Elder and Sister Watts

Elder and Sister Watts

Hill Cumorah Visitors' Sites Mission Statement

"Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life."
3 Nephi 5:13

Thursday, April 28, 2011

HISTORIC HARMONY: Susquehanna River LDS Church History Tour

Six days ago 8 Senior Missionaries, including Elder Watts and myself, were privileged to go to Afton, New York and Oakland (Harmony), Pennsylvania to visit some Church historic sites.  Unlike Palmyra, where we serve, these sites are undeveloped.  However, many important and sacred events took place at these sites, many of which we testify as we give tours at the Palmrya sites.  These sites and ours are connected by time and events.  So, we were very excited and grateful to spend a day visiting the area.  J. Taylor Hollist, a church member and longtime resident of the area, graciously met us and showed us the sites. 

We started at the Afton Historical Museum.  There we saw the fireplace mantel that came from the home where Joseph Smith and Emma Hale were married.

They were married at the home of Squire Zacharia Tarble,  in Afton, then called South Bainbridge.  The house was sold at auction and torn down in July 1948 and all that remains is a New York State historic sign. (Emma's name is spelled incorrectly on the sign.)

Next we drove a short distance to the Josiah Stowell home and farm site, about 3 miles south of Afton, New York.

This is the original home of Josiah Stowell (below) and now sits vacant.  Josiah Stowell took Joseph as one of his hired hands to his farm where he was employed as a wool carder, farmer, and worker looking for a silver mine.

Joseph said that he was married to Emma Hale on January 1827  "while I was yet employed in the service of Mr. Stoal."  (There are two know spellings of Josiah's last name, Stowell and Stoal.) After Joseph and Emma were married, the newlyweds were taken by Josiah to Joseph's parents home in Manchester, New York, (the Smith Family Farm) where they stayed from January to December 1827. 

We enjoyed visiting the Joseph Knight home next.  Many early converts were baptized at the Knight farm, including  Emma Smith, on June 28, 1830.  The Colesville Branch, the first branch of the Church, was formed by the individuals who were baptized on this date. 

Although this home has been added onto since that time, this portion below is the original home of the Knight family.  This house is also vacant.  Eventually some 68 members of the Colesville Branch emigrated to Kirtland, Ohio and finally to Salt Lake City.  Joseph Knight was of great assistance to Joseph Smith as he worked on the translation of the Book of Mormon, bringing him paper and much needed food.

We drove by the Colesville Town offices and saw this sign located near Harpursville, in Broome County, New York.

Our next stop was in Pennsylvania.  The restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood occurred in the wilderness between Harmony, Pennsylvania and Colesville, New York on the Susquehanna River.  Joseph Smith told Addison Everett, "We had 16 or 17 miles to go to reach our place of residence."

Last of all we arrived in Harmony, Pennsylvania (now called Oakland), which was the site of many significant events.  The Aaronic Priesthood was restored here and Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery baptized each other in the Susquehanna River near this site.

Though we had often seen pictures of the monument for the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood, it was wonderful to see it in person.

This is where Joseph and Emma moved in December 1827 so that Joseph could translate the Gold Plates without interruption from detractors. 

They lived in a small three room farm house on a 13 1/2 acre farm that they purchased from Emma's brother.  The house burned down in 1918, but this sketch (below) was made from a photograph of the original home before it burned.

Their home originally stood on the mound of grass below.  The stones mark where their home was located.  While living on this small farm Joseph translated most of the Book of Mormon, with Oliver Cowdery acting a scribe.  Also, while they were living here Emma was asked to make a selection of sacred hymns which became the first hymn book for the Church.

Emma's parents, Isaac and Elizabeth Hale, lived on a farm next to where Joseph and Emma settled.  The sketch below is an artist's rendition of their home, the home where Emma grew up.

And below is the foundation of the Hale family home, that has recently been the site of some archaeological research. 
The McKune Cemetery is adjacent to the property that was Emma and Joseph's farm.  In this cemetery we saw the headstones of the first child of Joseph and Emma, a son, born on June 15, 1829.  This child died shortly after his birth.  We also saw the headstones of Isaac and Elizabeth Hale, Emma's parents.

Finally we walked down the slope to the Susquehanna River. This river is where Joseph and Oliver were baptized.  We were impressed with the peace we felt as we approached the river near Joseph and Emma's farm.

Just the very next day we were excited to learn that the Church announced  they will restore these sites in Harmony.  To see this article go to the following link: Mormon Church Announces Historical Harmony Site.

A letter from the First Presidency, dated April 15, 2011 states, "We are pleased to announce plans to restore the site know in Church history as Harmony (now Susquehanna), Pennsylvania." Later in the letter is says, "The planned reconstruction of the historic buildings and farm setting at Harmony will include construction of monuments commemorating the restoration of the priesthood."


  1. I, too, am excited about the planned restoration of sites in Harmony.

  2. Nice post--so you got to leave the mission, huh?

  3. thanks for this very detailed account!!