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


Saturday, March 19, 2011

John Erik Forsgren TIMELINE

A timeline of a person's life serves many important functions.  It creates an instant "biographical sketch".  It is an indispensable research tool when you are trying to recall the order of events or the locations in which you should be searching for additional information.   It is a tool which helps you to analyze your data and find discrepancies.  As I have worked on this blog for the last year or so, sifting through hundreds of pieces of paper, emails, photos, websites, etc., it quickly became very clear that I needed a summary to refer to.  The JEF timeline came to be created.  Because it helped ME, it may also help YOU.  Enjoy.  (And, as always, please feel free to comment and contest.  That is how we achieve accuracy!)

John Erik Forsgren Timeline

1816, Nov 7   John Erik Forsgren born at Ovre Bergsgatan 6, Gefle, Geffleborg (now Gavle, Gavleborg) Sweden to Johan Olaf  Forsgren and Anna Christina Holstrand

Abt. 1825/26       Left for work on the sea – Reported to have wandered thru many seaports for 18 years.  John's account in his own handwriting said that he was at sea until "in 1832, being April (after I had buried my mother) i went on board of a ship, and according to my long desires came to Newyork, in the beginning of August, continued to sail out of Newyork three years and seven years out of Boston Massachusetts where I heard Bro. Erastus Snow preach the Gosple of Jesus Christ. . .)

1843, July 16   Boston, Massachusetts. Baptized into the LDS Church by William McGhen.  (John's handwritten account says he "was babtized by Elder Wm Meggin on the 26th Day of August 1843...")

1842-1843        Marries Mary Ann Hunt   Place and exact date are uncertain. The date usually given is 25 Dec 1845 in Boston, but they were already in Nauvoo on that date; that is actually the day they received their endowments in the Nauvoo Temple.  Just how long they were married before that event is not yet known.   John arrived in Nauvoo in 1844 according to Andrew Jensen in the LDS Biographical Encyclopedia.  1843  Sometime during this time period, Mary Ann delivers a son – purportedly named Charles, who dies in infancy.   Birthdate, deathdate and place are unknown.   Most accounts believe the death was while she was in Council Bluffs.  [Update:  John Erik's own account, written in 1865, was that he delayed joining the saints in Nauvoo until the Spring of 1844 because of "sickness and death of my first born son, John Adolph, so I tarried until next Spring [in Boston] when I arrived in Nauvoo in 1844..."   It is not known to me why all these years people have referred to that son as Charles.  My speculation is that in the deposition to the War Dept by Kiersten's family the name was mixed up with that of the man that Mary Ann later married, Charles Snow.  The child would likely have been buried in Boston.   As of Oct. 2014 I still have no more information about him, his birth or where he would have been buried).

1844, June 18    Wrote an account of Joseph Smith’s last speech to the Nauvoo Legion which was later copied by others.  (typescript available in the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU)  John E. states that he joined with the companies known as the Nauvoo Legion and was guard around the premises of Joseph Smith's home and round about the City.   After the Prophet was martyred he worked on the Nauvoo Temple.

          July 29      Patriarchal Blessings given to JEF and Mary Ann Hunt Forsgren by John Smith. One reference has date of 1845

1845, Dec. 25      John Erik Forsgren and Mary Ann Hunt Forsgren endowed in the Nauvoo Temple.

1846, Feb 1          JEF and MAHF sealed to Heber C. & Vilate Murray Kimball in the Nauvoo Temple

          Feb 3          JEF and MAHF sealed in marriage by Brigham Young – Nauvoo Temple

          Feb.4           Exodus from Nauvoo begins. JEF and Mary Ann are among some of the first to leave, traveling with the Heber C. Kimball family wagons on Feb.16th

          July 16        Winter Quarters.  JEF mustered into the Mormon Battalion, Company D as Private

          July 20        Starts on the march with the Mormon Battalion – the only Swede among the 546 volunteers.

          Aug. 21       Sent $18 to Heber C. Kimball in addition to money sent to his family

          Oct. 9          Battalion reaches Santa Fe, New Mexico, having passed thru great hardships.

1847, Jan. 30         Mormon Battalion arrives in San Diego

          July 17         JEF mustered out of the Mormon Battalion

                               Working on the Fort in Los Angeles

1847                       Mentioned on an immigrant ship list arriving in California  Source: ANDERSON, SHAUNA C., ET AL, COMPILERS. Passport To Paradise: The Copenhagen Mormon Passenger Lists. Two volumes. West Jordan, UT: Genealogical Services. page 5.

