by George W. Givens

Consisting of Becky Porter's selected excerpts from the book

The new year 1843 saw the arrival of a young non-Mormon in Nauvoo named Charlotte Haven. From her journals and letters to relatives in the East we find much information to life in general in Nauvoo during this time.

22 January 1843 she writes a letter to her relatives in New England where she estimates that the population of Nauvoo "is now fourteen thousand, and when the river opens in the spring there will be a larger increase...(the) city is spread over an area of 6 or 8 miles. Inhabitants seem scattered." In fact, trips were actually made by steamboat from the southern part of the city to the northern part and back. The Prophet Joseph writes in his journal in 1843: "At six p.m. went with my family and about one hundred others on a pleasure excursion on the Maid of Iowa, from the Nauvoo House landing to the North part of the city, and returned at dusk."

Jacob Scott, who was a convert from Canada, wrote in March 1843: "I think there are more than one hundred handsome brick houses in Nauvoo now.... Perhaps there is not any other city on this globe improving as fast as Nauvoo. It is supposed that there are at present ten to twelve thousand inhabitants in the city alone, and the country around it and Montrose is swarming with the Saints.... It is supposed that there is at present two thousand from England, Scotland, Wales and the Isle of Man waiting between New Orleans and this place until navigation opens, and two thousand more are expected out next spring and summer from the same places." p. 9

John Needham, another convert, wrote a letter to his relatives in 1843 and described to them his impression of the city Nauvoo when he first saw it, "When within five or six miles of this place, we heard the agreeable cry, 'Nauvoo to be seen,' the long-looked-for place; every eye was stretched toward the place, as you may be sure our eyes gazed with delight, but astonishment, to see the great extent of it. The city seemed to rise gradually from the sea, with the houses much scattered, but over a great extent of ground; it has without any mistake, more so than any place we had seen before, a grand appearance. It looked very pretty from the river.... The extent of the city is four miles, laid out in lots and streets in nice order." p,10

A Methodist minister visiting Nauvoo in the spring of 1843, Reverend Samuel Prior, wrote, "At length the city burst upon my sight, and how sadly was I disappointed. Instead of seeing a few miserable log cabins and mud hovels, which I had expected to find, I was surprised to see one of the most romantic places that I have visited in the West. The buildings, though many of them were small and of wood, yet bore the marks of neatness which I have not seen equalled in this country.... I was almost willing to believe myself mistaken; and instead of being in Nauvoo of Illinois among the Mormons, that I was in Italy at the city of Leghorn, (which the location of Nauvoo resembles very much) ... the inhabitants ... in two or three short years rescued it from a dreary waste to transform it into one of the first cities in the west." p. 10

It was reported by a newspaper editor from Warsaw, Illinois that at its peak Nauvoo consisted of "1200 hand-hewn log cabins, most of them white-washed inside, 200 to 300 good substantial brick houses and 300 to 500 frame houses." p. 11

An estimate made by Joseph Smith in his journal in the fall of 1843 states that the city of Nauvoo "now contains near 3500 houses, and more than 15,000 inhabitants." p.12

At about this same time in the fall of 1843 a non-Mormon visitor to Nauvoo had an article published in the Neighbor on 20 September which told of his findings: "A quick drive of a few hours brought us through the eastern portion of the city of Nauvoo, to a very eminent situation on the bluff, at which place a magnificent stone building was in progress of erection; which we at once pronounced the Temple. The majestic Mississippi showed its broad waters and numerous islands, for miles. The far-famed Iowas presented itself beyond in view like a beautiful landscape. The sight is delightful, from a gradual descent of about a mile to the river, and there on either hand, up and down, may be seen with one glance of the eye; covered with buildings of almost every description, from the humble cot to the stately mansion; harmoniously intermingled; all seemed hustle, life and business.... Several days were very satisfactorily spent in visiting each portion of the city, and to say truth, such another scene of industry, enterprise and good order in society I never before witnessed.... Apparently peaceful with their neighbors, of good morals and industrious; turning the broad prairie into fertile fields, and making an extensive market in the most fertile part of the state." This glowing report was signed merely 'J.E.' in the Neighbor and was one of the last friendly descriptions by visitors to Nauvoo." p. 13

All during the final months of preparation for the exodus from Nauvoo, the city experienced its most rapid growth. Because of the burnings and wolf hunts in the outlying settlements, families arrived every day seeking the protection of the city and the Nauvoo legion. They had to hurriedly build shanties to live in. Then the first wagons began rolling toward the river in February 1846. All during the spring and summer of that year the sounds heard most were the sounds of wagon wheels. p.16

By October 1846 most of the city was silent, except for a number who had remained behind who were either too poor or who were too sick to travel. Some homes remained occupied even after the body of the Saints had left by those who decided to remain in Nauvoo altogether.

