Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Since Mom got outvoted on the Hawaii trip we all figured it would only be fair to do Nauvoo on the next big vacation. I was actually quite excited to see Nauvoo since there is so much church history there. And there is also a lot of Leavitt history there as well.

Once again I used air mile points and we all flew into St Louis. When I say "we all" that means everyone except for Kira and Ben who was now on his mission and Brandon was home. It was great to see St Louis but I would recommend to anyone else who is wanting to see Nauvoo to fly into Kansas City since we ended up driving out to Independence anyway since there is so much church history there. We could have saved a day but we did ride up to the top of the St Louis arch and that was pretty cool. From St Louis we drove up to Nauvoo which took several hours and found our bed and breakfast. We thought it would be real cool to stay in an authentic old home that was actually built during Nauvoo's glory years. It turned out to be a beautiful home with some very friendly proprietors. It was perfect for our family, we took two rooms, one for us and one for the kids. Our timing to go to Nauvoo was also perfect because Lisa's young womans teacher was on a mission in Nauvoo with her husband and we got the VIP tour of just about anything we wanted. Elaine and Doug Streibel lived in a restored home right in downtown Nauvoo. They have rebuild several of the key buildings in Nauvoo and you can go and tour most of them. Some like Elaines are actually lived in and are not open for touring. Some of my favorite tourist attractions are the blacksmith shop, the brick factory and the Browning gun factory. In the brick factory they actually let you make little souvenir bricks. They were limiting them to one brick per family and they made them for you but since we had connections, we were each able to make one and we made them ourselves. It was quite fascinating and we inscribed our names on them before they were fired. Some other historical sites are the red brick store and the Lion House.

When the Mormons first settled into the area Nauvoo was mostly a swamp and very infested with mosquitoes and other nasty critters. The early saints realized that the water feeding the swamp was all coming from natural springs on the side of the hill so they dug a ditch across the face of the hill and drained the water into the Mississippi before it could get to the swamp. The picture of Alex and Sarah standing in what looks like a creek bed is the ditch that they dug. The stone bridge is the same creek. We spent a few days in Nauvoo going on wagon rides, watching pageants and taking other tours but then we made a trip out to Independence Missouri.

Independence is where the Mormons tried to settle before they went to Nauvoo. They started up a printing press, build many beautiful homes and farms and actually dedicated two sites for temples. Unfortunately the rapid growth scared the neighbours and eventually the governor of Missouri decreed that Mormons were a threat to society and passed a law making it legal to shoot a Mormon on sight. After several murders and rapes and at least one massacre where an entire town was wiped out (men, women and children) the Mormons packed up and left. As the Mormons were leaving the state Joseph Smith was being held in the liberty jail. What an ironic name for a jail. He was held there for an entire winter in very harsh conditions. The jail has been reconstructed and is open for tours. It was a solemn experience as we visited there.

On our drive out to Independence we headed through Amish country. The Amish don't believe in any modern technology and they only use horse drawn buggies and they don't use any electricity. It is odd how they do make exceptions for some things like refrigerators and lights in their stores though. We stopped and bought some "wholesome" Amish food. We all got sick. I'm not sure if our systems weren't used to good wholesome food or if we got food poisoning. We scheduled our visit to Carthage for the end of our visit. Once again Joseph Smith was in jail on false trumped up charges. The jail was actually in the upstairs of the jailers home. The jailer knew they were innocent people and let them out of their cells during the hot summer days. They were staying in an upstairs bedroom when a mob stormed the jail house and burst into the bedroom and shot everyone they saw. Joseph and his brother Hyrum Smith were killed, Willard Richards was shot several times but recovered. One bullet that would have certainly killed him was stopped by his pocket watch. John Taylor was shoved behind the door when it was thrust open and was completely unharmed. If you look at the picture of the jail you can see a well and behind the well are two windows. The upstairs window is the bedroom where the shooting happened. Joseph attempted to jump from the window but in doing so he was shot both from behind in the bedroom and from outside. He fell through the window landing near the well.

One of Joseph Smiths last wishes was for John Taylor to sing the hymn, "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief". We all sat in the room and listened to a recording of the hymn being sung. It was a very special moment for all of us and left everyone who was there quite changed.

