Home of Joseph Smith III

A Brief History of Liberty Hall

Liberty Hall - Historical Image

Liberty Hall was built in 1881 as the home of Joseph Smith III, eldest son of Joseph Smith II, founder of the Latter Day Saint religious movement. When his father was killed by a mob in 1844 over religious and political conflicts, Joseph III, affectionately called Young Joseph, was 11 years old. The boy's mother, Emma Smith, and his brothers and sisters continued to live in Nauvoo, Illinois, although most members had left the community by late 1846.

In a few years over a dozen leaders arose claiming the right to succeed the original prophet. The largest of the Latter Day Saint groups which emerged was the one led to Utah by Brigham Young, popularly known as the Mormon church. Emma Smith refused to join any of the groups. She rejected some of their doctrines, notably that of polygamy, and apparently anticipated that one of her sons would follow her husband as prophet of the church.

In 1860, when he was 27 years old, Joseph Smith III became the leader of the church known as The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, formed by those disappointed with other leaders. He served until his death in 1914. Under his direction the church eventually became the second largest of the Latter Day Saint groups. Noted for his patience, tolerance, and logical bent of mind, Joseph matured in the affections of his followers and became a patriarchal father-figure as well as a skilled writer and administrator. Joseph Smith III received no income from being Prophet/President of the church, but was given a modest salary as the editor of the church paper, The Saints' Herald.

Liberty Hall Interior Room
A central idea of Latter Day Saints was the dream of establishing a perfect community they called Zion. At the beginning of his leadership, Joseph Smith III advised against the Saints coming together in one place too hastily. However, in the 1870's a group of church businessmen formed a joint stock company they named The Order of Enoch. They purchased and improved over 3,200 acres of land near what soon became Lamoni, hoping to encourage the Reorganized Saints to gather themselves in this area. Joseph Smith III supported this action but emphasized the church should be separate from politics

In 1879 the railroad came and platted the town site of Lamoni. The town soon grew to about 500 persons equally divided among Saints and others, primarily Methodists. The headquarters of the Reorganized Latter Day Saint church moved to Lamoni, Iowa in 1881. Joseph Smith III built his home that year, calling it Liberty Hall because he wanted all who came to feel free in it. It was a spacious house needed to serve his large family and the many church members who frequently came to visit the Smiths.

Joseph Smith III was married three times. His first wife, Emmaline Griswold Smith, had five children of whom three girls lived to maturity: By 1881 the eldest, Emma Josepha, was married, but Carrie and Zaide were joined at Liberty Hall by another set of children from Joseph's second wife, Bertha Madison, whom he married after Emmaline's untimely death in 1869.

Bertha Madison Smith and Joseph III had a total of nine children, seven born before they moved to Liberty Hall: David Carlos, Mary Audentia, Frederick Madison, Israel Alexander, Kenneth, Hale Washington and Bertha Azuba. Lucy Yeteve was born in Lamoni. Kenneth and Blossom died in infancy. The family was saddened when David Carlos died at 15 years, perhaps from rheumatic fever, and Bertha Azuba was killed in a playground accident at age six. It was difficult for Joseph who had adored the little girl, but led to his acceptance of tragedy as part of human life, strengthened his ministry, and helped inspire a hymn, Tenderly, tenderly, lead Thou me On in which he speaks of a trial to his faith.

Tragedy came again when Joseph's second wife Bertha died from injuries caused when a runaway team overturned her carriage. For two years Joseph's daughter, Audentia, and her husband, Benjamin Anderson, moved in to help with the children and house. In January of 1898 Joseph took a third wife, Ada Clark Smith. They had three sons: Richard Clark, William Wallace, and Reginald Archer.

Along with the immediate family and the frequent church visitors, others lived in Liberty Hall from time to time. Mrs. Black, a woman with no family, Thomas Jacobs, the carpenter who built the house, and Bertha's mother, father and sister were among them. Thus, Liberty Hall was noted as a festive place with up to fifteen adults and children of various ages living here or visiting at the same time during the 1880s and 1890s.

Liberty Hall Interior Room

The Smiths were a middle class family - not rich and not poor. They did not try to make Liberty Hall into a commercial farm. Their few animals, the small apple orchard behind the house, and the garden furnished much of what they needed. The children had chores but were free to go to school, study music, play ball, and enjoy life with no serious worries. Yet the Smiths were not reckless with their resources. The large family demanded cooperation and careful stewardship. Although Bertha tried several commercial schemes (rabbits, chickens, and eggs) to add money to the family fortune she was not very successful.

The Smiths left Lamoni when the church headquarters began moving to Independence, Missouri. In 1906 Liberty Hall became a home for the aged, and then a dairy farm in the 1920's when it housed up to four families. In 1934 it was headquarters for a C.C.C. camp and in 1941 became a home for the aged for the second time, and finally, a private residence used for church officials.

Each occupancy following the Smiths altered the interior of the home. The current restoration has tried to mirror the conditions of Smith's and his family's personal life, their economic condition, and their religious commitments. Restoration began in 1973 after the home was all but abandoned and beginning to deteriorate. It took about 10 years of meticulous research to bring Liberty Hall to its present state.

Liberty Hall Interior Room
The period chosen for restoration is 1900 to 1905. A number of Smith artifacts have been given to Liberty Hall Historical Site and many area families have donated period pieces. Fortunately, access to correspondence, Smith's voluminous writings, and information from family members and local residents has enabled the restoration of the home, the character of the Smiths' lives, and the ambiance of this interesting rural town to be as historically accurate as possible.

Hopefully returning Liberty Hall to the way it was when Joseph Smith III and his family lived at the site rekindles the spiritual qualities of a time, community, and family of that era.

Spurrier School - While at Liberty Hall, visitors can explore a one room country school house. Students and teachers are encouraged to visit the school and programs can be tailored to fit the needs of visiting groups. [MORE]