"Soil moistened by the tears of many people who gathered about open graves and laid loved ones to rest" - at the Old Nauvoo Burial Ground - was dedicated Oct. 7 by President Gordon B. Hinckley.
Up to 1,800 people, many of them women and children who did not survive the privations of the frontier, were buried in Nauvoo, most of them in the old burial ground, one of four sites dedicated in the concluding event in celebration of the city's 150th anniversary. The dedication also marked the completion of restoration projects as presently planned. The beginning event of the sesquicentennial was the dedication of the restored Carthage Jail complex in June. (See July 8 Church News.)President Hinckley, first counselor in the First Presidency, was accompanied by Elder Loren C. Dunn of the First Quorum of the Seventy, who is president of the North America Central Area and of Nauvoo Restoration Inc. Sister Marjorie Hinckley and Sister Sharon Dunn accompanied their husbands. Elder W. Garth Andrus, Nauvoo Visitors Center director; James C. Taylor, manager of Nauvoo Restoration Inc., and Menlo F. Smith, regional representative, also attended and took part in the dedicatory ceremony.
Joining them in the chilly morning rites at the rural hillside cemetery were officials from nearby cities, representatives of the local ministerial association and of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The cemetery was recently acquired from the RLDS Church through a land trade.
Other sites, restored with contributed funds and dedicated at the same service, were:
- The Riser Boot and Shoemaker Shop, home of George C. Riser, which has been fitted with authentic equipment from the 1840s. The combination home-shop, which advertises "Cheap Shoes," was reconstructed on the basis of historical and archeological research.
- The Stoddard home and Tinsmith Shop, home of Sylvester B. Stoddard, a few doors north of the Times and Seasons printing complex. The house was restored from a deteriorated state and has equipment that would have been used in the 1840s.
- A new two-story barn near the Browning home, similar to the barns that would have been built in old Nauvoo. The barn will hold props for the "City of Joseph" pageant, and houses public restrooms.
The four-acre cemetery is on a low hillock about three miles north of Nauvoo. On the site stands a grove of trees, with leaves tinged in autumn reds and golds. The deep silence of the grove is broken only by birds and the lowing of cattle in nearby meadows. The trees' heavy shade is pierced by shafts of sunlight that streak in gold across century-and-a-half-old headstones. Some headstones have been carefully restored with names and dates, while others have just inscribed initials. While most of those buried lie in unmarked, forgotten locations, they do, indeed, rest in peace.
About 200 of the graves in the four-acre burial site have been located, with about 150 identified by headstones or from other sources. Additional information on people buried in the plot is being sought by officials of Nauvoo Restoration.
After the Church acquired the site, the undergrowth was removed. A heroic-sized monument by Utah sculptor Dee Jay Bawden, depicting a family burying a loved one, will soon be placed at the cemetery.
The area is reminiscent of the Sacred Grove, said President Hinckley in remarks at the dedicatory ceremony.
"This is sacred, hallowed ground," he observed. "This is ground that will become increasingly dear to an ever-growing number of people who, through the years, will come back to visit.
"I feel the spirit of Nauvoo here," he continued. "I feel the spirit of the great people who lived here, who left their homes for a cause greater than any of them.
"Sunrise, sunset is the story of Nauvoo, a little more as it were, than a day, from 1839-1846," he said.
He recalled that as he rode to the cemetery that morning over the hills and through the ravines, he mentally pictured a funeral cortege - "the buggies, wagons and carriages carrying the dead and the mourning" and imagined how they looked as they buried their loved ones.
He explained that the monument to be placed at the cemetery portrays the event of a father and mother and son laying a child at rest in a grave.
"There is beauty in faith, and I think there was even beauty in death, for death, solemn and sad and tragic as it may be, can be beautiful," President Hinckley emphasized.
"I think of the love and pathos of a family in the city on the river closing the door of well-built homes for the last time . . . with the realization that here in this city were the graves of loved ones they would never again visit.
"Thank the Lord for the faith of those who came before us. May the Lord ever hold great in our memories the significant things of Nauvoo - the life and death during that day between sunrise and sunset."
President Hinckley thanked those who had been involved in the project, paying special tribute to Dr. Leroy Kimball, who was in attendance, who initiated the restoration project in 1962.
Elder Dunn said since then, nearly 20 buildings - of the original nearly 2,000 homes and businesses - have been restored, and other buildings acquired in this "work of love."
He explained that while some of the 100,000 visitors each year come simply as tourists, others come in a kind of pilgrimage. "Nauvoo is an important way-station in their ancestors' saga."
Elder Dunn recounted the experience of early Nauvoo resident Elizabeth Terry, and her newborn daughter, Rachel. While her husband was away, she and the baby were both ill. They were left alone in their open house after the toll of illness throughout the community depleted the ranks of those who would have helped.
"I tended her till 4 o'clock, then I fell asleep," she wrote in her journal. "When I awoke at 6 o'clock, she was dead. I trembled so that I could hardly stand. But I wrapped her in a blanket and took her to Father's to see if she was really dead. [The journal later records the cause of death was exposure.] Brother Huntington buried her in the burying ground three miles north of the temple."
Chris Reynolds of Layton, Utah, a great-granddaughter of Elizabeth Terry, recently searched the burial ground for the grave of little Rachel. "As she walked, she prayed for guidance to find what she was looking for," related Elder Dunn. "She said that `I gazed in wonder in the area, knowing that somewhere very close to where I stood, my beloved grandmother had laid the still, small body of her infant daughter in a cold, unmarked grave, a grave she would visit for the last time only a few weeks later, before marching west.' "
Elder Dunn explained that the planned heroic-sized monument "will be a marker Rachel never had, as well as the other boys and girls and men and women that are buried here with loving hands and heavy hearts."
Film on Nauvoo is premiered
A new film, "Remembering Nauvoo," was premiered Oct. 7 at the Nauvoo Visitors Center. The film portrays dramatizations of journal entries from the Nauvoo era and will be shown at the visitors center here.
An earlier film, telling of the life of Joseph Smith through the eyes of people who knew him, premiered in June at the dedication of the Carthage Jail complex, and is being shown at the Carthage visitors center.