Nauvoo is a small city in Hancock County, Illinois, United States, on the Mississippi River near Fort Madison, Iowa. The population of Nauvoo was 1,149 at the 2010 census. Since Nauvoo played such a huge part in church history, I was expecting it to be a bustling city, maybe not a huge city, but bigger than a one road town. Once my initial shock at how small it is wore off, I was quite charmed with this itty bitty, laid back town.
Nauvoo was named in April 1840 by Joseph Smith, who led the Latter Day Saints to Nauvoo to escape conflict with the state government in Missouri. The name Nauvoo is derived from the traditional Hebrew language with an anglicized spelling. The word comes from Isaiah 52:7, “How beautiful upon the mountains...” It is notable that “by 1844 Nauvoo's population had swollen to 12,000, rivaling the size of Chicago” at the time. So I guess it was a big(ger) city at one time, maybe that's where I got that idea....
We stayed at the charming Woodruff Hotel, which is a Nauvoo Hotel landmark. Located directly across the street from the beautiful Nauvoo Temple in the Nauvoo Historic District, it is the perfect place to stay to get the feel of Nauvoo.
The Woodruff Hotel is an old historic building, which only adds to it's charm. There were signs like this around, I like that they kept some of the original elements in the building. Even if the windows didn't keep out much of the heat, this hotel was the ONLY place in town where we could fully escape the humidity and heat, they had a wonderful and powerful air conditioner. I don't think I have ever experienced humidity in my life like the humidity we experienced in Nauvoo on this trip, it was intense! I went on a 10 minute walk with the boys one morning to pick up some tickets from the visitors center, we had to stop several times in the shade to recover from the heat and I still got sick and had to spend the afternoon in the hotel cooling off. That has never happened to me before! We have had such lovely, cool, temperate weather our entire trip, so this intense heat and humidity were a bit of a surprise.
This was my lovely room
Which came with a huge, luxurious bathroom
I had a beautiful view of the gorgeous Nauvoo temple from my window.
On our first evening, we walked over to the temple after dinner to have a devotional about this historic site. Karin had asked me to prepare this devotional, and I'm so glad she did because this unique building is so full of history and beautiful symbolism I loved the opportunity to research it and share what I learned with the family.
We got to the temple at the most magical time of day, right as the sun was getting ready to set. Since the temple is built on a hill, we had a splendid view of the sunset over the lush grounds. We watched the sunset then gathered together on the temple steps to learn about this one-of-a-kind building and the history behind it. I was super impressed by how much the boys already knew, Karin has done so well teaching them about church history. I had bought some gummy sharks at one of our gas station stops on our road trip days to hand out to anyone who answered my quiz questions correctly, which was a little bit of fun added into my educational lesson.
We stayed until the sun had completely set and the temple was all lit up, it was such a gorgeous and peaceful evening that I am so grateful I got to share with my family.
Andrew got some amazing, photo gallery worthy photos of the temple with his drone.
The next morning we walked across the street to Grandpa John's Cafe, the only place in town were breakfast is served. Our own Grandpa Johns loved the name ...
We spent the day touring through the homes of historic Nauvoo, and seeing one of the musicals at the visitor's center put on by the Nauvoo performing missionaries.
In his Red Brick Store at Nauvoo, Illinois, the Prophet Joseph Smith prepared his successors to carry on the "great and mighty work" of God. 1 Originally built in 1841, the store became headquarters for the Church shortly after its completion. A dry goods store was located on the ground floor, and Joseph's office and a meeting hall occupied the upper level.
Here, priesthood keys to govern the Church were "rolled on to the shoulders" 2 of the Twelve Apostles. The Prophet spent many hours instructing these brethren during the last months of his life so that they could lead the Church in his absence.
In the upstairs room, Joseph organized the Female Relief Society 3 of Nauvoo, "not only to relieve the poor, but to save souls." 4 Here the Prophet administered to some Church members sacred ordinances that would later be made available to all worthy Saints in holy temples. 5 And here, Joseph Smith recorded the revelation on the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, completed the translation of the Book of Abraham, and wrote the famous Wentworth letter containing the Articles of Faith.
Next, we visited the Brick Yard and learned about how bricks were made in Old Nauvoo, it was a fascinating demonstration.
In Nauvoo in the 1840s, Latter-day Saint settlers first built log homes or frame homes, but they worked toward building brick homes and shops that represented beauty and permanence. Seven brickyards were kept busy supplying the high demand, but making bricks took a lot of time and patience. Clay and sand were mixed and pressed into a mold until they held their shape. Once the forms were removed, the bricks were dried by rotating them each day for one week to remove all moisture, a process known as hacking. Once dry, 40,000 bricks were stacked like dominoes in a hollow shape called a brick clamp. Firewood was inserted and brought to firing temperature so the bricks could bake for about two weeks. Once fully fired, bricks cooled for another week before they could be used. The exterior walls of the homes were built three bricks thick.
