Historic Old Nauvoo



From Missouri we moved into Nauvoo, following the path of early church members as they moved to Nauvoo…

“As the Latter-day Saints fled Missouri during the winter of 1838–1839, having been threatened by the governor of that state with extermination, they crossed into Illinois and settled in a swampy area along the Mississippi River that they named Nauvoo. Over the next few years, an estimated 16,000 Latter-day Saints took up residence in the city and its surrounding communities. It became one of the largest cities in Illinois at the time and an important commercial center on the upper Mississippi.

Many in the surrounding communities continued to harass the Latter-day Saints, and on 27 June 1844, a painted mob shot to death  Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. Despite the rapidly escalating tension in the area, the Latter-day Saints continued at great sacrifice to complete a temple in the city, even while they prepared for a mass exodus to the West. Between February and September 1846, most of the Latter-day Saints took up their march to the West, leaving their homes, their city, and their temple to the hands of those who had not built and the hearts of those who did not care.

Today Nauvoo is a significant historic district, with many of the buildings in the original townsite rebuilt or restored and open for the public to visit.”


This was our first time to Nauvoo and we fell in love with this quaint corner of Illinois. It had a feeling much like historic Williamsburg, as we moved from  building to building, through a town of historic and recreated buildings from the 1840’s. The senior missionaries were dressed in period clothing and demonstrated life from the 1840’s through activities in each shop.

Historic Nauvoo consists of 30 different historic buildings in the village, the visitor’s center and the Nauvoo temple.

What sets Nauvoo apart from other historical villages is the spirit felt there. I loved the education we acquired at each stop about what life would have been like in historic Nauvoo, but appreciated even more the spiritual messages and sweet testimonies born by our tour guides.

Here are some of the favorite stops we made as we discovered Historic Nauvoo:

Visit the Scovil Bakery to experience a baker’s lifestyle before the days of electric and gas ovens. See the baking equipment of the 1840s, original Temple Plates, and many other items used for baking during the Nauvoo period. The Scovil Bakery was one of several such establishments in Nauvoo in the 1840s



Here we were able to taste the bakery’s homemade gingerbread cookies.


Chauncey Webb, along with his father and brothers, owned and operated this blacksmith and wagon shop.


 This shop has been reconstructed on its original foundation. When you visit, you will learn how wagon wheels were constructed, and you will see a wagon, loaded with supplies, ready to cross the plains. Everyone who visits receives a “prairie diamond” ring, made from a horseshoe nail, to take home as a souvenir.



We were given a souvenir horseshoe and each family member received a “prairie diamond” ring.



Imagine setting type for a weekly newspaper by hand, carefully placing each tiny letter in a composing stick backwards. Here you can see a period printing press and learn about the time-consuming labors necessary to print documents in the 1840s. In this shop, you’ll learn various printing terms and see the process of printing a newspaper in Old Nauvoo.


Discover the interior of a log schoolroom and cabin. Visitors have fun doing lessons on old-fashioned slates and learn fascinating facts about life in Old Nauvoo. Calvin and his family left Nauvoo in 1846. At Winter Quarters, he was asked to remain with Jonathan Browning to provide guns for the pioneers who were headed west.


Tour the Jonathan Browning Home and Gun Shop and learn about the humble beginnings of the worldwide Browning Arms Corporation. See authentic rifles, handguns, and shotguns from the early 1800s and their present-day counterparts. In this shop, you’ll see a fine display of firearms made by Jonathan and his descendants.


Brickyard: Many early settlers lived for years in log cabins while they built their brick homes, only to enjoy them for a few short months before they left to begin their trek westward. The brickmaker will demonstrate how bricks were formed, dried and baked here in Old Nauvoo. You may take home a souvenir Nauvoo brick to help you remember your visit


Here we received one of the souvenir bricks made daily at the brickyard. I loved the spiritual message given here as the gentleman described the process of hardening the bricks in the oven and the affect additional heat has on the bricks and how that analogy compares to the heat or trials in our own lives. Those times can make us hard or they can make us strong.

In the evening we attended one of the many wonderful shows offered to the public in historic Nauvoo: “Rendezvous in Old Nauvoo.”


If you are coming to Nauvoo, you must see this show. This delightful musical comedy, performed by senior tour guides, tells the story of the Latter-day Saints who built Nauvoo in the 1840′s, and then had to leave the city they loved.

 Will George find the peace and quiet he needs?
Will Abigail ever get a pickle barrel?
Will horses with wings ever leave Nauvoo?

 Find out the answers and come and see the story, laugh, ponder and shed a tear for Old Nauvoo.


