"Courage & Conflict:" The Mormon Tradition in Kirtland, Kirtland, Ohio

"Courage and Conflict:" The Mormon Tradition in Kirtland exhibit located at the Lake County Historical Society in Kirtland. Photo courtesy Alexander L. Baugh
“Courage and Conflict:” The Mormon Tradition in Kirtland exhibit located at the Lake County Historical Society in Kirtland.
Photo courtesy: Alexander L. Baugh.  ____________________________________________

On May 23, 2004 a new exhibit called “Courage and Conflict:” The Mormon Tradition in Kirtland was unveiled at the Lake County Historical Center in Kirtland, Ohio. The exhibit was created by the Lake County Historical Society and funded by the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation. The exhibit discusses the eight-year period when the Church was in Kirtland.

In addition to the exhibit, visitors are able to particpate in “The Kirtland Experience,” an interactive history lesson for the whole family developed by Cheryl McClellen.

The entire lesson is completely interactive with first person interpreters including Lorenzo, Rosetta and Eliza R. Snow. Families will do hearth cooking, dip candles, grind corn, haul water, and attend a one room school and so on. It is a wonderful chance for children to do more than watch.

At the opening of the exhibit, Karen Tomlinson, Curator of the Lake County Historical Society made a presentation to Richard N.W. Lambert, vice-chair of the MHSF, thanking the Foundation for their assistance in funding the exhibit.

Reservations for the two hour “Kirtland Experience” can be made via e-mail to exec.director@lakehistory.org, or events@lakehistory.org.

Visit the Lake County Historical Society webpage at www.lakehistory.org.

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Articles & Resources

Local exhibit recounts early history

Author(s): Edna Davis
Published in: Church News
Publication Date: May 29, 2004

Sister Collette Healy and Kelly Anne Chapman card wool. Photo by Edna Davis
Sister Collette Healy and Kelly Anne Chapman card wool.
Photo by Edna Davis

KIRTLAND HILLS, Ohio — The historical significance of the early Church in Ohio has come to life in a special exhibit entitled “Courage and Conflict, The Mormon Experience in Kirtland,” created by the Lake County Historical Society.

A large, four-panel exhibit opened at the history center during afternoon ceremonies May 23. The exhibit recounts the eight-year period in the 1830s when the Church gathered at the Lord’s direction to “the Ohio.”

Kathie Purmal, the society’s executive director, said the time between 1831 when the Church began gathering in Ohio and 1838 when the body of the Church left the area, is “a very important story” to tell.

“About a year ago after the opening of the Kirtland Historic Village (by the Church), we got calls from folks asking if we had a display,” she said. “The realization came to us that there were many residents of this county who really didn’t understand the historic significance of Kirtland to the world.

“I talked to Janet Lisonbee, a volunteer at the history center here who is also a member of the Church, and told her we needed her help.

“I had four questions,” Mrs. Purmal said. “I asked why Kirtland? How and why did the Church grow so large here? Why were there so many issues of conflict? Why did the Church leave Kirtland?”

The Lake County History Center, located a relatively short drive from the Church’s Kirtland Historic Village, is comprised of two parts: the exhibit housed in the history center museum, and the Living History Village tucked away in a heavily wooded section of the center’s 15-acre site.

The centerpiece of the exhibit features a life-size sleigh parked in front of a recreated Newel K. Whitney storefront. Manikins in the sleigh depict Joseph and Emma dressed in winter clothing as they may have looked when they first arrived in Kirtland in 1831 and stopped at the Whitney store.

A glass display case holds a Mormon Petition of 1836 with 72 signatures showing that the Mormons of Kirtland led by Joseph Smith, “tried to right the wrongs they felt they had suffered by sending this petition to Ariel Hanson, a Justice of the Peace.”

Another item on display is a desk, purported to be one made for the Prophet Joseph Smith by Levi Hancock in 1831.

After viewing the exhibit, visitors can tour the Living History Village where they can experience life as it was 200 years ago. Here, a man portraying Lorenzo Snow greets visitors along the trail and guides them to his mother’s cabin. They are soon put to work carding wool, grinding corn, cooking on a hearth, gathering firewood and other chores.

When the school bell tolls, it’s time to attend school where Eliza R. Snow is school marm. After a hilarious lesson of learning to mind manners and doing their sums on slate boards, visitors wander to a rustic barn where they try on pioneer clothing, write with quill pens, hand dip candles and more.

“We are very, very proud of the exhibit,” said Mrs. Purmal during the opening ceremonies. “We see our mission here as the storyteller. It means we can now share this information with the residents of the community.”

Elder T. Bowring Woodbury, director of the Church’s Kirtland Historic Site, said more than 96,000 people came to Kirtland last year. They toured the Kirtland Temple, visited the historic village and looked around for other sites to visit with historic Church significance.

Barbara Whidden, as Eliza R. Snow, and Amanda Wright, in History Center's Living Village where Kirtland visitors can experience life in early days of Church. Photo by Cheryl McClellan, LCHS staff
Barbara Whidden, as Eliza R. Snow, and Amanda Wright, in History Center’s Living Village where Kirtland visitors can experience life in early days of Church.
Photo by Cheryl McClellan, LCHS staff

“We are absolutely delighted, thrilled that the society would go out of its way to have this open,” Elder Woodbury said.

Historical Society Curator Karon Tomlinson thanked the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation for assisting with the funding and made a presentation to Richard Lambert, trustee of the foundation.

Several members of the Kirtland stake participated in the Living History Village during the opening. Lorenzo Snow, portrayed by Ken Whidden, introduced his mother Rosetta Snow, portrayed by Cheryl McClellan, who invited visitors to meet the adult Eliza, played by Barbara Whidden, and a 10-year-old Eliza, portrayed by Amanda Wright, and Amanda Snow, played by Sarah McClellan.

Ian McClellan, as a young Lorenzo, welcomed visitors to the primitive cabin to enjoy a cornbread snack. The History Center is preparing for the Mormon Heritage Program to be held in July.

Admission to the exhibit is free. The Living History Village lasts about 2 1/2 hours and costs $5 for adults and $3.50 for children. A family ticket is $20.