The Joseph Smith Sr. family farm, with its grove of trees and log home, is sacred ground where the restored gospel of Jesus Christ was nurtured.
Cradle of the Restoration
Here, beginning in spring 1820, in Manchester Township, just south of Palmyra, New York, the 100 acres of the Joseph Smith Sr. farm became sacred space. A believing place. Holy ground.
Here in a grove of trees, Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to 14-year-old Joseph Smith Jr. Here the Smith family, who were the first to hear of the heavenly appearance, believed their son and brother Joseph. Here the angel Moroni appeared to the young prophet on numerous occasions and told him of a book written upon gold plates, which gave “an account of the former inhabitants of this continent” (JS—H 1:34).
After 21-year-old Joseph received the plates in 1827, it was here—in the frame home and the cooper shop—that he hid the sacred records to protect them from antagonists until he could translate their inscriptions as the Book of Mormon.
And so it was that in the dawning of the dispensation of the fulness of times, the Smith family farm became the cradle wherein the restored gospel of Jesus Christ was placed, protected, and nurtured. Today the log home, frame home, cooper shop, barn, and farmland have been restored to their original state, making it easier for us to envision the sacred events that took place here.
Following are photographs of the Joseph Smith Sr. farm with a brief review of some events that took place here during the early years of the Restoration.
Looking as they did when the Smiths lived here, the newly restored cooper shop, frame home, and barn are located on Stafford Road.
After the Smiths were unable to make the last payment on the frame home, they eventually moved back into the log house in 1829. At the time, it was the home of son Hyrum and his wife, Jerusha Barden Smith.
“We had a snug log-house, neatly furnished,”
wrote Lucy Mack Smith of the log home with its two rooms on the ground floor and two sleeping rooms upstairs.
Of the evening of 21 September 1823, Lucy noted, “Joseph retired to his bed in quite a serious and contemplative state of mind.”
Joseph later wrote of that night: “While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room. … A personage appeared at my bedside. … He called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni.”
The kitchen in the log house was likely the site of many intimate family discussions and joyous times.
Within a few years after moving into the log home, 24-year-old Alvin, the oldest son in the family, planned and began construction of a frame house. “To the neighbors who watched the progress of the new house, he often said: ‘I am going to have a nice, pleasant room for father and mother to sit in, and everything arranged for their comfort. They shall not work any more as they have done.’ But Alvin never lived to see the house completed.”
In the middle of November 1823, he became ill and died.
In the frame home (left) and kitchen (right), family prayers and reading from the Bible were a regular part of life. Son William remembered, “Father used to carry his spectacles in his vest pocket, and when we boys saw him feel for his ‘specs,’ we knew that was a signal to get ready for prayer, and if we did not notice it mother would say, … ‘get ready for prayers.’ After the prayer we had a song.”
The parlor of the frame home, with its hearth and windows facing west toward the Sacred Grove. This “beautiful grove [was] sufficiently dense and removed from the road to give the necessary seclusion the youth desired; and here on the morning of a beautiful, clear day in that early spring time, he knelt for the first time in all his life to make a personal, direct, verbal appeal to God in prayer.”
Here, one evening, Catherine and Sophronia were snuggled in the off-kitchen bedroom when someone noticed a group of men coming quickly toward the house. Joseph sprang to action, took the plates wrapped in cloth, and hid them in bed between the girls, saying, “Be as if you are asleep.” Two men came into the room, one with a lantern, saw the sleeping girls, looked under the bed, and left.
The bedroom of Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith on the main floor in the frame home.
Joseph hid the gold plates in a wooden box beneath this hearth in the parlor. The plates were at risk at least twice while buried there (see “‘Take Heed Continually,’” by Andrew H. Hedges, on page 37 of this issue).
Joseph Smith Sr. and his sons worked hard to clear their forested land so they would have tillable farmland—30 acres while in the log home, 30 more acres while in the frame home. They also had 1,200 to 1,500 maple trees, from which they gathered sap in the spring and converted it into molasses and sugar. The barn was the center of these activities in addition to the daily caring for crops and animals.
(click to view larger)
Detail of Joseph Smith Sr. Farm. The 100 acres of the Smith farm sit on the line between Wayne County and Ontario County in New York. The log home and part of the Sacred Grove are in Palmyra Township, in Wayne County. The majority of the farm, including the frame home, barn, and cooper shop, is in Manchester Township, Ontario County. Note the village of Palmyra, which sits on the Erie Canal, north of the Smith farm; the Hill Cumorah about three miles southeast of the farm site; and the recently dedicated Palmyra New York Temple located in the northeast corner of the Smiths’ original farm.
Joseph moved the wooden box and gold plates from beneath the hearth in the frame home and hid them beneath the floorboards of the cooper shop.
Then, having second thoughts, he dug them up again. He removed the plates that were wrapped in some cloth and hid them in the loft. He then reburied the empty chest under the floorboards. That night, a mob tore up the floor and smashed the empty box but failed to search the loft a few feet above their heads (see article on p. 37).
[photos] Photography by Craig Dimond