Old Diary Tells Of Stop At Nauvoo
When the settlers came west, they saw many strange and wonderful sights - the awesome loneliness of the prairies; the endless fights of the passenger pigeons; and that ever-amazing, ever-changing phenomenon, Great River. It as the experience of one young immigrant to see a giant and giantess and view the fabulous wonder, Joseph Smith’s Temple.
He recorded what he saw in a small diary. His descendants preserved it for 125 years. B. J. Snyder is the present owner and the keeper of the diary was his great-grandfather, William C. Snyder. Time has faded the penciled words and many pages are illegible. But his visit at Nauvoo is yet readable.
The young adventurer set out from his home in New Jersey in April, 1845. His route took him to Philadelphia, Baltimore and Pittsburg. Then he booked passage on a river-boat and started down the Ohio River with Lyons, Iowa, as is destination.
It was a leisurely trip that required more than a month. He stopped to see the sights and visit people, having letters of introduction to many of them. He finally reached Burlington, Iowa and made a decision:
“I concluded to get off at the Great Mormon City, Nauvoo, where I arrived the same morning about eight o’clock and put up at the Nauvoo Mansion where I found Mr. and Mrs. Randall, the Scotch giant and giantess; was introduced to Mr. Randall. I spent the evening very pleasantly with him and we did not retire until about 11 o’clock.
“Got up the next morning and took a walk about town. Got breakfast when Mr. Reeves of Georgera (sic) and Mr. Sutton of Iowa and myself went to see the great Temple of Joseph, for great it bids fair to be. It stands on a high bluff; you can stand and see the whole city. Its size is 96 feet by 120 feet. Its height to the top of the steeple (sic) will be 150 feet, built of marble very harmoniously carved by some of the best artists in the world.
“In the basement is to stand the fount, surrounded by small apertures for dressing rooms into which holy ones are to go to redress after they have been clenzened of their impurities in the holy water of the second and third storys.
“I could see there had been little done to the inside; top of ____(?) is surrounded by blocks of marble with the faces of men so harmoniously carved in them that they look like real life; on the _(?) of which is couched (?) blocks of marble about 18 inches square with a very harmonious five-corners star on it.
“The entrance is to be by a very large door at the west end through a _____(?) of entryways 10 feet wide, on each side of which is to be two winding staircases to ascend to the third and fourth storys and belcory (sic). At the east end is two very large windows about eight feet by 15 feet, one above the other. On the north and south, the second-story windows are very large and curved at the top; and the third-story ones are round, about 3 Â½ feet in diameter.
“The door frames, the window casings, sash and such things are all made of white pine of the best quality and in the best possible manner, after the gothic style.
“If it should be finished it will be altogether one of the most stupendous works in the United States.
“After having looked at the temple, we took a walk around town which is situated on a gently ascending plane, a bluff arising to the height of about 500 (?) feet in the middle of it, on the top of which stands the temple. It is by far the handsomest situation that I have ever seen on the Mississippi for a city.”
The young traveler admired the well-built homes and stores. On their walk, he and his companions made a visit:
“During our rambles, we called on the prophet’s mother. She has in her possession some Egyptian mummys and she says the hyerglyph (sic) is from whose the bible was written that was found with the mummys, laying on the breast of the one she calls king. She showed us the writing of Adam, Noah, Abraham and many others that are distinguished in theology and in fack she related so much trash that I ____(?) to myself on the credulity and superstitious bigotry of the world.”
The Mormon Temple
The temple was started by the Mormons in 1841 and dedicated in April, 1846. The exodus to Utah occurred the same year. In 1848, the wonderful temple was burned, allegedly by an incendiary named Joseph Agnew. A tornado completed the ruin in 1850.
The dilapidation was carried away gradually—to build a school-house for the Icarians in Nauvoo; a post-office in Galena; a church in Moline; a jail, foundations, door-steps, lintels and wine-cellars here and there locally. A bargeload of stone was pushed to Dubuque.
