The last Saints were driven from Nauvoo, Illinois, in the fall of 1846. Among them were young Joseph F. Smith and his mother, Mary. Joseph wrote: “My mother and her family were compelled to take all that they could move out of the house—their bedding, their clothing, the little food they possessed, leaving the furniture and everything else standing in the house, and fled across the river, where we camped without tent or shelter until the war was over. The city was conquered” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. , 500).
Soon after this final exodus, Colonel Thomas L. Kane visited Nauvoo and described the abandoned city: “The town lay as in a dream, under some deadening spell of loneliness, from which I almost feared to wake it. For plainly it had not slept long. There was not grass growing up in the paved ways. Rains had not entirely washed away the prints of dusty footsteps. … The spinner’s wheel was idle; the carpenter had gone from his work-bench and shavings … as if he had just gone off for a holiday. No work people anywhere looked to know my errand. If I went into the gardens, clinking the wicket-latch loudly after me … and draw a drink with the water sodden well-bucket and its noisy chain … no one called out to me from any open window, or dog sprang forward to bark an alarm. I could have supposed the people hidden in the houses, but the doors were unfastened; and when at last I timidly entered them, I found dead ashes white upon the hearths, and had to tread a tiptoe, as if walking down the aisle of a country church, to avoid rousing irreverent echoes from the naked floors” (The Mormons: A Discourse Delivered before the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, March 26, 1850 , 4–5).
“Thanks be to God for the holy ordinances of His house,” wrote Eliza R. Snow, “and how cheerfully grateful we ought to be that we are the happy participants of these great blessings” (quoted in Sisters in Spirit: Mormon Women in Historical and Cultural Perspective, ed. Maureen Ursenbach Beecher and Lavina Fielding Anderson , 90).
Eliza R. Snow wrote this poem in her diary at the time of the February 1846 exodus:
Let us go—let us go to the wilds for a home
Where the wolf and the roe and the buffalo roam
. … . … . … . … .
Where beneath our own vines, we may … enjoy,
The rich fruits of our labors, with none to annoy.
(Diary of Eliza R. Snow, Feb. 1846, LDS Church Archives)