Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Amazing Day

I can’t even begin to express the miracle and wonder of yesterday. A few days ago while working I met a seminary teacher coordinator from Syracuse, NY, who knows all about the history of this area and he volunteered to take Mr. J and I to Harmony, Pennsylvania and show us the sights down there. So yesterday we went to the Farm for our shift at 8:00, had an amazing day (as usual) and even met several people from back home. When we got off our shift at 2:00 we met Matt and drove to Harmony, the place where the Prophet Joseph met Emma and where he and Oliver Cowdery were baptized.

It is over a two hour drive to Harmony so all the way down Matt taught us Church history. I thought I knew Church history but he was telling us stories I’ve never heard, and I can’t wait to research and learn more about them. There were some very interesting things I’ll share later. But back to yesterday. We arrived in Oakland, PA, which is what used to be Harmony and stood on the land that Joseph bought near his father-in-law and where Emma and Joseph lived while he translated the Book of Mormon. The house is gone, but you can still see what must have been foundation stones. We then went down the street a little to see where Emma’s parent’s home stood. Isaac Hale was a prominent man who owned a very large parcel of land. I had never realized before what prosperity she gave up to go against her parent’s wishes and marry Joseph. The Hale home was large, and the land fertile and beautiful.

Near the home sites is the cemetery where Emma’s parents are buried and Emma’s first child, Alvin. Behind Emma and Joseph’s home site is the Susquehanna River where Joseph and Oliver Cowdery prayed and John the Baptist appeared to restore the Aaronic priesthood and where they were baptized. The river is much larger than I imagined and flows gently. At the spot we were in the river has carved out an area in the shore to form a pool of water that doesn’t flow much. I waded into the water to find that the river bottom is all rocks—no sand or soil—and the water surprisingly warm.

Matt next took us to some homes most tourists never get to see. Historians have discovered where Josiah Stowell and Joseph Knight lived and their homes are still standing. Both men were very affluent and influential. You will remember that Joseph Knight hired Joseph to build a well and later Josiah Stowell hired Joseph to dig on his property for Spanish treasure. While working for Stowell, Joseph boarded with Isaac Hale and that is when the love story of Joseph and Emma began. That much of the story I knew and figured the three homes were near each other, but Stowell and Knight lived in Colesville which is about 30 miles away.

Some people have purchased the Knight and Stowell homes and are restoring them to their original condition and Matt had access to both homes. It was electric! Joseph stayed in both those places many  times. Most significant is that he and Emma honeymooned in the Stowell home after Josiah Stowell helped the couple elope. In their day the homes were the largest and best with beautiful wide, plank floors and several bedrooms upstairs. Again, it made me think of all the sacrifices Emma made to support and be a help to Joseph.

Palmyra was the cradle of the restoration of the Church, but Colesville was the place of the first converts. Joseph preached often in a large barn owned by Joseph Knight and it was there that the first branch of the Church was formed (Joseph baptized Emma in a pond near the Knight home) and it was those saints that proved to be some of the strongest and most loyal of the early Church. I felt it such an honor to stand where they had stood. I found myself wish those old walls could speak and tell me all they knew! The well Joseph and his father built has been restored and the restoration people reported that when they dug down and found the original rock work it was very well done.

We next went to the county fairgrounds to see where the home once stood where Joseph and Emma were married. The home is long gone, but there is a metal historical marker posted by the NY preservation society that was put up when the home was still standing. It says that it is the place where the Mormon founder Joseph Smith married Emily [sic] Hale.

Finally we headed back to the motel and arrived at midnight. It was a long day, but amazing. We saw and felt the places where Joseph and Emma met and married, where the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods were restored, and where the first saints were converted and baptized.

I wish you had all been here with me! But I hope you'll enjoy the pictures. To get the bigger feel of the place imagine being surrounded with small mountains covered in dense forest and everywhere you look shades of green with small wandering roads and old, old homes still lived in and cared for. Close your eyes and see the wide Susquehanna River gently snaking through the valley, and on it Joseph traveling between the Hale's estate and Colesville in a canoe to see Emma and to attend the school where she taught. (I love romantic stories!)


cathy bubert said...

Thank you for painting such beautiful pictures with your words and taking us with you on your wonderful journey through church history. I can't wait for more . . .

Kim said...

What an amazing experience you are having. Thanks for sharing, I too can't wait for more.