How Large Was the Population of Nauvoo?

Various estimates have been given by many historians for the population of Nauvoo from 1839 to 1846. Admittedly, demographic descriptions of that era are riddled with statistical inadequacies, yet while these difficulties have been recognized by historians, they have not been resolved to the extent possible through research. While historians all agree that the population of Nauvoo rapidly increased between 1839 and 1846, they either describe this growth with undocumented figures, avoid mentioning any concrete figures, or cast doubt on the figures they have cited. For example, Robert Flanders simply states, “The population of Illinois trebled during each decade between 1820–1840 and doubled between 1840 and 1850.” When describing the LDS population, he quotes others: “The Mormons reported a population of ten thousand by late 1842; Thomas Ford in his History of Illinois wrote that there were by the end of the year sixteen thousand Mormons altogether in Hancock County.”

Published in BYU Studies Quarterly 35:2
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