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Old Salem home once a place of gathering

Contributions of Nathaniel H. Felt remembered with plaque

SALEM, Mass. — A few members of the Church in Salem, Mass., joined with city officials and representatives of the Peabody Essex Museum Oct. 16 to dedicate a plaque at the home of Nathaniel H. Felt, a once-prosperous tailor and influential businessman who was branch president in the 1830s.

The plaque commemorates the central role the home played in the early days of the Church when it was used as headquarters for new converts and departing missionaries. A daughter of Brigham Young, Vilate, also stayed there while attending college.

Nicole Benvie, portraying Vilate Young, and Fred Brown, portraying Brigham Young, arrive in horse-drawn carriage during the plaque dedication ceremony.
Nicole Benvie, portraying Vilate Young, and Fred Brown, portraying Brigham Young, arrive in horse-drawn carriage during the plaque dedication ceremony. Photo: Photo by Jonathan Felt

During the plaque ceremony, Salem Mayor Stanley J. Usovicz told an audience gathered at the Phillips Library of the Peabody-Essex Museum that Nathaniel H. Felt was a man who "followed his beliefs . . . and this is what has made America great."

During the ceremony, Jonathan C. Felt gave a biographical sketch of his great-great-grandfather, describing how his ancestor gave of his means to build the Church, including furniture used to decorate the Nauvoo Temple.

In his comments, Kim R. Wilson, chairman of the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation, referred to Doctrine and Covenants 111 and said Salem's treasure was its people.

The Nathaniel Felt home as part of the Peabody-Essex Museum campus.
The Nathaniel Felt home as part of the Peabody-Essex Museum campus. Photo: Photo by Jonathan Felt

The plaque was unveiled by Brother Wilson and Joseph F. Cutler, vice president of the Nathaniel H. Felt Family Association. President H. Kent Bowen of the Cambridge Massachusetts Stake then dedicated the plaque.

The Mormon Historic Sites Foundation and the Nathaniel H. Felt Family Association funded the plaque.

After the dedication, Nicole Benvie, a local member of the Church, presented a first-person interpretation of Vilate Young who lived there during the 1840s. Another local member, Fred Brown, then portrayed Brigham Young.

The Peabody-Essex Museum displayed several artifacts from the era, including the register which was signed by Joseph Smith when he visited Salem in 1836.

This home became part of the prominent museum in 2001 when museum officials began researching the history of several old homes on the property. After discovering its rich historical past, the museum moved the home to a more advantageous location where it has been used as part of the museum. Future plans call for a Salem Heritage Center/Nathaniel J. Felt Museum to be developed in the home where New Englanders may come for family history research.

Nathaniel Felt was baptized in the fall of 1843 after careful investigation of the Church. Shortly thereafter, he was called to preside over the Salem Branch. During this period he became acquainted with several leaders of the Church, including Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and Orson Pratt, who frequently visited his home in Salem.

Jonathan C. Felt, left, great-great-grandson of Nathaniel H. Felt, and Kim R. Wilson display newly dedicated plaque on Felt home.
Jonathan C. Felt, left, great-great-grandson of Nathaniel H. Felt, and Kim R. Wilson display newly dedicated plaque on Felt home. Photo: Photo by Fred Woods

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