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Kenneth Mays
Sculptural monument to Joseph and Hyrum Smith on their way to the martyrdom.

June 27 marks the 175th anniversary of the day when the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, the church patriarch, were killed at the Carthage Jail in 1844. A statue situated immediately to the west of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple commemorates the journey they took to Carthage. The Prophet stayed at the Hamilton House hotel in Carthage the night of June 24-25. The next two nights were spent in the jail.

Kenneth Mays, Deseret News Archives
Cane of Stephen Markham and the watch carried by Elder John Taylor that were in the Carthage Jail June 27, 1844.

Along with the jail itself, several documents and artifacts from that event are still extant. These include the Prophet’s hymnal which, according to tradition, was used by Elder John Taylor when he sang a hymn in the jail that day. A copy of the Book of Mormon, presumably belonging to Hyrum, was used by the Prophet shortly before the attack at the jail (see Doctrine and Covenants 135:4-5).

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A watch carried by Elder Taylor and a cane owned by Stephen Markham have also survived since that day. There is a surviving bill for services rendered, dated June 27, 1844, and signed by the Prophet’s wife, Emma Hale Smith. Evidently, this statement was issued on behalf of the Nauvoo House for the party accompanying Illinois Gov. Thomas Ford who visited Nauvoo the day of the martyrdom.

For many years, the shirt Hyrum was wearing when he was killed was held and displayed by Elder Eldred G. Smith, patriarch to the church.

In 1903, the Carthage Jail was acquired by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints under the direction of President Joseph F. Smith, son of Hyrum, the patriarch who died there. It is now a historic site owned and operated by the church. Visitors are welcome, and admission is free.