Why to visit Historic Nauvoo in the Winter
The Historic city of Nauvoo, Illinois has a special place in my heart. Going there is like taking a trip backwards in time. The whole city has been recreated to look just as it did in the 1800s. It’s so neat to go visit. And it’s so awesome that the tourist attractions are free to the public.
We went in between Christmas and New Years, in the middle of an ice storm, and there was hardly anybody there. The missionaries who run it were thrilled to see us, and we had most of the locations all to ourselves. Summer is their peak time and have more concerts and plays going on, but you also have to wade through heavy crowds.
We started at the visitor center so we could get a map and get oriented. There are wonderful movies and displays about the history of the town in there. There are about 45 different little places you can stop and go to. Our favorites were the Brickyard, Bakery, Family Living Center, Gunsmith, Joseph and Hyrum Smith Memorial, Nauvoo Temple, Cultural Hall, Smith Family Cemetery and the Lyon Drug and Variety Store.
At each little location they dress in period clothing and give you demonstrations about what happened at that place. For example, we got to see how bricks were made at the brickyard. They even gave us one to bring home! The boys loved pounding horseshoes at the gunsmith, and my girls enjoyed making bread, rope and rugs at the Family Living Center.
We also went on a carriage ride around the town that was really fun. It was freezing cold, but they piled blankets all over us and drove us around in the snow and ice. It gave me such an appreciation for the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were driven out of that little city because of their religious beliefs, in the middle of a freezing winter. My kids were crying because they were cold just running from our hotel just a few steps to our car. I can’t imagine taking my family and very few belongings and walking to an unknown frontier in that weather.
Here is an excerpt from an address given by Joseph B. Wirthlin entitled, “Faith of Our Fathers”, about the pioneer’s experience leaving Nauvoo:
One of the more difficult hardships endured by many of the sisters was delivering their babies under harsh, extreme conditions along the trail. Eliza R. Snow wrote that as the pioneers “journeyed onward, mothers gave birth to offspring under almost every variety of circumstances imaginable, except those to which they had been accustomed; some in tents, others in wagons—in rainstorms and in snowstorms.” Sister Snow went on to record in her journal that she “heard of one birth which occurred under the rude shelter of a hut, the sides of which were formed of blankets fastened to poles stuck in the ground, with a bark roof through which the rain was dripping. Kind sisters stood holding dishes to catch the water …, thus protecting the [little one] and its mother from a shower-bath [on its entrance to] the stage of human life.”
Can you even imagine?? I can barely wrap my head around it. It makes me so grateful for the freedoms and comforts I have in my life.
We also took a little drive to Carthage Jail where Joseph and Hyrum Smith were martyred. It was around 30 minutes to get there, but it was so worth the trip. There was a very powerful feeling at that place.
Another reason Nauvoo is special to me, is because I have ancestors who lived there. I loved being able to bring my kids back somewhere fun where they not only learned about how America looked in the 1800s, but where they can learn about their family history as well. I hope you will all go. It truly is amazing and such a great place to go on a family vacation.