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STX c001


31711 00093 211







2 4 2001



Digitized by the Internet Archive

in 2010 with funding from

CARLI: Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois





Compiled and Written

by Federal Writers 7 Project of Illinois,

Works Progress Administration


Western Illinois
State c o n -

Macomb, Illinois"

Sponsored By The
Unity Club of Nauvoo



Harry L. Hopkins, Administrator

Ellen S. Woodward, Assistant Administrator

Henry G. Alsberg, Director of the Federal Writers' Project

copyright 1939

by unity club of nauvoo

Price Fifty Cents

ftte-katotu Mote

Nauvoo is one of the most important places associated with the history
of the middle west, and indeed of America. In its own right, present-day
Nauvoo is exceptionally interesting and picturesque. Rich in history and
relics, it is well suited to an individual volume in the American Guide
Series. This book is offered as a contribution to a better understanding
of the Nauvoo of the past and a greater appreciation of the Nauvoo of
the present and future.

Few chapters in American history have been so frequently miswritten
and misread as those containing the dramatic incidents of early years at
Nauvoo. Any writer who attempts to deal with this history encounters
the gravest difficulties in reconciling contradictory reports of important
events. Obviously, it is the duty of a Federal agency, in presenting a book
about Nauvoo, to seek a wholly objective treatment of all matters of con-
troversy — a treatment equally free from prejudice and from partisanship.
We have made a most sincere effort in this book to achieve both accuracy
and fairness. Aware that it is impossible for us to please fully all those of
diverging views, we crave only understanding of our purpose, and a
tolerant recognition of our problem.

I wish to extend my personal appreciation, for their cooperation in the
production of this work, to James Phelan, author of the text, and to John
Stenvall of the Federal Art Project of Illinois, who made the illustrations.
All of the photographs except two are reproduced with the permission of
the Chicago Daily News, and are by Clyde Brown, chief photographer for
that paper. The painting of the Brigham Young House, reproduced on the
cover, is the work of Lane K. Newberry, well-known painter of historical
Illinois scenes, and is used with his special permission. Most of all, thanks
are due the people of Nauvoo, who have made the publication possible.

— John T. Frederick,
Regional Director,
Federal Writers' Project.

u 6 6



Prefatory Note 5

City of the Prophet 9

"We Will Build Up a City" 15

"As Soon As Grass Grows" 31

Utopia Comes to Nauvoo 36

On the Hill and In the Flat — A Tourist's

Guide to Points of Interest 41


Cover Design: Brigham Young House, from
Painting by Lane K. Newberry.

(?itu oj\ the ftlopltQt

The tourist bound south along the Mississippi River on State 96 might
easily speed past the business district of Nauvoo, sweep around the sharp
curve at St. Edmund Hall, drop down the hill and out of town with scarcely
a thought to what he had just passed. Nauvoo, at a casual glance, appears
indistinguishable from countless other Illinois farming towns of a thousand
population. The hurrying driver might catalogue Nauvoo as another such
pea-in-the-pod, and remember it — if at all — because of its unusual name.
But Nauvoo reveals, upon closer examination, an oddity in structure, the
relic of sudden boom and swift decline almost a century ago.

Here, in the 1840's, when Chicago was a stripling village of less than
5,000, and Springfield, the new State capital, a muddy little town recently
planted on the prairie, stood the largest city in Illinois, a community of
more than 20,000. Center of the rapidly increasing sect of Mormonism,
Nauvoo possessed thousands of dwellings, and a great Temple into the
construction of which had been poured a million dollars. Authors and
journalists came here from the East to describe the swiftly blooming
metropolis and interview Joseph Smith, Prophet and temporal leader of
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Politicians courted the
favor of the Saints, who for several years held the political balance of
power in Illinois. Then internal dissension touched off a fuse that sputtered
briefly within the ranks of the faithful, shortly ignited the hatred of sur-
rounding non-Mormons, exploded in the fury of the Mormon Wars, and
snuffed Nauvoo overnight. And between the appearance of the Saints at
this place, and their hurried exodus, only seven years elapsed.