The Prophet Joseph wrote in his journal dated 1 March 1843 that: "The Mississippi froze up on the 19th of November last, and still continues so. Wagons and teams constantly pass over on the ice to Montrose." p. 33

Then in the spring the ice started to break up and "Navigation is open, and steamboats are almost continually plying up and down our majestic river. They have already brought several families of emigrants to this place." p,33

Charlotte Haven, a non-Mormon then living in Nauvoo, wrote her relatives in May 1843, "The Mississippi has at last broken its icy bonds and flows majestically onward...." p.33

Before 1840 there were two or three ships from the British Isles that carried emigrants to Nauvoo but they went by boat up the St. Lawrence River or out the Erie Canal and then took a steamer along the southern shore of Lake Erie, making the last part of their journey overland. p. 34

The second major route was by wagon across the Appalachian Mountains to the Ohio River, down the Ohio to the Mississippi, and then up that river to Nauvoo. At least three ships carrying Mormon immigrants docked in New York and used this route. p.34

After 1840, however, larger numbers of immigrants used the third route, which took the incoming Saints directly from the British Isles to New Orleans and then up the Mississippi by steamboat to Nauvoo. During Nauvoo's existence, 25 ships sailed from Liverpool to New Orleans with converts bound for Nauvoo. p. 34

Travel on these boats up the Mississippi were not exactly pleasure cruises. When traveling on the poor deck as most of the emigrants did, there was not much opportunity to bathe or have much privacy. Sleeping quarters were shared, passengers provided their own food which they had purchased along the way when the boat stopped, bedding was carried and stowed during the day, and more often than not wore the same clothing for the trip up the river. Deck passage was about 1/3 that of cabin fare. In 1842 cabin fare from New Orleans to St. Louis was $25.00 whereas deck passage was only $8.00. Passage from St. Louis to Nauvoo was an additional $2-3. p.36-37

Most of the emigrants didn't realize that the most hazardous and dangerous part of their journey would be the river trip. Snags in the river, fog, other ships coming down, sand bars, explosions caused many accidents and deaths. Many ships sank during 1842-1843 because of these things.

Another hazard to the steamboats traveling the River were the lower rapids, which extended for fifteen miles from Nauvoo south to Keokuk. Passage needed to be made through the rapids when the water was relatively calm from winds or storm, p.38

The 13 September 1843 issue of the Neighbor reported that the New Haven, Connecticut Herald noted that 4 or 5 steamboats docked each day at the city of Nauvoo. Nauvoo had become one of the busiest ports along the river at this time. In fact there were two landings because of the traffic. One was at the Nauvoo House on the south end of Main Street, and the other was at the end of Granger Street at the north end of town. The busiest one was the first mentioned. This landing was the one that most emigrants arriving from New Orleans first set foot at Nauvoo. p.39

In 1845 it took a steamer 36 hours to come from St. Louis. On the 30 March 1842, Elder William Clayton wrote in his journal, "About 5 o'clock the boat was seen coming up the river, the whole deck crowded with Saints. I went to the landing place along with Elder John Taylor, his wife and others.... There were not less than from two to three thousand Saints on the shore, anxiously interested in the scene. Many were there who wanted to give the strangers (yet brothers) a hearty welcome; ... others waiting to ascertain if any former acquaintances were in the company ... and many, whose hearts throbbed with joy, and their eyes wept tears, expecting to see their mothers, their fathers, their children, and other relatives.... While all this hustle was going on on shore, the boat was now within 300 yards, coming directly for the shore; the confusion was so great I could but faintly hear those on the boat singing a hymn (I believe, "The Latter-day Glory".) p.40

The citizens of Nauvoo were able to provide for their own needs because of the land they had to utilize around it. There was no need to clear the land as they needed to do in Palmyra, the open prairie just needed to be plowed and readied for planting. This was usually not done in one year but the ground was broken first and then the next spring crops were planted. Witnesses refer to the Indian summer in Nauvoo as being smoky and hazy because of the fires that were started to clear the land for plowing sometimes covering thousands of square miles. Charlotte Haven wrote in a letter 5 March 1843, "We are having beautiful sunsets these days, and from our parlor window we have an extensive western view; and later on in the night the heavens are all aglow with light from the prairie fires. Between the river and the Iowa bluffs eight or ten miles west, ten to twenty fires are started burning the refuse grass and straw preparatory to putting in spring crops. Often I sit up a long time after going to my room, watching these long lines of fire as they seem to meet all along the horizon." p.56

