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, June 6, 2010


The following comprises Chapter 12, pp. 56-61 of the Sons of Utah Pioneers publication, Box Elder Lore, Brigham City, 1951. (Some minor corrections have been made to punctuation and spelling from the original.) I have taken the liberty of inserting various quotations from articles in the 1967 Church News and Andrew Jensen's History of the Scandinavian Mission.

     [Inset Photo of J.E. Forsgren - the same as the one at the header of this blog]

     John Erick Forsgren is the son of John O. Forsgren and Anna Christina Olsen.  He was born in November 7, 1816 at Gefle, Sweden.  As a lad of 9 years of age he went to sea and for about 18 years most of his life was spent as a sailor on the mighty ocean.  He visited nearly every important seaport on the globe, visited America several times.  In the spring of 1843 while in Boston, Mass., he became acquainted with the Latter-day Saints, attended their meetings, was convinced that the elders preached the gospel as taught by the Savior, accepted the same and was baptized by Elder Wm. McGhen, July 16, 1843, and like Peter of old left the sea to accept the greater work of the Master.  He went to Nauvoo where he became acquainted with the prophet Joseph Smith, his brother Hyrum, Brigham Young and other leaders of the Church.
     The westward move began February 4, 1846, and from that date on there was a continuous stream of wagons crossing the Mississippi river to the Iowa side.  In the spring, there was snow and cold, there was much suffering, but the Saints, leaving their possessions behind them, went, looking with sad hearts on their deserted homes; but they would rather face the winter storms than to live in constant dread of cruel mobs.  The main camp of this exiled band of co-religious people was Winter Quarters.
     February 15, 1849, John E. Forsgren married Miss Sarah Bell Davis, daughter of Wm. Davis and Sarah McKee, who came to Utah in 1848 in Lorenzo Snow's company.  In 1850 Wm. Davis was called to settle in Box Elder County.  He and his family, also James Brooks and family together with Thomas Pierce arrived at what is now known as Brigham City, March 11, 1851.
     In 1846 war broke out between the U.S. and Mexico.  What is now Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Idaho and parts of Colorado, belonged then to Mexico, and the President desired to get this large district of country for the U.S. he sent some soldiers westward on the Pacific Ocean.

