10 Nauvoo 1844

                                William Warner Major


Jill C. Major, Author

Nauvoo 1844

People from across the United States, Canada, and English-speaking Europe gathered on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River in a new town called Nauvoo. It was a place of diverse cultures and accents and a haven of refinement and education. The Prophet Joseph Smith encouraged the Mormons in March 1842 to seek after all things "virtuous, lovely, or of good report, or praiseworthy."1 This included theatrical productions, music, dancing, singing, writing, and art.2 It is certain that William Warner Major was excited and anxious to move to a city where his talents would contribute to building up Zion.

The 81 Saints from the Swanton boarded a steamship in New Orleans called the Hugh Patrick, and traveled up the Mississippi River. They docked in Nauvoo at midnight on April 18, 1844.3 The Kimball/Marsden history reported that William Warner Major arrived in Nauvoo "about the month of August."4 (italics added.) Did the Major family travel with the group of Church members from the Swanton or did they lag behind in New Orleans or St. Louis and arrive at summer's end? In most histories this question wouldn't be important, but in this case, it determines whether or not Major had an opportunity to personally observe Joseph Smith, the first President and Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Joseph Smith was shot and killed by a mob in Carthage, Illinois on June 27, 1844. William was eager to paint the Prophet and included him in at least three art works;5 thus, the possibility that Major may have met and visited with Joseph Smith is intriguing. Since


Painting of Nauvoo, Illinois










 Anonymous 19th century painter, Oil on canvas about 1860


W. W. Major was identified from the early 1900's as one of the possible painters who created the prominent Joseph and Emma Smith portraits, it could also be significant.  Family tradition states that the Major family "resided in the room above Joseph Smith's store."6 In this historic building Joseph Smith performed the first temple endowments and the Relief Society was organized there on March 16, 1842.

Red Brick Store

Did the Major family rent the room in the red brick store from Joseph Smith, or from Emma after the Prophet died? Either way, this tradition suggests an association with the Smith family. Even though Nauvoo was bursting with thousands of people, this frontier town must have been a terrible culture shock to this middle-class English family who had just left a city of over two million! At the end of summer, while Sarah was still adjusting to her new home, she discovered she was pregnant again. As Sarah prepared for the arrival of a new baby, William Warner Major joined the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge on November 11, 1844 and was elected to receive the degrees of Masonry in December.7 He also was received into the High Priest's Quorum the same month.8 These activities helped him to "become acquainted with the authorities of the Church,"9 as the Kimball/Marsden history states.

Temple on the Hill














 Temple on the Hill
Lucian R. Foster (1806–?)
Daguerreotype, 1846