The Morgan Chapter of the Son’s of Utah Pioneers recently held their monthly luncheon and enjoyed the guest speakers Bob and Maxine Long relating their missionary experience in Nauvoo.
Bob and Maxine met while both worked in Salt Lake City. They soon married and now have five children and sixteen grandchildren. They have lived in Morgan for 29 years. The Longs learned much of the history of Nauvoo and Carthage while serving on their mission. Many wonder if the people that go to Nauvoo are typically members of the Church. The longs recounted the summer months are the busiest for Nauvoo. Travelers plan to stop in for a day trip, but end up staying for days. The Longs explained it is due to the “special spirit” of Nauvoo.
Nauvoo, originally called Quashquema and frequented by the Fox and Saux Indians, was traded to Captain James White for two thousand bushels of corn. For the Indians, this was a good trade because the land was a swamp. The city of Commerce was established, but settlement did not include the center swampland, until Joseph Smith purchased 135 acres, drained the swamp, and built the city of Nauvoo.
Draining the swamp was a difficult undertaking because the swamp was caused by underground springs located underneath where the Temple now stands that flowed through limestone and clay. A long deep ditch was dug by hand from the Temple to the Mississippi river, the remnants of which can still be seen. It is estimated that the equivalent of 2,200 dump trucks of dirt, clay, and limestone were removed. It took 6 ½ years to build Nauvoo.
If you were to take a wagon ride through Nauvoo, one site you would see would be the home of Brigham Young. His wife, Mary Ann, purchased the property, cleared the land, and built a cabin while Brigham was serving a mission. Upon returning, Brigham built the current home, which includes a council room used for many meetings.
Joseph Smith was gone. Brigham was responsible for preparing ten to twelve thousand people to take from that area and another sixty -seventy thousand to bring from Great Britain as well as completing the Temple. After Brigham’s home, you would see the Seventy’s Hall, the Prophet Joseph’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith’s home, the John Taylor home, and many other historical buildings, including the Temple which stands like a beacon atop the hill overlooking the city.. One of the most memorable and emotional is Parley Street, or the Trail of Hope. On a cold February 4th, wagons lined the street from the Temple to the river as the saints fled their homes for the safety of the west. Along the street are several small signs with thoughts of the saints as they left Nauvoo.
Nauvoo is unique in its geographic setting, being located on a point on the Mississippi River that juts out to the west. During the 1800s, boats navigating the river had to pass through the De Moines rapids, which ran from Nauvoo down to Keokuk. High water did not pose a problem, but at low water, the boats had to be unloaded of passengers and cargo to lighten the boats enough to navigate the rapids and then reload after the rapids. When the saints started leaving Nauvoo, its population was about 1,000 people fewer that Chicago.
Today, the Church still owns a lot of property there. Each week, missionaries mow about 350 acres of grass. In the north lies 800 acres of farmland and another 300 acres between the historic sites and the river most of which is leased by a local farmer. The Church of Christ owns about 90 acres in the south part of the city, which includes the Homestead, Nauvoo House, and the Red Brick Store. The Smith Family Cemetery is also located there and is maintained by a private corporation. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also helps with maintaining the cemetery. The Longs stressed that when visiting Carthage and Nauvoo, take time to see and do, but more importantly, take time to feel.