     The Mormons traveling from Nauvoo had asked President Polk for assistance in their journey to the west.  They said they wanted to remain under the protection of the government and were willing to aid in holding the western country for the U.S.  The authorities at Washington, knowing that the Mormons were on their way to California or Oregon, determined to make use of them to win the country.  President Polk, accordingly instructed General Kearney to call five hundred of these people to his aid.  Brigham Young and the Twelve took an active part in getting volunteers.  The stars and stripes were hoisted to a tree top and the work of enrollment began.  Within three days the little army was organized and ready for the march.  There were 549 souls in the battalion, who, with Captain James Allen as the commander, started on their dreary march July 20, 1846.
     President Young gave them farewell blessings and advice.  They must be true to their country, he said, and true to their God.  "Not a single occasion," he added, prophetically, "should they be required to shed human blood."
     John E. Forsgren was the only Scandinavian represented in the battalion.  The boys reached Santa Fe, New Mexico, October 9, 1846, after much suffering and enduring many hardships.  Captain Allen had died enroute and Colonel Cook became the commanding officer.  They arrived at San Diego, California January 30, 1847 on which occasion the weary and half-clad battalion boys were heartily congratulated by their leaders.  Colonel Cook, their commander, gave a wonderful tribute to them.  Some of the boys stayed in California for some time, seeking employment in different ways, and these same Mormon battalion boys were successful in locating the first gold found in California.
     John E. Forsgren and other members of the battalion started out to find the pioneer Saints and arrived in the Great Salt Lake Valley October 1, 1847.
      He was one of the missionaries called and set apart to Sweden.  they made all the preparations for leaving that their limited means would allow.  On the 19th of October, 1849, they gathered at the mouth of Emigration canyon where they were organized into a traveling company by Brigham Young.  There were 53 men in the party with twelve wagon and 42 horses.  Shadrach Roundy was appointed captain of the company.
     The party set out on their long journey and arrived at Fort Kearney December 7, 1849, and arrived a few days later at Kanesville where they were received by the Saints with tokens of love and joy.
     From Kanesville the missionaries took different routes to the coast and across the Atlantic.  Peter O. Hansen landed in Liverpool, April 8, 1850.  John E. Forsgren arrived on the 19th of the same month.  At this time there were about 3000 Saints in Great Britain, and those laboring in that mission were aided financially by them.
     Apostle Erastus Snow, Elders P.O. Hansen and George P. Dykes began at once their great work of preaching and teaching the gospel in Denmark.  Elder John E. Forsgren took an affectionate farewell of these brethren at Copenhagen, June 19, 1850, and proceeded to his native town, Gefle, Sweden.  ["Elder John E. Forsgren, who on June 19, 1850, had taken leave of his fellow-missionaries, Erastus Snow, Peter O. Hansen and George P. Dykes in Copenhagen, Denmark, proceeded to Gefle, a seaport town of Sweden, situated at the mouth of the Gafvel River and on the Bay of Bothnia. Near this city he found his brother, Peter Adolph Forsgren, and sister, Christina Erika Forsgren, sill living at the old homestead.  His father, Johan Olaf Forsgren, was absent on a sea voyage to America." Chap. 3 Hist of Scandinavian Mission p. 11]
     [Apostle Snow wrote:  "He took leave of us, though his eyes were full of tears and his heart ready to burst, he goes by steamboat to Gefle, high up on the Swedish shore of the Baltic.  In that vicinity he hopes to find his father from whom he has been absent nearly 10 years."]
     When Elder Forsgren arrived in his native town, he learned that his sister, Christina Erika Forsgren a short time previous, had the following remarkable vision, which made a deep impression on her, as well as on her brother, Peter A. Forsgren.  While she was sitting in the church one Sunday morning have previously engaged in devotional exercises, and as a hymn was sung she saw clearly a personage standing before her who said:  "On the fifth day of July a man will come to you with three books and all those that believe in the things written in those books shall be saved."  She did not for a moment think that that man would be her long lost brother John who went to sea when a young boy.  But when Elder Forsgren came, having with him the Bible, the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, both Peter and Erika believed the gospel message which their brother presented to them.
     Peter was at that time afflicted with consumption and the doctors being agreed that he could not live; but he was completely healed through the ordinances of the gospel together with faith and prayer.  ["Elder Forsgren found his brother very sick with consumption and, by the physicians, declared past recovery.  (p. 11.)  Among the converts to the truth of his teachings was his brother, Peter A. Forsgren, who through faith and anointing with oil had been raised from his bed of sickness, and on the 26th day of July, 1850, he baptized him as the first fruit of preaching the gospel in its fulness in Sweden.  This baptism took place about three weeks earlier than the first immersion by Erastus Snow in Copenhagen, Denmark.  John E. Forsgren, consequently, performed the first baptism in the Scandinavian Mission." (p. 12)] 
     On July 26th of 1850, Elder Forsgren baptized his brother Peter A. Forsgren.  This was the first baptism by divine authority performed in Scandinavia in this dispensation.  He also baptized his sister Christina Erika Forsgren, August 4, 1850, she being the first woman baptized as a member of the Mormon Church in Scandinavia.  [" Soon after Elder John E. Forsgren had baptized his brother, he also baptized his sister and two other persons in Gefle, after which he concluded to go to Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, in the hope of finding there more tolerance on the part of the officials and of the people, and, consequently, a better opening to introduce the gospel.  Accordingly he called for his passport on the 3rd of August, but he missed the steamer and was left at Gefle." (p. 12)]
     As soon as the work of Elder Forsgren became generally known, a storm of persecution arose against him.
     He was arrested and ill-treated many times and finally banished from the country.  One day he was summoned to the office of the public prosecutor and the latter asked him if he had in his possession a picture of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  Having a picture, he showed it, and the officer snatched it and burned it.  While it was burning, Elder Forsgren had a vision in which he saw the city of Gefle destroyed by fire.  He told his relatives of this vision and also that they, his brother and sister would be in America, when this visitation took place.  Nineteen years from the date of the burning picture, the city of Gefle was almost totally destroyed by fire, the conflagration starting in the very house where the picture of the prophet had been sacrificed to the flames.
     While thus laboring in his native land Elder Forsgren heard of a large company of farmers who were preparing to emigrate to America.  He went and preached the gospel to them and had the great pleasure of baptizing 17 of them.  He organized them into a traveling company, ordained some of them to the Priesthood, and gave them instructions how to proceed to baptize others of their members, if they desired.[ ". . . he heard of a ship which was about to leave for New York with a company of emigrating farmers.  He sought them at once, finding them lodging temporarily in a warehouse, waiting for the vessel to get ready.  These emigrants were somewhat conversant with the Scriptures, and, being tired of the oppression and religious intolerance of their native country, had concluded to seek their fortunes in America.  Elder Forsgren preached the gospel to them, and they received him gladly; wherefore he visited them frequently and instructed them concerning the principles of the restored gospel.  On August 6th, the proposed a public meeting in a grove, a short distance out of town; and, after due deliberation, he decided to bar a public testimony and abide the consequences.  It was under these circumstance that the first public Latter-day Saint meeting was held in Sweden, on Tuesday, August 6, 1850.  Elder Forsgren on that day went to the water and baptized seventeen persons belonging to the emigrant company.  Everything passed off quietly and satisfactorily and the people, becoming interested, asked for a second meeting, which was held the following day.
     On Wednesday, Aug. 7th, Elder Forsgren organized the newly baptized converts into a branch of the Church and ordained two of them to the office of Elders.  He also ordained some Teachers among them, administered the Sacrament and instructed all the emigrants relative to their journey and their future proceedings.  He gave the ordained Elders instructions how to baptize and confirm their traveling companions, should any of them decide to join the Church on the voyage, or afterwards.
     At the appointed hour of the meeting, 6 o'clock p.m., the rumor of the first meeting had drawn a vast multitude both from the town and country to the place appointed.  Among the number were some Lutheran priests and "stadfiskalen" (city marshal) with members of the police force, ready to take Elder Forsgren into custody.  They however, took no steps to arrest him until he had finished his discourse, for the power of God rested upon him as well as upon the people.  'Some wept, others rejoiced, and nearly all seemed to feel that surely a prophet had come among them'.  As soon as he was through speaking, the marshal and priests, full of indignation, and boiling over with rage, came forward and arrested him, amid terrible threats and denunciations.  As he was marched into town, the vast multitude followed, and they were met by large crowds from the town and shipyards.  As the officer in charge, by way of introducing his prisoner to the crowd, called him 'dopparen' (the dipper), the multitude swung their hats and cried with deafening shouts:  'Hurra for profeten'  (Hurrah for the prophet).  (p. 12 & 13)]
