Nauvoo, IL, has fewer than 1,200 citizens now, but in the 1840s its population was 12,000 and it rivaled Chicago as one of the biggest towns in Illinois. The large size was due partly to being a river town, but mostly to an influx of Mormons led there by Joseph Smith. Smith’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, (LDS) left Missouri to escape conflict with the Missouri government, but soon had new problems in Illinois. And the problems grew as the town’s LDS population continued to grow, which happened due to vigorous recruiting of other Mormons along the East Coast and in England. The recruiting pitch was that Nauvoo would be a place where they could practice their religion in peace, but that was not to be. Ultimately Smith was killed, and the local LDS population emigrated to Utah.
I learned of the town and its history only a few days before landing there myself, as part of my scouting ahead routine. My interest lay in the town’s many old buildings, not its religious history, but the two are entwined. The town’s large size many years ago left a relative abundance of old buildings, and the church’s patronage keeps many in good shape. During a month in summer, the LDS faithful flock to Nauvoo from all over to celebrate their heritage via plays and events, and I landed there smack dab in the middle of it all. Party!
Here are pics of things that caught my eye that week. Not pictured are the many LDS families I saw in my wanderings. The term ‘wholesome’ is the word that best describes them – good looking people, many with large families and also a strong sense of family. Visited with more than a few, and found them very warm, engaging, and quick to proselytize – in a gentle, if persistent, manner. Their overtures did not sway me, but neither did they offend. I loved the town’s charm and the energy of all the people there celebrating their heritage. The original temple, built ca. 1840, cost $1,000,000, but was burned to the ground by irate locals when still only a few years old. The new temple, built about 10 years ago, is as much a replica as was possible: same dimensions, stones from the same quarry, same type wood in the doors and windows, etc. Only LDS members are allowed inside.
Neighboring family at the camp, kept me entertained one evening playing board games. Grandma and Grandpa stayed in town at a cushy Bed & Breakfast, while their kids and grandkids roughed it at the campsite. It rained a lot the first few days, and when it wasn’t raining it was sunny, hot and humid. The mosquitoes were happy. The campground had lots of acreage mature trees, tent camping, cabins, and RV pads. The hosts, Penny and Tim, are accommodating and have worked hard the last few years to spruce the place up. Two thumbs up. Reserve a spot at Camp Nauvoo.
This lodge, with a large kitchen/dining area downstairs and meeting room up. The latter part of my stay, after the teenagers left, I had free rein of the lodge and in the evenings heated up my dinner in the industrial kitchen then went upstairs to use the wifi. My office was the far corner, by the window.