For this artsy Saturday, I want to give you a picture looking out the dining room window of the Giant City Lodge State Park in southern Illinois. The park is not big and “Giant City” is nowhere to be found but it reminds me of Yellow Stone and other national park lodges. The CCC statues there is to honor all those who built the lodge in the 1930s.
I have visited Galena Illinois four times since the picture below was taken in 1990. The town just seems frozen in time to when U.S. Grant occasionally lived there.
Since the picture was recorded on film and then rescanned it doesn’t have the resolution to be a large scale photo but that doesn’t reduce it beauty. It was taken in the early morning sun from Grant Park which is across the river from the town center . Now onto my story about Galena.
My wife is a gamer, not the online kind but she does spend hours each week with her “computer friends” from a DVD of card and board games. I think she has come to know those characters better than she does me. Another part of her gaming is playing slot machines, so we occasionally spend some time in casinos. Although they are not my favorite places I usually play $5 at a time and then call it quits. It so happened that the last time we were in Dubuque Iowa casino I put my $5 in and it returned over $400 in winnings! To celebrate we decided to stop once again in Galena on our way home.
As usual we spent hours walking the town and enjoying its scenic beauty. I have probably taken 200 pictures of the town and yet never run out of something new to photograph each time I go. When we stopped at a high end gallery and saw the print “Galena Winter” I knew where a good portion of my winnings would go. That picture has resided on our wall for a few years now.
Nauvoo Village was one of several settlements established and then all but abandoned by Mormons due to battles with their neighbors. The first was in Ohio, the second in Missouri, and then came Nauvoo in Illinois. This was the site that it’s founder Joseph Smith was killed and Brigham Young took over the leadership.
Mauvoo has recently been been called the “Williamsburg of the Midwest” and to some degree they deserve that title but in others they fall short. Many of the building have been restored to the 1840s but many are still in private hands. Unlike Williamsburg there are obvious places that the 21st century invades including cars parked throughout the village.
I think most, if not all the employees are of the Mormon faith so some don’t take criticisms lightly. All being said however, I found all the people in the village to be very friendly and more than willing to accommodate my deafness.
Before I close I want to get in my “having my say” mode and talk a little about religion and Mormons particularly. During the 1800 years or so between the beginning of Christianity and the settlement of Nauvoo there were thousands of different version of Christianity invented. Many happened after Luther started the Protestant Reformation. And of course there have been about 20,000 or more different version since that time. I kind of find it ironic that there was as much ambivalence toward Mormons that there has been. Why were they driven out of so many settlement locations before they finally reached Salt Lake City? Are they that threatening to other Christians?
I have become a “live and let live” believer in Jesus Christ. That is I just don’t believe that any of the 35,000 version of this religion have a lock on what to believe. They are all just one person’s view of religion starting with St. Paul who had never seen Jesus and spoke little of the lessons of Jesus during his lifelong ministry. One great thing about America it that we, at least figuratively, believe in freedom of religion. Believe what you want as long as you don’t try to force your beliefs on others.
Finally getting back to Nauvoo, this village is well worth it if you find yourself in the area.
Here are some pictures from my visit. As usual click on any one to see a larger slideshow view.
This week’s Religion in America post will be about Bishop Hill in central Illinois. Like last week’s post it is about a group who escaped a State sanctioned Lutheran system of belief in the mid 1800s. This time it is from Sweden but pretty much mirrors that of Zoar Village story from Germany.
This group settled into a communal colony where everything was held in common. But unlike most religious colonies escaping to America. Bishop Hill was more intense/fundamental than the one that they escaped from and were often in bitter opposition to many other versions of Lutheranism in America.
Here is a little about what Wikipedia says of Bishop Hill’s founder:
The village was founded in 1846 by Swedish immigrants affiliated with the Pietist movement, led by Erik Jansson. Prior to founding the Bishop Hill Colony, Jansson preached to his followers in Sweden about what he considered to be the abominations of the Lutheran Church and emphasized the doctrine that the faithful were without sin.
This story is common to many religious groups established in America. It was primarily founded around a strong and charismatic leader who chose a few particular verses in one version or another holy document to concentrate on. But this same thing was also typical of other world religions. Lutheranism, which was founded by Martin Luther who started the Protestant Reformation about 500 years ago when he became fixated on “works” not being important to God and uttering words of faith being the primary purpose of religion. Some say this was due to an overwhelming inferiority complex by Luther. When he found the words from St. Paul (not Jesus) “you are saved by faith, not works” it became by far the most important aspect of his version of religion.
Getting back to the story at hand in 1854 when Jansson was assassinated by a former member and six years later the communal contract ended due to mismanagement. There are some common historic buildings left at the site but most of the dwellings in the village are now privately owned.
About the only wall signs you find anymore are those that have been uncovered with a building restoration. The creativity of those signs seem to have been lost now. This sign was found in the Galena business district a few years ago. We have been there several times now and never tire of visiting again.