The framework of Nauvoo today is obviously that of a much larger
and older community. Built up solid, it could house a community the
size of Alton or Elgin. Within its limits are many small farms and vine-
yards, as though a dam that once barred country fields from the town
had given way and let the fields come spilling over./ Save for a short
stretch of business houses on Mulholland Street, the town blocks are but
loosely knit. Houses stand as corner posts, but between them and behind
them run the neat geometry of vineyards and the lush disarray of vege-
table gardens. Many of the Mormon houses are still standing and are
occupied, but throughout the village are scattered empty foundation pits,
with elms and maples leaning over, and here and there the bones of a
house, shrubs growing out of its long-collapsed roof, and vines hiding its
mellowed walls. Into many a hillock of Nauvoo's rolling terrain are tucked
the wine-cellars built by the Icarians who followed the Mormons, and by
the Germans who followed the Icarians. These no longer serve the pur-
pose for which they were built — although wine is still made in Nauvoo —
and now stand empty and crumbling, or serve as makeshift refrigerators
for a family's vegetables.

Nauvoo stands on two levels, referred to locally as the Hill and the Flat. X
More than sixty years ago the business district was moved out of the Flat,
where Joseph Smith had begun it, and up the Hill to its present location.
On the Flat stood the most impressive houses of the Mormons, and thus
they were left untouched by what little growth Nauvoo has seen in the
past six decades. Around the town site, in a great crescent, sweeps the


icago Daily Ne\

-By Clyde Brown.


Mississippi River, here wider than elsewhere because of the downstream
Keokuk Dam. From the Hill, Nauvoo commands a pleasing view of the
lowlands that once swarmed with the Saints, and beyond that broad belt
of wooded ground, the curving line of the river and the Iowa bluffs.
Southward the Hill merges into bluffs that line the river and enhance
the beauty of a charming twelve mile scenic drive to Hamilton, Illinois.

The Flat best tells the tragic and violent story of Nauvoo's decline.
Were it not for the obvious age of the houses here, this part of Nauvoo
might be a real-estate subdivision that was laid out pretentiously in 1928
and collapsed in 1930. The streets are checkerboard in pattern, but many
of them can be traced only with difficulty; in some instances their limits
are marked by the fences of bordering farms, and no traffic disturbs the
grass growing there. Seventh (or Main) Street, once the principal busi-
ness street, has less than a dozen houses on it, and no commercial buildings.
In the 1840's a traveler in Nauvoo found Parley Street a marvelous sight,
and wrote that it was built up solidly for several miles back from the river.
Now but a handful of houses line it; whole blocks have no buildings, and
save for the few crumbled stones marking the site of the Seventies Hall,
even the ruins of that one-time prosperity have been effaced.

Today only some sixty members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints live in Nauvoo. To them goes the credit for
preserving the important relics of Joseph Smith's Nauvoo. The Joseph



Chicago Daily Ntmi Pholo — By Clyde J


Smith Homestead, the Mansion House — second home of the Prophet — the
Nauvoo House, which was under construction as a great hotel when Smith
was murdered, and numerous other historic dwellings are owned and
maintained by the Reorganized Church. The church also has a guide
service to the town, and has done considerable research in determining
the original owners of the old Mormon homes and in locating the sites of
important buildings that have been destroyed.

This branch differs from the larger group of Mormons at Utah in several
important tenets of dogma. The separation was based upon the question
of authority, the Utah Church maintaining that at the death of Joseph
Smith the Twelve Apostles became the presiding Quorum. Both branches
accept Joseph Smith as Prophet, and the Book of Mormon as an addendum
to the Bible. However, the Reorganized Church vehemently denies that
Smith ever practiced or countenanced polygamy, and claims that the doc-
trine of plural wives was "revealed" by Brigham Young after the death of
Joseph Smith. Their editions of Doctrine and Covenants, the book of
divine revelations, contain none of the revelations received by Brigham
Young and other Utah church dignitaries. Many visitors to Nauvoo are
members of the Utah branch, and spirited arguments on the historical
question of polygamy frequently pepper the quiet of the old homestead.