     As a prisoner Elder Forsgren had many opportunities, as did the Apostle Paul formerly, to bear his testimony to many of the civil and ecclesiastical authorities ["The following day (August 8th) John E. Forsgren was brought before the chief officer of police at Gefle;  next he was taken before the chief officer of "landskansliet"; then before the chief priest and his associates, all of whom, in their turn, examined and questioned him, and made records of the proceedings.  he answered them as the spirit gave him utterance, until they became confounded and perplexed and knew not what to do with him.
     He was next ushered before "borgmasteren" (the city mayor of Gefle,  where all the before-mentioned dignitaries were assembled with the priests and police.  Here he had another opportunity of bearing witness to the truth, for as they proceeded with their accusations of what he had said and done, he explained and bore testimony.  Among other transgressions, which the marshal accused him of, was healing the sick.  The chief priest sent for Elder Forsgren's brother to have him examined, as it was believed he was still sick.  But when this brother came, he testified boldly that he was well and that he had been healed by the power of God, through the instrumentality of his brother.  The doctor was ordered to examine Brother Forsgren's head, as they would fain have sent him to the asylum; but the doctor very significantly told them that he (John E. Forsgren) knew well what he was about.  Everything increased their perplexity.  Elder Forsgren was well dressed and bore passports from Washington, D.C.  This, added to his bold indifference, made them feel dubious about imprisoning him.  They finally concluded to send him to Stockholm with a full account of his doings in Gefle.  The marshal suggested that for his bold, impudent demeanor he was worthy to go to Stockholm in irons; and the irons were produced for the purpose.  But, after a little further consultation, he was dismissed with the following endorsement upon his pass, which was suggested by the chief priest:  'The bearer of this pass received it and had it signed August 3rd for his departure to Stockholm, but was unable to leave at that time.  The North American consul, now present, rejects him, and leaves him without protection.  The bearer of the pass has, during the past few days, disturbed the general peace by illegal preaching in warehouses and in the open air before several hundred persons, and has even performed the act of baptizing several grown persons on the seashore.  For these offenses he will leave Gefle before 8 o'clock tomorrow morning for the above mentioned place of destination without fail. - Gefle Landsaknsli, 8th Aug., 1850 '
     When Elder Forsgren landed in Stockholm, he was again arrested, as the police officers had received from Gefle five or six pages of his sayings and doings there, and he was taken forthwith before the chief police officers of the kingdom for three successive days, where he again had an opportunity of expounding the principles of the gospel and bearing witness of its restoration to all in the court room. 
     During this time his fame spread through the city and notices appeared about him the different newspapers.  The officers of the law, after trying in vain to make him stop preaching, concluded to send him back to America.  But as there was no vessel in the harbor by which they could ship him immediately, and the American minister would not permit them to imprison him, he was set free with a strict charge not to preach his doctrines.  But the papers made known his whereabouts, and people from all quarters sought him; thus he received numerous invitations, visited many families in their private houses, and soon had a large circle of friends and acquaintances.  In this manner he continued his labors for about a month, and many began to believe his testimony.  
     Finally, the authorities in Stockholm heard that several persons had decided to be baptized by Elder Forsgren, notwithstanding the heavy penalty fixed by law for sun an offense.  So Elder Forsgren was arrested on the night between the 9th and 10th of September, 1850, and taken on board an American vessel, which was ready to sail for New York.  His passport was endorsed for that city and his passage paid.  (p. 13 & 14)]  who finally placed him on board a ship bound for America, paying his passage.  By the time this vessel was nearing the coast of Denmark, Elder Forsgren had gained favor with the captain who permitted him to leave the ship, so in company with the American minister who had assisted him in landing in Denmark, he arrived in Copenhagen on the 18th of September, 1850, after his wonderful mission of about 3 months duration, crowned with success in introducing the gospel in his native country.[" But, fortunately, the vessel on which he had involuntarily embarked, had to touch at Elsinore (Helsingor), on the coast of Denmark, to pay the so-called "Oresundstold" (Danish toll), before she could pass from the Baltic into the sea of Cattegat.  Elder Forsgren immediately took advantage of the opportunity of gaining his freedom, and as he, during the voyage from Stockholm, had won the friendship of the captain of the vessel, he had no difficulty in effecting a landing.  Elated at the prospect of soon joining his fellow missionaries in Copenhagen, about thirty miles distant from Elsinore, and as he was preparing to leave, he was arrested by the Danish police, at the instigation of the Swedish consul, who had received orders from his government to unite with the Danish police in having Forsgren re-shipped to New York, if he should attempt to land in Elsinore.  As a cause for his arrest, the Danish authorities alleged that as he was without sufficient means he was a vagrant.  Fortunately, however, Mr. Walter Forward, the American minister to Denmark, with whom Elder Erastus Snow had already formed a  a most friendly acquaintance, was visiting Elsinore at the time, and to him Elder Forsgren, as an American citizen, immediately applied for protection.  Mr. Forward, in answer to the Danish authorities, said that he would be responsible for Mr. Forsgren , and assured them that there was no danger of his becoming a burden to the Danish Government through lack of money, as he knew the prisoner had friends and means in Copenhagen.  This stand on the part of Mr. Forward had the desired effect;  Elder Forsgren was liberated and accompanied the minister to Copenhagen, where he arrived on the 18th of September 1850"   (p.14)]
     When Elder Forsgren arrived in Copenhagen he was given a hearty welcome by the elders, and was asked to assist them in their labors in Denmark.  ["Thus ended the first attempt to introduce the gospel into Sweden.  
     It may be remarked in this connection, that the company of farmers, of whom Elder Forsgren had baptized seventeen, sailed for America soon after his arrest, and nothing authentic has ever been heard of them since, though Elder Forsgren claimed that some of them, subsequently, became identified with the branches of the Church in the West. " (p. 15)] He was appointed to preside over the Copenhagen conference to succeed Elder George P. Dykes, who was sent to Aalborg, Denmark, to organize a branch of the church in that place.
     On Monday the 12th day of August, 1850, Apostle Erastus Snow performed the first baptism in this dispensation in Denmark.  Fifteen members joined the church.  The first man baptized was O.A.C. Monster and the first woman was Anna Backstrom, who later became the wife of Erastus Snow.
     On the 24th of February, 1852, a social farewell party in  honor of the so-called Danish Apostle Erastus Snow, was held in the large hall of Hotel Du Nora in Copenhagen.  It was the first of its kind in Scandinavia, about 300 Saints and friends had met on this occasion.  Elder Snow, who had successfully completed the mission assigned to him, appointed as his successor John E. Forsgren, who thus became the second president of the Scandinavian Mission.
     Many of the saints had expressed a desire to emigrate to Zion along with Elder Forsgren.  Many came to Copenhagen from all parts of the three Scandinavian countries ready to go with him.  John E. Forsgren was honorably released to return home in December, 1852.  Willard Snow had arrived and was appointed to succeed him as president of the mission.  On the 20th day of December, 1852, Elder Forsgren left Copenhagen on the steamer "Obotrit" with a company of 203 souls, including his brother Peter A. Forsgren and his sister Christina Erika Forsgren.  They arrived at Diel, Germany, on the evening of the 22nd.  An extra train took the company from there to Hamburg.  On the evening of December 24th the emigrants started for England.  The Saints enjoyed themselves Christmas Eve singing and engaging in all kinds of amusements on board the steamer, although compelled to go without Christmas supper.  In the morning when they started out a sharp breeze was blowing which afterwards became a fearful storm, the sailors stating they had never seen anything like it.   
     [Church News, December 23, 1967.  THIS WEEK IN CHURCH HISTORY: Converts Note Christmas Aboard Ship.  Dec. 20, 1852 - nearly 300 converts from Denmark, Sweden and Norway sailed from Copenhagen en route to Zion. The article was written by Arnold Irvine who used the Manuscript History of Church Emigration1849-1857 as his source.]
      If there was any homesickness aboard the steamship "Lion" on Christmas Eve, the malady was quickly cured with the enthusiastic singing of Christmas carols in the ship's crowded saloon.
      An impromptu program of readings, vocal solos, duets, instrumental numbers and games added to the gaiety.
      Out on deck, some of the passengers braved the chilly night air to watch the countryside, lighted by a bright moon, silently slide past the ship. 
     Small gifts were exchanged and children hopefully set out wooden shoes near their bunks in hopes that Jule Nissen, the Christmas elf, would fill them with goodies.
     Also helping to dispel any twinges of homesickness was the assurance that the converts were going to Zion where they could practice their religion free from the harassment and ridicule they had suffered in their homelands.
  This image accompanied the Church News article, Dec. 23, 1967

