Fairport Harbor Monument and Museum Exhibit, Fairport, Ohio
On August 23, 2003 a historic marker was unveiled paying tribute to the early Saints who passed through Fairport Harbor on their way to Kirtland. The marker was mounted on a large cut stone in front of the Fairport Lighthouse.
Fairport Harbor Mayor Frank Sarosy said “We honor what you have done for us. We will maintain this and make you proud you brought it into the community. We are eager to learn more about you.”
In addition, the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation created a musuem exhibit, “Fairport Harbor: Gateway to the Gathering.”
The exhibit discusses the role Fairport Harbor played in the comings and goings of the early Church.
The monument reads as follows: “Fairport is an excellent harbor, and affords a safe moorage for shipping”—so wrote Oliver Cowdery, one of the first Latter-day Saint missionaries to bring the message of the restored gospel to the Kirtland region. Fairport Harbor played a transitional role during the 1830s for many Mormon migrants, who believed they were obeying divine instruction that counseled them to “go to the Ohio.” Hundreds of converts passed through the harbor on their way to and from the town of Kirtland, which lay just twelve miles southwest. Many Saints were guided by Fairport’s beacons of light, which shone upon the waters of Lake Erie. For those incoming Saints, the Fairport lighthouse signaled a new ray of hope, and for those missionaries embarking from her banks, new paths to travel in the quest for more converts to Mormonism.
This was a meaningful place of comings and goings. From here, significant Latter-day Saint missions were launched, including the first mission of the Quorum of the Twelve (1835), and also the first mission of the Church to England (1837). It was also where Joseph Smith greeted his ninety-three-year-old grandmother, who had traveled hundreds of miles to see her family. Here, Latter-day Saint families were charged with emotion as they greeted loved ones and also bid them farewell, knowing that it would many months before they would once again embrace.
Fairport was also a place of active commerce that influenced the daily life of the Saints in this area. From here, Newel K. Whitney, a Mormon merchant, shipped many casks of ashes from his Kirtland ashery to the East. In 1847, Fairport reached a peak in commercial prosperity, witnessing nearly three thousand vessels coming in and out of her harbor. Yet by this time the Saints had left the region and in the same year had begun settling in the Salt Lake Valley.”
Articles & Resources
Fairport honors pioneers
Author(s): Edna Davis
Published in: Church News
Publication Date: September 6, 2003
FAIRPORT, Ohio – The mayor of Fairport Harbor Village helped unveil a marker Aug. 23 erected to pay tribute to the more than 3,000 members of the Church who came to Kirtland through the harbor. In the process, he extended an invitation to members to come see a site of significance in Church history.
Speaking to a small crowd as he and Fred E. Woods, executive director of the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation, unveiled the marker, Mayor Frank Sarosy said, “We honor what you have done for us. We will maintain this and make you proud you brought it into the community. We are eager to learn more about you.”
The historic marker is mounted on a large cut stone and was placed in front of the Harbor Museum and lighthouse located near the harbor. It was funded by the Mormon Historic Sites Foundation and is a project developed by Brother Woods who became interested in the history of the harbor’s importance in the Church’s migration to Ohio.
Brother Woods met Mayor Sarosy in May during the dedication of the Church’s new facilities in Historic Kirtland. Because of the importance of the harbor to the early members, he felt a marker should be placed near the harbor to tell the story.
“We wanted it here,” said the mayor. “We’re all about tradition in this community. This is a vital and living place and those who visit here will come to know us and appreciate the historical significance of the harbor.”
Later that day after the unveiling, Brother Woods, a professor of history at Brigham Young University, gave a presentation relating some of the experiences of the early saints who traveled on Lake Erie to Kirtland, which is located 12 miles west of Fairport Harbor.
He said after the Erie Canal opened in 1825 a lighthouse was built on a knoll at Fairport overlooking Lake Erie to guide ships from Buffalo into the harbor.
The lake was placid and idyllic on the day of the unveiling, but it can become tumultuous. It often freezes in early January. In severe winters, ice remains until early May.
In the 1830s, the opening of shipping season meant businesses could flourish with goods and passengers coming from the east. By 1836, Fairport had grown into a thriving village.
“Many Saints were guided by Fairport’s beacons of light, which shone upon the waters of Lake Erie,” states the plaque on the marker.
“This was a meaningful place of comings and goings. From here significant Latter-day Saint missions were launched, including the first mission of the Quorum of the Twelve and also the first mission of the Church to England.”
Mormon Migration on Lake Erie and Through Fairport Harbor
Author(s): Fred E. Woods
Published in: Inland Seas