Shops, farm, museums, birds among Dean Hughes' 10 sites to see off the beaten trail in Nauvoo
Many visitors drive east on Parley Street to the Old Nauvoo Burial Grounds, but there they stop. This time, as you leave the parking lot of the burial grounds, drive .6 of a mile to the east and then look at the field ahead, on the south side of the road. This half-mile square area is the site of Joseph Smith’s farm. He never lived there, but he longed to do so someday. As he and his brother Hyrum rode their horses to Carthage, on the way to their deaths, some in the party asked why Joseph kept looking out across this land. His reply was, “If some of you had got such a farm and knew you would not see it anymore, you would want to take a good look at it for the last time.” It’s touching to stand at this spot and imagine his feelings that day.
There is a great deal of Mormon history in Quincy, less than 50 miles from Nauvoo. Visit Clat Adams Park, on the riverfront, near the Mississippi bridges. A monument marks the spot where Mormon refugees crossed the river as they fled from persecution in Missouri. Emma Smith and her children crossed here, walking on the ice. Then visit downtown Washington Park, just a few blocks away. Here, the refugees camped before local citizens took them in and fed and protected them. A marker in the park also commemorates this site. Check with the Quincy Area Convention and Visitors Center for a list of other Mormon history sites.
At Carol's Pies, the pie crusts are rolled by hand, and Carol makes her own fruit fillings. It is in Baxter’s Vineyards, a small family-owned winery in Nauvoo, which was established in 1857 by Emile Baxter and continues in the family. Also at Carol's Pies, find preserves, syrups and a nice variety of souvenirs, along with wonderful nonalcoholic juices. It is located 11 blocks east of Highway 96 (or Durphey Street) on Parley Street.
Don’t miss the 12-mile drive down the Great River Road, a National Scenic Byway, and then cross the Mississippi and view the lock and dam between Hamilton and Keokuk. Keokuk is another town rich with history and impressive architecture. Immigrating Mormons helped excavate the city. A monument in Triangle Park commemorates this LDS contribution to the community. In winter, see the great numbers of bald eagles near the locks. You may never have heard of the Keokuk National Cemetery, 1701 J Street, but it rivals Arlington in peace and beauty.
There are interesting stops on the Mormon Trail, but one of the best is at Bentonsport, a charming little town on the Des Moines River where Mormon craftsmen built some of the homes and shops. The town is a National Historic Landmark District and houses several fun shops, an old-fashioned general store and an arrowhead museum. In nearby Bonaparte, a sign on the north side of the river commemorates the Mormon Trail and the crossing by Brigham Young and the Saints who followed.
Most of these sites have websites to provide directions and further information, or see historicnauvoo.net.
Dean Hughes is an author, and he and his wife, Kathleen, completed a two-year Public Affairs mission in Nauvoo, Ill., in 2010.
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