New Map Sequence: The Journey of a People

I’ve been commissioned to produce all the maps for Mark Scherer’s new three-volume history of the Community of Christ. The first volume is entitled The Journey of a People: The Era of Restoration, 1820-1844 — and so it covers the period of history the Community of Christ shares with the LDS Church and all other extant Restoration churches. The next volumes will tackle The Era of Reorganization, 1844-1958, and The Era of Community, 1958-Present. Mark Scherer is the Historian of the Church and the book is being published by Herald House (the Community of Christ equivalent of Deseret Book) and the Community of Christ Seminary Press. Although officially billed as “not the official history,” these details give the project a certain official quality.

The volumes will be richly illustrated and I’ve just finished my first draft of all the maps. The maps have yet to be edited, but I’m so excited that I decided to share a low resolution sneak peak here.

North America in Joseph Smith's Childhood
North America in Joseph Smith’s Childhood.

The Smiths in New England
The Smiths in New England.

From Sharon, Vermont, to Palmyra, New York
From Vermont to Palmyra, New York.

Palmyra, the Smith Farm, and the Hill Cumorah
Palmyra, the Smith Farm, and the Hill Cumorah.

The Area between Palmyra and Harmony
The Area between Palmyra and Harmony.

The Area between Manchester and Fayette
The Area between Manchester and Fayette.

Ohio's Western Reserve Region
Ohio’s Western Reserve Region.

The Town of Kirtland
The Town of Kirtland.

Route of the Lamanite Mission
Route of the Lamanite Mission.

The Lamanite Mission in Indian Country
The Lamanite Mission in Indian Country.

Two Plats of Zion
The First Plat of Zion (above) and the Second Plat of Zion (below).

Expulsion from Jackson County
Expulsion from Jackson County.

Route of Zion's Camp
Route of Zion’s Camp.

Proposed Plat of Kirtland
Proposed Plat of Kirtland.

NW Missouri 1835
Northwestern Missouri 1835.

NW Missouri 1836-38
Northwestern Missouri 1836-38.

The Mormon War in Missouri
The 1838 Mormon War in Missouri.

Vicinity of Nauvoo
The Vicinity of Nauvoo, Illinois.

Nauvoo at its greatest extent
Nauvoo at Its Greatest Extent, 1846.

Hancock County
Hancock County.

Comments and feedback welcome. We can still make all the fixes we need to. With any luck, the book will be available this April in time for the Restoration Studies / Sunstone Midwest Symposium. Otherwise look for it early this summer.


  1. Awesome work, John! This is truly great stuff; thanks for sharing.

  2. Peter LLC says:

    Who knew that all roads lead to Carthage?

  3. you rock, Hamer.

  4. John Mansfield says:

    For work of this quality, which is to be published and copyrighted, what is the raw material that you work with? I’m curious about the public domain sources or licensing of copyrighted sources that is involved.

    Here is a map that I had fun making that you may perhaps enjoy, Mr. Hamer.

  5. Gorgeous, even at low res. Nice work.

  6. Mark Brown says:

    Outstanding work. I like the detail, for instance Ginter’s ferry crossing.

    John, the map for Zion’s camp indicates two routes to Independence. Did the camp split up? That is something I had never heard before. Or am I reading the map wrong?

  7. Mark Brown says:

    Also, I’m interested in your sources for the location of the branches in Independence. Ther is a large map downstairs in the LDS visitors center which shows where the early settlements were, superimposed over a map of present-day Kansas City. But it’s interesting to see that the branches even then were cohesive units, with some going one way and some another when they left Independence.

  8. Fantastic work, John. I’ve come to appreciate high-quality and understandable maps/images lately, and you really do fine work.

    What is the timeline on when the first volume will be out?

  9. I like the style and format of your maps very much. One suggestion: As I am presently reading Max Parkin’s thesis on conflict in Kirtland, I think it would be helpful to see the roads that connect the towns in the Western Reserve.

  10. Mark, I think that Zion’s Camp started out in two different places. Lucy Mack Smith had relatives in Pontiac , Michigan and a branch had developed there as a result of that connection and her and Hyrum’s efforts.

