Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Nashville, Montrose and Zarahemla – Part I

Since we have received several inquiries about the town of Zarahemla, Iowa, and the statements in D&C 125, the following two-part post has been written. 
   When the Saints flooded into Illinois in 1839, following the infamous “extermination order” of October 27 1838, by Missouri Governor Lilburn W. Boggs, land was purchased on both sides of the Mississippi River, acquiring Illinois land and the city then called Commerce (originally Venus), and on the Iowa side, the area then called Nashville (today called Galland). Commerce was renamed Nauvoo a year later, from a Hebrew word meaning “beautiful place” or “city beautiful.” Along the Iowa side, the refugees from Missouri settled in Nashville, Montrose Keokuk and Augusta. Nashville, first settled in 1839 by the Saints, was not renamed Zarahemla until the revelation in D&C 125, which was given in March 1841, two years later.
    In 1839, the eastern part of Iowa, especially eastern Lee County, was considered part of greater Nauvoo, according to Stanley B. Kimball (Nauvoo West: the Mormons of the Iowa Shore) and Donald Q. Cannon (Mormon Satellite Settlements in Hancock County Illinois and Lee County Iowa). Land was purchased on both sides of the Mississippi River at the same time from the same person, with stakes established in both places and Mormons living on both sides of the river, though most lived on the Illinois side.
Early photo of (red arrow) Nauvoo, across (blue arrow) the Mississippi, seen from the area of (yellow arrow) Nashville, Iowa
    A ferry crossed the Mississippi and connected the Iowa side with Nauvoo, and Joseph Smith preached and visited in Lee County. The Sugar Creek camp and staging ground for the 1846 trek across Iowa lay seven miles west of the Mississippi River, and the September 1846 miracle of the quails took place on the Iowa shore, as did Joseph Smith's well-known healing of Brigham Young and Elijah Fordham in July 1839.
On October 9 with food in dangerously short supply, quail flocks flew near the camp and flopped onto the ground in the morning and afternoon. The Saints picked up quail in their hands and soon had as much cooked quail as they wanted to eat
    After a time these Saints in Iowa wanted to know if they should remain there or move to Nauvoo—perhaps brought about by Dr. Isaac Galland, the man who sold the land on which both Nauvoo and Nashville was built. It was Galland who also purchased nineteen thousand acres in the Half-Breed Tract in Iowa and established the settlement of Nashville on the west bank in unorganized U.S. territory and practiced medicine, established a trading post, and founded the first school in what would become the Iowa Territory.
    Galland wrote to David W. Rogers, suggesting the Saints located in Iowa would most likely be better protected by the U.S. government in Illinois (a state) than in Iowa (a territory), for he thought the Saints “would be more likely to receive protection from mobs under the jurisdiction of the United States, than they would be in a state of the Union, where murder, rapine and robbery are admirable (!) traits in the character of a demagogue; and where the greatest villains often reach the highest offices.”
Isaac Galland (left), his first school house in Iowa (center) and Governor Robert Lucas of Iowa (right)
    In Essentials in Church History, p 220, we find that Galland also wrote to Governor Robert Lucas of Iowa, who had known the Mormons in Ohio, and “who spoke very highly of them as good citizens.”
    In addition, by the summer of 1839, Saints had settled in Ambrosia, which was three miles west of Montrose and extended another four miles westward. At first it was called Hawley’s Settlement, and ultimately had about 100 members living there. When the first wave of Saints left Nauvoo in 1846, their massive Sugar Creek encampment was located with the Ambrosia settlement area.
    The revelation in D&C 125, received in 1841, was directed to the many Saints who were already settled in Iowa. Before the Saints arrived in Lee County, Iowa, there were 2,839 residents, but about 7 years later in 1846, the population had swelled to 12,860—many of whom were LDS.
    In March, 1841, Joseph Smith inquired of the Lord regarding this question of the Iowa Saints relocating to Nauvoo, or elsewhere in Illinois. In response, the Lord spoke of the Saints gathering together “unto the places which I shall appoint” in preparation “for that which is in store in a time to come” (D&C 125:2). This revelation obviously looked ahead to the exodus of the Latter-day Saints to the Rocky Mountains in 1846–47, in which Iowa became a temporary gathering place for those who were driven from their homes in Illinois—a short distance of only seven miles across the Mississippi, the staging area called Sugar Creek Camp, and just south of Nashville, Keokuk in Iowa became staging areas for many Saints readying to move west as well as those later coming from the East and Europe as late as 1853.