In increasing numbers both "Reorganites" and Utah Mormons make
the pilgrimage to Nauvoo and the nearby Carthage jail, where Joseph
Smith and his brother, Hyrum, were murdered by a mob. Gradually the
conception of Nauvoo as a latter-day Mecca is shaping; this conception,


with the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and the hegira to Utah, has given
the Mormons three of the fixtures found in many long-established reli-
gions. Both the Utah and the Reorganized branches have acquired por-
tions of the Temple lot in Nauvoo ; the Utah Mormons expect some day to
build there a copy of the Temple. Nauvoo as Mecca is booming.

In its non-religious aspects, Nauvoo is a quiet, stable little town almost
wholly dependent upon agriculture and horticulture. A recently estab-
lished aeronautical school strikes an anachronistic note; there are two
Catholic boarding schools, a cheese factory, and a winery, but most of
Nauvoo's citizens look to the soil for their livelihood. Unusual for such
a diminutive town is Nauvoo's abundant supply of electric power, which
it taps from the great power dam twelve miles downstream at Keokuk, Iowa.

It is a queer twist in the town's development that the Iearians, who
added but little to the Nauvoo of their day, left the town its most import-
ant economic heritage. Grape-raising, instituted by these French commun-
ists, remains the most important source of income. Many thousands of
gallons of wine and grape juice are pressed annually; the remainder of
the crop — as much as 150 carloads a year — is shipped out. Most of this
leaves Nauvoo by truck or ferry, since Nauvoo is one of the two Illinois
cities of more than 500 population that lack a railroad. It possesses, how-
ever, good connection by ferry with the railroad at Montrose, Iowa, di-
rectly across the river.

Moore's Early and Concord are the chief varieties of grapes raised. Few
outside laborers are imported; during the picking season almost the entire
town turns to and strips the vines. The money thus obtained provides for
most of the residents' wants that cannot be supplied by the ubiquitous
little three and four acre farms.


Because the narrative of their town's growth is such a colorful episode,
Nauvoo's citizens have a historical awareness unusual among Illinoisans.
Friendly and inclined toward a leisurely pattern of life, they willingly
point out landmarks, and discuss such local moot questions as the exact
site of the Temple cornerstone. Increasingly the town is becoming accus-
tomed to the writers, reporters, and artists who periodically descend upon
Nauvoo to poke around the old houses, examine the curios at the Oriental
Hotel, and sketch the scenes of one-time Mormon activity. The influx,
especially of artists, is greatest in the summer, for then Nauvoo blossoms
into a riot of color. Hollyhocks grow beside the crumbling foundations;
phlox, cannas, and larkspur crowd each other in the corners of vegetable
gardens; and unexpectedly one comes upon the shell of a house spilling
a great crown of trumpet flowers.

Recently Mrs. Verna 0. Nelson gave to the State several large tracts of
land on the Flat, and there is a move on foot to convert the entire Flat
into a State Park, so that it may be preserved for the future, much as New
Salem of Lincoln's day has been preserved. Whether or not the plans are
consummated, Nauvoo is in little danger of extinction. Its importance to
both branches of the church, and its citizens' knowledge of their heritage,
assure the zealous guarding of Nauvoo's landmarks.


»u/ e u/ui Hutu Up a &tf

/ When the Mormons were harried out of Missouri in the winter of
1838-39, they crossed the Mississippi to Quincy, Illinois, and there re-
ceived an unexpected welcome. A committee of Quincy citizens passed a
resolution condemning the Governor of Missouri and urging that residents
of Quincy "be particularly careful not to indulge in any conversation or
expressions calculated to wound (the Mormon's) feelings, or in any way
to reflect upon those who, by every law of humanity, are entitled to our

^ sympathy and commiseration."

The previous lot of the Mormons, as told by church historians, had
been one of persecution rather than cordial reception. Joseph Smith had
published the Book of Mormon and founded the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints nine years before, in New York. Born in 1805, of
poor and unlettered parents, he had received, at the age of 14, a vision
wherein an angel had warned him against joining any of the existing reli-
gious denominations, and had revealed to him that the Lord was soon to
restore the Gospel. In 1827, on the Hill of Cumorah, near Palmyra, New
York, he dug up plates of gold on which were inscribed strange characters.
Church history further relates that young Smith was provided with a pair
of spectacles, the Urim and Thummim, by means of which he was able to
translate the story inscribed on the plates. Dictating for months to Martin
Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and others, he completed the lengthy Book of
Mormon in 1829 and published it in 1830. Joseph Smith's synopsis of


the book, which is accepted by the Mormons as an addendum to the Bible,
was as follows:

