Friday, July 15, 2011

More Restoration Sites

Mr.J and I at Lake Ontario
Yesterday was our day off and we filled every minute of it. We began with a ride up north to Lake Ontario and the Sodus Point light house. We found a delightful park in Pultneyville and had a delicious lunch at a restaurant that overlooked the lake. After that we picked up our friend, Matt Baker, in Palmyra who took us to Harmony, PA, and the surrounding Church history sights. Matt is the area coordinator for seminaries and institutes and is well versed in Church history.

Chris and I at the "Emily" sign.
We started our tour at what is now the county fairgrounds in South Bainbridge, NY, where on January 18, 1827, Joseph Smith eloped to marry Emma Hale. The home of the judge is no longer standing but a state historical marker is there stating that it is the place where Joseph Smith married “Emily” Hale. It is a mistake but anti-Mormons use it to claim that Joseph was a polygamist from the beginning because he had two wives Emily and Emma. There used to be another marker someplace in the area explaining that Joseph found the gold plates there. Another mistake.

Matt next took us to some homes most tourists never get to see. Historians have identified where Josiah Stowell and Joseph Knight lived and their homes are still standing. Private LDS owners have bought the homes and are restoring them. Both men were very affluent and influential. It was once thought that Joseph Knight hired Joseph to build a well on his property, but further study has led historians to believe that is incorrect. Later Knight recommended Joseph to Josiah Stowell who was looking for help to dig on his property for Spanish treasure. Hence Joseph Smith became known as a treasure seeker and gold digger. Joseph stayed in both those places many times.

While working for Stowell, Joseph boarded with a prominent family, the Hales, who lived in Harmony (about 30 miles from Knight and Stowell) and that is when the love story of Joseph and Emma began. Emma was a school teacher, educated, refined, but knew how to hunt and canoe—a bit of a tomboy! As I read about her I get the impression she was her father’s favorite and you can imagine their disappointment when of all the suitors she had, she choose to elope with an uneducated farm boy.

After they eloped Joseph and Emma spent their honeymoon in the Stowell home and it was Josiah Stowell who helped the couple elope. In their day these homes were the best around. They had beautiful wide, plank floors and several bedrooms upstairs. It made me think of all the sacrifices Emma made to marry, support, and be a help to Joseph.

Joseph Knight home.
Palmyra was the cradle of the restoration of the Church, but Colesville, the area where the Stowell and Knight farms are, 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 wishing those old walls could speak and tell me all they knew!

Out last stop was in Oakland, PA, the current name of what used to be Harmony, and stood on the 13 acres that Joseph bought from his father-in-law and where Emma and Joseph lived while he translated most of the Book of Mormon. The house is gone, but you can still see the foundation stones. Across the street and down a little is where Emma’s parent’s home stood. Isaac Hale was a prominent man who owned a very large parcel of land. The Hale home is also gone, but it was large, and the Hale land fertile and beautiful.

Near the home sites is the cemetery where Emma’s parents and Joseph and Emma’s first child, Alvin, are buried. Next to Emma and Joseph’s home site is the monument commemorating the restoration of the Aaronic priesthood. It was also someplace in this area that the Melchezidek priesthood was restored and Olive and Joseph were baptized in the Susquehanna River. We went wading in the rocky (no sand here) wide, gentle river which was used heavily in Joseph’s day for transportation. I’d forgotten how warm the water is. It isn’t very deep river and I could image all the boats and barges traveling on the river and Joseph going by canoe from there to Colesville.

To get the bigger feel of the place, imagine being surrounded with small mountains covered in thick, dense forest and everywhere you look shades of lush green. Narrow wandering roads are bordered with orange day lilies and hollyhocks that grow wild and quaint old homes that are still lived in and cared for.

God choose some beautiful places to restore His gospel!


Wendi said...

Thanks for sharing all that history. I'm glad you've been able to see and do so much during your stay there. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sherrie, I have loved every one of your posts. It makes me feel like I'm there with you, your details are so real. I hope you have a wonderful time, and keep sharing all your insights.

Cathy said...

It sounds like you are having a wonderful time! Thank you for sharing some of your experiences and a few of the details in the history of Joseph and Emma! When I read your description of the 'small' lush green mountains and wildflowers growing along the narrow roadways, and of the stone fence, it awakens my childhood memories of growing up in the 'North East Kingdom' in Vermont!