Nauvoo, Illinois

Nauvoo, Illinois
City of Nauvoo
The newly-rebuilt Nauvoo LDS Temple.
Country United States
State Illinois
County Hancock
Elevation 670 ft (204.2 m)
Coordinates 40°33′N 91°22′W / 40.55°N 91.367°W / 40.55; -91.367
Area 4.8 sq mi (12.43 km2)
 - land 3.4 sq mi (9 km2)
 - water 1.4 sq mi (4 km2), 29.17%
Population 1,063 (2000)
Density 314 / sq mi (121.2 / km2)
Mayor John McCarty
Timezone CST (UTC-6)
 - summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 62354
Area code 217
Location of Nauvoo within Illinois
Location of Illinois in the United States

Nauvoo (Hebrew: נָאווּ, Modern Navu Tiberian Nâwû ; “to be beautiful”) is a small city in Hancock County, Illinois, United States. Although the population was just 1,063 at the 2000 census, and despite being difficult to reach due to its location in a remote corner of Illinois, Nauvoo attracts large numbers of visitors[citation needed] for its historic importance and its religious significance to members of both The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Community of Christ (formerly Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), other groups stemming from the Latter Day Saint movement, and groups such as the Icarians. The city and its immediate surrounding area are listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Nauvoo Historic District.



Nauvoo is located at 40°33′N 91°22′W / 40.55°N 91.367°W / 40.55; -91.367 (40.5446, -91.3803).[1] Situated on a wide bend in the Mississippi River, Nauvoo has most of the historic district in the lower flat lands (called the flats) that are no more than a few feet above the water line. A prominent hill rises as one moves further east, at the apex of which stands the rebuilt Nauvoo Temple. Beginning with the temple, this elevated land (called the hill) continues flat for many miles eastward.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has an area of 4.8 square miles (12 km2). 3.4 square miles (8.8 km2) of it is land and 1.4 square miles (3.6 km2) of it (29.88%) is water.

Government and politics

Nauvoo City government consists of the Mayor, six aldermen (two from each ward), and City Treasurer. Additionally, there are appointed positions for City Clerk, Marshall, and Public Works positions. As of 2007, the mayor is John McCarty. The aldermen are Tom Adams, Clive Moon, Bev Reynolds, Jim Boyles, Dave Koechle, and Lee Ourth.

Separate from the city are the Nauvoo Fire Protection District and Nauvoo-Colusa School System.

The Nauvoo FPD covers all of the city plus the surrounding five townships. The fire department currently provides both fire and EMS coverage for its district. In 1991, the Nauvoo Fire Protection District became a BLS non-transporting agency relying on the county ambulance service to provide transporting of patients to local hospitals. Recently, because of longer response times from county-run ambulances, the citizens of the Nauvoo FPD passed a referendum by 74% on April 17, 2007, for ambulance services that would transfer the ambulance tax money to the FPD that was being paid to the county. The Nauvoo FPD completed their fund raising efforts on November 30, 2007, to purchase its ambulance. The Nauvoo Ambulance went into service in January 2008.

The Nauvoo-Colusa school system runs the local elementary and combined middle/high schools. School Board members are: James Boyles, Randy Douglas, Anthony Knipe, Terry Knoke, John Schwan, Lane Sinele, and Michele Snyder. A referendum in Feb 2008 was passed allowing Nauvoo-Colusa and Warsaw Junior and Senior High Schools to merge. Junior High for both systems will be in Nauvoo and the Senior High will be in Warsaw beginning in 2008.

Recently, the newly co-oped West Hancock (Hamilton, Warsaw, Nauvoo-Colusa) Girls basketball team took first place in the IHSA Class 2A Championship. It is the first year of the co-op basketball team, and their first championship.


The area of Nauvoo was first called Quashquema, named in honor of the Native American chief who headed a Sauk and Fox settlement numbering nearly 500 lodges. By 1827 white settlers had built cabins in the area. By 1829 this area of Hancock County had grown sufficiently so that a post office was needed and in 1832 the town, now called Venus, was one of the contenders for the new county seat. However, the honor was awarded to a nearby city, Carthage. In 1834 the name Venus was changed to Commerce because the settlers felt that the new name better suited their plans.

