Nauvoo commemorates Mormon pioneer exodus with re-enactment, symposium

Published: Friday, Feb. 4 2011 5:00 a.m. MST

On Feb. 4, 1846, a group of wagons, teams, livestock and people left Nauvoo, Ill., and ferried across the cold Mississippi River to begin the Mormon pioneer exodus to the Rocky Mountains. Now each year on Feb. 4, Historic Nauvoo commemorates the Mormon pioneer exodus, which took place 165 years ago.

This year, guests will gather at the Family Living Center from 9 to 10 a.m. for refreshments. A procession of horse-drawn wagons and walkers will then make the mile-long re-enactment march down Parley Street, along the “Trail of Hope,” to the Mississippi River’s edge. Participants will wear name tags representing ancestors and other pioneers who joined the migration from Nauvoo.

At the Mississippi River’s edge, a short memorial service will honor the early pioneers who, under the direction of Brigham Young, left Nauvoo in midwinter due to tensions and conflict in Hancock County. “It was imperatively necessary to start as soon as possible,” Brigham Young said, and the early Saints complied. Today, Nauvoo residents, visitors and missionaries from the Illinois Nauvoo Mission re-enact this historic event under various Feb. 4 temperatures and winter conditions.

Concurrent with the 1846 Exodus re-enactment, the first annual three-day Untold Nauvoo Stories Symposium is taking place Feb. 3-5. This free historical symposium celebrates lesser-known stories of Nauvoo's history through exhibits, video vignettes, Native American stories, entertainment, and professional presentations by historical researchers and authors. The City of Nauvoo, Nauvoo Tourism Office, Nauvoo Historical Society, Joseph Smith Historic Site and Historic Nauvoo are sponsoring the symposium.

Since the city of Nauvoo was founded in 1839 by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this community has been home to French Icarians, German immigrants, Sisters of St. Benedict, and various religious groups and industry. The Untold Nauvoo Stories Symposium celebrates people and events that make Nauvoo unique and significant to American history.

On Thursday, Feb. 3, the Nauvoo Tourism Office greeted guests, offered warm drinks and snacks, featured displays of Nauvoo and provided symposium materials at a welcome event.

Feb. 4 activities will include a re-enactment of the Mormon exodus, special exhibits, video vignettes, Native American stories, presentations, a campfire, dinner and entertainment. Feb. 5 activities include a meet-and-greet breakfast, special exhibits, video vignettes and presentations.

Symposium presenters include Bryon Andreasen, research historian at the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill.; Susan Easton Black, Ed.D., BYU professor, author and lecturer of the Mormon experience in Nauvoo; Marilyn Candido, Nauvoo Historical Society director and co-author of "Nauvoo: A History Featuring the Paintings of Lane K. Newberry"; Craig Dunn, amateur historian and author of a forthcoming book on the Nauvoo War; Mike Foley, faculty member at Iowa Wesleyan College and Mormon Trail historian; Dean Gabbert, author of "Brown Water Boating" and other books about the Mississippi; Shantel Gardner, playwright, performer and member of the Joseph and Emma Smith Historical Society; Ken Godfrey, educator, author and lecturer on the Mormon experience in Illinois; Jeff Hancks, faculty member and Baxter-Snyder Professor of Regional and Icarian Studies at Western Illinois University (WIU); Paul Hokanson, genealogist for the Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith Family Foundation; Joseph Johnstun, independent historian and lecturer of early Illinois and Nauvoo area history; Gary Kirkman, cowboy poet, musician, performer and LDS missionary in the Illinois Nauvoo Mission; Janet Lisonbee, researcher and author of books on early Mormon cemeteries; Rick J. Taylor, educator, researcher and lecturer on the Mormon Illinois Thoroughfare; and Robert L. Webb, ordained Primitive Baptist minister and founder and director of the Primitive Baptist Library in Hancock County.

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