     Already, they were several days' journey from their port of embarkation, Copenhagen.  The "Lion" was gliding down Germany's Elbe River toward the North Sea. 
     The emigrants would not soon forget their departure from Copenhagen.  Along with the many well-wishers, who had come to bid fond and tearful farewells, there had been some scoffers who predicted nothing but bad luck for the followers of the "Swedish Mormon priest."  They were referring to Swedish-born John E. Forsgren, a missionary who had been appointed to lead the company to America
      From Copenhagen, the group had sailed to Kiel, taken the train to Hamburg where they had embarked on the "Lion" bound for England.  Thus far, everything had gone well in accordance with the carefully laid plans of the Scandinavian Mission leaders.
     Not in the plans was a wild storm - the sailors swore it was the worst they had seen - that threatened to tear the ship apart in the North Sea.  Bulldozing waves ripped off the bridge and pushed the deck cargo over the side, taking a section of the gunwale with it."]
      The ship was tossed about for several days and finally arrived at Hull England, on the evening of December 28th.
     ["The port authorities at Hull were surprised to see the wounded "Lion" escape after such a pounding.  They estimated that 150 vessels had gone down in the storm."]
     From Hull the company went by train to Liverpool, where they went on board the old sailing vessel, "Forest Monarch, leaving Liverpool January 2, 1853.
     ["Glad to be on land, the emigrants took a train to Liverpool where on New Year's Day, 1853, they boarded the packet, "Forest Monarch," for the longest part of their sea journey."]
     [This British square-rigger was skippered by Captain Edmund Brewer and hailed out of Liverpool. The Forest Monarch was carver-built with three masts, one deck, a round stern, a standing bowsprit, and a figurehead of a man.   It is described as weighing 977 tons: 149' x 31' x 23'.  Her owners had been Pierre Valin of Quebec, her builder, and De Novo at Liverpool. The vessel was not listed in Lloyd's Register after 1854.  Cited in  Scandinavian Emigrant Ship Descriptions and Voyage Narratives (1852-1868) from Ships, Saints, and Mariners by Conway B. Sonne and other sources. ]

