John Sherman Fowler

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Question: Where did John Sherman Fowler go after arriving in the Great Salt Lake Valley with Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company in 1847?

Answer: John Sherman Fowler was born July 12, 1819, in New York City, New York. He married Jerusha Ensign on January 28, 1840 in Westfield, Hampden, Massachusetts. Jerusha was the daughter of Elias and Jerusha Taylor Ensign. John and Jerusha had four sons born to them while living in Massachusetts: Thomas (1840), George (1841), John (1842), and Charles (1844).

It is not noted in any record why John traveled to Nauvoo in 1846, but his wife and four sons stayed in New York with Jerusha’s family. John was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on February 27, 1846 in Nauvoo, Illinois. While at Nauvoo, he received a patriarchal blessing from Ashael Smith and became a member of the 2nd Quorum of the Seventies.

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After leaving Nauvoo, John went to Winter Quarters along with the other Saints. At Winter Quarters, in April 1847, John was asked to be in Brigham Young’s Vanguard Company. On the trek west John was in the 1st Ten in the Company. After leaving Fort Bridger, he caught mountain fever and was delirious for a time.

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Apparently, in 1846, Jerusha traveled with her parents, and her and John’s four young sons, on the ship Brooklyn which carried 239 Latter-day Saints from New York City to San Francisco. Jerusha’s father, and her two-year-old son, Charles, both died on the voyage and were buried at sea. After John arrived in the Great Salt Lake, he stayed only a short time and then traveled by land to join his family in California. This decision may have been decided between John and Jerusha as the best arrangement for the family.

Samuel Brannan was the leader of the group on the ship Brooklyn. They opened stores, blacksmith shops, lodging quarters, restaurants in the old abandoned Mexican adobe Mission and rancho buildings. A post office was established there in 1849 before California became a state. They also built and improved roadways and bridges, and created a welcome climate for business and capital development. Crops were good, business thrived, and money circulated in waves of prosperity until the financial panic of 1855. Some pioneers lost almost everything in the panic. Many early pioneers left the area and traveled to Utah for another new start in Mormon country.

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John and Jerusha, however, stayed in California and had three more children: Frank (1851), Warren (1855), and Ella (1856). John Fowler ran the City Hotel on Front Street between I + J (1849-1850). Additionally, he was an agent for John Sutter. John died on April 12, 1860, of consumption, in Sacramento, California, at age 41. He was buried in the Sacramento City Cemetery, Masonic Plot. (His gravestone reads J. J. Fowler).

Obituary: Sacramento Daily Union 14 April 1860, “California Digital Newspaper Collection."

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Pioneer Deceased. A meeting of the Pioneer Association is called for 2 p. m. today, to attend the funeral of John S. Fowler, at the Baptist Church on Fourth street, at 8 o'clock. The deceased was one of the merchants at Sutter's Fort in 1848-9, and has resided in this city ever since. He was liberal, benevolent, social and clever, too much so for his own good. He leaves a family consisting of a mother, wife and six young children in destitute circumstances.

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Source: “Biographies of the Original 1847 Pioneer Company,” Church News, Updated, 14 October 2009; “Ensign Family Aboard the Ship Brooklyn,” FamilySearch.org; “Elias Ensign” FamilySearch.org; California Mortuary and Cemetery Records, 1801-1932.