HISTORY OF PALMYRA
The area of Palmyra is rich in beauty and history. Many of the historic sites are located either within walking distance or a short drive from the Palmyra Inn.
Two great ancient American civilizations lived in the Palmyra area – the Adena Culture, which existed from 1000 BC to 300 BC, and the Hopewell Culture, which existed from 300 BC to 400 AD. These great civilizations have also been called the “mound builders” because of the thousand of mounds that have been discovered where they lived. The mounds were used chiefly as burial places, but also as foundations for buildings, temples, and fortresses. Several of these mound sites are located just a short drive from the Palmyra Inn.
THE TOWN OF PALMYRA
The town of Palmyra, originally called “Swift’s Landing” after its founder John Swift, was created in 1789. The present name was adopted in 1796, reportedly to impress a new school teacher. By 1800 about one thousand people lived in the town. The Erie Canal was completed to Palmyra in 1822 and was completely finished by 1825. The Erie Canal helped the town of Palmyra to prosper greatly during this so-called “Canal Period”, roughly 1822-1853. By 1825 there were over 4,500 residents in Palmyra.
BIRTHPLACE OF A RELIGION
Palmyra is the birthplace of the Latter Day Saint movement and Mormonism. Founder Joseph Smith, Jr., whose family lived on a farm that straddled the line between Palmyra and Manchester, said he had been visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ in 1820, an event known as the First Vision. The First Vision occurred in a place now called the Sacred Grove which is located within walking distance of the Palmyra Inn.
According to LDS history, Joseph Smith also was visited by an angel named Moroni who told him about a set of ancient records recorded on golden plates that were hidden in a nearby hill. Joseph Smith eventually received these golden plates and translated the record into what is now called the Book of Mormon. The hill where the plates were hidden is called the Hill Cumorah and now includes a visitor center and monument. It is located less than two miles from the Palmyra Inn. Also, every July the Hill Cumorah is the site of a spectacular outdoor theatrical production. The show features a cast of over 700 and impressive special effects. It attracts audiences of thousands each night at no charge.
In 1830, the Book of Mormon was first published in the village of Palmyra by E.B. Grandin in the present Book of Mormon Historic Publication Site. A visitor center detailing the process of printing the Book of Mormon is located in the historic downtown area of Palmyra less than three miles from the Palmyra Inn.
Beginning in the early 20th century, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began buying and restoring many of the properties in the area associated with early church history. In 1997 the Smith’s log cabin was rebuilt on its original site and in 2000 the church built the Palmyra New York Temple on a portion of the former Smith farm. Just a short drive from Palmyra are several other sites important to LDS history including the farms of early prominent church members Peter Whitmer and Martin Harris.
To find out more about local attractions in and around the Palmyra area please visit the attractions page.