The next morning we spent time at the Family Living Center, an area geared toward children, where crafts and trades of the 1840’s are demonstrated. This hands-on area was a hit with the kids.


Guests can view demonstrations in a wide variety of 19th-century trades such as spinning,


bread making,


candle making,


pottery, rope and barrel making.


Tie everything together as you help the rope maker create another length.


Finish it all off with the baker, and taste delicious bread from the brick oven. A must stop for the children!


This homemade bread was incredible. Here is the recipe as shared on their website:

Family Living Center Wheat Bread
8 Loaves
In a large mixing bowl, add all the following ingredients in the order listed.
2 Tablespoons yeast 1 cup Sugar (if honey, add after water) 1 cup Powdered Milk ½ cup Potato Flakes 5 cups Warm Water  Stir mixture with wooden spoon to dissolve milk and potato flakes.
Then add: 5 cups Wheat Flour 6 cups Bread Flour Mix ingredients until gooey ball (shaggy mass) is formed.
Add salt and oil on top. (do not mix in until after the dough rests) ½ cup oil 2 tablespoons salt Let the dough rest 10 minutes to allow time for flour to absorb moisture.
Lightly mix oil and salt into the dough then empty onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic – about 10 minutes.  Additional flour may be needed to produce a medium dough – but not too stiff.
Place dough back into the bowl (oil inside of bowl) and place in the proofer box to rise until double.  (bowl of hot water should be in the box prior to this point).  No need to cover dough with a towel. (at home you can warm oven to lowest temperature,  put in a pan of water and then turn off the oven and this will be like a proofing box)   After dough has doubled (about 1 hour) empty onto the floured surface and divide into 8 pieces (do not punch down).  Flatten (pinch and push) and round each piece and cover and let rest for 15 minutes – dough will start to rise again.
Flatten (pinch and push) and round dough again and place on baking sheets.  Cover for final rise.  When finger indention remains in dough it is ready to bake.  Score each round with a tic tack toe pattern (on the four outer edges) or score across the top — only ¼” deep.
Ideal oven temperature for the bread will be about 420 degrees. After baking 20 minutes insert the temperature probe into one of the loaves and close the oven door.  When the temperature reaches 195 to 200 degrees the bread is done.  The second batch of bread should take 10-15 minutes longer because of the lower temp at the start of the bake. At home you can bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.

We ended our visit to historic Nauvoo with a oxen ride. What a cool experience!

A yoke of real oxen will pull you in a covered wagon across the “Mormon Trail” – in the record time of fifteen minutes! Oxen were used by many migrating pioneers because of their great strength. However, they could take some time to train, as Abner Blackburn noted about his near-wild oxen:  ”I was in the trail part of the time, and that was when I was crossing it.” Oxen would also eat anything that was green, unlike a horse or mule who preferred grain. This is one of the best photo opportunities in Nauvoo.


From there we drove to Carthage, Illinois, the location of Carthage Jail where the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith took place.


“At the Carthage Jail on June 27, 1844, a mob murdered Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, who thus sealed their testimonies of Jesus Christ with their blood.

Several days earlier, Joseph Smith and others voluntarily went to Carthage, the county seat located about 20 miles southeast of Nauvoo, to answer charges of civil disturbance. Joseph and Hyrum were held in Carthage Jail pending trial and were guaranteed protection from mob violence by the governor of Illinois.


Joseph, Hyrum, John Taylor, and Willard Richards were in the jailer’s upstairs bedroom when a mob stormed the jail shortly after five o’clock. Joseph and his brother were shot and killed, John Taylor was seriously wounded, and Willard Richards escaped unharmed. The mob fled, and the martyrs’ bodies were taken back to Nauvoo the next day.


The jail was used for about 25 years and then became a private residence. The Church purchased the building and property in 1903. To commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Martyrdom in 1994, the jail was restored to its appearance at the time of Joseph and Hyrum’s death.”



Willard Richards  1840–1854 

Willard Richards, an eyewitness of the assassination of the Smith brothers, wrote these words the same day: “A shower of musket balls were thrown up the stairway against the door of the prison in the second story, followed by many rapid footsteps. . . .


“A ball was sent through the door which hit Hyrum on the side of his nose, when he fell backwards, extended at length, without moving his feet. . . .


“Joseph attempted, as the last resort, to leap the . . . window, . . . when two balls pierced him from the door, and one entered his right breast from without, and he feel outward, exclaiming, ‘Oh Lord, my God!’


As his feet went out of the window my head went in, the balls whistling all around. He fell on his left side a dead man.”


What an incredible experience touring this place was.

From there we began driving east…almost home!


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