Historic Nauvoo

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

Nauvoo Illinois Temple
Fellow Midnight Freemason Darin Lahners and I were looking for a road trip after the morning session of the 180thAnnual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Illinois. We decided to head to Nauvoo, Illinois, which is located on the Mississippi River on the far western side of Illinois.

The area was settled in the in 1820’s when the first whites moved in and originally the town was known as Quashquema, named after a Native American chief. The town was later renamed Venus, then Commerce and finally in 1840 acquired the present-day name of Nauvoo.

Nauvoo is famous for being the home of Joseph Smith, who was the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormons. The Mormons were persecuted by non-Mormons and eventually decided to leave and head west to Utah. You can read more of the history of Mormonism on this PBS website https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/mormons-timeline/

Today Nauvoo is bustling small town. In 1999 plans were announced by the LDS church that they were going to rebuild the Nauvoo Temple as it had been in the 1840’s. Overlooking the Mississippi River, this magnificent structure was finished and dedicated in 2002.

The Mormons operate a recreation of historic Nauvoo down on the lower parts of town. Several buildings have been recreated as they were in the 1840’s and are staffed by Mormon missionaries and are dressed in vintage clothing of the era.

Recreated - Nauvoo Masonic Temple
Darin and I didn’t have a lot of time to visit so we went right away to the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge.Recreated as an exact replica of the original lodge building, we able to go in and visit with some very nice ladies who were extremely knowledgeable of the building’s history. The original lodge was located on the third floor of the building and we traversed up three flights of stairs to see the lodge hall. It was fun to think about what Freemasonry would have been like on the western frontier of Illinois during that time.

Our next stop was to the home and shop of Jonathan Browning. If you have ever heard of the Browning shotguns or rifles, they got their start right there in Nauvoo. A recreation of his shop contained all the working tools of his trade. Several vintage firearms are on display. Browning went west to Utah when the Mormons left Nauvoo.

I am aware of the alleged similarities between our Masonic ritual and the Mormon practices. Joseph Smith the LDS founder was a Freemason. This short video, produced by the LDS Church talks about the role of Joseph Smith and Freemasonry.

The historical connections of our fraternity to the world around us seem to be endless. I enjoy learning this history and about those who came before us.


WB Gregory J. Knott is the Worshipful Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 in Ogden (IL) and a plural member of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC.

1 comment:

  1. I hate to disagree with you WB, but Nauvoo wasn't the home of Joseph Smith. He was born in Vt, and grew up in upstate NY. Nauvoo was just a stop the saints made, and after being persecuted continued west.
    WB Don Sacco Jr The Meadows Lodge East Longmeadow, NA


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