The Keokuk staging area camp was in operation from 1846 to 1853 on property owned by church members who settled on the Iowa side of the Mississippi a few miles downriver from Nauvoo
    As for the name “Zarahemla,” we do not know its meaning, only that it came from the Book of Mormon, and existed among the Mulekites prior to the Nephites encountering them (Omni 1:12-19). It was common in Book of Mormon times to name cities “after the name of him who first possessed them” (Alma 8:7). Perhaps someone among the original group who came with Mulek was named Zarahemla and founded a city near their settlement, for they had always lived where Mosiah found them (Mosiah 1:16). In any event, we know that the Nephites named Bountiful in the Land of Promise evidently after the Bountiful in Arabia where Nephi built his ship. They also named some cities after people of Israel, or old city names in Israel, i.e., Jerusalem, Judea, David, Jordan, Shem, Midian, Angola, Noah, etc. Also, when the Saints moved into Utah, they named cities Nephi, Moroni, Manti, and Bountiful, etc.
    One of the first settlements named in this way by the Saints in America, was Zarahemla, at Nashville, Lee County, Iowa. From a commentary by George Reynolds and Janne M. Sjodahl, p 796, we find regarding Zarahemla, Iowa: “This settlement was founded by the Saints in 1839, on the uplands about a mile west of the Mississippi River, near Montrose and opposite Nauvoo, Ill. The Church had bought an extensive tract of land here. At a conference held at Zarahemla, August 7th, 1841, seven hundred and fifty Church members were represented, of whom three hundred and twenty-six lived in Zarahemla. But when the Saints left for the Rocky Mountains, that city was lost sight of.”
    This 1841 Conference occurred five months after the revelation that brought about the change in name from Nashville to Zarahemla. At the time of the name change, there were nine branches in the Iowa area, all belonging to what was then the  “Iowa Stake,” and as such, the Iowa members were on an ecclesiastical par with Nauvoo, having a stake presidency (Joseph’s uncle, John Smith as President), high council, bishop, and nine branches or congregations that by 1841 included some 750 members, when the stake’s name was changed to the “Zarahemla Stake.”
    So the question arises, “was there any importance attached to this area originally called Nashville and became Zarahemla?” President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote in Essentials in Church History, p 222: “Across the river on the Iowa side, extensive holdings also were obtained. The village of Nashville, in Lee County, with twenty thousand acres adjoining, was purchased; also other lands opposite Nauvoo. Here the Prophet instructed the Saints that a city should be built, to be called Zarahemla. A number of members of the Church had located here when the Saints were driven from Missouri, and it appeared to be a suitable location for a permanent settlement of the people. … The idea seemed to be that the Latter-day Saints should spread out over considerable territory and form organizations in various parts of the country.”
The Iowa Half-Breed Tract of land between Keokuk (south) and Fort Madison (north), and the Des Moines River (west) and the Mississippi (right), designated as 120 on the map. Red Arrow: Nauvoo, across the Mississippi in Illinois. Montrose and Zarahemla are across the river from Nauvoo in Iowa, within the tract of land
    Specifically, in June 1839 the church bought two extensive tracts of land in the triangular Half-breed Tract, which extended from Fort Madison west to the Des Moines River and south to Keokuk. The purchase included a town site three miles south of Montrose called Nashville (now Galland) and 20,000 acres around it and along the Mississippi River. The church also bought another 30,000 acres in and around Montrose, including part of the Montrose town site. In fact, individual Saints also bought land in nearby Keokuk and settled in neighboring Des Moines and Van Buren Counties. In addition, by early 1839, some forty LDS families occupied the deserted U.S. Army barracks of Old Fort Des Moines—built in 1834 facing the Mississippi River and abandoned in 1837—located just across the river from where Nauvoo soon sprang up, including Brigham Young, John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff.
(See the next post, “Nashville, Montrose and Zarahemla – Part II,” for more on the naming of Zarahemla, Iowa)

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