1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Nauvoo

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NAUVOO, a city of Hancock county, Illinois, U.S.A., on the Mississippi river at the head of the lower rapids and about 50 m. above Quincy. Pop. (1900) 1321; (1910) 1020. On the opposite bank of the river is Montrose, Iowa (pop. in 1910, 708), served by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railway. Nauvoo is the seat of St Mary's Academy and Spalding Institute (1907), two institutions of the Benedictine Sisters. “Commerce City” was laid out here in 1834 by Connecticut speculators; but the first settlement of importance was made by the Mormons (q.v.) in 1839-1840; they named it Nauvoo,[1] in obedience to a “revelation” made to Joseph Smith, and secured a city charter in 1840. Four years later its population was about 15,000, and a large Mormon temple had been built, but internal dissensions arose, “gentile” hostility was aroused, the charter of Nauvoo was revoked in 1845, two of the leaders, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum, were killed at Carthage, the county-seat, by a mob, and in 1846 the sect was driven from the state. Traces of Mormonism, however, still remain in the ruins of the temple and the names of several of the streets. Three years after the expulsion of the Mormons Nauvoo was occupied by the remnant (some 250) of a colony of French communists, the Icarians, who had come out under the leadership of Étienne Cabet (q.v.). For a few years the colony prospered, and by 1855 its membership had doubled. It was governed under a constitution, drafted by Cabet, which vested the legislative authority in a general assembly composed of all the males twenty years of age or over and the administrative authority in a board of six directors, three of whom were elected every six months for a term of one year. Each family occupied its own home, but property was held in common, all ate at the common table, and the children were taught in the community school. In December 1855 Cabet proposed a revision of the constitution to give him greater authority. This resulted in rending the colony into two irreconcilable factions, and in October 1856 Cabet with the minority (172) withdrew to St Louis, Mo., where he died on the 8th of November. In May 1858 the surviving members of his faction together with a few fresh arrivals from France established a new Icarian colony at Cheltenham near St Louis, but this survived only for a brief period. Nauvoo was never intended to be more than a temporary home for the Icarians. Soon after the schism of 1856 those who had rebelled against Cabet began to prepare a permanent home in Adams county, Iowa. There too in 1879 the community split into two factions, the Young Party and the Old Party. Some time before this separation a few members of the colony removed to the vicinity of Cloverdale, Sonoma county, California, and here most of the members of the Young Party joined them early in 1884 in forming the Icaria-Speranza Community. This society tried a government quite different from that first adopted at Nauvoo, but it ceased to exist after about three years. The Old Party also adopted a new constitution, but it too was dissolved in 1895.

See Albert Shaw, Icaria: A Chapter in the History of Communism (New York, 1884); Jules Prudhommeaux, Icaria et son fondateur Étienne Cabet (Paris, 1907); and H. Lux, Étienne Cabet und der Ikarische Kommunismus (Stuttgart, 1894).


  1. The Mormons said the name was of Hebrew origin and meant “beautiful place”; Hebrew “naveh” means “pleasant.”