Monday, August 4, 2014

The Smith Family Farm

The log home of the Smith Family outside of Palmyra, New York
My family was able to visit some LDS church historical sites this summer.  I thought perhaps you'd enjoy seeing them, too!

Around 1818 Joseph Smith, Sr., his wife, Lucy Mack smith, and their eight children moved from Palmyra village to Stafford Road, just north of the 100 acres they planned to acquire. They built a log home and outbuildings where they resided for approximately seven years.

In late 1825 they moved a few hundred feet south to their new frame home. Their son, Hyrum, had arranged to purchase the eighty acres of land surrounding the log home. Following his marriage to Jerusha Barden, in November of 1826, Hyrum and his wife resided in the log home.

The Prophet's brother Alvin built this home for the family
In the spring of 1829, Father and Mother Smith and their younger children returned to the log home where they lived with Hyrum’s family until the fall of 1830.

The Smiths’ oldest son, Alvin, planned the construction of this handsome New England-style farmhouse (above) to provide for his future family and to care for his parents in their elderly years. Having apprenticed as a builder, he managed the initial construction himself. By the fall of 1823 the heavy timber frame had been raised. That November Alvin died suddenly, and construction sat idle for months. The Smiths finally moved into the home in late 1825, even though much of the finishing work remained to be done

A tree on the property, near the recreation of an old fence.
Joseph Smith had his 4th visit from the Angel Moroni while resting under a tree like this one
In the spring of 1820, Joseph Smith, Jr. entered this remnant of an ancient forest (see below) to kneel in prayer. The vision he beheld of God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, initiated the restoration to the earth of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Nine years later, in late June of 1829, Joseph Smith Jr. gathered a small group of his family and friends to a secluded spot in these woods and showed them the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. He allowed each of the eight participants to hold the ancient record, turn its pages and examine its characters. They prepared a written testimony, which was published in the Book of Mormon.

Fred, Livia, and their Daddy at the Sacred Grove
The trees look all bare, because my nephew Daniel visited with his family (above) in early spring, while my brother and part of his family visited a few weeks ago.

It occurs to me, while writing this, that Joseph "retired to the woods" to pray in the early spring of 1820.  It might have looked very much like this at the time.

The modern recreation of the Attic Bedroom where the Angel Moroni appeared to the Prophet

Kirsti and Christian in the Attic Bedroom

Cobbler Shop
Joseph Smith hid the plates under the floorboards of the cobbler shop for a while.  One day he was prompted to wrap them up in old clothes and hide them up in the loft.  That night a mob came to find the plates, and ripped up the floorboards - but never bothered to check the open loft just a few feet above their heads.

The Golden Plates were once hidden under these bricks

A period writing desk and chairs

Farmhouse interior

The home interior

Holly and Fred viewing the interior of the farmhouse
In the photo below you see Log stumps from the farm. This gives you an idea of the amount of manual labor needed to put the farm in working order (they say it was pretty much a forest when the Smiths moved in).

I learned recently that 18th and 19th century farmers believed that forested land was the best, most fertile, arable land available.  They would deliberately choose forested land to eventually cultivate. I can't imagine the incredible work involved with removing old growth trees from the land using a horse, a few simple tools, and your own brawn.

It boggles the mind.

Log Stumps and tools on display
The Sacred Grove is open for self-guided tours all year. Visitors are requested to stay on marked paths and leave all the grove's resources in the grove, such as leaves, twigs, rocks, etc. They are working hard to maintain the area's delicate environmental balance, and maintaining its natural and pristine state.

The Sacred Grove
Inside the Smith home is this period Bible - open to the scripture in James that was to change the course of the world:
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."
 (See the New Testament, The General Epistle of James, Chapter 1, Verse 5)

An 1820 Bible open to the Book of James
Joseph Smith later wrote, "Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine.  It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart.  I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question [of which church was right] by an appeal to the Bible."

Work was being done on the Smith Family Farm Visitor's Center
At the Joseph Smith Farm Welcome Center, visitors become acquainted with the Smith family prior to 1816 when they arrived in the Palmyra area. From inside the Center, large picture windows afford a look back into the past to a time when the Smith family lived on the farm. The view extends from the log home on historic Old Stafford Road to the full expanse of the Sacred Grove. With thriving fruit orchards, meadows, and fields neatly fenced and tended, the farm looks much as it would have appeared by 1830, complete with a fine frame home, large barn and farmyard work areas.
Beautiful farmland in early spring
Sister Missionary Tour Guide outside the frame home 
 Volunteers staff the Visitor's Center and provide free tours to visitors.

Christian in the field - look at those rain clouds!
It rained heavily all through the month of July while my family visited Back East.  They had to pull over to the side of the road one day, as the rain was so heavy they couldn't see to drive!

Wish we had that problem here!

My family outside the Smith home
I got to visit these places when I was a little girl.  It was very different back then.  There was no Visitor's Center, for example.  I remember vividly we were invited to stay and spend the night at the old Smith family home by the missionary couple who lived there at the time.

This was not the family home in these photos, however.  The main family home has been reconstructed since that time.

Visiting Church History sites helps us to see history come alive.  It also helps us to understand the dynamic people who participated in the great Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and more fully appreciate the times in which they lived.  I'm grateful for those who have made an effort to preserve the past for us in this way.

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