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NAUVOO, Ill. While the eyes of the Church have focused squarely on Nauvoo in recent weeks, LDS history buffs can find plenty more to see just an hour or so outside the City of Joseph. Visits to towns and long-abandoned settlements with names such as Quincy or Morley's Settlement offer a broader glimpse of the early Church experience in Illinois and surrounding areas.
• Carthage, Ill., has long been synonymous with the 1844 martyrdom of Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum.
Located 13 miles southeast of Nauvoo, Carthage is a must-see spot for LDS folks traveling through western Illinois.
The Carthage Jail where the Smiths were murdered is part of a historic block owned by the Church that also includes a visitors center and several markers memorializing the jail's somber history.
Full-time missionaries conduct tours through the jail and also staff the visitors center.
• The Church made a symbolically triumphant return to Quincy, Ill., June 28 when President Gordon B. Hinckley and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir visited the city located 45 miles south of Nauvoo.
Church members' first foray into the Adams County community came amid desperate circumstances. Fleeing an extermination order in Missouri, the Saints ferried across the Mississippi River in 1838. They were greeted on the Illinois shore by friendly Quincy residents who offered them temporary refuge and relief from the Church's enemies.
The hospitality of the 19th-century Quincyans and the devout Church members they assisted are immortalized in a couple of monuments near the banks of the Mississippi. One is located near the water's edge where the Latter-day Saints arrived. The other can be found in Quincy's Washington Park in an area where the early members reportedly formed a camp in the days following their Missouri expulsion.
• The sad experience of Church members who called Morley's Settlement home is remembered in a marker located on the outskirts of Tioga about 25 miles south of Nauvoo. Hundreds of Nauvoo-era members called the settlement home, including the community's namesake, Isaac Morley, and the LDS poet Eliza R. Snow.
The isolated settlement did not enjoy Nauvoo's communal protection and was targeted by nearby anti-Mormon elements. Mobs torched more than 170 homes on Nov. 15, 1845, prompting Morley's Settlement residents to abandon their agrarian community and move to Nauvoo.
The pastoral beauty and promise that perhaps attracted folks to Morley's Settlement in the 1800s remains. The marker is located near acres of fields, removed from the traffic motoring down State Road 96.
• Warsaw, found 16 miles south of Nauvoo, was defined by its anti-Mormon actions when the Church was headquartered in Illinois. The local paper, the Warsaw Signal, frequently vilified the faith and its leaders and was home to many of the Church's most violent enemies. Joseph Smith's assassins reportedly met in the Warsaw Hotel on the town's main street after murdering the Prophet.
Now part of a remodeled structure, the brick section of the old hotel is still intact.
• Besides offering a remarkable view of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple, the Iowa town of Montrose also boasts an important passage in Church history. The Latter-day Saints landed in Montrose after crossing the Mississippi River from Nauvoo in 1846 to begin the westward trek. Nearly a decade earlier, some 40 member families had taken shelter in the abandoned Old Fort Des Moines after being forced from Missouri.
Also, a group of hungry pioneers bivouacked near Montrose in September of 1846 when a flock of quail miraculously flew into their camp, providing food for the desperate members recently expelled from Nauvoo.
A bronze marker at River Front Park on the east end of Montrose's main street identifies the site of the old fort.
(Source: LaMar C. Berrett, Keith W. Perkins, Donald Q. Cannon, Sacred Places, Ohio and Ilinois, Deseret Book, pp. 212-215.)