                               JEF and other Battalion members head back to the S.L. Valley from California.  John starts off at least with the Levi Handcock company.
1847, June 18         Mary Ann starts West in the Abraham O.Smoot-George B. Wallace Co., traveling with a member of the Kimball family

          Sept 26-27    Mary Ann arrives in Salt Lake Valley

          Oct 1 or 16   John E. arrives back in Great Salt Lake Valley with other members of the Battalion. (Battalion members arrived at different times. Both dates purported to be correct for John)  JEF's personal account is that he arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on October 18, 1847.

1848, Sept.             Sarah Bell Davis (who would soon become JEF’s second wife) arrives with her parents into the Salt Lake Valley from their 3 month trek from Winter Quarters.

          Oct. 26          JEF's temple sealing to Mary Ann Hunt Forsgren is cancelled

           Nov.             JEF is named a member of the Amasa Lyman/Porter Rockwell party for a mission to California (JH Nov 26 p. 1 1848) He is not part of the group, however, when they actually leave.  He is shortly after found running the mail route between the SL valley and other outposts

1849, Feb 15           JEF marries Sarah Bell Davis, daughter of William and Sarah McKee Davis

          Oct. 9            At Conference John Erik is called along with Erastus Snow and Peter O. Hansen to go preach to the people of Sweden and Denmark.

          Oct. 19          The missionary party meets at the mouth of Emigration Canyon to embark on their travels. 35 men in the party. Arrived at Fort Kearney Dec 7, 1849

          Dec 19          John arrives in Liverpool

1850,  Jan 16           Son, Charles William, is born back in Utah to his wife Sarah who is living with her parents.

          Mar 23          A passport application bearing John E. Forssgren's signature is dated Philadelphia, March 23, 1850.  (
          June 14         Arrives in Copenhagen with Erastus Snow & George P. Dykes. (He had served under Dykes in the Mormon Battalion)

          June 19          JEF leaves Denmark headed for his home in Sweden

          July 26           JEF baptizes his brother Peter Adolph Forsgren in Gavle, Sweden. Peter is the first Scandinavian baptized into the LDS Church.  He also heals Peter from a long, nearly fatal illness.

          Aug. 4            JEF baptizes his sister Christina Erika

          Sept. 18         JEF is placed on a ship to be returned to the United States by authorities who, after a series of appearances before magistrates, pronounce him a threat and nuisance for preaching against Lutheranism. John befriends the Captain who instead lets him “escape” back to Copenhagen, Denmark where he rejoins his mission companions.

1852, Feb 24           Social & farewell party held for departing Erastus Snow who appoints JEF to succeed him as president of the Scandinavian Mission

           July               In Sacramento JEF’s former wife Mary Ann Hunt is enumerated as Mary A Snow and is with her husband Charles Snow. Shortly after this census,  Sacramento has a devastating fire which destroys most of the city. Mary Ann and Charles return to the East Coast where they are enumerated in 1860 in Franklin Co.,New York.

            Dec. 23        JEF is officially released from being Scandinavian mission presidenet after being  replaced by Willard Snow

             Dec 22        JEF and his emigrating company arrive in Kiel, Germany; travel by train to Hamburg

             Dec. 24       The company leaves for England

             Dec. 28       The Company arrives in Hull, England. They take a train to Liverpool

1853,    Jan. 1         The John E. Forsgren emigrating company set sail aboard the “Forest Monarch” . Their destination: Zion.

             Jan 16        The Forest Monarch encounters bad weather and has been delayed. Finally on this date it leaves the Mersey River in England bound for America

             Mar. 16       Arrive in New Orleans; Transfer to a steamer to travel up the Mississippi River. (Immigration records on give the date of arrival at New Orleans as March 19.)

             Mar. 31       Arrive in St. Louis; transfer ships to go 200 miles up the river to Keokuk, Iowa

             May 8         In Keokuk, Iowa JEF marries Peter Adolph Forsgren and Anna Christina Knudsen whom he has met during the voyage

             Jun 27         The party of Saints, still under JEF’s direction, cross the Missouri River and start West

             Sept 30        Arrive in Salt Lake City

             Oct. 4          All members of the company are rebaptized by Erastus Snow

              Fall            John and Sarah Bell go to Brigham City

1854,    April 9        John and Sarah Bell are sealed as husband and wife. [JEF's personal account gives the date of April 8, 1854 in the Council House, sealed by Brigham Young]  Some sources say Endowment House. Official records show “Other” which could mean someone’s office. John was also ordained a High Priest on this date in Pleasant Grove, Utah "by a group of his Battalion comrades" [Source: Pleasant Grove High Priest Quorum Records, 1848-1872, SLFHC film [JEF's account give the date of his ordination as 9 April 1854 by the hands of President David Pettigrew.  JEF does not say where the ordination took place.  He refers to heading for the Carson Mission, so he may have been traveling only with other male companions to the same destination.  The question of where is a intriguing since it would be difficult to travel from Salt Lake to Pleasant Grove easily.