While we were in Nauvoo we tried to find where the Leavitts lived. All of the old records are available for study and we found that the Leavitts owned a farm east of Nauvoo where they were building a home, they rented land west of Nauvoo and they also rented a home in town. We think we found all three places but since they are nothing but corn fields right now we can't be entirely sure. Lisa's ancestor also lived in Nauvoo and we think we know where he lived. Frederick Kesler married a Pratt and so Lisa and the kids are descended from Anson Pratt and we certainly found where he lived. The Pratts were quite prominent.

So that was our visit to Nauvoo. It was very different than our trip to Hawaii and truly left us changed people. It almost makes me want to move there and settle on the ground where my ancestors lived. In fact I over heard a couple of obviously non-Mormon locals talking and the one guy was complaining to his neighbour how the Mormons are taking over Nauvoo. After what I saw I think he may be correct. Hey, worse things could happen. Mormons make good neighbours.

The kids are making candles.

Taking a break

Alycia and Alex swing dancing in the upstairs hall of the Masonic Lodge. Joseph Smith drew a map with chalk on this floor for Brigham Young. He had seen in a vision the way to the Salt Lake Valley and he was showing Brigham which way he should go.

Brandon is proposing to this woman. She seems quite cold to me.

There were several statues in this area and the kids were copying many of them.

Brandon is preaching Hell Fire and Damnation. I think this is the Seventies Hall.

Along the road through town that leads to the Mississippi river are several signs quoting different pioneers. This is a quote from my ancestor Sarah Leavitt referring to the death of her husband. The road is often referred to as the "trail of tears" because the Saints all passed along this road as they were being driven out of town. We called it the "trail of sweat" because the entire week we were there was very hot.

The kids with Adam-ondi-Ahman in the background.

Liberty Jail

The sight for the New Jerusalem Temple.

A plaque commemorating the printing press used by W W Phelps in Independence. This plaque was in one of the sidewalks in Independence.

The home where we stayed.


Lisa L said...

That was an amazing trip minus the heat and humidity! We also ran into some people we knew. A kid from our ward serving a mission and a someone who was a dear friend in Rosemary that I worked with in the primary presidency and Fred worked with her son in scouts - Eileen Barton. I wouldn't have recognized her but she recognized me at the pageant. Also, the pageant we went to was the first summer of the new one. It was AMAZING!!!

Brandon J. Leavitt said...

Willard Richards was the one shoved behind the door and John Taylor was the one shot four times and saved by his pocket watch. Holy cow I was emaciated back then. I knew I was skinny coming home from the mission but wow!

Justin, Kira and Evan said...

it seems to me that I am the one left out of the big family vacations.

Did you know a bullet went right through the ear of Willard Richards?

Justin, Kira and Evan said...

oh and Willard Richards was given a blessing that said not a stitch of his clothing would be harmed (which makes the ear thing pretty cool. When he was hit he went down and hid under the mattress.

Fred ... said...

We also met a couple from Belgium who knew Marleen Sassenus. Alycia overheard a couple speaking what she thought was Dutch so she called me over and sure enough, it was a couple from Antwerpen.

Lynn said...

My parents have been there. My sister and her husband have been there. My Uncle Gene and Aunt Lorraine Boehme have just recently returned from a mission there.....

I REALLY REALLY want to go there someday.

Great post!

Lisa L said...

You know Brandon, that's how I remembered it to but wasn't up to looking it up last night. Glad you remembered and corrected Dad. He'll need to fix that. You were very skinny when you came home!!

Lisa L said...

Kira, we went on some pretty great trips when you were still at home. As far as I'm concerned some of our skiing trips in Utah, our trip to Yellowstone & river rafting down the Teton's, our trip to Zion's & Bryce, Shushwap Lake and some of our other road trips have been as exciting and fun. And some of you got to go on trips in high school & college without us :)

Trevor and Alycia Crowley said...

LOVED this trip... didn't love the miserable heat there though. Haha some of those pictures brought back some great memories. We look SO little.

Brandon J. Leavitt said...

you know, come to think of it, I really don't even remember sweating on that trip. I do however remember wearing a sweater.

Lisa L said...

Brandon, I remember you saying "Oh this is nothing! It's not hot and humid compared to my mission." We were all dying and you were thinking it was rather nice. I doubt that would happen anymore :) You've climatized!

Trevor and Alycia Crowley said...

What I love about the Willard Richards thing is he got that blessing because he told Joseph Smith how scared he was. Isn't sweet god cared enough to make him feel comfortable and safe during that time? Which come on, how could you NOT be scared?

Carole's Blog said...

Our family spent three days in Nauvoo in the summer of 2004. Your blog brings back fond memories.