The main cost of establishing a farm near Nauvoo wasn't in the cash outlays, but in the labor involved. This was an advantage for the impoverished saints who came. They used the materials at hand mostly and their wit and muscle. Fences improved and upgraded the value of the land so much time was spent in fencing their ground. p.6O

Horses weren't the principal work animal on the farms at this time. Oxen were less expensive to feed, to purchase, and they were capable of hard repetitive work for long lengths of time. Another common animal on the prairie farm around Nauvoo was sheep. Mormons were finding them a profitable animal and by selective breeding one sheep could provide 3 pounds of fleece annually, making the farmer a handsome income with a minimum of labor involved. Vast numbers of sheep were imported into Illinois during this period. p. 61

It took 24 work days (10 hours labor per day) for a farmer in Nauvoo using the implements of the day to plow, seed, and harvest ten acres of wheat and 44 work days to plow, plant, cultivate, and harvest ten acres of corn. John Deere manufactured his first steel plow in l839 and Cyrus McCormick readied his reaper. They were too costly for the average Mormon farmer. p.63

The horse-powered threshing machine did find its way to Nauvoo, however, and was used by some from 1841 on. p.64 Their was a poor harvest in 1843 and with the mob harassment on the outlying farms in 1844, it created a food supply shortage for the people. In July 1844 the city council selected a special committee to solicit food donations for the needy, p. 65

Some of the different kinds of food that was raised in Nauvoo besides the grains were peaches, apples, and other fruit trees planted in groves so abundantly that not all the fruit could be dried and used. Some was given to the hogs. p.65

Sally Randall wrote a letter to her family in the East in 1843 and said, "It is very sickly here at present with fevers and fever and ague and measles, and a great many children die with them." Scores died with malaria every year during August and September, mostly children. In 1845 Warren Foote, a member living in Montebello, wrote in his journal: "It is very sickly throughout the country and many are dying. There are not well ones enough to take care of the sick." It was required to inform the Sexton about any deaths in the community and the names were listed in the paper. These lists show that between April 1842 and October 1845 there was an average of 5 deaths per week, or approximately 250 per year, p.113

The most frequent causes of death (especially children's) were fever and fever related illnesses. The ague and malaria was in this category. Influenza was called by different names but was deadly. One disease was especially prevalent throughout the entire Mississippi region, and was the shakes, ague, or fever. The sickly season extended from midsummer until autumn frosts.

Malaria caused violent chills and shaking. It was recurrent and could reappear at any time. In a large family someone was almost always showing signs of the sickness and shaking. The disease has been found to be associated with mosquitos which were very thick along the Mississippi but not then thought to be connected. p, 115

All parents, of course, feared disease which took the lives of their children. Many children were lost when young. Other types of things caused death, however; freezing temperatures, river drownings and accidents, farm accidents, mobbings, even on 20 August 1845 in the Neighbor relating "A severe thunderstorm this morning killed Brother Ralph by lightning on Parley Street. Others were knocked down." P. 117


The first Saturdays of May and September and the 4th of July were set aside for parades when the Nauvoo legion was organized. They were day long affairs and were held on the official parade grounds near Joseph Smith's farm east of Nauvoo. They featured a speech and inspection of the troops by the commander in-chief. There were also sham battles and field exercises. Many people attended these affairs but because of the publicity and the purpose of the Legion neighboring settlers were alarmed and called for the disarming of them. The Prophet Joseph always attended these gatherings as commander-in-chief. In September 1843 the Neighbor announced the parade for the 16th at the usual site. This time, however, there were no dignitaries present. Sensing the climate and aware of the troubled days ahead, the Prophet Joseph reviewed the troops and then told the officers to increase their size and numbers. This was their last parade. p. 137

Governor Ford sent troops to disarm the Legion of their state held arms. A short time later Governor Ford dispatched troops under a Captain Singleton where he was ordered to assemble the Legion and see if they were disbanded and unarmed. In a matter of two hours, two thousand men assembled with their personal arms and weapons. We don't know of the Captain's response to this. We only know that the Legion against the state's warnings quietly went about gathering more arms. p. 139

In August 1844 Brigadier Charles Rich received orders to parade the armed and equipped Legion. Brigham Young turned the Legion over to Rich who quietly and efficiently set about turning the legion into a no-nonsense fighting force, p. 139

