Plat and Explanation of Plat of the , [, Geauga Co., OH], ca. early June–25 June 1833; text and drawings in handwriting of ; one page; CHL.
One leaf measuring approximately 16⅛ × 12¾ inches (41 × 32 cm). The leaf contains a drawing of a plat in the center of the recto and text explaining the plat on the recto and on the verso. Some explanatory text is lost because of three substantial tears along the document’s edges. The drawing of the plat measures 9¼ × 8⅞ inches (24 × 23 cm). The plat is drawn in ink and colored with watercolor. The three central blocks are painted a faint sienna red, and the streets are painted a light green. Some graphite markings are visible on the plat, indicating that may have originally sketched the lines of the plat in pencil before using a pen to finalize the drawing. The document was folded multiple times and, along with the plan of the , was enclosed in a letter dated 25 June 1833 and sent to , Missouri. It is unknown how or when the Church Historian’s Office obtained this document, though it is possible that it, like the plan of the House of the Lord, was given to the Historian’s Office in June 1865 by Lydia Partridge.
By the summer of 1831, JS and other leaders in the believed that , which was designated to be built in , Missouri, would become a central gathering place and the archetype for a “City of holyness,” where all believers would live together in righteousness. By mid-1833, church leaders in had acquired a large amount of land in Jackson County, where according to one estimate, more than twelve hundred church members lived. Meanwhile in , church leaders made plans to obtain funds and materials to build a , or temple, in . However, little headway was made until a 1 June 1833 revelation chastened leaders for their lack of progress, which encouraged them to begin constructing the house. Perhaps being influenced by their plans to develop Kirtland as a town and a gathering place, the likewise began contemplating the growth in and the gathering to Missouri and as a result created the plat featured here and its accompanying explanation. They then sent the plat to Missouri church leaders with a letter and an architectural plan for a to be built in . The letter that accompanied this plat indicates that the entire presidency was involved in creating it, though the drawing of the plat and its explanation are in the hand of . The plat of the “” featured here represents the first detailed master plan for city development by the church’s .
The plat is drawn with the east-oriented side at the top. It displays a one-square-mile grid with forty-nine city blocks and 132-foot-wide straight streets crossing at right angles. The square-mile grid pattern adhered to guidelines set out in the federal Land Ordinance of 1785 and was common in urban planning during this period of American history. The plat and the explanation written in the margins surrounding it, however, called for some distinctive elements. For instance, the plat featured fewer blocks than would have been normal for a square-mile section of a township. The explanation also called for ten-acre city blocks containing lots that, at half an acre each, were larger than usual. The explanation also called for a central row of blocks to contain fifteen acres each. As drawn, however, the plat has a middle row of seven blocks that contain sixteen acres each. Forty-six of the blocks on the plat were designated as residential areas, and the three central blocks were intended for storehouses and temples. The residential blocks featured an unusual arrangement of individual lots: each half-acre lot was to contain one house, generally positioned on each block so as to not face the house across the street. The instructions stated that each house should be set back twenty-five feet from the street and be made of brick and stone. The explanation also indicated that the city was intended to accommodate fifteen to twenty thousand people. However, the plat features only 976 residential lots, which means that more than fifteen individuals would have needed to live in each house in order to accommodate a minimum of fifteen thousand people. When the city reached the population limit, according to the explanation, another city would be established after this same pattern.
The plat and its explanation depicted an urban-agrarian center designed for equitable distribution of property, community cohesion, and convenient access to schoolhouses, places for congregational worship, and nearby agricultural land that was to support the urban population. The explanation of the plat indicated that all individuals living in the were to reside in the urban center, even if they worked on a farm. The presidency explained that all farms, grazing areas, and agricultural structures were to be built outside the city’s perimeter, forming a hinterland and greenbelt. The plat did not indicate where businesses were to be built, suggesting they might also be located outside of the city, or perhaps they were to be connected to residential lots or located on one of the central blocks within the .
The three larger blocks in the center of the plat contained a complex of twenty-four multipurpose buildings, or , which were to dominate the urban landscape. The presence of these buildings, and the apparent exclusion of other types of buildings, highlights the role of religion in the city. Though these “houses,” or temples, may have also been intended to serve as locations where people could perform the municipal functions of law and order, the names given in the explanation of the city plat for these twenty-four buildings reflect the structure of the church. This sacred space was the city’s focal point; much of daily life was meant to revolve around these buildings, which would likely be used for church administration, ecclesiastical worship, and priesthood education. Two years earlier, during a visit to in summer 1831, JS and seven other church leaders had “assembled together where the is to be erected.” dedicated the ground for the city and JS laid a cornerstone for the “contemplated Temple” on 3 August 1831. Rigdon then “pronounced this Spot of ground wholy dedicated unto the Lord forever.” The plat may have been designed with that “spot of ground” as its center.
