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Return of an exile to City of Joseph

In 1905, Lorin Farr revisited city he left in exodus 60 years before

A prediction made in Nauvoo, Ill., in 1905 — at the first missionary conference held in the City of Joseph since the 1845 exodus — has been realized a century later.

The prediction was made by Lorin Farr, a Utah colonizer and Nauvoo exile who returned at 86 years of age for a visit. According to the local newspaper, the Nauvoo Independent, quoted extensively by the Deseret News, he was among an increasing number of Latter-day Saints to visit the city that once had 20,000 inhabitants but had by then dwindled to 1,400, and whose vineyards and apple orchards grew where homes once stood. The current residents welcomed visitors from the West in hopes that the neglected city would be revitalized.

Brother Farr's prediction to them was: "I thought some time in the near future many of the Latter-day Saints would come and assist in the building of a beautiful city, as I considered that Nauvoo is one of the prettiest sites or locations for a city lying by the Mississippi River."

On the hundredth anniversary of that prediction, Nauvoo is today comprised of the rebuilt temple, many restored buildings and a strong and growing Church presence.

David J. Farr, president of the Winslow Farr Sr. Family Organization and biographer, along with Craig Manscill, of Lorin Farr, said: "It has been wonderful to realize that Lorin Farr actually knew the Prophet, and in doing research on his biography, to have him add his witness to Joseph Smith's character and accomplishments. It has increased my testimony of the prophet's divine mission." The family organization may be contacted at: www.winslow.farr.org

After leaving Nauvoo in 1846, Brother Farr served as the first president of the Weber Stake and mayor of Ogden, Utah. The Weber County community of Farr West was given his name, along with the name of Chauncy West, another Weber County pioneer. Perhaps the community was also reminiscent of Far West, Mo., where as a youth Lorin Farr had lived with Joseph and Emma Smith. He also lived in their home in Nauvoo.

So returning to Nauvoo was a homecoming of sorts for Brother Farr, described as "sprightly and keen." Some of the older residents of Nauvoo remembered him and enjoyed visiting with him about the old "Mormon days" of the city. It was reported by the local newspaper that the woman who lived in the brick house he had built and left behind at age 26, and for which he still held title, did not welcome him back.

The visitors noted that little upkeep had been done on the houses "even where the homes are occupied by strangers, not a nail has been driven, a stone or brick replaced, not a fence repaired in all the years that have elapsed since that terrible event which blackens the history of American civilization."

However, current residents warmly received them. "The people here never molest them and on the other hand extend them a kindly welcome," stated the newspaper. "The people of Nauvoo have never yet found the 'Mormon' people to be anything but good people —zealous in their religious beliefs, industrious, of exemplary habits and minding their own business."

At the time of Brother Farr's visit, Church leaders, finding the residents hospitable, planned and held a gathering of the Northern and Southern Illinois Missionary Conferences of the Northern States Mission.

The leaders held their meetings Sept. 30-Oct. 1, 1905. Many of the 65 elders traveled on foot to Nauvoo from their districts from Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa as well as Illinois. Two sister missionaries also attended. Such was the missionaries' welcome by the local residents that some of the houses built by the original settlers were thrown open for them to stay in, including the historic homes that had belonged to Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball and others.

During the visit, the group met with the son of Lewis C. Bidamon. Mr. Bidamon, who died in 1891, was the second husband of Emma Smith. Mr. Bidamon allowed the group to hold a fast and testimony meeting in the Nauvoo House.

A description of Brother Farr's speech at one of the meetings is given in the Deseret News: "As the age-bent form of Lorin Farr, with white locks and honest countenance, raised up before the people, there was intense silence, and his testimony that our work is one of love and sacrifice was received with much respect. He had been in the Church 74 years. He said he did not believe in quarrels and would not quarrel with any man but would walk away and leave a quarrelsome person. When the people here become quarrelsome and abusive, the Latter-day Saints went away from them. Bro. Farr's testimony of the divine mission of Joseph Smith was strong, and rang with a tone of one who knew. It was a happy coincidence that a great many of the elders attending the conference were some of the sons of men who were driven out of Nauvoo 60 years ago."

As reported in the Deseret News on Oct. 15, 1905, Lorin Farr told of his history in Nauvoo: "I embraced the gospel when but 11 years of age in 1832, and when Joseph Smith was but a young man, I lived with him when a boy and after I became a man, and Joseph and Emma (his wife) used to call me their boy. I never knew a man that I thought as much of as I did of him. He was a man who strove to live his religion. I know him to be a good man, a man of God, notwithstanding all that the ministers said to injure his character."

He said "a few of the best houses are still standing there most of the houses which were there 60 years ago are gone and vineyards occupy the grounds, with some few fine orchards, mostly apples."

"But how changed the minds of the people. All that I saw seemed to be pleased to see me, and I was never better treated than by the people of Nauvoo."

He said he thought there were not more than six members of the Church in Nauvoo. "But the people that live there are a good people, and want to do as near right as they know how, and are very friendly to our people."

He continued, "We had a splendid meeting on Sunday. It seemed like old times when we used to have our conference in the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith. In fact, I never enjoyed a meeting much better than we had there."

C.E. Booth, president of the Northern States Mission, said three baptisms of Nauvoo residents took place during the conference. "There was a most beautiful spirit manifest throughout the entire conference and the impression made upon the people here is a deep and lasting one. The work will be continued by the leaving of two elders to labor in this city and neighborhood.

"In talking with the leading citizens here, they all took pains to remind us that they are anxious for us to return and build up the city again."

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