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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Winter Vist to Nauvoo Illinois

Nauvoo Temple
In mid-January we had a long weekend for Presidents Day.  We deliberated and discussed about what we wanted to do for it. We ended with 2 options- southwestern Missouri, or Nauvoo, Illinois.  Heading south was appealing since it might be a little bit warmer, but Nauvoo also had a lot going for it since there's lots of things to see and it's pretty kid friendly.  We checked the weather report and saw that the temperature difference was only 2-3 degrees for the weekend and decided to head east to Nauvoo.  
Petting the horses after a wagon ride
We had a great time.  If you plan it right and have a warm weekend, visiting Nauvoo in the winter has a lot of benefits.  There's lots to do, you can be inside or outside, and there's not the crowds that are here in the summer.  It makes a perfect recipe for a getaway to what's been called the "Williamsburg of the Midwest". 
Rope making demonstration
Nauvoo was settled by the Mormons in 1839, saw rapid expansion as converts to the church gathered to the area, then just as rapidly was abandoned as Brigham Young led the saints west to the Salt Lake Valley.  In its heyday, Nauvoo was over 12,000 people and rivaled Chicago as the largest city in Illinois.  Today its population is  less than 2000 people.  The city largely remained abandoned until Nauvoo Restoration Inc., a combined effort between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now Community of Christ church), began the restoration efforts to restore the historic city and open the area for visitors.  Now over 40 historic homes and businesses have been restored and are open for tours daily. 

An old cemetery near the Mississippi River
We had 2 1/2 days at Nauvoo and even though the town was quiet and there wasn't any waiting we didn't even come close to seeing it all. 
A blacksmith working at the Webb Blacksmith Shop
The kids had a blast on a wagon ride (and petting the horses afterward), watching the blacksmith presentation (they fought over the small horseshoe we got), seeing the brick makers make bricks (another disagreement about who got to keep the brick), walking around the Nauvoo Temple, visiting the Scoville Bakery (cookies for all!), and many other things. 
The frozen Mississippi River
The historic part of town is down near the river, with the newer part of town located up on the hill.  It seems like the town rolls up in the winter. We'd have liked to get some fudge, browse through a bookstore, etc but everything was closed. 
One of the tours that I really liked was the home & business of John Moses Browning, the gunsmith of Browning Firearms fame, and father to a line of famous gunsmiths.  I learned about how John Moses Browning was born in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, learned the art of gunsmithing, then converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and moved to Nauvoo.  After a few years in Nauvoo, he headed west with the saints and settled in Ogden Utah.  (There's a Browning gun museum in Ogden that's worthy of visiting.)
Holiness to the Lord inscribed on the stock of a Browning Rifle
There were several historic firearms, including an original rifle, and a "harmonica repeating rifle", one of the first repeating rifles ever produced.  He'd inscribe "Holiness to the Lord" on every rifle he built- a reminder that freedom and religion take determination to defend. 
Browning Gunsmith Shop
The inside of the shop was interesting.  We learned how they'd take a bar of steel, heat it in the forge, then pound it into a cylinder to make the barrel.  The rifling, twists in the barrel that make the bullet travel straight, took 200 pushes & pulls on a scribe tool for each one.  Each gun had seven of the riflings.  There's a whole lot more, but you'll have to visit to learn it!   

The Nauvoo Temple Quarry
Another place high on my list of places to visit was the Nauvoo Temple Quarry.  It's on the north end of town, right along the Mississippi River.  The quarry is flooded because of the dam at Keokuk that raised the river level about 30 feet. 
Joseph Smith's headstone
One last place we stopped was the Smith Family Cemetery.  Joseph Smith Jr., Emma Smith, Hyrum Smith, Joseph Smith Sr., Lucy Mack Smith, and several others were buried there. 
Nearest City: Nauvoo, Illinois
Location: N° W°
Time Needed: Several hours to several days
Difficulty: easy
Kid Friendly: yes
Additional Info: Website for Historic Nauvoo.  This website has all of the information you need collected into one easy place to find it. 

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