Nauvoo Travel Guide: 37 reviews and 51 photos

Here, along the banks of the Mississippi, followers of Joseph Smith were exhorted to 'gather' in the early to mid 1840's. Previous gatherings in Kirtland, Ohio - just east of Cleveland - and Far West, Missouri - north of Kansas City - had ended ignominiously, with Smith, himself, placed in a Missouri jail. As Smith spent time incarcerated, other adherents scouted the area that was to become Nauvoo. Local landholders offered Smith's followers good terms on land and the old townsite of Commerce, Illinois - which consisted of not much more than a couple of buildings - along the eastern banks of the Mississippi River. Following Smith's 'escaped' from the jail in Missouri - his incarceration had become a bit of an embarrassment to his jailors who left the door open - he moved his family to Nauvoo and gave out the call to bring his scattered followers together once again. Nauvoo was built up in a very short time - 1839-1844; by 1840 there were almost 3000 people with more than 10000 by 1844 and almost 20000 when the town was abandoned in 1846. At its peak, Nauvoo rivaled Chicago for the honor of being the largest town in Illinois. It was the largest city on the Mississippi north of St Louis.

As suddenly as it rose, the town collapsed. Joseph Smith never separated Church and State and he attracted enemies along with followers no matter where he went. Dissenters from within the upper ranks of the Mormon movement combined with outside forces leading to the murder of Smith - 27 June 1844 - in nearby Carthage. He had been awaiting trial for causing the destruction of a printing press of a Nauvoo dissenting newspaper. Local civil war loomed, but the Mormons, leaderless now, did not retaliate. Instead a leadership struggle ensued with Brigham Young assuming control. While major war did not break out, minor skirmishes did, and Young finally decided that the time and place was not right for Zion to occur in Nauvoo. He agreed with the governor of Illinois to leave Nauvoo the following year. Throughout 1846, Mormon wagons headed west and 20000 was reduced to less than 2000, leaving behind a ghost town - people leaving got very little if anything for the property left behind. The void was filled in coming years, to a certain extent by German immigrants and then later by the Icarians, followers of Etienne Cabet, a Frenchman who hoped to build a social utopia among Nauvoo's ruins
Nauvoo has continued a quiet existence since the departure of the Faithful to Utah in 1846. The oldest winery in Illinois - dating to 1857 - is here, originating from a former Icarian. The town was the center for grape growing until grape blights and the Prohibition of 1918 crushed the industry ... literally. Tourism in the latter part of the 20th Century has revived the small town. Both major divisions of the Mormon Church - the Utah-based LDS Church and Missouri-based Community of Christ (formerly Reorganized LDS) have restored many of the buildings of the Mormon heyday, attracting thousands of the Faithful and the curious to explore what was truly a unique time and place along the Mississippi

  • Intro Updated May 12, 2008
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Reviews (34)

Comments (8)

  • deecat's Profile Photo
    Jan 9, 2007 at 11:45 AM

    Brilliant. So well written and quite helpful. Detailed, interesting, historic, and, most of all, alluring. Hope to visit soon.

  • yooperprof's Profile Photo
    May 21, 2005 at 9:45 AM

    Excellent page! Though I have lived in both MO and IL, I never visited Nauvoo - it looks as if they've put a lot of work in restoration/renovation of their historic sites.

  • BuickMackane's Profile Photo
    Jan 28, 2005 at 3:13 PM

    I always wondered what eventually became of Nauvoo -- thanks for a great presentation!

  • Stephen-KarenConn's Profile Photo
    Nov 26, 2004 at 8:37 PM

    Absolutely fascinating. I've always wanted to visit Nauvoo, and now more than ever. The power of religion in people's lives is amazing. Very well done pages.

  • iandsmith's Profile Photo
    Oct 23, 2004 at 6:02 AM

    Though it's fair to suggest it's probably not a place I'll be going to, that in no way reflects the superb quality of your pages.

  • karenincalifornia's Profile Photo
    Oct 15, 2004 at 4:28 PM

    Interesting write up about Mormon history in Nauvoo. What does Illinois wine taste like? I haven't seen any Illinois vintages on the wine lists in California...

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Oct 4, 2004 at 1:07 PM

    Yes - where are the mountains ? :-)) Great pictures, I wasn't aware of Illinois' history of mormons.

  • XenoHumph's Profile Photo
    Oct 4, 2004 at 11:51 AM

    BUT! There are no mountains to climb in Illinois!! What were you doing there then!!?? Excellent page, very informative and systematic! I liked the Utah license plate pict...


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