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Mormon settlement outside of Nauvoo, Illinois is one of the most neglected topics in Mormon history. Most discussion concerning Mormons between 1839 and 1846 is limited to Nauvoo although, as one researcher put it: "Mormon contact in Illinois was infinitely larger."1 After further investigation these settlements emerge as being far more important to Mormon history and the city of Nauvoo than this neglect suggests.


Comments on Session "Mormons in Illinois" December 6, 1997, 18th Illinois History Symposium by Rand Burnette, Chair and Professor of History, MacMurray College,

"The Rest of the Kingdom on the Mississippi: Mormon Settlement Patterns in Illinois 1838-1846" by R. Philip Reynolds presents us with an interesting thesis: the importance of Mormon settlements outside of the Nauvoo city limits. Years ago, my predecessor at MacMurray College, Walter B. Hendrickson, a pioneer in the history of American science and communitarian studies, told me that one element that led to popular resentment against the Mormons in Nauvoo was their attempt to control the land surrounding the town and in the outlying areas. He suggested that economic dissatisfaction of area farmers led to resentment against the Mormons and eventually to the deaths of Hyrum and Joseph Smith at the jail in Carthage in June 1844. As Reynolds make clear in his excellent study, the Mormon settlements outside of Nauvoo are important and scholars should pay more attention to them. He also draws our attention to the economic problems of these settlements. I can see that land transportation becomes important for these settlements in order to be able to move their grain to the mills and to see that food and other products are sent to the populous center of Nauvoo. But it is confusing to say that Nauvoo's location on the Mississippi was not advantageous to the economy of the city. The reason the people of Nauvoo were not able to take advantage of the products of the river traffic was because of poverty, not the city's location on the Mississippi River. I would urge him to expand his study of these outlying areas and to incorporate adequate maps to support his narrative. Where are these towns located? I know where Fountain Green is, but then I taught at Carthage College in Carthage, Illinois for two years back in the early 1960s. Where the towns and roads are located could be shown on a map of the region of western Illinois. I would also like to see a map that would delinate the density of Mormon population in these areas. Reynolds cites a population figure of 15,000 for Nauvoo from Theodore L. Carlson's The Illinois Military Tract (1951). Usually more recent estimates have doubted that there were more than 12,000-13,000 in Nauvoo at its height. Can any estimates be made of the population of these towns outside the the Nauvoo area? I also believe that his discussion of the economic problems facing Nauvoo and the surrounding countryside, including the economic competition with Quincy and Warsaw, are important points that are well developed in his study. He is to be congratulated for filling some important gaps in our knowledge about the Mormons in Illinois.



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