AIS identifies Zelph location as Naples-Russell Mound #8.

Academic / Technical Report
Kenneth B. Farnsworth

Kenneth B. Farnsworth, "Part I: American Period, Lamanitish Arrows and Eagles with Lead Eyes: Tales of the First Recorded Explorations in an Illinois Valley Hopewell Mound", Illinois Archeology 22, No. 1 (2010): 32-33

Illinois Archaeological Survey, Inc.
Joseph Smith, Jr., Kenneth B. Farnsworth
Academic Conference

Mormon Excavations at Naples 8 on June 3, 1834

The earliest recorded excavations in Naples 8 were associated with the well-documented Zion’s Camp Trail crossing of the Illinois River at Philips Ferry (at the present-day site of Valley City) on June 2, 1834, by a group of about 200 members (and 20 baggage wagons) of the Church of the Latter-day Saints, led by their prophet, Joseph Smith. Their expedition, from Kirtland, Ohio, was traveling to Jackson County, Missouri, in an effort to recover property from which members of their faith had been forcefully ejected in 1833. According to Lachlan Mackay (personal communication, 2010), most of the members of the Zion’s Camp expedition had not lived in Missouri. The church had two main communities in the early 1830s, one at Kirtland, Ohio, and one in Missouri. When members in Jackson County were driven out, men from the sister community in Ohio attempted to come to their aid.

As documented by Jelks (1983, 1986) and Riley (1993:27), the Mormon party crossed the Illinois River at Philips Ferry, just a kilometer north of the Naples-Russell mound group. Smith and his group were so impressed by the dramatic size and towering location of the Naples-Russell Mound #8 earthwork that several of them spent part of the next morning (Tuesday, June 3) visiting the mound and digging there. A fanciful artist’s interpretation of that morning’s dig 176 years ago was published in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine in 1853 (Vol. 6 #35:610) (see Figure 8) as part of an unsympathetic short history of the rise of Mormonism printed by the magazine. Smith’s journal description of the condition of the mound as they found it and of the burial they uncovered atop Mound #8 that morning in 1834 was fairly straightforward and is historically useful.

Figure 8. Artist’s interpretation of the Joseph Smith Mormon excavation into Naples 8 on June 3, 1834, published in the April 1853 issue of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine.

Citations in Mormonr Qnas
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