Carthage Jail and Visitors’ Center
LOCATION: 310 Buchanan Street (Highway 136) in Carthage, Illinois
Visit the restored Carthage Jail, where Joseph Smith, the first President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his brother Hyrum were murdered. Tours begin at the Visitors’ Center with an 18-minute film on Joseph Smith’s life. You can also enjoy a walk through the beautiful gardens, where a life-sized statue of Joseph and Hyrum Smith pays tribute to the brothers.
Trouble for Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo increased when the Nauvoo city council issued orders to destroy a newspaper press that had printed criticisms against the Church. This act angered the newspaper’s supporters and neighboring citizens. To bring calm, Governor Thomas Ford promised the council members full protection if they would submit to arrest and go to Carthage for a trial. Notwithstanding the promise of protection, Joseph Smith felt that he was “going like a lamb to the slaughter.”
Joseph and Hyrum Smith arrived at Carthage on June 24, 1844. The next day they were released on bail, but they were detained after being falsely charged with treason, a charge stemming from their activating the Nauvoo Legion to protect the citizens of Nauvoo. Although only Joseph and Hyrum were under arrest, others remained with them in the jail.
On June 27th, four men were held in the jail’s upper bedroom: Joseph, Hyrum, John Taylor, and Dr. Willard Richards. A group of men with blackened faces and guns rushed toward the jail. The four men tried to hold the door against the mob, but Hyrum was immediately shot and killed. The mob forced the door open just as Joseph turned to leap out the window. He was shot twice in the back and twice in the chest as he fell from the second-story window. John Taylor was shot four times but miraculously survived. Willard Richards escaped without even a hole in his clothing. The Saints in Nauvoo grieved the loss of Joseph and Hyrum, but remained at Nauvoo for almost two more years.
The jail was constructed in 1839-40. In later years it was converted into a house. It remained a private home until 1903, when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bought it, then restored it in 1938. A beautiful bronze statue of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, memorial quotes, and new landscaping were dedicated in 1989.
Memorials to the Testimony of Joseph Smith
Plaque No. 1.
“I was born in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and five on the twenty-third day of December…so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations that it was impossible for a person as young as I was….to come to any certain conclusions who was right and who was wrong….” [Joseph Smith History 3, 8]
“While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God that given to all men liberally and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him….” [Joseph Smith History 11]
“…I at length came to the determination to ‘ask of God’….I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God….I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.” [Joseph Smith History 13, 14, 16]
Plaque No. 2.
“When the light rested upon me I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other…’This is my beloved Son, hear him…” [Joseph Smith History 17]
Plaque No. 3.
“I never feel to force my doctrine upon any person; I rejoice to see prejudice give way to truth, and the traditions of men dispersed by the pure principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” [Joseph Smith, Jr. 1844]
Plaque No. 4.
“Patience is heavenly, obedience is noble, forgiveness is merciful, and exaltation is godly; and he that holds out faithful to the end shall in no wise lose his reward. A good man will endure all things to honor Christ, and even dispose of the whole world, and all in it, to save his soul.” [Joseph Smith, Jr. and Hyrum Smith, 1844]
Plaque No. 5.
“When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain.” [Joseph Smith, Jr. 1835]
Plaque No. 6.
“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him (Jesus Christ), this is the testimony last of all which we give of him; that He lives!
“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father.
“That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.” [Doctrine and Covenants 76:22-24]
Joseph Smith History 1, 3, 8, 11, 14, 16, 17
History of the Church, Vol 6, p. 213 (Letter from Joseph Smith to Joseph L. Heywood of Quincy, IL, 13 Feb 1844)
History of the Church, Vol 6, p. 427 (Letter from Joseph and Hyrum Smith to Mr. Tewkisberry, 4 Jun 1844)
Lectures on Faith, Lecture 6, Verse 7
Doctrine and Covenants 76:22-24
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