"The history of America is unfolded from its first settlement
by a colony that came from the Tower of Babel at the confusion
of languages, to the beginning of the Christian era. We are in-
formed by these records that America in ancient times has been
inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called
Jaredites, and came directly from the Tower of Babel. The sec-
ond race came directly from the city of Jerusalem about 600
years before Christ. They were principally Israelites of the
descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the
time the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in
the inhabitance of the country. The principal nation of the
second race fell in battle toward the close of the fourth century.
The remnants are the Indians that now inhabit the country."
Interwoven with the historical were theological passages. The reassembling
of the tribes of Israel, the rebuilding of Zion on this earth, the second
coming of Christ, and His reign upon earth were predicted.

The first church was established at F_avejte, New York, on April 6, 1830,
but it was not until headquarters were moved to Kirtland, Ohio, the fol-
lowing year, that appreciable gains were made in membership. In the
same year, 1831, a branch colony was established at Jackson County,
Missouri. Here began the long series of clashes with the Gentiles, as non-
Mormons were called, that embittered the Mormons against Missouri for
many years. Driven from Jackson County by a mob, in 1833, they settled
in adjoining Clay County, only to have similar mob action effect their
removal three years later. Going to Caldwell County, Missouri, they
founded the towns of Adam-ondi-Ahman and Far West, where they were
joined by Smith and the remainder of the Kirtland Mormons in 1838.

Religious antagonism and fear of the political power of, the Saints, who
usually voted as a bloc, resulted in increasingly violent conflicts. Sporadic
battles between armed forces culminated in the slaughter at Hawn's Mill,
October 30, 1838, where a large number of Mormons were trapped in a
blacksmith shop and murdered. At about the same time Governor Lilburn
Boggs issued an order to the militia, proclaiming that "the Mormons
must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the
State." Joseph Smith, his brother Hyrum, Sidney Rigdon, and several
other leaders were taken as hostages, and the rest of the Mormons were


hurriedly bundled out of the State, with little or no opportunity to pack
their belongings or dispose of their property. The Smiths were held from
November until April, 1839, under indictments ranging from murder and
treason to arson and burglary. Early in April they obtained a change of
venue to Boone County. On April 15, while en route to that place for
trial, they escaped and fled to Quincy.

Such was the prologue to the Mormons' stay in Illinois. One last inci-
dent testified eloquently to the faith of these men in their newly arisen
Prophet. Joseph Smith had announced, in April 1838, a revelation from
the Lord commanding the erection of a temple at Far West. The Lord
had admonished the Saints that "in one year from this day let them re-
commence laying the foundation of my house." Secretly a group of the
Apostles, under the leadership of Brigham Young, traveled from Quincy
to Far West and on the night of April 26, 1839, met at the site of the
Temple. Capture by the Missourians would have meant certain imprison-
ment, but there in the dark they rolled a huge stone into place, first softly
intoning a hymn. Then they returned to Quincy, where Joseph Smith
was laying plans for a new Zion of the frontier.

The futility of their nine-year effort to find a permanent home had de-
pressed some of the Saints, but the return of Smith and the friendliness ofv.
Quincy citizens restored their optimism. Negotiations were— entered r rrtcT
with Dr. Isaac Galland, a landholder in Iowa and Illinois, and on May 1
a church committee purchased two large farms from him for $14,000 in
the vicinity of Commerce, some fifty miles north of Quincy. Liberal terms
of credit were arranged, and shortly other purchases were made.


Commerce, formerly a large Indian village named Quashquema, had
been settled early in the 1820's as an Indian trading post. Joseph Smith's
description of the site has been preserved. "The place," he wrote, "was
literally a wilderness. The land was mostly covered with trees and bushes,
and much of it was so wet that it was with the utmost difficulty that a
footman could get through, and totally impossible for teams. Commerce
was so unhealthy very few could live there, but believing that it might
become a healthy place by the blessing of heaven to the Saints, and no
more eligible place presenting itself, I considered it wisdom to make an
attempt to build up a city."

