- Photographs were not a common thing yet in the 1850's. Historian's tell us that there is only one known photograph of Joseph Smith which is the property of the Library of Congress. That, of course, does not prove that John E did not have a print from that daguerreotype or that he might have had a portrait sketch of the Prophet. I just don't know what he had, if anything, and if that part of the story is true.
- I wanted to know if the city really had suffered such a fire. It did. Quoting from the on-line Wikipedia:
THAT, my friends, is what you can find in an instant through modern technology! I first had my curiosity put to rest in Mar 1977 when I addressed a personal letter (with a typewriter, carbon paper and a stamp and using snail mail!) to Stads-och Lansbibliotek i Gavle P.O.B. 801, S. Strandgatan 6, Gavle Sweden. I quote:
I have family who emigrated from Gavle in the early part of the 1850's. A story has been passed down from them that some nineteen years after they left the area, the town of Gefle was almost totally destroyed by fire.
Since I have no immediate access to the "Gefle Posten" or any other newspaper that might have given an account of this fire, I would like very much to know if you can be of some help in proving or disproving this family tradition.
Was there, in fact, such a fire about the year 1870 or 1871? If so, what was the extent of the fire and can it be ascertained where it might have started and why? ...... "
On April 5, 1977 I received the following reply from Anna-Lisa Hillbom, 1st librarian at the Stadsbiblioteket of Gavle:
I write this to let you know immediately that there was in fact a great fire in Gavle 10-11 July 1869. It destroyed the entire Northern part of the town, i.e. north of the river Gavlean. Only the parish church was saved, and, miraculously, a big wooden building owned by the family Berggren. This house was surrounded by trees and bushes that the fire could not get through.
There are, of course, newspaper accounts of this disaster, and I will translate and send you a summary of what was written immediately and later on about the great fire. . . "
I never did hear any more from Ms. Hillbom as it turned out, but my curiosity on the matter was satisfied. The fire did not reach the Forsgren family home which still stands among other structures of the era and is part of a historical district or artist's colony. I find it interesting that the parish church was also preserved, probably allowing for the saving of important vital record books for the town.