Church Plans Sesquicentennial of Nauvoo

“Church Plans Sesquicentennial of Nauvoo,” Ensign, May 1989, 107–9

Church Plans Sesquicentennial of Nauvoo

The Church will celebrate the sesquicentennial of the founding of Nauvoo, Illinois, in a series of activities scheduled throughout 1989. The main event will be the dedication of the newly renovated site in nearby Carthage, where the Prophet Joseph Smith died in 1844.

The dedication is scheduled for 27 June 1989, the 145th anniversary of the Prophet’s death at Carthage Jail, and will be under the direction of the First Presidency. The Church is inviting state and other dignitaries—including the mayors of surrounding communities and leaders and local members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints—to the dedication ceremony.

Other projects Nauvoo Restoration, Inc., plans to complete this year are refurbishing the seven-acre Pioneer Saints Cemetery, reconstructing the Reiser Cobbler Shop on its original Nauvoo site, and rebuilding the Stoddard Tinsmith Shop—now a ruin with only portions of the original walls standing.

Other projects in connection with the sesquicentennial include:

—Producing two films to be shown to visitors. One, on the life of Joseph Smith, will be shown at the visitors’ center in Carthage; the other, an introduction to Nauvoo, will be shown in the Nauvoo Visitors’ Center. The Church’s Curriculum Department is producing both films.

—Producing the annual City of Joseph pageant on the grassy slopes between the visitors’ center and the Nauvoo Stake Center. The musical, which tells the story of the Saints’ stay in Nauvoo, is scheduled for August 8 through 12.

—Holding a day-long symposium at Brigham Young University on September 21.

—Publishing a Nauvoo edition of BYU Studies.

—Publishing, in 1990, an official history of Nauvoo. The volume was begun by the late T. Edgar Lyon and is being completed by Glen M. Leonard, director of the Museum of Church History and Art.

After the Carthage site and four other smaller projects are completed, no further restoration in Nauvoo is planned at present, said Elder Loren C. Dunn, President of the North America Central Area and a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. Restoration efforts have been going on since the 1960s. In the future, Nauvoo Restoration, Inc., will function more in an operations and maintenance mode, he said. He and his counselors, Elder Jacob de Jager of the First Quorum of the Seventy and Elder John Sonnenberg of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, constitute the officers of Nauvoo Restoration, Inc.

Church Service personnel and others will continue to manage the historic sites in Nauvoo and Carthage under the direction of James C. Taylor, who is the resident manager; the Illinois Peoria Mission will continue to provide missionary couples to serve in the visitors’ centers, homes, and shops in the two cities.

“The whole mission of the site in Carthage, as it is restored under the direction of the First Presidency, is one of peace,” said Elder Dunn. He said that Carthage, the place where Joseph Smith was killed, will be a place of healing, where the Prophet’s accomplishments and life can be closely examined by visitors.

The Carthage complex covers the entire city block on which the old Carthage Jail stands. It includes the jail (which the Church acquired in 1903 and restored between 1938 and 1939), an expanded visitors’ center, new exhibits, landscaping, and off-street parking.

The interior of the jail is being restored to reflect a nineteenth-century appearance, and the area around the jail is being cleared and given a park-like appearance. A wrought-iron fence encloses the block. Six slate monuments will be placed along a brick walkway from the parking lot to the visitors’ center. Each six-foot monument bears a bas-relief sculpture and a statement by Joseph Smith. A life-sized statue of Joseph and Hyrum Smith will be placed inside the building.

“We plan to begin the final construction and renovation projects at Nauvoo this coming summer and hope to complete them before bad weather sets in,” said Elder Dunn.

The Pioneer Saints Cemetery, recently acquired from the RLDS Church, was the main burial ground for nineteenth-century Church members in Nauvoo. It is situated approximately two miles east of the Nauvoo Visitors’ Center. The cemetery still contains some gravestones from the Nauvoo Era (1839–46). There are also many unmarked graves, including those of Edward Partridge, first Presiding Bishop of the Church, who died in 1840, and Vinson Knight, a bishop, who died in 1842. Nauvoo Restoration is in the process of constructing a monument, adding a parking lot, installing a pole fence, cleaning up the cemetery, and uncovering and restoring the gravestones that are close to the surface. The cemetery’s historic and rustic setting will be preserved as much as possible.

Nauvoo Restoration, Inc., was organized in 1962 and, under the early direction of Dr. J. LeRoy Kimball, it has acquired and restored twenty historic sites and homes in Nauvoo. The buildings include a blacksmith shop, the Scovil Bakery, the Times & Seasons building, and the homes of Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, Lucy Mack Smith, Sarah Kimball, and Jonathan Browning. Guide couples live in a number of other historic homes that are not yet restored for public display. “With the homes and shops the Church has restored over the years, plus the visitors’ centers at Nauvoo and Carthage, there is enough of a flavor of the old city [of Nauvoo] now to give people a good idea of how it was,” said Elder Dunn.

Construction of an oblong, fourteen-foot model of 1846 Nauvoo will begin this year and is scheduled to be completed by June 1990. The model will be displayed in the Nauvoo Visitors’ Center. At its zenith in 1846, Nauvoo had about three thousand buildings.

Elder Dunn emphasized that all restoration projects have been financed with donated funds.

Nauvoo—a name derived from a Hebrew word meaning “beautiful place” (see Ensign, Oct. 1987, p. 21)—is situated on the Mississippi River across from the southeastern corner of Iowa. During 1839, the Church purchased three farms at Commerce, Illinois. These were the first land purchases in what became a prosperous city of more than eleven thousand people by 1845. Nauvoo served as Church headquarters until 1846 when, after the Prophet Joseph Smith’s death, Brigham Young led the Saints west to the Great Salt Lake Valley.

Today, Nauvoo is a city of about eleven hundred people. Its major industries are grape vineyards, a cheese factory, and tourism. There are currently 363 people in the Nauvoo Ward in the Nauvoo Illinois Stake, including ten residents of Carthage. The ward boundaries extend into Iowa and Missouri, covering a thirty-mile radius.

More than 100,000 tourists, many of them nonmembers, visited historic Nauvoo last year. Elder Dunn noted that the number of tourists increased by 17 percent in 1988.

Historic Nauvoo is a National Historic Site and is the largest historic preservation site in mid-America.

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At restored homes and other buildings in Nauvoo, visitors learn from guides in period dress about the Church’s history and its people. (Photography by Welden Andersen.)

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Monument Gardens, site of the Nauvoo Monument to Women (top; photo by Craig Dimond), is one of the many pleasant spots developed in Nauvoo during the past few years. The Jonathan Browning home (center; photo by Welden Andersen) and the restored Seventies Hall (bottom; photo by Craig Dimond) help visitors see Nauvoo as it once was.

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Young visitors learn how Nauvoo bricks were made. (Photo by Richard Brown.)