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


Monday, August 23, 2010


     We have a wonderful new friend!   Meet Charlotta Cederlof (sorry, I don't know how to add the correct Swedish diacritical marks over the o in her surname!).  Charlotta is a journalist who has lived most of her life in Gavle.  She is working with a radio show about sculptures in Gavle.  When she found the blog she contacted me with a wonderful offer to send photos.    I told her that I have seen many pictures of the front and sides of the old Forsgren home which is now a shop called Konstra in larger Gavle Old Town.   What I would like to see are pictures of the back and interior yards.   She shared the following pictures with me and gave permission for them to be published on the blog.

This picture was taken during the long winter of 2009-2010.  Charlotta called it the "finbul" winter - a mythical winter from the days of the Vikings which was said to last three years without any summer.  It must have seemed like that to the residents of Gavle.  The snows reached 7 feet high (2.2 meters)!  This photo is taken across "Snus majas Tomt" - the name of the park and surrounding houses.  Tomt means yard or garden.  Maja is a woman's name and the word "snusmajas" can be roughly translated to mean "chewing tobacco Maja."  She was a lady who was known to sell tobacco and sometimes gin to the sailors.

That is the Forsgren home in the background. It is now a lovely arts & crafts shop.  The memorial bust of John Erik is just out of sight on the left side of the photo.

Here we find John Erik once again braving the long, cold winters!  His home is to the left in the photo.
How wonderful that these ancient little buildings can withstand this kind of weather!  It freezes me just to look at it!
 Can a bicycle even navigate these winters???   Photo taken right next to the Forsgren home looking down the street.  (Compare the image to the first one taken across the park).

This is Charlotta's friend Ina enjoying lunch in the back of the Forsgren house (on a much nicer day!)  Notice two things:  the lovely stained glass window which is between the main house and the second building of the
Forsgren property.  Also, the two young men are looking from the house out onto the snusmajas tomt and the sculpture of John Forsgren.

     This photo was taken at Majas - the tea room next door to Konstra (the Forsgren home, now antique shop). Charlotta made an interesting comment in her last email to me:
"The really weird thing is - and it has happened to a lot of people - and I am not the kind of person who usually believes in this stuff - that when you enter the main house you suddenly get a very strong feeling that you have traveled in time back to the 19th century... "
     We Forsgrens are glad to hear that.  Maybe the spirits of our fine ancestors are hovering near to help bless and preserve this place for many more generations!   Thank you, Charlotta, and thank you to all the people of Konstra and Old Town who take such good care of the buildings, grounds and John Erik.  Charlotta assured me that John is cleaned up and back to normal after someone threw paint at the sculpture last year.

No comments:

Post a Comment