John Milton Bernhisel
(June 23, 1799 – September
28, 1881) was an American physician, politician and early member of
the Latter-day Saint
. He was a close friend and companion to both Joseph Smith, Jr.
and Brigham Young
. Bernhisel was the original
delegate of the Utah Territory
House of Representatives
(1851–1859, 1861–1863) and acted as a
member of the Council of Fifty
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
was born at Sandy Hill, Tyrone Township, near Harrisburg,
Pennsylvania. He graduated in medicine from the University of
Pennsylvania at Philadelphia, and began practicing medicine in
City. After becoming affiliated with the Latter-day
Saint movement, he moved to Nauvoo, Illinois in 1843.
Bernhisel served as the personal
physician to Joseph Smith, Jr. and lived in his home. He delivered
some of Emma Smith
1844, Bernhisel accompanied Joseph Smith to the Carthage Jail and spent some time with Smith and his brother
Hyrum in the jail, but Bernhisel was not
present at the time of Joseph
Smith's death at the hands of a mob.
After Smith's death, Bernhisel followed Brigham Young
and moved west with the majority
of the Latter-day Saints. He settled in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory in
1848 and continued the practice of medicine.
Bernhisel was selected by Young to represent the interests of the
Latter-day Saints before Congress when the Mormon settlers began to
consider an application for statehood as the State of Deseret
. He was selected to the
and to the
three succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1851 – March 3, 1859). After
returning briefly to his medical practice, he also ran and served
in the Thirty-seventh
(March 4, 1861 – March 3, 1863). Bernhisel also served
as regent of the University of Utah.
Bernhisel was a bachelor until he was 46 years old (March 1845),
when he married Julia Ann Haight, the widow of William Van Orden
and mother of five
children. The couple had one child, also named John Milton
Bernhisel (born in 1846). Like many early Mormons
, Bernhisel went on to practice plural marriage
. He was married to seven
women, but by 1850 all of them but Elizabeth Barker had left for
- Barrett, Gwynn W. “Dr. John M. Bernhisel: Mormon Elder in
Congress.” Utah Historical Quarterly 36 (Spring 1968): 143-67.
- United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Seventh Census
of the United States, 1850. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and
Records Administration, 1850-1851, NARA Microfilm Publication M432,
Utah Territory, Davis and Salt Lake Counties.
- United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Eighth Census
of the United States, 1860. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and
Records Administration, 1860, NARA Microfilm Publication M653, Utah
Territory, Salt Lake County.