Commerce was a discouraging nucleus for this task. It possessed not
more than six or seven buildings — a storehouse, two blockhouses, and a
few dwellings — all of the crudest construction. Joseph Smith moved into
a tiny log cabin on the river-front, and he and the Saints fell to the task
of building up their city. Shortly the Prophet renamed the town Nauvoo,
^ which he claimed meant "beautiful place" in Hebrew. Scholars of that
language find no basis for the attribution.

Considering the difficulties encountered, the work progressed with
astounding rapidity. Many of the Saints were stricken with malaria dur-
ing the first few months before the land was drained. Both Brigham
Young and Wilford Woodruff have testified that Joseph Smith miracu-
lously healed many of the sick. "Joseph commenced in his own house
and dooryard," wrote Brigham Young, "commanding the sick, in the
name of Jesus Christ, to arise and be made whole, and they were healed
according to his word. He then continued to travel from house to house,
healing the sick ..." In January 1841, the newly established Mormon
paper, the Times and Seasons, reported a population of 3,000 in Nauvoo.
At that time, Galena, the most important industrial city in Illinois, had
but 2,250 persons, although that lead-mining center was in the up-swing
of a twenty-year boom.

jSlhe treatment the Mormons had received at the hands of Missouri's
officialdom led them to attempt to insure against a similar occurrence
here. The method they took has generally been condemned by historians
as unwise. At the time of the Mormons' arrival in Illinois, the Whigs and
the Democrats were engaged in a struggle for political supremacy, and
both parties were willing to grant liberal legislative favors to obtain the
Saints' support. |In 1840, the General Assembly awarded Nauvoo a city
charter, an extraordinary document that had little precedent for the liberal


terms it set forth. Nauvoo was made virtually an autonomous state, em-
powered to pass any laws not in direct conflict with the State and Federal
Constitutions. Its Municipal Court was given the power to issue writs of
habeas corpus in cases involving local ordinances. It was the exercising
of this authority that subsequently did much to aggravate anti-Mormon
sentiment. The city was also permitted to set up its own militia, the
Nauvoo Legion, which, although subject to the Governor's call, was given
the unusual power of governing itself by its own court-martial. J

Functioning as the Mormon lobbyist in the passage of the charter was
John C. Bennett, around whom violent controversy was to center within
a few years. Bennett, a doctor of somewhat dubious ability, was charac-
terized by Governor Ford as "probably the greatest scamp in the western
country." He had written a long, flattering letter to Smith early in 1840,
hinting that he would join the Mormons if he could be assured of their
political support, and intimating that he had his eye on the Governorship
of Illinois. Smith's reply was none too cordial, but Bennett took up resi-
dence in Nauvoo in September of that year, and soon was wielding much
influence in the civic affairs of the Mormons. For a while he served as
mayor of Nauvoo and Major-General of the Nauvoo Legion; in addition
he was appointed Master-in-chancery of Hancock County and Quarter-
master-general of the Illinois State Militia.

Smith did not frequently tolerate the acquisition of such authority.
More than six feet in height, and weighing over 200 pounds, he possessed
exuberance and vitality that were felt in the temporal as well as the
spiritual affairs of the Mormons. He has been variously described, depend-
ing on the bias of the interviewer, but all were impressed by his geniality
and his democratic qualities. Josiah Quincy, in his Figures of the Past,
depicted him as "a hearty, athletic fellow, with blue eyes standing promi-
nently out on his light complexion, a long nose, and a retreating forehead
... a fine looking man, is what the passer-by would instinctively have
murmured upon meeting the remarkable individual."

The Mormon dwellings had no more than begun to rise on the Flat
when Joseph Smith inaugurated an ambitious plan for foreign missionary
work. Such work had already been pursued intensively in this country
during the unstable years before Nauvoo, but now it assumed a grand
scale. Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, and others of the Twelve
Apostles were dispatched to England, and Orson Hyde to the Jews in Con-
stantinople and Jerusalem. The Millenial Star was established in England,


v - W


■ ■


and is still being published there; in one year's time 5,000 copies of the

1 3 4

Online LibraryNorth Carolina State LibraryBiennial report of the state librarian for the two fiscal years ending ... [serial] (Volume 1936/38) → online text (page 1 of 4)