William Weeks

Nauvoo Illinois Temple (old).jpg

Question: What role did William Weeks play in the design and construction of the first Nauvoo Temple?

Answer: William Weeks was the son of James Weeks, Jr. and Sophronia Fisher and was born on March 11, 1813 in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. He came from a family of builders; his father taught architectural and building skills to his two sons, William and Arwin.

Raised as a Quaker, William converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the southeastern states. He was in Missouri when the Church was driven from that state during the winter of 1838–1839, and he settled in Quincy, Illinois. There on June 11, 1839 he married Caroline Matilda Allen, youngest child of Elihu Allen and Laura Foote. Caroline was ten years his junior and was only sixteen at the time of their marriage. Their marriage lasted sixty-one years and produced ten children, seven of whom died in early infancy (the first four died in Nauvoo).

 Showing original portion of William Weeks Home in Nauvoo, Illinois.

Showing original portion of William Weeks Home in Nauvoo, Illinois.

In 1840 William relocated to Nauvoo, where he built a new brick home, which still stands. When the Prophet Joseph, called for architects to submit designs for the Nauvoo Temple, he was so impressed with William' drawings that he hugged him, exclaiming, "You are the man I want!" While William was the temple's architect, final decisions about the building design were made by the Prophet Joseph, who overruled William on occasion.

 Showing the round windows in the exterior walls as Joseph wanted.

Showing the round windows in the exterior walls as Joseph wanted.

Most famous is the Prophet Joseph's insistence that circular windows, instead of oval, be used in the temple, although William insisted that such windows were a violation of all known rules of architecture. He said he had seen the building in vision and it had round windows. After a discussion with Joseph, the round windows were placed about half way up the Temple walls.

The Prophet Joseph did not extend such latitude over William to others. When the Temple Building Committee got into an argument with William, the Prophet Joseph prepared a certificate for William that stated that "no person or persons shall interfere with him or his plans in building the temple."

 Original drawings

Original drawings

Work escalated during 1841. By July plans were drawn up for a baptismal font in the basement, and in August "President Smith approved and accepted a draft for the font, made by brother Wm. Weeks." William worked on the font with his own hands and did initial carving on the wooden oxen supporting the wooden font. The oxen "copied after the most beautiful five-year-old steer that could be found in the country." Their horns "were formed after the most perfect horns that could be procured."

When the Prophet Joseph was killed in June 1844, Brigham Young assumed his role as the church's leader, which included oversight of the temple's construction. William did not see the temple completed, because Brigham Young insisted that he accompany the Mormon migration west so that he could design a new temple when the Mormons found a place to settle. On February 13, 1846, Brigham Young turned the final completion of the Nauvoo Temple over to Truman O. Angell.

William arrived in Salt Lake City in September 1847. Due to some conflicts with Brigham Young, William became disaffected with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and took his family east the next summer, taking all of the Nauvoo Temple plans with him. For a time William settled in Wisconsin and Iowa. While in Iowa, he learned of the Nauvoo Temple's arson. He returned to Utah in 1852, apparently seeking reconciliation and reinstallation as the architect for the Salt Lake Temple. However, by that time, Brigham Young had arranged for Angell to be the architect of the Salt Lake Temple.

In 1852, William designed the Isaac Chase Mill, which is now part of Liberty Park, in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.

By 1857 William had moved to California and settled in San Bernardino, California. He severed all contact with the Church, although he remained an admirer, of the Prophet Joseph all his life. He stayed in California the rest of his life.

William did not pursue work as an architect in California but moved to El Monte, where he worked as a carpenter and later ran a gristmill. He purchased a herd of cows and opened a 160-acre dairy in Hollywood, providing milk to Los Angeles groceries. He later moved the dairy to Green Meadow, six miles north of Los Angeles. When he became too old to run the dairy, he purchased a small ranch and built a house in Palms, where he and Caroline lived the rest their lives.

William Weeks gravestone.jpg

William’s daughter, Caroline, stated that "Father always believed in Joseph Smith’s Church." He regarded the Nauvoo edifice as his masterpiece; he took pride in exhibiting his Temple drawings to friends and visitors in later years until his death in 1900. In 2016, the Nauvoo Temple was listed by ActiveTimes.com as one of the “most amazing temples in the world.”

William died on March 8, 1900, and is buried in the Angelus Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles.

 Restored Nauvoo Illinois Temple

Restored Nauvoo Illinois Temple

William's drawings of the Nauvoo Temple remained with his descendants, passing from William to his daughter Caroline F. William Griffin, who passed them to her son, Leslie Griffin. In 1948 two Mormon missionaries, Frank Gifford and Vern Thacker, contacted Griffin. Griffin and the two missionaries became friends, and, when Griffin learned that Thacker was returning to Salt Lake City, he gave him William's drawings to donate to the LDS Church. Thacker did as Griffin requested, and William's original drawings proved invaluable in the later reconstruction of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple.

Source: FamilySearch.org, Excerpts from “Nauvoo Temple Architect Drawings, Lost and Found,” written by Vern Thacker, 2000; Wikipedia.com; findagrave.com