              July 12        Daughter Sarah Alice is born (One family account said it was a premature birth caused by Sarah Bell’s knowledge that John was leaving to take a polygamist wife)

              July 17         John is sealed to Harriet Frances Noon Smith, widow of David Smith and step-daughter of Heber C. Kimball. Sealed by Elder Kimball probably in his office. On the same day Harriet was sealed to her deceased husband. This marriage between John and Harriet does not last.

1856,      Feb 2           John, Sarah, Charles and Alice sent by Brigham Young to Carson, Nevada.

               Mar. 13      Back in Salt Lake a daughter is born to Harriet Frances Noon Smith Forsgren. She is probably the daughter of John Erik Forsgren because Harriet’s husband David Smith died in 1852. The child is given the name of Laura Vilate Smith.

               Oct 7           John Heber Forsgren born in Carson City to Sarah Bell Davis and John E. Forsgren. (There is some family speculation that Sarah had already become interested in Joseph Clapper and that John Heber is really Clapper’s son, not John Erik’s).

1857       Oct 20         Arrives in Brigham City, after returning with other Brethren from Carson Valley.  He makes no mention that Sarah Bell was with him.

1858       (Spring)       JEF and family called back to Salt Lake with the other settlers from Carson Valley because of the approach of Johnston’s army

                                   During this time period. John Erik and Sarah Bell have separated.  So far no record of an official divorce has been found.

1858 (Abt.)                 John marries Ingeborg Peterson

1859 (Spring)             John states that he heads South to help settle Moroni, in San Pete county. No mention of a marriage to Ingeborg, to separating from Sarah Bell or a sealing to Harriet Frances Noon Smith.

1859, May 21             Harriet Frances Noon Smith Forsgren is sealed as plural wife to Leonard E. Harrington of American Fork, by Brigham Young (who suggested the union to Bishop Harrington).

           Oct. 11              Sarah Bell Davis Forsgren marries Joseph C. Clapper

1860                             US Census taken. John E and wife Ingeburg were enumerated in Moroni, Sanpete Co. along with her sons William and Peter and his three children by Sarah Bell Davis: Charles, John and Alice. (The three Forsgren children are also enumerated that year with Sarah and Joseph Clapper!)

1862,    May 8              Ingeborg is granted a formal divorce from JEF (Sanpete Co., Utah)

1862,     Dec. 14            John marries fifth wife Kiersten Nelson Johnson (widow of Henrie Johnson) in Moroni, Utah by Bishop John Bradley.   JEF gives date of 8 Dec 1862 when he marries Kirsten Nielsen.   

1863,    Nov. 17           Sarah Bell Davis Forsgren Clapper dies, just a little over a month after the birth of her third child by Mr.Clapper. (She and all three of her children by Mr. Clapper die in 1863!)

1864,     Oct. 15           John and Kiersten Nielson Johnson sealed in EH by Wilford Woodruff.  [JEF gives date of Oct. 16, 1864.]

1865,     Jan. 22           JEF has been acting as Clerk of the High Priest's Quorum of Moroni Branch and delivers a book of summaries of Several High Priests - an account of their conversion, baptisms, ordinations etc.  John includes his own story and that of his father, John Oluf Forsgren]

1865,    July 24            John serves as Martial of the Day in the Moroni Pioneer Celebration.

1868,    June  22           Heber C. Kimball dies. How does this news affect John E.? Heber had earlier been an important figure to John Erik.

             July 24            John again serves as martial in a pioneer day celebration in Santaquin where he leads a procession of the band and Mormon Battalion members.

1869,    Oct. 11            John marries 6th wife: Mary Ann Mount Snyder. SLC by Elder Daniel H. Wells

1870                             Census of Santaquin, Utah Co enumerates John E Fosgren,age 54 and wife Kiersten age 60, along with John A. Caulfield (the husband of Alice Mariah Johnson - Kiersten’s daughter) and Cathrine Fosgren, age 14.

            Oct 10              SLC Social Hall. Party and dinner held honoring those who had served in Zion’s Camp and the Mormon Battalion. John was one of 63 who attended of the original 500.

1871,   July 12             John is sealed to 4 other wives in the Endowent House: Maren Jensen, Anna Petersen, Johanna Jensen and Anna Nielsen. It is not known if these were vicarious sealings or living. I do not know who performed the ordinances.

1872                             “Speaker sent out from Salt Lake for the semi-annual Conference at Moroni, Utah was Brother Forsgren” It was later found that he had smallpox and had infected his hosts. (Kate B. Carter, Treasury of Pioneer History, vol. 1. The Brother Forsgren is not specifically identified. It is not as likely to have been Peter Adolph Forsgren who was living in Brigham City. John E. had ties to Moroni and also knew the host family in Denmark as the account states.)