      This company now consisted of 297 souls.  On account of storms and contrary winds the ship stopped in the river Mersey until January 16, when they left England for America.
     [Storms delayed the sailing for 16 days and even while the ship lay at anchor in the harbor it had two close calls because of the storms.  One night it became entangled with another vessel and the two bumped each other enough to cause some damage before they could be pulled apart.  In another gale, the "Forest Monarch" nearly drifted aground before tugs came to the rescue."]
Good food and fresh water became very scarce.  Four persons died and three children were born on the ocean.
     The company arrived at New Orleans, March 16, 1853.  By steamer they continued on up the Mississippi river to St. Louis where they arrived March 31st, and were transferred to another ship which took them 200 miles up the river to Keokuk, Iowa, where they remained for some time, making arrangements to make the long, weary trip across the plains.
      ["The crossing to New Orleans required almost two months.  The company took a riverboat to St. Louis where they bought tents and other equipment before continuing on to Keokuk, Iowa.  When their teams and wagons were brought into camp, they scorned the clumsy wood yokes devised by the Americans for harnessing the oxen to the wagons.  Instead, they made leather harnesses, Scandinavian style.
     But when they hitched up the oxen, the nervous animals, unused to such trappings, ran pell-mell across fields and gullies, wrecking some of the wagons.   Yokes were used in crossing the plains."] 
     At this place (Keokuk) Peter A. Forsgren married Anna Christina Knudson, May 8, 1853.  She was the daughter of Jens Knudson and Anna Marie Jensen, who were members of the company.  The company crossed the Missouri river on the 27th of June, 1853, and started for the west.  The trip was long and tiresome.  Several died on the way, Denmark Jensen, our fellow citizen, was born on the way, being the son of Mr. and Mrs. Mads C. Jensen.  Some of them got tired of the long journey, apostatized, and left the company.
     The company arrived at Salt Lake City on the 30th of September, 1853, and on the 4th of October they were all rebaptized by Apostle Erastus Snow.  [The company arrived in Salt Lake Valley at the end of September.  Most of them went on south to Sanpete Valley to establish their homes."]
     Brigham Young advised these sturdy Scandinavian saints to scatter to the different parts of the territory and thus help to speedily build up Zion.  John E. Forsgren, learning that his father-in-law, Wm. Davis had been called too, and had moved his family, including Mrs. Forsgren, to Box Elder, decided to go there and many of the Scandinavian emigrants went with him, arriving at their destination in the fall of 1853.  These were the first Scandinavian saints to settle north of Salt Lake City.  Box Elder was then the northern frontier settlement of the saints.  The Box Elder Valley, or Mantua, became their new home.
     With this first company of Scandinavian saints to Box Elder was John E., Peter A. Forsgren and wife and their sister Christine Erika Forsgren, Jens Knudson and family, James Olsen and August Valentine.
     Christina Erika Forsgren was married to Wm. Davis, the first bishop of Brigham City, February 20, 1854.
     John E. Forsgren expected to meet his aged father, Johan A. Forsgren when he arrived at his native town Gefle, Sweden, but was so dissapointed.  The old gentleman had become so uneasy about his son John, that he had started for America to hunt him up, leaving Sweden about the same time that John left Utah for Scandinavia.  He had traced his son to the valleys of the mountains where they met when John returned from his mission.  The old gentleman remained with his children in Brigham City until his death.
     Lorenzo Snow was called in 1853 to take 50 families and move to Box Elder.  A number of Scandinavians came with him.  This company arrived in the spring of 1855 and called Brigham City in honor of President Brigham Young.  The saints began to move out from the fort and build  houses on their city lots, the two first adobe houses were erected by H.P. Jensen and J.D. Rees.
     The Forsgren family and these early Scandinavian saints have done much towards building up this western country, going through all the hardships of pioneer life, doubting nothing.  They went on laboring hard, making the roads, building the bridges, killing the snakes and preparing Brigham City and Box Elder county to what it is today, the most favored locality for home seekers in      The Forsgren family and these early Scandinavian saints have done much towards building up this western country, going through all the hardships of pioneer life, doubting nothing.  They went on laboring hard, making the roads, building the bridges, killing the snakes and preparing Brigham City and Box Elder county to what it is today, the most favored locality for home seekers in the state of Utah.  Thus, one of the Battalion men became one of our early pioneers.                                                            [End of Chapter 12]

