and her children.

   The mislabeled headstone in the Brigham City Cemetery

     I had long wondered who Joseph Clapper was and how he came into her life. A biography of William Davis listing his children with wife Sarah McKee mentions Sarah Bell has a brother, James Spencer Davis. James Spencer was married to Susann or Susannah Clapper who is the sister of Joseph Clapper. At last, the connection. (Joseph Clapper later marries Sarah Anne Ettleman who was previously married to HIS brother Henry Christian Clapper! How is that for confusing?)  Joseph later moves back to Iowa to join other family members.  He died 8 April 1903 in Dutch Hollow, Fremont, Iowa and is buried in Thurman, Fremont, Iowa.

I am grateful to several individuals who have uploaded family information to on the Clapper family (with lots of family photos) as well as providing this headstone photo of Joseph Clapper buried with his second wife Sarah Ettleman Clapper.    Sarah Ettleman was married previously to Joseph's brother Henry Christian Clapper who was killed in a mining accident in Idaho at age 43.  Sarah and Henry had six children together.  Sarah and Joseph had one child, a daughter, Lenora Mae Clapper Lacey who died in 1944.
     Sarah Bell and Joseph Clapper have also been sealed:  17 Oct 1986, Los Angeles California Temple.  This is consistent with the Church's policy that a woman may be sealed to all of her husbands just as a man may be sealed to all of his wives.

 Sarah McKee Davis (1799-1888)
Sarah Bell's mother,  who took over raising her children after Sarah's death in 1863(and who cared for them often during the times of her divorce from John E. Forsgren).  Is it OK to state that if Sarah Bell was indeed the beauty that one descendant described her as, then it doesn't appear she got the genes directly from either of her two parents!   Unkind statement.  None of is at our prime in our old age!  Sarah McKee Davis was a beloved person in Brigham City.  She had extensive medical training from her father and was midwife to many of Brigham's inhabitants.  A full biography of her will be posted to the Christina Erika Forsgren blog:
Sarah Bell Davis pioneer headstone - Brigham City Cemetery

William Davis (1795-1883)
Beloved Bishop and Mayor of Brigham City;  Father of Sarah Bell Forsgren (and husband to Christina Erika Forsgren, Sarah Bell's Sister-in-Law - John E's sister).  Brother Davis was blind in his later years.  His full biography will be posted to

The modern headstone for William B. Davis - Brigham City Cemetery

This is a photo of the pioneer stone for William B. Davis which is no longer standing in the Brigham City Cemetery

The stone commemorating William B and his wives - Brigham City Cemetery
These stones are located in section B-36.  (Look for a large concrete urn - taller than an average man - in that SE section of the cemetery.  The Davis stones are not far from that urn)

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