Each family was given a small brick as a souvenir.
I took this picture as an example of what the bricks they made looked like.
We didn't have enough time to visit every, single house and shop, even though we would have loved to! But we made sure to slip into the Tinsmith right before they closed for the day.
Tinsmiths in Nauvoo were very popular craftsmen because they made many of the items used in homes and farms. Lanterns, candle safes, candle holders, buckets, pots, pans and many other articles could be made quickly and economically from tin. A good Tinsmith could make a tin pan in about 15-20 minutes.
All the metal pieces hanging in the picture below are patterns for different items that can be made out of tin. A senior missionary couple gave us a short demonstration on how a couple of different tin items are made.
The next day we visited Carthage Jail, the site where Joseph and Hyrum Smith were killed. Visiting this sacred place is a very emotional experience, the grounds are beautiful and the walk ways are lined with plaques engraved with beautiful, inspiring quotes. The feeling there is somber yet peaceful.
"Patience is heavenly, obedience is noble, forgiveness is merciful and exaltation is Godly. And he that hold out faithful to the end shall in no wise lose his reward. A good man will endure all things to honor Christ. And even dispose of the whole world, and all in it, to save his soul."
-Joseph Smith Jr. & Hyrum Smith 1844
"When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth's sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain."
At the Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844, a mob murdered the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, who thus sealed their testimonies of Jesus Christ with their blood.
Several days earlier, the Prophet and others voluntarily went to Carthage, the county seat located about 20 miles southeast of Nauvoo, to answer charges of civil disturbance. Joseph and Hyrum were held in Carthage Jail pending trial and were guaranteed protection from mob violence by the governor of Illinois.
Joseph, Hyrum, John Taylor, and Willard Richards were in the jailer's upstairs bedroom when a mob stormed the jail shortly after five o'clock. The Prophet and his brother were shot and killed, John Taylor was seriously wounded, and Willard Richards escaped unharmed. The mob fled, and the martyrs' bodies were taken back to Nauvoo the next day.
We were greeted by two sister missionaries in the visitor's center, where we discussed that last few days of the prophet Joseph Smith's life. This paining is depicting the last time Joseph and Hyrum will see Nauvoo. The temple wasn't completed before they died.
Then we were led on a tour of the jail. The lower level was where the jailer and his family lived.
This was another jail cell on the same floor that Joseph and Hyrum and the others were held in.
Willard Richards, an eyewitness of the assassination of the Smith brothers, wrote these words the same day: "A shower of musket balls were thrown up the stairway against the door of the prison in the second story, followed by many rapid footsteps. . . .
"A ball was sent through the door which hit Hyrum on the side of his nose, when he fell backwards, extended at length, without moving his feet. . . .
"Joseph attempted, as the last resort, to leap the . . . window, . . . when two balls pierced him from the door, and one entered his right breast from without, and he feel outward, exclaiming, 'Oh Lord, my God!' As his feet went out of the window my head went in, the balls whistling all around. He fell on his left side.
That night, the sunset was glorious. It was the perfect backdrop for the beautiful experience of walking the Trail of Hope in Historic Nauvoo.
Parley Street in Nauvoo leads to the banks of the Mississippi River from which thousands of Saints began their exodus from Nauvoo in February of 1846. Parley Street is now known as ‘The Trail of Hope’ and all along its length are 30 historic marker boards containing quotes from those who left their homes in Nauvoo to begin the long trek to their Promised Land. To walk down Parley Street and read the boards is memorable and moving.
This trail was originally called the Trail of Tears, since the saints were forced to leave behind their beloved temple, beautiful homes, prospering businesses and the lovely lives they had built in this city. President Hinckley asked for the trail to be renamed to the Trail of Hope, as a more optimistic view of this new beginning for the early saints.
Every Sunday evening, the performing missionaries act out the individual stories written on the plaques along the trail. We were lead down the road in groups of around 15, we were asked not to talk or take pictures or videos. We were lead by a guide with a lantern, as it was getting dark. This is such a beautiful and powerful experience, it was my favorite part of our stay in Nauvoo.
The trail ends at the Mississippi River which was frozen when the saints left on that freezing day in February. We had a few moments to reflect on the stories we had just heard on the banks of the river. It was a beautifully clear night at the moon was casting a bright, glittery reflection on the water.
We had to say goodbye to the precious town of Nauvoo the following morning. When we crossed the street to get breakfast from Grandpa Johns' as usual, we were quite dismayed when we discovered it wasn't open! How could it not be open?! It's the only place that serves breakfast! Thanks to Yelp we found, The Apron, an adorable bake shoppe on the edge of town that had only been open a couple of weeks that serves breakfast!
The food at The Apron is delicious, we were a little bummed we didn't know about it during our entire stay in Nauvoo. It was the perfect way to end a perfect stay in the beautiful and historic town of Nauvoo.