I had been carefully studying Thomas Kane’s account of his visit to the abandoned city of Nauvoo in September 1846. His account is unlike any other. About 15,000 Latter-day Saints had left their homes and shops behind and headed west just months earlier. Kane recorded:****
®No one met me there. I looked, and saw no one. I could hear no one move; though the quiet everywhere was such that I heard the flies buzz, and the water-ripples break against the shallow of the beach. I walked through the solitary streets. The town lay as in a dream, under some deadening spell of loneliness, from which I almost feared to wake it. For plainly it had not slept long.****
®There was no grass growing up in the paved ways. Rains had not entirely washed away the prints of dusty footsteps. Yet I went about unchecked. I went into empty work-shops, rope walks and smithies. The spinner's wheel was idle; the carpenter had gone from his work-bench and shavings, his unfinished sash and casing. Fresh bark was in the tanners's vat, and the fresh-chopped light wood stood piled against the baker's oven.****
®The blacksmith's shop was cold; but his coal heap and ladling pool and crooked water horn were all there, as if he had just gone off for a holiday. No work people anywhere looked to know my errand.****
®If I went into the gardens, clinking the wicket-latch loudly after me, to pull the marigolds, heart's-ease and lady-slippers, and draw a drink with the water sodden well-bucket and its noisy chain; or, knocking off with my stick the tall heavyheaded dahlias and sunflowers, hunted over the beds for cucumbers and love-apples,--no one called out to me from any opened window, or dog sprang forward to bark.®****
I thought the only way to capture that description was to shoot a scene in winter, at sunset, with silhouetted trees and a building or two. I chose the humble little Ryser Boot Shop. It may have been one of the businesses Thomas Kane visited—with no reply from anyone. All had left. All were on the trail to the west. All could now only see these places, their beautiful Nauvoo in their memories.