In late 1839 arriving Mormons bought the small town of Commerce and in April 1840 it was renamed Nauvoo[2] by Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement. The name Nauvoo is derived from the traditional Hebrew language with an anglicized spelling. The word comes from Isaiah 52:7, “How beautiful upon the mountains...” It is notable that “by 1844 Nauvoo's population had swollen to 12,000, rivaling the size of Chicago” at the time.[3][4]

Engraving of Nauvoo, ca 1855.

After Joseph Smith's death in 1844, the population of Nauvoo was subject to considerable change. In 1849, Icarians moved to the Nauvoo area to implement a utopian socialist commune based on the ideals of French philosopher Étienne Cabet. At its peak, the colony numbered over 500 members, but the death of Cabet in 1856 caused some members to leave this parent colony and move elsewhere. In the early and mid 20th century Nauvoo was primarily a Catholic town, and the majority of the population today is Catholic.

Nauvoo today

On the city’s higher ground are the temple, residential areas, and the business district along Mulholland Street (Illinois Route 96), much of it devoted to the needs of tourists and those interested in Latter Day Saint history. The flatlands are occupied by a small number of 19th century brick houses and other buildings that have survived the city’s vicissitudes, with large empty spaces between them where houses and whole neighborhoods have entirely disappeared.

Community of Christ owns much of the southern end of the flatlands and maintains several key historic sites located in and around Nauvoo. These sites include the Joseph Smith Homestead, the Nauvoo House, the Red Brick Store, the Mansion House, and the Smith family cemetery overlooking the Mississippi River that is the final resting place of Joseph Smith, Jr., his wife Emma, and his brother Hyrum. Guided tours are available at the church's Joseph Smith Historic Site, located at the south end of the town and accessible from Highway 96.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) owns most of the other historic sites in Nauvoo, including the homes of Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and other early members of the church, as well as other significant buildings. Most of these sites are open to the public, with demonstrations and displays, and there are self-guided driving tours as well as wagon tours. These tours are free, as are the stage and riverside theatrical productions. There is a large visitors center complete with two theaters and a relief map of 1846 Nauvoo.

In June 2002, on the site of the original temple, the LDS Church completed construction of a new temple. The exterior, and much of the interior, is a copy of the original. The exterior matches the original exactly except in three ways: The temple was positioned 12.5 feet (3.8 m) south to allow for parking on the north side, there are two new exterior doors (with an entrance on the north for disabled persons and emergency exits in the basement on the east) and there is a standing Angel Moroni as is seen on most modern temples; the original was an unspecified flying angel, also with a horn in hand but in a horizontal position with the compass, square and flame above.[5]

The rebuilding of the Nauvoo Temple was an occasion of great joy and enthusiasm for members of the LDS Church, which estimated that some 350,000 people, church members and nonmembers alike, would tour the temple between its completion and dedication.[6] Following LDS Church custom, the temple itself is now not open to visitors.

In comparison to other towns in the area, Nauvoo has seen consistent population growth since the completion of the temple[citation needed].

Nauvoo House during 2008 Flood

The work to renovate various sites of historical significance in the area are coordinated by Nauvoo Restoration, Incorporated. NRI is a nonprofit organization supported by both The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Community of Christ, as well as others interested in Nauvoo’s history. Due to the work of NRI and its members, Nauvoo has been dubbed the “Williamsburg of the Midwest.” In March 2007, Nauvoo was nominated to compete as one of the Seven Wonders of Illinois.[7] Due to voting irregularities Nauvoo did not proceed into the final round of voting.[citation needed]

Nauvoo sponsors numerous activities throughout the year including The Nauvoo Pageant (July/August), Grape Festival (Labor day weekend), and Pumpkin walk (October).

Because most of the city is well above flood level, Nauvoo has not historically had problems when the Mississippi river has risen. In both the floods of 1993 and 2008, very little damage happened within the city limits.

Members of the LDS Church formed Nauvoo University in 2009,[8] stating at their web site that it is a reorganization and reincorporation as a non-profit corporation of the former University of the City of Nauvoo, established in 1840,[9] but this endeavor was later aborted indefinitely.

