Looking south from the barn yard on the Joseph Smith Farm soon after sunrise.
My first visit to the Joseph Smith Farm in Manchester, New York was 32 years ago. I felt the Spirit then, and I felt the Spirit there again a couple of weeks ago as I led Meridian Magazine’s Church History tour to this sacred place.
In the last four years the farm has undergone extensive changes and since many of us may never get to visit there and many others may only visit once in a lifetime, I thought it would be well to share with you some beautiful photographs directly out of my digital camera to your screens at home. You will be able to click on each image to enlarge it (let me assure you it’s worth it to study each one). I’m hoping that the Spirit I felt there will be conveyed to you as if you were there with me.
You’ll notice some obvious changes on the farm: of course the cabin has been reconstructed upon the original footprint of the foundation. The frame house that has been there since the Prophet Joseph’s brother Alvin started building it in 1822 has recently been through a major overhaul. Experts were called in to see how to restore it to as close to the original look as the Smiths would have had in the years they lived there. I have documented the house inside and out so you can see as they would have seen. The 200 year-old-barn that once stood on the John Young (Brigham’s father) farm in Mendon, New York not far from Palmyra was carefully taken down and rebuilt on the farm here in Manchester. A cooper’s shop was added just west of the frame house where it once stood. New trails have been made all through the Sacred Grove. And of course, the crowning jewel of the farm is the Temple.
I hope you don’t mind if I am a little personal with the captions of the pictures. I have even included some of my family members in a couple of shots. Please come with me as I take you on this intimate tour of the Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith Farm in Manchester, New York.
There was a morning about 181 years ago when Joseph awoke in the cabin that was here in this very spot and he did go to the woods on his father’s farm to pray.
Early morning light touches the Smith cabin with the Sacred Grove in view in the background. You can stand by this cabin and picture in your mind’s eye what happened that day in the spring of 1820.
My son Truman, age 14, came with me on this journey (as did daughter Mariah, age 11). As the group stood by the cabin at 5:30 a.m. I asked Truman if he would not just walk from the cabin to the grove for us. He walked like a fourteen-year-old boy. About half way down he kind of put his hands in his pocket. He looked around. He was quiet. Truman later told me this was one of the highlights of the tour for him.
Was the light cresting the trees that day when Joseph went into the woods to pray? Did that first morning light touch the freshly split rails near this very spot that day?
A virgin forest can be very dark early in the morning. I call this picture “before the light.”
I’ve shot hundreds of photographs inside the grove. I was trying to capture the first burst of sunlight with the digital camera on this trip. The light seems to not just dapple in the grove-it does indeed seem to burst.
This is basically the same picture as “before the light” but after the light has come.
Around pageant time the grove is filled with people who desire to draw closer to the Lord. One of our tour participants studied the scriptures here for some time.
I love this stump that has been left near the cabin. It reminds me of the intense hard work it took to tame the virgin forest the Smith’s purchased in 1818. There were 100-120 trees per acre and many of those trees, as William Smith reported, had trunks with diameters of eight to ten feet. According to one account to the First Vision Joseph went to the place where he had left his ax the day before (where they had been clearing trees).
When Joseph returned from the grove, after having received the First Vision, he leaned up against the fire piece in the cabin. His mother, Lucy Mack Smith, inquired what the matter was. He said, “Never mind, all is well-I am well enough off. I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.” This was a significant statement inasmuch as Lucy, Hyrum, Sophronia and Samuel Harrison Smith has just joined the Presbyterian Church not long before.
As you walk up the south trail from the frame house into the Grove, you can turn around just before you walk into the thick part of the forest and see the temple on the hill to the east.
Those of you who have been to the frame house on the Smith Farm will not even recognize this house which has now been restored to as close to the original as possible. This view is at the northwest corner looking to the southeast.
Another angle of the frame house gives you some idea of how it looks today, again, as close as we can figure it looked like this when the Smiths lived here in the mid 1820’s.
From the upper loft bedroom in the cabin one can see the frame house to the south.
I love to give the “touchy-feely” shots of various historical sites. This is one of those. Here we are standing right next to the cabin looking south to the frame house. This gives you some perspective of the distances here on the 100 acre farm.
As you walk down the road from the cabin you truly get the feeling you are back on the nineteenth century farm of the Smiths. The modern road in the distance has been gently curved from the south and around to the east of the frame house so that all traffic between the cabin and the frame house is pedestrian only.
There is one place along the walk from the cabin to the frame house where you can turn to your left (east) and see the Temple on the hill. A bench has been placed along the trail for resting and pondering. It is quite the feeling to look east and see the temple and to look west and gaze upon the Sacred Grove as you walk between the Smith homes.
The trees have been thinned somewhat in one place so that patrons or visitors to the Temple can gaze upon the Sacred Grove to the west.
In the upper room of the Smith Cabin during the night of September 21, 22, 1823 Joseph Smith was visited by the Angel Moroni. Even though this is not the original cabin, this same space is now occupied by the reconstructed cabin and those sacred feelings can be felt here.
It is felt from the research on the original frame house of the Smiths that many areas of the home were not completely finished. These rooms have been left to appear as close to how they appeared when the Smiths lived here.
It was in this very kitchen where the Smiths waited patiently for Martin Harris to come (in July 1828) to bring the 116 pages of manuscript. Here Martin Harris disclosed that the manuscript had been lost. The Smiths gathered in this room on numerous occasions during their time here.
I like this picture. I like to think about the process of building this home. I like to think about the time the mob came and the Smiths hid the plates under the hearthstones and then relaid them all and then dealt with the mob. I like to think about this precious Smith family actually living in this home.
Mother Smith’s pantry may not have been so well-stocked as this depicts. Joseph said he was “doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily labor” and therefore the family was never well off in the things of this world.
This box on top of this chest-of-drawers is the same size as the box used to hold the plates in Joseph’s day. It is not the original (which now belongs to Patriarch Emeritus Eldred G. Smith), but just like the original.
Here we are on the trail that leads to the Sacred Grove on the south looking back to the east at the frame house (center), the cooper’s shop (left) and the barn (right).
The reconstructed cooper’s shop gives one a sense of the work of making barrels but more importantly a place where the plates were once hid in the loft to keep them from the mob.
This wagon and pile of wood make from great photo opportunities for families and individuals. What a lovely place this farm truly is.
I took this picture of my fourteen year old son, Truman, about two hours after the first one. I just really wanted to implant in my mind that scene of a young boy walking to the grove to pray. And I wanted to share it with you again.