The following  manuscript adds yet another view of the emigration of the Scandinavian Saints.  It is taken from the Mormon Immigration Index - Personal Accounts  Forest Monarach (January 1853), a Compilation of General Voyage Notes  "Departures . . . the Forest Monarch sailed on the 16th of January, with 297 Danish Saints on board, under the presidency of Elder John Forsgren..." >MS, 14:6 (Feb. 5, 1853), p. 89>

"SIXTIETH COMPANY. –Forest Monarch, 297 souls. This company of emigrants was from the Scandinavian mission, being the first large company of Saints who emigrated from Denmark, Sweden and Norway. An earnest desire to emigrate to Zion had been manifested by many of the Scandinavian Saints since the first company had left for the mountains a few months previous; and the elders had been engaged for some time past in making preparations to send off a large company. About the beginning of December, 1852, the emigrants from the respective conferences in the mission began to gather in Copenhagen, Denmark, and on Monday Dec. 20, 1852, two hundred ninety-three Saints, including children, went on board the steamship Obotrit and sailed from Toldboden (the custom house) at 4 o’clock p.m., under the leadership of Elder John E. Forsgren, one of the elders who, in connection with Apostle Erastus Snow, first introduced the gospel into Scandinavia two years before. A great multitude of people had gathered on the wharf to witness the departure of the ‘Mormons’, and many of the rabble gave utterance to the most wicked and blasphemous language, while they cursed and swore, because so many of their countrymen were disgracing themselves by following ‘that Swedish Mormon priest’ (an appellation they gave Elder Forsgren) to America. No violence, however, was resorted to, and the ship got safely away. After a rather stormy and unpleasant passage the Obotrit arrived safely in Kiel, Holstein, on the evening of the twenty-second. The following day the journey was continued by rail to Hamburg, where a large hall had been hired, and supper prepared for the emigrants. In the afternoon of the twenty-fourth the Saints went on board the steamship Lion, which glided slowly with the tide down the river Elbe to Cuxhaven, where the captain cast anchor, owing to the heavy fog which prevailed. The emigrants now celebrated Christmas Eve on board, with songs and amusements of different kinds. In the morning of the twenty-fifth anchor was weighed, and the Lion sailed to the mouth of the river, where it was met by heavy headwinds, that made it impossible to reach the open sea until midnight. Finally, the passage from the river to the sea was made in the moonlight.