1874                             John and Kiersten moved from Santaquin, Utah Co. to SLC

            Oct. 13              Laura Vilate Smith (Forsgren?) dies in American Fork. Her mother Frances had married Leonard Harrington 31 May 1859.

1875                              Dover, (now a ghost town)Sanpete Co., Utah. JEF and others try to form a settlement operating under the Law of Consecration. (Plaque placed later by DUP)

            Jun 15              JEF granted a land patent of 160 acres near Santaquin (NE ¼ of Section 35, Township 9 South, Range 1 East). He sold 4 parcels the same day (approx. 10 acres each)

            July 17             Deed for above filed with the County Recorder

1878,   July 8                JEF took his 721 p. journal to the Church Historian’s Office for safe keeping.

            Oct. 1                JEF arrived and demanded it back.

1879,   Feb. 2                John Erik Forsgren is cut off (excommunicated) from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

1880                              Enumerated in the 1880 Salt Lake Census of Salt Lake as John Branch, living on the NW Corner of 11tth E. & 400 S. with wife Kiersten. Occupation: “Linguist”. He has set up a large tent and has assumed the name of J.J. Branch, the Prophet. Actively proclaiming his own religion and denouncing Brigham Young & others.

1880, Jan 3                    JEF's Father, Johan Olaf, dies in Brigham City;  What was the relationship with John and his father by now?   How often did they see each other?   How devastating it must have been for Peter and Erika to see the brother who had brought them the Gospel, turning his back on that very belief.

1881-1883                      “The Bench Prophet” is taunted and ridiculed in various articles in the Deseret News (Apr, Jun 1881; 1883)

1884                               Utah Gazetteer & Directory of Logan, Ogden, Provo and S.L. p. 487 lists him as John Forsgreen, “Prophet” 11th E. & 4th S. SLC

1886,       Jan 20             Wed.   Fire consumes the tent of John Bench (JEF). Kiersten is badly burned and disfigured. John was trying to save his manuscript. They are cared for by neighbors temporarily and a short while by Kiersten’s son Anders Johnson before leaving S.L. and going to Blaine Co., Idaho to live with Kiersten’s daughter Johanna Catherine Timerman  [Church's printed Historical Record for 1886 states it this way:  " The tent of John E. Forsgren, on the 10th Ward Bench, Salt Lake City, was burned."  There is a little confusion since the top of the page where this quote is listed says "Chronology - February 1885 p. 2"  yet the page preceding (p. 1) says Chronology January 1886. The following page is accurately identified as p. 3 - February 1886]

1889,     June                   John E. leaves Kiersten in Blaine Co. Idaho to seek a new home somewhere in Utah. Refused refuge by Anders Johnson, Kiersten’s son. JEF begins to wander around S.L. and Southern Utah looking for refuge, telling others he wanted to write a histor of the Battalion.

1890,      Jan. 22             John E. Forsgren dies at the home of Antoinette Carr, a former acquaintance, who took him in and housed & nursed him because she felt sorry for his condition. JEF’s body was moved to Brigham City by his brother, Peter A. Forsgren and buried near the PA/AP Forsgren family plots (Section B-16-7-8)

1891-1908                        Kiersten Forsgren and Mary Ann Fosgreen (as she was known), ex-wives of John E. both file claims for Pension. Over the years much investigation was done and affidavits taken to see which of the two women should receive benefits

1894,     Apr.  28              Kiersten passes away, before the claim is settled

1896,      Apr. 1                Mary Ann Hunt Forsgren Granger Snow (John’s first wife) passes away from pneumonia in Concord, Massachusetts

1908,      July 27              Pension claim is finally settled after detailed investigation. Kierstsen has already died; Mary Ann is proclaimed ineligible for the money because she is not recognized as an official wife.

1912,      Jun 11               Harriet Frances Noon Smith (briefly Forsgren) Harrington passes away in American Fork, Utah.

2000,      July 26             150 year anniversary of the first convert baptism in Sweden. Huge commemoration attended by many Forsgren descendants from America.

2001,     July 26             Monument to JEF placed in the public park in front of the Forsgren family home in Gavle, Sweden - dedicated by Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Seventy. The bust was sculpted by great great grand daughters Trudi Iverson and Brenda Hansen (daughters of Judd Forsgren). [John Erik is revered by members of the Church in Sweden. Their gratitude for his part in bringing the Gospel to that nation is never forgotten]

2010,     Aug                   Letter written to the First Presidency by Adele Austin and Judd Forsgren requesting a review of John Erik’s excommunicated status to see if his blessings might be restored.

             Nov. 2               Full membership and blessings restored to John Erik Forsgren, Salt Lake Temple.

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