Nauvoo, Illinois ~ Restoration
In 1839, the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith, led his followers to the site and renamed the area Nauvoo [which means "beautiful place" in Hebrew.] Religious persecution raged and the Mormons were driven out of Nauvoo [where they began their famous trek to the Salt Lake City valley.] In the mid-1900s, the descendents of the early Mormons settlers of Nauvoo returned. With determination they set themselves on a mission to restore the homes and shops of their ancestors to their former glory. ("Mormons" ~ a slang term for "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.")
Historic Nauvoo now has over 30 restored sites. These sites are free to the public and open all year. Besides fascinating historic craft demonstrations held at many of the sites, you can also visit the Joseph Smith Historic Center and see the Historic Temple Square Gardens where the magnificent Nauvoo Temple now stands once again. It has recently been rebuilt having lain in ruin for over 150 years after its destruction by anti-Mormons, who sought to force all the Mormons from Illinois.
We will return to Nauvoo in the future, to enjoy more of the treasures of history that are being restored. Sites owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, have guides and volunteers trained to teach and answer questions about our pioneer ancestors who survived the hardships of everyday life in 1800s.
The Post Office in the restored section was fasincating. The guide told us that postal rates were very high. Often the charge was not paid by the sender but the reciever of the letter. There was no return address on the letter so the receiver could not tell who sent the letter and would have to determine whether he wanted to pay such a high postage. The prophet Joseph Smith often paid for his letters and enjoyed hearing from his relatives back east. However, when he started receiving criticism from anti-mormons, he stopped paying for letters, saying he was not going to pay to be insulted.
Since letters were charged by the number of pages as well as the distance the letter had to go, many persons wrote in a style known as "cross-writing" [picture at right] where they would write their letter in the normal fashion and when the page was completed they would turn the page and write over the previous writing. It looked confusing but the guide assured us that it was readable and was often used because of the savings of postage.
Letters could be paid for by the person sending the letter or the person receiving the letter. If it was paid upfront, there was no guarantee it would be delivered. If the recipient was to pay for the letter the postman would deliver it in anticipation of getting paid. However the recipient could choose if they wanted to pay for the letter it or choose to not receive the letter. One letter they always paid for was the one where the envelope was outlined in black. Black outline on the address portion of a letter meant it contained a death notice of a family member or close friend.
In the Print Shop we learned how hard and how long it took to create even a small newspaper. It is easy to understand why they only had weekly papers. In often took about 18 hours to set the type for one page and days to print one side. They rolled the ink on the press and printed the page. After printing one side they had to hang the papers to let the them dry so they could print the other side. It took very dedicated workers to run a print shop in the 1850s. The terms "upper case and lower case" used in schools for capital letters and small letters originated in print shops. The capital and small letters were stored in the upper case and lower case.
A stop at the Gun Shop proved to be an interesting account of Browning, the designer of many guns in the 1850s. The guide talked about the size of his family which was hard to believe considering the small size of his house. Browning had an interest in hearing Joseph Smith, the prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which led him and his family to Nauvoo, where they settled and ran a very successful business.
Out time was limited, so we will need to return to Nauvoo and finish our visit. I look forward to checking out more of the historic houses and listening to the guides as they share with us the real-life experiences and hardships of the people of Nauvoo past.
Visit Nauvoo - "The City Beautiful" - a step back in time.
Have fun in your own backyard!
CEO of ComPortOne
Nauvoo Illinois Temple Open House
A brief history of Nauvoo
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