Tom drove into Casey’s for coffee. Our hosts don’t drink it. The lady at the counter is still pushing donuts on him, but he didn’t give in. Breakfast at the Nicholls home was slated for 8:00 AM—a full serving of scrambled eggs, hash browns, fruit, toast if you want it, and orange juice!
We thought we’d take the morning easy, not having a set appointment until 11:30am with the Mayor at the Catholic Church. However, Sharon had suggested we visit The Flood Museum and the proprietor said a morning visit would be better, so we got on our way to meet Bob and Carol and learn another creation story. Bob and Carol are one more Nauvoo, Illinois story where the purpose reveals itself once they arrived. Bob had always been interested in ancient history, and began working on a book about the biblical flood. At a certain point, the idea came to mind to take the book and make it a physical reality in the form of a museum, something to share with others as an experience. Bob has researched various cultures and scriptures, not just that of the Hebrew bible, finding flood stories across several, a unifying theme of humanity and our spiritual underpinnings. He built the museum on a shoestring budget, but you wouldn’t know it for how professional it looks and feels. My favorite experience—and I think Bob’s as well—is the room of light, incredibly different from all the other exhibits. You just have to walk into the space to feel how this tiny room opens you up from the inside out, all with a glowing, pulsing light.
Tom and Bob continued the tour of the museum, while I had to duck out early to take a phone call and interview with Janis Turk, a freelance writer. She was interested in writing a profile on me for Our Mississippi, a publication about the river stretching through all ten states. The conversation was supposed to last fifteen minutes, but lingered on and on, into the next part of our morning as we drove over to the Catholic Church to meet up with the Mayor. I stayed back a while to finish the interview, and Tom and Sharon went inside to meet up with the Mayor and several others. By the time I joined them, I had missed much of the history lesson, but I did have a chance to talk to Mayor John McCarty about his family story in Nauvoo. John’s family had owned the cheese factory, where he worked for quite a while until it went out of business, doing double shift there and at his t-shirt company once that got rolling. John is known as an accomplished artist in town for his graphic art on not only t-shirts but also classic cars. At age 16 when just getting his drivers license, John founded the car show in town in conjunction with the annual Grape Festival. They went from around 20 cars to 620 cars at one point, and the community wanted to keep growing it, but the Mayor said whoa! He’s eventually got to find someone to pass down the responsibilities to, and his youngest son seemed a good candidate until he moved away. This son has a plan to return in several years, though, so there’s still hope…
After some photos in front of Mayor John’s classic car out front, Tom, Sharon and I headed down to the The Red Front Nauvoo for a bite of lunch in hopes of meeting the young couple new to town that just reopened this establishment. Jordan and Morgan Squire are another couple with a feeling about Nauvoo, who once having arrived in the place, have figured out their purpose here. They have six young kids and are transitioning from a town of 80,000 people near Salt Lake City to this town of 1,100 people near not much. But they love it—the small class sizes for their kids, the feeling of family with the people they’ve met in town, the opportunity to buy a building in downtown with the equity from their house back in Idaho. They opened the restaurant June 1 with just baked goods and cold sandwiches to-go, but starting next week they’ll have gourmet hot dogs and hamburgers, soups and salads, amongst other things. One step at a time, no pressure, just trusting that this is the path they were meant to be on.
While sampling some the gourmet hot dogs for next week’s release, Sharon Cohen walked in to buy some lunch, and Sharon Nichol flagged her over. Here was another story that we needed to hear. Sharon Cohen and her husband had moved from California some 8 years ago, stroke survivors both of them, after her husband received a message in prayer that they should move to Nauvoo specifically, and that they specifically should move in May. Sharon was raised agnostic, but was always seeking something more. When they decided to make the move, it came at a time when she had lost her job, and was lost for what to do. With this new direction from prayer, they started a Go Fund Me campaign, raised the funds to get across the country to Nauvoo, by the time they arrived, had a home to live in, jobs to make their way, and friends, or family you could say, to welcome them to their new home. Now Sharon runs the Nauvoo Market Place, an antique mall/flee market, which is something she said she always wanted in the place where she live
Sharon directed us over to the Visitors Center at the Latter Day Saints Mission, otherwise known as “the flats.” If you didn’t already know, Nauvoo is the historic home of thousands of Mormons, a settlement in the 1800s that was disrupted by those intolerant of the religion, thus instigating the westward migration of the church and its eventual establishment in Utah amongst other western United States areas. Today, Nauvoo is treated like the Mormon Mecca to an extent, having housed the seminal prophet of the religion Joseph Smith. The original homes and buildings have been restored and missionaries of all ages relive the stories of old, bringing the history alive in the present day. From brick making, to oxen rides, to wagon and horseshoe crafting, the trades of the past are embodied and learned from each day in Nauvoo.
We also visited the beautiful Women’s Garden outside the Visitor’s Center—the place where Sharon and Larry got married. I had thought the garden would be full of images of various distinguished women of the Mormon faith, but instead the garden showed “every woman” if you will, over the span of her life, from childhood to old age, in the image that the Latter Day Saints deem proper. This is a woman who excels in her schooling, but then falls in love and puts family first, raising many children until reaching great wisdom in old age.
From the flats we snuck away for a few hours of work back at Sharon’s house before the evening meal and gathering at the Hotel Nauvoo. The whole committee who had helped organize our time here was assembled, and we were told the buffet was sublime. Of course, me, always feeling buffets have too much food for my small stomach, decided to order off the menu—what a mistake! I ended up with the most food at the table: rack of ribs, huge side of fries, side of corn, whole basket of cross buns and breads just for me! Thank goodness I wrangled Tom into eating half of it all.
We also visited with Alan Mobley, a reporter for the county paper and local to Nauvoo who had moved here a few years ago. Much the same way as many others, just with a feeling about the place, and once here, finding this new calling, this opportunity to become a writer, a journalist.
You’d think after such a feast that we couldn’t fit another morsel in us, but Sharon had some dessert back at the house, so thankfully I had tucked away some room in my stomach for just such a thing. I savored a few bites of strawberry brick that she’d gotten from the Red Front, and then I slipped downstairs to bed. I’d heard that Nauvoo is the promised land, and indeed, everything we’d seen testified to that.