From his father, Joseph Smith Sr. learned the careful and demanding skill of coopering—the construction or repair of watertight wooden barrels. These containers were particularly important in the harvesting of maple sap and production of maple sugar. On their New York farm, the Smiths built a cooper shop to house the tools and materials they needed to make barrels, baskets, and light furniture, both for their own use and to sell to or repair for neighbors.
On at least one occasion, Joseph Smith protected the gold plates by hiding them in the cooper shop. Although the exact location of the original cooper shop is unknown, an authentic reproduction was placed across Stafford Road from the frame home in keeping with Lucy Mack Smith’s account of the family’s farm life.
The Smiths arrived in Palmyra from Vermont, 300 miles away, with few possessions, little money, and no friends. They rented a small home on West Main Street, somewhere near Stafford Road. Joseph Sr. had preceded Lucy and the children to Palmyra. After a joyful reunion, the family counseled together as to the best course of action to take. Joseph Sr., Alvin, and Hyrum worked on odd jobs as day laborers and saved money for land. Lucy and the younger children took care of household chores and sold Lucy’s oilcloth art. The Smiths moved from town onto their own farm in 1819.
Today the houses along Palmyra’s Main Street have changed to keep up with the needs of residents. The Church has not marked any particular house address as the Smiths’ rented home.
This 320-acre farm north of Palmyra belonged to Martin Harris, who became a family friend of the Smiths and was later one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon. Harris mortgaged almost half of this farm in 1829 to guarantee the $3,000 printing cost for the first 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon. When the note came due, Martin Harris sold 151 acres to pay the balance of the debt. Harris left the farm to gather with the Saints in Kirtland, Ohio, in May 1831. Today, a marker on the property describes Martin Harris’s contribution to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.
As the oldest son, Alvin Smith set an example of integrity, obedience, and hard work for his younger brothers and sisters. Young Joseph looked up to his oldest brother as a mentor and friend. Alvin helped earn the money for the mortgage on the farm and oversaw the initial construction of the frame home for his parents. His unexpected death in November 1823 was a major blow to the Smith family emotionally and economically. The family laid Alvin’s body to rest in the Swift Burying Ground, just north of Union Church House—a nondenominational chapel in Palmyra.
Because Alvin was never baptized, his family worried about the welfare of his soul in the afterlife. These fears subsided when Joseph Smith learned through revelation that the Lord made provisions for those who die without a knowledge of the gospel, including his brother Alvin.
The city of Palmyra manages the General John Swift Memorial Cemetery, which is open for visitors.
The Hill Cumorah is the highest of several low hills, or drumlins, clustered to the south of the Smith Farm. It rises 110 feet (33 m) above the valley floor and descends gently on three sides, with a steeper northern slope. Joseph described the location of the stone box containing the gold plates as being “on the west side of this hill, not far from the top” (Joseph Smith—History 1:51). Here the angel Moroni met Joseph Smith each year on September 22 from 1823 to 1827 and prepared him to bring forth the record and restore the true Church of Jesus Christ.
Joseph would have found mature trees growing near the top of the hill in the 1820s, but by the time the Church acquired the property in 1928, most of the hill’s trees were gone. Efforts to restore the hill’s forests are ongoing.
The Angel Moroni Monument was dedicated by President Heber J. Grant on June 21, 1935. Church sculptor Torleif S. Knaphus created the 39-foot (11 m) monument as a symbol of his testimony of the Book of Mormon. The 10-foot (3 m) gilded sculpture of the angel Moroni stands at the top of an obelisk made from Vermont granite. At the base of the monument are relief sculptures depicting Joseph Smith with Moroni, the Three Witnesses, and the Eight Witnesses. The first Hill Cumorah Pageant was staged at the foot of this monument in 1936.
In the winter of 1818–1819, the 10 members of the Smith family moved into a small log home on the edge of their new farm. Here the Smiths lived, worked, read the scriptures, and prayed. During the family’s time in their log home, young Joseph Smith saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, in a nearby grove of trees. It was also in the crowded sleeping quarters of the Smith boys’ upstairs room that the angel Moroni first visited Joseph in the late hours of the night in September 1823.
Although the original log home no longer exists, archaeological excavations revealed its location as well as 2,000 artifacts dated to the time the Smith family lived in the home. Applying the same methods, materials, and tools used in the construction of the original, an authentic recreation of the log home now stands on the original location.
