Recognition should be paid to James L. Anderson who wrote and published a 257 page book called Denmark to Manti, The History of William Anderson and Family. Jim is the great, great grandson of William Anderson. Pages 239 thru 247 of this work include a very well written biography of John Eric Forsgren. It is well footnoted and makes use of the Journal History of the Church, DUP files, existing biographical sketches, the History of the Scandinavian Mission and quotes extensively from the 100 or so pages of the depositions housed at the National Archives having to do with the petitions of Kiersten Johnson Forsgren and Mary Ann Snyder, wives of John E. who each sought compensation from the Bureau of Pensions (because of John E's service in the Mormon Battalion).
I will not add his significant chapter to this blog because I do not have permission to do so and because I feel it would take away from the publishing done by Mr. Anderson. The book is available at the SL Family History and BYU Libraries. I do not know if there are still copies available for sale. Mr. Anderson donated a copy to the Forsgren Family Archives which I currently "tend." The book was printed by Paramount Press in Salt Lake City but bears no date of publication.
Page 7 gives a short biography of of James L. Anderson (born 1939 in Centerfield, Sanpete County) and states: "For additional copies of this book write/phone (801) 269-1501. James L. Anderson 4161 South 530 East #20A, Salt Lake City, Utah 84107. Suggested price $25.00." I do not know how current this information is in 2010.
There are a few errors in his work which I have tried to correct or comment on in the various posts to this blog. Still, it is an amazing feat to have added this biography when there is no Forsgren family connection to him. We are all indebted to his research and original compilation.
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