Nauvoo, Illinois

From Academic Kids

Template:NPOV Nauvoo (נָאווּ "to be beautiful", Sephardi Hebrew Nvu, Tiberian Hebrew Nw) is a city located in Hancock County, Illinois. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 1,063. The city was founded by Joseph Smith, Jr., also the founder of the Latter-day Saint movement, and named by him from the Sephardi Hebrew language with an anglicized spelling.



Nauvoo is located at 40°32'40" North, 91°22'49" West (40.544567, -91.380317)Template:GR.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 12.5 km² (4.8 mi²). 8.8 km² (3.4 mi²) of it is land and 3.7 km² (1.4 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 29.88% water.


Commerce City

Hancock County was created in 1825 and organized in 1829, eleven years after Illinois became a state. In 1834, absentee investors A. White and J. B. Teas platted the town of Commerce on a bend of the Mississippi River in Hancock County, some fifty-three miles north of Quincy (Linn, p 219). By 1839, the town had failed to attract settlers and only a few frame houses had been built.

Nauvoo founded by the Latter Day Saints

In early 1839, Latter Day Saints were fleeing Missouri as a result of the 1838 Mormon War. They regrouped in Quincy, whose non-Mormon citizens opened their homes to the refugees. Joseph Smith, Jr., president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, remained imprisoned in Missouri, but his chief counselor in the First Presidency, Sidney Rigdon, had been released and had rejoined the main body of the church in Quincy. A land agent named Isaac Galland, approached Rigdon and offered church leaders title to land in Hancock County and additional land across the river in the Iowa Territory's Lee County. Church leaders purchased this land as well as the mostly vacant Commerce plat in 1839, and Latter Day Saints began to settle the area immediately (Flanders, p. 32).

Smith and other leaders escaped from prison in Missouri and rejoined the Latter Day Saints in Commerce by May of 1839. He renamed the town "Nauvoo" which he translated to mean "beautiful location," but the site was, at first, an undeveloped swamp. Epidemics of cholera, malaria and typhoid took their toll on the struggling Mormons (Brooks, pp. 47-48).

Building up the city

image:Nauvoo, Illinois daguerreotype (1846).jpg
Daguerreotype of the city in 1846 at the time of the Mormon exodus (LDS Church Archives).
In the spring of 1840, John C. Bennett, the Quarter Master General of the Illinois State Militia converted to Mormonism and became Joseph Smith's closest friend and confident. Bennett's experience with Illinois' government allowed him to help Smith craft a city charter for Nauvoo. Based closely on the Springfield, Illinois charter, the document gave the city a number of important powers, including the establishment of municipal court, a university, and an independent militia unit. At the time, the Illinois state government was closely balanced between members of the Democratic party and members of the Whig party. Both hoped to attract Mormon votes and both were quick to vote the charter into effect. After the charter was passed, Bennett was elected Nauvoo's first mayor and Smith made Bennett a member of the church's First Presidency. A militia unit, named the "Nauvoo Legion" was established, and Smith and Bennett were made its commanding generals.

The city grew quickly as Mormons gathered to the area, and at its height Nauvoo's population, although smaller than contemporary Chicago's, was as large as Quincy's or Springfield's (Arrington and Bitton, p. 69). Many of the new converts came from the British Isles, as a result of a successful mission established there (Arrington and Bitton, p. 68). The church published two newspapers in the city, the Times and Seasons and the Nauvoo Wasp (later called the Nauvoo Neighbor). Although it mostly existed on paper, a University of Nauvoo was established, with Bennett as its Chancellor.

On April 6, 1841, the Nauvoo Legion drilled in a great parade to honor the laying of the cornerstone for a new temple and Sidney Rigdon gave the dedicatory speech. The foundation of the Nauvoo Temple was 83' x 128' and, when finished, its steeple rose to a height of over 100'. Church elder Alpheus Cutler was put in charge of the construction of the impressive stone edifice. Another church committee began construction of a large hotel on the city's Water Street, to be called the "Nauvoo House." John D. Lee was put in charge of constructing a meeting hall for the quorums of the Seventies.

In October of 1841, a Masonic Lodge was established in Nauvoo. George Miller, one of the church's Presiding Bishops, was made its "Worshipful Master" or leader. The lodge admitted far more members than was normal Masonic practice and quickly elevated church leaders to high roles.