Early in the morning of the twenty-sixth, the ship passed Heligoland, soon after which a heavy gale blew up from the southwest, which increased in violence until the next day, when it assumed the character of a regular hurricane, the like of which old sailors declared they had never before experienced on the German Ocean. The ship’s bridge and part of the gunwale were destroyed, and some goods standing on the deck were broken to pieces and washed overboard; otherwise, neither the ship nor the emigrants were injured. On the twenty-eighth, in the evening, after the storm had spent its fury, the Lion steamed into the harbor of Hull, England. About one hundred and fifty vessels were lost on the German Ocean in the storm, and the people in Hull were greatly surprised when the Lion arrived in safety, as it was firmly believed that she had gone under like the other ships that were lost.

From Hull, the emigrating Saints continued the journey by rail to Liverpool, on the 29th, where lodging and meals previously ordered, were prepared for them, and on the first of January 1853, they went on board the packet ship Forest Monarch, which was hauled out of the dock and anchored in the river Mersey. There it lay until the 16th, because of storms and contrary winds. In the meantime three of the company died, two babies were born, and three fellow passengers were initiated into the Church by baptism. One man, who had been bitten by a dog, was left in Liverpool, to be forwarded with the next company of emigrating saints. One night the ship became entangled with another vessel and sustained some injuries: and a few days later, during a heavy storm, it got adrift, pulling up both anchors, and was just about to run aground, when two tug boats came to the rescue and saved it.

On the sixteenth of January, 1853, the Forest Monarch put out to sea. The emigrants now numbered two hundred and ninety-seven souls, who were placed under the direction of Elder John E. Forsgrean, in connection with who Elders Christian Christiansen and J. H. Christiansen acted as counselors. Elder Willard Snow and Peter O. Hansen who had accompanied the emigrating Saints to Liverpool, now returned to Copenhagen.

During the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean the Forest Monarch was favored with very pleasant weather, but for several days it was a perfect calm, and in many respects the emigrants, who nearly all were unaccustomed to seafaring life, found the voyage trying and tedious. The provisions were poor, and their fresh water supply gave out before the journey was ended. Four deaths also occurred, and three children were born during the voyage.