  11. Latter-day Guy says:

    Those all look beautiful. I’ll be excited to see the book when it’s released!

  12. Whoops. Just read the note at the bottom of your post regarding publication plans/schedule. I withdraw my question.

  13. Wow. I love these. Any chance that wall-sized posters could be made?

  14. John Hamer says:

    John Mansfield (4): At the lowest layer of my files are public domain information available from the USGS. For example, if you look at the “Town of Kirtland” map, I’ve included elevation contours. The source of the information for those contours is the USGS. However, I’ve hand-traced every contour line in Adobe Illustrator. This gives me my underlying terrain template. Because it’s vector, I can print it at any size without worrying about resolution. The “Proposed Plat of Kirtland,” I’m using the same terrain template, but zooming out to cover a larger area. Another nice thing about vector images is that they are very convenient for assigning and reassigning color (all of these maps have full color versions) and for repurposing.

    The next layer I generally use are maps from the time period — usually several. So, in making the NW Missouri 1835 and 1836-38, and the 1838 War Map maps, after the USGS layers, there are 4 hidden layers of maps published in the 1830s and 1840s that I’m using to inform me about locations and such things as changes in the river. For example, the big bend of the Missouri south of Richmond in Ray County has subsequently been shortcut, and De Witt is no longer immediately on the river because the modern river has moved east. These layers also help with “roads” — although most of the roads in this period aren’t the same as roads we have today. One of the reasons I’m showing them as light lines is to try to convey the feeling that they are tenuous.

    For secondary sources, I have a file cabinet drawer of previously published (copyrighted) secondary maps that I consult for details. Of course, textual primary and secondary sources talk about geography and these are consulted too. Finally, I try to get information and feedback from experts in that area of the history. For example, for my Missouri maps, I consulted Steve LeSueur, Alex Baugh, Ron Romig, and others.

    PS: That’s a great map animation, thanks.

  15. Mark Brown says:

    BruceCrow, thanks for the update. You’re right, and now that I am on a different browser, I can see that the map was clearly labelled.

  16. #9… Or anyone else. Is that thesis available online and if not how would one get a hold of a copy?

  17. John Hamer says:

    Mark (6): As BruceCrow (10) points out, there are two contingents, the main division that sets out from the western reserve and Hyrum’s division that sets out from Pontiac, Michigan.

    In terms of the Jackson County branches (7), we can identify Mormon properties in index of early land grants in the county (of which I have a copy). LaMar Berrett, Ron Romig, Craig Campbell, and Alex Baugh, have all tried to connect the branches mentioned in the textual sources with the property records. There’s some guesswork involved. Also, the arrows should be viewed as giving a general feeling, not precisely what every one of the Saints did. (I am having people go over known landing spots and we have some idea from Clay County property records and other sources where people end up.)

  18. John Hamer says:

    SteveP (13): Yes, wall-sized posters are possible and, in fact, many of these will be used to create wall-sized maps for new museum panels at the Joseph Smith Historic Site in Nauvoo. Vector files and be expanded to any size. The only exception here is the USGS shaded relief (as in the New England map) which is pixel information that can only get so big.

    Rick (9): Hmmm, that might be a good layer to add, yes.

  19. Reed Russell says:

    Absolutely splendid. A huge contribution.

    Well done, John.

  20. Steve Evans says:

    Outstanding stuff, I can see a lot of time and effort has been put into these, and it’s paid off.

  21. John Hamer says:

    Thanks, all. It’s rare for a single volume to commission a whole set of maps. (An exception is Glen Leonard’s Nauvoo book, which is filled with beautiful, original maps, that are all in the same style.) It’s much more common for the publisher to get permission to re-use previously published maps. This practice has a couple of unfortunate drawbacks: (1) the content of the maps does not perfectly relate to the content of the book, (2) the maps do visually relate to the design of the book or to each other. (Of course, it’s much, much cheaper, which is why it’s done.)

  22. I suppose that the Herald House has its own copy editors, but you may want to correct the spelling of Ashtabula, Ohio, in your map of the Western Reserve.

  23. John Hamer says:

    Mark (22): These just got sent to the HH editors this morning, but it never hurts to have loads of eyes — which is one of the reasons I decided to post these here. Thanks, I’ve made the correction to my files.