Nauvoo has many places of worship, including; Methodist Church, Christ Lutheran Church, St Peter & Paul Church, Nauvoo Baptist Church, a Community of Christ congregation, and various Wards of the LDS Church.[10]


As of the census[11] of 2000, there were 1,063 people, 403 households, and 276 families residing in the city. It should be noted that these numbers do not reflect an accurate population since missionaries, who account for between 150 to 600 additional residents depending on the season of the year, are not counted in census records, as their permanent homes are in other cities. The population density was 314.4 people per square mile (121.4/km²). There were 458 housing units at an average density of 135.4 per square mile (52.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 97.08% White, 0.28% African American, 0.47% Native American, 0.19% Asian, 0.94% from other races, and 1.03% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.60% of the population.

There were 403 households out of which 28.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.3% were married couples living together, 6.9% have a female householder with no husband present and 31.3% were non-families. 28.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 3.04.

In the city the population was spread out with 24.6% under the age of 18, 6.5% from 18 to 24, 21.9% from 25 to 44, 24.0% from 45 to 64, and 23.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 88.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 79.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $39,519, and the median income for a family was $49,167. Males had a median income of $37,895 versus $24,250 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,150. About 5.6% of families and 12.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.2% of those under age 18 and 18.2% of those age 65 or over.

Commerce and Industry

The Nauvoo Blue Cheese company started producing cheese in the 1930s. It was discovered that the cool, moist wine cellars in the area were ideal for aging cheese. The wine cellars, and the wine making business originally started by the Icarians, saw a decline in use because of prohibition. In 2003 the Nauvoo Cheese company went out of business when it was purchased by a large food company and relocated to other facilities.

Nauvoo is also home to Baxter's Vineyards, a small family-owned winery begun in 1857 by Emile Baxter, making it Illinois' oldest established winery.[12][13][14]

See also

Christus statue temple square salt lake city.jpg Latter-day Saints portal


  1. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  2. ^ Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Hancock County, Vol. II, Munsell Publishing Company, Chicago, 1921.
  3. ^ "American Experience: The Mormon's". Act 3 - Persecution; Chapter 5. PBS Documentary. (2006) DVD, 240 minutes.
  4. ^ Hoyt, Homer (1933), One Hundred Years of Land Values in Chicago, University of Chicago, pp. 49–50, ISBN 1-58798-016-9 
  5. ^ Perrigrine Sessions Journal, 30 Jan 1846, Church Archives
  6. ^ "Nauvoo temple visitors surpass 140,000". LDS Church News. 2002-06-01. Retrieved 2011-03-22. 
  7. ^ Illinois. Mile After Magnificent Mile
  8. ^ "Nauvoo University opens fall of 2009". Mormon Times. May 29, 2009. Retrieved 2011-03-22. 
  9. ^ Welcome to Nauvoo University
  10. ^
  11. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  12. ^ Baxter's History, 
  13. ^ (– Scholar search) Illinois Wine Country, [dead link]
  14. ^ Nauvoo Tourism Office, 


  • Allen, James B. and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1976. ISBN 0-87747-594-6
  • Arrington, Leonard J; Bitton, Davis (March 1, 1992), The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints (2 ed.), Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, ISBN 0252062361 
  • Brooks, Juanita (1962), John Doyle Lee, Zealot, Pioneer, Builder, Scapegoat, Glendale, California: Arthur H. Clark Co. 
  • Flanders, Robert Bruce (1965), Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi, Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press 
  • Ford, Thomas (1860, Reprinted 1995), A History of Illinois: From Its Commencement as a State in 1818 to 1847, University of Illinois Press 
  • Hallwas, John F; Launius, Roger D (1995), Cultures in Conflict, A Documentary History of the Mormon War in Illinois, Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press 
  • Glen M. Leonard, Nauvoo: A Place of Peace, a People of Promise, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2002. ISBN 1-57008-746-6
  • Linn, William A (1902), The Story of the Mormons: From The Date of their Origin to the Year 1901, New York: Macmillan 
  • Quinn, D. Michael (December 1994), The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, ISBN 1560850566 

External links

Works related to Nauvoo Charter at Wikisource

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