Developments in the Church

At the time of Nauvoo's foundation, the church was led by a First Presidency, consisting of a Prophet and two Councillors. The Presiding High Council (known as the Nauvoo High Council), led by Nauvoo Stake President William Marks was next in authority, overseeing the church's legislative and judicial affairs. The church's "Travelling High Council" (or Quorum of the Twelve) led by President Brigham Young oversaw the church's missionary activities.

Joseph Smith, Jr. introduced and expanded a number of distinct practices while the Latter Day Saint church was headquartered in Nauvoo. These included Baptism for the dead, Rebaptism, the Nauvoo-era Endowment, and the ordinance of the Second Anointing. In addition, he created a new inner council of the church containing both men and women called the Anointed Quorum.

Although he denied it in public, Smith had been practicing plural marriage for some time, and in Nauvoo he began to teach other leaders the doctrine. Controversy arose because Smith's counselor in the First Presidency, John C. Bennett, began to practice plural marriage either too openly or incorrectly. Bennett was subsequently expelled from Nauvoo in the summer of 1842 and Smith himself became the city's second mayor. Bennett's fall led to the beginning of Brigham Young's rise among Smith's confidents. In the end, Young proved more loyal than Bennett, helping Smith promote the practice of plural marriage with greater discretion.

In March of 1844, Smith organized council whose members were sworn to secrecy, known as the "Council of the Kingdom" or the "Council of Fifty" (Quinn, p. 120). This council acclaimed Smith as "Prophet, Priest and King" of the "Kingdom" (Quinn, p. 124) a practice later immitated by Smith's competing successors Brigham Young and James J. Strang.

Conflicts with neighbors

Whenever Latter Day Saints gathered in numbers, they met with opposition from neighbors who feared that Mormon block-voting would led to theocracy. (In Nauvoo, Smith was not only President of the Church, he was Mayor, head of the municipal court, and general of the militia.) Non-Mormons in Hancock County, especially in the towns of Warsaw and Carthage, felt threatened by growing Mormon political power.

Throughout much of the Nauvoo period, officials from Missouri attempted to arrest Joseph Smith Jr., and extradite him on charges relating to the Mormon War. Whenever he was apprehended, Smith would routinely appeal to the Nauvoo Municipal Court, which would issue writs of habeas corpus and force his release. The court regularly did the same whenever non-Mormons tried to arrest Latter Day Saints on any charge, and Illinoians began to consider this a subversion of the judiciary.

Dissatisfaction with the theocracy also arose from within. In 1844, First Presidency member, William Law — an important merchant and counselor to Smith — broke with the church president over the issue of plural marriage. Law was excommunicated and founded a Reformed Mormon Church. He also established a newspaper named the Nauvoo Expositor which threatened to expose both the practice of plural marriage and Smith's title of "King" of the Council of Fifty. On June 10, Smith held a meeting of the city council which condemned the Expositor as "a public nuissance" and empowered him to order the press destroyed.

The destruction of the press was widely viewed as illegal and unconstitutional and non-Mormons throughout Illinois began to clamor for Smith's arrest. When he submitted to imprisonment in the county seat, Carthage, a mob attacked the jail and assassinated him.

The "Mormon War in Illinois" and the Mormon Exodus

After Smith's death, the conflict between Mormons and non-Mormons continued and escalated into was sometimes called the "Mormon War in Illinois." Opponents of the Mormons in Warsaw and Carthage began to agitate for the expulsion of the Latter Day Saints from Illinois. In October of 1844, a great gathering was announced in Warsaw. Although it was purported to be a "wolf hunt," it was known that the "wolves" to be hunted were the Mormons. When Governor Ford became aware of it, he sent militia troops to disperse the gathering. However, as he later recalled:

"The malcontents abandoned their design, and all the leaders of it fled to Missouri. The Carthage Greys fled almost in a body, carrying their arms along with them. During our stay in the county the anti-Mormons thronged into the camp and conversed freely with the men, who were fast infected with their prejudices, and it was impossible to get any of the officers to aid in expelling them" (Ford, p. 365).

Vigilante bands continued to roam the county, forcing Latter Day Saints in outlying areas to abandon their homes and gather to Nauvoo for protection.

When the Illinois state legislature met in December of 1844, there was great support for the repeal of the Nauvoo Charter. Governor Ford conceded that the charter's privileges had been "much abused" by the Mormons, but he urged that the legislature merely amend the document, saying "I do not see how ten or twelve thousand people can do well in a city without some chartered privileges" (Flanders, p. 324). However, on January 29, 1845, the repeal was overwhelming passed by a vote of 25-14 in the Senate and 75-31 in the House.