During a time when overland travel in western New York was still difficult, the Erie Canal served as a major thoroughfare for travel and trade. The Erie Canal reached Palmyra in 1822 and played a role in several events important to the Church. It brought in the printing materials used to publish the Book of Mormon; it also brought spiritual seekers like Parley P. Pratt and Thomas B. Marsh into contact with the Church and helped send out early missionaries. The canal also played a major role in the gathering: in 1831, all three congregations of the Church in New York traveled to Kirtland, Ohio, using the canal. Today the Port of Palmyra still operates, although the canal has been enlarged and rerouted since 1836.
Since 1936, the Church has maintained a visitors’ center at the north end of the Hill Cumorah. The current center, dedicated in 2002, helps orient visitors to Latter-day Saint historic sites in the Palmyra area. An annual pageant that depicts events from the Book of Mormon and is performed on the slope of the hill each July.
The Palmyra Temple was built on the eastern edge of the original 100-acre Smith Farm and overlooks the Sacred Grove. The temple’s design elements include beautiful stained glass created by Utah artist Tom Holdman. The artwork incorporates images from the Sacred Grove and includes a stained glass mural of the First Vision. At the groundbreaking in May 1999, President Gordon B. Hinckley said, “I regard this temple as perhaps the most significant, in one respect, in the entire Church. It was right here in the Sacred Grove where it all began.” The April 6, 2000 dedication service was broadcast Churchwide, with over 1.5 million participants.
In 1825, Joseph Smith Sr. moved his family into the larger frame home on their 100-acre farm, a few hundred feet south of the log home. The frame home was the setting for several important events relating to the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. While living there, the family gathered to listen to Joseph share things he had learned from the angel Moroni about the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. When he obtained the gold plates in 1827, Joseph hid them in several places in and around the home. It was also here that Joseph Smith learned that Martin Harris had lost the first portions of the Book of Mormon manuscript.
The Smiths’ frame home still stands on its original foundation. A restoration project in 1998 returned the home to its 1820s appearance—at the time, it was discovered that 85 percent of the building materials had survived from Joseph Smith’s time to ours.
The threshing barn played an important role in the Smiths’ survival on the American frontier. During inclement weather, the barn provided a dry place to store harvested grains and hay for their animals. It also included an open wooden floor for the threshing, or loosening of grain from the stalks during the winter months. Harnesses and tools were stored in the barn as well as grain. For convenient access to both the home and the fields, the Smiths constructed the barn near the center of their property.
Although the Smiths’ barn no longer exists, archaeological excavations revealed its location. During the restoration of the Smith Farm, a historic barn of the same period and style, once belonging to Brigham Young’s father in Mendon, New York, was renovated and relocated to the original Smith barn site.
Situated next to the parking area, the welcome center provides visitors a chance to relax from travel and meet missionaries who lead tours through the Smith Family Farm. While waiting for a tour, visitors can take in a view of the Smith Farm through large picture windows. Visible are the log home on historic Stafford Road, Crooked Creek, orchards, fields, meadows, fences, and the Sacred Grove.
When the Joseph Smith Sr. family moved to its 100-acre property two miles south of Palmyra in 1818, the land was covered in forest. By the spring of 1820, the family had cleared 30 acres for farming, but they left large areas of productive woodlands on both the eastern and western sides of the farm. “On the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring” (Joseph Smith—History 1:14) of 1820, God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith to begin the Restoration of the gospel in the latter days. A forested 10-acre area on the western boundaries of the farm has been referred to as the Sacred Grove since 1906. Today this carefully preserved forest provides visitors a reverent place for quiet contemplation.
After completing the Book of Mormon translation, Joseph Smith contracted with Egbert B. Grandin to print 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon. Grandin’s shop was located in a commercial building in Palmyra known as Thayer & Grandin’s Row. For seven months, roughly ten laborers worked 10- to 12-hour days to complete the printing and a portion of the binding. Grandin sold the first completed copies of the Book of Mormon in his bookstore on March 26, 1830.
Restored to its 1830 appearance, the Grandin Building, now known as the Book of Mormon Historic Publication Site, houses both original artifacts and authentic recreations of the printing and binding areas, as well as the bookstore and Grandin’s office. Visitors can learn more about the Book of Mormon and the original printing process.