Along with this plat, an architectural plan for the first to be built in accompanied the letter to church leaders in . That plan also gave specifications, dimensions, and names for the twenty-four temples to be constructed in the city center. The leaders wrote that they desired “with all our hearts, the prosperity of Zion and the peace of her inhabitents for we have as great an intrest in the welfare of Zion.” For this reason, they sent the plat, explanations, and plans. They instructed that the temple identified on the plat by an “x” was “to be built immediately in Zion for the presidency as well as all purposes of Religion and instruction,” much like the multipurpose structure then being built in Kirtland. Underscoring the importance of the plans and explanations sent, JS and the Kirtland leadership informed the recipients in that if they did not understand the explanations for the house or the plat, “you will inform us, so as you may have a propper understanding, for it is meet that all things should be done according to the pattern.”
The body of text titled “Explanation” was written on all four margins surrounding the plat and is included in the following transcript. The text begins in the top margin (the east-oriented side) of the plat, continues on the bottom, and then proceeds on the right-hand margin before moving to the left-hand margin of the plat. The explanation concludes on the reverse side of the document by identifying the names of the twenty-four temples. copied the names for the temples into Minute Book 1 on 24 June 1833, which suggests that at least that portion of the explanation on the plat had been created by that date, though additions may have been made before the draft was sent to two days later. Likely on 25 June 1833, the day before the plat was mailed to Missouri, Frederick G. Williams copied the explanations of the plat into JS Letterbook 1. acknowledged that this plat and the building “plan of our Lord” arrived in on 29 July 1833.
Attempts to implement the plan of would have necessitated major changes in existing roads and structures and undoubtedly caused significant political strife. The plat appears to disregard existing streets, structures, and, consequently, anyone already living or operating a farm or business at this location who might not accede to this plan. Though this plat had not yet reached , opponents of the church claimed to have heard church members “declare openly that their God has given them this County of land, and that sooner or later they must and will have the possession of our lands for an inheritance.” Such sentiments angered many local residents and further motivated them to expel the Mormons. The plat of the , had it been seen by the church’s opponents, could have confirmed what they already believed about the ’s goals in the county. By the time this plat was received in Missouri, church members were already embroiled in a growing civil conflict with other residents of Jackson County and therefore could not implement the plans. Based on letters from Missouri and noticeable defects in the plan, , again on behalf of the presidency of the high priesthood, drew a revised plat map for the city of Zion and sent it to Missouri about two months later.
The images of the document shown here are oriented east-side up, as was the original document.
According to historical geographer Richard H. Jackson, Philadelphia was an early example of a planned city that incorporated some of the same features as the plan for the city of Zion. Jackson also demonstrates that the plan for Zion, particularly its street width, is similar to the layout of several towns in Ohio with which JS was likely familiar, including Fremont, which was founded in 1816 and had 132-foot-wide streets, and Sandusky, which was founded in 1830 and had 125-foot-wide streets. (Jackson, “Mormon Village: Genesis and Antecedents of the City of Zion Plan,” 224–227; see also Reps, Making of Urban America, 172–174, 466–472.)
In his study of urban America, John W. Reps argues that the arrangement or division of residential lots on the plat of the city of Zion was unusual in comparison to other drawn plats at this time. (Reps, Making of Urban America, 466–468.)
Reps, John W. The Making of Urban America: A History of City Planning in the United States. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1965.
According to JS’s journal, it was “the duty of the bretheren to come into Cities to build and live and Carry on their farms out, of the City . . . according to the order of God.” (JS, Journal, 6 Aug. 1838.)
