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About the Museum

Nauvoo Calls for BYU Archaeologists

Nov 18, 2016

In September 2016, the BYU Office of Public Archaeology (OPA) was hired by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to excavate the home of Edward Hunter. The Hunter home was located in Nauvoo, Illinois, just down the hill from the Nauvoo Temple. This home is a historical landmark for the Church as it was relied upon as both a safe haven and a place of revelation.

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Edward Hunter was a Quaker from Pennsylvania previous to joining the LDS Church and moving to Nauvoo. He was a prominent member and eventually became Bishop of the Nauvoo 5th ward. He was an intelligent business man and generously gave thousands of dollars to the Church. Edward offered his home to the Prophet Joseph Smith as a place of safety. Loyal and devoted, Edward became one of Joseph Smith’s bodyguards. During this time, Hunter enjoyed the confidence and friendship of the Prophet. Additionally, the Hunter home was where sections 127 and 128 of the Doctrine and Covenants were received. These sections contain directions on baptisms for the dead.

Rich Talbot, director of OPA, and Deb Harris, OPA historic acrheologist, headed the excavation process. What the team found was both expected and unexpected. Before excavating, the team set several goals for the project. First, to uncover the foundation. Second, to find artifacts from the Nauvoo time period. Lastly, the home had an addition built onto the original frame of the house. The team wanted to see if this addition was added during the time Edward Hunter lived in the home.

The home had been demolished in the 1980’s, leaving only the buried foundation of the basement. The team cleared out the basement and drilled through the concrete floor to find the original wooden floors. Of the excavation process Talbot stated, “Excavating a Nauvoo period structure was a unique learning experience. We were able to involve our students in exploring features built and used by early Saints. This contributes significantly to our knowledge of the Nauvoo life.” Interestingly, a dime from 1848 was found on the floor, accurately dating to the time Hunter lived in the home.

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Other team members who participated in the excavation process had a noteworthy experience. Hailey Ferguson, a master student at BYU studying Archeology, shared her thoughts, “Nauvoo is special. I’m mostly surprised with the peaceful feeling there after all the violence that went on. We were able to stand where the Prophet stood. That was pretty remarkable.”

The team finished the excavation in early October. The basement of the home is now uncovered and the Church has made it open for visitors to come view the site. If you are in Nauvoo, be sure to see the Edward Hunter home. You will likely see and feel the importance of this home and the role it played in building the Church.