The description that Mr. Snyder entered in his diary varies from the specifications that researchers have uncovered. The variation is not important. It must be remembered that the building was not finished when he saw it. There seems to be doubt yet about the sizes. A booklet published in 1968 gives the completed building as 128 feet by 83 feet. The height to the base of the tower was 100 feet and the steeple was 60 feet tall. Further along in the same booklet, the size was given as 88 feet by 128 feet with an over-all height of 158 Â½ feet.
The square blocks of “marble” which were carved harmoniously with five- cornered stars were star-stones; the ones carved with the faces of men were the sun-stones. There were also moon-stones at the base of the building which William Snyder did not mention. Researchers claim there were 30 of each. They were symbolical of certain Mormonite beliefs.
Young Mr. Snyder continued his journey up the river. He arrived at Lyons, Iowa in May, 1845. He commenced reading medicine with Dr. William Bassett immediately. In 1847, he moved to Unionville where he practiced medicine and operated a general store until 1854 when he removed to Fulton City.
Mr. Snyder, even in the days of his youth, was a methodical man. His diary reveals much in the way of character. He was possessed of a small library, a scarce property on the frontier. It included such books as Payne’s Political Writings (two volumes), Payne’s Theological Works, Graham’s Advice e to Young Men, and the Philosophy of Kissing. He kept a careful record of the whereabouts of the precious books and crossed off the borrowers’ names when the volumes were returned. Philosophy of Kissing and Advice to Young Men ended in that well-known limbo, Place of No Return, which is the fate of most books that are lent.
Dr. Snyder came to Fulton as did his mentor, Dr. William Bassett. The latter moved here from Lyons in 1849. He was very successful in his practice but was unable to cure himself. He died in 1867, a victim of lung-trouble (sic). His widow survived him for many years.
The Bassett home was located on Broadway between River and Base Streets. The present address is 304 Eleventh Avenue. Presently, a red sign on the front announces that the building is condemned and its days are numbered.
How They Came
Mention was made at the beginning of this article that means and routes of travel to the west were many and varied greatly. Some of the journeys would astonish present-day dwellers of Whiteside County. There were no trains to carry them into the middlewest but there are none now - which recalls the old saw that history repeats itself.
There was Jesse Scott who settled near Como. Mr. Scott built a keel-boat of 100-tons burthen. It was propelled by horsepower and had a 16-foot by 16-foot cabin on it. He went down the Ohio River and up the Mississippi and Rock Rivers. Mr. Scott had a large family (13 children). When he came west, it must have been like a patriarch of old traveling. After he arrived at Como, he kept intact the unusual craft and gave free rides to friends for a number of years.
Many settlers took passage on ships and sailed the Great Lakes to Chicago. But there was no safe and sure way. When John Richards and his family came to Union Grove Township in 1836, the boat was wrecked on Lake Erie. The Richards lost all their money and possessions except one trunk and the clothes they wore.
Hezekiah Brink, early settler of Sterling, made the trip west on saddle-horse, his belongings were carried on the same animal.
Jacob Baker drove to Fulton City from Farmington, Ohio, in 1839. He was accompanied by his wife and 11 children - a veritable Bakers’ dozen. He made the trip in 26 days without more than the usual difficulties.
James Talbot floated down the Yougheogeny River in 1833 to Pittsburg, Pa. Then he traveled by steam-boat down the Ohio River and up the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers to Peoria. He completed the remainder of his journey on a wagon drawn by three teams of cattle (sic). The trip required more than a year.
Simeon Coe started from the state of New York, arriving in 1834. He drove a spike-team - a yoke of oxen at the wheel and a horse in the lead controlled by whip alone. He settled in Jordan.
Mrs. Joseph E. Harrison (s/b Mrs. Mark Harrison) (she was Mary Taylor) was born in North Carolina. She was left an orphan and became housekeeper for her brother who was a widower with two children. He sold his property, and his sister and two children started for Illinois. They had two light-wagons to carry the household goods; they walked all the way—an estimated 1,500 miles. Her brother died suddenly from cholera while he was straightening his affairs and before he could come west.
One way or another - steam-boat, sailing ship, stage-coach, shank’s mare or prairie-schooner - most of the pioneers reached the land of their dreams, Whiteside County.
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