Explanation— This p[lot] [con]taines one mile square all the squares in <the> plot containes ten acres each being 40 rods square you will observe that the lots are laid off alternate in the squares in one square runing from the south and North to the line through the middle of the square and the next the lots runs from the east and west to the middle line each lot is 2 4 perches pe[rc]hes, in front and 20 back making ¼ of an acre in each lot so that no one street will be built on intire<ly through the street> but one square the houses stand on one street and on the next one another except the middle range of squares which runs North and south in which range are the painted squares the lots are laid off in these squares North and south all of them because these squares are 40 perches by 60 being twenty perches longer than the others the long way of them being east and west and by runing all the lo[ts] [in] these squares North and south it makes all the lots in the City of one size the painted squares [in the] middle are for publick buildings the one without any figure is for store houses fo[r] [the] and to be devoted to his use figure one is for Temples for the use of the the circles inside of the square are the places for the temples you will see it containes twelve f[igures] 2 is for the Temples for the it also is to contain 12 Temples the whole square <plot> is s[upposed] to contain from 15 to 20 thousand people you will therefore see that it will require 24 building to supply them with houses of worship schools & none of these temples are to be smaller than the one of which we send you the draft this is to be built in square number marked figure one and to be built where the circle is which has a cross on it. On the north and south of the plot where the line is drawn is to be laid off for barns stables &c for the use of the city so that no barns or stables will be in the City among the houses the ground to be occupied for these must be laid off according to wisdom wisdom. On the North and South are to be laid off the farms for the agracultur<i>sts a sufficient quanty of land to supply the whole plot and if it cannot be laid off without going <too> great a distance from the city, there mus[t] also be laid off on the east and west where this square is thus laid off and supplied lay off another in the same way and so fill up the world in these last days and let every man live in the City for this is the
[all the streets a]re of one width. being eight perches wide als[o the space round] the painted sq outer edge of the painted squares is [to be eight perches between] the Temples and the street on every side
The Scale of the plot is 40 perc perches to the inch
No one lot in this is to contain more than one hous & that to be built 25 feet back from the street lea leaving a small yard in front to be planted in a grove according to the taste of the builder the rest of the lot for gardens &c all the houses to be of brick and stone
TEXT: “p[page torn]”. Because of page tears, several words and characters are missing from this document. In such places, text has been editorially supplied. Here and in the following paragraphs, missing text has been supplied from the version of this document in JS Letterbook, pp. 38–41, unless otherwise noted.
The practice of dividing land into squares for settlement in territories northwest of the Ohio River followed guidelines set by the national government. In May 1785, the Continental Congress passed a land ordinance that divided the surveyed land into “townships of six miles square, by lines running due north and south, and others crossing these at right angles.” The ordinance stipulated that the plats of the townships be subdivided into square-mile sections. The one-mile-square city of Zion plat would have filled one section within a township. A typical mile-square plat might have sixty-four blocks, each containing ten acres including surrounding streets, which would make lots smaller than a half acre. As drawn, with forty-two ten-acre blocks and seven sixteen-acre blocks, the entire city of Zion, including all streets, would occupy nearly eight hundred acres, or about one and a quarter square miles. The measurements given on the plat of the city of Zion thus seem to sometimes be approximations or errors in calculation. (An Ordinance for Ascertaining the Mode of Disposing of Lands in the Western Territory [20 May 1785], Journals of the Continental Congress, vol. 28, p. 375.)
Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789. 34 vols. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1904–1937.
Instead of “¼ of an acre,” the JS letterbook copy has “½ of an acre.” According to the dimensions listed here, the lots would occupy eighty square perches or rods, which is equal to half an acre. The plat, however, contains several inconsistencies. As drawn, some of the blocks contain only eighteen lots, while others have twenty-two, rather than the twenty implicitly prescribed in the drawing and explanation.
The middle three blocks in this center row of blocks are painted sienna red and reserved for the twenty-four temples to built in the city; the other four blocks contain residential lots. According to the description here, these seven blocks in the center row of the plat measure forty by sixty perches, which amounts to 2,400 square perches, or fifteen acres, since an acre is 160 square perches. As drawn on the plat, the four residential blocks in this row have thirty-two lots each, but if these lots were to be equal in size to all other residential lots on the plat, which each measured half an acre, the size of these center-row blocks would need to be increased to sixteen acres. To keep lots in those blocks the same width and length as all the other residential lots in the city, which are all rectangular, the lots in this row all run north and south; none face east or west.
For the entire projected population of at least fifteen thousand people to attend church at one time, 625 people would have to fit into each of the twenty-four temples. This figure more or less matches the seating capacity according to the specifications of the plans for the House of the Lord sent to Missouri with this plat; built according to plan and calculating one person per eighteen inches, the pews, choir seats, and pulpit seats together would hold approximately 696 people per temple. (See Plan of the House of the Lord, between 1 and 25 June 1833.)
What the lines to the north and the south mean with regard to the placement of barns, stables, or other agricultural facilities is unclear, but assuming the plat is drawn to scale, these lines may indicate that such agricultural structures were to be a precise minimum distance of one block away from residences. The requirement for locating barns beyond the city perimeter reflects life in other period communities, in which “the problem of livestock odor and waste disposal” was a central concern. Therefore, “the concept of small farms outside the town was found in most communities in New England and in the trans-Appalachian settlements.” Cincinnati, for example, was established in 1789 with surrounding lands divided into four-acre farms. (Jackson, “Mormon Village: Genesis and Antecedents of the City of Zion Plan,” 228.)
TEXT: Each of the following cardinal directions is surrounded by a hand-drawn box and appears, respectively, above, to the left of, to the right of, and below the plat, with the plat oriented east side up.