On the eighth of March, 1853, the ship arrived safely at the mouth of the Mississippi River, where five of the company died, and on the arrival at New Orleans, on the sixteenth, two others departed this life, and one family who had apostatized remained in that city.

From New Orleans the journey was continued by steamboat up the Mississippi River to St. Louis, Missouri, where the emigrants landed on the thirty-first. In that city, tents and other commodities needed for the journey, were purchased. After tarrying about a month, during which time six of the emigrants died and two couples were married,(one couple being Soren and Bertha) the company left St. Louis and proceeded by steamboat about two hundred miles further up the river to Keokuk, Iowa, where the emigrants pitched their tents for the first time, and lay in camp for several weeks before starting for the plains.

In the meantime the emigrants received their teams consisting of oxen and wagons. Some of the Scandinavian emigrants, who at first rejected the American way of driving oxen in yokes, went to work and manufactured harness in regular Danish fashion; but no sooner were these placed on the animals than they, frightened half to death struck out in a wild run, refusing to be guided at all by the lines in the hands of their new masters from the far north. Crossing ditches and gulches in their frenzy, parts of the wagons were strewn by the way side; but the oxen, (many of which had never been hitched up before) were at last stopped by men who understood how to manipulate the most important article of all teamsters outfits -- the whip; and the Danish emigrants, profiting by the experience they had gained, soon concluded that, although harness might do well enough for oxen in Denmark, the yoke and whip were preferable in America; and they readily accepted the method of their adopted country.

With thirty-four wagons and about one hundred and thirty oxen, the company rolled out from the camping ground near Keokuk on the twenty-first of May, and after three weeks rather difficult travel over prairies of Iowa, Council Bluffs, on the Missouri River, was reached. Here the company rested for several days, and on the twenty seventh of June resumed the journey by crossing the Missouri River, after which they were soon far out on the plains. On the overland journey a number of the emigrants died, more children were born, and few lost the faith in the midst of the hardships and trials of the long march.
Finally on the thirtieth of September, 1853 the company arrived in Salt Lake City; and on the fourth of October the emigrants were nearly all rebaptized by Apostle Erastus Snow. They were counseled by President Brigham Young to settle in different parts of the Territory, and mix up with people of other nationalities, so as to become useful in developing the resources of the new country. Most of them located in Sanpete Valley, whither other companies of from Scandinavia subsequently followed them, and that valley has ever since been know as the headquarters of the Scandinavians in Utah. Still President Young’s advice has not been unheeded, as the people from the three countries of the north (Denmark, Sweden and Norway) are represented, to a greater or less extent, in nearly ever town and settlement of the Saints in the Rocky Mountains. (Millennial Star, Vol. XV, pp. 89, 282, 368; Morgenstjernen, Vol. 1, page 180.) 

Previously I published a photo of a steamship named the HMS Lion which I felt very likely to be too modern a ship to be the actual Lion that carried the Scandinavian Saints.   I am indebted to Grant Hovey once again for coming through to correct and add to our blog.  Here is the photo of a painting and accompanying caption which best illustrates our narrative.

This pewter-looking goblet is located on the 2nd floor lobby of the SL Daughters of Utah Pioneers Museum
Oliver F. Davis is the son of Christina Erika Forsgren Davis - John Erik's sister - who was also in the immigrating company led by John.

There are other biographical sketches in the Forsgren Family Association files.  One is written by Oluff Peterson.  Another is authorless, but seems to have been copied from Mr. Petersons and varies very little from the information we have already presented here. 

One of first attempts at re-doing and enlarging upon the well-known sketches was done by James B. Anderson as part of his work:  Denmark to Manti.   Please see the separate blog post that discusses that  research.

The most biography, finished in 2010, was researched and written by Laurie Bryant, a non-relative in Salt Lake City.  It is an unpublished manuscript and was donated by Ms Bryant to the Utah State Archives.  It is titled "A Rascal Among the Saints."  (I refer to it in more detail in another blog post as well).  It is meticulously researched and documented and is worth the time for you to ask for it at the archives and read it.  [As of Spring 2011 it had not yet been catalogued].

1 comment:

  1. My ancestor John Peter Lind has a story where he helped a Mormon missionary (before they were baptized in 1854) escape from a mob of angry men. The family his the missionary in the barn in the turnip tops (reserved as winter feed) and then John as a 9 year old boy helped the man escape in the middle of the night to another town. I have been searching your site to see if any story exists here but I was wondering if in your family you have heard this story? Thank you!