After its disincorporation, Nauvoo was forced to operate extralegally. The forms of civil institutions were eroded or dissolved and the church operated as the government. Brigham Young, who gained control of Nauvoo after a succession crisis, established what were known as "whittling and whistling brigades." These vigilante were made up of Mormon men and boys who "whistled" while "whittling" with large knives that they held close to any non-Mormons who dared enter Nauvoo. According to one witness:

"The process of whittling out an officer was as follows: A great tall man by the name of [Hosea] Stout was the captain of the Whittling society, and he had about a dozen assistants. They all had great bowie knives and would get a long piece of pine board and get up close to the officer and pretend to be cutting the pine board, but would cut over it and cut near the officer. In the meantime, small boys would get tin pans, old bells and all sorts of things to make a noise with and surround the officer. No one would touch or say a word to him, but the noise drowned all that he would say" (Hallwas and Launius, pp. 54-55).

By the end of 1845 it became clear that no peace was possible, and Mormon leaders negotiated a truce so that the Latter Day Saints could prepare to abandon the city. The winter of 1845-46 saw the enormous preparations for the Mormon Exodus across the Great Plains. In early 1846, the majority of the Latter Day Saints emptied the city. After the departure of the Mormons, their great temple stood empty until destroyed by arsonists on November 19, 1848.

On April 1, 2004, the Illinois House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution of regret for the forced expulsion of the Mormons from Nauvoo in 1846.

Subsequent History

In 1849, Icarians moved in from Icaria, Texas attempting to implement a utopian socialist commune based on the ideals of French philosopher tienne Cabet.

Emma Hale Smith, Joseph's widow, continued to live in Nauvoo with her family after the departure of the majority of the Latter Day Saints. In 1860, their son, Joseph Smith III claimed to receive a revelation to take his place as Prophet/President of a New Organization of the Latter Day Saint church. He continued to live in Nauvoo, which functioned as headquarters of this church (now known as the Community of Christ) until 1865.

Nauvoo Today

The Community of Christ still owns and maintains historic sites in Nauvoo, including the homes of Joseph Smith Jr., his store, and the Nauvoo House.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also owns a number of historic sites in Nauvoo, including the homes of Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball. In June 2002, on the site of the original temple, this church completed construction of a new temple, whose exterior is a replica of the original.


As of the censusTemplate:GR of 2000, there are 1,063 people, 403 households, and 276 families residing in the city. The population density is 121.4/km² (314.4/mi²). There are 458 housing units at an average density of 52.3/km² (135.4/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 97.08% White, 0.28% African American, 0.47% Native American, 0.19% Asian, 0.00% Pacific Islander, 0.94% from other races, and 1.03% from two or more races. 1.60% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 403 households out of which 28.0% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.3% are married couples living together, 6.9% have a female householder with no husband present and 31.3% are non-families. 28.5% of all households are made up of individuals and 16.4% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.46 and the average family size is 3.04.

In the city the population is spread out with 24.6% under the age of 18, 6.5% from 18 to 24, 21.9% from 25 to 44, 24.0% from 45 to 64, and 23.0% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 43 years. For every 100 females there are 88.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 79.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $39,519, and the median income for a family is $49,167. Males have a median income of $37,895 versus $24,250 for females. The per capita income for the city is $18,150. 12.8% of the population and 5.6% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 16.2% of those under the age of 18 and 18.2% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.


  • Arrington, Leonard J. and Davis Bitton, The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints, Urbana, Illinois, University of Illinois Press, 1992.
  • Brooks, Juanita, John Doyle Lee, Zealot, Pioneer, Builder, Scapegoat, Glendale, California, 1962.
  • Flanders, Robert Bruce, Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi, Urbana, Illinois, University of Illinois Press, 1965.
  • Ford, Thomas, A History of Illinois: From Its Commencement as a State in 1818 to 1847, 1860, (reprint University of Illinois Press, 1995).
  • Hallwas, John F. and Roger D. Launius, Cultures in Conflict, A Documentary History of the Mormon War in Illinois, Logan, Utah, Utah State University Press, 1995.
  • Linn, William A., The Story of the Mormons: From The Date of their Origin to the Year 1901, Macmillan, New York, 1902.
  • Quinn, D. Michael, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1994.

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