Discovery: Views of Kirtland, 1900


Old photographs of Kirtland, Ohio, have been discovered recently, showing the temple and town as they looked at the turn of the century.

Sometime around 1900 two photographers, Ira M. Crowther and a Mr. Kilton, took photographs of the Kirtland Temple and vicinity, which had been vacated by the Latter-day Saints some sixty years earlier. The photographs lay in the basement of an old home until recently, when they were discovered by Elenore Rolfe, director of the Little Red School House in Willoughby, Ohio, a school devoted to preserving the heritage of the pioneers in the Western Reserve.

The photographs make a valuable contribution to our understanding of the Kirtland era. They show what the area may have looked like when the Saints were still there and reveal some interesting features about the temple itself.

Dr. Keith Perkins, department chairman of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University, learned of the discovery and acquired the photos for Brigham Young University.

As early as December 1830 the Lord instructed the Prophet Joseph Smith to “go to the Ohio.” (See D&C 37:1.) “There,” the Lord said, “you shall be endowed with power from on high.” (D&C 38:32.) The Lord also told the Prophet that Kirtland would be a stronghold of the Church “for the space of five years.” (D&C 64:21.)

It was in the fifth year—1836—that the Kirtland Temple was dedicated. On 3 April 1836, a week after the temple’s dedication, several ancient prophecies were fulfilled: The Lord came suddenly to the temple, accepting it as his house. (D&C 110:7; see Mal. 3:1.) Moses came and restored the keys of the gathering of Israel, including the lost tribes. (D&C 110:11; see also Deut. 30:1–3; Jer. 23:7–8.) Elias restored the keys of the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham. (D&C 110:12; see also Gen. 12:3; Gal. 3:6–29.) And Elijah restored the keys of his dispensation, turning the “hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers.” (D&C 110:13–15; Mal. 4:5–6.)

Within a few years most of the Saints were gone from Kirtland, settling first in Missouri and Illinois, then in the Rocky Mountains. By the time these photos were taken, Kirtland had not been the headquarters of the Church for six decades. Still, the photos give us a glimpse of a time now long since vanished.

The Kirtland Temple

The Kirtland Temple, the first temple built in this dispensation, is reflected in a pool created by a dam in the East Branch of the Chagrin River. This spot, northeast of Kirtland, was a favorite for local photographers.

An interior shot of the Kirtland Temple

An interior shot of the Kirtland Temple, looking west toward the three Melchizedek priesthood podiums on the ground floor. The canvas curtain or veil rolled up at the ceiling was one of several that could be dropped to partition the general assembly hall into four separate areas. Four other curtains at the front of the hall could be lowered to isolate the podiums, as on 3 April 1836, when the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery saw a vision of the Lord, Moses, Elias, and Elijah and received keys to the gathering of Israel, keys pertaining to the eternal family unit, and keys for genealogical and temple work.

The Kirtland Temple

The Kirtland Temple, much as it looked when the Saints left. The exterior glittered because fine glassware was ground up and added to the stucco. Lines painted on the stucco gave it the appearance of brick or cut stone. The temple faces east. In the cemetery to the north are buried Mary Duty Smith (the Prophet’s grandmother), Jerusha Smith (Hyrum’s wife), Thankful Pratt (wife of Parley P. Pratt), possibly Joseph and Emma Smith’s twin babies, and other prominent members who died in Kirtland.

The John Johnson Inn

The John Johnson Inn (previously the Peter French home) was the point of meeting and departure for the Quorum of the Twelve on their first mission. After the press at Jackson County, Missouri, was destroyed, the Evening and Morning Star was printed here.

The Newel K. Whitney store

The Newel K. Whitney store, where the School of the Prophets met and where a number of important revelations were given, including D&C 87 (prophecy on war), 88 (the Olive Leaf), and 89 (the Word of Wisdom). The home of Orson Hyde, who served as store clerk, can be seen at right.

[photo] Above: The Saints settled Kirtland in response to a revelation directing them to leave New York and gather in Ohio. (See D&C 37.) Between 1831 and 1838, they built a temple and established a stake. This view, looking southeast toward Temple Hill, shows the peaceful village of Kirtland much as it was when the Saints were there. To the far left in the foreground is the Newel K. Whitney home. The gabled roof with chimney just to the left of the temple is the Joseph Smith, Sr., home.