Situated on the horseshoe bend of the Mississippi, Nauvoo is nearly surrounded by the river. The Sac and Fox Indians settled in the area first. Later Captain James White traded two hundred sacks of corn for the Indians' vast acreage. Captain White established a fur-trading village on the banks of the river.
In 1839 Joseph Smith and his followers, the Mormons, settled in this area after they were forced out of Missouri by religious persecution. The Mormons were granted a very liberal charter for their city which they named Nauvoo. Within three years Nauvoo was one of the largest cities in Illinois and the tenth largest in the United States. Nauvoo was famous for its beautiful homes, its many fine shops and its magnificent Temple on the bluff overlooking the city and the river. Soon internal dissention, religious antagonism and the fear of the political power of the Mormons exploded into a fury. In 1844 Joseph Smith and his brother were assassinated and the Mormons were forced to evacuate the city in 1846. The burning of the Temple in 1846 was the last recorded act of anti-Mormonism.
In 1849 Etienne Cabet and his Icarian comrades came to Nauvoo from France. The Icarians bought Temple Square and began their short-lived experiment in communal living. For the first few years the commune prospered. Then minor disagreements grew into open rebellion. When the commune fell apart, some of the Icarians left Nauvoo. Many of the Icarians who remained in Nauvoo realized the soil and climate of Nauvoo was much like that of their native France. With their German and Swiss neighbors, they began the cultivation of grapes. Soon there over 600 acres of grapes and the hills of Nauvoo were honey-combed with stone-arched wine cellars and Nauvoo was noted for her fine wines. The Prohibition years doomed the wine industry. Though many of these wine cellars no longer serve the purpose for which they were built, many still exist today.
In the late 1930's a new industry came to Nauvoo. It was discovered that the cool moist wine cellars were ideal for aging cheese and so was born the Nauvoo Blue Cheese industry. About the same time, Cecil J. Baxter whose father had planted grapes and operated a winery in 1857, obtained a license to manufacture wine. Today the winery is operated by the fifth generation of the same family.
Nauvoo stands on two levels: the Hill and the Flats. Since the 1880's the Hill has housed the business district and the major residential area. Visitors may browse thru unique shops that offer gourmet foods. Specialty shops give demonstrations of various crafts. Excellent restaurants offer dining at its best. Antique shops are truly antique shops and craft shops feature locally handcrafted gifts and collectibles. Illinois's oldest winery offers daily tours and samples of Old Nauvoo wines. The Icarian Living History Museum contains artifacts from the Icarian era.
Original Nauvoo Temple Tools
April 1999, Gordon Hinckley, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, announced that the Church would rebuild the Nauvoo Temple on the original site on the Hill in Nauvoo. A groundbreaking ceremony was held in October 1999 and a cornerstone ceremony was held in November 2000. During May and June 2002, thousands of people toured the rebuilt Temple. The Temple was dedicated during the last week of June 2002.
The Flats tell the tragic story of the Mormons in Illinois. There stand the impressive homes and shops built by the Mormons. Visitors may visit the Joseph Smith Historical Center, view a slide presentation on Nauvoo, browse thru a gift shop, take a walking tour of the Homestead, grave site, and the Mansion House. At the L.D.S. Visitors Center one may view a movie about early Nauvoo filmed here in 1990 and walk thru the Monument to Women Gardens with its thirteen life-sized statues dedicated to women.
In the area are over twenty restored homes and shops. Several old time crafts have been revitalized and offer daily demonstrations by skilled artisans. Take a carriage ride and listen to the story the driver spins about old Nauvoo. An added attraction: There is no admission charge!
Nauvoo has several special events: The Mississippi River Scenic Drive is held the last weekend in June. This sixty mile drive takes the tourist on a tour of the Illinois cities of Dallas City, Niota, Nauvoo, Hamilton and Warsaw and crossed the river to drive thru Keokuk, Montrose and Fort Madison. As you "loop the loop" you will find historical tours, arts & crafts, flea markets, food booths and special events in each town. In August the Mormons present the CITY OF JOSEPH. This outdoor musical tells the story of Nauvoo in song and dance and is rated as one of the best outdoor pageant in the nation. On Labor Day weekend, the good people of Nauvoo celebrate the harvest of grapes with its annual Grape Festival. Highlights of the celebration include parades, a custom auto show, a Grape Stomp, mud volleyball, antique show, arts and crafts, flea market, buckskinners and a pageant.
Source : http://www.nauvoo.net/history/