Skip to main content

Small Town Travels: Visiting Nauvoo, Illinois

Photo: Statues of Joseph and Hyrum Smith on horseback face the white Nauvoo Temple at dusk
Big cities are often named as vacation destinations, but small towns offer their own attractions. My husband and I traveled to Missouri and Illinois last month, and we drove mostly on two-lane highways and stayed mainly in less-populated areas. Nauvoo, Illinois, is such a place.

Since I was a child, I have loved hearing pioneer stories. I read the "Little House" books of Laura Ingalls Wilder, I learned about the Oregon Trail and was proud to live in the Willamette Valley, and I sang "Come, Come Ye Saints" in church.  Though I am not descended from those who walked the Mormon Trail, I do share their faith and am thankful for their sacrifices. I have always wanted to visit Nauvoo, which housed the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints from 1839-1846. I wanted to be able to see the historic buildings and imagine what life was like 175 years ago. 



My husband, John, does descend from Nauvoo pioneer stock, so seeing the sites there took on an even more personal note for him. Fortunately, it is extremely easy to learn about ancestors while in Nauvoo. 


Photo: A sign which reads, "Land & Records Research Center Records of individuals living in Nauvoo or Hancock County during the years of 1839 to 1846. Available to individuals and families who would like to learn about their ancestors and their lives. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints"
We visited the Land & Records Research Center, where we were greeted by smiling volunteers who were eager to help us find connections to Nauvoo. John sat at one computer; I sat at another. John quickly found his great-great-great-grandma (who was born in Nauvoo) and her family. The volunteer who was helping him was able to show him on a map exactly where his ancestors lived. 


Photo: A sign clearly marks the brick building that is the Land & Records Research Center
I knew that I didn't have any direct-line ancestors who lived in Nauvoo, but the woman who helped me found a connection anyway; I am 3rd cousins, 5 times removed to King Follett. (He isn't royalty; his first name was King.) He was a friend of the prophet Joseph Smith. After King Follett died, Joseph Smith spoke at his funeral. That speech later was given in a General Conference, and is referred to as the King Follett Discourse

Once John and I were done at the Land & Records Research Center, we set off to find the places in Nauvoo that were of particular importance to our relatives. We took a wagon ride past King Follett's well. (Sadly, this well is where he met his accidental death.) 


Photo: King Follett's well is surrounded by a split-rail fence
Once back in our rental car, we drove to the address of John's g-g-g-g-grandfather's house. As we approached, we were surprised to see a for sale sign in the ground! It turns out that his relative's house was no longer standing, but the land upon which it had stood was part of the yard of another house--the Willard Richards House--and that house was for sale! I must admit, we were sorely tempted to buy a piece of property that had such historical significance, not just for the church, but also for John's family. Fortunately, we have recently moved and we realize that moving is not fun nor easy, and while Nauvoo might be pleasant in early October, I'm pretty sure the weather is more extreme in the winter and summer months. The thought of owning the house excited us; the imagined reality did not. 


Photo: The green corner lot that belonged to John's ancestors

Photo: The lovely two-story brick Willard Richards' home
Though the family discoveries made our visit to Nauvoo extra special, even if we had not had those discoveries, we would have been happy with our time there. Many buildings are open for touring, and some (like the blacksmith shop) have demonstrations. There are wagon rides, oxen rides, and during the summer months, there are evening performances. The historic sites that are owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are free to visit. The rebuilt temple serves as a stunning backdrop to the old town. 


Photo: Another red brick building; this one, the home of Brigham Young

Photo: Looking through a multi-paned window, one can spot the white Nauvoo Temple 



Photo: The Nauvoo Temple at dusk
What small towns have you enjoyed visiting? Have you ever combined family history research with a vacation? 

(If you enjoy learning about family history, be sure to enter to win a 4-day pass to #RootsTech!



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Never Give Up Hope

Twenty-three years ago, a beautiful little girl was born. From the get-go, she was sweet, sensitive, and rather shy. She has grown into a young woman of whom I am so proud. She has worked hard to overcome challenges, and recently told me she is trying to face her fears, and asked me if I would write her story and share it here on the blog, in hopes she can inspire others through their own struggles. Although I offered to publish an auto-biographical piece for her, she wanted me to write her story from my perspective. At her request, and with her approval of this post, I share the following:
The phone rang, and the social worker on the other end informed me that a baby girl had been born 10 weeks early and drug-exposed. She wasn't ready to be released from the medical facility where she was currently staying, but would we be interested in being her foster-to-adopt parents? Of course! When John and I filled out our paperwork, we indicated that we were comfortable with a premature bab…

Six Sentence Story: Burst

The moment the church organist started playing the introduction to the hymn, the precocious toddler girl stood up on the pew. Music just moved her, and she was doubly excited when she realized she recognized the tune. Though everyone around her was opening a hymnal and finding the right page, that was unnecessary for her. 
First of all, she couldn't read, but second, even if she could read, she didn't need the words; they were etched into her memory. Finally, the organist finished the introduction and the chorister signaled the congregation to begin, but while the rest of the church-goers sang, "Lord, dismiss us with thy blessing," the sweet little girl belted out, "Go tell Aunt Rhody." By the time she got to the line about the old grey goose being dead, all decorum was lost as those around her burst out laughing. 




This has been another Six Sentence Story. The blog hop is hosted by Denise of Girlie on the Edge each week. The rules are simple: write a six sent…

Six Sentence Story: Release

Her small brow furrowed in concentration as she carefully placed the wriggling worm on the little hook. 

"Ready, Daddy!" she called, and Daddy came over and helped her cast the line into the lake. To the amazement of both of them, soon the bobber took a dip into the water. Daddy talked her through reeling the keeper-sized fish onto the shore.

"I'll name him Lucky, because he is lucky I caught him!" she proudly announced.

Lucky's luck ran out, though, when he realized this wasn't going to be a catch-and-release situation. 

**************************
I'm joining again with the Six Sentence Story link-up. Go read the other entries, and feel free to add your own. This week's prompt: release.