Situated on the
horseshoe bend of the Mississippi, Nauvoo is nearly surrounded by
the river. The Sac and Fox Indians settled in the area first. Later
Captain James White traded two hundred sacks of corn for the Indians'
vast acreage. Captain White established a fur-trading village on
the banks of the river.
In 1839 Joseph
Smith and his followers, the Mormons, settled in this area after
they were forced out of Missouri by religious persecution. The Mormons
were granted a very liberal charter for their city which they named
Nauvoo. Within three years Nauvoo was one of the largest cities
in Illinois and the tenth largest in the United States. Nauvoo was
famous for its beautiful homes, its many fine shops and its magnificent
Temple on the bluff overlooking the city and the river. Soon internal
dissention, religious antagonism and the fear of the political power
of the Mormons exploded into a fury. In 1844 Joseph Smith and his
brother were assassinated and the Mormons were forced to evacuate
the city in 1846. The burning of the Temple in 1846 was the last
recorded act of anti-Mormonism.
In 1849 Etienne
Cabet and his Icarian comrades came to Nauvoo from France. The Icarians
bought Temple Square and began their short-lived experiment in communal
living. For the first few years the commune prospered. Then minor
disagreements grew into open rebellion. When the commune fell apart,
some of the Icarians left Nauvoo. Many of the Icarians who remained
in Nauvoo realized the soil and climate of Nauvoo was much like
that of their native France. With their German and Swiss neighbors,
they began the cultivation of grapes. Soon there over 600 acres
of grapes and the hills of Nauvoo were honey-combed with stone-arched
wine cellars and Nauvoo was noted for her fine wines. The Prohibition
years doomed the wine industry. Though many of these wine cellars
no longer serve the purpose for which they were built, many still
In the late
1930's a new industry came to Nauvoo. It was discovered that the
cool moist wine cellars were ideal for aging cheese and so was born
the Nauvoo Blue Cheese industry. About the same time, Cecil J. Baxter
whose father had planted grapes and operated a winery in 1857, obtained
a license to manufacture wine. Today the winery is operated by the
fifth generation of the same family.
on two levels: the Hill and the Flats. Since the 1880's the Hill
has housed the business district and the major residential area.
Visitors may browse thru unique shops that offer gourmet foods.
Specialty shops give demonstrations of various crafts. Excellent
restaurants offer dining at its best. Antique shops are truly antique
shops and craft shops feature locally handcrafted gifts and collectibles.
Illinois's oldest winery offers daily tours and samples of Old Nauvoo
wines. The Icarian Living History Museum contains artifacts from
the Icarian era.
In April 1999,
Gordon Hinckley, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
announced that the Church would rebuild the Nauvoo Temple on the original
site on the Hill in Nauvoo. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in
October 1999 and a cornerstone ceremony was held in November 2000.
During May and June 2002, thousands of people toured the rebuilt Temple.
The Temple was dedicated during the last week of June 2002.
The Flats tell
the tragic story of the Mormons in Illinois. There stand the impressive
homes and shops built by the Mormons. Visitors may visit the Joseph
Smith Historical Center, view a slide presentation on Nauvoo, browse
thru a gift shop, take a walking tour of the Homestead, grave site,
and the Mansion House. At the L.D.S. Visitors Center one may view
a movie about early Nauvoo filmed here in 1990 and walk thru the
Monument to Women Gardens with its thirteen life-sized statues dedicated
In the area
are over twenty restored homes and shops. Several old time crafts
have been revitalized and offer daily demonstrations by skilled
artisans. Take a carriage ride and listen to the story the driver
spins about old Nauvoo. An added attraction: There is no admission
Nauvoo has several
special events: The Mississippi River Scenic Drive is held in the
Fall. This sixty mile drive takes the tourist on a tour
of the Illinois cities of Niota, Nauvoo, Hamilton and
Warsaw and crosses the river to drive thru Keokuk, Montrose and
Fort Madison. As you "loop the loop" you will find historical
tours, arts & crafts, flea markets, food booths and special
events in each town.
On Labor Day weekend, the good people of Nauvoo celebrate the harvest
of grapes with the annual Grape Festival.
Highlights of the celebration have included parades, a custom auto show, a Grape Stomp, mud volleyball,
antique show, arts and crafts, flea market, buckskinners and the annual pageant,
The Wedding of the Wine and Cheese.
several overnight accommodations, including bed and breakfasts, motels,
(see Business Guide).
Come and spend
a few days at the one of the largest and finest historic sites in