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John Milton Bernhisel (June 23, 1799 – September 28, 1881) was an American physician, politician and early member of the Latter-day Saint movement. He was a close friend and companion to both Joseph Smith, Jr. and Brigham Young. Bernhisel was the original delegate of the Utah Territory in the United States House of Representatives (1851–1859, 1861–1863) and acted as a member of the Council of Fifty of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).

Bernhisel 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 New York 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's children.

In June 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 Thirty-second 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 Congress (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 various reasons.

See also


  • 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.

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