Our Beautiful Nauvoo

By Corliss Clayton

Print Share

    (See “Peaceful Nauvoo,” Friend, August/September 1984, pages 17 and 34, and “Nauvoo Cutouts,” Friend, October 1984, page 47.)

    Every year thousands of people visit the restored town of Nauvoo, Illinois. Missionary couples, called by the Church, give free tours of the various sites. They explain the history of the city and give demonstrations of some of the skills of the early Saints who helped the city flourish.

    In 1839, under the direction of Joseph Smith, several hundred acres of land on the Mississippi River in Illinois were purchased to build a new city where the Saints could gather. The city was called Nauvoo, meaning “Beautiful Place.”

    Between 1840 and 1846 the city grew until it became one of the largest cities in the midwest. The bustling community was home to craftsmen, tradesmen, lawyers, and doctors. There were schools, factories, a library, and three halls where dramas were performed.

    As the city grew, so did the conflicts with nonmembers in neighboring communities. In 1846 the Saints were forced to begin an exodus from the city, abandoning their homes and many of their possessions.

    The purpose of the Nauvoo restoration is to “restore the historically important part of the old town of Nauvoo as it was when it flourished during the period 1839–1846, as one of the vibrant forces in the westward expansion of America; and to give an understanding of the people of Nauvoo as shown by the homes they built and the way they lived, and an understanding of … the strength of their faith” (Articles of Incorporation, Nauvoo Restoration, Incorporated).

    Gingerbread Cookies

    1 cup sugar

    1 cup molasses

    3/4 cup oil or lard

    1/2 cup hot water

    2 eggs

    1 teaspoon soda

    1 heaping teaspoon ginger

    1 teaspoon cinnamon

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    2 cups whole wheat flour

    4 cups white flour

    1. Combine, sugar, molasses, and oil. Add hot water, measuring it in same cup as molasses so that you get all molasses out of cup.

    2. Add eggs, then beat.

    3. Sift together remaining ingredients.

    4. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour, then roll out and cut with cookie cutters.

    5. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 350° F (180° C).

    Mississippi River

    Nauvoo was built on this giant bend of the beautiful Mississippi River.

    iron rods

    Iron rods that kept brick walls straight and upright in Nauvoo buildings had their ends decorated with iron stars.

    Heber C. Kimball home

    Heber C. Kimball finished his home just five months before the Saints left Nauvoo. It was the first home restored in the project.

    Collidge House

    The Collidge House is used today to house the Cooper Shop and Pottery Shop and to demonstrate candle dipping.

    Scovil Bakery

    At the Scovil Bakery Saints often traded for goods.

    Brigham Young’s home

    Brigham Young’s home, as most homes, sat on an acre of land so that the family could raise a garden, fruit trees, and animals.

    children’s rooms

    An old leather doll sits waiting in one of the children’s rooms of the Brigham Young Home.

    Joseph Smith homestead

    The Joseph Smith Homestead, near the Mississippi River.


    A wagon loaded with provisions for the long journey west. Families left behind whatever wouldn’t fit into the wagon.

    blacksmith shop

    The Webb Blacksmith Shop provided vital services to the 1840 community.

    Seventies Hall

    The Seventies Hall and the Landmark Tree near Montrose Crossing.

    Nauvoo Temple site

    Nauvoo Temple site. The temple was burned in 1848, then collapsed when struck by a tornado in 1850.

    Joseph Smith Store

    The Joseph Smith Store.

    Elder David Maxfield “throws a pot” on the potter’s wheel as Jared Hill watches. There were at least five potters in early Nauvoo.

    Sister Dorothy Maxfield helps Nicole Rogers dip candles. Each fall the Saints would dip or mold a year’s supply of candles.

    Using an oven peel, Sister Martha Crosby and Debbie Brown put bread into the oven.

    Jed Hill looks at a metal Noah’s ark in one of the children’s rooms at the Brigham Young Home.

    Elder Larry Stannard shows Jason Hill the complicated skill of making a wagon wheel. In the 1840s it took about forty hours to make one wheel.

    Elder John Strebel demonstrates the complex skill of a cooper (barrel maker) to Jason Hill.

    Photos by Dick Brown