  24. Excellent work, John. They are beautiful. I was interested in your description of how you created the maps. Is this standard practice for such projects? E.g., is that how the other JSP maps were created?

  25. Oh, and by the way, John: Great maps!

  26. Mark Ashurst-McGee says:

    John, Thank you for sharing these online. A superb collection for the founding period.

  27. John Hamer says:

    J. (24): I used the same process for the maps I produced for the JSP (and I presume the BYU Geography department has a similar process). However, as with every aspect of the JSP, extraordinary attention was given to every detail. I’ve made only three JSP maps so far and they all went through perhaps a dozen iterations over the course of three years. Each map came with half a dozen pages of footnotes for the sites they listed. So the JSP maps represent absolute best practices, way beyond what publishers normally commission.

    A huge amount of research and work over years went into many of these HH maps too and I feel that I’ve used very good practices for them, but the JSP is a different order of magnitude of precision.

  28. John Taber says:

    Do you have any of these georeferenced? I’d love to see them superimposed over what’s on the ground now.


  30. As an individual that fell in love with maps due to playing Risk as a kid, these made my day. John, any progress on

  31. Kevin Barney says:

    Pure awesomeness, as we’ve all come to expect from you, John.

    When I taught early LDS history for Institute, I found it very helpful to use maps to trace the travels of the Smith family throughout New England, and then to New York and Pennsylvania. Good maps are simply indispensable.

    Is there a way to indicate the location of the Johnson farm in Ohio, or is that too far out of the range of the maps you’ve done?

  32. Is it worth throwing in the ferries and mills for Nauvoo? some of the riverfront property is important but tends to get short shrift.

  33. Left Field says:

    Great maps. I’m glad to see you show the saints that fled Jackson County to the south. My great-great-great grandparents and their family were among those. History books often mention the exodus into Clay County without any mention of those that went south.

    My g-g-g grandfather’s history has them settling on the Osage River. Looking at modern maps, I always imagined it farther south than Van Buren (now Cass) County. Did some of the saints continue south to Bates County? Looking at the maps, I’m now wondering if perhaps what is now called the South Grand river in Cass County would have been named as a branch of the Osage in the 1830s. If so, perhaps that’s the Osage River my g-g-g grandfather mentions, and my kin were in Van Buren County rather than Bates. Do you know anything about the names applied to the tributaries of the Osage in the 1830s?

  34. John Hamer says:

    John (28): I haven’t done any georeferencing, but that would be a cool project. For example the various farmlands in Jackson County are now in the heart of Kansas City.

    Kent (30): I love it when I’m excited about finishing something and people ask me when am I ever going to finish something else… :) No, there’s been no progress yet, but it’s something that needs to get done and I wish were already done.

    Kevin (31): The text references the Johnson farm as being in Hiram, Ohio, and we have Hiram on the map; the dot would essentially be the same.

  35. John Hamer says:

    SMB (32): It may well be; on that map in particular I’m asking the author what other sites he wants to call out.

    LF (33): Yep, we love to simplify history and it’s rare enough that people are aware there is a “Clay County period” in Mormon Missouri history without adding the complication that not all the Saints went to Clay County. It’s cool that you have that family connection with this part of the story.

    On a few of the maps from the 1830s, I just see the “South Grand” labeled “Grand” — not “North Branch Osage” or anything. I think it’s quite possible that your folks made it all the way down to Bates County.

  36. DH is a geography major and a topo guy currently making maps while deployed in Iraq. He fell all over himself sending me a link to this post!
    Nice work

  37. Kudos on the maps and their relative graphic consistency; the typography choice is nice as well.

    Curious, though, why so much extra graphical information which, in several cases, doesn’t really seem to support the intent of the map? Map 2 (and maps 5, 16, and 17 additionally) for example, has an enormous amount of visual topographical “noise” that detracts from the apparent intent of the map; the topography doesn’t add any more value to the map. Map 3 adds local geographical demarcations, but for what purpose? Maps 10 and 12 contain a great deal of timeline relationships, but the visual weight of the rivers, which don’t appear to advance the intent of the image, adds too much noise to the map. The Nauvoo map (map 19) has several black or outlined squares, but the significance of these elements are not given in any legend. What do they represent?

