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 26, 2013


While on a recent trip to American Fork for a Chilean Senior Missionary Reunion, I had my husband drive me down to the Harriet Harrington home on 1st E. & 1 South.  Earlier I had received an email from Andy Meredith who had found reference to the home on this blog.  He and his wife wanted to inform me that they had purchased it and are happily renovating it to live in.  I was so glad to hear this bit of news, because the last time I had driven by the home it was in a sad state of neglect.   My husband and I visited so I could see how the project was progressing, and hopefully find one of the Merediths on site.

You will remember that Harriet Frances Noon Smith was married for a short time to our John Erik Forsgren.  That marriage did not last.   After the break up of that marriage, and at the suggestion of President Brigham Young, she was married to Leonard Harrington as a plural wife.  He became Mayor of American Fork and served in that capacity for many years.  This is the home he had built for Harriet and her (their) children.

When we arrived I was astounded.  The Merediths have made a lot of progress and have really taken the house back to the bare bones - as, of course, you need to do!  They had even trimmed the massive trees that surround the home so there is more light (and undoubtedly more safety for the workers!)

I marched right past the No Trespassing signs since I heard voices inside, snapping a few photos along the way.

The interior reminded me of the demolition of the Peter Forsgren home in Brigham City.  Layers of flooring & piles of wallpaper and paint lay everywhere!  Original floor boards and stove pipes were exposed. Wiring is being redone, and a lot of strengthening.

The sound of voices led me toward the back of the house and to an incredibly steep staircase.  It was only 32 inches wide!  With my current hip problems I was not about to go up those stairs, and since I was trespassing anyway I just waited a few minutes and admired what I knew to probably be the original hand-turned spindles and railings.
 An electrician on his way back up told the voices upstairs that there was a visitor wanting to talk to them.  Happily, both Andy and Candy Meredith were there. They greeted me warmly and showed me around a bit more and discussed some of their exciting plans.  (For instance they are going to post large photos of Harriet and of Heber C. Kimball (who was her step-father) along with their history and a short story of the home)
They will be documenting all this on their own blog which I will link to this Forsgren site as soon as I know it is up and running.  I am sure descendants of John Erik, of the Harringtons, and home renovators alike will be happy to continue on to that link.

The surprise referred to in this blog title came when we were just chatting.  I remarked about the hanging greens over the front doorway.  Andy told me that they were placed there when just a month earlier he and Candy had been married in that doorway!  So, of course, I had to get a photo.

 Candy told me she was from Lehi.  When I commented that my husband's family was from there as well and mentioned they were Austins, she said, "I'm an Austin!  Well - I am a Grace from those lines!"   Couldn't believe the small worldness of it all!   Of course I had to hustle them across the street to meet Victor  who was waiting in the car.  They chatted together and tried to narrow down the family connection.   The whole brief time spent there just made me smile!!

This is the house from the back side.  The Merediths have no renovation restrictions because the home no longer qualifies for the Historic Register (because someone changed the roof line significantly in the 1930's) 

They wish to move in October.  If Candy can stay on top of these workers each day I suspect they will achieve their goal!  This is not the first home they have restored. 

I am always glad when a piece of history is rescued.  It will be a joy to see the finished product!!

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