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.