Hyrum Smith had prophesied before his death that the governor would yet call upon the legion to maintain the supremacy of the law, and sure enough the governor wrote a letter to Brigham Young ordering him to "hold in readiness a sufficient force under your command of the Nauvoo Legion to guard the court and protect it or its officers from the violence of the mob." p. 139-140

The legion would eventually follow the saints on their exodus to the West and years later would remember their time in Nauvoo when they were reorganized and moved into defensive positions in Echo Canyon in Utah awaiting the arrival of Johnston's army. p.140

The saints didn't have meetinghouses built in Nauvoo so they met in the Grove or other outdoor places. Sometimes the brethren would travel around and hold meetings in some of the homes. Such meetings were Sabbath meetings, conferences, funerals, or lectures by visiting individuals. p.145

Sometimes the saints would travel by horse or ox team or on foot for 30 to 40 miles to meet with the other saints. Sometimes there were in number 15-20,000 fellow brethren meeting together at a time. This would have been a great spiritual draw for people wanting to share in the strength of their fellow believers.

The temple was being constructed at this time and much of the lives of the people was spent centered around the temple. It was the main topic of conversation when meeting or when writing family and friends, it was a showplace to visitors and was the first thing that caught the eyes of anyone traveling on the river. A traveling lecturer of the late 1840's, J.R. Smith, called the temple in Nauvoo "the finest building in the west." "It was," he told his audiences, "the largest bulding west of Cincinnati and north of St. Louis." John Greenleaf Whittler noted that, "when completed, the Nauvoo Temple would be the most splendid and imposing architectural monument in the New World ... a temple unique and wonderful as the faith of its builders." p.150

There were hundreds of people engaged in the building of the temple. It was a tithe-labor project and so helped many of the poor emigrants because they were fed and clothed and sometimes housed during their work on the temple. p. 150

All the while the saints were preparing to leave Nauvoo they were readying and finishing the temple so that as many as could would be able to enjoy the blessings of the priesthood before their journey into the West.

On July 5 1843 the Neighbor reported that more than 15,000 people gathered at the Grove in what might have been the biggest celebration ever to hear talks by Orson Hyde, Parley P, Pratt, and Joseph Smith. That was the last Independence Day celebration to be held. Independence Day was the most celebrated day of the year at that time. p. 161-162

Most saints came with hardly anything to set up housekeeping. Many were recent emigrants from the British Isles who came to Nauvoo with only a few possessions they had been able to bring with them. p. 185

In 1842 church leaders in Nauvoo issued some official advice to the British Saints who were preparing to emigrate to Illinois: "Passengers should take with them, as far as possible, all kind of clothing, and beds and bedding in plenty; also pots and pans, and all kinds of cooking utensils, and as many tools for the business they intend to follow, as possible. They may also take any reasonable amount of furniture ... as we charge them nothing far the freight of their luggage in the ship." p.186

Abigail Pitkin, of Nauvoo, wrote a poem describing her humble abode:

Our dwelling measures "Thirteen Feet,"
With walls rough-hewn and white-washed neat.
With chairs we're blessed with only two,
Missouri claims the remaining few....
On shelves our dishes are ranged neat
By pegs supported, quite complete.
For old Missouri's wicked clan
Our cupboard kept and warming pan...
And many old trunks scattered round,
In which our cabin doth abound...
Our bed springs up against the wall
Because our room is rather small...
Our table measures just "Three feet,"
With falling leaves and varnished neat. p.186

March 1843 was very cold. Prophet Joseph Smith records that: "Very cold last night. The water froze in the warmest rooms in the city." p.188

Homes were not only not insulated but the cabins especially permitted wind and even snow to penetrate. Some warmth was provided by bed warmers or by sleeping near the warmer chimney end, and feather ticks were used for covers as well as for sleeping on. p, 188

The fires were kept buring because they were so hard to start. Sometimes homeowners could 'borrow fire' to start theirs if needed. Or flint and steel was used. By 1845 a match factory was built in Nauvoo. p.188-189

Two of the most demanding tasks in the home in Nauvoo was making soap and making clothes. The steps in doing these two things took much time and effort.

Food was plentiful on the prairie. A man could hunt anywhere and for whatever meat he desired.

(Ed. Note: William P Smith and his family lived in Nauvoo for several years.)

Genealogy Collection provided by:
Becky S. Porter, 2493 S. Hulls Crossing, Preston, Idaho 83263

E-Mail: Roland K. Smith