    OTOH, the information in maps 4 and 8 are just right: the legend gives the visual information purpose and context.

    Admittedly, these maps are out of context; if the general purpose of the maps is to illustrate relative relationships between towns and settlements and movements of people, however, the addition of so much extra visual information only makes it more difficult for a reader. Tufte (1983, 1990) and other designers and cartographers have discussed this concept, encouraging designers to consider the amount of visual weight and noise that go into information graphics. The results here are obviously aesthetically successful; could the relevance of some of this visual information be revised?

  38. John Hamer says:

    Doug (37): I agree that after the critical data is expressed, too much additional information detracts from the usability of the map. However, some of that information can be very helpful for giving the reader meaningful context. I’m attempting to stake out a balance that is richer in context than those who argue for very spartan maps.

    I’m glad (and a little surprised) that you liked the terrain data on 4 and 8 (which are the same format as 14 and 19). I had the most trouble with these and this style has sometimes seemed the “noisiest” to me. While it’s relatively easy to do this kind of terrain layer when you have full color, it’s extremely hard in grayscale because you can quickly run the whole gamut from a 15% screen to a 65% screen. When you do that, light roads fade away against light high elevations and dark borders and rivers fade away against dark low elevations. The way I resolved this was to make the gradiant very close. Essentially this makes it very difficult to use the key on map 4 to decide, for example, how many feet above sea level the Sacred Grove might be. At the same time, I thought that that terrain information was important. I’ve often seen the bizarre, blobby outline of the Hill Cumorah called out (cf. Rought Stone Rolling p. 34, Historical Atlas of Mormonism p. 11) without having the idea this sort of hill is all over the place in this region. Likewise the elevation in Kirtland and Nauvoo with their flats and temple bluffs are pretty important to understanding the townsites.

    On the next size up map (6, 10, 12, 20) I’m including river data along with road data because the rivers were more of a reality than the roads were. In 6, the author is speculating on the question of the location of the organization of the church — was it the traditional site of the Whitmer Farm near Fayette or was it actually at the Smith Farm near Palmyra and Manchester. And if it was at Fayette, could they have gotten back to Manchester in time to perform baptisms that were recorded there immediately afterward. The discusses fording the Seneca River, etc. Likewise the missionaries to the Lamanites (10) are having to deal with fording rivers to get to the Indians. At the same time, the last thing I want is to make the context of the rivers to detract so much as to make the map unreadable. My attempted solution has been to try to make the border, river, and road hues close enough to the underlying background hue that they all somewhat blend together, leaving the black text, dots, and arrows to stand out.

    With the next level up (2, 7, 17, 18), we have the historic county data and elevation shading. I think the counties are critical to getting any sense of where you might be. I’ll admit, however, that the elevation shading here is less critical and possibly more decorative. We did want to show the Green Mountains in Vermont (and it’s there that this is noisiest).

  39. John, Do you do maps on commission? If so, what’s your email address? thanks.

  40. John Hamer says:

    DS (39): I do. You can write me at MormonMaps(at)

  41. Loved the maps but I would have liked a scale for the Zion’s Camp map. This would make it easier for international readers (like me) to relate the distances covered to our own geographies.

  42. John, thanks for the context on some of these image. It helps to understand the purpose and intent of the maps and I completely get the concept of working in greyscale; it’s much trickier than people might think.

    I’m certainly not solely an advocate for “spartan” maps, but I am a proponent of not making all map information egalitarian, especially if the information detracts from a reader’s ability to parse what is intended. Though there is a lot of information in the terrain images, it’s contextual and appropriate to the intent of the map. And while graphically there’s a lot going on in #6, helping readers understand about the importance of waterways is helpful to the rendering. I still question the importance of the topography in the maps you and I mentioned (i.e. 2, 7, 17, 18) (and admittedly, I don’t know the full scale of the project) because the maps really seem to just explain the geographic relationships and situating of the towns and settlements, but I have to defer to the fact that you have the creative brief and I don’t. :)

    Again, kudos on a lovely set of images. Would that more books paid attention to geographic and visual detail in this way.

%d bloggers like this: